By Jerry Landress, Mexico Director
The adult only – or adult friendly – ultra-luxury-all-inclusive resort has emerged as a new category of luxury vacation travel almost exclusively in the Mexican Caribbean.
Clearly there are several fine properties that are either adult only, all-inclusive, luxury, or serve the ultra-affluent market segment. However, few can claim, let alone deliver, all of these elements.
By “adult friendly”, I am suggesting that the resorts featured have a restricted age limit (typically 12-16 years and above) or are structured in a way to offer limited accommodations for children. Another important criteria is they all have dining options that rival the area’s best free-standing restaurants. Gourmet is the operative measurement.
Yes, it is rare that a resort property can meet the strict requirements of AAA’s highest Diamond ratings and still provide all-inclusive services suitable for the most discriminating traveler. However, I will present four such examples based on my own personal experiences after a recent visit to the region.
First, let me define the Mexican Caribbean. It is the region of Mexico that begins in Cancun and literally stretches south to Belize along the Yucatan peninsula.
The four resorts highlighted are all located between the center of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, in the heart of Riviera Maya.
Riviera Maya is a tourism phenomenon that has erupted over the last 20 years into one of the most attractive tourism destinations in the world. It unofficially begins just south of Cancun (Puerto Morelos) and wanders south approximately 60 miles through of untouched mangrove jungle and Maya ruins to Tulum.
Le Blanc Spa Resort – Adults Only Luxury All Inclusive
Le Blanc Spa Resort is an island of luxury in the middle of one of the world’s most active resort destinations. Arriving guests are greeted with personalized check-in services that immediately demonstrate that you are in a little different world.
Set in motion by a refreshing beverage of coconut milk and embraced by a warm aromatic neck pillow, Le Blanc provides the perfect antidote to a long flight and jarring taxi ride.
One of the first things you will notice is the aroma throughout the entire resort. You are constantly receiving “Aromatherapy” as you stroll around the lobby, bar areas, even the meeting rooms are bathed in hints of lavender, vanilla, cucumber mint, sandalwood and the list goes on. In fact, guests can request a specific fragrance for their room.
The room choices are varied but all are above typical resort standards with dedicated butler service on every floor. The Royale Honeymoon, Junior Suites, Royale Governor’s Suites and the Royale Presidential Suites are smartly appointed with excellent amenities, including a full-sized therapeutic hot tub, Bvlgari bath products and “pillow menu” (one of my wife’s personal favorites). A unique aspect of the Presidential Suites is they are all located on the top floor (9th) and have spectacular views of the Cancun white sand beach and turquoise Caribbean Sea.
The dining choices are equally impressive providing a well-balanced array of free standing theme restaurants that can easily accommodate a week’s vacation without any need for unnecessary repetition.
The French gourmet restaurant, Lumiere, is a must visit. It is elegantly decorated and offers both an a la carte and a tasting menu. The Blanc Italia and Blanc Orient names speak for themselves and are excellent. The Blanc International offers a lavish buffet style parade of options with a distinctive twist. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner they offer a custom preparation station with two grills where quests can select their meats, seafood, specific ingredients and spices bring them to the chef and have them prepared exactly as they wish right before their eyes.
Le Blanc Spa has been created to provide patrons with the ultimate experience in relaxation and pampering. Unwind in a personal sanctuary and discover a quiet and soothing space for total relaxation and wellbeing. No corners have been cut, and considering the overall size of the resort, the area devoted to the spa and fitness facilities is quite impressive.
All of the typical massage treatments are offered as well as an intriguing list of regionally influenced treatments such as the KUKULKANMASSAGE, a Mayan-inspired poetic and relaxing massage, in which four hands are choreographed in simulation of the sacred animals of jaguar, snake and the eagle. It is 80 minutes of pure indulgence.
LIVE Aqua Cancun – Adults Only Luxury All Inclusive
At LIVE Aqua Cancun, the guest’s own desires determine the type of stay they will experience. The refined details are immediately apparent and set a tone that is exceptional for a beach resort destination. A unique, innovative concept: a “Be Yourself Hotel” designed for contemporary adults only seeking a place to feel at home; a place that’s relaxed, free and idyllic.
Here, guests can relax and indulge in pleasures for all their senses, leisure, and fun as well as delight the palate with cuisine from three renowned chefs. Or, shop for some of the world’s most prestigious brands at Luxury Avenue (Kukulcan Plaza) or La Isla Mall, only a short walk from the hotel lobby.
Culinary excellence is alive at Live Aqua Cancun. The dining “choices” stimulate all your senses and seduce your palate through the culinary creations from celebrity chef Eric De Maeyer. This talented chef gives his artistic touches to the national and international meals served at the hotel’s Azur, Siete and MB restaurants as well as the In Laa’kech Lobster & Grill, Sea Corner, Sushi Station and Café Deli Boutique.
The food at Live Aqua Cancun takes you back to roots of fine cuisine, with the freshest ingredients and finest spices available. The hotel’s signature cuisine will be one of the most memorable parts of any visit.
Discriminating “foodies” will notice the unique flavors at each of the hotel’s restaurants, with a team of ten chefs led by Eric De Maeyer. New introductions include theme restaurants: Varenna (Italian outdoor bistro) and Hidden Garden (Asian fusion) that promise to continue the Aqua tradition of excellence.
“Live Aqua Cancun is known for providing guests with an unparalleled luxury experience – a complete immersion into serenity and comfort,” said chef De Maeyer. “I wanted the new culinary options to reflect that caliber and attention to detail. I developed four entirely new menus with a strong focus on flavor profiles and added a fresh twist to the national and international menus of the resorts previous restaurants.”
Maybe the most intriguing aspect of the hotel is the accommodations. In today’s world of “a room is a room” mentality, it is hard to be wowed! But it is the proper expression at LIVE Aqua.
Even the suite names of the various categories inspire curiosity and a desire to explore: Viento, Aqua, Tierra, Fuego and the Presidential Suites Sol & Luna (Sun & Moon). The Presidential Suites Sol and Luna are vibrant symbol of Live Aqua’s all-inclusive luxury. These suites are equipped with the most modern systems for quest comfort and lifestyle.
Each of the suites is elegantly furnished and divided in five areas, including a TV room and separate dining area. The Sun and the Moon suites overlook the Caribbean Sea and the Nichupté Lagoon magnify the allure and charm of spacious terrace.
The list of exceptional facilities and venues for spa treatments (Aqua Spa), meetings, conferences, and weddings abound at LIVE Aqua and are only limited by the imagination of the guest. My advice is to add one more line to your bucket list and “be yourself” at LIVE Aqua.
Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya – Five Diamond All Inclusive Retreat
For the sophisticated traveler, who defines luxury by a standard that can pass the test of international celebrities, business leaders, and private jet globe trotters; this jewel by the sea more than equals the criteria of its Five Diamond status.
The secret of a true luxury boutique resort (under 100 rooms) is its ability to offer the comforts and amenities of a larger property without losing the charm, privacy, and personality that only one-of-a-kind resort hideaways can provide.
Even though Zoetry is not officially “adults only”, it is certainly “adult friendly”. The “password” at this ultra-all-inclusive resort is Endless Privileges* which is much more than a slogan; it is an attitude that carries throughout the 14-acre natural reserve.
At Paraiso de la Bonita the term suite is an honest representation of both the layout and custom décor of each vacation “home-away-from-home”. Suites have names not numbers. Designations like Nairobi, Ajmer, or Bali, give a hint to the sunny, spacious living area and bedroom that are individually decorated with an eclectic collection of hand-selected art and sculptures, artifacts and fabrics from the far reaches of the world. From the private terraces resident guests will gaze out at the brilliant blue Caribbean or lush tropical gardens, accented by private plunge pools or swaying hammocks.
If there is one theme that might come close to defining the resort would be “wellness”. The attention to each person’s individual needs, wants, desires, and happiness does not go unnoticed. This spirit transfers to the dining experience, both casual and formal, through the subtle introduction of “wellness” offerings and caloric/fat/carb calculations on every menu.
Paraiso de la Bonita is graced with both formal and informal gourmet dining options headlined by La Canoa, an elegant AAA Four Diamond restaurant featuring their French chef’s “La Cuisine de los Soles” – a delectable fusion of styles using the spices and chilies of several warm weather countries.
Another inviting alternative, serving throughout the entire day, is Kaax (pronounced “Caash”, a Mayan word meaning “Jungle”), where painted murals depicting the region’s flora and fauna embrace you. El Chiringuito (Spanish slang meaning “little establishment”) employs a brick oven and open-air grill for serving customized personal pizzas, hamburgers, calzones, steaks and seafood specialties. While other guests enjoy fresh sushi and sashimi without leaving the comfort of their double-wide poolside lounge.
The Thalasso Wellness Center utilizes a unique European approach incorporating ancient traditions with modern health science to offer a wide range of both beauty and wellness treatments whose benefits include improved sleep, stress reduction, relief for a variety of pain, arthritis, muscular, circulatory and skin conditions, weight loss and cellulite reduction.
The 22,000 sq. ft. oceanfront Thalasso Center & Spa offers guests a wide range of treatments, including traditional massages and facials to signature treatments such as Thalassotherapy. Thalassotherapy, coming from the Greek words, “thalasso” meaning “sea water” and “therapia” meaning “therapy”, is exactly its meaning: sea water therapy. Thalassotherapy cleanses and invigorates your body through the use of freshly heated seawater, seaweed and marine mud that infuse the skin with minerals and nutrients and help eliminate toxins.
Another very appealing feature to the active traveler is the ability to discover the best of the Mexican Caribbean with Marina La Bonita. Perfectly situated at Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita, Marina La Bonita offers guests the best experiences in sailing, fishing and scuba diving and snorkeling.
The true magic of Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita is how so many vacation experiences are orchestrated seamlessly into a single symphony of relaxation, revitalization, romance and recreation. It is perfectly situated along Cancun’s famed Riviera Maya just 20 minutes from Cancun’s International Airport and a must visit for any traveler with a desire to truly experience the best the Mexican Caribbean has to offer.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya Ultra – Luxury Adult Only Grand Class
Opened in 2008, the luxurious all inclusive luxury resort – Grand Velas Riviera Maya – is one of the newest resorts in Riviera Maya to distinguish itself with a Five Diamond AAA Rating. And the recognition is well deserved.
Set on over 80 acres of protected mangroves, jungle and natural freshwater wells, locally known as cenotes, Grand Velas provides its guests over 1,000 feet of carefully preserved pristine white sand beach to enjoy and explore.
Grand Class is the adult only section of Grand Velas Riviera Maya and offers 89 luxurious one-bedroom suites that are elegantly intimate. The Grand Class Suites are well-appointed 1,377 square feet, one-bedroom units, elegantly decorated with imported furnishings, designer amenities, beautiful Mexican artwork and a stunning oceanfront view.
Other unique conveniences include an interior Jacuzzi, an oversized “Rainy” shower and a walk-in closet with motion controlled lighting for total ease. The large and very private terrace provides the perfect ambience for a morning coffee or romantic dinner catered from their gourmet restaurants and supported by 24-hour room service.
It is easy to enjoy the entire day by your own plunge pool on the terrace overlooking the blue waters of the Caribbean at this Mayan Riviera resort. I can honestly say that the photos in the brochures and on their website do not come close to showing the spaciousness or quality of the suites in Grand Class.
Choosing the Grand Class for your vacation is like staying in a fine beach front boutique hotel without compromising the conveniences available throughout the entire resort complex. Think of it as 90 rooms, supported by three restaurants, private adults only pool, swim-up bar, lounge sports bar, butlers dedicated to every floor and service that is so personalized that you immediately feel like you have been visiting the hotel for years.
Speaking of gourmet dining, the Grand Class wing is home the resort’s signature restaurant, Cocina de Autor, where world-renowned chefs Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso create haute Spanish cuisine that is beyond compare.
Cocina De Autor received the AAA Five Diamond Award in 2013 and 2014, making it the only restaurant in an all-inclusive resort to ever receive the award in 100 years of AAA.
The Sky Bar, prime for sunset viewing with tasty drinks before and after dinner offers a chic lounge setting and nightly entertainment and conveniently separates the Grand Class’ contribution to fine French cuisine, Piaf. The romantic ambiance of this restaurant is captivates from the very entrance: stunning curtains of Swarovsky crystals and perfectly designed lighting create an atmosphere of fine extravagance.
Or enjoy a more casual atmosphere at the Bistro, open for breakfast lunch and dinner located in the center of the action in Grand Class. All of the resort’s eight restaurants are just as inviting and are a short walk or only minutes away by air conditioned shuttle.
Of course, all Grand Class guests enjoy the full array of the resort’s outstanding facilities, such as the 90,000 sq. ft. Grand Velas Riviera Maya Spa, which was named “Best Spa in the World” by Virtuoso travel agents in 2010, a world-class meeting and conference center, gymnasium, and the list goes on.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya ranks among the most complete beach resorts complexes I have ever visited.