Cancun, Mexico

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One of the world’s most popular playgrounds and the No. 1 international travel destination for North Americans, Cancun is blessed with some of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches and accommodations that best each other year after year.

The choices for outdoors excitement—in the form of whale-shark spotting, sailing the area’s warm aquamarine waters or snorkeling over the Cancun Underwater Museum—are plentiful year-round thanks to Cancun’s idyllic weather. There are also plenty of manicured greens for golf enthusiasts and a bevy of white-sand beaches, including Playa Las Perlas, Playa Ballenas and Playa Nizuc, from which visitors can soak in the sun and enjoy the city’s famous waters. Kayakers will love the Nichupte Lagoon and its mangroves, while nature lovers may spot everything from sea turtles to flamingos at Isla Contoy and Isla Holbox.

Posh resorts both classic and new, including Villa del Palmar Cancun and RIU Palace Peninsula, are never more than a couple of minutes away from a beautiful shoreline and add to the mix of indulgent options with grand spas and dining choices. Indeed, restaurants in Cancun offer everything from innovative sushi to the very best in Mexican regional and fusion cooking. Shopping, meanwhile, is yet another necessary indulgence here, with duty-free options throughout the state of Quintana Roo and everything from Mexican-made tableware to international-designer apparel and accessories in places such as Kukulcan Plaza and La Isla Shopping Village.

A few Mayan sites, including Pok ta Pok and El Rey, are found within Cancun itself, while others are within driving distance. Indeed, the allure of the Mayan culture and of the Mexican Caribbean extends beyond Cancun to the Riviera Maya, where sun-kissed shores and top-tier resorts compete for attention with ancient ruins like Tulum, an inviting underground river system and family-friendly adventure parks such as Selvatica and Xel-ha.