Fall (Again) for Your First Travel Love

Jun 21, 2018

Because it’s so close, Mexico serves as many an American’s first travel love, whether in the context of a family beach vacation, an epic spring break or a Mariachi-accompanied cruise stop. But this is the opposite of a one-and-done kind of place. Mexico is a huge—and hugely varied—country, where even the seemingly familiar destinations pack plenty of surprises.

So go check in on your first travel love—and see what you’ve been missing since last you were together.

If your first trip was: a taco- and tequila-fest

Yes, both are epic in Mexico—and perfectly legit reasons to travel there. But there’s so much more to the local gastronomy, and not just in Mexico City’s frequently heralded hot spots. Cabo, for example, has become a farm-to-table mecca, as you’ll discover at the much instagrammed Flora’s Field Kitchen in San Jose del Cabo, where everything is infused with a sense of place—from the breads right out of the wood-burning oven to the veggies harvested from the resident 10-acre organic farm. 

Flora Farms, Photo Credit: Sara Richardson

Another beach town with an increasingly famous food scene? Puerto Vallarta, where you’ll find the likes of Joel Ornelas, a local chef who earned his chops alongside Michelin-starred chefs in Spain and now serves up bold flavors and contrasting textures at Tintoque (think pumpkin and squid salad with curried carrot puree). Not to be outdone, Mazatlan is also taking traditional local ingredients to innovative new heights, as you’ll discover at Casa 46, where wonder-chef Marino Maganda conjures up such delicacies as seabass risole with black risotto, guajillo pepper aioli, paprika and chard-asparagus emulsion. 

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If your first trip was: all about the beach

There’s no disputing the surreal beauty of the Riviera Maya’s transparent turquoise waters or of Cabo’s grand rock formations, among endless other signature beach features. But head even a tiny bit inland from the nation’s most beloved shores, and you’ll find endless diversions—not least, the Mayan ruins scattered across the Yucatan Peninsula, from the massive step pyramid and elaborate stone carvings of the Chichen Itza complex to the jungle-shrouded temples of Coba

Of course, Mexico’s pre-Hispanic roots go well beyond the Maya, and are still being uncovered. For example, only a few years ago, a recently excavated site called Xihuacan opened near Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. Thousands of years old and used by a multitude of civilizations (Aztecs, Zapotecas, Toltecs and Olmecs, to name a few), this ceremonial center and museum displays more than 800 ancient finds.

If natural wonders are more your thing, the interior doesn’t disappoint: At Xcaret ecological and cultural park near Cancun, for example, you can visit Mexico’s first butterfly sanctuary, learn about life in an old henequen hacienda and float along an underground river—just for starters. Meanwhile, near Puerto Vallarta, you can explore the marshes and mangroves of Estero del Salado, where you may well spot spiny-tailed iguanas, river crocodiles and over 100 species of birds.

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If your first trip was: a day in port

Nothing wrong with passing through on a cruise ship, but that sort of experience can leave you feeling like you’ve barely left the U.S. To feel like you’ve Traveled with a capital T, go deeper. In some cases, literally—into the mythic gateways to the Mayan underworld: cenotes. Centuries after the civilization’s heyday, these natural swimming holes—often hidden away by dense foliage—retain a certain magic. You’ll find gorgeous examples at the Xel-Ha nature park and the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Sian Ka'an Reserve, among others. 

For a whole different take on otherworldly immersions south of the border, consider a swim with whale sharks. Reaching lengths of 40 feet, these famously gentle giants hang out off the Caribbean coast near Cancun from June to September, and the Baja coast near Bahia de los Angeles from August to October/November, when companies such as Amstar will take you out.

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If your first trip was: with your parents

There’s nothing sweeter than childhood vacation memories, but Mexico’s romance tends to be lost on kids—despite its epic abundance. Some of the best places to discover that dreaminess as an adult: Puerto Vallarta's Crown Paradise Golden, an adults-only all-inclusive where your favorite hangout will likely be a toss-up between the heated, beach-surveying infinity pool and the pier jutting into Banderas Bay; Cancun's Le Blanc Spa Resort, another adults-only all-inclusive beachfront oasis, where your biggest debate will be which of the pools to laze by (or should you simply head to the tranquil beach they overlook?); and Secrets Puerto Los Cabos, still another fabulous adults-only all-inclusive—in this case, at the tip of the Baja Peninsula—where you can book rooms with both swim-out pool access and sea-view balconies.

Secrets Puerto Los Cabos

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If your first trip was: for a bachelorette or destination wedding weekend.

Felicidades to all! But as a participant, you can get so wrapped up in the succession of events and obligations that you have almost no time to unwind, even when you're staying in a supremely serene setting. For the most divine of do-overs, here's a short list of favorites:

At the Secrets Spa by Pevonia at Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun, get an immediate sense of place (and serenity) with one of the tropical body wraps, whether the Tropical Escape (papaya, pineapple and crème fraîche) or the Tropical Oasis (mango, passion fruit and yogurt).  Nearby, at the Paradisus Cancun's Yhi Spa, treat yourself like a goddess—specifically, the local goddess Ix Chel, for whom a collection of signature spa products is named and incorporated into a divine range of services. Meanwhile, at the Grand Sirenis Matlali Hills Makawé Spa on the Riviera Nayarit, the palm treatment huts serve up all kinds of heaven—especially the Chucua Ritual's warm cocoa wrap.

Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun

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If you’re still waiting for the one

Waiting for the right moment to take your next (or hey—even first) trip to Mexico? Now’s that moment. The country is one of the most affordable for Americans to visit at present, with an exchange rate in your favor and record numbers of inexpensive, direct flights from the U.S. Factor in the roundtrip transfer services included in an Apple Vacations package, and the only possible response is ¡Si! 

Ready to go? Check out these vacation deals to Cancun, Cabo, Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and other top spots in Mexico.

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