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Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Out.
Until recently, the money shot for every resort ad—that image of the entwined couple strolling the beach toward a pulsating sunset—inevitably featured a man and a woman. Then something unexpected happened. The Mexican state of Coahuila legalized same-sex civil unions in 2007 (essentially making those unions legal throughout Mexico since every state must recognize the laws granted to individuals of each state), and Mexico City legalized same-sex marriage in December 2009. The result: a quiet revolution that sent ripples all the way to Mexico?s southeastern pocket, the Yucatan?s Mayan Riviera. Surrounded by ruins and lined with Mexico?s finest Caribbean beaches, this urbane anti-Cancun offers a growing cluster of luxe resorts, a chic contrast to Cancun?s big-box behemoths.
But the region didn?t morph into one of Latin America?s best same-sex escapes until a range of swank, gay-friendly resorts opened near Playa del Carmen. The first was Rosewood Mayakoba, where the lagoon suites and tequila library constitute one serious adult haven. Then came the Banyan Tree Mayakoba. When it opened in spring 2009, it didn?t try to duplicate that tequila library but still managed to raise the bar higher. Spread out over a ripe ecosystem complete with lagoons, mangrove jungles, and a sweep of beach and azure sea, the retreat boasts four restaurants, a golf course, and a spa. (Try the Thai herbal detox, which starts with a turmeric and lemongrass scrub).
What really distinguishes the resort, though, like Rosewood, is its intimacy. All 132 private villas are freestanding units equipped with a heated jet pool, garden pavilion, and separate sleeping and living quarters that mix Mayan-inspired architecture and Asian interiors. Also on tap is the director of romance, a matchmaker who will guide you through a catalog of hotcha experiences: couples massages, beachfront dinners, and indulgences back in the villa (champagne, silk pajamas, scattered rose petals). When all that choreographed sensuality builds to the tipping point, you can plan your own in-villa Mayan nuptials performed by a shaman invoking the Mayan gods. (OK, it won?t be legal back home, but think of the photo op.)
If cabin fever kicks in, Playa del Carmen, a 20-minute drive from the resort strip, is a 24-hour party town. Start with dinner at John Gray?s Place (+52-984-803-3689), famous for its grilled duck in chipotle sauce, and then head to Playa 69 (5th Ave.between Calles 4 and 6), an exclusively gay hangout where locals mix with tourists. The next day, grab a history lesson at the Mayan ruin of Tulum (40 miles southwest of Playa del Carmen), a walled, pre-Columbian city perched on a cliff and richly decorated with murals of rain gods and sea goddesses. Then stroll the beach like the sort-of married couple you are, toward your own pulsating sunset.
If the Mayakoba resorts look too sedate, try Deseo Hotel & Lounge, an adults-only hotel-cum-club in Playa del Carmen with minimalist rooms, epic daybeds, and a very trendy rooftop bar. 5th Ave. and Calle 12; +52-984-879-3620
Cancun?s long-running Karamba Bar offers go-go boys, drag queens, strippers, karaoke, and a crowded dance floor. Avenue Tulum 9
Xcaret is a sprawling theme park featuring wildlife, an underground river, and a range of campy, Vegas-worthy shows.