Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Secluded and serene luxury resort set in tropical jungle gardens
Tucked away at the end of a long scrub-lined road, the Viceroy Riviera Maya has wonderfully serene reception set under a tall palm-frond palapa scented with the heady aroma of burning copal incense. New arrivals are swiftly greeted with cool flannels and refreshing drink; after a smooth desk-free check-in, they are invited to take part in a brief cleansing ritual (performed by a local Mayan shaman). They are then guided over a wooden bridge to charming pathways that meander through dense tropical vegetation, past trickling waterfalls, and to their private secluded villa. Deeper into the jungle grounds -- thick with colorful flowers, tropical palms, and chirruping birdsong -- the path opens up to a pristine pool terrace and landscaped garden, and beyond the picture-perfect white powder sands and crystal turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
Set on relatively isolated stretch of beach a 15-minute drive from Playa del Carmen resort center
The resort is located in the small village of Playa Xcalacoco, about a mile and half down a turn-off from the Tulum-Cancun highway. The popular resort town of Playa del Carmen is about seven miles away, or a 15-minute drive, while Cancun International Airport is 45 minutes away by car. Despite the illusion of seclusion, the Viceroy Riviera Maya is flanked on both sides by larger and less-refined hotels which can sometimes be a source of unwelcome noise. Though guests can stroll the gorgeous beach, there's nothing really in the way of bars or restaurants within walking distance beyond those at hotel, so taxis would be required for guests wanting to dine outside the resort. Those interested in visiting the ancient Mayan ruins can, however, arrange day trips to the stunning cliff-top setting of Tulum (about an hour away) or the iconic Chichén Itzá (two hours by car).
Gorgeous and spacious rustic-luxe villas awash with extravagant touches
Each of the resort's 41 villas is a private dwelling comprising a reception area, lofty thatched-roof bedroom, roomy bathroom, and a garden with large kidney-shaped plunge pool, woven Mayan hammock, and rainfall "moon shower." The decor is Maya-inspired rustic-luxe finished in natural materials such as louvered-mahogany doors and sisal rugs, while enormous partially canopied beds are topped in fine Egyptian linen and plush down pillows. The Mayordomo (butler) service also provides the villa with such treats as hand-cut artisan soap and super-romantic turndown service on your last night (think rose petals, flickering lanterns, and mood-setting incense).
Details such as the ability to choose the temperature of the plunge pool, the abundant provision of huge fluffy towels, and Italian linen bathrobes also raise the luxury level way beyond the norm. Its jungle-setting, however, also requires the provision of mosquito repellent, and items left outside are in danger of being damaged (or eaten) by resident spider monkeys. Most gardens are secluded and surrounded by jungle vegetation, though gardens of the ocean-view and beachfront villas, while benefiting from sea views (and more sunlight), lack the privacy of those set further into the grounds. Other gripes: Minibar items are very expensive -- even by luxury hotel standards -- and the capsules for espresso machines aren't free of charge.
Attractive pool area with attensive butler service and sea views
Although the hotel only has one swimming pool, it's more than enough for a resort that, even at full occupancy, never feels crowded. The pool is elegantly organic in form and surrounded by landscaped terraces lined with palm trees and tropical plants, as well as a small patch of beach with daybeds -- all with views of the Caribbean sea. Numerous wicker baskets dot the pool area stuffed with either beach towels or sun hats -- in both his and hers styles -- while ever-attentive butlers stand poolside with cooling face towels and drinks menus. The swimming pool water is also maintained at a perfect 80 degrees Fahrenheit while a separate whirlpool area provides underwater massage jets.
Exceptionally good breakfast, but limited room service menu
The Viceroy's main restaurant is the Coral Grill which serves an exceptionally good breakfast menu of cooked-to-order dishes and a range of healthy options. The open-air restaurant also serves a range of "antojitos" (Mexican tapas) and homemade pizzas from the wood-fired throughout the day, while evening dining includes locally fished seafood and grilled steaks. While the quality of the food is generally excellent, meals can be expensive and no other restaurants are within walking distance.
La Marea restaurant is open in the evenings and serves essentially the same contemporary Mexican dinner menu but in more elegant candlelit surrounds. Culinary events also include weekly tequila and ceviche tasting, grill classes, and Friday night beach barbecues. The hotel also offers 24-hour room service, though the options are limited and delivery is not particularly swift.
Lovely stretch of powder-white sand beach with private pier -- though rocky sea entry
While not necessarily the most spectacular example of its kind on the Mayan Riviera, the beach at the Viceroy is nonetheless a lovely stretch of white-powder sand married with those stunning turquoise Caribbean waters. Entry into the sea is quite rocky in places, though the hotel provides water shoes and there's also a private pier that guests can use to drop into the water beyond the rocks. Beach loungers are particularly comfy -- with palm-frond shelters providing shade -- and attentive and friendly staff are always on hand to take a drink order.
Range of Mayan ritual-infused treatments available in jungle surrounds
The hotel's serene jungle spa is housed in a large, circular palm-roofed hut with segregated men's and women's sides, each with a whirlpool tub, stone-built eucalyptus steam bath, and selection of showers (sensual, rainfall, and ice water). Lockers provide robes, massage slippers, and all-natural toiletry kits while massages and beauty therapies can be taken in a jungle setting or a private treatment room. There's far more than the usual menu of spa services on offer and an emphasis on traditional Mayan treatments, often involving ancient rituals for couples (Mayan wedding ceremonies can even be arranged).
Away from the main spa area, guests can also take part in an intensive steam bath ceremony in the hotel's own Temazcal -- an ancient Mesoamerican domed sweat lodge -- which is said to cleanse both the body and the spirit (though it's not an experience recommended for the claustrophobic). Yoga classes also take place each morning on the pier and there's a well-equipped gym tucked away in the hotel's gardens.
The Viceroy Riviera Maya is a seriously upscale resort nestled in a lush rainforest setting 15 minutes' drive from the Playa del Carmen town center. Chic, rustic villas are awash with deluxe touches, and private patios feature heated plunge pools and alfresco "moon showers." Although rocky in places, the beach has white-powder sand and turquoise waters; it makes an attractive backdrop to the serene pool area and sea-facing restaurants. While families with kids should look elsewhere (children under 14 are not allowed) couples looking for a secluded, romantic retreat -- who aren't afraid of splashing the cash -- will be sure to find it here.