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Popular hotspots like Cancun and Riviera Maya along with lesser known gems like Isla Mujeres and Akumal make the Mexican Caribbean a go-to getaway for sun-seekers, scuba-divers and eco-adventurers.
This seaside resort town might be renowned for its nightlife, but one-of-a-kind wonders like the Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA) and nearby Xcaret eco-park offer indigenous adventure. At MUSA, hundreds of life-size sculptures pepper the seafloor, and you can explore the aquatic gallery by either suiting up and diving or peering through the frame of a glass-bottom boat. At Xcaret, you can cool off in underground rivers, snorkel at the coral reef aquarium and savor authentic Mexican cuisine. For a laid-back daytrip, check out the calm, clear water of Isla Mujeres. Snorkel along the island’s western shore or take your underwater adventures to the next level and dive with whale sharks. Isla Holbox, another island from which you can set sail on a whale-shark excursion, offers crowd-free beaches for a relaxing reprieve from Cancun’s bustle.
On this stretch of Yucatan coast, Maya culture is alive and well (many residents still speak Mayan languages). Immerse yourself in the region’s history at archaeological sites like Tulum, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, you’ll have a tough time trying not to be jealous of the views ancient Mayas woke up to. Though the town of Tulum is no longer the hidden gem it once was, its coastal charm is as refreshing as ever. North of Tulum in the seaside town of Akumal, you can find ribbons of unspoiled beaches, but you can also wind through the verdant interior landscape at Aktun Chen Natural Park. If you’re in search of rejuvenation, chic resorts like UNICO 20°87° and Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita feature Maya culture front-and-center in their pamperings (try the Temazcal “house of heat” ceremony at Zoëtry). For a natural reset, dive into one of the hundreds of the region’s historically sacred cenotes (natural, crystal-clear pools that form in limestone sink holes).
This island off the coast of Playa del Carmen is a diver’s dream come true. Cozumel’s abundance of dive sites means you don’t have to choose between beach days and submarine meanderings. Dive in the morning, soak up the sun in the afternoon, and even head out for another round of diving in the evening. The kaleidoscopic coral of the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest reef in the world, twists along 13 miles of the island’s coast. The variety of sea life and coral structure—walls, swim-throughs, caves—means each dip offers something different.