All-Inclusive 4-Star Hotel on Pristine Beachfront
About 16 miles north of bustling Playa del Carmen lies a quieter swath of sand known as Playa del Secreto, or the Secret Beach. The area is devoid of high-rise hotels and all-hours nightclubs. Instead, you’ll find turquoise water and sugar-sand beaches so tranquil and undisturbed that sea turtles still use them as nesting grounds. Fodor’s calls it “one of the most beautiful coastal communities in Riviera Maya.”
Presiding over a half-mile stretch of Playa del Secreto is Valentin Imperial Maya, an adults-only (18 and over) luxury hotel inspired by grand old Mexican haciendas. Strolling through the hotel’s tropical gardens and landscaped courtyards, you'll see Moorish arches, tiled floors, and intricate fountains. You might also see coatimundi, raccoon-like mammals native to the region.
Between the villas and the beach, a large pool splinters off into canals and lagoons spreading throughout the property. Down on the sand, thatched umbrellas supply plenty of shade for comfortable lounge chairs set up beneath them. You can use your $500 resort credit toward a romantic dinner, massages, room upgrades, phone calls, and the wine menu at specialty restaurants.
Valentin Imperial Maya has several onsite restaurants where you can take advantage of an all-inclusive plan that covers all meals, snacks, and beverages. Hit up the gourmet omelet station at Restaurant Le Marché for breakfast, or pop in for an Italian dinner at Il Olivo. The upscale L’Alsace specializes in French cuisine, and La Hacienda offers up a blend of contemporary Mexican fare from three separate states—Veracruz, Puebla, and Yucatán.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico: Trendy Beach Area and Diving Destination
Just across the sea from the island of Cozumel, Playa del Carmen has been called "the hippest city in all of the Yucatán Peninsula" by Lonely Planet. The laid-back beach bars and cafés have a way of converting vacationers into expats, but Playa's most compelling draw might be its cenotes—cavernous sinkholes filled with turquoise pools. The water in the cenotes is crystal clear, particularly at the lily-pad-dotted Xlacah cenote, where you can snorkel among schools of colorful fish.
To the south, you'll find preserved ruins of pre-Columbian cities. Tulum's crumbling temples are situated above a dramatic ocean bluff, and Coba's enormous pyramid rises between two lagoons. For a fun day trip, hop aboard the ferry to Cozumel, which docks 16 miles (25 km) from the hotel at the pier east of Calle 1. There are about a dozen dive shops on Cozumel, and they offer trips offshore to the reefs Jacques Cousteau declared some of the world's most beautiful.
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