Cancún is nothing if not resilient. Consider the debilitating effects Hurricane Wilma had on the region in 2005 – drowned shores, destroyed storefronts and capsized boats. But now, this skinny "7"-shaped barrier island in southeastern Mexico is once again a go-to spot for beaches, golfing and nightlife. Cancún also remains one of the most affordable vacation destinations in the Western Hemisphere, especially if you book a cruise.
Cozumel's clear turquoise waters and powdery sands coax travelers from cold winter climates to this roughly 185-square-mile island off the Yucatán Peninsula. Cruise ships are a constant feature of Cozumel's coastal views, and the atmosphere on this charming island is often interrupted by tourist chatter. In fact, Cozumel's charms are so effective that the shopping plazas along the waterfront stay congested much of the year.
Playa del Carmen has carved its own Euro-chic niche along the Yucatán Peninsula. Sophisticated expats and vacationing Europeans relax at the beachside lounges, upholding this small enclave's budding reputation as the place in Quintana Roo to see and be seen. The area's nerve center is El Zócalo, and similar to Mediterranean beachfront towns like Nice, the funky little public square is within walking distance of the beach.
In the past decade, Tulum has grown into a coveted vacation for luxury travelers; however, it still tempts bargain hunters who remember when this tucked-away jewel of Mexico's east coast was more of a secluded getaway. Here, you'll find some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins in the Western Hemisphere, ruins that have the cerulean waters of the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop. And there are other out-of-this-world wonders, including several cenotes (or underground water-filled caverns) and bioreserves. As an added plus: Tulum continues to be the tiny, quiet alternative to the other Riviera Maya resort areas during the spring break season.