A Mexican beach vacation is all about the water: snorkeling in the ocean, finding a favorite corner of the pool complex, or maybe even cooling off in your room's private pool. Swimming up to the hotel's in-pool bar -- a literal watering hole, where the dress code consists of your bathing suit, sunglasses, and some waterproof sunscreen -- is a fun perk of a resort stay, especially when the wine, beer, cocktails, and frozen drinks are covered under the hotel's all-inclusive plan. But please, indulge with caution. Keep an eye on your drinks as they're being made, pace yourself, never leave your drink unattended, and stay hydrated with plenty of water.
The 265-room Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit sets the bar for what all luxury all-inclusive beach resorts should be. The all-around impressive resort encircles a massive, three-tiered infinity pool overlooking the beach. Despite the pool having a 12-seat swim-up bar and a large deck where attentive pool waiters keep an eye out for food and drink orders, the vibe is peaceful. During the winter months, the lower tier (where the bar is located) and the upper section are heated. The pool bumps up against the pretty, miles-long beach, which is great for long walks, snorkeling, and boogie boarding.
Set on 86 acres of beachfront mangroves, the Grand Velas is one of the most sophisticated properties in Riviera Maya. The hotel has three stunning pool complexes (the largest, in the Ambassador section, is pictured above), all with swim-up bar service and unobtrusive music playing in the background. The pools are striking in part due to the fact that all were built with marble imported from Thailand. The marble gives them the appearance of the Caribbean’s ocean floor — they truly look like an extension of the sea. Two of the pools, the Ambassador and the adults-only Grand Class, have ocean views, and the Zen pool is surrounded by jungle.
With pampering service, immaculate rooms, and chic design, the adults-only Le Blanc is the best and most luxurious all-inclusive resort in Cancun. Though it’s in the heart of the Hotel Zone, Le Blanc’s vibe is relaxing and quiet. This is the sort of place where couples wallow in the spa pools or listen to low-key live music at the bar — it’s not the place for booze-fueled debauchery by the swim-up bar, though there are two. Both swim-up spots, like all of the on-site bars, serve drinks made with premium alcohol, like Grey Goose vodka, Don Julio tequila, and Tanqueray gin. The partially underwater bars are set in Le Blanc’s main beachfront infinity pool — there’s also a smaller (and bar-less) infinity pool with spectacular views on a third-floor terrace — and lagoon-side activity pool, site of aqua spinning, water aerobics, and water polo. Attendants will also provide iced bottled water, cool towels, and free afternoon treats, like popsicles or ceviche.
Like Le Blanc, Grand Residences Riviera Cancun is not a place for spring breakers. It’s not even the place for those looking for beach volleyball games and pool aerobics — or any other trait of the typical all-inclusive scene. The hotel offers an all-inclusive package, but most of its guests are happy self-catering in their luxe suites and spending their days lazily lounging by the pool.
Ginormous pools include a two-tiered beach-facing main pool, with a lower section for families and an upper one, with an infinity edge and a large swim-up bar for adults. A seemingly endless number of lounge chairs and beach umbrellas surround the pools, and throughout the day, hotel attendants eagerly hand out cold towels, ice pops, fresh fruit, and sunscreen. Even at maximum occupancy, all pools remain fairly calm and quiet, partially due to the many private in-room plunge pools, which prevent the main pool areas from getting overly crowded.
Anyone familiar with the Excellence brand knows that their all-inclusives are some of the best adults-only resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean. The company’s two Mexico locations — in Playa Mujeres (about a 20-minute drive north of Cancun) and Puerto Morelos (about a 40-minute drive south of Cancun) — deliver on brand expectations in all respects, from the white-sand beaches and upscale spas to the many, many food and drink options, including sunken bars in beautiful pools.
The adults-only side of the larger Hard Rock Hotel complex, Heaven is a sophisticated resort that caters to both partiers and quiet-seekers. The Hard Rock is on the Puerto Aventuras coast, an area known for its sandy beaches, blue cenotes, rocky points, and beautiful sunrise views over the ocean. Snorkeling is a major high point, but the hotel beach itself is man-made and kind of a letdown. That being the case, Heaven’s pool complex is vast and elaborate, with bridges, waterfalls, and palm trees enhancing the ambience. The big oceanfront main pool is where you’ll find the large swim-up bar (some top-shelf liquor is included), whirlpool, and animation team leading activities, such as the popular and, at times, rowdy foam party.
Serene vibes can be hard to come by in a mid-sized all-inclusive resort, but Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya nails a romantic and relaxed tone for the most part. Its pool areas are the exception, especially the beachfront infinity pool and its half-submerged Manatees bar during peak daytime hours. (Guests not in the pools are usually wading or snorkeling in the bay.) Besides Manatees, there are six on-land bars where guests can order draft beer, house wine, and drinks mixed with international and domestic spirits. Into the bargain is the hotel’s Sip, Savor & See program, which allows guests to dine at all other area Secrets, Breathless, Dreams, Now, and Sunscape properties, though transportation is not included.
Surrounded by the sea on three sides, this massive resort from the Hyatt brand stands out as one of the best all-inclusive resorts in the Hotel Zone. (Le Blanc arguably exceeds it, but that option is for adults only, making Ziva the best bet for parents with kids in tow.) The property, formerly Dreams Cancun, reopened as a Hyatt following a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2016. The hotel’s gorgeous white-sand beaches might make the best options for sun loafing, but there are also three infinity-edge pools — the main one with a large shaded pool bar with both terrace and swim-up sections. The swim-up bar is one of seven on-site bars and lounges, all of which serve unlimited beer, wine, and cocktails, like the smoky-sweet Mosquito (mezcal, tamarindo, lime juice, and sugar). Top-shelf liquor is included in the rates.
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