I have been spending some time in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico, taking advantage of smaller-than-usual crowds and checking out some new resorts that have sprung up this year.
My first stop was Hacienda Tres Rios, a new all-inclusive hotel with a heart. Most of the land was kept as a nature reserve and the hotel is built upon pilings to minimize the impact on the existing environment. You can tour the reserve by bike, kayak, or on foot. I took a great excursion where I jumped into a cenote and then floated down the river to the ocean. With a mask on, I could see fish, some underground caves, and crabs. The hotel itself has all the comforts you would expect, however, plus food that is a major step above the usual all-inclusive fare. The staff is a bit thinner than it should be in this current time of crisis, especially around the pool and snack bar, but overall this is a solid upscale option with well-equipped rooms and very good restaurants.
Next up was the long-anticipated Banyan Tree Mayakoba, the first outpost of this chain’s in the America’s. Take my word for it that it was worth the wait. This is one of the most spectacular hotels I have seen outside of Asia and it’s a standout in every way. The architecture is stunning and the spacious villas—all with their own pool—are some of the best “rooms” you can find anywhere in Latin America. Although this is a new hotel, you wouldn’t know if from the exemplary service throughout. Even the security guards speak English well, most of the staffers greet you by name, and the masseuses and Thai restaurant cooks were shipped in from Thailand. Consider the bar officially raised now in this hemisphere.
I consider the Grand Velas in Puerto Vallarta to be the best all-inclusive hotel in Mexico, so I was looking forward to seeing its new sibling in the Riviera Maya, a walk down the beach from the two mentioned above. This new addition to the local scene does not disappoint, especially when it comes time for dinner. If you could choose between eating at the five best restaurants in Playa del Carmen town or eating at five restaurants here instead, the Grand Velas would win hands down. These are some of the most attractive (and expensive looking) dining rooms on the coast, with food that lives up to the surroundings. These spots, and the hip clubs attached to them, wouldn’t be out of place in Mexico City. Here though, some come with a view of the sea. With one of the longest stretches of beachfront any hotel in the area can claim, there’s plenty of “grand” in this Grand Velas.
Watch for full reviews of these three new resorts in the coming weeks.