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Mexico's Temples of Style

Riviera Maya--The Way it Was

Although big changes are taking place, it's still possible to have a barefoot escape at these four hotels that provide a flashback to the old Riviera Maya.

Kailuum II Six miles north of Playa del Carmen, off Hwy. 307; 800/538-6802 or 303/674-9615, fax 303/674-8735; www.mexicoholiday.com; doubles from $80. No electricity means romantic candlelit evenings at this rustic little spot, known for its excellent swimming and snorkeling. Instead of rooms, there are 30 tents on the beach, with proper beds, porches, and maid service. The restaurant and bar palapa has a sand floor; showers and toilets are in separate buildings.

La Vita Bella Km 1.5, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila; 52-984/877-8145; doubles from $80. Owned by Sylvia Gino, a laid-back Italian who fell in love with the area while on holiday several years ago, this funky hideaway fronts a lovely Tulum beach. Guests dine on fresh pasta and pizza at plastic tables in the sand--and stay in charming bungalows.

Maya Tulum Retreat & Resort Km 7, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila; 888/515-4580 or 52-984/877-8638; www.mayatulum.com; doubles from $70. Yoga is a way of life at this getaway just south of Tulum, which also has some of the best massage therapists this side of Esalen. The 41 simple stone-and-thatch caba–as, most with private baths, line a white-sand beach. Though primarily vegetarian, the restaurant does serve fish and lobster.

Mosquito Blue Avda. Quinta and Calle 2; 52-984/873-1245, fax 52-984/873-1337; www.mosquitoblue.com; doubles from $110. Before Deseo, this was the place to stay in Playa: 46 pleasant rooms encircling a palmy courtyard and a pretty pool.

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