No matter how many times you've been to Cancún, its Caribbean beach stuns with gleaming sands and clear turquoise water. Add loads of dining, shopping, spa and nightlife choices to an endless array of resort options and you've got the perfect place for party people at a range of price points.
Stay: Check into a room or one-bedroom suite with whirlpool tubs at Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas & Spa for an ensuite kitchen and access to La Isla Shopping Village across the street. You can save by making some of your own meals (there are also onsite restaurants) and buying your favorite tequila or cerveza to sip on your balcony overlooking the large pools (one adults-only) and beautiful beach (room rates start at $259 a night; westin.com).
Do: Hop a ferry to Isla Mujeres, an unhurried five-mile-long island off the coast, where you can rent bikes to explore its boardwalk, beaches and shops or don snorkels and masks to spy on colorful reef fish and maybe a turtle or two.
Photo courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels, Ltd
Where to Eat: It's worth the bus or taxi ride to El Centro (downtown area) from the Hotel Zone (what locals call the strip of resorts on the beach) to sample the authentic and affordable Yucatecan specialities. At Labna, an unassuming thatch-roofed Mayan-themed eatery, savor lime soup, pork pibil (slow roasted pork) and pumpkin sauce.
Stay: Enjoy a somewhat multicultural experience at The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, which offers the elegance of an Italian palazzo, the warm hospitality of Mexico and the mystique of the Maya in its luxurious spa, all set on sugary Caribbean-washed sands. This 365-room property's opulent decor opens up onto 1,200 feet of dazzling beach. And the seven restaurants, bars and culinary center pulls out all the gastronomic stops. Don't miss a chance to savor the fine wine list and excellent Italian cuisine at Fantino (room rates start at $429 a night; ritzcarlton.com).
Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
Do: Get your hearts racing on a guided two-person speedboat tour through mangrove-lined Nichupte Lagoon, followed by snorkeling at the Nizuk Coral Reef. Or travel back more than 1,000 years during an excursion to the Mayan pyramids at the sprawling Chichen Itza complex — it's a two and a half hour drive or you can upgrade and visit by air.
Where to Eat: For candlelit romance, reserve a private cabana at Casitas, The Ritz-Carlton's open-air oceanfront restaurant serving fresh grilled seafood and steak.