If there’s such a thing as a crisp-looking resort, this would be it. The Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort in the Riviera Maya is new, shiny, Zen-like; its luxury component does not deter from its carefree mood. Just 10 minutes away from Playa del Carmen, the latest venture from Velas Resorts and their award-winning ways, has brought “jaunty” to a higher level.
There’s all-inclusive, and then there’s Grand All Inclusive, which is a bit different than most simple souls are used to. Take the dining experience, for instance. The signature Cocina de Autor has star chefs Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso, owners of the much-lauded Biko in Mexico City, preparing “Nuevo Basque”-Mexican Fusion cuisine unlike any other. There’s a tasting menu, expertly paired with wine, that seems to have no end, with dishes such as sardines with papaya and orange caviar and cherry meringue with brined hogfish snapper, and decor that matches the modern sizzle of the dishes…with live guitar music setting the mood.
Another favorite is Piaf, whose French chef Michel Mustiere brings the best of his native country and adds his own twist on delectable souffles and chateaubriand. There’s Frida for Mexican (with its own “Margarita Trolley”), Sen Lin for Asian, but you can also have a bite at Grand Velas without having to dress up or make reservations. There are several, more casual restaurants available throughout the day and into the night that serve everything from perfectly grilled burgers to organic salads—and there are also snack bars and 24-hour suite service. All meals are part of the all-inclusive package.
Grand Velas is made up of three main buildings: Master, Ambassador and Grand Class. Ambassador has been the most popular so far, given that it is family-friendly and has ocean views; the Master building, meanwhile, is safely ensconced in a jungle-like setting of mangroves and wildflowers (the resort has plenty of passenger vehicles that help guests get from one place to another).
The Grand Class section is for adults 19 and over only—yay!—with an infinity pool and a swim-up bar that looks out to the ocean and a friendly bartender more than willing to test his skills on your thirst.
And ah, the suites at Grand Class. You can do a somersault and still have space for a back flip, if you’re so inclined, once you walk in. There’s a huge bed and cloud-like pillows to sink into; a big-screen TV is set up so you can turn it toward the bed or the sitting area without missing a thing. The bathroom is gigantic, with spacious showers and a big jacuzzi and dual sinks with European-style handles. Walk-in closets are what you wish you had at home, and the balconies—especially those on the ground floor—are huge, opening up onto the Mexican Caribbean’s famous beauty.
spa-la-la The $15 million spa at Grand Velas is the heart of the resort and a hedonist’s Shangri-la; it is very difficult to leave it behind. It’s also huge—89,000 sq. ft. in all, 40,000 alone of which forms the water lounge. Inspired by the landscape and cenotes of the Yucatan, the spa’s designers incorporated natural details from the region into its design; inside there is a plant-filled courtyard and a living rock wall with vegetation, flowers and even a small stream.
The focal point of the spa is the water lounge, which provides healing facilities along its Water Journey in separate men and women’s sides. Each has hot-and-cold Experience Showers, steam rooms with a fiber optic “star light” ceiling and even Ice Rooms. There is also a central pool with fantastic massaging faucets that feel amazing on your back and shoulders, sensory pebble footpaths, water bubble beds. Somewhere around you is a silent spa valet that will guide you through the entire process without being intrusive.
There are no less than 40 treatment rooms, including one with a small pool for Jansu water treatments and another for couples. The spa menu consists of seven journeys, such as Travels Through India, Mediterranean Voyage and Nature’s Aromatherapy Trail, and is filled with customized treatments created exclusively for this resort. Let’s say you want a Journey Through Native Mexico: you can choose from a Xocol-Ha Wrap and Coffee Scrub that combines natural coffee extracts to purify the skin and a chocolate wrap to renew skin cells. Or you can sign up for an Aztec Herbal Massage, in which native tradition inspires an herbs-based poultice that helps eliminate toxins and alleviate sore muscles. Tell clients to spend some time studying the spa menu, as each treatment is more delicious than the next.