In my opinion, the concept of spring break is totally wasted on students. Why is it that once you’re immersed in the real world—and more stressed out than ever—it’s no longer a given that you should blow off your pent-up winter steam with a mandatory week’s vacation? (Preferably in paradise.)
Of course, we’re seeking to change that with Well+Good’s inaugural wellness retreat in Palm Springs. (You’re coming, right?) But if you want to extend your professional pause a little longer, you may want to stop off in a nearby destination that harkens back to your college spring break days: Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
No, I’m not suggesting you book an all-inclusive resort in Cancun and start building up your tolerance for cheap tequila. That’s a pretty unfair stereotype—there’s a lot more to this idyllic stretch of Caribbean coastline than bikini contests and booze cruises. In fact, it’s actually an ideal place to have a healthy vacation, with tons of lush plant-based restaurants, sustainable hotels, and outdoor adventures. One visit, and you’re likely to put spring break back on your annual calendar from here on out. (Now, who do I talk to about giving adults the summer off?)
Keep reading to find out how to have a healthy spring break in Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
Where to stay
If your idea of a vacation equals early bedtimes and pre-dawn meditation, you probably shouldn’t stay at a major resort in Cancun or Playa del Carmen during spring break season—for obvious reasons.
Instead, check out Mayakoba, a nearby, private beach community known for its sustainable ethos, lush jungle landscape, and a roster of luxury hotels that includes Fairmont, Rosewood, and Banyan Tree properties. The latest (and most affordable) resort to open on the land is the Andaz Mayakoba.
Here, wellness is infused into pretty much every aspect of the guest experience. You’ll get your cardio in by cycling, stand-up paddle boarding, kite surfing, and hiking; you’ll have plenty of plant-based meal options at its four restaurants; and you’ll have the opportunity to give back by booking a spa treatment and beach cabana created in partnership with (RED), with proceeds going to the non-profit’s fight against AIDS.
Mayakoba’s location is super central—it’s 10 minutes by taxi from Playa del Carmen, 30 minutes from Cancun and its airport, and an hour from Tulum. But if you’d rather be in the middle of the action (and save some money), there are tons of dreamy Riviera Maya Airbnbs for under $200 a night.
What to eat
When in Mexico, it’s tempting to subsist exclusively on fish tacos and guac—I get it. But if you do that, you’ll be missing out on lots of great, healthy options that Riviera Maya locals know and love.
Playa del Carmen has an especially stellar (and inexpensive!) plant-based food scene. Don’t miss The Pitted Date for a dairy-free hibiscus latte, gluten-free vegan waffles, or a superfood salad; Aloha Raw Bar for Instagrammable acai bowls; Que Huevos for comfort food (breakfast tacos, veggie burgers) and a patio perfect for people watching; and Bio-Natural for its organic market. In Cancun, get botanical décor inspo from Restaurante Natura, grab sushi with a Mexican twist at Irori, or pick up a smoothie and a salad at local faves Leaf and 100% Natural.
And if you want to splurge on a multi-course fiesta, the healthy way? Head directly to the award-winning Casa Amate at the Andaz Mayakoba for a meal by Ernesto Torres—a Oaxacan chef with a background in nutrition. (The heart of palm soup with fresh coconut water, passion fruit, and tapioca pearls is, without question, one of the best things I’ve ever put into my mouth.)
What to do
One thing you definitely shouldn’t miss? Spending an afternoon at one of Riviera Maya’s many cenotes—essentially they’re giant sinkholes in the ground exposing underground lagoons, once considered sacred spots by the Mayans. Today, visitors flock to them for swimming, snorkeling, and cliff-diving, with the reservation-only Cenotes Tankah and Dos Ojos being two of the best options.
Another pro tip: Take advantage of the cenotes’ proximity to Tulum. After a morning of swimming under a canopy of foliage, head to the boho beach town’s Yaan Wellness Spa for treatments that incorporate traditional Mayan herbs and shamanic energy healing techniques. Or, if you time your visit to a new or full moon, you can partake in a temazcal sweat lodge ceremony—an ideal remedy if you did have one too many margaritas the night before. (Hey, this is spring break. No judgment.)