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For pure alabaster white sand, turquoise-blue water, and a seamless vacation of R&R, you should know about the Riviera Maya; a strip of coastline stretching south from  Cancun, on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, to the Mayan ruins of Tulum.  And, due to the large number of all-inclusive hotels, there are fabulous deals for serious sun-worshipers for a week or a quick getaway.

Although the coast no longer has small fishing villages or undeveloped jungle, the beaches are delightful, with warm water, sea breezes and easy living in resorts that are gated, guarded, safe and clean.

My daughter and I enjoy an evening of Folkloric Dancers

Recently I took my daughter, as a graduation gift, to the luxurious  Riu Palace near Playa del Carmen, the hippest city along the coast. It was the perfect place for a mother/daughter trip. We saw numerous groups of women, boomers, and honeymooners.

The Riu Resorts were voted the best all-inclusive hotels in the world in 2011.  Now I understand why. The Palace offers personalized service (IE: waiters on the beach delivering you the free margaritas, strawberry daiquiris, beer or whatever drink you desire). It’s hard to grasp the concept that a resort will include all food, specialty restaurants, evening entertainment, all alcohol for such a reasonable package price.

Swim up bar at the pool at the Riu Palace, Playa del Carmen Mexico

The chic Europeans, Brazilians, wealthy Mexicans and Canadians have discovered the Riu. Check their website for amazing deals. For example, a fellow from Washington DC obtained an off-season 6-night (7 day) package, including air, all food, all alcohol and transfers from Cancun for $ 1400.  He calculated that the daily rate, without airfare, was $130-a-day. The price is right and the level of luxury and service is amazing.

The area has a significant Mayan legacy, with important pyramids (check out Tulum and Coba) and cenotes – sinkholes and water bodies used by the ancient settlers of Yucatán.

Mayan Archeological site at Tulum

Nowadays they are very popular for diving and snorkeling. It’s a thrill to take a ladder down into the earth and then swim through the multi-colored cenotes.

Snorkel or dive in a cenote

And fantastic nightlife, excellent golf courses and delicious gastronomy await you in Playa del Carmen.

You’ll eat better than you do at home; steaks, fresh fruit (papaya, mango, pineapple, watermelon), salads, salmon, jumbo prawns, seafood and elaborate desserts.  At the Riu Palace, we dined in all the Specialty Restaurants where we were greeted  with champagne, (or saki in the Japanese Restaurant).  I couldn’t pass up the chocolate fondant (warm brownie with warm liquid chocolate center, served with ice cream).

At night, it’s all about music, dancing or quiet walks on the deserted beach. After a couple of hours of dancing, we finished off the night with a fresh mint and lime  mijito at the bar in the palatial lobby, under dangling crystal chandeliers. We chatted with international guests before heading to bed tired and sun burnt. We were eager to see what towel art would await us in the room.

And what do guests love, in addition to the service, great food, luxury accommodations and stunning beach? Included in the price are all the drinks you want, opulent buffets open all day, mimosas for breakfast, wine or beer for lunch and dinner.

All that said about the night life and drinks, guests include boomer couples, multi-generational families and couples with small children who were having a great time.  One thing we all had in common; we were having a blast.