Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya (Riviera Maya, Mexico)
Set on more than 80 acres of protected mangroves, jungle, and cenotes (natural freshwater wells), Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya is a five-minute drive from downtown Playa del Carmen.
Paderson describes Grand Velas as "very upscale." "The food is 5-star dining," she says, noting that there is great 24-hour butler concierge service.
The resort has 15 restaurants and bars, including Cocina de Autor by Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso, which serves haute Spanish cuisine like fig and foie gras with grilled milk. Chef Ricardo de la Vegas crispy candied suckling pig tacos cooked in banana leaves, pineapple, and spring onion at Frida are a must-try. Other restaurant offerings include Piaf (French), Sen Lin (Asian), Lucca (Northern Italian), Azul (International), Bistro (French brasserie), Chak (organic desserts, wines, and coffee) plus 24-hour room service and five bars, including a karaoke bar.
Paderson recommends booking one of the rooms with a plunge pool and notes the childrens activities (the resort welcomes guests ages 12 and up) are exceptional. Rates start at $299 per person per night.