Tucked innocuously between Akumal  and Tulum , Tankah Tres sees only a fraction of the tourist traffic that its better-known neighbors do. But that’s just the way visitors to this little stretch of coastline prefer it, enjoying excellent snorkeling, diving, and pretty (though not spectacular) beaches, with a sense of isolation that’s hard to find in these parts.
The area has three small bays, and the scattered hotels, villas, and private homes along their shores were once connected (together and to the highway) by a U-shaped access road. But new development cut the U right in half; the southern entrance is still marked Tankah Tres, while the northern entrance has a sign for Bahías de Punta Soliman. You have to return to the highway to get from one side to the other.
The handful of hotels here all have pretty beachfronts along Tankah’s three sandy bays. If you aren’t staying at one of the hotels, Casa Cenote (1.5 kilometers/0.9 mile from the turnoff, tel. 998/874-5170, www.casacenote.com ) allows nonguests to enjoy the hotel beach and lounge chairs if they order something at the restaurant.
Across from Casa Cenote hotel (1.5 kilometers/0.9 mile from the turnoff, tel. 998/874-5170, www.casacenote.com , sunrise–sunset)—and frequently referred to by the same name—Cenote Manatí (free) is actually a series of interconnected cenotes and lagoons extending from the road well inland. (An underground channel drains into the ocean.) The crystal-clear water, winding channels, and tangle of rocks, trees, and freshwater plants along the edges and bottom all make for terrific snorkeling. Look for schools of tiny fish near the surface and some bigger ones farther down.
Five spacious rooms with murals of Maya temples make up the Tankah Inn (southern entrance, 1.1 kilometers/0.6 mile from the turnoff, cell. tel. 984/100-0703, U.S. tel. 918/582-3743, www.tankah.com , US$91–131 s/d with a/c). Right on the beach, each room has tile floors, a private terrace, and ocean views; all feature minifridges, drinking water, and remote-controlled air-conditioning. A breezy common room has sweeping views of the Caribbean—comfy chairs and tables, a stereo, lots of board games, and an honor bar make this a popular place to hang out, though the beach, with its lounge chairs and hammocks, is a tempting alternative. À la carte breakfast is included, and guests enjoy free use of kayaks, snorkel gear, and Wi-Fi. Massage and Spanish classes also available on-site.
Casa Cenote (southern entrance, 1.5 kilometers/0.9 mile from the turnoff, tel. 998/874-5170, www.casacenote.com , US$125–225 s/d with a/c) was for many years the only life on this stretch of beach; more hotels have popped up, but this remains an area favorite. Large beachfront rooms have air-conditioning, one or two large beds, Wi-Fi, and fine ocean views. Decor is tasteful but low-key, with a large stucco relief of a Maya god in each room. The hotel has a lovely beachfront pool, and Cenote Manatí is just across the street; guests can use the hotel’s kayaks and snorkeling gear as well. The hotel does its part for the earth by collecting rainwater and using natural wastewater processing. Breakfast is included, and the breezy restaurant is popular among guests and nonguests alike. A large five-bedroom house is available for rent nearby.
Blue Sky Hotel (southern entrance, 1.7 kilometers/1 mile from the turnoff, U.S. tel. 306/972-4283, www.blueskymexico.com , US$130–325 with a/c) offers six breezy units occupying two matching towers, with views of the Caribbean that improve with each level. All units are modern, with cheerful Mexican decor and lots of recessed lighting. A nice pool faces the beach, where there are plenty of toys—kayaks, boogie boards, and snorkel gear—for guests to use. The shoreline and shallows can be quite rocky, which accounts for the excellent snorkeling, but can be off-putting to some; in any case, bring water shoes. The hotel restaurant is one of the best around, especially for pizza.
Slice of Paradise (southern entrance, 2 kilometers/1.5 miles from the turnoff, www.sliceofparadise.com , US$1,700–3,200/week house, US$125–140 casita, US$80–115 cabanas) lives up to its name with a spacious house, smaller “casita,” and two simple cabanas, for rent by the day or week. The house has a full-size kitchen, separate sitting and dining areas, and dramatic bay windows facing the beach. The casita also has kitchen and bath; both the house and casita have window-unit air conditioners. The two palapa-roofed cabanas are fan cooled, one with en suite bathroom, the other not. Decor is simple and tasteful throughout, and there’s Wi-Fi and daily maid service.
The restaurant at Casa Cenote (southern entrance, 2 kilometers/1.25 miles from the turnoff, tel. 998/874-5170, www.casacenote.com , 8 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, US$7–18) has a breezy patio dining area just steps from the sea’s edge. You can order beach food such as quesadillas or a guacamole plate, or something heftier—the seafood is always tasty and fresh. Every Sunday at noon the hotel hosts an awesome Texas-style barbecue (US$15) that is popular with expats up and down the Riviera Maya .
The Blue Sky (Blue Sky Hotel, southern entrance, 1.7 kilometers/1 mile from the turnoff, 7:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Tues.–Sun., 3–10:30 p.m. Mon., US$5–24) offers delicious Italian and Mexican specialties, prepared to order, with simple but beautiful presentation. The pizza is famously good, handmade with fresh ingredients and baked in a custom brick oven. But appetizers like ceviche and mains like grilled calamari with vegetables are also worth sampling—you’ll just have to come back more than once! With only a handful of tables, it’s also ideal for an intimate dinner.
The turnoff to the southern portion of Tankah Tres is between Kilometers 237 and 238 on the main highway, and marked with a large road sign. Driving south from Cancún , you’ll have to overshoot the entrance a short distance until a break in the median (at Dreams Resort) allows you to make a U-turn and return to the turnoff; this access road makes a beeline for the shore, then turns abruptly to the left, hugging the beach and passing the listed hotels and sights.
The access road to the northern section is a bit farther and is marked with a large sign for Lalo’s Restaurant, which is actually on the west side of the highway. If you don’t have a car, you can ask a combi to drop you at either turnoff, but it will not enter Tankah Tres itself.