A guide to its ultra-luxurious hotels and white sand beaches
Cancun’s close proximity—just four hours from the east coast—makes it ideal for a quick getaway. And contrary to the classic spring break connotation, there are plenty of upscale places to explore.
WHERE TO STAY
Housed in a 29-acre beachfront nature preserve, Nizuc Resort and Spa is removed from the touristy haunts. Design lovers will appreciate the modern architecture and beach-side infinity pools offer sweeping views. And with six restaurants featuring everything from contemporary Mexican to seafood, there’s something for everyone. Or, check into the centrally-located, adults-only, Secrets The Vine. The chic, boutique-style rooms have spacious balconies with lagoon and ocean views.
Grab a healthy breakfast at either hotel and start the day early with a paddleboard across calm, cerulean seas. Book a day trip with 4 Worlds Expeditions, whose expert guides will take you to the lush grounds of the recently excavated El Meco, a modestly-sized Mayan ruin that’s a spiritual power center according to the mystically-inclined. From there, it’s an eight-minute car ride to the Ultramar Ferry to sail to Isla Mujeres, the beloved bohemian island beach town, just 20 minutes from the mainland.
Upon docking, cross Av Reuda Medina and rent a bike to explore the main road (a hilly path) that rings the five-mile long island. En route, see zip-liners fly over the ocean, walk the paths along the sculpture-dotted Punta Sur, and check out the Shell House, a charming, conch-shaped architectural must-see. Climb the hill to the cliff-side Guadalupe Chapel, a modernist jewel box capped by a wall of windows with great views of ocean and sky. Return to town and walk the boutique-lined Miguel Hidalgo street which dead ends onto Playa Norte beach, regarded as one of the Caribbean's loveliest. Rent kayaks, snorkel gear, or just swim in the azure waters, then refuel at Jax Bar & Grill with a late lunch of grilled local fish or coconut shrimp.
Sail back to Cancun to peruse market stalls for handmade crafts, ceramics, clothing, and rainbow-hued hammocks. Though most visitors head to Mercado 28 to shop and feast al fresco at local favorite El Cejas, insiders recommend Mercado 23 for a more authentic market experience. After visiting both, grab an outdoor, lagoon-side table at Harry’s, where you can enjoy juicy steak or fresh sashimi while watching the sunset.
Just 30 minutes to the south is the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Moreles. Hitch a ride on the first boat out for an awe-inspiring swim with massive, 20-ton whale sharks, which, despite their size, are plankton-eating, docile creatures. Or, head to Parque Nacional Arrecife Puerto Morelos to snorkel on a reef that’s home to thousands of sea creatures just a few hundred yards from shore.
Afterwards, grab an ocean-front table at Pelícanos. Order a round of ceviche and try the grilled tikin xic, a traditional Yucatán fish paired with homemade salsa. From there, let your body recover with a two-hour Mayan cacao deep-relaxation treatment at the Spa Nizuc by ESPA, or opt for a couples massage at The Spa by Prevonia at Secrets The Vine. Finish the day with a sumptuous meal at Nizuc’s Ramona, a local foodie favorite helmed by chef Eduardo Torres whose re-imagined, deconstructed classic Mexican dishes, paired with excellent vintages from Northern Mexico, are among the most creative and tastiest meals in town. The baked beetroot appetizer accentuated with hibiscus flowers and the beef cheek cooked in an agave leaf are two dishes you'll remember long after you return stateside.