“You cannot leave Mexico without seeing the Riviera Maya”, the Polish model said in Spanish with a perfect Mexican accent over dinner at a restaurant in La Condesa.
And so was born the custom on the first Friday of every trip I take to Mexico. My plane landed again in Cancun, and the dazzling smile of the beautiful Polish woman appeared in front of me again to remind me that I was in the Riviera Maya.
A taxi driver dropped me off very late at night at a deserted beach. I found a hotel where the half-asleep receptionist, realizing I was lost, came to my aid and led me to a room on the top floor.
I have been to the Playa at different times of the year, and I always stay in a seaside hotel. I like the hotels closer to the Parque de los Fundadores than to the beaches, where the fit-looking Europeans and Americans sit and talk while drinking Margaritas. The atmosphere on the beach in the Parque area is less touristy and more Mexican, and at sunset I love to take photos of the locals and the performers dressed up as ancient Mayans.
The Portal Maya is an elegant bronze sculpture of a woman and a man holding hands, forming a high arch open towards the sea. This monument is an invitation to enter into the magic of the place, the Eden of the Caribbean.
Playa del Carmen is a narrow strip of white sand bathed by the blue Caribbean. The atmosphere these days is very trendy, with many bars and restaurants having their seating areas right on the sand. From there it is a very pleasant walk from my hotel to the Mamitas, where the beach is wider and the tourists better to look at.
Great egrets fly over in a pleasing contrast with the sky, and brown pelicans rest motionless on colorful fishing boats, as if posing to help the photographer get a striking shot.
Cancun is progressively replacing Acapulco as the tourist capital of Mexico. Little by little the hotel complexes of Cancun are spreading south along the entire Caribbean coast in what is now known as the Riviera Maya.
The beaches are undoubtedly more beautiful in Cancun, which I decided out of curiosity to visit on my last trip. However, the atmosphere is more anonymous and the hotels on the beach less intimate and welcoming.
There is no street in Cancun like the Quinta in Playa del Carmen, full of shops, bars, restaurants and tourists of all kinds who stroll. Its sophisticated restaurants on the sea in the hotel zone have no equal in the Riviera Maya.
Few destinations in the world can dazzle us with the blue waters of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, with ancient Mayan ruins, and colonial cities. This is the Yucatan, and it is widely suggested to conclude a trip to the Riviera Maya by renting a car and checking out the inland parts of this rich peninsula.
One’s first stop might be at Chichen Itza or at the extraordinary central square in Valladolid, (“the heroic city”) where the locals dressed in white will greet you with a traditional dance.
The final destination will always be the same for me, Mérida, and the Hotel Caribe located in a small square a few meters from the Cathedral of San Idelfonso. In a Spanish colonial architectural context that takes me back in time, here I have one last rest, before the flight to the infinity of Mexico City.
Pablo Munini © Milan, May 2021