Beyond the big cities, take some time to discover the hidden gems of the Mexican Caribbean, where you’ll find traditional arts and culture, spectacular scenic beauty and secluded spots. Similar to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns or Magical Villages) are a selection of Mexican villages whose cultural, historical, gastronomical, or natural treasures have been deemed exceptionally special and meaningful to Mexico’s heritage. During your all inclusive stay at Barceló Maya Grand Resort, Royal Hideaway Playacar, Occidental Costa Cancún, Occidental Tucancún or Occidental at Xcaret Destination, discover the very best of Riviera Maya’s magic towns.
Located just a short ferry ride off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Isla Mujeres is the very definition of an island paradise. Playa Norte (North Beach) is considered one of the very best beaches in the Caribbean. Once you’re there, it’s easy to see why. Playa Norte’s gently swaying palm trees, soft white sands and turquoise waters are the definition of gorgeous. The Zocolo is a plaza filled with artisans, shops, restaurants and more. The lively atmosphere is enhanced by colorful murals that tell the story of the island through vivid colors and creativity. Also, The island is home to the La Tortuga Granja (The Turtle Farm), an amazing spot that the whole family will love. From May through September, giant sea turtles lay their eggs in the sands here.
- Riviera Maya Travel Tip: Want to get to Isla Mujeres in luxury and style? Via Vacaciones Barcelo, take a catamaran journey to the island. You’ll enjoy an open bar, live music and spectacular Caribbean Sea views. On the way out, there will also be opportunities to stop and snorkel in the beautiful waters. Then, you’ll dock at the island, take part in a buffet lunch and have plenty of time to discover this amazing destination.
Named for the lake on which it sits, Bacalar is a day trip’s journey from Playa del Carmen – about a three-hour drive south. But it’s worth it if you want to discover one of Mexico’s most magical towns. Bacalar Lake is the second-largest freshwater body of water in all of Mexico. It’s a sparkling vision that seems to be painted upon the landscape, with all different shades of blue, from dark navy to turquoise. The lake is popular for its aquatic activities. Here, you can enjoy kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and swimming in cool, calm waters. Nearby, you’ll also find the famed Cenote Azul de Bacalar. This natural swimming hole is a favorite amongst snorkelers and scuba divers, thanks to its size (600 feet in diameter) and depth (300 feet!). Take some time to explore the Caribbean-style town of Bacalar as well. Here, there’s a delightfully laid-back vibe, with authentic Mexican cuisine, friendly locals, historical attractions and much more.
The walled Mayan city of Tulum is one of the Mexico’s best historic attractions and a Mexican Caribbean gem. It is truly a trip back in time, with some of the best-preserved pre-Hispanic ruins in the entire country. Located on a tropical beach overlooking the Caribbean Sea, Tulum was once a major port city for the Mayans, built circa 1200 AD. As you explore the ruins here, you’ll gain keen insight into the culture and heritage that once dominated Riviera Maya centuries ago. Don’t miss the so-called Coba ruins here, which include the famed “El Castillo” (the Castle), one of Riviera Maya’s most iconic sightseeing spots. Beyond the historical aspect of Tulum, Tulum Ruina Playa is a must-visit as well. Tulum is still a vital town, however – it’s not all ruins and history. Here, you’ll find vibrant Mayan culture still thriving, as well as a series of amazing cenotes (natural swimming holes).
- Riviera Maya Travel Tip: Vacaciones Barceló’s Tulum Explorer offer is a perfect way to experience this Riviera Maya magical town. You’ll receive comfortable and quick transportation to and from your hotel, expert guidance throughout the site and much more.
Located about an hour-and-a-half from Playa del Carmen, the magical town of Vallodolid is steeped in Mexican history and culture. It’s also one of the most colorful places in the entire country. As you wander the streets of Vallodolid, marvel at the dazzling pastel buildings. The town was originally a Mayan settlement and the famed Cenote Zaci is located right in the center of town. After a swim in the bright blue waters there, pay a visit to the Casa de los Venados museum. Here, you’ll find the largest private collection of Mexican folk art – nearly 3,000 pieces! It’s an incredible glimpse into the creative spirit of Mexico. For lunch, go to Valladolid’s main square, where you’ll find an array of restaurants (many with sunny outdoor patios). A favorite among locals and visitors is Paakal, with a charming garden and a great lunch menu.
Riviera Maya magical towns are absolutely worth discovering during your Mexican Caribbean getaway. You’ll come away from your time there with a new appreciation for the rich culture and people of Mexico.