I am a firm believer in having places in your Life that inspire bliss and peace, places that can be spiritually re-visited to create tranquility during stressful times. As New York is enduring the cold winds of winter, the breathtaking Grand Velas Riviera Maya All Suites and SPA Resort is my current such escape. Just after Christmas, I had the great pleasure to visit this gorgeous luxury all-inclusive dream of a resort/hotel, situated along the stunning Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo, just a 35-minute drive from Cancun. Nestled on two hundred and twelve acres of tropical rainforest and surrounded by a white-sanded beach, this five-star location is the ideal place to chill out, recharge, relax, and unwind.
By day, you can lounge at an assortment of lush pools or sunbathe on the breathtaking beach. By night, you can dine at one of five world-class restaurants then channel your inner Lady Gaga in the hotel’s karaoke bar or watch the night sky from the Sky Bar. Alternatively, if you are a more party-minded vacationer, you can venture out to nearby downtown Playa del Carmen for a night of clubbing or bar hopping.
From my airport pickup to my very reluctant departure, I have never experienced more impeccable service. Every detail of the stay is catered specifically to the guest’s wishes and needs with each guest assigned a private concierge. I mentioned off the cuff that I am hyper-sensitive to caffeine and needed to be gluten-free and the maitre’ de at each of the five restaurants took note of it, which is extraordinary attention to detail! As I no longer drink, all of the alcohol from my room was taken out and replaced with my favorite alcohol-free beers daily. This is service with a capital “S”!
There are three separate compounds of suites that offer luxurious and perfect options for every type of traveler. The Grand Class has 89 extravagantly lavish suites with ocean views and private plunge pools on the terraces. At an astounding 1,378 sq. ft., this is the perfect choice for families with teens. The 206 beautifully furnished Master Suites overlook the lush Riviera Maya jungle and offer a spacious terrace with a plunge pool and an array of entertainment amenities. I chose to stay in the Ambassador, a compound of 196 roomy suites that overlook both a pool and the ocean and have adorable daybeds on private terraces. Each room has a Jacuzzi bathtub and a marble shower (for the ultimate in luxury, I suggest they turn these into saunas), Nespresso Coffee makers, 42” Flat Screen TVs, iPod/MP3 and CD and DVD Stations, Laptop sized safe deposit boxes, sumptuous goose down pillows and comforters, an iron and ironing board, hair dryers, and Molton Brown amenities. There is even a pillow menu, which allows the guests to decide how fluffy or stiff they would like their nightly cushioning.
Another reason that the Grand Velas should be on every traveler’s bucket list is the world-renowned spa. Inspired by the jungle and water pools of the Yucatan jungle, the Grand Velas SPA was voted the “Best of the Best” by Virtuoso and Virtuoso Life Magazine in 2010! The Seven Water Journey is so blissful that you literally leave this earthly realm. Traveling from sauna to steam room to ice room to a shower alternating cold and hot water jets to pools with targeted Jacuzzi jets capped off with your own personal Jacuzzi with tea and biscuits; the water journey is a must! Couple the water journey with any of the soothing massages and you will be relaxed for at least a month! I highly recommend the Mayan Shawl Massage, which was 80 minutes of physical and spiritual realignment that seemed to touch the very Soul!
The five world-class restaurants at the Grand Velas feature the cuisines of Mexico (FRIDA), France (PIAF), Spain (COCINA DE AUTOR), Asia (SEN LIN), and Italy (LUCCA). In addition, there are three all-day restaurants, six bars— one of which is a karaoke bar — and three open-air snack bars offering tasty alternatives for every palate. I dined at Frida and Piaf and both were out-of-this-world, culinary experiences! Try the Lobster with Mango Sauce at Frida and the Coquelet Au Four at Piaf is one of my favorite dishes, EVER! For breakfast, I suggest you order the American Continental from room service and have it on your terrace.
On the second day of my Grand Velas visit, I made a side trip to the wonderful Mayan theme park, Excaret. My personal guide Sergio reacted with laughter when I referred to it as a “Mayan Disneyland”. However, with all the Mayan-themed activities and performances, the description is most apt. Take the snorkeling trip through subterranean rivers and canals then spend the day exploring Mayan and Mexican culture. With an area where you can walk amongst toucans and parrots and a butterfly hatchery/conservatory, there are also numerous fantastic opportunities to commune with nature at Excaret. In the evening, stay for the big show, which tells the entire history of Mexico through song and dance with 300 performers. I marveled at the sheer scope of the performance, that also featured a riveting demonstration of Uarhukua, the Mayan Burning Ball game. Other theme park excursions that are not far from the Grand Velas, which your concierge can arrange include: Xplor, featuring an exploration of a unique underground world, Xel Ha, a collection of inlets, lagoons, cenotes, and caves, which houses the world’s most beautiful aquarium with hundreds of multi-colored fish, and Xichen, a fascinating tour to the archaeological ruins of Chichen Itza coupled with a visit to the colonial town of Valladolid.
While I traveled alone, with a view to completely relax before the madness that always accompanies the holiday season, the Grand Velas Riviera Maya is also perfect for a romantic getaway or a family vacation. I was glad that I chose an off-peak time for my visit, as it was blissfully serene.
The Grand Velas Riviera Maya is my newfound Shangri-La. The perfect balance of relaxation and fun activities, my visit was so profoundly healing that I transport back to it daily in my mind. There is simply no finer place on Earth. Book your trip now at: http://rivieramaya.grandvelas.com/
TGATP Tip: Make sure to take a tour of the grounds and have a tree planted in the Grand Velas rainforest as a permanent memento of your visit. You are even given a certificate with the Google Earth coordinates so that you can watch your tree grow and find it on your next visit.