A most auspicious meeting: here at Riviera Maya, sea and jungle come together in harmony and provide a place of inimitable beauty. The Yucatan peninsula and Riviera Maya have miles and miles of white sand, singular sunsets over azure waters and, to insure a dream vacation, there are upscale coastal resorts from Cancun to Tulum and beyond.
Consider this happy fact: the Riviera Maya in Mexico, our closest southern neighbor, is a very safe haven for visiting tourists. The Mayan coast stretches along the Caribbean Sea from Puerto Morelas to Punta Allen and has 125 miles of coastline, cultural riches, 5-star hotels, as well as pristine beaches, abundant marine life, caves, cenotes, underground rivers and archaeological sites. Its Mesoamerican Reef System stretches from Quintana Roo all the way to Honduras, and is the most important barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere.
Closer still than the Riviera Maya are the many cultural events that take place in our very own city.The Mexican artist Diego Rivera has an exhibition presently at The Museum of Modern Art, www.moma.org and on February 11 at 8pm, there will be a virtuoso recorder performance by Haracio Franco at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, www.nysec.org. Also of note: This year marks the 20th Anniversaryof the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York. They look forward to continuing to present the splendors of Mexican culture for many years to come www.lavitrina.com.
A prime attraction when you visitthe Riviera Maya is this region’s archeological history, including vestiges from various periods of the Mayan culture, one of the most remarkable civilizations in history. A particularly wonderful abode is the incomparable Dreams Tulum. An all-inclusive resort, it is unique and extraordinary in its service, beauty, amenities and fine gourmet dining, along with a staff dedicated to making your stay absolutely perfect. (They succeed royally).
Plan to explore Tulum, the most beautiful archaeological site of the Riviera Maya whose construction began in the pre-classic period (1800bc-250 ad). Its name means “fortified wall” in Mayan and it is the only walled city along the coast built to defend itself against attacks. The city was still inhabited during the first year of the Spanish colonization, but abandoned at the end of the 16th century and discovered again in 1842. The Maya called Tulum Zama, “Dawn,” because of its geographic location facing the sea and the commanding views of the rising sun.
Here the beautiful House of Chultun is a dwelling of an influential person; it has a two columned portico at the entrance and an inner sanctum with a small altar. At another site, a fortified wall used as defense, outlined the three sides of the town, west, north and south (the sea was to the east). The Temple of the Wind is outstanding with its many frescoes, altars, a ceremonial center and a dance platform. In the distance is Nohoch Mul (large hill) whose pyramid is the tallest in the Yucatan measuring 138 feet. The staircases leading to the various temples look daunting, but it is well worth the trek. El Castillo (Temple of the Sea)is the most significant building in Tulum. It is a single-structured building containing an altar and overlooking the sea – a spectacular spot that made a powerful impression on the invaders in the 16th century.
Immersion, both Cultural and Aquatic
“Where the Sky Begins” – what a lovely meaning for the Mayan words Sian Ka’an, a 1.3 million acre Biosphere Reserve and, as of 1986, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A van takes you to a specified meeting place where Pastor,your Mayan guide, will direct you to this magical jungle reserve populated by jaguar, spider and howler monkeys, deer, tapirs, green and loggerhead sea turtles and much more including 900 species of flora and rare birds such as the great blue heron, the brown booby, toucans, egrets and aquatic birds. Crocodiles too. However, Pastor assures you that if you want to jump into a fresh water lagoon it will be ok –“No crocs in that water.”
The day is usually sweltering hot, the water will look cool and inviting so, throw caution and good sense to the wind, and actually believe him. This is just about the most fun thing you can possibly do at Sian Ka’an because you immerse yourself both figuratively in a Mayan tradition of floating the lagoon and literally, you’re in the water, sitting atop your life vest, as instructed by Pastor: “Best way to really relax,”, placidly allowing the slow current to carry you through the narrow waterway with sky high mangroves on one side and tall reeds towering above on the other. Pastor is often given to say, with pride: “Welcome to my office.” The man clearly loves his work.
White Wedding Day
The Riviera Maya is a dream place to celebrate a wedding or honeymoon. At Dreams Tulum, the property hosts 450 weddings a year so you know you’ll be in fine and experienced hands. While there, I watched a wedding take place on the beach. As the bride walked a white carpet spread on the sand, a warm breeze caught her gauzy lace veil. Twirling it high in the air, it seemed to come alive, creating a very happy prospect for this celebration.
Fairmont Mayakoba, an ecologically chic resort on Riviera Maya, is one very romantic property. They have on-site wedding planners and many packages to choose from as well as creating personalized ceremonies. Fairmont Mayakoba offers an authentic Mayan wedding celebrated by a Xaman. Couples take a lanchita (boat) navigated by a Tatich-ha (captain) through canals accompanied by local music. The Xamanblesses the couple in his native language and a translator assists. For honeymooners, it’s one-stop shopping as their Platinum Concierge will help make all your arrangements.
The Tides Riviera Maya offers a luxe Riviera Maya Honeymoon Package for five days and four nights in an elegant villa with a private pool. This includes round-trip transfers to and from the Cancun International Airport, daily breakfast, fresh flowers upon arrival, a couple’s massage, a private, candle-lit dinner including Moet Chandon. Weddings, honeymoons, the turquoise Caribbean…..kind of makes you want to take the leap, si?
When you need a break from all that amour, (it can happen), get yourself to Playa del Carmen, a dynamic little nearby town known for its cosmopolitan nature: lots of artists, painters, musicians and dancers. It’s a multi-cultural community with some great shopping on La Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue). The place is vibrant and spirited and the dining is world-class.
Upcoming Riviera Maya events:
Sea Turtle Festival – October
Riviera Maya Jazz Festival – November
Day of the Dead – November
Cancun Riviera Maya International Film Festival – November
Carnival – February, 2012
If You Go:
For more information: www.rivieramaya.com
Mexican Tourist Office
400 Madison Ave, Suite 11C
New York NY, 10017
Tel: (212) 308-2110
Fax: (212) 308-9060