Warm breezes, soft sand, rolling waves: Soaking up the beach vibes is undoubtedly at the heart of any good oceanside vacation.
But for me, it is just a part of the equation.
The routine might vary depending on the destination, but basically my beach itinerary consists of: swim, lounge, hike, explore, shop, dine, repeat. All capped off with a bit of local adventure.
With those priorities in mind, I believe I found the perfect combo on a recent trip to the Mexican Caribbean’s Riviera Maya – the all-inclusive resort.
Of course, I had heard of the charms of Mexico’s all-inclusive resorts for years. But for some reason, I had envisioned a somewhat generic experience, with guests mostly staying onsite to partake of the complimentary food, drink, and entertainment.
It always raised a question for me: Why travel to a far-off locale if you’re going to limit your experience to the grounds of a resort?
What I found at the Secrets Capri Riviera Cancun was an entirely different experience. Sure, there were excellent food and drink choices available, along with extravagant nightly entertainment and a lovely beach setting.
But there were also vans and buses coming and going throughout the day, taking guests to the region’s varied attractions – from coral reefs for snorkeling to underground rivers to island excursions.
After my short stay at Secrets Capri, I left with the impression that an all-inclusive resort offers the perfect base to explore the gorgeous Mexican Caribbean. Here’s why:
Easy Access to Area Attractions
The Riviera Maya area boasts dozens of all-inclusive resorts, and a quick internet search will turn up multiple lists of the best ones. Like many of the others, Secrets Capri has a full concierge staff to help you plan your excursions to the surrounding attractions. The resort’s travel desk offers tours on everything from the famous Mayan site of Chichen Itza to snorkeling and caving adventures.
A major plus of taking one of the van services is that you get door-to-door service, and no driving hassles.
Here are some of the excellent Riviera Maya activities that are just a short ride away from the region’s string of all-inclusive resorts:
Exploring an underground river
Rio Secreto, the distinctive subterranean river in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, is a don’t-miss experience in the Riviera Maya.
Located deep in the Caribbean jungle, Rio Secreto offers a range of tours that will take you underground and into the luminous blue-green river. At times, you are submerged in complete darkness, and at other times, you find yourself in massive rotundas with glowing stalactites.
The going can be a bit rough, and the water gets deep at some points. But visitors are all issued life vests, water shoes, and headlamps to make the excursion safe and enjoyable.
Before the tour groups enter the cave, a Mayan shaman performs a fascinating cleansing ceremony, which emphasizes the importance of caves like Rio Secreto throughout the region’s history.
To experience the true charm of a Mexican Caribbean beach town, I recommend heading to one or two of the gorgeous islands located just off the coast. Popular Cozumel is the largest and offers the most amenities, but I really loved two of the smaller islands – Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy.
Isla Mujeres (translation: Women Island) boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Playa Norte, along with a windswept white seawall that perfectly sets off the expansive views of the Caribbean’s blue waters.
Isla Contoy is equally lovely, but in a completely different way. The uninhabited island is protected and allows just 200 visitors a day. If you can score one of those spots, I say go for it. Tour operators such as Asterix offer fun all-day trips to the secluded island.
After an interesting tour of the island, Contoy’s blue waters beckon, and you shouldn’t resist. Floating in the gentle waves of that white-sand beach is among the favorite memories from my trip.
As a part of the all-day trips to Isla Contoy, tour companies offer snorkeling at the Ixlache Reef – an experience that will get you direct access to the tropical fish and colorful coral of the region.
Be prepared to suit up on the boat with a group of a dozen or more fellow snorkelers and jump overboard into the deep water. It’s a somewhat rigorous experience, but definitely worth the effort!
Another unforgettable snorkeling experience can be found in the reefs just off the coast of Riviera Maya through the Alltournative Snorkel Native Park, where efforts are underway to restore the endangered coral reefs.
If you like a little retail therapy with your travel adventures, Isla Mujeres is a perfect place to indulge. Lively shops line the main street, Avenida Rueda Medina, near the boat dock.
Although some of them are peddling typical tourist trinkets, others feature authentic Mayan goods, such as painted masks decorated with obsidian and quartz symbols. I also loved the selections of habanero sea salt and chili sauce that I found in several of the shops.
Recharge in a luxurious setting
After all of the sun-drenched fun, what could be better than returning to resort room that has a complimentary minibar stocked with snacks and beer, room service on demand, and a pristine beach and sparkling-blue pools just outside your door?
It seemed to me to offer the perfect blend of adventure and luxury. The amenities of Mexico’s all-inclusive resorts are plentiful. Here are some of the best:
Even though there are plenty of activities both on and off-site at Riviera Maya’s all-inclusive resorts, lazing away your days at the beach isn’t a bad plan either – especially if the beach is as lovely as the one at Secrets Capri.
After spending my days exploring, I spent several evenings walking up and down the sugary-sand beach, and would have liked even more time there.
Of course, another option is to lounge by the pool, and all-inclusive resorts tend to have a lot of options in that department. Secrets Capri had a beautiful pool complex, complete with a swim-up bar, with all drinks complimentary. Tempting!
There were a number of restaurant choices at Secrets Capri, including seafood, Italian, and Asian cuisines. But my favorite was the night the hotel set up an elaborate poolside buffet serving Mexican classics, with virtually every conceivable entree, salsa, vegetable, rice, and tropical fruit imaginable.
The booth serving freshly prepared street tacos was the most popular with the crowd, and with me as well.
As a part of Secrets Capri’s Mexican-buffet night, an excellent mariachi band was on hand to provide entertainment. With their reflections shimmering in the pool’s surface amidst the red, white, and green floodlights, the singers created a magical moment.
Another night, a Queen tribute band was on hand for a spectacular show on the resort’s stage, and other nights, guests participated in karaoke. It all made for some spectacular entertainment.
Overall, my first experience with an all-inclusive resort more than delivered on Secrets Capri’s promise of an unlimited-luxury getaway.
(Note that I gathered this information on a sponsored press trip, but my opinions remain my own.)
My Mexico beach days were all spent on the Pacific side of the country. But Gayle (my stepdaughter) has been to Cancun, Isla Mujeres and points along that coast many times.
Yes, I’m more familiar with the Pacific side too. I love the Sea of Cortez! But the Caribbean side blew me away with its bright blue water and white sand. It was my first visit, and I’d love to go back again.