Cancun and the Riviera Maya region have plenty of high-end resorts, but Grand Velas Riviera Maya stands out from the pack. Its special architecture, all-inclusive food and beverage, and charmingly genuine service keep a loyal clientele coming back year after year.
The turquoise water off the coast looks almost unreal, and the enormous swimming pools here sparkle like lakes. One of Latin America’s largest resort spas is also here for that extra pampering between dips in the water. Especially notable are the staff here. You can’t pass a single person without them greeting you with a smile.
The resort is part of the Legends Collection from Preferred Hotels & Resorts. Its I Prefer loyalty program allows members to earn and redeem points in their travels. This resort is a popular place to redeem points. Beyond those perks, here are five reasons why your Grand Velas Riviera Maya is truly something special.
The resort is divided into three main sections: Zen Grand (surrounded by forest), Ambassador (waterfront) and Grand Class (adults-only on the waterfront). All of the accommodations are spacious suites with some of them featuring connecting doors. The Ambassador and Grand Class sections were both fully renovated in 2021.
Once past the entry foyer, tiled floors with colorful area rugs stretch to the bright balconies with screen doors. Living areas have a sofa and armchairs that face a central console with enormous flat screen TV that swivels so you can watch from bed. Thick comforters and cushioned headboards frame the king or paired queen beds.
Sliding doors open to gigantic bathrooms with dressing areas, soaking tubs and glass shower stalls. A double marble vanity is stocked with Molton Brown toiletries and a bevy of extras like shaving and dental kits.
Complimentary minibars include more than just soft drinks and beer. They also have wine, Champagne and a stash of snacks and candy. Among the more popular items are the gourmet chocolates and crunchy beetroot crisps coated in chili powder. It’s a generous assortment that gets replenished on a daily basis. Butlers tend to each room, and travelers can send them phone messages for special requests at any time.
Balconies or ground-floor terraces have day beds or lounge chairs. In some, there are small plunge pools. The views vary by building with the Zen Grand rooms surrounded by the jungle or overlooking a small stream. The Ambassador rooms are in a semi-circular building that rings the main pools. Almost all of them have some type of ocean view. In the adults-only Grand Class section, these suites guarantee a beachfront view. A shuttle connects the various sections of the resort although the Grand Class and Ambassador areas are adjacent to each other.
There is always a place to find something to eat or drink. And it’s all included in the rate, even the specialty restaurants. At the Ambassador section, Azul is the waterfront restaurant serving three meals a day from a beautifully presented buffet with a live cooking station. The range of salads, tropical fruits and menu choices is exceptional, and the staff aims to please.
Two specialty restaurants are also located here: Frida and Lucca. The former serves distinctive Mexican cuisine while the latter focuses on Mediterranean food. New here is a coffee shop preparing all types of barista-made beverages and light snacks.
In the Zen Grand section, an all-day dining venue serves international and Mexican food. Sen Lin is a big draw for its Asian fusion cuisine at dinner. Grand Class has an all-day, a la carte restaurant with outdoor patio facing the pool. The French-themed Piaf restaurant and a creative fusion restaurant are not far away.
Indoor and outdoor bars are everywhere, including by every pool. Don’t miss the piano bar or separate karaoke bar in the evening. Room service, also free, delivers 24 hours a day. There is no way to go hungry here.
You can’t walk too far without finding a beautiful swimming pool where you can relax and refresh. The largest pair of pools is in the Ambassador section. These are among the biggest of any resort in the area. Thick cushions cover the day beds beneath fabric umbrellas while staffers deliver buckets of chilled water or drinks from the bar. They have sunken whirlpools, a swimup bar with underwater seats and shallow areas for kids. A bridge crosses over them connecting the two, and the infinity edge gives the appearance that the water is spilling into the sea.
At the Grand Class section, another infinity-edge pool with swim-up bar is popular with guests. It has rows of lounge chairs on either side that face the sea. The Zen Grand area has its own pool area, but it has a completely different vibe. Surrounded by towering trees and greenery, it feels like you’re swimming in the jungle. Food and drinks are never far away from seats at any of the pools, all complimentary, of course.
Along the beach are more lounge chairs and delight-inducing hammocks dangling between palm trees. Lifeguards are on duty at the beach. Another free perk are the non-motorized watersports that guests can enjoy.
As one of the largest in Latin America, a visit to the impressive spa is worth it. Each visit begins with a welcome drink and cool towel before changing into a plus robe. Next is the signature water ceremony, a series of pools, massaging jets, saunas, showers and steam rooms. Attendants bring refreshments, lay out towels and serve snacks as part of the experience. It’s a relaxing way to let go of stress before a massage or beauty treatment.
The treatment rooms are upstairs and begin with a foot ritual with aromatherapy scents. Much of the menu incorporates Mayan traditions and Mexican ingredients. In addition to the spa itself, there are other wellness activities including yoga and a pair of gyms with modern workout equipment. Guests can also join a complimentary bike tour around the grounds of the resort. It includes stops at a cenote and botanical garden. The guide also shares history and information about the forest and surrounding area. Kids have their own entertainment in a supervised children’s club or the teen center with games and acivities.
From the magenta and pink bougainvillea that lines the buildings’ terraces to the thatched roofs above them, the colors here are vibrant and rich. The gardening team is constantly tending to the lush grounds, and swaying palm trees with green fronds add another color pairing against the blue water that fronts the pool. The pools shimmer in the sunlight, and the grey and almost blue stone tiling gives them a crystal clear, elegant appearance. If you don’t already have one, you’ll want to sign up for Instagram just to share the colors you encounter everywhere you go.
Perhaps that’s why this is a popular resort for wedding groups and social functions. It’s common to see parties or romantic candlelit dinners on the beach or by the pools. There’s even a chapel and wedding showroom. The property has its own convention center, too, which draws group business.
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe.