The city of Merida is located in the Yucatan Peninsula, a 3 hour drive west of Cancun. Merida is the perfect blend of colonial Mexico, delightfully mixed with contemporary art, culture and architecture.
How to Get There: Rent a car from the Cancun airport, make sure to fuel up at a nearby gas station, as they will be few to none with the coming miles ahead. Best offers are booked online.
Pit stop: Valladolid, is the halfway point between Cancun and Merida. This quaint little town is a great stop for lunch on the plaza with an ice cold Sol or Tecate beer. Make sure to check out the artisan shops here, stock up on gifts, as prices are definitely better than the bigger city of Merida. Box of Cuban cigars vary between $8-$15
Where to Stay in Merida: Rosas y Xocolates http://www.rosasandxocolate.com/ This boutique romantic hotel is centrally located on the popular Avenue, Paseo de Montejo.
The entire hotel is a conceptual work that revolves around the origin of the name: Roses, in honor of the owners mother, and Xocolate, highlighting the rich history cocoa played with the pre-Hispanic peoples of Mexico. The owner describes the space as a 'seductive labyrinth.' When you first encounter the vibrantly pink building, you get a sense of enchantment, walking though the front doors and into the most delightfully curated space, with delicate details, there's no better way to describe it than just a Romantic Explosion.
Must try: Couples Spa Treatment, check the spa menu for added suggestions, this couples massage is refreshing and relaxing. The 8 course dining experience in the hotel restaurant, is a gastronomical dream experience, wine pairings available plus a full tequila bar. #heaven
What to Do: Walk around Plaza Grande and grab a tropical flavored ice cream cone from a nearby street vendor, visit the Cathedral del San Idelfonso, Casa de Francisco de Montejo & Centro Cultural Olimpio (all walking distance apart). Lots of shopping options, beautiful Guayabera shirts and dresses, definitely haggle your way through the shops and don't leave without your own Frida Khalo shirt. Nighttime horse carriage ride through the city, there is nothing more romantic than these beautifully decorated horses and carriages, the coachmen are all city experts and will guide you through the city proudly.
Day trips: Visit nearby beach town of Progresso, this beach and atmosphere will not disappoint. It is a hidden beachside oasis, with vibrant restaurants and bars. $10 massages are offered right on the beach, not exactly the best massage you'll ever experience but definitely the most colorful. Highly recommend Restaurante Sharks, sink your feet in the sand and footsteps away from the ocean, each dining table comes complete with lounge tanning chairs. Eat, drink, tan & repeat.
Day trips: Explore the Mayan Ruins of Dzibilchaltun, no guide required. Do make sure to wear your bathing suit for this exploration as the archeological park provides a swimmable sink hole for its visitors. Best part is the bonus free fish pedicure!
Editors Note: For residents of the Tennessee Valley, Nashville offers a direct flight to Cancun, just a 2.5 hour flight to paradise.