Get Off the Grid in Mexico

From exploring a Mayan underworld to a luxurious way to recharge, here are 18 unusual ways to explore Mexico.

Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo, Mexico
This tiny island is north of Isla Mujeres and Cancun and is only 26 miles long and offers visitors in search of a “Robinson Crusoe” experience the perfect escape. Long, sweeping beaches beckon with water sports, snorkeling, sport fishing, and total R&R. A shallow lagoon gives sanctuary to thousands of flamingos, pelicans and other exotic birds and creatures, allowing visitors the perfect spot in which to commune with nature. Several good restaurants and hotels are available and tours to area attractions can be arranged by ferry and small plane. Getting around the island is via bicycle or golf cart.
Baja has a reputation for attracting folks who like to live off the grid, enjoying a laid-back lifestyle and creating their own eccentric businesses. One of those is Art & Beer. The name says it all, really; this spot is worth a stop for its art and its beer. But it’s also worth a stop for its chocolate clams (guess that didn’t fit it into the name of the business so well), raw clams marinated and served in a concoction of 17 different ingredients. Wash it down with a cold beer (preferably Pacifico since you’re on the Pacific coast of Mexico).
Carr. Transpeninsular, San José del Cabo, B.C.S., Mexico
At the edge of the Baja Peninsula, One&Only Palmilla was originally built in 1956 as a 15-room hideaway for Don Abelardo Rodriguez, son of the then-president of Mexico. Today, it’s one of the region’s most luxurious resorts, composed of 174 oceanfront rooms and suites and two villas decorated in neutral hues and splashes of red; many have infinity pools and patios that face the Sea of Cortez.

One&Only Palmilla has one of the area’s few swimmable beaches, plus three private rocky coves complete with floating beds, lounge chairs, and dedicated butlers. Activities include snorkeling, surfing, parasailing, and golfing the award-winning 27-hole course designed by Jack Nicklaus. The massive spa’s wellness garden features a juice bar and 13 treatment villas; several have private plunge pools, rain showers, and swinging daybeds.

One&Only Palmilla is a member of EarthCheck, a scientific benchmarking certification program, for its sustainability efforts, which include a state-of-the-art water purification system that produces and bottles filtered water on site. The resort works with the Red Committee for the Protection of the Sea Turtle by helping with daily patrols of nearby nests, an activity guests can join.
Boca de paila Km 5.5, 77766 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Rustic luxury is the vibe at Amansala, where all accommodations are cabana-style. How rustic? Well, lights go out at 11 each night, after which time candles provide illumination. Ocean breezes do the work that is relegated to air-conditioners at less eco-conscious hotels. Rooms are decorated with locally sourced materials, including driftwood and stones. Candles and incense are in-room amenities. The idea, says owner Melissa Perlman, is for guests to feel that they’re staying at a friend’s home rather than an anonymous hotel where they’re just a room number. The hotel also hosts yoga retreats several times throughout the year, as well as detox cleanse packages and “Bikini Bootcamp” intensives for guests who want to get in shape.
Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Just when it seemed like the Riviera Maya Riviera had become nothing but a sea of all-inclusive beach resorts, you stumble upon the quaint little Mexican village of Puerto Morelos. There are almost no huge developments, no shopping outlets, and no chain restaurants. The place is absolutely magical and is like traveling back in time. There is a small town square or plaza lined with palm trees, small cafes, and local boutiques. You can always find a good margarita to sip on at the super hip little bars scattered around the small town. If you find yourself on the Yucatan peninsula don’t miss this opportunity to travel back in time 50 yrs and experience the “old” Mexico.
We took a boat to the Marieta Islands off the coast of Riviera Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta, with a great tour company by the name of Punta Mita Expeditions. Terrific snorkeling and paddle boarding with really warm water. We saw all sorts of amazing fish and sea life. The topper was swimming through a cave to a hidden beach. There was another cave on the other side that was a lot narrower and much more water pressure. The tour guide and I went through it and that was quite an experience. Another cool aspect of the excursion was seeing the blue-footed booby bird. This bird has sky blue webbed feet and is unique to the area.
This hard-to-pronounce beach is the best that Puerto Escondido has to offer—for relaxing that is. Seasoned surfers hit the main stretch, but the Carrizalillo (try: caree-za-lee-yo) cove enchants with its less frantic waves and more secluded feel. Dance in the waves, snorkel, or try your hand at surfing lessons if wary of the bigger waves elsewhere. A spicy Michelada (beer plus lime plus spices) and some fresh ceviche will polish off a perfect afternoon and ready you for a nap in the shade.
A few years ago, Bósforo was a nondescript bar in the capital’s Centro Histórico (Historic Center) neighborhood. Its decor was nothing to write home about; in fact, it was so dark it was hard to make out whether there was any decor to speak of. Fast forward to today, and the dark, dull interior hasn’t changed. Nor has the bar’s focus: mezcal. The smokier cousin of tequila is an agave-based spirit that has grown exponentially in popularity over the past several years. Most of the bar’s offerings are small-batch mezcals in bottles with handwritten labels. What you try today may not be available at all the next time you visit. What has changed in the past year or two is Bósforo’s visibility. Once a bar that was really only for locals in the know, Bósforo is now visited by mezcal lovers from all over the world. If you’re a fan of the spirit—or you haven’t yet tried it and would like to—Bósforo is worth a night out in the Centro.
Carretera Federal Libre Chetumal- Puerto Juárez Km. 283.5 Ejido Sur, 77712 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Thousands of years ago, the entire Yucatán Peninsula was under water, as evidenced by its massive network of rivers that flow beneath the region’s limestone surface. No place better presents the area’s captivating caverns and underground water systems than majestic Río Secreto, a nature park just south of Playa del Carmen that offers adventurous travelers wide-ranging cave tours. Extending for miles, its river system wasn’t discovered until 2006, when a local man accidentally stumbled across an entrance while chasing an iguana through the jungle. When you go, guides lead you through a maze of stalactites and stalagmites that ends with a swim in subterranean waterways that vary based on the path you choose.
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