Cancún + The Riviera Maya

Cancún + The Riviera Maya Travel Guide

Where It Is: The limestone bedrock that underlies Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is pocked with freshwater-filled sinkholes called cenotes. For divers, one of the best known is the 48-foot-deep Cenote Taj Maja, just south of the Caribbean coastal town of Playa del Carmen.

Between the international pier and Punta Langosta, this good-looking bar (with a crowd to match) sits right on the waterfront and is named for the number of ounces in a tequila shot.

A group of palapas by the town square make up the Mercado de Artesanías, where you’ll find traditional textiles and handcrafted, painted pottery made by Mayan artisans.

Sure, you could book shiatsu, but this spa’s specialty is heavenly Mayan-inspired treatments. Everyone’s visit begins with an outdoor steam-cleansing ritual using resin from the revered copal tree.

Tangle with a snake, feed a peccary, walk through a crocodile den, and be accosted by an affectionate spider monkey at this 150-acre nature reserve, home to reptiles and mammals indigenous to the Yucatán, all rescued from the wild or from illegal owners.

A series of mini-shops in a restored colonial building, this market has the highest quality artisan crafts, clothing, tabletop goods, ceramics, and toys from throughout Mexico.

Modest compared with those on the

Bargoers here, a short taxi ride from Mexico’s Playa del Carmen, descend by candle-lined stairs into a subterranean lounge, trying to recall the little saying they learned as children to tell stalactites from stalagmites.

The Blue Parrot dates to 1984, making the club one of Playa del Carmen’s elder statesmen. What started as a casual hotel and bar now includes the 5th Avenue Hotel’s 19 rooms, plus 22 curvy units in the Blue Parrot Suites.

Snap up beach reads, bestsellers, classics, tomes on Maya culture, and local guidebooks and maps—the largest selection of (mostly used) English-language books in the Yucatán—at this inviting warren of overflowing wooden bookshelves reminiscent of a college-campus hangout.

Once the most powerful Mayan city-state in the northeastern Yucatán, this 26-square-mile site, crisscrossed by raised limestone roads called sacbéob and home to three pyramids, remains relatively untouched by excavators’ hammers and tourist traffic.