What kind of holiday are you dreaming of once this is all over?
I know what’s on my wishlist, a stint somewhere hot where I can lounge on a sunbed all day ordering piña colada after piña colada – and, controversially, if money was no object, a luxury all-inclusive is where I’d start.
OK, they’re not for everyone. But one look at the 5-star Grand Velas Riviera Maya on the Yucatán Peninsular in Mexico, boasting three huge pools, a giant spa and private white-sand beach, and you might start to come round to the idea.
Where is it?
Set on 200 acres in Playa del Carmen, hugging the coast between the Caribbean Sea and the pristine Yucatán jungle, the hotel is about a 30-minute drive from Cancun airport and an hour’s drive from Tulum.
The hotel’s 539 suites are divided into three accommodations: “Grand Class,” an adults-only oceanfront offering; the family-friendly “Ambassador” ocean-view experience; and “Zen Grande” for a secluded stay in a tropical setting, with each boasting its own pool and facilities. Guests are free to roam between each as they please, and the hotel puts on an impeccable shuttle service to ferry them around the sprawling resort. It means, despite the fact that the hotel can house over 1,000 guests during peak season, it somehow never feels busy.
Inside, suites are huge – each is set over more than 1,100 square feet – with high ceilings, polished marble floors and mahogany furniture. Bathrooms are stacked with L’Occitane products, walk-in showers, his and hers sinks and deep Jacuzzi tubs. All have their own private balconies – some of which also have private plunge pools.
Food & drink
With eight restaurants and six bars, the hospitality offering is a big draw to this resort, and dining out is a glamorous affair, so don’t forget your gladrags.
Piaf will transport you to Paris in the 1940s with an opulent French menu; while Frida, inspired by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, offers high-end Mexican food with a contemporary twist; Chaka boasts a healthy menu for a light lunch in between spa treatments; Lucca offers tasty Italian dishes; and Sin Len’s menu offers a Mexican take on Asian fusion. For something special, head to Cocina de Autor for a fine dining tasting menu curated by Chef Nahúm Velasco.
Breakfast at Azul, right on the beachfront, is major highlight. You’ll want to allow time to enjoy the extraordinary selection of fresh breakfast options, including everything from Mexican specialities, to pancakes, omelettes, donuts, fried breakfasts, an outrageous pastry selection and of course a bloody mary stand – mimosas are also available on request. For poolside grazing, each pool bar boasts an outstanding menu of prawn, fish and lobster tacos, which can all be washed down with your choice of tipple, be it rose, fizz, piña colada – all-inclusive really does mean all-inclusive here.
The Grand Velas Spa, spread across more than 90,000 square feet, is known for its authentic Mexican treatments inspired by ancient practices and its signature seven-step Water Ceremony is not to be missed (use of the spa and treatments come at an additional cost). Arrive at least an hour before any treatments to enjoy the invigorating hydrotherapy ritual during which you’ll be transported between steam rooms, saunas, salt rooms, clay rooms, ice rooms and polar rooms.
There our countless Mayan-inspired treatments, including the 80-minute Honey Kaab Experience, which uses local organic honey and vanilla and starts with a face and body massage, followed by a bath infused with elixirs made from the medicinal Chaka tree to heal the body’s energy. The treatment ends with a Mayan vanilla balm to seal the skin, followed by light, antioxidant-rich refreshments.
Upon arrival, each guest is assigned a 24-hour personal concierge who will assist with booking everything from dinner to spa treatments and yoga classes. There is an extensive programme of activities, including snorkelling, yoga, aqua fitness, mini golf, cookery classes – an itinerary for each is placed in your room each day to choose from. For families, there is a babies club, kids club and teen’s club which also offers a wide selection of water sports. Facilities also include two large fitness suites and an assortment of shops and boutiques selling everything from holiday essentials to designer clothes and jewellery. You really won’t ever need to leave the resort, if you don’t wish.
Anyone wanting to enjoy the finer things in life, without having to think about it too hard for themselves (and who has the funds to do so). The crowd is mostly wealthy Mexicans and Americans, with some Europeans.
Resorts like this aren’t for anyone, and of course a night’s stay comes with a hefty price tag, but as far as all-inclusive luxury resorts go, Grand Velas Riviera Maya’s generous offering in terms of hospitality and extracurricular activities beats most of the competition.
For now, add it to your post-2020 wishlist.
Suites from $550 per person per night based on 14-night stay with double occupancy for 2021.
Book at rivieramaya.grandvelas.com