Seriously, I’ll probably never experience a 5-star stay like one I enjoyed in Riviera Maya. The quaint, charming Mexican beach community is about 45 minutes out of Cancun flaunting the finest hotels showcasing the ultimate lap of luxury. No joke, even the president of Mexico checked into our hotel the day we checked out.
For three nights of our honeymoon, the hubby and I stayed at The Grand Velas, an 80+ acre all-inclusive resort nestled between a private beach and jungle oasis. The name of the hotel is quite fitting–it’s nothing short of grand. From the moment you arrive through the stylish secure gates, you’re taken on an unbelievable journey; our 72-hour stay was simply surreal.
Huge slabs of sparkling stone cover the lobby floor–we could instantly tell there was no holding back when building the magnificent property. After our welcome cocktail, our personal concierge (Alejandro) brought us to our room: the Grand Class Suite overlooking the ocean. In addition to our indoor Jacuzzi, we had a private outdoor plunge-pool on an exquisite terrace that was as big as a small backyard. Our 1,300+ square foot suite also had living room, an over-sized bathroom (with walk-in closet), and a plush king-size bed. In addition, we had unlimited access to espresso courtesy of our coffee maker, an iPod dock, a 42″ flat screen, and a touch-screen phone. Our phone became our BFF because Alejandro explained he was our 24/7 butler–whatever we needed or desired simply took a call. That’s when we requested some bubbly. Cheers.
A little about the all-inclusive so you can attempt painting a picture in your head. The resort is divided into three unique sections. First, you can book a Zen Suite located amidst trees and cenotes (natural sinkholes) in the Riviera Maya jungle. Second, those with children can stay in a family-friendly Ambassador Suite ranging from 1,200-2,500 square feet. And finally, kid-less lovers can book an adults-only Grand Class Suite, giving guests a romantic platform of privacy.
Each area is equipped with a pristine pool and swim-up bar…ask for Rauol–he makes fabulous blended sippers and pours generous tequila shots.
The property has eight restaurants, some of which spotlight the maximum expression of avante garde food. (We’ll get to the foody details later.) There’s also a fitness center (should you feel the need to exercise), a karaoke bar (should you feel the need to sing), and a world renowned spa (should you feel the need to be pampered…we did). Programs such as yoga, Pilates, and meditation are included in the all-inclusive, in addition to snorkel trips, kayak excursions, and boogie board rentals. Sold? We were.
Upon our arrival, we gave our plunge-pool a whirl, then made our way to the beach. The Riviera Maya coastline is quite unique; it’s calm, shallow, and serene. We did what any honeymooners would do: took a long walk (hand-in-hand) down the private coast with our feet in the water. It was a fantastic escape from the outside world.
Before getting ready for dinner (Alejandro had made our 8pm reservation), we tested our in-room Jacuzzi tub. I easily got used to the amenities.
Night #1 was all about Cocina de Autor, the property’s signature restaurant. Chef Bruno Oteiza and Chef Mikel Alonso serve creative cuisine, taking classic food to a whole new level. We opted for the tasting menu (with wine pairing), consisting of numerous savory dishes. We kicked things off with fresh tuna, followed by ficatum nostrum (foie with fig–the husband’s favorite). We then had monarch shrimp, crab, a liquid quesadilla, vanilla-infused fennel, the daily catch (sea bass), and finally, venison. Dessert was a banana-chocolate concoction that was seriously delectable. Honestly, it was one of the best dinners we’ve ever had.
The following morning Alejandro brought us breakfast and bubbly–there was just a constant reason to salud. We ate on our balcony, and the sky was so clear you could see the island of Cozumel in the distance. Our morning ritual continued as we made our way to the beach (via the pool), but our day was cut short because we had scheduled spa appointments.
The Velas Spa was voted Best in the World by Virtuoso in 2010. This Mecca of relaxing overindulgence is breathtaking. The facilities are incredible. The service is impeccable. I could live in that spa.
The Grand Velas 89,305 square foot rejuvinating haven is in the heart of the property’s lush jungle, boasting 40 beautiful treatment suites and separate stress-relieving areas for men and women. Upon checking in, your spa concierge guides you through the most peaceful journey–a revolutionary hydrotherapy circuit including a clay room, ice room, experience pool, and massage tubs. (This, in addition to a steam room, sauna, and a lounge area.)
After making our individual rounds, my husband and I were united for a couples massage rich in ancient Mayan ritual. (It started with a foot bath full of seeds. I know, sounds weird, but it was, by far, the biggest treat my feet have ever felt.) All that R&R tired us out, so the remainder of our afternoon consisted of an outdoor nap on our terrace. Pure bliss.
Forbes ranks the resort one of ten coolest all-inclusives in the world, and I don’t beg to differ. Night #2 consisted of yet another fabulous restaurant: Piaf, named after Edith Piaf, a famed singer. The French eatery, courtesy of Chef Michel Mustiers, features delightful dishes like Oysters in Champagne Sabayón, Open Raviol of Escargots á la Bourguignonne, Roasted Sea Bass in Black Butter, Confit of Duck in Red Wine, and Apple Tart flambéed in Calvados; a secret Mustiers family recipe. Plus, the romantic ambiance is a perfect setting for lovebirds–the candle-lit room is rich in dark reds and roses.
Yet another amazing day and night at Velas. Off we were to bed, with our terrace door open.
The next morning Alejandro brought us our habitual breakfast, and we then got ready for a day of exploration. We taxi’ed to Playa Del Carmen, the adorable beach-front town about 10 minutes from our hotel.
I highly recommend checking out the city’s infamous 5th Avenue full of shops, bars, and restaurants. It’s clean, well-kept, and great for people watching. We were surely deemed tourists, perusing the Mexican swag and bargaining fabulous finds. (We got souvenirs galore.)
After cabbing back to resort, we got ready for our final Grand Velas meal; yes, our stay was coming to a close. (Insert sad face here.)
Alejandro booked us a late-night dinner at Sen Lin, an Asian eatery with quite an exotic menu. Some of the esteemed dishes include Corobuta pork medallions stuffed with seasonal fruit, marinated duck with warm plum sauce, Cornish rock hens with three types of curry, seafood soup with spicy coconut, and warm lobster slices dipped in creamy Masago sauce. We literally tasted our way through China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand.
The next morning we awoke bitter-sweet knowing our Velas vacation was over. We took one last plunge in our private pool, one last walk along the beach, one last tequila shot with Rauol, and one last look around our suite. It was a rough adios.