Is the Mayan Riviera the Next Ibiza? Where to Stay, Eat and Dance

Courtesy Photo
Casa Madera at Papaya Playa in Tulum.

From the full-moon DJ raves in Tulum to pop-up music venues deep in the Sian Ka'an bio-reserve, the Mayan Riviera, on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, is up there with Ibiza as a top music vacay destination.

Where To Stay

With more than 12 room types and 80 cabanas, Papaya Playa Project's sprawling 2,600-foot eco-chic property in Tulum offers something for every type of traveler (hostelitos start at $50/night). For those with a craving for luxury, the property's villas are your best bet: The two-bedroom, 2,600-square-foot Casa Madera ($1,575/night) features rustic wraparound terraces, a lap pool, an open-air kitchen and private beach access, while the two-story, 9,000-square-foot Casa Palapa ($3,675/night) offers panoramic jungle and ocean views, five bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and three private infinity pools.

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In addition to water sports, yoga and temazcal (sweat lodge) cleanses, guests can also enjoy full-moon beach parties, where DJs like DJ Solomun spin until sunrise. 

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Where To Eat

Posada Margherita

Pasta and bread are made fresh daily at this beachfront gem that serves authentic northern Italian cuisine like poached snapper fillet. The venue's candlelit pathways and rustic curio cabinets set the romantic backdrop for the wedding of OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash (pictured above). 


Dishes like pork ribs rubbed in vanilla and pasilla sauce (above; 290 pesos/$19) draw travelers including The War on Drugs' Adam Granduciel (above) and girlfriend-actress Krysten Ritter. Just expect an hourlong wait. "It was a dark moment for us when we couldn't let Sting cut the line for dinner," says owner Ivan Angeles. 

Gitano Mezcal

Celebs like Zac Efron, Adam Lambert and Orlando Bloom flock to this incense-perfumed oasis to sip cocktails inspired by 1940s tiki bars. Kisses in the Car (mezcal, passion fruit, habanero) and the Gypsy Disco (mezcal, rum, basil grenadine) are made with local fruits and come highly recommended. 

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Where To Dance

The Cave Rave At Salvaje​

What: What began as a party for 350 people three years ago has grown into a gathering of nearly 1,500 who spend dusk until dawn swaying to sets by local and international DJs inside a cave. Flamethrowers and tribal dancers add to the surreal ambience.

When: July 18

Where: Chikin Ha, a village surrounded by three blue lagoons that is 40 minutes outside of Tulum.

Tickets: $32  

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What To See

By Land: Coba Ruins

Explore the architectural remains of this pre-Colombian Mayan ­civilization that dates back to 100 A.D., or rent a bicycle and cruise the 45 ceremonial jungle roads (sacbeob in Mayan) that radiate from the main temples. Admission is 64 pesos ($4), and it's a 45-minute bus or car ride from Tulum.

By Sea: Cenote Dos Ojos

Swim, snorkel or scuba in the iridescent freshwater pools connected by a maze of underground rivers known as cenotes in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula; it's the world's second-largest cave system. The entrance fee is 200 pesos ($13). Just be sure to pack a lunch and water -- though there are local equipment-rental stands, there are no restaurants on-site.

This story originally appeared in the July 4 issue of Billboard.