Grand Velas Riviera Maya is a next-level all-inclusive vacation!
I remember the first time I visited an all-inclusive resort. I was in my early 20s traveling with a friend, and while we enjoyed the thrill of being in a tropical destination and soaking up the sun, we found ourselves faced with mediocre accommodations, over-sweet cocktails and indifferent service. Calling the food “uninspired” would be generous. Then and there, I told myself that I was “not an all-inclusive resort person” and mostly swore off them.
But my latest all-inclusive experience couldn’t have been more different. Grand Velas Riviera Maya, a Mexican-owned boutique brand, is the height of luxury, from service and food to accommodations.
For this grown-up excursion, I invited my mother to join me for a few days away. Within 30 minutes of landing in Cancun, we’d cleared customs and were whisked by private transfer for a 45-minute ride to the pristine, 80-acre resort in Playa del Carmen.
Like most of the ultra-luxe resorts along Riviera Maya, this one sits behind an impressive facade, so when the gates open, it feels like you’re entering a different world. Indeed we were: one where the service is attentive and thoughtful, food is creative and elegant, drinks are handcrafted, and every element is planned to make you feel welcome. Our butler/ personal concierge, Leví, showed us around, and we settled into our 1,100-square-foot suite, complete with an oceanfront balcony and outdoor plunge pool, in the adults-only Grand Class section of the resort. The suite featured a minibar stocked with snacks and drinks, an espresso maker, spa tub and separate sitting area. It would have been easy to stay in the expansive room if there weren’t so much else to explore, namely a pristine beach and multiple pools.
Though we were only visiting for three nights, we quickly settled into a relaxed routine: Wake up and set out to walk for an hour or so along the beach, stopping at Grand Velas’s full-service on-site coffee shop for an iced coffee. Have a light breakfast at either the Azul buffet or order a la carte at Bistro and stake out loungers at the pool overlooking the gently lapping waves. During the day, we split our time between a shaded beach cabana with our toes in the sand and floating in the pool.
One afternoon, I deviated slightly from our routine with a visit to the award-winning, 90,000-squarefoot spa. I got ready for relaxation in its seven-part guided water journey of steam rooms, ice rooms, hot and cold showers and a jetted infinity pool before my Bacal Massage using essential oil and corn cobs, deemed sacred in Mayan culture, to activate pressure points.
Each evening we had dinner at one of the resort’s five gourmet restaurants. At Frida, named for painter Frida Kahlo, we ordered drinks from a mixologist offering top-shelf mezcal and tequila from a cart. Guacamole came with crunchy, nutty grasshoppers (don’t knock it ‘til you try it!). We enjoyed a six-course tasting menu at Cocina de Azur, the world’s first restaurant in an all-inclusive resort to receive the AAA Five Diamond award, where every avant-garde dish was as flavorful as it was artfully presented. At Piaf, we were transported to 1940s Paris with excellent renditions of garlicky escargot and rich beef bourguignon.
This spectacular property has made me rethink my declaration that I’m “not an all-inclusive resort person.” Instead, I should say that I’ll happily get away to an all-inclusive if the property in question happens to be Grand Velas.
GRAND VELAS RIVIERA MAYA
Senior Contributing Editor and Beauty Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Travel, Food and Design Writer and Author.