The Riviera Maya has been increasingly drawing the attention of luxury travelers to its pristine shores for more than two decades. Its rise to fame can be attributed to the need to explore the beautiful coastline of the Yucatan peninsula beyond the crowded hotels of Cancun, a welcome invitation for the world’s most discerning tourists.
The region extends from Puerto Morelos in the north to Punta Allen to the South. It follows the contour of the coast of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo in the Yucatan peninsula, south of Cancun toward the border with Belize.
Aerial view Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya.
The territory is home to ancient Maya ruins like Tulum and nearby Chichen-Itza, where the traveler can explore the pyramids and temples of one of the America’s classic civilizations, unwind in proximity to nature and reflect on their basic personal blessings. The area is literally dotted with cenotes, deep natural pits (sinkholes) that form when cave roofs collapse leading to flooded caves, where one can swim in tranquil, transparent waters under the dramatic light that filters from the hole above, in complete silence. It is a most relaxing, almost spiritual experience that visitors to the Mayan Riviera will like to repeat as many times as possible.
Offshore, the amazing Mesoamerican barrier reef, the world’s second largest, is teeming with colorful fish and corals that lure the most reluctant visitors to explore the underwater treasures of the Yucatan. Adventure seekers will be privy to zip-line tours of the adjacent jungle, kayaking in Mexico’s best nature reserves, sunset sails and a long list of excursions. Thematic eco-parks like Xcaret and Xel-Ha attract a large number of tourists who revel in subterranean river swims and glorious natural environments.
But all the attractions of the Riviera Maya would not mean much to pampered jetsetters without the luxury accommodations available along the turquoise waters of the Mexican Caribbean. Some have even bought vacation properties in the area.
A fabulous addition to the region’s impressive roster of all inclusive luxury hotels is the Grand Velas Riviera Maya, located just 35 miles from Cancun International Airport and 5 minutes from downtown Playa del Carmen. The grand resort opened in 2008 and has already received an AAA-Five Diamond rating.
The all inclusive luxury resort is set on 80 acres of protected mangroves, jungle and freshwater wells, alongside 1000 feet of pristine private beaches. It boasts 491 suites, (1,184 to 3,767 square feet), in three separate ambiances– premium ocean-front Grand Class Suites with terrace plunge pools for families with children 12 and up, family-friendly ocean-view Ambassador Suites, and Zen Grand Suites embraced by the flora and fauna of the jungle. Each of the three distinct environments is a resort within a resort to fit every traveler’s needs. “This marvelous resort offers everything a guest desires from exceptional service and gourmet dining to the spa experience of a lifetime,” said Fernando Garcia Rossette, Grand Velas’ managing director.
Roberto Elias and Ernesto Vela of the lauded architectural firm Elias and Elias, along with interior designer Melin Castro, were in charge of the resort’s design. The result is a seamless blend of modish interiors with the vibrant unspoiled environment of the Yucatan. From afar the hotel looks massive, almost solemn in its solitary elegance, but beyond the imposing façade, the designers have managed to create a chic, comfortable atmosphere with neutral tones, plush accessories and custom-commissioned artwork by local master artisans “delivering bold punches of tropical color with dark wooden accent walls for warmth, and travertine floors and slab counter tops to cool the room after a day in the sun”.
The gastronomic amenities at Grand Velas take visitors through a culinary tour of flavors steeped in ancient traditions (Mexican, European and Asian cuisines) with seven restaurants featuring world-class chefs from France, Spain and Mexico. The hotel’s signature restaurant Cocina de Autor by Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso is already famous around the world for its haute Spanish cuisine. Other delectable dining options include Frida, offering Mexican fine dining by Chef Ricardo de la Vega, Piaf, serving gourmet French by Chef Michael Mustiere, Sen Lin, the resort’s tribute to upscale Asian food prepared by the exquisite hands of Chef Issac Esparza; and Chef Aurelio Arista delights at Luca, with a menu of Northern Italian cuisine featuring gourmet seafood, meats and homemade pastas. More casual, but equally enticing fare can be found at Azul, Bistro and Chaká, and five bars (Sky, Sen Li, Piano, Karaoke and Aqua) offer innovative libations and ambiances to suit every mood.
Grand Velas Resort.
Topping the long list of amenities at the hotel, and as a reminder that bliss and well being are the attainable mind states that we all should seek, the resort offers over 89,000 square feet of pure indulgence with 40 treatment rooms and suites complemented by native artwork and furnishings. Grand Velas Spa, the region’s largest and considered the best in the world by Virtuoso Travel magazine, is surrounded by lush, verdant jungle with hydrotherapy facilities featuring herbal steam rooms with color therapy, clay and ice rooms and men’s and women’s sensory relaxation areas, alongside skin care diagnostic and consultation facilities.
Spa consultant and frequent industry lecturer, Diana Mestre, conceptualized the spa at Grand Velas. The goal here is to complete the Seven Journeys opus of signature treatments, which include Mediterranean Voyage, Memories of India, Aromatherapy Path, World Travels, Men’s Journey, Women’s Journey and Journey Through Native Mexico, besides a long menu of traditional spa treatments, featuring locally authentic services with native products and ancient relaxation techniques.
The spa experience is a fine culmination to a visit to a land rich in history, traditions and breathtaking beauty. Grand Velas has done a fine job as the stewards of the great Maya legacy of yore. ■