Long Weekend on the Riviera Maya
Today on The Daily Meal
What if you just want a long relaxing weekend with nothing but a comfortable, everything-included suite, an open beach, the mandatory pool bar, a top-notch spa, and several options for adventurous dining — without ever leaving the property?
First, hop a plane for Cancun — about a four-hour direct flight from much of the U.S. Then, take a resort shuttle west along the four-lane highway that cuts through the jungle, arriving 30 minutes later at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, one of a handful of secluded, all suites, all-expenses-included resorts that dot the pristine coastline where low-growth jungle comes up to the edge of the beach.
Guests are greeted in open-air lounges, one each for the three distinct lodging areas of the resort – one for adults who don’t want to hear the shrieks of children at play and one for families (both beachfront) with a third a couple of hundred yards inland for eco-lites and zen-ophiles who want to contemplate in a jungle setting. The spa — reputably the largest in Central America at 89,000 square feet — is also located here and is connected to the beach units by a perpetual shuttle. A dedicated butler/concierge takes the guests to their suites (mine was strategically on the ground floor of the no-children section) and explains all the things that can be done while waiting for dinner.
The most obvious is to shuck off the travel clothes and flip-flops out through the palms to white sand and becalmed ocean, perhaps 30 yards away across a secluded patio that has real arm chairs, a private plunge pool, and a small, green lawn.
The beaches are fairly uninhabited except for strollers — even in high season — as most sunbathers congregate around the large pools. Which isn’t a bad idea, as there is a cozy, swim-up bar. And a walk-up side in case you haven’t abandoned those flip-flops.
But there are some things you can’t do in the pool, such as board sailing, parasailing, or beach volleyball, so don’t abandon the ocean options entirely.
The indoor options include a shopping boutique in each of the three sections, a large gym with all sorts of grueling equipment, and the spa. “Everything at the hotel is included in the price but laundry and the spa,” an attendant tells me. “We have 60 different massages and treatments.” Even altogether, that wouldn’t be enough to restore my body, I think.
Of course, there is the tempting option to simply relax with a good book, either on the patio or in the large bed. The alternate temptation there, of course, is movies on demand.
But sooner or later, one has to eat (hopefully sooner).
There are five gourmet restaurants – and the word “gourmet” is not used lightly — under the direction of executive chef Patrick Louis, and each one is happy to serve you a chef’s menu with wines to match. And why not? It’s in the price. They are Frida (Mexican), Sen Lin Fusion (Oriental), Lucca (Italian), Piaf (French), and Cocina de Autor (Spanish).
Let’s sample two. Frida’s Chef Daniel Garcia explains, “I want to have foods with a gourmet style but with home-cooked flavors from all across Mexico.” And we have that. My two favorite are anise-scented duck tacos with poblano mole and queso fresco cheese and an interesting variation on an Italian classic — osso bucco served in a spicy mole with miniature vegetables.
At Cocina de Autor, the menu is a 360 turn — lots of foams, gels, and molecular sleights of palate, but equally delicious. The tomato bread with sliced tomatoes and garlic ice cream works very well — the ice cream being a time-release way to let loose the balancing spice. A composed salad has vanilla gelatin strips to the same purpose. A wedge of beef comes with a peppery foam.
After the gorging is over, the Sky Bar is just a few steps away for a nightcap.
And, of course, we are not at the Hotel California. You can leave without checking out — just in case a closed environment is too much for your urban ways. Casinos have not really caught on in the region, but you can arrange a night trip to Cancun for gambling and gamboling. And there are day trips to exquisite Mayan ruins.
Now back to bed and repeat for two more days.
(All photos courtesy of Roger Morris.)
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