The Yucatan Peninsula is the coastal area of the Yucatan region found in the far south eastern tip of Mexico. Famed for tourist mecca Cancun, the hotel zone' and miles of long white sandy beaches it's the ultimate paradise playground and one of my all time favourite chill out destinations.
Mexico Tourism boasted over 10 million arrivals in the first quarter to March 2018. Beautiful beaches, lush green jungle, ancient history, abundant wildlife and great weather draw in tourists from far and wide.
Sunny and less humid, peak season here is December – March however, it is possible to visit all year round. The shoulder seasons of November and April/May offer some great deals and if you do visit in the summer/autumn it will be hot and humid with bursts of refreshing showers. Storms and hurricanes are also possible however these are infrequent and non-troublesome. One bonus of visiting in hotter months is the sea is bath temperature! Be mindful that March is Spring Break’ season and Cancun goes wild with big drinking American college kids, think all day pool parties and loud whooping and hollering, not ideal for the peace seeker… but if you don’t mind the noise it can also be very entertaining, not all hotels allow spring breakers so check before you book.
Cancun itself is split into two zones El Centro (Downtown) and Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone). The latter is where most tourists spend their holidays. The Hotel Zone is an upmarket hotel city. It offers the white sand Caribbean beaches one side and the Nichupte Lagoon on the other. Although many large resorts occupy the beaches, all the beaches in Mexico are publicly accessible. Hotels here are American standard, think luxurious buildings, spacious bedrooms and vast all-inclusive facilities. Top rated is The Grand at Moon Palace; it offers top shelf drinks as standard, world class chefs and luxury accommodation www.thegrand.moonpalace.com
Beyond the hotels, Cancun offers international shopping malls, eateries and nightlife. Perhaps familiar one to those from Newcastle is Harry’s Bar. Harry’s Cancun is different, superbly upmarket it offers gourmet menus specialising in steak and seafood so if you want the best venture here but expect to pay a high price tag, try Japanese Kobe Beef or the King Crab www.harrys.com.mx
Night owls should visit the buzzing centre famous for nightclub and show Coco Bongo inspired by the film The Mask’ starring Jim Carrey. It offers VIP all-inclusive packages and standard entry. The nightlife here is large and loud but malls and restaurants offer an escape. It’s easy to get around the hotel zone by public bus, it runs continuously day and night for $1 each way.
40km from Cancun is Playa del Carmen and the resort Playacar, the start of the Riviera Maya area of the Yucatan. More laid back than Cancun, Playa del Carmen still offers a great centre for refreshments, eating and shopping. The resort area Playacar just 3km away offers fabulous beaches and mesmerising blue water. The great thing here is the proximity to the fast ferry to the island of Cozumel, the Palancar and Columbia Reef is a diver’s paradise. A must see is a catamaran trip to el Cielo’ known as Heaven’ the shallow bright turquoise waters offer stunning sites including huge starfish, conch shells and sometimes rays it is literally heaven on earth’.
Going further up the Riviera Maya are the resorts of Akumal and Tulum, now you really are venturing into the Mayan Jungle. Hotels are further apart but the scenery is spectacular and the wildlife comes to you. A recent stay at Grand Sirenis Akumal saw wild monkeys visit trees near our pool daily. These cheeky creatures are really a fabulous sight to behold. www.sirenishotels.com/en/ riviera-maya-hotels/grand-sirenis-riviera-maya-resortspa/.
Riviera Maya is the gateway to big jungle attractions. Xcaret Park is close by and offers a spectacular day discovering Ancient Mayan culture www.xcaret.com/ en/. The jungle is a haven for adventure seekers and Xel-Ha Park offers water based adventures, explore the the cenotes (caves) or take a river tour, it’s a fun packed day. The ruins of ancient port city Tulum once housed advanced ancient civilisation, the Mayans. The view from El Castillo (the tower/castle) is spectacular, don’t worry about the Iguanas, although fairly large they just go about their business of posing and sunbathing.
A myriad of other attractions exist, Xplor, Xlor Fuego, Xavage, Xoximilo, Xenses, Xnotes and Xichen all offering an experience of culture, history, nature, adrenalin activities or fun for the senses. One thing is for sure you’ll never tire of the Yucatan and like me you’ll go time after time.
Caroline travelled with TUI Holidays, Virgin Holidays and independently with American Airlines, British Airways and KLM. Direct flights available from Newcastle seasonally and more frequently from Manchester and London Gatwick. Note: unless your fare includes a departure tax you will be required to pay in GBP, $US or $Peso approx £50 per person (variable) on departure at the Airport, this must be in cash. Check with your airline.