Warm-Weather Escapes: The Yucatán Peninsula

Take a trip for the history books.

The ancient Mayan town of Uxmal. / iStock

For many a New Englander visiting Mexico, the sultry sunshine of Cancún eclipses the rest of the Yucatán Peninsula. But for history lovers and ecotourism fiends, flying direct from Logan to the city’s airport—then leaving its congested, frenzied streets behind—pays off in spades. That’s because just a brief drive away sit not only the sprawling beaches of the tony Riviera Maya, but also a smattering of sites revered as the pinnacles of global adventuring.

Let’s start with the oldest gems first. Dating from as early as AD 550, ancient Mayan temples and pyramids pop up among bona fide jungles from one coast to the other—from Tulum, near the Caribbean Sea on the east side, to Uxmal, on the western Gulf of Mexico coast. Between them is Chichén Itzá, listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World (alongside the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu).

Rosewood Mayakoba’s thoroughly modern lagoon suites. / Courtesy photo

Another wonder, this time of the natural sort, is the area’s glorious underground network of cenotes, sparkling turquoise freshwater swimming pools formed by collapsed limestone. You’ll find them all over the peninsula, with particularly spectacular ones near the city of Mérida and Chichén Itzá. Watery thrills also abound around Tulum, where you can paddle through the junglelike mangrove forests of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve on a guided kayaking tour with Yucatan Outdoors.

In between all of that exploring, of course, you’ll want to squeeze in time to relax. With its minimalist suites and quietly chic pool scene, Rosewood Mayakoba resort is the place to stay in the Riviera Maya area. Close to Mérida, small groups would do well to book Hacienda Petac, an exquisitely modernized 17th-century estate. There the full-time, on-site staff will unpack your bags, offer pampering massages in the spa, and serve up magical Yucatecan cuisine—including just-made guacamole and sweet-tart margaritas made from freshly squeezed local limes—as you lie in one of the gauzy hammocks over the pool.

• • •

Delta nonstop to Cancún International Airport

Hiring an English-speaking guide to see any of the Mayan ruins is well worth it: Most are true experts who can turn your day trip into a cultural history lesson you won’t soon forget.

More warm-weather escapes from our Boston Traveler 2018 issue.