The Perfect Day in Cancun and Riviera Maya

Any day spent on the Yucatan Peninsula could be considered perfect. But adding certain activities, meals, and, of course, cocktails to your trip to Cancun and Riviera Maya could even make the typical perfect day start to feel jealous. From Mayan ruins to underground rivers, there’s much more to the area than brilliant white sand beaches. Yes, you’ll need to leave your inclusive resort for some of these to-dos but, don’t worry, the warm weather will follow you wherever you go.

Carretera Federal, Cancun - Chetumal Km 230, 307, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
While not as large as other ancient Mayan cities in the region, Tulum draws in visitors for its stunning setting of centuries-old temples perched on a cliff by the Caribbean Sea. You’ll pass a large market with souvenirs, a casual Mexican restaurant, and even a Starbucks before reaching the entrance, where a train can take you to the site if you’re not up for the 10-minute walk. It’s advisable to hire a guide to fully understand each structure’s significance and the history behind the ruins; informative signage is all but nonexistent. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit, as the site encompasses a white-sand beach with soothing waves and beautiful rock formations that’s reached by a long wooden staircase.
This iconic downtown restaurant was on historic Avenida Nader years before the neighborhood became hip. The focus here is on Italian dishes with creative twists, like the Van Gogh pizza topped with grilled shrimp and goat cheese, or the artisanal ravioli stuffed with lobster, along with a selection of wine and cocktails from its outdoor bar. But the gorgeous outdoor setting of El Tigre y El Toro is what really attracts local insiders. The menu’s Mediterranean flavors blend with a Caribbean ambience amid lush greenery, candlelight, and lanterns that hang from swaying palm trees.
Km 13 Blvd Kukulcan
Located on the second floor of Kukulcán Plaza, Hacienda Tequila sells 480 different types of tequila at some of the best prices in the area. Free samplings are welcome, and a small museum highlights the making of tequila. Kitschy Mexican crafts and souvenirs are an added touch
Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico
About half an hour south of Cancún stands the rickety wooden entrance sign to La Ruta de los Cenotes, a small highway leading into the jungle, populated only by the occasional souvenir stand or rental cabins. But the real attraction here is the cenotes: natural springs connected to the Yucatán Peninsula’s extraordinary underground river system. Ideal for swimming and snorkeling, the pools often feature diving cliffs, picnic grills, and maybe even a small zip line. Most forbid sunscreen and bug repellant to protect the water’s pristine quality. Top options include Las Mojarras, Verde Lucero, Boca del Puma, and Siete Bocas.
Carretera Tulum Boca Paila 7.6Km, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Hartwood prides itself on having no menu; instead, there are daily options based on whatever is available from nearby ranches and farms. Of course, that means locally sourced ingredients only, in the service of innovative, Mexican-inspired dishes. The never-the-same menu has made Hartwood one of Tulum’s most popular and in-demand dining rooms of late. Its dreamy ambience, with a gravel floor and a palm-shaded outdoor setting, melds beautifully with recipes created in the moment. Walk-ins are usually not accepted; book a table well in advance.
Beach Road Km. 7, Boca Paila, QRO, Mexico
Disco ball, lounge, jungle, and cuisine all come together at this trendy restaurant located on Tulum’s main hotel-zone avenue. The venue is renowned for its eclectic style that blends unusual lighting, a lush outdoor setting, and live DJ nights for a cool, hippie-style vibe. Dinner is prepared over open-fire grills and in wood-burning ovens, resulting in flavorful Mexican favorites like taco samplers, quesadillas with epazote, grilled avocado, and slow-roasted pork belly. Gitano also specializes in strange but enticing cocktails from its mezcal bar, like ones that include ingredients like rum, hibiscus, and tropical fruits.
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