Hidden jungle temples, diving through sacred caves, rich cultures…when most people think of a Mexican vacation they think of all-inclusives and lounging on a beach, not an adventure travel destination. I just recently traveled to the Yucatán Peninsula and stayed at the absolutely gorgeous Viceroy Riviera Maya. Although anyone could stay at the Viceroy and have absolutely no reason to leave for days on end, I filled my days exploring the surrounding country. We visited ancient Mayan sites including the very impressive ruins at Tulum perched on seaside cliffs. We visited indigenous villages and bought exquisite handicrafts by local artisans. We dove in cenotes, natural sinkholes exposing freshwater underneath the earth, some of the most exhilarating diving you can do anywhere. The seagrass beds of Akumal make for exciting snorkel opportunities with endangered green sea turtles. And we ate AMAZING food everywhere from the Viceroy’s two beautiful open air restaurants to beachside taco shacks to Mayan specialties in jungle enclaves. The moral of the story is don’t skip over Mexico as an adventure travel destination.
The Viceroy Riviera Maya made a perfect base for our explorations. As much as I love to fill my days with rugged adventure, I love coming back to an absolutely luxurious place to relax. Unlike the mega resorts in this area of Mexico, the Viceroy is a small property made up entirely of private villas each with their own private outdoor lounge area with plunge pool. The villas are thatched and blend in with the jungle surroundings, but totally air-conditioned and comfortable. We were greeted with a shot of mezcal and then got to choose our own handmade soaps, which was a unique hotel welcome experience for me. The property, of course, has a lovely beach, infinity pool, and ocean front yoga sessions on the pier. The spa and treatments were ethereal. I would recommend this property to honeymooners, for anniversaries, or any romantic getaway. It would also be a great spot for a destination wedding (although only children 14 years and older are permitted). Despite the fact that this area of Mexico is heavily touristed, one can still find these enclaves of tranquil luxury and there are still unique corners of the country to explore. Let me help you plan your next Mexican adventure.
I love discovering new favorite destinations, and I just found a new one – Belize! It is such a quick and easy getaway especially from South Florida because the flight out of Miami is only an hour and forty minutes to Belize City. I recommend skipping Belize City and head either straight for the islands or to the jungle. As an English-speaking country driving on the right hand side of the road, it is an easy travel destination for Americans. My first stop was The Lodge at Chaa Creek in the Cayo District of Western Belize in the heart of the rainforest. There are so many activities to do at the lodge itself from canoeing the Macal River, horseback riding, a beautiful spa, butterfly farm, and hiking trails all within the property’s 365 acre private nature reserve. The thatched rooms are exquisite, and the lodge grows most of the food served in its restaurant from its own on-property organic farm. Howler monkeys would often visit and their howls add to the exoticness of the locale. If you actually have a desire to leave the property, there are so many really exciting day trips from the lodge. I highly recommend the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave Tour for the adventurous at heart. For those who want a more relaxing day trip activity, the cave tubing was a really fun and interesting day adventure. Also nearby is the impressive Mayan pyramid site of Xunantunich, which makes for a fascinating stop either on the way to or from the airport.
Belize’s barrier reef offers some of the most impressive diving and snorkeling opportunities in the Americas. If you enjoy these underwater activities, Belize has got to be added to your bucket list. Beyond the famous Blue Hole, there are numerous other equally-exciting dive opportunities where you can swim with everything from sharks to manatees. A great base from which to explore the reef is Ambergris Caye, a quick 15-minute flight from Belize City over crystal-clear turquoise waters (I saw giant manta rays and sharks in the water from the plane it’s just that clear). There is also a ferry from the mainland. San Pedro is a really fun, laid back beach town with a wide range of accommodation options. I stayed at Ramon’s Village Resort in a thatched beach cabana, but for those who really want their own private island luxury experience I recommend Cayo Espanto. Overall, I highly recommend Belize for a long weekend getaway, honeymoon destination, or a week-long tropical vacation exploring beach and jungle.
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First published in the Post Haste Fall 2014 edition of Keeping Posted.