Km. 298.8 Carretera #307, Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico
On the surface very much like the neighboring Rosewood Mayakoba, offering a mix of beach and jungle atmosphere, the Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya distinguishes itself with smartly designed rooms and excellent service.
Opened in early 2008, the Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya is an excellent addition to the region. The Mandarin Oriental shows its Asian roots, with a Zen–spare aesthetic dictating the room décor as well as the restaurant menus (which offer both Asian and Mexican flavors). A simple dish of shrimp tacos is laid out almost like a sashimi platter; the outdoor lobby, under a long thatch roof and surrounded by water, feels as though it could be in Thailand; and the excellent and accommodating staff sport modified Mao shirts.
But like the Rosewood just two lots down, the Mandarin Oriental is a skinny property stretching from inland jungle, across a swath of mangroves, to the beach; however, it's a longer piece of land, occupying nearly a full mile between its front gate and the water, thus allowing a bit more breathing room for the same number of rooms. Getting from place to place requires a ride on one of the many golf carts plying the trails of the resort. A boat–taxi service via the canals will also be added, though if previous experience at the Rosewood and the Fairmont Mayakoba is any indication, this will be more of a special–occasion service, to ferry new guests to their rooms or dinner reservations, rather than a beach shuttle.
At the beach, the blinding white pool area is set up one level, affording a great view of the turquoise Caribbean. In fact, there are two pools here––one large, and one smaller, long one for laps. But it's the only real pool area. This is potentially a drawback, as there's nowhere but the small pool in the spa, which is open only to guests with an appointment, as a respite from children. (The Mandarin Oriental accepts children year–round, and runs a kids' club.)
Not that the property ever feels particularly crowded, probably because most guests stay in their rooms. Though the smallest ones are smaller than those at the Rosewood (660 square feet, compared with 800), the layout is such that you can often feel secluded––in the inland rooms, you can usually look out your window and not see another room. In all the various configurations, the rooms feel almost like apartments, thanks to an entry foyer that divides the sleeping and sitting area from the expansive bathrooms. Enormous walk–in closets are a welcome touch, so the rest of your room can remain clutter–free and as minimalist as it was designed.
With the exception of the five beachfront casitas, which are done completely in white, rooms are furnished with a crisp combination of dark wood and white walls. A good half of the floor space is dedicated to the bathrooms, all of which feature either an outdoor tub or shower and lounge area, along with full indoor facilities. One odd choice, though, is that bathrooms have only a single sink.
The beachfront rooms and those immediately behind, set on a small channel, are in high demand because of their proximity to the water, but they are not the most private rooms. In the Beachfront Casitas and Premier Palafitos, for instance, the rooftop terraces have no screens between neighbors––potentially a bit distracting, especially in the Palafitos, which feature rooftop showers or tubs.
Guests looking for more privacy may prefer the Laguna or Cenote rooms, where floor–to–ceiling windows look out onto a terrace and greenery around the canals that run through the mangroves; the downstairs layout (Premier Laguna) includes a larger garden area, but otherwise the layouts are similar to the upstairs Deluxe Laguna option. One further distinctive set of rooms, the Selva rooms, are in the "art courtyards"––cool quads built around abstract sculptural installations by Mexican artists.
Closest to the lobby is the expansive spa, which has a vaguely Middle Eastern style. It features a domed, tiled steam room, as well as a vast heated pool with submerged lounge chairs; women can also enjoy the Rasul, a hot clay massage and steam treatment. On the more practical side, the gym is gigantic.
Deciding between the Rosewood and the Mandarin Oriental will probably come down to your personal style. But, based only on relatively brief experiences, the Mandarin Oriental appears to have a very slight edge in service––another detail you can chalk up to the company's Asian roots.
Web Address: www.mandarinoriental.com/rivieramaya
Total Number of Rooms: 128
Published rates: $700 to $2,750
Review and photos by Zora O'Neill.
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