Fajitas, Fun, and Flamingos in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Sarah Smith on 16 October 2018
Stunning soft sandy beaches, a huge choice of excellent hotels with superb service. Perfect for weddings, with lush gardens, Caribbean Sea backdrops, relaxing spas, romantic sunsets, Jacuzzis in your room or balcony - or both!

We visited four stunning hotels all very different and for very different markets. Here’s a summary:

Dreams Riviera Maya, Cancun

A great all-round resort for families and couples, groups and weddings. A laid-back atmosphere with friendly, smiling staff, good food with plenty of choices of restaurants from beachfront grills to Tapanyaki. Great little kids club for your youngsters. Small spa area in lush surroundings. The couple’s area is perfect for a treat after a wedding! Upgrade to a premium room for a jacuzzi on your balcony facing the sea as well as one in your spacious room!

Occidental Xcaret

A must for nature lovers. This hotel is built in the middle of an eco-rainforest with free-form pools surrounded by wildlife like deer, gecko, flamingo, and monkeys swinging in the trees! Awesome!

Attached to the hotel is the Xcaret theme-park. In Xcaret you will discover more than 50 attractions to appreciate the natural and cultural wealth of Mexico. A great day out for all, plenty of places to eat, and explore the rides and thrills then swim through underground caves to cool off! Take the free boat shuttle to the park from the hotel reception to arrive in style.

Tip: for a quieter day head down to the lovely sandy beach, grab a cabana or a hammock, and a chilled cocktail from the beach bar!

Grand Velas

Now I’ve eaten in some fine restaurants and I’ve been pummelled in some fancy spas, but this place just tops the bill! The hotel is vast but divided into three distinct areas and if you never left ‘your area’ you’d think the hotel was pretty small.

Ambassador area is for families: beachfront, a large pool and amazing kids’ clubs for all ages, a range of restaurants to suit all tastes and some great vibe around the pool. I’d stay here with my family - large rooms, sea views, fall out of bed onto the beach! Zen: set in the eco-jungle, green and lush and the setting of one of the Caribbean’s largest spa. The most divine space I’ve ever seen! Worth booking a treatment and spending a day there. The smell as you walk in, excellent staff and great products! Great rooms in this area of the hotel with views over lagoons and rainforest jungle.

Grand Class: I was so lucky to have a suite in this part of the hotel. It’s the adult-only part. Quiet and chilled. A great pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea. We had our own concierge and our own butler, I truly felt spoilt! Here we were treated to the most delicious, highly presented meals and attentive, friendly service.

The huge bedrooms were cool and welcoming with a great well-stocked minibar. They have thought of everything even down to providing a cute beach bag to take your belongings down to the beach or pool. A huge balcony with splash pool complements the indoor jacuzzi area! I’d return here in a flash!

Secrets Akumal

A gorgeous adult only hotel further up the coast so a longer transfer than some hotels nearer to Cancun. Built around three pools, in luscious gardens with a beautiful sandy beach it’s worth the drive! Relaxed and chilled with attentive service but unobtrusive if you want some privacy. Rooms are modern yet accent towards the Mayan culture with warm woods and decorated in reds, oranges and yellows.

I loved the Cafe de Paris for fresh coffees and pastries or ice creams! Perfect for a quick pit stop before getting ready for a sublime dinner in one of the yummy restaurants!

During the day swim out on the house reef and spot the neighbourhood sea turtles feeding on the sea grasses! I will be coming back here!

Top tips

Even though your hotel is all-inclusive, check the policy for tipping as if you have received great service you may want to show appreciation. As Mexico is popular with many Americans the staff may be used to a dollar here and there.

Do not be tempted to buy cigarettes or alcohol on the outbound flight as you will be required to pay tax on arrival in Mexico.

Take mosquito repellent as the Riviera Maya is built on lush mangrove jungle and even though many hotels spray daily you may be bitten.

If visiting Tulum or Chitchen Itsa or any other Mayan ruins plan your visit for early morning to escape the heat. Always book a guide to get the most from your visit.