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Don’t be S.A.D.—Run for the Border-Riviera Maya

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banyan tree mayakobaBy the time the third snowfall hits Manhattan, I get SAD—as in “seasonal affective disorder.” The idea of making one more snow angel and shoveling more slush has me dreaming of sunshine and cocktails.  Which means it’s time to make a run for the border—Cancun to be exact.  If that conjured up visions of Spring Break gone bad, think again.  The area around the Mexican resort—with direct flights from almost every major US metropolis—has transformed into a hip, luxury getaway if know where to book.  Here’s my spicy dish on favorite finds.

Head for the Riviera Maya.  This area on the Caribbean in the Yucatan Peninsula, between Cancun and Tulum, is bustling with activities and developments.  If you are looking for uber-luxury, pampering, and seclusion, try the Banyan Tree Mayakoba.  The first outpost in the Americas from the famed Asian chain has all their hallmarks—outstanding service, sleek design, and generous touches of Mexican hospitality.  Rates start around $600 per night, but that’s for a romantic villa with a private plunge pool and hammock for relaxation.

If you’re looking for more action, check into the Deseo Hotel in Playa del Carmen.  This chic boutique property from the Grupo Habita folks is a magnet for stylish travelers from Mexico City who enjoy lounging poolside.  The hotel is not on the beach but in the pedestrian street filled with restaurants and shops, with minimalist but stylish rooms starting at around $150 per night.

For eating in Playa, don’t miss the Senor Tacombi taco truck on Calle Oche—the crowds line up there at night after the disco.  Make sure to head to Tulum for the spectacular pyramid right on the ocean, and then grab a great meal on the beach at Que Fresco at the Zamas Hotel.  On your way back, stop off for a swim in a cenote—a fresh water, natural occurring pool inside a cave.

Trust me, one margarita on the beach as the sparkling waters tickle your toes, and any hint of SADness just melts away.

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