Riviera Maya is a magic place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It has everything that a relaxing vacation requires; sun, beach, lots of hotel options and on top of it all the ruins at Tulum. Lucky for us, we interviewed Zach from Journey Mexico to get the insider scoop on the beautiful Mexican getaway.
1. What makes you an expert on Riviera Maya?
I’ve been traveling and working on the Riviera Maya since my days as a guide in the mid-90s! Today the Riviera Maya is by far the most important coastal destination for our clients which requires that we’re always up on the latest and greatest. We have an office in Cancun which I visit at least once a quarter and take advantage of the opportunity to inspect new hotels, restaurants, activities and more.
2. What makes Riviera Maya unique?
One of the few places in the world that combines world class beaches, turquoise water of the Caribbean Sea, World Class culture of the Mayan civilization and modern day Mexico (cuisine, art, music), and world class nature. Add on top of this world class tourism infrastructure from little cute back packer hostels to world renowned luxury resorts, cuisine, night life, shopping, golf, and outdoor activities… Riviera Maya has it all!
Whale Shark Snorkel
3. Where are the best places to eat? What should visitors order?
Where to start? Playa del Carmen is a culinary (and night life hot spot) and features some of the finest dining options: Yaxche for Mayan cuisine, Biblos for international cuisine, Casa del Agua for Sea Food and good wine, El Divino for Itialian food are only a few!
4. What are some must see/do activities in Riviera Maya?
Everyone needs to swim in the Caribbean Sea, walk the fine white sands. A refreshing dip in a cenote is a must do as is a visit to Tulum or Coba Mayan archeological sites. A visit to Playa del Carmen for eating, drinking, shopping, and nightlife is not to be missed too!
Ruins at Tulum
5. Where are the best places for nightlife in Riviera Maya?
Hands down: Playa del Carmen.
6. Name three/five of your favorite places to stay: High end Hotels? Budget friendly places?
Rosewood Mayakoba, Hotel Esencia, Maroma Resort and Spa, and the Banyan Tree Mayakoba would top my luxury list. Zoetry Paraíso de la Bonita is another great option if you are looking for luxury all-inclusive. The new Hotel Acanto in Playa is a good value mid range option right off the quinta avenida in Playa del Carmen; another great mid-range option on the beach in Playa and walkable to the action is Majekal. I also love Le Reve and the Tides Riviera Maya which just changed over to Viceroy management. If you like to lounge in a chic design hotel, and the thump of great music into the wee hours with young beautiful people, the Habita group’s Deseo and Basico hotels in the center of Playa are great, happening, hip places to stay too.
Ruins at Tulum
7. What is Riviera Maya’s best kept secret?
Can’t tell! Seriously, these days with so many visitors there are few real secrets, but I love to go down past Tulum (not really Riviera Maya) to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve for a day to relax and get away from it all in the pristine nature of this protected area. Another great “secret” are some lesser visited and/or private cenotes.
Swimming in a Cenote
8. What souvenir should everyone leave with after visiting Riviera Maya?
You can get just about anything in the Riviera Maya from all parts of Mexico so your typical: tequila, chile sauce, mole, silver jewelry, are ubiquitous as are handicrafts from all over México from cheap trinkets to world class ceramics, wood, silver and more from Oaxaca, Michoacán, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatan and beyond. If you’re really looking for something more local you can try Yucateca hammocks (which actually come from the neighboring state of Yucatan) or perhaps a Mayan Glyph or sculpture made by the local artisan cooperatives. One thing to avoid is coral jewelry which is illegal and detrimental to the local ecosystem – similarly stay away from the purchase of goods made from endangered or protected species like sea turtles, mammals, etc.
Zach Rabinor, Founder, President and CEO of award winning travel company Journey Mexico  was seduced early on by Mexico's vibrant cultures, towering peaks, thundering surf and intoxicating cuisine. Zach has vast experience as an overland adventure guide and is an ecotourism specialist with a B.A. from Cornell University and an M.P.I.A. from the University of California, San Diego in International Affairs and Environmental Policy. Zach worked as a teacher, an environmental activist and an outdoor adventure guide throughout the Americas for over eight years before he returned to the U.S. to study the impacts of tourism on development in Latin America. When not designing new itineraries or leading exploratory expeditions, Zach can be found lazing in a hammock on the beloved Pacific Coast near Puerto Vallarta or searching for the best sea food cocktail in Mexico. Zach lives in Puerto Vallarta with his wife Rebecca and his two sons Sam and Nate. E-mail email@example.com , or find him on twitter .
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