Gay Nagle Myers is sampling the Riviera Maya’s offerings, from spa rituals at the Grand Velas resort to Mayan ruins at Tulum. The spring breakers have come and gone, the wedding season has not yet hit its peak and the temperatures still hover at comfortable. Her dispatch follows.
I’m 62 kilometers (about 40 miles) south of Cancun. It’s a different world down here from the hubbub of that resort-centric destination.
Cancun is a fun place, don’t get me wrong. But the Riviera Maya feels more like, well, Mexico to me. Maybe it’s the jungle that still can be seen on the right side of the highway heading south.
There’s lots of development going on down here, for sure, but miles of open, foliage-heavy land remain untouched by porte cocheres, resort towers and guestroom wings.
Grand Velas itself is set amid 80 acres of protected land. I’m taking a guided tour today down resort trails and pathways where I’ve been assured I’ll see wildlife — deer, those peculiar raccoon-looking coatis and lots of birds.
Rafa Garcia, the driver who picked me up at the airport in Cancun, was born in Mexico City but lives now in nearby Playa del Carmen. He’s been at the resort since it opened in 2008.
“I love it here. It has everything,” meaning not just the resort but the entire destination.
I told him I intended to discover a lot of it.
“You must come back in December,” he said.
He was referring to the big event on Dec. 21 when one Mayan calendar ends and another begins. Some believe that the world will end that day.
“Nothing is happening. We’re just having one big party, and you’re invited.” I told him I’d be there.
His invitation was echoed by young Tayde, a waiter at the Bistro poolside restaurant. He’s from Veracruz, and spent six years at hotels in Wisconsin, of all places (“not good, very, very cold”) before settling here four years ago.
“Life is good for me here, and it’s beautiful place,” Tayde said.
I couldn’t agree more.
Ana Mari Irabien, promotion director for Grand Velas, told me, “Here is what we say to explain this area: Cancun is high heels, Playa del Carmen is sandals, and Tulum is barefoot.”
I’m in the Tulum mode already. Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.