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In The Need Of Sun, Rest & Relaxation? (Who Isn’t?) Try This Hotspot

mbg Beauty Director

By Alexandra Engler

mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she’s held beauty roles at Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.

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Travel can restore your well-being. We’re here to help you on that journey with Well-Traveled, a go-to destination for travel recommendations and tips.

Recently I was having a conversation with some folks about what the purpose of travel was for them. Were they the sort of people who wanted to relax, unwind, and indulge on a week away? Did they crave adventure and an adrenaline rush they couldn’t get in their day-to-day lives? Were they hungry for culture and new experiences to broaden their horizons? Ultimately, we decided a healthy mix of all types of travel were warranted from time to time.

Personally, I’ve been thinking a lot about the benefits of a truly relaxing vacation. So often I take getaways and come back even more exhausted than when I left, as I’m trying to fill every minute of my time off. So, instead, for this Well Traveled guide, I set out to craft a trip that’d truly help you unwind.

Welcome to Playa del Carmen, Mexico’s premier resort destination, located in the heart of the Riviera Maya. It’s the perfect spot for that no-fuss vacation you’re longing for. 

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Playa del Carmen is a stretch of beach just south of Cancun, and known for its top-tier resorts. Here, some of the best of the best to check out. 

Adults only: Impression Moxché by Secrets

This expansive resort is a sight to behold: Visions of dazzling sunshine and rich blue waters greet you just on the other side of Secret’s jaw-dropping lobby. The entire Secret’s high-end, all-inclusive compound hosts pristine views, lush scenery, modern, comfortable rooms, 14 dining options, and 12 bars total. But for guests of Impression’s (consider this the luxury enclave of an already luxurious hotel), you’ll have access to four private pools, an exclusive beach club, premier beach access, access to a private butler, and additional restaurant options. 

I’d be remiss not to highlight the food. You may hear “all-inclusive” and set lower expectations for the culinary experiences, but I was blown away by each and every restaurant I dined at. I had carnitas tacos that I’m still salivating over, fish tacos so fresh and light I ordered a second round (I wish I had done a third), and a grilled lobster and avocado dish I finished in under five minutes. Not to mention, the showstopper: a seven-course tasting menu at their premier restaurant Teodoro, in which I sampled Mexican wine alongside curated dishes by their master chef. 

Price point: $$$$Amenities: Spa, hydrotherapy, vegan restaurant and meals, dietary restrictions accommodated, gym, workout classes (yoga), well-being classes (roving options such as meditation, dance classes, crafting, etc.), golf, water sports (kayaks, sailing, paddle, boarding, snorkeling), pickleball, catamaran, tennis Book now

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Editor’s tip:

Have an itching impulse to book a last-minute trip? Consider booking the weekend of Nov. 17–19. During this time, the resort will host a new culinary event known as the “Supper Club Dinner Series,” offering guests the opportunity to reserve an exclusive dinner with two-Michelin-starred chefs from NYC.

Andaz

The Mexican Caribbean coast, with a thoroughly modern twist. The Andaz hotel chain is known for their modern, chic aesthetics, and the Playa del Carmen location is no exception. With airy white aesthetics, clean lines, and contemporary art, this hotel feels effortlessly stylish. 

Price point: $$$Amenities: Fitness center, kids club, spa, sauna & steam room, golf, tennis court Book now

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No. 1 priority is time spent sunbathing. After that? Consider checking out these fun activities: 

1.

Stroll down Quinta Avenida

Don’t let New York’s Fifth Avenue get all the attention. Playa del Carmen’s Fifth Avenue, or Quinta Avenida, is just off the beach and the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. 

The pedestrian walkway is flush with restaurants for local eats, bars for tequila and mezcal sips, art galleries and shops showcasing artisanal finds, shopping stores to pick up everything from basics to designer finds, and tourist shops to pick up a souvenir or two. 

You’ll also walk past Parque Los Fundadores, the famous Portal Maya Statue, and the Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Carmen (the Chapel of our Lady Carmen)—so you’ll check off some sightseeing too.

2.

Swim at a cenote 

For an afternoon trip, check out one of the area’s natural sinkholes (called cenotes). There are a few locations open for swimming, such as cenote Azul, cenote Jardin del Eden, and cenote Cristalino. Each has its unique vibes and associated costs, so pick wisely based on what you’re after. Cenote Azul is perhaps the most famous of the cenotes in the Riviera Maya. It’s open air, has cliffs to jump off, has nearby restaurants, and by the beach too. Cenote Jardin del Eden is beloved for its clear water. And cenote Cristalino is one of the less frequented swimming holes—so it’s less crowded—and has a 14-foot cliff to jump from for the more daring.

There are even cenote tours you can take (read: you’ll visit a few in one day trip), so speak to your hotel about booking one of those. 

3.

Visit Akumal beach

While you can’t go wrong with the beaches at Playa del Carmen, this pristine beach may tempt you away for an afternoon for one simple reason: swimming with turtles. A 30-minute drive south of the town, it falls just between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The white sand beaches are picturesque, but be sure to grab your snorkeling gear and venture into the crystal-clear waters, as they’re home to a wide assortment of marine life, including a variety of turtle species! 

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To me, an “indulgent” vacation means one thing: amazing food, and lots of it. 

Teodoro

If you’re staying at Impression Moxché by Secrets, this fine dining, tasting-menu-only restaurant is an absolute must. The seven-course meal samples local Mexican flavors and ingredients with traditional Parisian cooking. The result is some of the most interesting flavor combinations I’ve ever tasted—a sensory delight for anyone who considers themselves a foodie.

Alongside the dishes, they serve complementing Mexican wines. They also have a craft cocktail menu stocked with innovative concoctions, should you want to sip on something additional (personally I had one of their mocktails alongside my wines, and it was superb). It’s great for a group but even better for a romantic duo.

Cuisine: Tasting menuPrice point: $$$$Dietary consideration options: vegetarian, vegan, locally sourced ingredients, dietary restrictions accommodated  Setting: elevated 

La Cueva del Chango

Nestled among lush vegetation, this spot in the heart of Playa del Carmen is a perfect brunch spot to hit up during your day about town. The fresh ingredients will make your mouth water. 

Cuisine: Contemporary MexicanPrice point: $$Dietary consideration options: Vegan, vegetarian, locally sourced ingredientsSetting: casual outdoor 

Sotavento

Located in the Andaz on the Riviera Maya, the Sotavento beach club has been named one of Mexico’s Top 250 Restaurants by Guía México Gastronómico. Put your feet in the sand, order rounds of oysters and cervezas, and order the sustainable catch of the day. 

Cuisine: seafoodPrice point: $$$Dietary consideration options: Sustainable fish, vegan and vegetarian options, dietary restrictions accommodated, kid menu  Setting: Beach 

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Make sure you come prepared for sun, sand, and loads of pool time. Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen, of course.

Nakawe Caroline One Piece

Why we love it:

Made in Mexico 78% recycled Nylon and 22% spandex

Obviously a chic swimsuit is a must. But why not sport one that’s locally made and uses sustainable fibers? If the one piece isn’t your thing, don’t worry: The brand carries a wide variety of styles and shades, like olive green, tan, pink, and black. Browse around, you’re sure to find one (or three or four or five…) that you like. 

Baia Wire Tortoise Bronze

Why we love it:

Comes in four colorways Has polarized lenses Block 100% UVA/UVB/UV400 wavelengths

These retro designed shades will fit in anywhere, but especially at a sunbaked vacation. What we love about these is that they’re highly durable, so you don’t have to be too precious with their care. 

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Caminito Sombra Sun Hat

Why we love it:

Made with woven palm leavesHandmade in Mexico by skilled artisans

Sure you can always pick up a sun hat at a gift shop, but this expertly crafted one has more intention behind it. This option is made with responsibly sourced woven palm leaves, handmade vegetable-tanned leather cord, and crafted by artisans in Mexico. Sombra means shade, which is quite appropriate for this wide brimmed design.

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Time to sit back, lie in the sun, open a good book, and really get the most relaxation possible out of your vacation. And that’s exactly what you’ll get at Playa del Carmen. 

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