In the middle of a cold Chicago winter, my mom and I were lucky enough to escape Chiberia for the sunny beaches of Riviera Maya. A three night stay at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya was exactly what the doctor ordered for us.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya is a AAA Five Diamond resort. This luxurious resort features 539 suites, eights restaurants, and is spread out across three different properties: the Zen Grand, Ambassador, and the Grand Class. The luxurious Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort resides in the luscious jungle, along a beautiful stretch of the Mayan Riviera. It is built directly into the local landscape, ensuring an authentic natural experience both for jungle lovers and beach bums.
A Zen Vacation
During my stay at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, I was fortunate enough to stay in the Zen Grand class property. However, I had full access to both of the other properties, even though they are considered slightly more prestigious.
When we arrived at the Zen lobby, a concierge specialist showed us to a private couch. While she handled the entire check in process, we lounged, sipped on the resorts signature welcome drink, a hibiscus blueberry iced tea, and refreshed with a nice cold towel.
The Zen class is located approximately a fifteen minute walk (or 5 minute shuttle) from the other properties. It is quite literally within the jungle. Zen features it’s own private oasis pool, several restaurants, and a separate lobby – where concierge ensure that check in is effortless.
My mom and I checked out both of the restaurants in the Zen Class are – Chaka and Sen Lin . Chaka serves breakfast every day, some days as a buffet and others a la carte. For dinner, Chaka serves traditional Mayan food from the region. Delicacies included scrumptious empanadas and Mayan chicken.
Sen Lin is an Asian fusion restaurant that is open for dinner. They combine flavors from Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand to create a unique palette of flavors that you must try! My favorite appetizer was the selection of various dim sum.
Each section of suites at Grand Velas is equipped with a personal concierge. Alex, our concierge, met us in the Zen lobby and showed us to our suite, which was extremely spacious. While we didn’t have an ocean view, our suite looked out into the jungle, where apparently it is possible to see Mexican Raccoons and spider monkeys. Alex made all of our dinner reservations for us, checked on us daily, and ensured we had a relaxing stay.
The suite featured a king bed, a full desk, a large dresser, two arm chairs and an enormous closet. The closet in each suite at Grand Velas is equipped with an ironing board, a beach bag to use during your stay, shoe polishing equipment, bug spray, two robes, and two sizes of slippers. Additionally the room featured a bar, which included snacks and a mini fridge with unlimited beverages. The resort also gifted us a bottle of wine and tequila, which were ours to drink while in the resort or take home. The large bathroom at Grand Velas is also fully loaded- L’Occtaine toiletries were provided. Everything from body lotion to soap to bath salt bars was replenished every day, twice a day, as were the dental kit and shaving kit.
Ambassador and Grand Class
The Ambassador and Grand Class sections of the resort feature the exact same style suites, just along the oceanfront. The Grand Class is adults only, and does feature an adults only Beach and Pool. Personally for me, it was a little too quiet over there. I enjoyed the Ambassador Beach more, and felt that there were more beach attendants and waiters, and someone was constantly checking to see if you needed anything.
The Beach and Pools
My mom and I spent our mornings at the beach, and would move over to the pool after lunch. On our last day, due to the wind, we stayed primarily at the pool. The water was not swimmable, as there were many rocks, but we were able to dip our toes in the Caribbean Sea. We even ordered lunch to the pool – since the poolside menu was almost as extensive as the menus at any of the restaurants.
Beach and pool-side concierge run around all day, bringing fresh buckets of ice water, changing towels, moving umbrellas, and taking care of absolutely everything.
The amount of food options at this resort is overwhelming, and absolutely every item I placed in my mouth was delicious. It’s no wonder that many reviews I read mentioned that this was a total foodie resort.
The resort is home to eight restaurants. There are no dinner buffets at Grand Velas. Each restaurant features an a la carte menu and is truly representative of the cuisine. Throughout our stay, my mom and I indulged in Asian (Sen Lin), Mayan (Chaka), and Italian (Lucca). We ate breakfast at Chaka and Azul, and even had a delicious poolside snack lunch.
At each restaurant, you will be asked by your waiter and hostess if there are any dietary restrictions or food allergies. Each menu features vegetarian and gluten free items that are clearly marked. Each restaurant also has it’s own signature cocktail. My favorite had to be the lychee martini at Sen Lin.
When it came for the check, there was some confusion. Although the resort is all-inclusive, most food menus (excluding the in-suite dining menu) featured prices of each item. We discovered that these prices are used merely to decide how much to tip… After each meal, a waiter brings you a bill. The total is always $0. However, there is a line to write in your chosen tip. Tips are accepted in both USD and Mexican pesos and are then charged to a card when checking out. The best part about this is that you NEVER have to carry cash with you.
While I do always tip in resorts, it was a bit strange that the bill is almost like a way of saying “Tip Me! Tip Me!” Not that there is anything wrong with this, just something to be aware of when traveling to this resort. I was later informed that this is due to restaurants being open to the public and the prices are for those guests that choose to visit only the gourmet restaurants, and not stay at the resort. This was a huge clarification for me.