Viceroy Riviera Maya
Playa Xcalacoco, Mexico; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/rivieramaya. 41 villas from $720 (U.S.).
Viceroy Riviera Maya will come, at first, as a shock to the system. It took my bemused husband to explain that the rose-coloured thingys strewn on our king-sized duvet were, in fact, petals (as opposed to decorative sewing). But this was just a warm-up.
Quiet and kid-free, with just 41 palapa-roof villas, Viceroy offers the needed counterpoint to all the 1,000-plus room, mega-all-inclusives with cafeteria-sized buffets that dominate the popular stretch between Playa Del Carmen and Cancun.
After dinner we’d stroll lamp-lit paths through the jungle to our thatched love nest, where turndown treats included chocolate-dipped strawberries, tequila tasters or paper lanterns by our private plunge pool. As I slipped into the egg-smooth soaker tub, lit candles and asked my hubby to pass the tequila, it occurred to me that I could get used to this.
This resort is sexy, and knows it. Eleven new villas were added and others renovated in a recent upgrade worth nearly $15-million (U.S.). The villas are large – a minimum of 1,400 square feet – and offer private plunge pools, decks and bathrooms with walk-in closets and peekaboo indoor/outdoor showers.
WHOM YOU’LL MEET
Newlyweds, babymooners and plenty of fit, professional-looking couples all lounging in designer swimsuits or retreating periodically into villas (a sure sign of spicy goings-on? Privacy ropes were hung across many, many front doors in the post-sunset, predinner hours).
Riviera Maya offers plenty to do if you’re bored of the beach: from cenotes (freshwater-filled sinkholes great for diving and snorkelling) to archaeological tourism. We drove two hours to Mexico’s oldest Mayan site, Coba – it’s older than Tulum and Chichen Itza – and Coba is the only ancient site visitors are allowed to climb. Playa del Carmen, Mexico’s answer to South Beach, is 15 minutes from the resort for your blingy-touristy shopping.
The spa. It’s surrounded by jungle and here you’ll find an herb garden and hive of stingless, endangered melipona bees, which provide the raw ingredients for a mostly Mayan-themed holistic treatment menu. It’s not the biggest spa you’ll see, but it’s fun and staff will lend you the keys for a private dip in the hot tub after hours.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
Eat in. I love venturing off-resort in search of a local dining scene, but here I never did. Chef Jetzabel Rojas delivered genuine homestyle tastes of Mexico. One night she sent out fusion, Michelin-worthy plating of seared tuna al pastor; the next, it was traditional Yucatan tamales and Oaxacan Tlayudas de carne enchilada. This was Mexican food that opened my eyes as it warmed my belly.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
True to its best-little-beach-hideaway vibe, Viceroy dials up the romance. Sometimes it’s over-the-top, like the thoughtful if cheesy explosion of flower petals in the evenings when we returned to our villa. But even when it’s a bit much, it did make us feel like honeymooners again.
The writer was a guest of the resort.