Get the most out of Mexico
Just a four-hour flight from JFK, the Yucatán peninsula is the perfect place to escape mid-winter malaise.
Fly into Cancún– American Airlines had direct flights from $295 at press time ¬– but don’t just linger in this spring break capital. Make like the ancient Mayans and head down the coast.
At this well-established haven for backpackers and yoga enthusiasts, travelers have their pick of accommodations, ranging from rent-a-hammock ($10, at Cabañas El Mirador) to the luxurious Casa Magna, where rooms start at the un-hippie-ish price of $225. No matter where on the peninsula you bed down, Tulum’s oceanfront ruins and Eden-like white beaches merit a visit.
This little-known, friendly fishing village feels distinctly less touristy than many other Yucatán locales. The crafts market sells bargain-priced ceramics and woven items. Among the several seaside dining options, one spot, Los Pelicanos, serves delicious fried whole red snapper for around $12 a kilo.
About 40 miles from Tulum stand the Coba ruins. These unrestored ruins are spread out across a vast jungle whose ancient population of Mayans peaked at 55,000. Do a $5 bike rental or simply meander along the shaded trails and take in the imposing pre-Conquest structures.
After several beach-filled days, find some urbanity at Valladolid. A cathedral made from Mayan stones anchors the lively zócalo or town square, and affords visitors a chance to see Spanish colonial architecture, rare for the Yucatán. The restaurant El Meson del Marques serves up Mayan specialties such as cochinitas pibil, a pork dish, for under $10.
Where to stay
Lodging in the Yucatán ranges from Tulum’s campground-like cabañas to luxurious hotels. But thanks to recently sluggish tourist seasons, deals abound, particularly at the larger resorts.
High-end, all-inclusive properties offer the greatest savings. At the El Dorado Royale, near Puerto Morelos, current rates start at $177 per night per person, which includes amenities such as 24-hour room service and beachfront waiter service. At the El Dorado Maroma, farther down the coast, boutique oceanfront rooms with similar amenities start at $228. Check out eldoradosparesorts.com.
Taxis and buses are relatively inexpensive, safe and easy to find in the Yucatán.
But if you want to rent some wheels, Budget Rent-a-Car is the way to go, and a compact starts at around $40 a day.