The trip begins with a cucumber jalapeño margarita. Why not? Especially when it’s made with freshly hand-pressed juices and spiced, chili rum.
Nestled between the dense Riviera Maya jungle and Playa del Carmen’s longest stretch of beach is Mexico’s Mahekal Beach Resort. Built more than 50 years ago by a local family, this gem is basking in the glow of a three-year, $16 million re-imagination. But while the Playa del Carmen resort celebrates what’s new, it continues to be deeply rooted in the tradition, providing an incredibly authentic experience.
The tropical resort was built with accommodations including palapa-style casitas, treehouse bungalows, plunge pools and moon showers. Rather than a high-rise, think thatched roofs and garden pathways.
After settling in and exploring the tranquil property, I was amazed to find that just around the corner are the bustling Fifth Avenue shops and restaurants.
Mahekal is a perfect spot for personal retreats and ideal for destination weddings. Beyond the beautiful beach there’s much to choose from. Head to the Revive Spa and indulge in its signature massage Angel Veil with Crystal Quartz, or take a bicycle ride into town with the Pedal Playa program. Try the Mayan cooking class held in an authentic culinary casita within the lush gardens. While sipping xtabentun, a tasty Mexican liqueur, participate in a private ancient Mayan ritual and watch chefs prepare Fish Tikin-Xik, steamed to perfection inside a heated pit oven. Follow the festivities with a nap in your casita hammock.
My favorite experience of all started at Vida Aquatica, an on-property dive shop. We geared up for a snorkeling expedition and set out to a wild bush scrub area. After a short walk down a hidden pathway we came upon a cenote (pronounced cey-NO-tay), a secret underwater pool filled with stunning turquoise-colored fresh water so clear you could see tiny fish frolicking all the way to the bottom. Swimming in these magical caves gives you an “otherworldly” feeling, as though you’re lost in another time. Nearly 7,000 cenotes exist in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which are part of a massive underground network of rivers and caves to explore.
Moon Over Mahekal – Watch the moon, stars or meteor showers in your private ocean view palapa, private terrace and hammock, including a Startini cocktail; couples massage at Revive Spa in the VIP couples cabin; dreamy alfresco dinner on the beach; and Once in a Blue Moon snorkel trip.
Amor Aficionado – a getaway engagement-cation, including Marry-Me Margarita “on the rocks” garnished with a glittering diamond; “toes in the sand” dinner on the beach with a private musician and white-gloved waiters and a photographer, or an epicurean engagement with a traditional Mayan blessing and private lunch at the Mayan Culinary Casita.
Mahekal Beach Resort, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Mexico; mahekalbeachresort.com