Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
The Maya believed that mysterious cenotes, ancient sinkholes scattered throughout the region, were an entryway into the underworld. Find out what really lies beneath by pulling on a mask and fins and slipping into the water.
Let Cenote Dive Center get your blood pumping with a five-hour tour. Seasoned scuba divers will love the challenge of exploring the holes' labyrinthine depths (some are connected to flooded cave systems). If you're not certified, no worries. The outfitter also leads snorkel trips to a few of the most picturesque, such as Gran Cenote (above) and Dos Ojos (two-tank dives from $120, snorkeling from $49, cenotedive.com).
Where to Stay
The seven-room Coqui Coqui Tulum is ideal for moonlit beach strolls and early morning skinny-dips. The owners also produce artisanal perfumes and candles, so the rooms smell faintly spicy, and the on-site spa is tiny but one of the best around (from $230, coquicoqui.com).
What to Eat
The most cheerful buena vida scene is found at Posada Margherita (posadamargherita.com), a boutique hotel with a beachside Italian restaurant that serves up generous platters of homemade pasta and lobster. For a little Miami flavor, order sashimi or ceviche at BeTulum's beachy-chic restaurant (betulum.com). The new foodie haven on the block is Hartwood (hartwoodtulum.com), a magical open-air find. The menu changes daily, so cross your fingers that you hit the slow-roasted pork belly.
What Else to Do
You can't be this close to one of the "new" wonders of the world and not check it out. Chichen-Itza is among Mexico's best-preserved pre-Columbian archaeological sites, an impressive spread including a pyramid, temples, and statues. Spend a night at Coqui Coqui's other outpost, the Valladolid Residence & Spa, an elegantly renovated mansion in the nearby colonial city of Valladolid (from $230).
When to Go
Make plans for November, when the rain has ended and the December crowds have yet to descend.
How to Get There
Arrive in Cancun, then rent a car (a convertible to take in the views!) and cruise the 90 minutes to Tulum.