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There is—thankfully—no major airport in Tulum. And that’s the main reason the Mexican seaside town has hung on to its unspoiled, off-the-grid charm despite the rampant development of the Riviera Maya. Tulum is dedicated to the peaceful hum of slow living—you can barely drive 100 yards without encountering a set of topes, the large raised speed bumps that check your pace. In years past, the biggest draws were yoga retreats and the Mayan ruins that date back to the 13th century. But recently it’s become a haven for fashion photographers, creative directors and models who came down for photo shoots and then returned on their own time. You’ll spot them among the sun-starved tourists at Cancún International this time of year, when the beaches are at their best. Once they’ve cleared customs, they make a beeline down the coast, past the boomtown of Playa del Carmen and countless all-inclusive resorts. But there are a few essential stops along the well-paved, well-patrolled highway, whether you drive yourself or opt to be driven. (Tucan-Kin is a reputable car service; tucankin.com.) From pristine semisecret beaches to a new outpost from the country’s most important chef, there’s much to see along the way and plenty of places to kick back once you arrive.

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