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Playa del Carmen is distinct among Yucatan beach towns both culturally and commercially. While its beaches are similar to other destinations', its nightlife and hotel culture is hipper in the European and American style, blending the traditional Mexican locale with a more permissive and opulent array of tourist options.
You'll find crashing waves off Cabo's Pacific coast and sheltered, calm water on the Sea of Cortez. Given those options, Cabo has built a rare reputation for both excellent outdoor sports (big-game fishing, diving and kayaking, among others) and pure beach relaxation. Of course, there's also great nightlife. Cabo’s resorts, hotels and inns cater to everyone from honeymooners to families to Hollywood stars seeking a weekend getaway.
It’s not just for spring-breakers. Cancun, with its golden beaches and perfect climate, is the premiere coastal destination in Mexico. And while there is certainly a 365-day party available for college students, resorts cater well to families and to those seeking solitude. This Yucatan paradise is also the gateway to the ruins of Tulum and Chichén Itzá.
Dozens of nightclubs, hundreds of restaurants and some of Mexico's best beaches await you in Puerto Vallarta. The original colonial town still shines through an endless selection of shopping, art galleries, water and land activities, and hotels. Walk the malecon (boardwalk) and just try to take it all in.
Tulum is relaxation and romance with an ancient angle. Guests can enjoy modern takes on traditional Mayan massage and spa treatments, or sunbathe on gorgeous Yucatan beaches within site of well-preserved ancient ruins. A rare mix of beach, archeology and village, Tulum is a romantic getaway like no other.
Rising from the ruins of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, Mexico City offers a unique collision of contemporary city life and historic preservation. World-class museums, restaurants and parks rub shoulders with the remains of several cultures. The nightlife, the shopping and the history make it a must-see regardless of your travel style.
While resorts continue to spring up, "Zihua" remains determined to maintain its small-town flavour. The brick-paved "fisherman's walk," a nod to the region's seafaring roots, stretches along the town centre. Because the nightlife is mostly informal, Zihua is particularly appealing to couples and those seeking an escape from coastal party towns.
One of the top diving destinations in the world for its bright storybook coral reefs, the island of Cozumel is also home to a variety of natural beaches. Choose a beach with soft white sand for relaxing, or snorkel off a rockier vista. A destination for both adventure and romance, Cozumel has a year-round Caribbean climate, untrammeled jungle and abundant nightlife.
High in the cool hills, this colonial gem of cobblestone streets and picturesque churches inspires artists with its colour, character and light. Baroque, neoclassical and neogothic mix in the city's buildings, notably at the pink stone 18th-century church on the Plaza Principal. Founded in 1542, the city is a mix of Hispanic and Mesoamerican influences.
In Nuevo Vallarta, you can lounge on the golden-sand beaches of Banderas Bay… or take an ATV tour through the nearby Sierra Madre jungle. A local water park has great twisting slides and sea lion shows… or you could treat the kids to a memorable swim with dolphins. (It'll make for a great "What I did over summer holiday" report.)