Falling in love with a hotel is like falling in love with a person—it can take a while, or it can happen at once. The Viceroy Riviera Maya had me at the check-in, which takes place in an open-air thatched-roof lobby that reminded me of the South Pacific as much as it felt like Mexico.
Immediately after greeting, they take you by the spa for a special blessing, done with aromatic resin from the Copal tree, prized by the Mayan culture. It’s a wonderful way to shake off the outside world for your stay, and maybe book a treatment at the same time. Massages take place in rustic thatch rooms with unique touches like these gorgeous tubs, hewn of from local trees.
The hotel is set among acres of jungle that lead down to the ocean. Narrow paths cut through the trees, branching off to 41 individual villas along the way. The villas are all equally gorgeous, with lots of perks. Each bedroom with king-size platform bed opens to private patio with it’s own kidney-shaped plunge pool, deep enough that you can actually soak and splash in them. Adjacent hammocks and chaise lounges give lounging options, and the outdoor shower is perfect for post-pool rinse off.
I also loved the oversized bathroom, with deep soaking tub and a spacious outdoor shower surrounded by high foliage for true privacy. Also sweet: bath amenities from chic Neil George, and the soap concierge, who cuts off a thick slice of handmade soap of your choosing. (I opted for the rose, but it was a close toss-up with the Mayan cocoa. )
The heart of the resort is the beach, where a perfectly curved infinity pool and generous Jacuzzi pool sits surrounded by chaise lounges but straw baskets containing towels and sun hats, if you forgot yours at home. On the sand, double loungers with thatched awnings give shady spots to watch the waves. When you want to go in, take a pair of reef shoes from the basket (the sea bottom is rocky close in) or walk out into the pier and enter from there for swimming.
Food is exceptional, the best I had in my week-long stay in Mexico. There’s fine dining at second-story La Marea, but I spent all of my time at the beachfront Coral Grille.
A wedding planner friend had raved to me about the paella (she always requests it for welcome dinners) so the chef made it special for me, plump with jumbo shrimp, scallops and chorizo. They have a wood-fired oven for breads and grilled fish, and tasting opportunities from ceviche to tequila–or better yet, both!
Small wonder that Viceroy is popular for high-end destination weddings. The small size makes it perfect for buyout of 84 people, and overflow guests can stay at the funky Petit Lafitte next door.