Grand Velas Riviera Maya Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

  • Gorgeous all-inclusive property on a white-sand, 1,000-foot-long beach
  • Luxurious suites with butler service and top-notch amenities
  • One of the best spas in the world
  • Three stunning pool complexes with bar service
  • Eight restaurants serving outstanding food
  • Separate kid-friendly and adults-only buildings
  • Great fitness centers with personal trainers
  • Free non-motorized water sports
  • Eco-friendly practices

Cons

  • Fee for Wi-Fi
  • Few on-site nightlife options open after midnight

Bottom Line

The Grand Velas -- set on over 80 acres of mangroves that meet a postcard-perfect beach of white sand and turquoise waters -- is one of Riviera Maya’s most sophisticated properties. It features 491 top-notch suites spread out in three different buildings (two family-friendly, one adults-only), all with their own stunning pool complexes, gyms, and restaurants. The property is so huge guests will need to take a three-minute shuttle ride from the farthest building to the beach, but the hotel’s spotless service, outstanding food, luxurious spa, and wonderful amenities make it a great pick for discerning (and well-heeled) travelers.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

A top-notch all-inclusive with a luxurious spa, multiple dining options, and high-end suites

The Grand Velas is one of the top three hotels in Riviera Maya, a region known for its luxury resorts and gorgeous beaches. It is set on 86 acres of beachfront mangroves outside Playa del Carmen -- but the jungle is so thick and the path to the main road so long that the resort feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of more touristy areas in Playa del Carmen, located just a short drive away.

The resort is comprised of three separate areas -- Zen, Ambassador, and Grand Class -- all hidden away amid the lush grounds. The Zen section is the first one off the road (but that means it’s still a two-minute drive from the main entrance), and has a hushed vibe despite being family-friendly, with dimly lit pathways covered with palapa roofs, a stylish pool complex with low music playing in the background, and the hotel’s top-notch spa. It’s the least luxurious of the three sections, but here that only means rooms are a tad smaller (1,100 square feet) and overlook the jungle instead of the sea.

Down the road, right on the beach, are the Ambassador and Grand Class sections. The Ambassador is home to the largest pool complex and to several restaurants, both casual and formal. It’s busier than the Zen building because of its proximity to the beach, but the hotel’s stretch of sand is 1,000 feet long, the pool is huge, and the room count is relatively low (491 suites spread out in three buildings), so the resort does not necessarily feel crowded.

Unlike the Ambassador and Zen sections, the Grand Class is adults-only. It’s the most luxurious of all buildings, with three restaurants, a beautiful infinity pool, and private plunge pools in every room. The 90 huge suites also feature contemporary Mexican artwork, large terraces, and stunning bathrooms with dark wood sliding doors.

 Location

On a beautiful beach outside Playa del Carmen

The Grand Velas is located on a gorgeous white-sand beach off the Cancun - Chetumal road that runs along the Riviera Maya coast. There is nothing within walking distance aside from a handful of resorts, but a 15-minute cab ride gets you to dining, shopping, and nightlife in Playa del Carmen.

It used to be the home of the ancient Mayans, and after that a small fishing village, but now Playa del Carmen -- or "Playa," as the locals call it -- is full of exciting nightclubs, popular restaurants, cute boutiques, and resort hotels that sit on lovely white-sand beaches. Because many of the businesses are European-run, the rest of the town retains a hint of European flair. The main tourist thoroughfare of Playa is the cobblestone-lined, pedestrian street Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), but there are plenty of fun outdoor activities for visitors, too, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and sailing. The offshore reef is part of the second largest reef system in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

  • 40-minute drive to Cancun International Airport
  • 15-minute drive to Playa del Carmen
  • 20-minute drive to Xcaret Eco Theme Park
  • 25-minute drive to Puerto Morelos
  • 40-minute drive to Xel-Ha
  • 50-minute drive to Tulum ruins
  • 2-hour-40-minute drive to Chichen Itza ruins

 Rooms

Beautiful rooms with terraces, luxurious bathrooms, and high-end amenities

The Grand Vela’s 491 suites are housed in three separate buildings (Zen, Ambassador and Grand Class), each with its own characteristics and decor. The Zen section is the only one in the jungle and does not offer ocean views. It houses the hotel’s convention center and the spa, but it’s the least transited of the three buildings, and the vibe here is hushed and romantic. While families are welcome at the Zen and Ambassador buildings -- both featuring kids’ clubs and plenty of connecting rooms -- kids under 12 are not allowed in the Grand Class section. In-room amenities are comparable in all buildings, and all rooms have terraces, but the largest and most luxurious units can be found in the Grand Class building.

  • Large flat-screen TVs with pay-per-view movies
  • DVD players
  • iPod docks
  • Fee for Wi-Fi
  • Spacious bathrooms (huge in Grand Class suites) with separate shower and large jetted tubs with peek-a-boo shutters
  • Nespresso coffeemakers with free coffee and tea
  • Furnished terraces or patios (some with private plunge pools); all Grand Class suites have plunge pools
  • L’Occitane toiletries
  • Pillow menu
  • Fee for Wi-Fi
  • Sitting area with at least a couch and a table
  • Work desk with comfy chair
  • Free minibar items and snacks (restocked daily)
  • Personal butler shared with a maximum of 10 other rooms; private butlers in Governor and Presidential Suites.
  • Connecting and smoking rooms available

 Beach

A pristine beach with bar service and free non-motorized water sports

The hotel is right on a gorgeous white-sand beach a few minutes north of Playa del Carmen. It features tons of loungers, several cabanas, and bar service from early in the morning until sunset. There are also two restaurants a few feet from the sand, and a couple of poolside bars for those who want to sit at a table instead. The beach has been awarded the Clean Beaches certification of the Environment and Natural Resources department of Mexico.

 Pool

Three stunning pool complexes, two of them with ocean views

The Grand Velas has three separate pool complexes, all absolutely stunning. Probably the most striking fact about the pools is that they’re made with marble brought from Thailand, which gives them the color of the Caribbean seabed; they truly look like an extension of the sea. There’s bar service at all three pool complexes, and unobtrusive music plays in the background. The most relaxing pool might be the one found in the Zen area, but the Ambassador’s is the largest, and the Grand Class’ is the only one that's adults-only. Guests can access all three pools, not just the one in their section of the resort.

  • The Ambassador and Grand Class pools have ocean views, but Zen is surrounded by the jungle.
  • Swim-up bars in all three pools

 Fitness Center

Two well-equipped fitness centers

The hotel features two fitness centers: one in the Ambassador building and the other one in the Zen section. They’re both well-equipped with a wide array of cardio and strength-training machines and feature personal trainers. Pilates, yoga and meditation classes are available.

  • Free bottled water
  • Free use of towels

 Spa

One of the top spas in the world

The hotel’s 89,000-square-foot spa is one of the world’s top wellness centers and a member of the Leading Spas of the World. It features 40 treatment rooms -- including some for couples, and some with private whirlpools -- as well as relaxation areas, a meditation room, a beauty salon with services for brides, and a hydrotherapy circuit. Service here is top-notch, with a dedicated spa concierge, welcome drinks, and tea service after each treatment.

  • The salon offers fish manicures and pedicures, as well as a wide array of hair services and facials
  • Traditional Mexican, Maya and Indian treatments available
  • All treatment cabins have natural light.
  • Two bridal suites, each with a deep jetted tub, a massage bed, large mirrors and a salon area for hair and nail services.

 Family

Very family-friendly, with many connecting rooms, two kids’ clubs, and activities for children and teens

The Grand Velas is a very family-friendly hotel. It features two kids’ clubs with daily activities, a shallow pool area at the Ambassador section, and many connecting rooms. Note that children under 12 are not allowed to stay in the Grand Class section, but families are welcome in the Zen and Ambassador buildings.

  • Kid-friendly menus at most restaurants
  • Wide array of fun activities for kids and teens, including beach Olympics, movies, Wiis, treasure hunts, crafts, and painting
  • Two kids’ clubs: one at the Zen building and one in the Ambassador section
  • Connecting rooms available in all buildings
  • Free non-motorized water sports
  • Babysitting services for a fee
  • 24-hour room service

 Food

Eight restaurants serving outstanding food in stylish spaces

The hotel features eight restaurants, all included in the all-inclusive rate. There are casual poolside spots for a light bite and fine dining restaurants with a stricter dress code, but all serve outstanding food, including Mexican, pan-Asian, French, Italian and molecular cuisine. Reservations are required at all restaurants except for Azul and Chaka.

  • Piaf serves French cuisine for dinner in a sexy space with red and black velvet decor. Guests must be at least 12 years old.
  • Sen Lin is the hotel’s Asian restaurant and features outdoor seating; open for dinner only; family-friendly
  • Frida opens for dinner only and serves fine Mexican food in a family-friendly atmosphere.
  • Cocina de Autor is the hotel’s star restaurant, serving molecular cuisine by renowned Spanish chefs Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso in a sleek all-white space with just a few tables. Open for dinner only; the menu changes daily.
  • Lucca offers an Italian menu for dinner.
  • Azul is a casual spot open for all three meals for buffet-style and a la carte dining. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, both with ocean views.
  • Bistro is an adults-only French restaurant located in the Grand Class section of the hotel. It is open for all three meals and offers ocean and pool views.
  • Chaka is a casual seasonal restaurant located near the pool at the Zen section. It offers an international menu for breakfast and lunch.
  • 24-hour room service available

 Drinks

Eight bars, including a karaoke spot and swim-up bars at all pools

  • Sky Bar is located in the adults-only Grand Class building and features DJ sessions and ocean views. It is open during the dinner service only.
  • There are three swim-up bars located in the three pools; each is called Aqua Bar. They open after breakfast and close before dinner.
  • Sen Lin Bar is located at the pan-Asian restaurant, in the Zen section of the hotel. Open for dinner only; outdoor seating available.
  • The Karaoke Bar features a long list of songs and is the hotel’s only bar open past midnight.
  • Two piano bars -- one off the Ambassador lobby, and the other one off the Zen lobby

 All-Inclusive

Butler service, gourmet dining, and non-motorized water sports -- but there’s a fee for Wi-Fi

All-inclusive rates include:

  • Gourmet dining for all three meals
  • 24-hour butler service for all rooms
  • Bar service at all pools and the beach
  • Daily restocking of the minibar, including the snacks
  • Kids’ club
  • Yoga, Pilates and meditation classes
  • Access to all fitness facilities
  • Non-motorized water sports
  • All daily entertainment and activities
  • Valet parking
  • All taxes and tips

 Services

Top-notch services include butlers and babysitters

  • 24-hour room service
  • 24-hour butler shared with a maximum of 10 other suites
  • Bar service at all pools and the beach
  • Personal trainers available
  • Nightly turndown service
  • Fee for Wi-Fi
  • 24-hour shuttle service between buildings within the property
  • Convention center located in the Zen section
  • Laundry and dry cleaning for a fee
  • Crafts workshops for a fee
  • Babysitting services
  • Private airport transportation in a luxury van for a fee
  • Pets under 25 pounds allowed for a daily fee
  • Staffed business center for a fee

 Eco-Friendly

Reverse-osmosis desalting plants, a water treatment plant, and a waste reduction program, among other green initiatives

  • The hotel works with eco-conscious local suppliers.
  • On-site co-generation electric plants
  • Two reverse-osmosis desalting plants that reuse 60 percent of the water used
  • Water treatment plant that filters soapy water and reuses it for watering the gardens
  • Eco-friendly air-conditioning system
  • Beach debris removal
  • Comprehensive recycling program
  • Use of biodegradable cleaning products
  • The hotel abides by the ethical codes outlined by the World Tourism Organization.
  • The resort takes part in the Federal Seat Turtle Conservation Program.
  • Reforestation efforts to protect local fauna and flora
  • Restaurants use locally sourced ingredients.

 Bottom Line

The Grand Velas -- set on over 80 acres of mangroves that meet a postcard-perfect beach of white sand and turquoise waters -- is one of Riviera Maya’s most sophisticated properties. It features 491 top-notch suites spread out in three different buildings (two family-friendly, one adults-only), all with their own stunning pool complexes, gyms, and restaurants. The property is so huge guests will need to take a three-minute shuttle ride from the farthest building to the beach, but the hotel’s spotless service, outstanding food, luxurious spa, and wonderful amenities make it a great pick for discerning (and well-heeled) travelers.

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 491
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Spa: Yes
Internet: Yes
Pets Allowed: Yes
Cribs: Yes
Kids Club: Yes
Jacuzzi: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
Address: Carr. Cancún-Tulum km. 62, Playa del Carmen, ROO, 77710, MX
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