Imagine standing on the beach in Cancun and seeing only open water, powdery sand and maybe a hotel in the distance. Cancun probably hasn't afforded guests that sort of view for more than 30 years. And yet to find seclusion, visitors won't have to drive hours south into the Riviera Maya and beyond. All they have to do is head 15 minutes north.
The coastline of Cancun continues to spread north. The once-remote, still-virgin strip of sand 10 miles north of Cancun known as Costa Mujeres is catching the eye of more hotel companies, with Riu being one of the latest to open a resort there.
Opened at the end of December, the Riu Dunamar has set up shop on a gorgeous slice of sand in overlooking the Caribbean Sea with Isla Mujeres in the distance. The resort is the highest category Riu offers in Mexico, with five-star service. The 740 rooms are mostly white, with pops of purple and blue, and they have balconies that overlook the central pool area or out to sea. True to Riu form, each room is stocked with all-inclusive minibars, complete with liquor dispensers replenished as needed.
The main attractions at the resort are found outside in a central courtyard framed by the two wings of rooms. There are five outdoor pools, two with swim-up bars, as well as the Splash Water World waterpark.
The Splash Water World waterpark at the Riu Dunamar, which also has five pools.
The RiuLand club for ages 4 to 12 offers daily entertainment. Adults also have a daily entertainment program, and there are always evening shows and live music.
The culinary options are impressive, especially at the buffet, which can often disappoint at an all-inclusive. Not at Isla Mujeres, where the buffet features local cuisine, fresh grilled options, salads and live cooking stations. Other dining venues are Bamboo for Asian cuisine, Pompeya for Italian and Kulinarium for a fine-dining experience. Las Brasas steakhouse is relatively casual and serves burgers, steaks and chicken.
It's not common to leave an all-inclusive resort for a meal, but a quick trip to Puerto Juarez is an absolute must. Here, travelers will find Fish Market Mar Bella. Enter through an unassuming convenience store and ascend a spiral staircase to emerge into a veritable seafood wonderland. Choose your fish or shellfish from the sprawling raw bar and your style of preparation, order a cold beer and enjoy with views of the sea.
Return to the resort for an appointment at the Renovation Spa, then take a nap and recharge for a night at the Pacha disco.
In November, Riu will open a second property in Costa Mujeres, the Riu Palace Costa Mujeres, which will be adjacent to the Dunamar and slightly smaller with 600 rooms. Guests will have access to amenities at both properties.
A double room at the Riu Dunamar starts at $107.