20 FEB 2019: My first visit to Mexico was in 1993. Signature Vacations had sent me on a week-long fam to discover Cancun, and the Riviera Maya. I fell in love, and am still in love, in spite of occasional  reports regarding local crime.

I wish reporters would do a better job of explaining where the crime took place. People having a drink in Playa del Carmen, are a long way from a bar in Cancun City. The bar where some headline  grabbing murders happened, is in a strip joint well away from the tourist zone maybe two hours from Playa del Carmen.

I read an article this morning that the US travel warning for Cancun is the same level as the one for Italy and the UK.  It should be put in context.

Of course, it is very confusing unless you're there all the time, as the area is developing so quickly. This entire area didn't exist until 1970. In 1993 there was the hotel zone of Cancun, and then pretty well nothing till Playa del Carmen, which was exploding and could longer be called a "funky" little fishing village.

Riviera Maya is a region, and south down the coast is: Puerto Morelos,Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Xcaret, Paamul, Puerto Aventuras, Xpu Ha, Akumal Xel-Ha, Bahia de Punta Soliman, Tankah, Tulum, Boca Paila, and Punta Allen. No wonder your clients are confused.

The last few years a new upscale tourist area is being developed on the north coast.

When many of your clients think of Cancun, they only know the hotel zone.  There are other ‘Cancuns’ such as Playa Mujeres, located 25 minutes north of the Cancun Airport.

This is the newest area, and its beaches are much quieter because they are difficult to access from the road. “It was not originally oriented to tourism," says Ximena de Cordova Cole" in an interview with travel writers. This area is designed for luxury travel. It certainly is, if one of the familiar 5-star chains isn't here already, there are probably plans to build.

The always popular, Riu chain, just opened the Riu Palace Costa Mujeres right beside the Riu Dunamar. Biggest complaint at the Palace is that the modern rooms have left the bathroom too open, and there isn't any privacy.

I once heard that complaint from a couple of guests at Secrets d'Vine as well. "We don't know each other that well so when I need the bathroom, I make him go to the lobby."

The Riu Dunamar opened about a year ago, and it gets good reviews.

One that I love, and I know many of you agents do too, is the adult only Excellence Playa Mujeres. It has seven pools, with lounge chairs and cabanas, four of them heated in the winter. We had a fabulous two-story suite in the club section with a plunge pool on the roof, and a whirlpool tub on the main floor.

We adored the pool in the club section with the butler offering anything you might even think of needing ... magazines, snacks, sun screen. It was fabulous.

There is a tranquil white-sand beach with pretty views out over Isla Mujeres, great for sunrise pictures. Nice full-service spa with saunas, steam rooms, and a hydrotherapy pool, and a 3,500-square-foot, 24-hour fitness centre.

The water is not as blue, but the surf is much calmer compared to the eastern beaches. The white beaches are wide and sandy. This is a great destination for families, with seniors, and little ones, perfect for water sports, like kayaking, sailing, jet skiing, or simply playing water volleyball.

The area is home to one of the best golf courses in Cancun, the Greg Norman-designed Playa Mjueres Golf Club.

There is a marina just steps from the lobby of Beloved Playa Mujeres, where tourists can take a ferry across to Isla Mujeres by themselves, or buy an excursion to the island to snorkel, fish, swim with the whale sharks, or rent a scooter, golf cart, or bike to explore the little island.

Meco, is a small Mayan site, that is well worth a visit. Your clients for a modest entry fee may have the place to themselves. You can easily explore it in an hour or so, take a ferry to Isla Mujeres and spend the rest of the day exploring, playing and eating.

Exclusivity is the theme in Playa Mujeres. So far, a walk down the beach does not yet include a wall of hotels. The population is very small compared to the hotel zone; so relaxing on the beach is just that.

Nice full-service spa with saunas, steam rooms, and a hydrotherapy pool, and a 3,500-square-foot, 24-hour fitness centre.

Recommend this to your clients who want to be close to the airport, without the crowds.

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Sam Ion

The expert on All Inclusives, Sam delivers up-to-date info on alternate Wednesdays in her column Not Just All Inclusives.

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