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Beach Time on the Riviera Maya

Dolphin Beach
Beach Time on the Riviera Maya
The Riviera Maya delivers miles of beaches, each sloping gently into the clear blue sea. But if there’s not enough sand for you to lay down your towel, head to a nearby island for other tantalizing shores.
Photo by Nicola Okin
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    Dolphin Beach
    Dolphin Beach
    Playa Delfines translates as Dolphin Beach, and the place offers the real thing. The best view of the finned mammals (or locals riding finned surfboards) is from the beach’s mirador, or lookout platform. The white-sand beach is dotted with thatched palapas and umbrellas for rent and also features lifeguards and restrooms. Playa Delfines is easily reached by taxi—which is recommended, since parking spots are limited.
    Photo by Nicola Okin
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    Slow Down in Puerto Morelos
    Slow Down in Puerto Morelos
    More laid-back than the beaches of Cancún’s Hotel Zone, Puerto Morelos is the place you might envision when you read about “sleepy little fishing villages” in guidebooks. The area’s reef system—reported to be the second largest in the world—and mangroves are protected by the government, and the other natural attractions are generally well cared for. In addition to lazing on the beach, enjoy the picturesque views of fishing pangas (boats) lined up along the shore as they dry out under the brilliant blue sky, a favorite subject for photographers.
    Photo by María José Flores
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    Waterfront Drinks
    Waterfront Drinks
    Forget about the craft cocktail craze and get back to basics: Technicolor drinks served in frosty hurricane glasses, topped with paper umbrellas and maraschino cherries or wedges of pineapple. These fruity quenchers can still be sipped poolside, on Playa Tortugas, or at a beachside bar in Playa del Carmen. Cocktails usually include such familiar staples as rum and vodka, but drinks made with homegrown spirits like tequila and mezcal are probably at the top of the menu. If you're looking to try something hyperlocal, ask a bartender for a taste of xtabentún, a liqueur from fermented honey and anise seed that’s made only in the Yucatán Peninsula. Be careful—this spirit packs a punch.
    Photo by Rita Trejo
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     Away from the Crowds
    Away from the Crowds
    Calm, off-the-beaten-path beaches aren’t easy to find in destinations like the Riviera Maya. However, those in the know will direct you to Playa Delfines, great for surfing, and Playa Langosta, right in Cancún and ideal for families but not nearly as busy as other stretches of sand. In Playa del Carmen, the locals’ little secret hiding spot by the ocean is Playa Shangri-La.
    Photo by Rita Trejo
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    Beyond the Beach: Swimming in Cenotes
    Beyond the Beach: Swimming in Cenotes
    One of most memorable activities on the Riviera Maya is to swim or dive in cenotes, the unique underground rivers that often cross amazing rock formations and create surreal light effects. There are hundreds of them on the road between Cancún and Tulum, including Cenote Dos Ojos. You can follow the Ruta de los Cenotes, or for more infrastructure, head directly to Xplor or Río Secreto, which are full-fledged parks with all sorts of activities centered around a cenote experience.
    Photo by María José Flores
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    Beach Eats
    Beach Eats
    Cancún satiates the empty stomach with a variety of cuisines served at restaurants that range from beachfront casual to white-tablecloth formal. French, Spanish, and Asian eateries can be found throughout the region, and you can’t go wrong with local Yucatecan ingredients, especially the spiny lobster. Waterfront and lagoon-side restaurants abound. One scenic favorite is Lorenzillo’s, a restaurant that juts out into the lagoon near the Hotel Zone. It’s famous for fresh lobsters that come straight from the on-site farm. Choose between the nautical-themed dining room, the open-air terrace, or one of the private rooms. In Tulum, a leisurely meal eaten under the palms at La Zebra can introduce you to authentic Mexican cuisine and serve to indoctrinate you in the laid-back way of life here.
    Photo by Franco Larrine
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    Four Great Beaches in Cancún
    Four Great Beaches in Cancún
    Cancún has two distinct beach zones: one on the northern side, and the other on the eastern side in the Hotel Zone. Beaches in the north tend to offer calmer, shallower waters, better for families traveling with kids. Playa Juventud is popular for snorkeling, and Playa Tortugas is a favorite among local families. Beaches on the eastern side have bright aquamarine water, but the currents tend to be unpredictable, so swim with care. Playa San Miguelito may be small, but it boasts a special feature: a glimpse of a nearby Mayan site. Playa Delfines typically lives up to its name: Dolphins are often spotted here.
    Photo by Nicola Okin
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