It’s not Isla Mujeres. Nor Playa del Carmen. The hottest destination on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast is Playa Mujeres — a.k.a. Costa Mujeres — a booming new resort area about a half-hour north of Cancun’s Hotel Zone and 45 minutes from Cancun International Airport.
Until fairly recently, this area near Puerto Juarez was known primarily as the base for the ferry to Isla Mujeres, a laid-back island about eight miles offshore where the prime attractions include quiet beaches, an underwater sculpture park, and — seasonally — the opportunity to swim with migrating whale sharks.
Now, the area is being hailed as the ‘New Cancun.’
In a span of little more than a decade, 10 luxury, mostly all-inclusive resorts have opened on Playa Mujeres, beginning with the Excellence Playa Mujeres, which opened in November 2007, and the most recent being the Aterlier Estudio Playa Mujeres, a 593-unit all-suites resort that debuted in October 2019.
Other Playa Mujeres properties include the Dreams Playa Mujeres Spa and Golf Resort, the sister property Secrets Playa Mujeres Spa and Golf Resort, the Finest Playa Mujeres, the Beloved Playa Mujeres, the Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres Resort, the TRS Coral Hotel, and the Paradisus Playa Mujeres.
Yet it was only at the 2019 Cancun Travel Mart that local tourism officials settled on a brand name for the district, choosing “Costa Mujeres” over the more frequently used Playa Mujeres.
It’s a name travelers will be hearing a lot more of.
A total of 15,000 new hotel rooms will be added at Costa Mujeres in the next five years, including new properties from Hilton, Riu, Planet Hollywood, and Mexican hotel company Posadas, which operates resorts under the Live Aqua, Grand Fiesta, and Fiesta Americana brands.
Officials expect that Costa Mujeres will have about 35,000 hotel rooms in the next decade.
Compare that to the 30,000 hotel rooms that have been built during the entire 50-year history of the Cancun Hotel Zone.
Like Cancun’s Hotel Zone, Costa Mujeres is close to the city of Cancun. Unlike Cancun, however, the new hotel district lacks easy access from the airport, with taxis and shuttles required to drive through the city to reach the still-rough roads leading to the beaches. Tourism officials acknowledge that there is still work to be done with infrastructure, transportation, and balancing development with environmental preservation.
Once you arrive, however, the resorts live up to Costa Mujeres’ billing as the “modern luxury” destination in the Mexican Caribbean.
The Atelier Estudio, for example, had a spectacular grand opening, with buildings bathed in multicolored lights, a sprawling pool area spanned by an arched bridge, elevated guest rooms with private pools, open-concept dining areas, and an eye-catching contemporary Mexican design, and a beach with private cabanas and hammocks hung over the gentle surf.
It’s a sign of many things to come in a resort community that will soon be featured just as prominently on the Mexican Caribbean map as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.