The Riviera Maya: Something for Everyone

In Destinations, Hotels, North America by Sarah Carrillo Riswick

A quick 40-minute drive from Cancun lies the up and coming Riviera Maya. What used to be jungle surrounding the sleepy town of Playa del Carmen is now an area full of all-inclusive resorts and smaller boutique hotels. But while the region is changing rapidly, it still maintains its off-the-radar, hidden treasures vibe (for now at least). Thinking of making the trip down? We’ve found a hotel to suit any type of vacation you have in mind.

For opulence and lots of options: Try Grand Velas Riviera Maya

The Grand Velas is comprised of three resorts all in one: The Zen Grand, The Ambassador and The Exclusive Grand Class. What this means for you? Plenty of choices when it comes to the style of suite (all the rooms are suites), where to eat and which pool you want to lounge by. And some advice: you’ll probably want to give yourself plenty of time here to experience it all.

The Zen and Ambassador sections are family-friendly with plenty to offer adults as well. The Zen pool is a sleek and peaceful oasis, but for even more peace and quiet you can take a soak in your private plunge pool overlooking a jungle stream.

It’s just a quick shuttle ride from the Zen to the Ambassador and Grand Class sections – and the beach.

The Grand Class section is the smallest and most upscale. It’s also adults-only, so if you need a break from the kids this is perfect. It’s also where many of the best restaurants in the resort are located. Three of the eight Grand Velas restaurants have earned a AAA Five Diamond Award: Piaf, serving French cuisine, Frida, serving gourmet Mexican cuisine, and Cocina de Autor, which features the ever popular culinary technique molecular gastronomy. This definitely is not the typical all-inclusive buffet fare.

In addition to the world-class food and gorgeous pools and beach, the Grand Velas also boasts the largest spa in Latin America. Plan on spending the day indulging in a Riviera Maya Water Ritual, Sacred Obsidian Stone Massage, or Mayan Jade Facial. If you can’t bear to leave your room, the bathrooms in the Grand Class section are designed to be large enough for an in-room massage. Visit http://rivieramaya.grandvelas.com.

To vacation like a celebrity: Head to Maroma Resort and Spa

With only 63 rooms spread across 200 acres of jungle, it’s easy to feel like you’re in your own little world at Maroma Resort and Spa, an Orient Express hotel. With a 2:1 staff ratio you can expect exemplary service (don’t be surprised when you’re greeted by name as you stroll through the property). Maroma is a quiet retreat for many Hollywood A-listers like Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Justin Timberlake. It’s where they go when they want a low-key vacation that still feels luxurious.

Maroma also prides itself on staying local. Nearly all the materials in the rooms are local, including the toiletries, Mayan artwork is scattered throughout the hotel and they even have a recreation of a Mayan village on property (so you can get a little culture just steps from your room).

All the rooms at Maroma have tiled bathtubs, an aromatherapy menu and hammocks on the balconies. If you go with a suite you also get a spacious living room area. Or go all-out with a four-bedroom villa that includes a private gym, pool and massage cabana to really make you feel like a celebrity. What the rooms do not have are TVs, since the whole idea is to unplug. As part of the exceptional service the staff will deliver your coffee each morning just the way you like it.

No matter what room you book, the staff at Maroma will help make your stay special. They can help arrange romantic private dinners on the roof of the resort, helicopter sight-seeing tours, or even hide a message in a bottle on the beach for a surprise marriage proposal.

Maroma’s Kinan Spa has everything one could need to relax and rejuvinate including a private room for couple’s massages, a traditional Mayan Temazcal (sweat lodge), and yoga classes for guests and their dog. To book, visit http://www.maromahotel.com/web/ocan/maroma.jsp.

When you want a little privacy … and a lot of luxury: Viceroy Riviera Maya

Do you just want to get away from it all? The Viceroy can help. This small hotel has 41 bungalows, each with its own private deck and pool. You can relax in your own “backyard,” then freshen up in the outdoor shower surrounded by a flourishing jungle. For the non-outdoor enthusiasts, there are indoor showers and bathtubs in the rooms as well.

In addition to the luxury of a secluded suite, the Viceroy has plenty of extra touches to make your stay memorable. When you check in you can receive a traditional Mayan blessing to cleanse your spirit, a must after a long plane ride. There is also a soap concierge to help you pick out the perfect suds for your stay. The spa offers outdoor massages surrounded by jungle as well as regular yoga classes. And possibly the best perk, the Viceroy has “tropical butlers” to give you refreshing iced face towels and change out damp chair covers by the pool.

The Viceroy has two restaurants, the casual beach-front Coral Grill & Bar and the more upscale La Marea Restaurant. But even better is the resort’s “dine anywhere, anytime” policy. You can order a meal to eat in your room, by the pool, on the beach, you name it. To book, visit http://www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/rivieramaya.