Cancun and spring break are practically synonymous. You know it. Maybe you still have the ill-advised tribal tattoo or tramp stamp to show it.
You can’t travel back in time to erase the tequila-fueled mistakes of undergrad years. But if you’re looking to escape the unseasonably raw Boston weather, you might need a guide to a grownup-style spring escape to Cancun, where the water is warm, the cocktails frequently frozen and—if you make the right, responsible choices this time—a quick (four-hour flight), cost-effective (compared to similar destinations) and, yes, culturally enriching getaway awaits.
Before: You crammed your entire dorm floor into the cheapest hotel with a roof and an ocean view—if only that unadvertised dumpster wasn’t in the way.
Now: You’ll check in to the newly renovated “Royal Service”-level suites at Paradisus Cancun, where a $2.6-million overhaul in the 664-room resort’s adults-only wing has yielded bright and airy accommodations with private balconies and Caribbean Sea vistas glimpsed even from the glass-enclosed showers. Besides Paradisus’ existing all-inclusive amenities, Royal Service guests get extra goodies like a personal butler responsive to every WhatsApp-delivered request and an exclusive pool area with direct beach access and reservable Bali beds (equipped with cocktail-summoning buzzers) for catnaps in the shade.
Feel free to mix with the plebes spread throughout the property’s five interconnected flora-filled pyramids. There’s a casually upscale, frisky-but-refined vibe to even the more boisterous venues like Coco’s beach bar, where afternoon DJs drop beats by lapping waves, and the bumping, nightlife-driven Red Lounge. Ultimately, though, you’ll probably retreat (with new mate in tow) to the thinner crowds of Royal Service-only spaces like the atrium lounge—where tropical vines drip from six floors above an all-day complimentary bar and buffet—and the solo-time sanctuary of the Asian-inspired Yhi Spa that offers pampering body wraps and muscle-melting massages in bamboo treatment rooms bridged over calm koi ponds.
Before: You lived for a week by grazing all-you-can-eat taco bars with grade-F beef and drinking alcohol that’d be better suited for sanitizing shark bites.
Now: You’ll take advantage of actually excellent all-inclusive dining at Paradisus’ fab Fuego, a Latin fusion restaurant with a Nikkei (Peruvian-Japanese) edge and inventive ceviche options. And it’s worth anteing up the extra cash for Tempo, a dining room from Michelin-starred chef Martin Berasategui, whose 10-course, wine-paired tasting menus offer Basque-inspired haute cuisine presented by white glove service. Elsewhere in the so-called Hotel Zone, find Lorenzillo’s, a massive waterfront palapa famed for the many iterations of lobster that come from its farm.
If you decide to head downtown, cut through the overrun tourist traps and snag one of seven tables at the husband-and-wife run Du Mexique, intimate home to leisurely dinners of French-accented plates. And La Fonda del Zancudo is a particularly romantic option, an almost ruin-like, abandoned house-turned-restaurant. The outdoor garden is filled with greenery and strings of twinkling lights, a whimsical setting for a Mediterranean menu and creative cocktails.
Before: You slept until noon, never moved further than the beach and stocked up on culturally specific souvenirs like shot glasses with “Made in China” stamped on the bottom.
Now: You’ll actually do some sightseeing. Chichen Itza is probably the most famous Mayan ruins site on the Yucatan peninsula, but you can hop on a trip with EKNX Tours to Tulum, where the remains of the coastal walled city reveal the Mayans’ amazing early grasp of astronomy. Bring your bathing suit to clamber down the cliff side and take a dip in Instagram-worthy turquoise waters. You can also splash around in a cenote, a groundwater-filled limestone sinkhole used for cooling dips; ancient Mayans believed some cenotes led to the underworld and some EKNX tours visit with a practicing shaman for a pre-swim blessing. Another must-see is ancient city Coba, home to one of the few Mayan step pyramids that visitors can still climb—though bear in mind, you’ll ascend 137 feet and 120 steeper-than-they-look, slippery stone steps with just the help of a single shared rope. After you take in the awesome jungle views, you’ll probably want to crab-walk down on your butt. For more controlled adventure, stick to Parque Maya, a just-opened nature/adventure park with 1,500-feet of zip lines suspended 65 feet over a lagoon, plus six additional rope course challenges. ◆
Du Mexique, dumexique.com; EKNX Tours, eknxtours.com; MUSA, musamexico.org; Lorenzillo’s, lorenzillos.com.mx; Paradisus Cancun, melia.com/paradisus/cancun; Parque Maya Cancun, parquemaya.com
- – Take a day trip (or longer) just 8 miles off the Cancun coast to laidback Isla Mujeres, home to gorgeous beaches and world-class snorkeling.
– Scuba divers should swim through MUSA, an underwater contemporary art museum filled with 500 submerged statues doubling as coral-growing sites.