Spring sunshine is calling and the Riviera Maya in Mexico is the perfect place to escape the April showers and lap up the laid-back beach vibes on an exotic getaway.
With excellent temperatures for sunbathing (hello 25C!), the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea as your backdrop and some of the world's most intriguing archaeological sites to discover along the way, the Riviera Maya provides a beach holiday like no other.
The 125-mile stretch of coastline is located on the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula and is home to eco parks, diving sites and luxurious resorts, as well as cenotes (sinkholes you can swim in) and terrific day trip destinations.
We picked five of our favourite things to do on a Riviera Maya beach holiday...
Go swimming in a cenote
One of the top cenotes along the Riviera Maya, Dos Ojos ( around 20 miles from Tulum) offers amazing snorkelling thanks to its excellent visibility and natural underwater views. Named 'Two Eyes' for the two 70-metre sinkholes which are connected by a 400-metre long passageway, the marvellous swimming holes are also popular among diving enthusiasts. With its natural light and fantastic water temperature, which provides the perfect respite from the sweltering heat, Doj Ojos is a must-visit and a great place to experience as a family.
Visit an eco theme park
For a fabulously fun day out on the Riviera Maya, look no further than eco-archaeological park Xcaret, which features structures built by the Mayans, underground rivers you can swim in and top-notch entertainment. Located a few miles from Playa del Carmen, Xcaret is a unique theme park, where visitors can walk through a reproduction of a colourful Mexican cemetery, see turtles, butterflies and jaguars, as well as watch a spectacular equestrian show and an outstanding night-time show of Mexico's history brought to life.
Take in the views in picturesque Tulum
A one-of-a-kind archaeological site, Tulum is the only walled city along the coast which was built to defend itself against attacks. Visitors can enjoy outstanding views of the beaches and the Caribbean Sea, while walking among ancient structures, such as the Castillo perched on the edge of a cliff and the Temple of the Frescoes, with its murals and sculptures depicting Mayan gods. Tulum's impeccable beach is one of its biggest draws and makes for a fabulous spot for sunbathing or swimming.
Stay at a luxury all-inclusive resort
Soak up the sunshine and chilled-out beach vibes of the Riviera Maya at one of the finest all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, the five-star Grand Velas Rivera Maya. The contemporary resort was built with couples and families in mind, and succeeds in offering the best of both worlds, from its adults-only spaces to the impressive child-friendly activities and kids' clubs. Author's Spa is one of the largest and most spectacular spas you will ever visit in the world, while the resort's restaurants range from the playful and imaginative AAA Five Diamond Cocina de Autor, to the creative Mexican cuisine of Frida. Zen Grand Suites cost from £241 per night. Read our full review of Grand Velas Riviera Maya
Take a trip to Chichen Itza
One of the best day trips from the Riviera Maya is to Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Located around a two-hour drive from the coast, the magnificent World Heritage Site is a must-see, with the ruins covering 2.5 square miles and featuring two architectural zones: the southern that dates back to the seventh century and the central which dates back to the tenth century. The iconic 25-metre representation of the Mayan calendar El Castillo, the Ball Court and the Temple of the Warriors are the most impressive structures. On your way back to the Riviera Maya, be sure to stop at the nearby city of Valladolid, where you will find the beautiful colonial architecture of the stately mansions, imposing churches and charming squares.
World's most luxurious beach holidays
World's most luxurious beach holidays
The Presidential Villa at Azura Benguerra Island is one of the most luxurious and private villas in the Indian Ocean, with three ensuite, indoor and outdoor bathrooms and a huge infinity pool. The beautiful eco-boutique resort has only 18 villas, a unique African spa and a marine national park on its doorstep for guests to see whales, dolphins and the elusive dugong. The Luxury Safari Company offers five nights at Azura Benguerra Island on an all-inclusive basis including flights from the UK from £10,171 per person.
Even better than a private island, Ponta dos Ganchos is a private peninsula, just 40 km from Florianopolis and within easy reach of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. The stunning adults-only resort has just 25 charming bungalows, many with private plunge pools, Jacuzzis and amazing sea views. One of Brazil’s most exclusive beach resorts, the service here is second to none - breakfast can be served at any hour of the day and locally harvested oysters and mussels are available round-the-clock. The Ultimate Travel Company offers seven nights in an Anhatomirim bungalow, with breakfast, private airport transfers and flights included from £3,271 per person.
Sitting on the beachfront of Natai Beach in Phuket overlooking the glorious Andaman Sea is Villa Bianca, a meticulously designed beach villa with one of the most impressive swimming pools around. Housing three stunning double bedroom suites with terraces that step right onto the beach, Villa Bianca boasts envy-inducing design credentials. The internal living areas are furnished with colourful, contemporary paintings and pieces inspired by Russian Matryoshka dolls, with a private walled courtyard and sunken seating area for alfresco dinners. Villa Guru offers a week's stay based on six sharing on a full-board basis from £8,400.
Hidden away within a collection of islands known as the Noonu Atoll at the most northern point of the Maldives, Velaa Private Island is possibly the most private island in the Indian Ocean. The only resort in the Maldives that has a strict no drone rule, in-room dining direct to the ocean, a ratio of 1:8 guests to staff and dedicated butlers, it is privacy personified. Check in to the Romantic Residence, where you will find your own spa treatment room, gym, over-water infinity pool and beach with its own palm tree, as well as your devoted butler catering to your every want, while leaving you within the bliss of ultimate privacy. Prices for the Romantic Residence start from US$8,000 per night.
Famous for its beauty and glorious beaches, Fregate Island Private has seven private beaches with their own unique character and can be reserved simply with a 'Beach Occupied' sign. The luxury retreat in the Seychelles occupies an entire private island in the middle of the turquoise Indian Ocean. Beautifully crafted and nestled into the coastline, its 16 residences are naturally secluded – all have their own luxurious terrace, large private infinity pool and Jacuzzi. The resort is also a jewel of conservation in the Seychelles: it is home to the second largest population of Giant Aldabra Land Tortoises and is the nesting home to endangered turtle species. Book a Private Pool Residence from €4,400 per residence per night on an all-inclusive basis.
An exclusive safari camp hidden in the white sand dunes of Western Australia’s Cape Range National Park, Sal Salis has 16 spacious wilderness tents located just metres from the water’s edge and the world’s greatest fringing coastal coral reef, Ningaloo Reef. Its superb location allows you to experience Australia’s famous marine life and outback wildlife all in one – whether you want to swim with the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, or humpback whales, snorkel among 500 types of tropical fish or spot echidnas, kangaroos and emus. What’s more, the on-site chef provides contemporary Australian cuisine with hints of bush food and native produce all from a canvas kitchen. A three-night Humpback Whale or Whale Shark swim package from Sal Salis costs from $2,800pp (£1,606) in 2017, including accommodation in a wilderness tent on an all-inclusive basis.
Set overlooking three gorgeous beaches on the island of Mykonos, this luxury beachfront Greek villa is only available to members of the exclusive Passepartout Homes club. It is composed of 13 en-suite double bedrooms gracefully scattered in three adjacent buildings, making it the perfect destination for large groups. The true gem of the villa is its extensive grounds with a swimming pool lounge which can accommodate up to 300 guests alone, while the property as a whole can accommodate up to 700. Yoga on the beach, dance and pilates instruction are available upon request, as well as yacht, jet and helicopter rental. Prices start at £2,145 per night.
As the largest private island in the British Virgin Islands, Peter Island is a natural oasis for those wishing to truly get away from it all and escape from everyday life. Peter Island Resort & Spa offers an idyllic private island retreat where service is paramount and every room has a butler. Accessible only by boat or helicopter, this wonderful hideaway provides access to the treasures of the entire 1,800-acre island, including five pristine beaches, a destination spa and a full-service dive shop. Peter Island is a treasured secret among sophisticated travellers, yachtsmen and those seeking Caribbean island luxury. Ocean view rooms start from £312 per night on a room-only basis.
Set on its own sand-ringed islet, COMO Cocoa Island will have you pinching yourself – a turquoise lagoon, tropical fish, an infinity edge pool, a world-class spa, rooms set on stilts over the water and all just 40 minutes by speedboat from Male Airport. The fantastic restaurant serves five courses of seafood and tandoori, and even the toilet looks out to the spectacular surrounding seas. For those looking for additional luxury, the COMO Villa comes with three sundecks, an outdoor shower, two enormous bedrooms, a kitchen, plus a 24-hour private butler service. i-escape offers stays from £692 per night.
Perched on a rocky promontory of St Jean Bay and surrounded by white coral sandy beaches, clear blue sea and a beautiful coral reef rife with wild sea life, Hotel Eden Rock is the epitome of glamour in the French Caribbean. The hotel features 34 rooms and suites dotted along the beach or set within lush green gardens. Unique signature suites include the ultra-luxe Villa Nina and world-famous Villa Rockstar, which comes with its own recording studio. The new 200-square-metre Christopher Columbus Suite features a spectacular cliff-edge positioning and has the best views in the house over the sea and the island of St Barths behind. Rates at Eden Rock start from €650 per night.
Opening in December 2016, Miavana promises to be a game-changer for Madagascar's tourism industry - a super-luxurious private island retreat that will rival those in the Seychelles and Maldives for the first time. The retreat, which will accommodate a maximum of 44 guests, occupies Nosy Ankao, the largest of five islands in an archipelago off Madagascar’s north-east coast. Guests will arrive by helicopter and spend their time on 'blue safaris' - snorkelling, scuba diving and turtle, whale and dolphin-watching - as well as enjoying the spa. The resort's designers also created the celebrated North Island in the Seychelles and Miavana has a price tag to match. Holidays start from $2,500 per person per night, or $100,000 per night for exclusive use of the island with Aardvark Safaris.
Located on the lesser-known and remote Indonesian private island of Sumba, Nihiwatu is a hidden surfer's paradise and home to the world-renowned waves of Occy’s Left which exclusively accommodates up to ten surfers at any one time. Free-dive and surfing expert Chad Bagwell will help guests conquer Occy’s Left, with aspiring surfers learning all the skills required to connect with and ride the waves like a pro. The retreat is home to just 21 villas that are set amid hundreds of acres of surrounding land to ensure total seclusion. Scott Dunn offers seven nights at Nihiwatu from £4,500 per person on an all-inclusive basis, including flights.
Groups looking to head to Marbella for a glamorous escape in the Spanish sunshine should look no further than the palatial Villa del Mar, located in the exclusive Hotel Marbella Club development and offering glamour and elegance in equal measure at the epicentre of the famous Golden Mile. Sleeping 12, the expansive home offers guests six large en-suite bedrooms, all of which have their own private terraces and fabulous beach views, along with an infinity pool, private home cinema and vibrant Zen garden. There is even an in-villa spa with Jacuzzi, sauna, hammam and gym. Impressive inside and out, the property fuses traditional Andalusian architecture with sleek interiors, luxurious furnishings and striking artwork. It offers direct access onto your very own private area of the beach. Prices start from £7,300 per person per week based on 12 sharing with Villa Guru.
The first private island resort in the country, set amid the glistening turquoise Gulf of Thailand waters, white sandy beaches and lush virgin rainforests of the Koh Rong Archipelago, Song Saa provides privileged access to one of Cambodia’s most undiscovered locations. Inspired by traditional fishing villages and featuring over-water buildings, thatched roofs and drift wood furnishings, each of Song Saa’s 27 sustainably-built villas create the ideal base to enjoy uninterrupted sunrise and sunset views from your private pool or veranda. Prices start from $1,777 per villa per night on an all-inclusive basis.
A stylish eco-resort and spa set on an isolated headland on pristine Kangaroo Island - Australia’s answer to the Galapagos - Southern Ocean Lodge has 21 sleek suites with sunken lounge spaces, floor-to-ceiling glass and vast ocean views. The unique lodge's spa offers treatments drawing on Aboriginal healing practices and there is a huge range of all-inclusive activities to choose from, such as bushwalks, 4WD safaris to see koalas and sea lions, picnics with wild kangaroos and guided tours themed around art, food and wine. i-escape offers stays from £1,300 per night an all-inclusive basis.