Fiesta & Siesta: Where to Stay and Play in Mexico

Hit the beach, museums and hottest restaurants in Mexico with these romantic city and beach itineraries.
By: 
Joe Yogerst

You’ve drawn straws and have even tried a game of rock, paper, scissors, but you still can’t decide on whether you’d prefer a city- or sand-based Mexican honeymoon. Stop flip-flopping, because you can combine the history, shopping and nightlife of a large urban area with the natural beauty, aquatic adventure and solitude of a beach destination all in one trip. Here, our favorite city and beach combinations. Now, all you have to decide is which pair of sandals to pack.

Cancun and the Riviera Maya

Little more than a fishing village 30 years ago, Cancun has grown into one of Mexico’s largest and most exciting vacation cities. The metropolis sprawls across most of a number seven-shaped barrier island and the nearby mainland, with a wide lagoon between. No matter the time of year, it feels like a non-stop party, especially in the city’s clubs, where the festivities run until dawn nearly every night. Nobody gets out of bed much before noon. But when they do, the area’s air-conditioned malls beckon with boutiques that offer fashion from around the globe and custom Mexican jewelry. Cancun’s citified drawbacks are velvet ropes at the popular spots and traffic along the main streets, but its oceanfront location and proximity to Mayan ruins make it a popular destination.


The all-inclusive Grand Velas has awesome beach access and is located an hour from Cancun.
Photo courtesy of Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Couples craving more seclusion can head down the coast. The long beach region called the Riviera Maya stretches from just south of the city nearly all the way to the neighboring country of Belize. The northernmost resorts are only about 20 minutes from Cancun, ideally situated to letting you combine city and sand on your honeymoon. The main attractions are the long white strands framed by palm trees and the turquoise Caribbean, including some spots where yours will be the only footprints in the sand. Not far offshore is the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere, with myriad spots for primo scuba and snorkeling. Near-shore activities include sea kayaking, jet skiing, paragliding and kite surfing.


You can make a splash or simply relax at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. 
Photo courtesy of Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Tucked between a secluded beach and pristine mangrove forest near popular Playa del Carmen is Grand Velas Riviera Maya, an upscale waterfront all-inclusive resort. Beach aside, what sets this hotel apart from others is the food. A la carte eateries include Frida (modern Mexican), Cocina de Autor (Spanish), Sen Lin (Asian) and Piaf (French). Another treat is an enormous spa with a fabulous wet area and a unique clay room with copious amounts of Mexican mud to spread all over your body. Guest rooms offer sea or jungle views, and many have private plunge pools (room rates start at $450 a night, all inclusive; grandvelas.com).

Next: Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit >>