Viceroy Riviera Maya
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
Tropical Luxury, $$$ (from $448)
Welcome to the jungle, we've got fun and games.
And white sand beaches, turquoise waters, palm trees galore, hammocks by your plunge pool, Mayan spa treatments, and nearby archaeological ruins in lush, secluded, tropical rainforest surroundings.
Ready to get on a plane down Mexico way and check into Viceroy Riviera Maya?
When the Viceroy Hotel group took over The Tides hotel, it joined the ranks of such luxury hotel groups as Rosewood, Andaz, and Banyan Tree, in planting a flag along this stretch of Riviera Maya where the jungle meets the beach. And it has done so to great effect: Viceroy Riviera Maya was name #1 Resort Hotel in Mexico in Travel + Leisure's 2018 World's Best Awards.
The mood of the hotel is set at the entrance: Guests enter though a vast, thatched-roof palapa, walking down paths that wind through lush greenery, past the spa, along the villas, and out into the central hub where the restaurants, pool, and common areas overlook the beach.
It's easy to understand why this part of the Yucatan peninsula has become a vacation playground: The area is an easy drive 35 minutes south of Cancun’s well-connected international airport, with surroundings rich in archaeological Mayan sites and ruins, as well as such natural wonders as cenotes and underwater caves and rivers. The locals are lovely, the food is terrific, the water is calm, the weather is perfect. What more do you need in a quick escape?
Fathom is where travelers get inspired. Read more about Mexico:
- How to Cruise the Yucatan Peninsula
- Check out the Fathom guides to Riviera Maya — Tulum — Mexico City
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At a Glance
The Vibe: A luxurious beach resort along the Riviera Maya where the jungle meets the Caribbean Sea.
Standout Detail: The setting, hands down. This jungle-beach thing does wonders for the soul.
This Place Is Perfect For: Couples looking for a beach escape that has just enough sizzle to keep the trip lively. Ease of access to, and frequent flights from, Cancun International Airport make this part of Mexico especially appealing to visitors from the east coast of the United States.
Rooms: There are 41 villas in seven categories, with jungle or Caribbean views. In order of price/amenities, they include seventeen Luxury Villas, seven Royal Villas, five Signature Villas, five Premium Villas, four Ocean View Villas, and two Beachfront Villas. Each is designed to make the most of indoor/outdoor living, with a plunge pool, outdoor shower, hammock, and indoor and outdoor seating areas. The more expensive villas have Nespresso machines and butler service. Techie amenities include WiFi, Bose stereos, satellite cable TV, and a movie library. The bathrooms are spacious, with big tubs and full-sized ROIL and Natura Bisse bath products. (Use the outdoor shower!) he Mayan-inspired decor emphasizes natural elements — stone, woods, and plants — with accent textiles (pillows and blankets) in mellow blues and greens. Many of the roofs throughout the resort are palapa-style, as is appropriate for this part of the world. And, yes, that's a spider monkey you're in a staring contest with. Remember, he's the local and you're the visitor. Also, he's friendly.
On Site: Viceroy Riviera Maya occupies six acres of coast and surrounding land. The beach is furnished with loungers and covered day beds; the Lagoon Pool looks out onto the sea. Waterside activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, kitesurfing, and fishing. Golf and horseback riding are also available. The hotel can make arrangements for all. The spa offers treatments inspired by ancient Mayan practices and therapies that incorporate mud, herbs, and steam, though the one to do is the traditional Mayan Temazcal sweat lodge. (Purge that tequila!) The gym has new machines and equipment and offers classes like yoga and Pilates. The resort has spaces for weddings, and would be a much nicer location for your corporate event than a Vegas conference room. Because the hotel is not as isolated as some other resorts along the Riviera Maya, guests can easily wander along the beach to neighboring hotels and restaurants (bet you don't, though). Feeling restless to wander? Europcar rental is nearby.
Food + Drink: Mexican cuisine is the focus at the fine-dining restaurant La Marea, while the more casual, alfresco Coral Grill adds a Mediterranean twist to local dishes. Every Tuesday is Antojeira night at Coral Grill, with a menu inspired by traditional street food of Mexico City, Oaxaca, Vera Cruz. Drinks are available at the Library Lounge, and a Dine Anytime, Anywhere option offers food on demand.
What to Do Nearby
Tulum, an hour's drive south, continues to attract loyalists, though on my last visit, I found the once-relaxing hippie community to be overrun in fringe-and-feather bohos and unchecked overdevelopment. (I couldn't leave fast enough, but your mileage may vary.) You can visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone, which dates back to 900 A.D., without entering Tulum's main drag.
The other nearby archaeological and natures sites are Xcaret, Xel-Há, Coba, Chichen-Itza, and Akumal. Be warned that some of these can feel like crowded amusement parks. The best thing I did was visit underground river and cenotes at Kantun-Chí eco park, guided by 4 Worlds Expeditions, who provided transportation to and from the park. I didn't know anything about it beforehand, and was all the more delighted for it.