Second-home options on the Riviera Maya in Mexico are hot, hot, hot

By Larry Olmsted,
Special Contributor

Mexico's Mayan Riviera (or Riviera Maya) has been among the world's top tourism hotspots for more than a decade, and the same is true for second homes in the district.

The reasons are endless, but they include:

• The world's second-largest barrier reef
• Vast expanses and incredible beaches
• One-of-a-kind assortment of Mayan ruins (pyramids, temples and even cities)
• Great food and inland activities (ATV tours, zip lining, eco-theme parks and much more)

And of course, there's golf.

aerialNot counting the hotel golf courses in Cancun to the north, or Cozumel to the east, there are five top golf facilities of note:

• The 27 Jack Nicklaus holes at the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort
• Nicklaus' newer course at the Riviera Cancun
• The P.B. Dye course at the Iberostar resort
• The new Gran Bahia Principe Golf Resort (27 Robert Trent Jones II holes, plus a nine-hole, par-3 course)
• Greg Norman's El Cameleon at Mayakoba (home of the only PGA Tour event in Mexico)

The Mayan Riviera is an 80-mile stretch of coastline on the Yucatan Peninsula, beginning just south of Cancun and stretching south to Tulum, which is expected to get its own international airport. For now, visitors fly into Cancun -- which is a cheap and easy flight from most of the U.S. -- and they are 30 to 90 minutes away from everything in the region.

Riviera Cancun and Playa del Carmen real estate

aerialThe Riviera Cancun has been massively developed and has hotels and condos from one to five stars (there are very few freestanding homes) for every possible visitor and buyer. In general, it's inexpensive compared to the U.S.

In the region's largest town (or smallest city), Playa del Carmen, there are hundreds of condos beginning in the high $100,000s. The appeal here is that it's the closest thing the region has to urban living. It's within walking distance of the pedestrianized main drag, Fifth Avenue, which has lots of shopping and dining.

aerialPlaya del Carmen is where most buyers who are willing to live outside a golf community would look. It does boast one large residential development (including a lesser-known Robert Von Hagge course, Playacar) with brand new condos from $250,000. Playa del Carmen traditionally offers buyers a strong condo rental market.

Of the other golf communities, only three have real estate, though the Moon Palace offers timeshares. The Iberostar is an upscale all-inclusive resort, and its Playa Paraiso course is quite good. The Iberostar recently began selling large, luxury golf course villas in the neighborhood of $1.5 million. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Gran Bahia Principe Golf Resort, near Tulum at the south end of the Riviera Maya, has a new condo hotel with units selling from the mid $100,000s with the potential for rental income to offset purchase and carrying costs.

Residential options at Mayakoba

But the biggest player by far is the Mayakoba resort, which is home to the Norman course, the region's best, along with three luxury hotels from Rosewood, Fairmont and Banyan Tree.

aerialThe course's name is Spanish for chameleon because of the way it radically changes every couple of holes, with stretches through mangrove forests, jungle, cenotes, quarry and oceanfront. Covered with canals, the 600-acre Mayakoba aspires to be the "Venice of Mexico." All its real estate offerings -- including condos, private homes and fractional residence clubs -- are sold by the three hotels, which also offer beach clubs, restaurants and spas. Mayakoba is quite upscale, with residential options beginning at around $1 million.

Larry Olmsted has written more than 1,000 articles on golf and golf travel, for the likes of Golf Magazine, T&L Golf, LINKS, Golf & Travel, Men's Health, Men's Journal, USA Today, and many others. He broke the Guinness World Record for golf travel and wrote Getting into Guinness, as well as Golf Travel by Design. He was the founding editor of The Golf Insider, and the golf columnist for both USA and US Airways Magazine.

October 14, 2011

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

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