With a $250 million development situated on 80 acres with a 75,000-square-foot spa, 15 food and beverage options and a 3-to-1 staff to guest ratio—the numbers at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya, one of the most luxurious beach resorts, prove truly inspiring. The AAA Five-Diamond resort blows other resorts out of the water by going one step further by re-defining the all-inclusive experience. “Beyond All-Inclusive, Beyond All Compare” is their motto and it’s no hollow promise. Despite the huge slice of beachfront property it occupies, Grand Velas only houses 491 suites that are massive, ranging in size from 1,184 to 3,767 square feet, most with sizable balconies.
The beach at Riviera Maya is one of my favorites anywhere in the world. An oasis of calm and relaxed elegance 40 minutes from Cancun, Riviera Maya appeals to the more discerning traveler who are more interested in refinement than revelry. Riviera Maya visitors expect to pay more and they expect to get more privacy, luxury and quality. And the Grand Velas delivers on all fronts.
Its great design and integrity of materials and finishes is rare; no corners were cut, that much is obvious. There’s not a piece of plastic to be seen in the whole place; rather vast quantities of marble, wood and stone. No doubt they could have saved themselves $20 million or so by using cheaper building methods and materials, but the end result would not be nearly as impressive. Credit for this goes to architects Roberto Elias and Ernesto Vela along with interior designer Melin Castro.
The property is also rich with great amenities like 24-hour in-suite dining and dedicated butler and concierge services. Typically, these items are usually sacrificed to the numbers game of all-inclusive hospitality, where profits are calculated based on the per-diem expense of each guest’s consumption. It can be hard for owners to see how such extras boost the bottom line, but part of the luxury of the resort is forgetting you’re on a meal plan in the first place. The sumptuous dining venues never leave you wondering if you’d have been better off paying as you go. Nine glasses of wine with dinner? As you wish, sir. And you get a choice to boot, in fact an entire wine cart to select from instead of whatever vintage has arrived that week.
Arriving prior to peak season, the vastness of the venues, and the whole resort, feel private and intimate as if you have the place to yourself. The $15 million luxury spa sits at a jaw-dropping 89,000 square feet and is the region’s largest with 40 treatment rooms and suites, and enormous indoor pools straight from a film set. Not to mention hydrotherapy facilities with dry saunas, cold plunge pools, vitality pools, whirlpools, herbal steam rooms with color-therapy, clay and ice rooms, and special treatment suites for a VIP experience.
The resort’s signature restaurant is the molecular-focused Cocina de Autor by Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso, winner of a 2013 AAA Five Diamond Award for restaurants, the first of any all-inclusive resort to receive the coveted award. Other on-property fine dining options include Frida, with haute Mexican fare from Chef Ricardo de la Vega; Piaf, serving gourmet French specialties from celebrated Chef Karl Gulotta; and Lucca, featuring delectable Northern Italian cuisine showcasing seafood, gourmet meats, and homemade pastas. On the casual front there’s Azul with panoramic beach vistas and an open-air, yet air-conditioned, environment with menus designed by the resort’s Executive Chef Patrick Louis.
While only a handful of the dining offerings, they are joined by various open-air snack bars dotted around the property and five lounges including the stunning marble-bedecked Sky Bar, Sen Lin Bar, Piano Bar, Karaoke Bar and Aqua Bar. And lest you get to thinking that all this luxury adds up to something less than an eco-friendly experience, think again—the resort does not depend on any oil-based source of fuel whatsoever. Solar panels installed on the roof in an area of 7,513 square feet generate over 191 million kilocalories per year. That’s a lot of juice, and another enormous outlay, but one that’s bound to pay off in the years ahead.
With the resort celebrating its fifth anniversary, that time has no doubt arrived. The resort is divided into three sections: Ambassador, Exclusive Grand Class, and Zen, with the last occupying a lush jungle setting and featuring an even more eco-friendly environment. All-inclusive rates begin at $513 a night based per person.