Riviera Maya Playa Xcalacoco Frac 7, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Sitting between the Caribbean waters and a tropical rainforest, the ever-improving Viceroy Riviera Maya is a calming haven boasting abundant in–room amenities and gracious style for a barefoot luxury vacation.
Reached via an unmarked road off a main highway, the Viceroy Riviera Maya is a small and quiet sanctuary unlike many of the lively mega–resorts dotting the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Tucked away in Playa Xcalacoco, three miles from Playa del Carmen, the six–acre resort, once known as Tides Riviera Maya, prides itself on exclusivity and personalized service–everyone knows your name and uses it often.
After an extensive renovation in 2012 and several updates since, the property now has a variety of luxury villas, two restaurants with ocean views, a fitness center, and wine cellar. The revamps also included a facelift to all the existing villas and then contiual additions of more amenities. The refreshed aesthetics of the resort are impressive and the service delivered by the Viceroy's staff further enhances the classy ambiance.
Upon arrival to the breezy thatched roof lobby with stamped concrete floors, you immediately forget about the less–than–picturesque road you took to arrive at the Viceroy's front door. A smiling face welcomes you with a refreshing welcome drink and your visit officially begins with a Mayan blessing performed by the staff shaman that incorporates the smoke of the aromatic copal, a tree resin burned as incense. Once clear from the fragrant smolder, follow the lead of your guide on a meandering path through ferns, palms and guava trees, keeping a lookout for the family of spider monkeys that are claimed to reside on the property (take note of the journey through the greenery to prevent going astray later sans guide). Pass hidden bungalows and seating areas buried in the trees before arriving at the mahogany front door of your villa, one of just 41 on the property.
Outfitted with soft lighting and sleek furniture, the high–ceiling, thatched–roofed accommodations evoke the feel of a romantic jungle retreat adorned in native textiles and warm woods. Ideal for honeymooners, the enormous bathrooms with fine touches of locally made soap cut on the premesis are complete with indoor and outdoor showers and his–and–hers sinks and closets. The airy bungalows—situated oceanfront, ocean view or nestled in the jungle—feature small private plunge pools and a patio with elegant chaise lounge chairs and handmade crochet hammocks ideal for curling up with a book. While the views from the oceanfront and ocean view accommodations are stunning, the jungle locations offer the most privacy, despite maybe a few more encounters with harmless jungle critters (the hotel is wise to plant mosquito repellent for guests on the patio).
The standards here are not so standard, with 500 thread-count sheets, DVD/CD players for the large flat-screen TVs, minibars, and a selection of plush pillows. Wi-Fi is complimentary and all have an indoor-outdoor shower. The larger villas have more space and more furniture, plus additional amenties like esresso makers and a complimentary beach hat and bag. None skimp on space, but 17 of the 41 villas have at least 1.400 square feet, making them more like temporary homes than hotel rooms. The top choice is 2,900 square feet on two levels with ocean views.
Although the plethora of in–room amenities may not give much reason to spend time outside the walls of your sumptuous abode, garner the motivation to explore the grounds. A walk towards the ocean will take you out of the lush foliage onto a seaside sundeck with medium–sized lagoon pool ideal for cooling off in shallow water. If you want to go for a real swim, head to the beach and take a stroll down the Viceroy's private pier (helping guests avoid the exposed rocky shoreline) for a few laps in the crystal blue waters. The idyllic pier is also a picturesque spot for sunbathing, morning yoga sessions or romantic candlelight dinners, which can be arranged by the resort.
When it comes to lounging, the Viceroy has all the bases covered. Beachfront lawns are dotted with day beds and a friendly staff that is quick to swap out used towels and clean smudges off your sunglasses also service the palapa–covered chaise lounges in the sand. These same helpful folks offer iced face towels along with meals and cocktails while you sunbathe, so you truly don't have to move a muscle. If you prefer meals at a table, the beachfront Coral Grill serves up a menu of locally caught seafood, organic produce, and wood–fired pizzas. The Coral Grill bar is also the location for unique guest activities like tequila tastings and a top-notch artisanal cocktail–making class hosted by the head bartender.
For evening fine dining, trek upstairs to La Marea. Set above the sophisticated library lounge in an open–air loft overlooking the Caribbean, the restaurant features a menu of contemporary Mexican cuisine with Mediterranean influences. The result is dishes like grilled Kobe beef tenderloin with mole sauce and a delicious homemade pappardelle with jumbo shrimp and smoky diabla sauce. The attentive service that seems signature of the Viceroy highlights the dining experience (and most activities), only ocasionally falling short during a morning breakfast rush.
Accompanying the Viceroy's warm service are amenities paying homage to Mayan customs, particularly at the Wayak Spa. Equipped with an herbal steam room, outdoor rain room and traditional Mayan Temazcal sweat lodge, the barely lit circular structure features men and women's facilities as well as private rooms for couples' massages. Treatments, ranging from herbal and mud therapies, can also be enjoyed on the beach, in your villa or on the pier.
The Viceroy's distinction as a secluded and quixotic hideaway in a big-box resort locale makes it ideal for guests looking for some quiet time and relaxation. Rejuvenate your body with a morning yoga session or beachfront massage before spending the day napping and reading on the beach or in your hammock. If you prefer to not lift a finger during your stay, the staff will make that a reality. But, if you're looking for a lively Mexican getaway with mariachis, all–you–can–drink margaritas and late nights, follow the sound of drums down the beach to another resort or take a cab into Playa del Carmen.
Web Address: www.viceroyrivieramaya.com
Total Number of Rooms: 41
Published rates: $605 to $1905
Original review and small photos by Giannina Smith Bedford, updates and additional photos by Timothy Scott.