Girl Getaway to Playa del Carmen
When I got the invite to visit the Grand Velas Riviera Maya in May and an offer to bring someone, I asked my mom if she'd like to take a Mother's Day trip with me to Mexico's Playa del Carmen. She immediately said yes! It took us less than two hours to get from Orlando to Cancun (thanks Jetblue). We arrived at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya and were incredibly impressed with the entrance to the resort, which made an understated statement with its white walls, turquoise water and white sandy beach in lieu of landscaping. The wooden doors slowly rolled open and we drove onto the property. I immediately felt a sense of relaxation as we meandered along the driveway and through the lush, green natural vegetation. We learned there are three hotels on property: Grand Class (adult only oceanfront), Ambassador (family oceanfront) and Master (family/convention located in the jungle). Roger, our driver, took us to the Grand Class, which would be home for the next few days.
We headed to our first dinner at Grand Velas Riviera Maya's Piaf, one of the resort's eight on-site restaurants. Piaf is the French themed restaurant with an impressive gourmet menu created by the acclaimed French chef Michel Mustiere. Gourmet specialties include Chateaubriand, lamb filet with thyme sauce and ratatouille, sole meuniere, traditional French onion soup, and delectable desserts. We started with martinis, then ordered the tasting menu with wine pairings. Our taste buds had one awesome adventure with each course being better than the next. We found out that the food tastes as good as it looks, and the presentation is incredible.
The next morning we woke up to some sad news from home. As we made our way to Azul (restaurant for breakfast), the smiling and friendly staff lifted our spirits as they wished up good morning. We made our way to Azul and were completely impressed by the breakfast buffet served here. If you couldn't find something fabulous to eat here, you weren't hungry. Just the juice selection alone was not only delicious but also very pretty.
After breakfast we joined Anna Marie for a tour of the property, which included a visit to the Ambassador with its piano bar, karaoke bar, pool, boutique and restaurants; the Master with its restaurants, spa, convention space, jungle area, pool and boutiques; and the our own Grand Class that also has its own boutique, pool with swim up bar and restaurants. I stopped during the tour to experience a fish pedicure....yes, the fish eat the dead skin off your feet. Crazy!
After the tour, we made our way to the swim up bar for some much-needed cocktails. After we informed Oscar that we were grieving from our sad news from home, he insisted we do tequila shots. When we finally agreed, he made us get on the bar. The tequila did help ease our sadness. We laid by the pool with our frozen cocktails, enjoyed the pool area and ordered a perfect lunch of fish ceviche, salad and grilled vegetables. The best "pool food" I have ever had!
We were transported to the award-winning spa (located at the Master location) by the resort's on-property shuttle service. We arrived 90 minutes before our spa treatment appointments in order to experience the spa's Water Journey. This terrific water experience starts with a sauna and steam room session, followed by time in the "ice room." After going from very hot to very cold, we were sent to the clay room for some skin and hair therapy. After this, we went to the hot and cold wading pools, then on to the big pool for water massage therapy. This was super cool. Did we have to leave???? Yes, but the fact that we were leaving our water journey for massages made it a little easier. As someone who gets massaged a lot all over the world; this was a top 10!
On Saturday morning Roger drove us to Xel-Ha for a day at the park. Xel-Ha is a nature water park that far exceeded our expectations. Like the resort, Xel Ha is all inclusive, so you don't have to pay extra for lockers, rafting tubes, snorkel gear, food, beverages or alcoholic drinks. We spent the entire day there and loved the natural cenotes, cliff diving, river tubing, snorkeling, ziplining, snuba, beach, Mayan Cave, as well as nature trail exploration. Visitors can also swim with dolphins and manatees, and there's a kid's playground, shopping and a spa (which we indulged). Xel-Há has not only excelled as a water park at the highest international standards, but strives to maintain its philosophy of appreciating nature, which is evident by the numerous ecological awards received.
Our last dinner at Grand Velas Riviera Maya was at their signature restaurants, Cocina de Autor, which was recently named one of the "100 Best New Food & Drink Experiences" in the world by Food & Wine magazine. This Spanish restaurant features a world-class menu created by internationally acclaimed Spanish chefs Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso. Each day at Cocina de Autor brings new choices in Spanish haute cuisine when Chefs Oteiza and Alonso present their signature, gourmet Spanish Basque dishes in the a la carte menu of specialties. Incredible dishes range from Light and Refreshing Lobster Salad, Venison in Love, Fresh Fish with Wild Mushrooms, and Veal Chops Roasted for 36 Hours. Quince, Cheese and Pecan Cigars and Chocolate with Honeycomb Wax are just a taste of what's in store to complete your meal. We ordered the Tasting Menu with Wine Pairing and were blown away. Each time they brought a new course, it trumped the last one. Three of the notables were: a gazpacho ball (yes, somehow they got gazpacho inside a ball), mango souffle with a gin and tonic foam and the beef dish that was moving and waving to us (watch this video to see). This is by far one of the best dining experiences of my life!
Although we received some sad news from home during our trip, we had an amazing experience and this is one resort that I will definitely visit again. Anyone looking for a great trip with beautiful beaches, lovely rooms, amazing food and the best staff should consider Grand Velas Riviera Maya. WOW!!!!