Escape to Summer's Warmth: Tulum, Mexico
If you're looking for an easygoing beachfront escape, then Tulum on the Maya Riviera is the spot.
Winter never touches Tulum's aqua waters or its white-sand stretches, as temps rarely dip below 70 degrees, even in February. At this carefree Caribbean village, unplugged Atlanta execs mingle with Austin artists on sabbatical. And everyone packs lots of linen because the moonlight breeze down here is the real draw.
Our Favorite Hotels: Sure, Tulum is pleasantly off the grid, but that shouldn't cause panic when picking a hotel. Most lodging in Tulum offers the dreamy thatch, mama-y-papa hideaway feel of a deserted island. Two quaint hotels, Zamas (zamas.com) and Hemingway (hemingwaytulum.com), tuck clean bungalows between picture-perfect palms and hammocks just made for napping―but they still offer comforting amenities. You'll have hot showers and ceiling fans for cool nights of slumber. Seaside rooms can be booked for less than $200.
Our Favorite Road Food: The best and quickest meal we found on the 75-mile drive from Cancún to Tulum: roadside tacos. In Maya Riviera, fast food means still-warm tortillas and fresh salsa verde made daily.
Our Favorite Pick for Outdoor Adventure: Believe it or not, you have to head underground for the most enchanting swim in Tulum. Located not far from the city center, dozens of gin-clear cave pools, or cenotes, offer cheap, kid-friendly snorkeling adventures. Gran Cenote, one of the largest and clearest pools, is just a few miles away.
Our Favorite Dining Surprise: The seafood and native dishes served at most Tulum restaurants are great, but for a change of pace, try Posada Margherita, a romantic beachside Italian cafe that will knock your flip-flops off. Possibly the finest focaccia and homemade linguine this side of Italy. Really. posadamargherita.com
Our Favorite Day Trip: Tiptoeing among Mayan ruins founded upon 40-foot cliffs is the classic Tulum daytime activity. Taking in all of the ruins in one afternoon can mean a lot of walking, but it's worth every step. While iguanas sunbathe on the stone structures, tourists can too―on a 110-yard beach that stretches below the ancient city.
Our Favorite Sunset Spot: As the sun falls, the open-air restaurant ¡Qué Fresco! at Zamas glows underneath the coil of Christmas lights strung on the large palm frond palapa covering. That Mexican lager you've been craving? Now's the time.
Get There Now: It only takes a few hours to get to Tulum. Delta flies nonstop from Atlanta to Cancún at least four times a day. Round-trip tickets cost as low as $230, depending on your travel dates. From Houston, Continental nonstop fligh
ts are priced slightly higher.