CG Design Studio designer Julia Stajanovic recently headed to Mexico’s beautiful beaches and gives her top tips and recommendations for a relaxing break in this tropical paradise.
Mexico isn’t always an obvious holiday destination for Australians as we have our own tropical getaways, however after spending 11 days here, it’s easy to see why Americans love venturing to this beautiful part of the world.
We chose to visit the region of Quintana Roo, Mexico’s easternmost State where the coastline is to the east of the Caribbean Sea and north of the Gulf of Mexico. Our visit was part of a month-long holiday to the US, and we chose Mexico in the hope of spending some down-time in a picturesque beachside location… and wow, did it deliver.
We based ourselves in three locations, within a distance of 150kms along Yucatan Peninsula of the Caribbean Sea.
Known as Mexico’s jewel of the Caribbean, Isla Mujeres is located just off the coast of Cancun.
A short 15 minute ferry ride from Cancun across spectacularly blue water awaits Isla Mujeres. Despite being a tourist hotspot, this little island has kept a sense of authenticity with rustic towns featuring traditional architecture popping in vivid colour. Undeniably, the greatest asset of this place is Playa Norte, with powder-white sand and crystal blue water so heavenly you can ditch the Instagram filter.
• Stay in one of the beachfront resorts or hotels on Playa Norte. You will want to be as close as possible to this incredible water, where you can laze on sunbeds all day long and indulge in tacos and cocktails at your whim. Playa Norte is also in close to the Town Centre, which means an abundance of shops and restaurants are just a short stroll away.
• Wander around the quaint streets of ‘Colonia Centro’, the town centre of Isla Mujeres, located at the northern end of the island. Brightly coloured shopfronts and restaurants line the narrow streets, giving it a market-like feel. This is a great place to source some traditional hand-painted ceramics and homewares (if your luggage allowance permits!).
• Hire a golf cart for the day and explore the island; you can drive the entire length in around half an hour and along the way you will find plenty of vantage points to take in the spectacular views.
• Visit Punta Sur (the southernmost tip of the island and the most eastern point of Mexico), which boasts captivating views from the rocky cliffs that have been carved from the crashing aquamarine sea below.
Eat & Drink
Xantolo – Crafted by ‘real-deal’ barmen, this place offers the best cocktails on the island, paired with a good atmosphere and delicious food.
Lola Valentina – Another great cocktail spot with delicious food
ANY Playa Norte Beach bar – You just can’t beat sipping on a Margarita or Mojito in that water!
PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Playa Del Carmen is a seaside city within an hour’s drive south of Cancun. Huge resorts and luxury hotels make up much of this district. Its allure is thanks to an generous retail precinct, bustling nightlife as well as it’s accessibility to some of Mexico’s most impressive natural and historical sights.
• Treat yourself to one of the many 4+ star hotels right on the shoreline. The Mexican hospitality and quality of service at these mega-resorts will make you feel like you never want to leave the luxury of your comfy sunlounge beside that oversized pool, ever.
• Spend a day shopping on 5th Avenue, a mall that spans 5km in length, and offers everything from flea-market style stores to big name-brand retailers.
• Take the ferry to Cozumel Island. We opted for an organised day-tour of the island that began with 4WDing to a hidden beach, snorkelling off the shore in a reef brimming with marine life. Later we spent some time exploring the town centre, featuring large canary yellow and terracotta Spanish Colonial style buildings.
Located at the south end of the Rivera Maya, Tulum is a tropical paradise, bordered by an eco-archaeological national park, and of course that postcard worthy beach. Rich in history and beauty, it’s easy to see why this laid-back coastal town has been popping up in your newsfeed of late.
• The Tulum Beach strip spans over 10km and is home to hundreds of boutique resorts and villa-style accommodation, built between palm-tress. Thatched roofs, rustic renders and raw materials add to the eco-chic vibe prevalent throughout the boutique hotels, quite literally, built on the beach. Many of these resorts run on their own power and water sources, so be ready to go without creature comforts like TV’s and hairdryers.
• Go snorkelling in one of the incredible fresh water Cenotes, which are limestone sink holes that have opened, exposing groundwater and underground caverns. The result is absolutely spectacular, with a spectrum of blues, ranging from illuminous aqua to sapphire black, varying with the depth of the water. The water is cool and invigorating, if not, dark and very, very deep (in parts) making it a little intimidating at first. Once you realise that it’s just you (and the other tourists), the fish and fresh water turtles, you won’t want to get out.
• The archaeological site of the Tulum Ruins gives insight into the Mayan way of life from 700 years ago. Constructed of limestone mined from the surrounding land, this historical town consisting of residences and temples, was once a busy fishing village and seaport.
• Hire a bicycle and explore Tulum – discover hidden beaches, cruise through the main town, or have a drink at one of any one the boutique hotel bars and soak in the atmosphere.
Eat & Drink
• Mezzanine Thai Restaurant & Bar – Stunning views, great ambience, and the best Thai food I’ve tasted outside of Thailand • Tata Tulum – Eat delicious Mexican Cuisine, barefoot on the sand • La Zebra – Build your own authentic tacos and be brave and ask the waiter to recommend accompanying tequila