The Gran Velas Riviera Maya takes the concept of all-inclusive to the highest level indeed, and you get your own private butler in its top suites. It’s just five minutes’ drive from Playa del Carmen and the first thing you notice when you arrive here is the huge amount of space with 70% still pristine jungle. Everything is so spread out that it’s a 2km drive from the entrance to the main buildings by the Caribbean. Fortunately there are always shuttles ready to whisk you around.
The resort has three sections, with two offering sea views – Gran Class is exclusively for adults and features 90 elegant suites, with the usual luxuries, and also adds a plunge pool on your private terrace. Families are accommodated in the 195 suite Ambassador section, where the rooms are slightly smaller and the plunge pool is extra. Away from the ocean, surrounded by jungle, the 254 suite Zen Natural Area, is cheaper, and you fall asleep to the sound of the jungle. You’re also right next to the Spa.
My spacious Queen suite in Gran Class is on the 2nd floor with stunning views of the emerald Caribbean. There’s a walk-in closet and the bathroom has both a Jacuzzi and the largest shower I’ve ever seen with space for his and hers shower heads. Of course, there’s a huge bed, sofa and 42” TV with DVD/CD/MP3 player. The mini bar is amply stocked with beer, wine and snacks and there’s even a complimentary bottle of tequila on the dresser.
Outside are two infinity pools and a huge fitness centre including climbers, cross trainers, treadmills and bikes, as well as weight training stations. Free outdoor activities include kayaks, pedal boats, snorkelling, bicycle tours, beach volleyball and water polo. You can also rent catamarans and boats or enjoy scuba diving lessons and fishing trips. Tours outside cost extra but include visits to Mayan ruins and the Xcaret, Xplor and Xel-Ha natural water parks where you get the chance to swim with dolphins.
There’s a copious breakfast buffet and a slightly more formal bistro which offers table service at breakfast and lunch. Where the place really scores are its a-la-carte restaurants, each dedicated to French, Mexican, Asian, Italian and International cuisine. They’re part of the all-inclusive package but you have to make a reservation in the evening. The real star is the Cocina de Autor restaurant which pushes the boundaries of creative cuisine. Try their 13+ course tasting menu, with matching wines, which includes foie gras, snails, scallops and squid all served in imaginative small portions.
Service, as you’d expect, is of the highest standard, although I couldn’t quite understand why I had to sign the bill at the end of the meal, given everything was included. Perhaps it’s for those generous Americans who like to tip everything. I enjoyed the fact that my private butler left me alone and only came when I called. He did shine my one pair of scuffed shoes, though, so I could be presentable in the restaurants.
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Gran Velas Riviera Maya rooms start from £241 per person, per night, based on double occupancy in a Zen Grand Suite.