Just off the highway that runs along the Caribbean coast from Cancun to Chetumal, you’ll find a blissfully peaceful, sprawling resort set in the lush Mayan jungle, and it feels miles from anywhere. Yet, Vidanta Riviera Maya is only a 30-minute drive from the airport and 20 minutes from the cosmopolitan town of Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, a hotspot for families thanks to its coveted beaches and endless attractions from ancient Mayan ruins to natural marvels and ecological theme parks.
The resort’s eco-chic design is a mix of contemporary style and traditional Mayan influences, apparent in the numerous, lofty thatched palapas. The absence of manicured gardens makes a refreshing change and the only noise you can hear is that of nature that surrounds you, including the raucous Chachalacas.
Friendly staff warmly greets guests with their hand on their heart – a Vidanta tradition, which means ‘from the heart’ and makes you feel at right at home. Key cards come in the form of swim-proof wristbands that are attached around your wrist at check-in – no more lost key cards. This is genius!
There are five hotels on this 1,000-acre property, each with a different vibe and catering to different budgets. Charming wooden walkways through tropical flora and fauna connect each one to the impressive facilities, which include three main pools, 15 restaurants and bars, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, two spas and a high-end boutique where you’ll find a café and fabulous gourmet deli. When little legs are tired, you can hop on a golf cart, which will transport you to wherever you wish to go around the resort.
There is an overflow of activities on offer day and night, all run by Vidanta’s Joy Squad, and each hotel has its own program so you don’t have to go far. There’s something for adults, kids and families, whether you feel like taking a Spanish class, learning how to make guacamole or playing beach games – great if you have teens. Golf is also very popular and the course is stunning.
There’s plenty of nightly entertainment too so book a sitter and do a wine tasting, tequila tasting or perhaps a mixology class.
One of the highlights has to be Joya, Vidanta Riviera Maya’s resident Cirque de Soleil show and the only one in Latin America. It tells the story of Mexico’s rich culture and history, and is a magical theatrical and culinary experience for all the family. Book the VIP package and you get a back stage tour and three-course dinner with champagne.
You can hang out at The Beach Club, exclusively for Grand Luxxe and Grand Bliss guests. Reserve one of their spacious cabanas, which feel like VIP hideaways with loungers, sofas and little extras such as sunscreen and Evian spray that arrives in a bowl of ice. When you feel like being pampered, go for a massage at Spatium or enjoy a relaxing 20-minute session in their salt cabin, great for a variety of skin conditions and said to be equivalent to three days swimming in the sea!
While its easy to get caught up with everything the resort has to offer, make time to explore outside the property – the spectacular cenotes (natural sinkholes), ecological theme parks such as Xel-Ha and Xcaret for older kids, or the beachy hangout of Tulum and its ancient Mayan ruins.
While there’s no actual kids club (the original one was closed down last year), there’s plenty to keep kids of all ages entertained, including active teens. The Joy Squad runs a special activity program for five to eight year olds each day from 10am to 4pm by the main pool. And in the evenings, they can ditch their parents to go to weekly pajama parties, pirate nights and beach camp outs. A new and improved kids club is coming in 2018.
The resort is also a haven for wildlife and has a flamingo and a crocodile sanctuary, as well as a turtle sanctuary where kids can help release little hatchlings into the sea. What kid won’t enjoy spotting huge iguanas and cute, furry coatis that wander around?
The AAA Five Diamond Grand Luxxe is Vidanta Riviera Maya’s top hotel. It certainly felt exclusive and has its own private pool steps from the stunning and deserted beach. If you’re looking to splurge, it is hard to beat.
We stayed in a spacious Master Room, which comes with a separate living area, huge bathroom with a family-size shower and freestanding whirlpool bathtub, and private balcony. Suites are vast and some have their own plunge pool and kitchens. The new Loft Suites are particularly impressive and are available in larger room configurations, ideal if you are traveling with friends or extended family. Interiors are kitted out in a contemporary style with high ceilings, dark wood and teak furnishings, over-sized beds and cool marble floors.
Grand Luxxe has a sophisticated, upscale vibe, which is perhaps not suited to all. Some families might prefer being nearer the main pool, which is ideal for tiny tots as there is a sandy area and shallow entry. Grand Mayan and Grand Bliss are also popular with families.
With 12 restaurants on the property, you’ll never get bored of the food. Cuisine ranges from Spanish tapas to pan Asian the menus are surprisingly innovative, thanks to Corporate Chef Alexis Bostelmann who is at the helm. There are decent kids’ menus too. More casual, family-friendly options include Havana Moon, which serves up Caribbean cuisine and poolside The Burger Custom Made – a big hit with kids. When you fancy a night off, book a sitter and head to Blue Fish, an upscale cevicheria or French restaurant, Azur.
NOTE: Vidanta Riviera Maya is a membership resort but you can book direct at certain times of the year.