Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Grand Velas Riviera Maya If there’s such a thing as a crisp-looking resort, this would be it. The Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort, Riviera Maya is new, shiny, Zen-like—but its luxury component does not deter from its carefree mood. Take the dining experience, for instance. The signature Cocina de Autor has star chefs Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso, owners of the much-lauded Biko in Mexico City, preparing “Nuevo Basque”—Mexican fusion cuisine unlike any other. The tasting menu, expertly paired with wine, seems to have no end, with dishes such as sardines with papaya/orange caviar and cherry meringue with brined hogfish snapper. And a sharp decor matches the modern sizzle of the dishes, with live guitar music setting the mood.

Another favorite is Piaf, whose French chef Michel Mustiere brings the best of his native country and adds his own twist on delectable souffles and chateaubriand. There’s also Frida for fine-dining Mexican (with its own “Margarita Trolley”); Sen Lin for Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai fusion. And Lucca for Italian-Mediterranean, plus another three a la carte casual restaurants and 24-hour suite service.

Almost all of it is all-inclusive, except with surcharges for high-end wines and some of the more exotic dishes.

“We’ve done buyouts and opened all the restaurants into one big dine-around,” says Jorge Meraz, group and convention manager. “And we can make different theme parties on the beach with volleyball games, sailing races and yoga or kickboxing. We did a 1960s beach party with big screens on the beach. We can do anything!”

Can you define fine-dining Mexican?

“When you hear Mexican food, you think fajitas and enchiladas, right? But we have much more than that, like salmon made with local pastor sauce…. It’s very delicious.”

Besides the food, the spanking new 491-suite property stands out among other Riviera Maya group resorts due to a number of attributes. First, the suites range from an impressive 1,100-1,300 sf, and 300 of them are oceanfront with balconies overlooking a full mile of pale white beach. Second, two ballrooms and 32 breakouts top 49,000 sf, with an additional 42,000 sf of outdoor function space available.

Grand Velas is made up of three main buildings: Master, Ambassador and Grand Class. The luxury Grand Class section is for adults 19 and over, with an infinity pool and swim-up bar that looks out to the ocean. You can do a somersault in the suites and still have space for a back flip, if you’re so inclined. There’s a huge bed and cloud-like pillows. The bathroom is gigantic, with spacious showers and a big jacuzzi and dual sinks with European-style handles. Walk-in closets are what you wish you had at home, and the balconies—especially those on the ground floor—are huge, opening up onto the Mexican Caribbean’s famous beauty.

At the heart of the resort, the $15 million spa at Grand Velas is a hedonist’s Shangri-la. It’s huge—89,000 sf in all—40,000 of which forms the Water Lounge, providing healing facilities along the “water journeys” in separate male and female sections. Inspired by the cenotes of the Yucatan, the spa designers incorporated regional details into the design, including a flower-filled courtyard and even a small stream.

There are no less than 40 treatment rooms and a spa menu touting seven journeys, such as Travels Through India, Mediterranean Voyage and Nature’s Aromatherapy Trail. We like the Mayan-themed Journey Through Native Mexico, which includes a chocolate-infused Xocol-Ha body wrap and coffee scrub to purify and rejuvenate the skin.

Not sure which menu is more appetizing, the spa’s or Cocina de Autor’s.