Long stretches of tranquil sandy beaches, luxurious five-star resorts, wondrous archaeological sites, and the second-largest coral reef in the world combine to make Mexico one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Sunny and warm all year round, it’s really no mystery why newly married couples flock there for their honeymoon paradise.
What’s your idea of the perfect honeymoon? Some couples want theirs to be full of lazy days by pool bar, intimate couples massages, candlelit dinners and sunbathing on the beach. Others need more action, to get out and snorkel, scuba dive, or jet-ski during the day and hit some of the nightlife in the evening. Some honeymooners like to spend some time learning a bit about their destination, visiting any surrounding historical sites, taking in the exotic local wildlife, or wandering through the streets and shops of the nearest town. Perhaps your idea of perfection is a little bit of all three.
Whether you want to relax and be pampered, keep active, or continue the party, Mexico’s wealth of all-inclusive resorts can deliver. There are essentially two main resort areas: the Riviera Maya, on the eastern part of the Yucatán Peninsula, and the Mexican Riviera, on the western coast.
Riviera Maya (aka Mayan Riviera)
The smaller of the two areas, it’s an absolutely stunning strip of clear blue coastline that starts at the tip the Yucatán Peninsula at Cancún and runs south to Punta Allen. Cancún, with its international airport, acts as the main gateway to the region, providing easy access to places like Playa del Carmen, the beautiful island of Cozumel (though it has its own airport), and even Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox to the north.
Known for its large, all-inclusive resorts and boutique hotels, the Riviera Maya has been a huge draw for tourists since the mid-1970s. With a mean annual temperature is a very lovely 76 °F, the area was developed specifically with tourists in mind, so it has numerous shopping opportunities, a multitude of restaurants to please everyone’s palate, and a wide range of nightlife activities, especially in Cancún. Romantic, relaxed, or lively; you’ll be able to find something perfect for your honeymoon.
One of the major draws of the area is the stunning turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea – whether for snorkeling or diving in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second longest reef in the world, for jet-skiing, or for swimming with the dolphins. Cenotes, naturally formed sinkholes abound in this area of Mexico, attracting sightseers and cave divers alike. Special parks in the Riviera Maya include the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, the Cancún National Marine Park, and two dolphinariums in Cozumel.
The Riviera Maya also has a number of historical attractions nearby with Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of a pre-Columbian Mayan city, Cobá and Tulum. Cozumel, a relatively short ferry ride to Playa del Carmen on the mainland, has several of its own archaeological sites; San Gervasio, El Caracol (a Mayan lighthouse), and a site near the village of El Cedral.
Mexican Riviera (Mexico’s West Coast)
Dotted along this long stretch of Pacific coastline in western Mexico are approximately twenty resort cities and towns that make up what Princess Cruise Lines coined as the “Mexican Riviera.” It includes larger cities like Acapulco (the original Mexican resort town), Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas (on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula), and smaller areas like Manzanillo, Ixtapa, Huatulco, and the Nayarit region.
Because this stretch of coast is so diverse, the nature of each resort area can vary widely. All of them have gorgeous beaches, stunning waters, and fabulous resorts ready to be at your beck and call, but some are known for their nightlife, some for historic districts, and others for family-friendliness.
Acapulco is the original Mexican resort, famous getaway for Hollywood celebrities in the 1950s and ‘60s. It’s major attraction is its very active nightlife – whether in the nightclubs or in the beach bar zone. As a regular stop on the itinerary of many cruise lines, Acapulco also caters to these guests coming in for a quick dose of shopping, action and glamor. It’s also famous for its beaches, cliff divers, deep-sea fishing, golf courses and day trips to nearby Isla de la Roqueta.
Ixtapa is a relatively small resort town (under 10,000 residents) with lush mountains that roll into the sea. Get out to the gorgeous, family-friendly beaches, you can swim with dolphins, dive the blue waters to see tropical fish and coral reefs up close, or rent a kayak or a bike to see more of the area.
Manzanillo is small city of about 110,000 inhabitants, and is known as the Sailfish Capital of the World, famous for its excellent deep-sea fishing. It’s also famous for gorgeous beaches – it was a Manzanillo beach that Bo Derek ran across in the movie 10. They’ve also got wonderful snorkeling and scuba diving in Santiago Bay, and as the busiest port in Mexico, you can bet there are some fantastic opportunities to check out the underwater shipwrecks.
Puerto Vallarta offers wonderful beaches, charming historic buildings, and the gorgeous, deep Bandaras Bay. With twice the population of Manzanillo, they’re also a major stop on the cruise line route. Known for friendly inhabitants, and their beautiful Vallarta Botanical Gardens, it’s also a great place to see humpback whales during mating season (Dec-Mar) and sea turtles.
Mazatlán is almost as large as Acapulco, and also known for its lively party atmosphere, especially wild during American Spring Break, Easter week, and the 5-day Mazatlán festival in February. It has several beautiful beaches, and is one of the prime surfing locations on the west coast. It has a lovely historic district, with a large marketplace, Machado Square, and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Add in golf courses, a lighthouse with the best views of the city, and the Estrella Del Mar Sea Turtle Sanctuary, and you’ve got a huge variety of activities to choose from.
Cabo San Lucas is located on the southern tip of the Baja California Sur, and is one of the fastest growing resort areas in Mexico. Excellent for adventure-seekers, it’s a water sport mecca. Swim the beautiful waters, lounge on the sandy beaches, scuba dive, learn to surf, or take an underwater submarine and see the fish without getting wet. For sightseeing, you can check out the natural rock formations of Land’s End, or their 300 year old Church of San Lucas. Or sleep all day and enjoy the Cabo San Lucas nightlife, revelling in their reputation as a certified party town.