A Grand Vacation

Grand Residences Riviera Cancun in Puerto Morelos is a Mexican Experience Unlike Any Other

The news these days from Mexico is, let’s face it, not pretty. You would think that the entire country was overrun with narco bandits. But, as I sat on the edge of a deep blue cenote – a natural sinkhole found in the Yucatan region of Mexico – I was not concerned in the slightest. Unlike the interior of Mexico, the tourist belt known as the Mexican Riviera could not be safer or more placid.

My sense of security was enhanced by the fact that we were on a guided tour through the jungle. Our group leader George – a real George of the Jungle, if you will – took us not only to various cenotes, but on a zip line journey through the canopy.

Our trip to the jungle was a mere half hour from where we stayed: the Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, a stunning five-star resort overlooking the Caribbean Sea. We stayed in an oceanfront master suite, complete with a full kitchen, living and dining room, a bedroom with a king bed, two walk in closets, 1.5 bathrooms, and two Jacuzzis (the second is on the balcony, along with lounge chairs and a dining table). All of this for less than the cost of a small room on Ocean Drive. The other surprise was proximity. The resort is just 30 minutes south of tourist-filled Cancun in a quaint port town called Puerto Morelos. With the flight to Cancun being barely over an hour, the travel time was less than what it takes to get from the Gables to Fort Lauderdale during rush hour.

Oceanfront master suite

One of the hotel amenities we appreciated – in addition to beach hat and bag, handcrafted jewelry, and artisanal soap – was a bottle of Mezcal. Indeed, don’t be surprised if you’re offered tequila with nearly every meal (we’ll gladly accept the excuse that it’s good for digestion). Actually, any digestive aid is welcome with all the food at three on-site restaurants.

El Faro Grill offers international cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you can’t bring yourself to leave the pool or beach, Heaven Beach Bar Grill allows guests to dine in swimwear (or order straight from your lounge chair, and you’ll have a quesadilla and mango mojito at your side in no time). If you want Mexican cuisine, there is Flor de Canela (meaning cinnamon flower), open strictly for dinner. It’s slightly higher-end than your typical tacos, burritos and quesadillas – think rice, seafood and meat dishes – but their tableside-prepared guacamole is down to earth. Guests have the option of paying per meal or signing up for an all-inclusive stay.

If you stay on campus, there is no shortage of activities. Find your Zen with a beach yoga class or break a sweat with Zumba. You can also rent tennis rackets, bicycles or snorkel gear. There is even a kid’s club for when mom and dad want to retreat to the spa or the swim-up pool bar.

Despite such comforts, we encourage travelers to explore the town of Puerto Morelos. The world’s second largest barrier reef is located right off the coast of the fishing town (the largest being the Great Barrier Reef) stretching all the way down past Belize. Marina Pelicanos offers daily guided tours of the reef, inhabited by a plethora of sea critters. Guides onboard will even dive down to bring up the largest conch you’ve ever seen.

The town boasts a number of great eateries like La Sirena, which has something absent here in Coral Gables – a rooftop bar. After browsing the shops for Mexican trinkets (candy skulls anyone?), come here for drinks and appetizers while watching the sunset. For a full meal, journey across the street to Punta Corcho.

The highlight of the trip was the morning spent at the nearby Cenotes Zapote. The water of the cenotes is the purest shade of deep cerulean blue, and it was…. refreshing. Not freezing, but not a naturally heated spring either. While we stayed surface level, scuba divers can explore the vast underground of the cenotes, which can be as deep as 200 feet.

Of course, nothing dries you off quicker after a dip in the cenotes than flying between the trees on a zip line. At Cenotes Zapote, being a kind of jungle playground, guides will lead you through the course, consisting of four lines, climbing higher each time. They make it look so effortless, sometimes zooming down the line upside down. The park is so vast it even has bikes or, for the really adventurous, ATVs, so you can explore all the dirt paths.

And the beauty of such adventures is that you get to return to the Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, a perfect getaway that is much closer than you think.

Cenotes Zapote