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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Grand Velas Resort - Riviera Maya

Luxurious Escape

A luxury all-inclusive getaway at Mexico’s Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Story by Heidi Chackel

You can’t really go wrong with a vacation to Mexico. But then again, there are ways to do a vacation to Mexico really right.

Our family recently took a getaway to the Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, that took luxury vacationing to a new level. This all-inclusive resort is a beautiful destination on the southeastern tip of Mexico that offers fantastic food, incredible scenery, plenty of fun and the most extravagant service we had ever experienced.

“Our resort strives to make your stay here unforgettable in many ways,” said Nancy Irabien, a local public relations executive, on a guided tour of the resort during our visit. “But service is our number one priority, closely followed by providing a beautiful luxurious environment.”

A huge pool sits center stage at this tropical resort, which features 491 spacious suites spread out over a large campus. Each suite is done in muted shades with splashes of color, boasting lush vegetation on and off of a personal patio, with views of the azure Caribbean Sea or vibrant jungle. Our suite, like every suite in the two ocean front sections, Grand Class and Ambassador, had an ocean and beach view. It was plenty large and comfortable enough for our family of five, offering all of the amenities we needed plus some. Our children especially enjoyed the expansive patio with pool and ocean views and my husband and I were delighted by the large walk-in closet and bathroom with Jacuzzi, walk-in shower and double sinks.

We spent a lot of our vacation time at the incredible pool, with occasional jaunts over to the white sand beach that stretches along the length of the resort. We played a lot of basketball, water polo and football in that big pool, sometimes joining in a game with other guests. Our youngest child is just three, and we appreciated the many alcoves with benching and varied depths, providing her with a safe place to play. The resort shop carries plenty of pool toys, and we chose some to help entertain her during our pool hours.

At the pool, as is true of just about everywhere you go within the confines of the resort, incredible concierge services abounds. All-inclusive indulgences at Grand Velas Riviera Maya include poolside and beach waiter service, and food and beverage desires can be met on a moment’s notice by one of the incredibly professional, attentive staff.  

Aside from waiter services at the pool and throughout the resort, Grand Velas Riviera Maya offers 15 restaurants, ranging in style from Asian to French to Italian, as well as, of course, upscale Mexican. There is a huge variety of dining options here, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and organic. The food was fabulous across the board, whether from one of the buffet restaurants or a fine dining establishment. Ensuite dining makes it easy for families to dine at any time of day, as well.

“We pride ourselves on our dining expertise,” says Irabien. Our chefs are amazing and extremely accomplished—they are the center of our dining world here. Whether you are looking for French delicacies or an amazing burger, you are definitely going to enjoy all of your dining experiences while staying at Grand Velas.” The Spanish and Basque restaurant, Cocina de Autor, received a AAA Five Diamond award in 2013 and 2014, making it the first restaurant in an all-inclusive resort to ever receive the coveted award. 

Grand Velas Riviera Maya has an amazing spa—90,000 square feet of huge soaking pools, spas and treatment facilities set in the jungle. There’s good reason this spa was named "Best Spa in the World" by Virtuoso in 2010. Forty treatment rooms feature products traditionally used for beauty and healing in the Mayan culture. These include coffee, cocoa, lemon herb, vanilla, organic mud and honey, all incorporated into a variety of treatments for the face, body and skin. The hydrotherapy circuit is a signature ritual amongst the properties in the Velas Resorts portfolio, and is not just limited to Grand Velas Riviera Maya. The water journey includes seven stops in specially designed water-based facilities, including a clay room, ice room and experience pool. A Spa Valet guides guests through each stop. “We love to incorporate the pleasures of local scents and products into our spa treatments,” says Irabien.

The resort sits on 205 acres with more than enough activities to occupy one’s time, including daily sports and activities programs, yoga, Pilates and tai chi classes, as well as the popular Kids Club, which keeps kids of all ages busy and happy for hours every day. A room for younger children is stocked with games and art, and another room for teens and young adults has video games galore as well as pool, ping pong and the like.

Should you feel the urge to wander outside of the resort, many recreational experiences are available both on and off site. Cozumel, located just off the coast, is renowned for scuba diving, snorkeling and pristine beaches. “The brilliant Caribbean also offers endless opportunities for kayaking, sailing, sport fishing or a refreshing swim,” says Irabien. Explore the region's lush jungles by horseback or on an exciting zip line tour through the jungle canopy. Try snorkeling, scuba diving or a chance to swim with dolphins—a true family hit. A new offering, very popular with families, is a Behind-the-Scenes Eco-Tour of the resort's protected flora and fauna—including mangroves, fresh and saltwater cenotes, 1,000 feet of pristine beach and jungle.

Or just head back to the pool, or waterfront plunge pool, or the children’s pool, or your own indoor whirlpool bathtub, or one of three infinity pools: kids are welcome in the Zen Grand pool (in the jungle section), or the Ambassador pool (ocean-front). Parents can take a break and get some privacy at the Grand Class pool (ocean-front), which is available only for adults staying at the resort. This close to the ocean, with amazing weather year-round, there are plenty of opportunities to don a swimsuit and hit the water.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya has three sections within its campus—two of which are family-friendly (Ambassador, which is ocean front and Zen Grand which is in the jungle), and another for adults only (children 12 and over welcome). This reduces the stress level for everyone, and we very much enjoyed the opportunity to play with our children in the family friendly resort areas.

“All of our guests enjoy the opportunity to choose which resort best fits their family and their vacation,” says Irabien. “The result is that everyone is happy with their Grand Velas Riviera Maya vacation.

We couldn’t agree more.

Situated just 40 minutes from Cancun airport, the resort is also an easy five-minute drive from downtown Playa del Carmen. The all-inclusive rates include luxury suite accommodations, a la carte dining at a choice of gourmet restaurants, gourmet kids menu, premium branded beverages, fitness center with sessions with a personal trainer, 24-hour ensuite service, taxes and gratuities and more. See rivieramaya.grandvelas.com.

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