Beyond the Mainstream Riviera Maya All-Inclusive Resorts

Brian Hurley, Vice President & General Manager– Vacation Travel Division at Fox World Travel has traveled to the Cancun/Riviera Maya region approximately 40 times and every one of those visits but one involved a stay at an all-inclusive resort. This visit was different, with two of the three stays in his five-night visit at European Plan resorts (EPs), which are all rated among the top resorts in the Cancun/Riviera Maya area.

For full disclosure purposes, he was attending a meeting for Signature Travel Network that was hosted by luxury tour operator, Island Destinations (ID). Brian stayed in three resorts during this trip, which are discussed in detail below.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba
Brian’s first and only night stay at Mayakoba was at the Banyan Tree, an enchanting resort that some might mistake for being in Bali or some other Polynesian island. This resort is perfect for honeymoons, anniversaries or romantic getaways, since each of the 116 villas is private. This resort also does an incredible amount of destination weddings and some incentive groups.

While he was prepared for outstanding accommodations, Brian said that his villa exceeded his expectations and that it was one of the most magnificent rooms that he ever had been fortunate enough to stay in. Like most frequent travelers, he researched the resorts before his stay and was delighted with what he saw.

Brian’s villa had two separate living areas, one including a large bedroom, bar area and bathroom with two sinks, walk-in closet, glass encased rain shower with open visibility to the outside and an outdoor bath tub. If you’re a little modest while showering, there is a blind available to “cover up,” but remember that every villa is completely private. The other living area could be described as an entertainment area with big screen TV, stereo, table with four chairs for dining, large couch, stocked refrigerator and more.

With a key card, the bellman unlocked the door to reveal a private courtyard and fairly large 12’ by 30’ private pool. There was a jacuzzi tub, two comfortable lawn chairs and a separate lower seating area with table and chairs for four. Who needs to go anywhere else!

The Banyan Tree Mayakoba has four restaurants, three bars and 24-hour in-villa dining for its guests. The chef introduced each course and it’s preparation during lunchtime.  Lunch concluded with their choice of desserts by the recently named top pastry chef in Mexico. Later, the beach-themed dinner was hands down the tastiest Brian ever experienced with an abundance of salmon, fresh fish, shrimp and steak.

The grounds were impeccable with lush foliage and a wide array of flowers. Mayakoba preserved most of the land’s natural jungles, flora and fauna unlike most other all-inclusive developments. Cenotes and a river system are located throughout the resort. If you want to explore them, transfers by boat are available from the lobby that focus on the spotting wildlife around the resort.

Mayakoba’s El Cameleon golf course, designed by Greg Norman, opened in 2004, and the luxurious Rosewood Mayakoba opened in 2007 followed by the Banyan Tree Mayakoba in March of 2009.

Brian’s interest in Mayakoba is heightened each November when the PGA tour stops for its one and only visit to Mexico for the OHL Mayakoba Golf Classic at the El Cameleon Golf Club. The view of the ocean, crystal clear cenotes, alligators and other assorted wildlife makes this tournament unlike any other.

Finally being able to experience the El Cameleon course for himself, Brian says it was in impeccable shape. This fair yet challenging course is Brian’s new favorite course in Mexico. Caddies are available if needed.

One last bit of gossip… they found out but didn’t see an artist by the name of Justin B. (hint, hint) who was staying at this resort at the same time.


Grand Velas Riviera Maya
After passing through one of the most impressive entrances anyone could experience, Brian arrived at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

This resort is split into three areas- Zen, Grand and Ambassador. The resort offers 539 spacious suites with oceanfront, ocean view and jungle terraces, (some with private plunge pools in the Grand section), whirlpool bathtubs, complimentary Wi-Fi and 24-hour room service.

The Ambassador and Grand sections are located on the beach. Zen is located about a 5 minute shuttle from the beach in lush tropical jungle. The spa, restaurants, night club and two gorgeous pools are also in this section.

The has eight restaurants featuring gourmet cuisine and nine bars. His Mexican themed lunch at “Frigo” was as impressive as the meals at Banyan Tree the previous day.

Of note to those who enjoy wine but are frustrated with the “quality” of the included wine selection at most all-inclusives, the Grand Velas offers almost 50 worldwide wines as part of the all-inclusive package with recognizable names brands. If you’d like to sample some wines with your meals or at the bars, they are happy to accommodate. In short, unless you really have a discriminating taste and limitless budget, you may not feel the need to purchase wine during your stay.

The Grand Velas also features conference facilities to hold up to 5,000 guests and is one of the most popular meeting and incentive resort in the Riviera Maya. For families, there is a creative selection of kid’s club activities to enrich their experience.


Nizuc Resort & Spa
Nizuc Resort & Spa has developed a well-founded reputation as a popular resort favored by the entertainment industry due to the outstanding service, outrageously deluxe rooms, personalized service, top notch food and beverage and access to Cancun nightlife. The resort is located in Cancun roughly 10 minutes from the Cancun airport. There are two adult only infinity edge pools with unobstructed views of the ocean (muy bueno) and three family/kids pools.nizuc-bedroom

There are four towers with five stories each holding 38 hotel rooms at about 1,000 square ft.  Overall, there are 274 suites and 29 villas, children under 12 are free in parents’ suite or villa.  This resort is very different than what you’d find in the Riviera Maya in that it has more of an urban feel. Each room has a separate bathroom, rain shower, large tub and separate his/hers sinks.

The living area and king bed face out to the green and blues hues of the Caribbean and sand beach. Each room has its own balcony and private plunge pool. The ocean view from the fourth floor where Brian was staying was amazing. The living area had the latest in high tech gadgetry with numerous USB port outlets, Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speakers, large screen TV, a refrigerator stocked with a wide variety of soft drinks, beer and wine.

Guests of Nizuc are allowed a spa treatment in the 30,000 square-foot oceanfront spa. The treatment facilities are outstanding and while reservations are suggested, Nizuc will accept guest walk-in business if they are not at full occupancy.

As with the Banyan Tree and Grand Velas, the food and beverage was top shelf. Buffets offered excellent international and healthy food options. There are six world class restaurants, four bars, a fitness center, and two floodlit tennis courts. There is also a kids club, butler and concierge service, non-motorized water sports and complimentary Wi-Fi. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to see a celebrity. Brian saw Tommy Lee, the drummer for Motley Crue lounging poolside!

For those of you that are looking for an outstanding dining, service, accommodation and resort experience, you can’t go wrong with any of these three resorts. Before you leave, make sure you understand that the Banyan Tree and Nizuc are not all-inclusive and can be quite pricey; however, everything is relative to how you value your vacation stays, service levels and culinary experiences.

Would Brian go back?  “Yes, in a heartbeat! And my personal favorite would lead me back to the resort with the private villa and fabulous golf course.” Brian recommends all of these fine beach resorts for Fox World Travel clients. Contact one of our agents today if you are interested in one of these fabulous resorts in Riviera Maya and Cancun!