Once the land of the ancient Maya, the Yucatán Peninsula is home to pristine beaches, rugged ruins and very few tourists
Author Mike Guy Photography Ehren Jospeh
l LIKE ITS DIAMOND-STUDDED FRENCH NAMESAKE ALONG THE MEDITERRANEAN, the Riviera Maya—a stretch of coastline on the Yucatán Peninsula that reaches from just south of Cancún to the peaceful village of Tulum—is a shimmering white-sand playland of the well-to-do. But it can be experienced much more affordably than Monaco, Cap d’Antibes or even Venice. On this riviera, the main attractions aren’t Bianca Jagger in a tiara or even Matthew Perry carousing in St. Tropez, but instead mysterious, vast underwater sinkholes called cenotes, peaceful beachside palapas, a preponderance of yoga mats, and the granite tops of millennium-old Mayan ruins emerging from thick jungle canopies.
The region rode a rising tide of tourism for a decade, with visitors attracted by the Caribbean Coast’s quiet beauty and an abundance of calming retreats among the ruins of Tulum. But what with the recent economic situation, there are now spectacular deals to be had in luxury lodging, and the sites are relaxingly free of crowds. Serenity now.