Take Cancun, for instance. As holiday destinations go, it’s got it all: A staggering selection of resorts, reliably warm weather, affordable prices, and the convenience of being a relatively quick, direct flight from most major Canadian cities. But it’s these very perks that can also make the Mayan Riviera’s sun-soaked capital seem so very… Ordinary. It’s such an effortless getaway, it’s almost become cliche.
1. Splurge on a seat upgrade
The stressors of flying can prevent you from getting into the holiday mindset until after you’ve stepped off the plane. Between wailing infants, overcrowded overhead bins and the interminable wait at the luggage carousel, there’s a reason most resorts greet you with a complimentary cocktail the moment you check-in. Although flying first class can alleviate some of the ennui, it remains a luxury few can afford. Luckily, there’s a new intermediary option popping up among many airlines’ southern routes, and it includes perks that make it a worthy splurge.
AirTransat’s Luxury Collection Option Plus, for example, includes complimentary seat selection, priority check-in and priority boarding and baggage handling from just $89 round-trip. A sound investment if it turns your flight into part of the vacation, rather than a means of getting there.
2.Book a tequila tasting
Regardless of whether you love or loathe tequila, there’s no escaping the bite of the blue agave on a Cancun vacation. The best way to appreciate the stuff (or at least hate it less) is to experience a proper tequila tasting, like the one offered at the Nineteen Ten Mexican Cantina in Playa Del Carmen’s Azul Fives resort. Although it tends to be a drink that’s tossed back rather than savoured, a tequila connoisseur’s guidance can help foster your appreciation of variations in colour, aroma and—provided your stomach’s strong enough—flavour.
3.Take the boutique resort route
Weary of sprawling, thousand-room resorts that require a detailed map to make it back to your suite (particularly after a tequila tasting)? Consider a smaller-scale boutique-style resort like Zoetry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres Cancun. Consisting of only 35 rooms (all of them oceanfront), it’s got a remarkably intimate feel, and the ability to provide a level of personalized service that its grander competitors can only dream of. The resort also benefits from a delightful sense of seclusion, due in part to the fact it’s only accessible by boat.
4.Rise above the “Lounge Chair Stakeout”
They’re at every resort: Those people who wake up at 4AM, slink down to the pool and plant their towel, a dog-eared paperback and a cheap pair of sunglasses on the very best lounge chairs. Following that, of course, they crawl back to bed, only claim their marked territory at a more civilized—not to mention in-demand—hour. Although hoteliers have typically washed their hands of responsibility when it comes to lounge chair stakeouts, resorts like Grand Velas Riviera Maya are addressing it head-on. In addition to providing other services, the resort’s Pool and Beach Concierges put the kibosh on seat-saving so that the prime real estate is reserved for the guests who are actually there to enjoy it.
5. Sleep above the Caribbean Sea
Bora Bora doesn’t have a monopoly on overwater bungalows anymore. In a first for Latin America, the adults-only El Dorado Maroma resort launched these luxurious thatched-roof “palafitos” in June 2016. Each 800 square-foot suite comes complete with the requisite glass-bottom floor, private infinity pool, and direct ladder access to the blissfully warm—and astonishingly shallow—waters of the Caribbean Sea. Although you’ll likely spend most of your time soaking up the sun on your private patio, wading in to shore is well worth the effort: The Travel Channel recently named Maroma Beach one of the 10 best beaches in the world.
6.Eat a meal prepared by a Master Chef of France
What’s a Master Chef of France—a prestigious title held by only 300 chefs in the world—doing at a resort in the Mayan Riviera? (Apart from singlehandedly turning everything you thought you knew about resort food on its head, that is.) On the surface an unlikely pairing, Chef Michel Mustiere is nevertheless perfectly at home at Piaf: the sumptuous, four-diamond French restaurant at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. In a setting of Swarovski crystal curtains and flickering candlelight, Mustiere serves up some of the most exquisite French cuisine on the continent, including an outstanding escargot ravioli.
7. Step back in time at Tulum
If you only venture off-resort for one day-trip on a Cancun vacation, make it Tulum. (And, for the sake of your own sanity, make it on a Saturday or Sunday. As the third most visited archaeological site in Mexico, Tulum’s weekday crowds can be overwhelming.) Why such enthusiasm for a fairly compact collection of crumbling old brickwork? Well, the fact that it’s crumbling so little, for one: Tulum is one of the best-preserved Mayan sites along the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful, perched high on a steep cliff that overlooks a white sand beach where sea turtles are known to nest.
8.Bring the kids… Or don’t
Resorts have always catered to small children; it’s the I’d-rather-die-than-be-seen-with-Mom-and-Dad teenagers who have often proven problematic. Too old for kids clubs and too young for the disco, it’s tempting to give teens the option of staying home while the rest of the family spends a week in the sun. (An arrangement that can cause just as much grief.) The good news is that resorts are beginning to recognize the value in catering to this previously neglected demographic. At Grand Velas Riviera Maya, for instance, there’s a designated Teens Club that’s kitted out with two-seater gaming pods, a billiards table, and programming that includes lessons in mixology (mocktails, of course!) and deejaying. It won’t make your teenagers less mortified to sit with you at dinner, but it’ll certainly keep them occupied.