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Grand Velas Riviera Maya: Destination Recharge

Grand Velas Riviera Maya: Destination Recharge

Less than an hour after navigating the throngs of tourist “greeters” at Cancun International Airport, my wife and I are enjoying a champagne cocktail and a reception of a more genuine and welcoming nature at Riviera Maya’s Grand Velas. We arranged for private transport upon arrival, were met with an extra cozy oversized SUV, and efficiently whisked southward along the Yucatan coast. Immediately, the travel stress began to melt away.

It isn’t long after crossing into the more than 80-acre protected mangroves and lush tropical jungle environs of the five-star Grand Velas Riviera Maya before we’re under the spell of what a true sanctuary of renewal can do for our mind, body, and soul. There’s a recognition amongst the staff here that guests – albeit from widely different backgrounds and walks of life – all hold a common desire: A holiday experience where the burdens of the everyday life are dispatched.  Their only agenda is to be overtaken by joy found in the wonders of Mexico’s finest accommodations, cuisine, libations, spa therapies, eco-touring, beachfront, and above all else, service.

We chose the Oceanfront Grand Class Suites, a 1,377 sq. ft. beachfront suite with balcony and plunge pool. Each of the accommodations at the property are suites – 539 in total – and with floor plans covering 1,100 sq. ft. or more, they’re larger (and more luxe) than most Manhattan apartments.

Kayaking is one of the many water sports guests can engage in at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Photo: Grand Velas Riviera Maya

While all suites are situated among the expansive grounds of the property, the Grand Velas suites, beach, pool, and restaurants are adults only.  Ambassador suites, pool, and restaurants are family-friendly, as are the Zen Grand suites, a jungle locale away from the beach yet delivering a serene, nature focused experience. Those familiar with the Netflix romance reality show, Love is Blind, may recognize the setting at Zen Grand as the popular show was filmed here for seasons 1 and 5.

“Welcome home,” says Melissa, our personal concierge. “Let us spoil you a bit while you’re here.” She’s off to a good start as upon request, she’s swapped out our mini fridge with our requested beverages. Could someone shine my shoes before dinner? Of course, they can. Fresh fruit delivered each morning with extra coffee – no problem. Small details add up to big comforts during our stay – and “Yes, of course,” is a refrain we hear consistently.

A late lunch at the beach facing Bistro restaurant is the first of many treats from the chefs at GV. There’s  a level of culinary attention here that represents the gold-standard for all-inclusive resorts. The a casual elegance at Bistro leans heavily on the bounty of the sea, with strong assists from readily available tropical produce and a deft hand with light sauces and clean preparation techniques allowing for dishes here to sing.

Chef teases our palate with several starters we combine to craft our own mid-day tasting menu. Black shrimp and tripe aguachile positively sings as a ceviche-styled introduction and is served with cucumber curls, purple onion and, onion gel. The fresh shrimp get their dark coloring from squid ink that imparts an earthy undertone. Next, we find the seafood casserole in Chardonnay reduction and pomodoro sauce is really a Mexican version of bouillabaisse. Tiny clams, langostino, grouper and shrimp dance in the garlicky reduction. Last up is a handmade tagliatelle with grilled chicken in a creamy pesto and sun-dried tomato sauce. Sublime.

While one of the most casual eateries at GV, Bistro quickly becomes our favorite. Their Mexican breakfast selections are stellar. Daily, we feast on the chilaquiles with tangy salsa verde, breakfast quesadillas, pan dulce, and dynamite smoothies.

There are no less than eight restaurants in the collection here at GV catering to a wide variety of tastes and easily accommodating dietary needs. Standouts for evening dining include Frida, a true Mexican Cuccina that celebrates the rich cannon of Yucatan regional cooking and beyond, Chaka, with its Mediterranean and international approach to grilled meats, seafood, and pasta, and the unquestionable star, Cocina De Autor, where a creative gastronomy tour of 8 to 10 small dishes take diners on a sensory tour of one of Mexico’s most heralded kitchens.

Frida is one of 8 signature restaurants at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Photo: Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Frida is one of 8 signature restaurants at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Photo: Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Black Bean Cappuccino at Frida. Photo: Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Black Bean Cappuccino at Frida. Photo: Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

We go for the optional wine pairings at our dinner here and are not disappointed. Our favorite is a special mead, a honey-based wine from Cocina De Autor’s chef, Nahum Velasco’s personal collection. We especially enjoyed the pairing with a honey-based ice-cream as we’d enjoyed a honey tasting earlier in the day with chef, an amateur beekeeper and eco-advocate for the tiny native pollinators.

Tequila & Mezcal: Libations of Mexican

One delightful way the culinary team introduces their guests to the wondrous, yet vastly underappreciated magical elixirs of the agave plant, is through thoughtfully curated tastings of Tequila and Mezcal.

We enjoyed especially enjoyed the tequila tasting where we learned the nuances behind various forms and styles. Our guide, one of the resort’s bartenders, extolled the virtues of tequila’s blanco (white), joven (young/gold), reposado (aged), and añejo (extra aged). There was even a cream-style tequila, (similar in viscosity and appearance to Irish crème) liquor that made for an intriguing after dinner drink.

A Mezcal tasting was arranged alongside handcrafted artisanal chocolates – food of the Gods in Mayan times – paired with always smoky, sometimes savory, and earthy mezcal, the distilled spirit similar to  tequila in a way that is akin to bourbon’s relationship to whisky.

A special water journey   

No siren call is more seductive than the personal SE Spa Water Ceremony – an hour-long guided relaxation and renewal water journey – at GV’s ultra-pampering spa.  The experience is featured on Forbes Travel Guide’s list of The World’s Most Luxurious Spas.

SE Spa at Grad Velas Riviera Maya is on Forbes Travel Guide’s list of The World’s Most Luxurious Spas. Photo; Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

SE Spa at Grad Velas Riviera Maya is on Forbes Travel Guide’s list of The World’s Most Luxurious Spas. Photo; Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

A bit of research prior to my experience led to high expectations just short of making me younger, thinner, and taller. Invigorated and recharged? Yes sir! And amazed to boot. The signature seven-step Water Ceremony is unlike anything I’d experienced and a highlight of my visit.

My spa valet led me first to a rain shower for a quick cleanse which was followed by a dry sauna to sweat out impurities in a cinnamon-scented, hardwood paneled room. Midway through my 10-minute schvitz, the valet appeared with an Agua fresca and greeted me again after escorting me to the mint-infused “ice room” – a polar chamber where my external body temp was quickly brought into check as I scrubbed my skin with crushed ice and sat – as long as I could – on chilled tiled benches.

SE Spa Treatment. Photo: Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

SE Spa Treatment. Photo: Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Next up an alternating warm/cold shower from all angles and a trip to an exfoliating chamber – a eucalyptus steam room with a starry lit ceiling, homemade citrus scrub, and hair conditioner. More showers, Agua fresca and finally an introduction to the giant spa pool where the rest of my experience is enjoyed.

Hot and cold plunge pools, stone floored, shin-high water filled walking paths, Jacuzzi jets, waterfalls, and everything save Disney’s Little Mermaid informed I was NOT in Kansas any longer. Each step is explained by my valet and I’m always under his watchful eye, ever-present, yet unobtrusive. It’s truly heaven and Zen inducing to be sure.

If that isn’t enough, I’m next on to a Nopales Spa treatment where the gentle scrub made from cactus blossoms is applied with heated Nopal paddles and I’m kneaded into pure bliss.

Grand Velas beach is calling, as is my novel, a late afternoon nap, and an in-room dinner on our balcony. Going home is far from my thoughts – I’m already there.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya hosts an ancient cenote on its property. Photo" Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya hosts an ancient cenote on its property. Photo” Grand Velas Riviera Maya.


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About The Author

Michael J. Solender

Michael J. Solender writes from and lives in his adopted hometown of Charlotte, N.C. You can reach him through his website: https://michaeljwrites.com/.

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