Playa Del Carmen

Cancun is known for its sprawling all-inclusive properties, many of them large resorts that come with an equally large price tag. But head to Playa del Carmen, the relaxed beach town 30 miles south of Cancun, and you’ll find quaint and unique hotels within walking distance of the area’s main attractions without budget-busting rates.

traditional resorts Riviera del Sol Set in an unassuming building right in the center of Playa, this 22-room hideout evokes the ambiance of a beach bungalow from its courtyard pool to the interiors of its rooms.

Stay: Each room here offers views to the courtyard at the center of the resort. Clients can expect a decor that evokes the essence of the Yucatan: tiles in mosaic, wooden, tree-like columns and sandy tones throughout. Air conditioning, TVs and phones round out the amenities.

Play: Though it’s set at the center of the property, the small, free-form pool is quiet and serene, a respite from the outside world. One floor up, a chic, open-air lounge with daybeds and couches serves as a meeting place, reading nook and general hangout spot. Rates start at $114 per room per night dbl, breakfast included.

Mahekal Beach Resort With 121 rooms and the amenities of a larger property, Mahekal Beach Resort is an ideal choice for clients looking for a low-cost alternative to Cancun’s all-inclusive experience.

Stay: Room categories here range from garden-view “pueblitos” with king-size beds and balconies outfitted with hammocks, to romantic beachfront “casitas,” stand-alone cottages with private plunge pools set steps from the beach.

Play: Mahekal had the most amenities of any resort we encountered in Playa: multiple swimming pools, bars, restaurants, entertainment areas with pool tables and more. A brand-new spa opened earlier this year with two indoor cabins featuring private showers and restrooms to complement its existing beachside spa huts. Rates start at $171, breakfast and dinner included. (877) 235-4452;

Magic Blue Imagine a little slice of Miami set in the middle of the Riviera Maya. That’s the vibe at this 44-room oasis that’s equal parts chic and serene.

Stay: Rooms here are set in cabin-like buildings, but don’t let the rustic exteriors fool you. Inside, you’ll find minimalist decor (think canopy beds and unique lighting), along with amenities like flat-screen TVs and WiFi accessibility. Each room here comes with its own balcony or terrace.

Play: All accommodations surround one long swimming pool in the center of the property, evoking the iconic hotels on South Beach. At the far end, a small bar serves up drinks and snacks. For a heartier meal, guests can head to Ipanema’s next door for steak and seafood. Back at the hotel, an exclusive spa with just one treatment room offers massages, facials and nail services. Rates start at $98 per room per night dbl, breakfast at Ipanema’s included.

modern properties Be Playa Clients looking for something out of the ordinary will find it at this 23-room property. The hotel itself is not yet a year old, but its quirky decor consisting of vintage musical instruments, antique typewriters and books, and movie posters from decades past, adds a historic feel.

Stay: Standard suites here come with high-end amenities like iPod docking stations and modern bathroom fixtures like stand-alone water basins; outside, balconies are outfitted with hammocks. Upgrade to a jr. suite or master suite to add a round whirlpool tub to the living space.

Play: Rooftop terraces are common throughout hotels in Playa, and Be Playa’s is one of the most memorable. By day, guests can lounge in a shallow pool looking out across the town or relax on its daybeds; by night, they can belly up to the bar for an evening cocktail under the stars. Next door, SushiClub restaurant serves up fresh seafood. Rates start at $130 per room per night dbl. (877) 265-4139;

romantic getaways La Tortuga Hotel & Spa Casual but elegant, this 51-room property has wide appeal: a winding pool, a tempting restaurant, a relaxing spa. Plus, there’s one very important bonus for traveling couples: it’s for adults only.

Stay: If you’re looking for unique accommodations, you’ve come to the right place. In addition to La Tortuga’s standard rooms, clients can upgrade to swim-up suites that let them walk right into the pool from their terrace. In addition, 11 jr. suites come with rooftop terraces, outfitted with jacuzzi tubs.