Every day I talk to people who are ready to start traveling again, and they ask where I recommend they go for a tropical vacation. The Riviera Maya/Cancun area in Mexico is the number one destination I’m sending clients to right now. This area has had precautions in place since the start of the pandemic, and they take the safety of their visitors very seriously.
Currently Mexico only requires a passport to enter from the U.S., but to return everyone must provide a negative COVID test taken within three days of arrival. It is expected that at some point this requirement will be waived with proof that the traveler has been fully vaccinated. Check for the latest regulations at travel.state.gov. Also, it takes months to get a passport processed so if you need one, order right away.
Lucky for us, there are great flights to Cancun from the Eugene Airport on Alaska Airlines, United, Delta and American Airlines.
Where to go
The sun and fun of Cancun and the Riviera Maya are hard to resist. There are three different areas you can stay in depending on what you’re looking for.
The Cancun Hotel Zone is about 14 miles of high-rise hotels along a stretch of white sand beach. This area is great for those who crave excitement and high energy. You can shop till you drop, visit world-class restaurants and dance away at crazy nightclubs.
To the south of Cancun there’s a highway that goes about 80 miles to the town of Tulum. This area is the Riviera Maya. Along this highway you’ll find resorts carved out of the jungle and the towns of Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen.
From Playa del Carmen, you can take a ferry to the Island of Cozumel for a day visit or to stay at one of its hotels. This area is full of outdoor adventures and natural wonders. The towns of Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen offer high-end and bargain shopping, local artisans, bars and restaurants.
A top attraction is the Mayan ruins in Tulum. There are underground rivers throughout this area, and when a portion of the roof collapses it forms a cenote, creating a natural pool that you can swim in. Tours are available that combine riding an ATV in the jungle, taking a zipline and swimming in one or more cenotes. There are nature parks including Xel-Ha, Xplor and Xcaret that offer all sorts of outdoor activities and water sports.
To the north of Cancun, you can take a ferry to Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women. This is a fun excursion where you can rent golf carts to explore this island that is only four miles long and less than a mile across. On the mainland across from Isla Mujeres are the new resort areas of Costa Mujeres and Playa Mujeres. There are beautiful new resorts featuring spas and golf courses on long stretches of beach. This area is less than 20 miles from the Cancun Airport.
When to go
The weather in Mexico is tropical and sunny year-round. It is a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter, with June through November considered their rainy season. Of course, their “rainy season” usually consists of bright sunny days and then it will cloud up, pour rain for a short time and then return to sunshine.
In recent years the area has been plagued with a seaweed called sargassum. It’s a nuisance, and the hotels and government agencies work hard to remove it but sometimes it is overwhelming. It often arrives in the spring and summer. Due to the ocean currents, some areas are more likely to have sargassum, so that is a consideration when planning a trip.
Most resorts have extensive pool areas to enjoy even if there is a problem with the seaweed. Hotel and airfare prices will vary in different seasons depending on demand. Any school vacation period is high season, with the last two weeks of December being the highest prices of the year, followed by the week of Thanks-giving and over spring breaks. The lowest prices generally will be in September, October, November (except around Thanksgiving) and the first two weeks of December.
There are vast differences in quality and atmosphere at all-inclusive resorts, and you can’t just trust the pretty pictures and random reviews you see on the internet. It’s important to have a travel professional help you.
Where to stay
In the last 15 years, all-inclusive resorts have become very popular, as people love having meals, drinks, activities and entertainment included in one price. For families, the special programs for children and the security of having everything you need on-site make this the easiest vacation you can take.
If you are traveling without children, staying in an adults-only resort is a splurge you won’t regret. There are vast differences in quality and atmosphere at all-inclusive resorts, and you can’t just trust the pretty pictures and random reviews you see on the internet. It’s important to have a travel professional help you find the perfect location for your vacation. A trip to the Riviera Maya will create memories to last a lifetime.
Meet Vacation MOM
Donnita Bassinger has been a travel agent for three decades and enjoys sending families on vacations around the world. She lives in Oregon with her husband and three boys, is the owner of VIP Vacations and is an active volunteer with local organizations.
Contact Donnita at 541-913-5272 or on facebook @VacationMOM