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In my short 34 years on this planet, I’ve had the opportunity to visit some far-flung places like Sumba Island in Indonesia and have had unforgettable experiences such as trekking with gorillas in Rwanda. While I’ve visited places like the Maldives, South Africa, Spain and Ghana numerous times, as of this summer I had only been to Mexico once before when I traveled to Mexico City for the premiere of the James Bond “Spectre” film. Well, I guess you could say twice before if you count a day trip to Tijuana while I was a college student and visiting San Diego (it wasn’t a cultural experience in the slightest).

This summer I wanted to get away and recharge my batteries, so I ended up deciding to go to the beach in Mexico. I wanted to go for several reasons, but mostly because it’s so close — it’s just an hour or so flight from Miami, and about three from NYC. And, because of #FOMO — I’ve been watching my friends upload from Tulum and Mayakoba and frankly it looked amazing. At first, I was tempted to book the Andaz Mayakoba, but when I heard that Riviera Maya was home to the first overwater bungalows in Mexico, I decided to bite the bullet and book a stay. Though the rooms were expensive at about $1,500 per night (this rate includes all activities, fine dining and alcohol), I saved $1,540 by paying for my stay with my Citi Prestige Card. The fourth night free benefit is insane — it’s saved me over $8,500 over the last year.

One great thing about this resort is that it’s centrally located in a relatively small area, which allows you to reach other hotspots like Cancun, Cozumel and Tulum in about an hour or less each way.  

While I spent the majority of my time relaxing at the insanely gorgeous El Dorado Maroma hotel, I also explored a bit, though I definitely only scraped the surface in regard to things to see and do in the area. If you have Riviera Maya tips, comment below! Here are five things I did in Riviera Maya that made this trip especially memorable:

1. Discovering Cenotes and Ziplining with eco-adventure company La Selva Maya. Cenotes are natural sinkholes or pits that form when limestone bedrock collapses, exposing groundwater and forming a cavelike atmosphere. The water tends to be very clear, making them perfect places for scuba diving. I visited two cenotes while I was there — one was underground and that was great, despite the large amount of bats that made it slightly scary. The other one was above ground and that was spectacular with crystal blue and refreshing water. Note that the water is often shallow and the rocks on the bottom are sharp — I stubbed my toe pretty badly on one of them.

Ziplining was just OK — you don’t get great views and the ziplines themselves weren’t very unique. However, with that said, if you’re at Selva Maya, you might as well! The staff also zips you around in souped-up ATVs that were frankly almost more fun than the ziplining. The total cost for the cenote tours and ziplining was just $70. Our guide Raul was awesome — I’d definitely recommend requesting him if you book tours through Selva Maya.

2. Tacos from Antojitos la Chiapaneca: These were delicious. They kind of reminded me of doner kebabs, like you can find all over Europe, but they were made with pork. The vendors will slice up some pineapple (my favorite fruit) and put them on top of the tacos for you if you want. Antojitos Las Chiapaneca doesn’t accept credit cards, but the tacos were so good that it was totally worth foregoing the points for all that delicious pork. Total cost for this decadence? $4.

3. Fruit pops from Flor de Michoacan: Freshly made, refreshing and so tasty. This sweet treat was the perfect way to wash down all the meat I’d just had in the tacos. It also offers incredible ice cream and fresh-fruit ices. All that deliciousness cost me only $3.

4. Happy Hour at Taqueria La Eufemia: The beachside taqueria was a perfect place to hang out after dinner. There was a cool vibe, great beach and strong cocktails, all with a side of badass dancers performing a traditional Mayan ceremony. The performance is free for patrons of the Taqueria, and while there’s no set schedule for the shows, they occur regularly. I spent $25 on drinks, and I’d highly recommend this place.

5. Dinner at Le Chique: Even though I stayed at an all-inclusive property that offered amazing food, my friend and I hit up the 29-course tasting menu dinner in the chef’s kitchen at Le Chique and it was… incredible. Like, squealing with joy at each course incredible. My friend is a vegetarian and concurred that this meal was out of this world, which is impressive. The meal was pricey — it set me back $350 for the two of us — but it was a phenomenal meal and a wholly unique experience.

So even though I spent $452 throughout the day, I still came out $1,088 ahead — plus I earned 19,450 ThankYou points (worth $292) — all thanks to fourth night free. If you can maximize the perk, it can literally save you thousands of dollars a year. Note: The Prestige is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 75,000 bonus points after you spend $7,500 within the first three months of account opening. The sign-up bonus alone is worth $750 in statement credits, but you can get a whole lot more value when you maximize Citi’s transfer partners. If you want to sign up, act fast — this elevated bonus is going away soon.

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