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Three resorts in Riviera Maya, Mexico

by Sharron Livingston
Grand Velas Riviera Maya

There is a tropical sliver of Mexican land where nature’s most healing colours have been thrown together on this segment of its earthly palette. This is the Riviera Maya on the region’s Yucatan Peninsula.

The finger of land juts out on to the Caribbean Sea and upon it are 112 miles of lush, green tropical rainforest and mangroves, fringed with bright, palm-dotted, soft, sandy beaches, which in turn are lapped by the bluest-hued sea.

There is mystery in the region too. Nearby are the Mayan ruins at Tulum, Coba and Chichen Itza and a myriad of places where you can swim in cenotes (pools created by sunken limestone) and explore the caves.

Read also: 48 Hours in Mexico’s Riviera Maya

Several lovely resorts have opened up, sandwiched between the sea and the jungle offering idyllic resorts for holidaymakers. Here are three of our favourites.

Fairmont Mayakoba

Playa del Carmen – CLICK HERE

Fairmont Mayakoba Riviera Maya

Fairmont Mayakoba (c) fairmont.com

Some 20 years ago, a team of biologists explored what lay underneath the land at Mayakoba. They stripped away the limestone to uncover a criss-cross of freshwater rivers. In the newly found sunshine, the mangroves grew tall and large and soon new species of birds and wildlife made this 240-acre pocket of the Riviera Maya their home. As did three luxury hotels and a PGA golf course.

Fairmont has created its own little piece of paradise within a 45-acres area. Accommodation is mostly in the jungle, overlooking the river and trees, and some — the most expensive — is right on the beach. These are the two-storey white cassitas with Mexican-style designer suites containing luxuriously deep bathtubs. Get up early enough and you may find a party of blue-backed Yucatan jays frolicking around your balcony.

Three restaurants offer fine dining (breakfast at Las Brisas, the beachside restaurant, is sublime). The magnificent pool meanders along, creating little pool havens at intervals. A spa rejuvenates or relaxes visitors with its Mayan massages and on the rooftop is a mineral pool.

Though you can walk around, there is a constant flow of golf buggies to transport you or you can simply pick up a bike.

The highlight may well be the boat rides. All guests can experience a free guided boat tour along the nine miles of serene rivers where 300 species of wildlife thrive. You may see frogs, turtles, moorhens, boat-billed herons, iguanas and even a lazy crocodile or two.

Fairmont river boat cruise around the Mayacoba

Fairmont river boat cruise around the Mayakoba

Crock on Fairmont canal

A lazy crocodile soaks in the sunshine along the Mayakoba river at Fairmont


Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Playa del Carmen – CLICK HERE

Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Grand Velas Riviera Maya (c) rivieramaya.grandvelas.com.mx

A grand entrance of tall, white, orange-lit walls and water features heralds the huge Grand Velas three-in-one all-suite resort. It is sandwiched between mangroves and a dazzlingly white, soft, sandy beach along the Caribbean coast, offering such a gorgeous eyeful of loveliness that it would take a hardened sceptic not to be enamoured. First-timers may find the sheer amount of space overwhelming.

A long driveway leads to a trio of experiences. First arrival is to an open reception area where a drink and towel are handed to you while the paperworks is done for you.

The Zen resort is in the mangroves and from the huge marbled reception, wooden aerial walkways rise high above the jungle grounds and lead to the suites. Each room is extremely spacious, with large jacuzzi baths and has a balcony looking out on to lush vegetation of the richest chlorophyll green, with a soundtrack of delicate birdsong and other natural “music”.

In fact, if you put out some crumbs, the Yucatan jays may consider this an invitation to breakfast with you on the balcony.

Friendly blue jays join you on the balcony

Friendly blue jays join you on the balcony

It’s easy to spend time around the Zen pool. It’s lush backdrop, serene atmosphere and extremely attentive service all combine to create a sense of timelessness.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya Zen pool

Zen pool

The most magnificent part of Zen is its hydrotherapy spa. It has come up with its own style of hydrotherapy. The shapely body of water features various hydro-massage areas for the shoulders, back or the legs, all topped off with a delightful massage on a heated bed. You journey through this therapy and it takes around two hours.

Some may prefer the beach-front accommodation at Ambassador (most suited for families) and the attached adult-only Grand Class resort. The views from Grand Class bedrooms are outstanding looking directly over the beach and sea. But in any case this segment surrounds a huge, curvaceous infinity pool and overlooks the beach. There are activities all day long, from beach volleyball, yoga, classes of all sorts, snorkelling tours, tastings and creative pastimes. It’s so much fun, you may not bother visiting the adventure parks further along.

The eight restaurants are dotted around all three segments of the resort. Perhaps the most creative cuisine is served at Cocina de Autur. Contemporary designs hint at the memorable tasting menu to come.

The chef uses trompe l’oeil to tease — for instance a cube of watermelon is made to look like raw tuna.

Night life could include a Karaoke but otherwise there are bars and dancing too.

Wherever you stay, all the facilities are open to everyone and there is always a shuttle nearby, whatever time of day.


Hotel Esencia


Whitewashed room at boutique hotel Esencia

Whitewashed room at boutique hotel Esencia

The former home of an Italian duchess, this 20-hectare estate overlooks Xpu-Ha beach and is now a luxury boutique hotel. With white-washed walls, colourful bed throws, mahogany doors and a plunge pool, the 29 rooms look minimalist yet, with mod cons and luxuriant jungle and beach views, they feel abundant.

Coffee and pastries are brought to your balcony at 7am daily and left in a discreet cupboard. At eight you can have a yoga lesson and the spa and gym are open all day. There are decent-sized pools (one for children; one for adults) and the beach is steps away. Snorkelling equipment is free. Afternoon tea is in the drawing room amid Picasso ceramics and original artwork; dining is at the al fresco restaurant where evening lighting is so low you need a torch to read the menu.



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