Littered with luxury beachfront hotels, Riviera Maya on the Yutucan Peninsula is a wonderful choice for those in need of a paradise sun holiday. And unlike secluded, far-flung destinations, there’s plenty of activities, ancient Mayan ruins and nightlife close by – or, depending on where you stay – right on the doorstep.
Viceroy Riviera Maya
Just north of the vibrant town of Playa del Carmen, lies this romantic, intimate adults-only resort. With 41 suites it’s low rise and peaceful, incorporating a private beach, the Wayak Spa, gym, lagoon pool, open-air bar and grill and a fancy Mexican restaurant. You can pack light before coming, the hotel loans guests sombreros, books, snorkelling gear, DVDs, Neil George bath products – and limos are on hand for exploring further afield. Book a thatched Royal Villa for your own butler, pool, hammock, huge soaking tub and indoor-outdoor showers. Do try The Temezcal, an intensive sweat lodge ceremony to truly unwind and experience the mysticism of Mexico.
La Valise Tulum
La Valise takes its interior inspiration from the natural beauty of its Tulum jungle and sea surrounds with palapa ceilings, stripped wood furniture, blonde and azure hues and Yutucan textiles. Palm-lined sandy paths connect each area of the tiny nine-roomed resort. There’s no spa, but treatments are provided in-room and the restaurant is an exotic alfresco affair serving alternative takes on familiar Mexican classics – or order room service for honeymoon seclusion in this magical hideaway.
Banyan Tree Mayakoba
Located in Mayakoba, between Playa del Carmen and Cancun (around 15 minutes to the lively hotspots), the Banyan Tree is spread across jungle, lagoon and beachside areas. Enter through the AAA Five-Diamond resort’s pagoda, a first taste of the Asian – Mayan design fusion. Made up of unique villas complemented by handcrafted Mexican furniture, guests enjoy private pools, outdoor bathtubs and a dedicated butler. Experience hydrothermal wellness at the award-winning spa with ‘The Rainforest’ hydrotherapy circuit. Take a romantic mangrove boat tour, bike ride (up to two are available per villa) and enjoy meals in eight different locations. It’s a great option for families, with a kids’ club, babysitting service, nursery and kids’ pool.
Barcelo Maya Palace
If you’d prefer to stay in a large scale all-inclusive resort from a huge international hotel group, with tons of amenities, the Barcelo Maya Palace is a winner. Located in Xpu-Ha, it has 756 rooms, three tennis courts, three pools, a private beach, six restaurants, five bars, theme nights, tour services, access to a water park, a games room, nightclub, playground, children’s’ club, fitness centre, hammam and a full-service spa. Activities include snorkelling, canoeing, windsurfing, golf, football, tennis, volleyball, aerobics, as well as dance, language and cooking classes. And with theme parks and historic sites nearby, it’s safe to say you’ll never be short of something to do here.
Perched on Punta Maroma’s sandy shores, stay at Chablé Maroma and you can watch the waves while catching rays beside the infinity pool, snacking on shrimp and lobster tacos. Its 70 rooms feature hand-carved sinks, local palm weavings, indoor-outdoor showers, private pools flanked with lush tropical greenery – and for larger groups, there’s a three-bedroomed villa. Take a wellness journey inspired by ancient Mayan rituals at the onsite spa, by yourself or enjoy a treatment with a loved one. Products are locally sourced and climate-friendly, including food and drink. Fine dine in the restaurant Bu’ul, take a relaxed meal in Kaban, or tuck into fresh oysters, octopus tacos, fish and mango ceviche at the Raw Bar.
Spread across 45 acres, the 401 suite Fairmont boasts its own golf course, spa and cooking school. It’s just 15 minutes drive from the bright lights of Playa del Carmen, but with so much to do and see here, you won’t want to leave. It’s a great place to wildlife spot, surrounded by ocean, mangroves and jungle on each side. Dinner at La Laguna (beside the lagoon) is a real highlight, not only because of its romantic setting but also for its fantastic Mexican cuisine. Guests can also eat seafood beachside at Brisas, and The Lobby Lounge’s balcony is the perfect spot for an after-dinner margarita or three. The style is contemporary with some traditional Yutucan elements and an earthy colour scheme. Book a beachfront casita for a private rooftop pool, tons of space and butler service.
Coming from one of the world’s leading luxury hotel groups, this contemporary, large and stylish resort is connected by lagoons and waterways. 129 rooms and 11 residences appear to float on water and have been crafted using indigenous materials, in a minimalist, calming design. The Forbes-rated spa even has its own island, Sense, offering a huge range of Mayan healing practises and treatments and a Greg Norman-designed 18-hole golf course El Camaleón. Kids are well catered for at Rosewood Explorers’ children’s club and for some adult-only time, chill out at Aquí Me Quedo, where three plunge pools are sunken into the sand beside the sea. There are five dining options, as well as a delectable bakery, weekly themed meals and several bars.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya
Peek across to the island of Cozumel from this immaculate resort in Playa del Carmen. Grand Velas has 531 rooms, six themed restaurants, two gyms and seven bars. Expect manicured lawns, high-end boutiques, perfectly tended sands and gleaming marble surfaces. The decor by Melín Castro Ardavín, is neutral, with mahogany furnishings, expansive walk-in showers and large terraces overlooking the ocean. Whether travelling as a family, or in need of some child-free time, it’s all possible here. There’s a kids’ club, but also a whole area of the resort reserved for over 18s, and a serene spa for some much-needed r&r.
This Tulum escape will suit wannabe castaways down to the ground. Its proprietor Lio Malca has created a unique, bohemian and quirky resort. With a concealed entrance and sandwiched between wild jungle and sandy shores, it houses just 40 bedrooms filled with colourful enormous modern art pieces and oversized grand mirrors – for the ultimate treat, opt for a Master Suite Beach Front with hammocks and a private terrace. The hotel and grounds are rustic, yet super stylish with an eclectic mix of baroque and contemporary design, with more oversized sculptures and artwork. Of its three pools, one has a moodily magical underground grotto and the onsite restaurants offer truly sensory dining experiences.