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Play Away: Treasures of the Yucatán

At the Ian Schrager-esque Deseo Hotel + Lounge, guests recline on giant cushions beneath the stars and sip cold mojitos. Watching the beautiful people chat each other up, it's easy to see why Deseo has garnered so much buzz. The hotel's minimalist rooms are graced with a platform king-size bed sporting a drawer that contains three things—incense, earplugs and condoms—so this may not be the place to take Mom and Dad.

If you decide to spend a night—or another long weekend— on Cozumel, the lovely Playa Azul Golf and Beach Hotel has oceanfront rooms whose rates include all-you-can-golf greens fees at Cozumel Country Club. And in Cancún proper, the Ritz-Carlton Cancún has oceanfront rooms so stylish and luxurious you may never make it to the golf course at all.

WHERE TO EAT
The dining at Maroma is generally sublime, but its breakfast qualifies as the area's finest day starter. Served at the resort's open-air seaside dining room, the meal starts with fresh chaya juice from a Yucatecan plant reputed to be an aphrodisiac. Among the dishes, the traditional huevos Motuleños, served with fried plantains, is a true wonder.

In Playa del Carmen, discerning diners lunch at Sur, a stylish Argentine restaurant on the town's main walking street, where a fine meal of grilled-filet-of beef tacos and guacamole will set you back just five bucks. Also in Playa del Carmen, dinner at Yaxche Maya Cuisine Restaurant offers Mayan specialties ranging from blackened turkey to tamales stuffed with chaya and pumpkin seeds and wrapped in a large banana leaf.

Back in Cancún, near the Ritz-Carlton, La Destileria is a lively restaurant with great margaritas and contemporary Mexican food in a tequila museum/distillery on the banks of the Nichupte Lagoon. Best of all, if you need advice on tee times, most of the waiters here are die-hard golfers.

OTHER ATTRACTIONS
with development now underway at almost every turn, the natural wonders of the Yucatán that the Mayan people long protected are in peril. Still, although it covers only a small portion of the entire coastline, the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve offers hope. Protecting the more than one million acres of natural habitat, the reserve shelters three hundred-plus species of birds, manatees, monkeys, crocodiles and sea turtles as well as the world's largest concentration of jaguars, pumas and ocelots. To experience all of it firsthand, take the All-Day Sian Ka'an Tour, which incorporates hiking, boat rides and leisurely floats through the reserve's canals.

There are a wealth of incredible diving opportunities in the region. Some of the finest are offered by Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park, which delivers guided dives (and snorkeling into cenotes—underground caves with water so clear it is practically invisible). Indeed, the caves they tour are stars: Tak Be Ha, Bat Cave and Dos Ojos were featured in the IMAX film Journey into Amazing Caves.

Finally, if you're the kind of guy who prefers to hook fish rather than stare at them, Captain Edy Peña is one of many great guides in Playa del Carmen. He'll take you out to look for some hard-hitting action that might include Atlantic sailfish, dorado, marlin or tuna. When it's not on the water, Edy's boat is usually tied near the beach in front of the Blue Parrot resort in Playa del Carmen. Nice life, huh?

TRIP PLANNER: THE YUCATÁN

WHERE TO PLAY
COZUMEL COUNTRY CLUB, 011-52/987-872-9570. Yardage: 6,734. Slope: 133. Greens Fee: $155. Architect: Nicklaus Design Group, 2001. T+L GOLF Rating: ****

THE GOLF CLUB AT MAYAKOBA, mayakoba.com. Yardage: n/a. Slope: n/a. Greens Fees: $150-$230. Architect: Greg Norman, 2005. T+L GOLF Rating: **** (potential)

THE GOLF CLUB AT MOON PALACE, 011-52/998-881-6088. Yardage: 7,201. Slope: 133. Greens Fee: $250. Architect: Jack Nicklaus Signature, 2002. T+L GOLF Rating: ****

THE GOLF CLUB AT PLAYACAR, 011-52/984- 873-0624. Yardage: 7,202. Slope: 148. Greens Fees: $110-$180. Architect: Robert von Hagge, 1994. T+L GOLF Rating: ****

WHERE TO STAY
DESEO HOTEL+ LOUNGE, Playa del Carmen; 011-52/984-879-3620. Rooms: $148-$208.

MAROMA RESORT AND SPA, Riviera Maya; 866-454-9351. Rooms: $410-$4,190.

PLAYA AZUL GOLF & BEACH HOTEL, Cozumel; 011-52/987-872-0043. Rooms: $130-$220.

THE RITZ-CARLTON, CANCÚN, Cancún; 800-241-3333. Rooms: $289-$659.

WHERE TO EAT
LA DESTILERIA (Mexican), Cancún; 011-52/998-885-1087. $$

SUR (Argentine), Playa del Carmen; 011-52/984-803-3285. $$

YAXCHE MAYA CUISINE RESTAURANT (Mayan), Playa del Carmen; 011-52/984- 873-2502. $$

OTHER ATTRACTIONS
ALL-DAY SIAN KA'AN TOUR, Tulum; 011-52/984-87-12499, cesiak.org.

CAPTAIN EDY PEÑA, Playa del Carmen; 011-52/984-804-4707.

HIDDEN WORLDS CENOTES PARK, Tulum; 011-52/984-8778-535, hiddenworlds.com.

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