As the only family-friendly all-inclusive resort in the Mexican Caribbean to receive the AAA Five Diamond award, Grand Velas Riviera Maya offers guests an exceptional vacation experience. Although many aspects of the property are truly grand — from the impressive entrance to the vaulted lobby to the gourmet dining — Grand Velas manages to strike the perfect balance between luxury and family-friendly comfort.
The resort is divided into three distinct areas, which fosters an intimate ambiance. The Ambassador and Zen areas welcome families of all ages, while the Grand Class is reserved for couples and families with children over 12. The Ambassador has 195 large suites (1,200-plus square feet) with pool or ocean views. Choose from a king bed or two queens. Many of the rooms connect, giving families plenty of space and privacy. Families also will appreciate the well-stocked minibar and fridge, and the large closets for storage.
The Zen area is located inland, and the suites have lush jungle views. Palapa-covered walkways connecting the various buildings give you the feel of living in a treehouse. The air is filled with birdsong, and it’s not uncommon to encounter a large iguana sunning itself on a rock. The atmosphere is exotic, tranquil and secluded.
The extensive amenities at Grand Velas guarantee that there is something special for every member of the family to enjoy. There are two kids’ clubs at the resort, one in the Ambassador section and the other in Zen, available for 5- to 12-year-olds from 9a until 11p. The spaces are colorful, fun and well-designed with a caring and energetic staff. Want a special parents-only night out? The kids’ club team will take your children to dinner and keep them entertained for the evening.
If you’re traveling with an infant, the baby concierge can provide all the necessities to keep your little one happy; cribs, strollers, baby bathtubs, bottles and more. Grand Velas also can arrange for a certified nanny to care for children who are too young for the kids’ club.
Grand Velas also offers additional camps and activities during summer and winter vacations. Tucked away in the jungle, down a cobblestone path, is the parklike Zen Garden Nursery, where Grand Velas hosts its summer camp programs. Adventure activities include ziplines, extreme trampolines and a rock wall. Kids won’t even have to break from the fun for lunch; a pop-up cafe serves favorite carnival foods. We counted 23 unique summer camp activities, including science and cooking classes, animal encounters and themed parties.
The Teen’s Club offers a hip space for kids ages 12-18 to hang out and enjoy some independence in a safe and supervised environment. There are space-age cubicles with gaming systems, a small dance floor, karaoke and games. A bar area serves teen-friendly mocktails, soda and snacks.
Grownups will want to make time for an afternoon at the world-class Grand Velas Spa. Voted the best spa in the world in 2010, it continues to be one of the premier spas around the globe and is not to be missed. Built around a natural cenote, the design inspires tranquility and relaxation. Each treatment begins with a Water Journey, a memorable and unique experience that transitions through seven different stages, including an ice room, a clay room, and an infrared sauna. Some treatments, like the invigorating coffee exfoliating massage, include an ancient Mayan welcoming ceremony.
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The dinner options at Grand Velas are excellent, with sophisticated and inventive menus. The flavors of Asia, Italy, France, Spain and Mexico are represented in the five gourmet restaurants. Frida, Sen Lin, and Lucca are family-friendly and offer creative kids’ menus; Piaf, Bistro and Cocina de Autor welcome children 12 and older. Dinner venues require reservations and have dress codes.
Breakfast and lunch are available at the more casual Azul and Chaka. There are also five bars and three open-air snack bars available. We found the service to be attentive and friendly.
If you’d like to do more than relax on the pristine beach or lounge by the pool, Grand Velas has a wide variety of onsite activities. Each evening at turndown, guests receive a resort newsletter with the next day’s activities. You might choose to join games poolside, snorkel or let your star shine at the family-friendly karaoke lounge. There are exercise classes at the impressive fitness centers, including yoga, pilates, and salsa dancing.
Learn about the local flora and fauna while visiting the six cenotes located on the property during an ecological walking tour. A cenote is a natural sinkhole created by the collapse of limestone bedrock to expose freshwater pools below. We enjoyed an easy guided bike tour around the property one morning; complimentary bikes, helmets and an escort were provided.
If you decide to go off property, there are many nearby activities. Shopping and restaurants in Playa del Carmen are only 10 minutes away, as is eco-adventure park Xcaret . The travel office at Grand Velas can help you plan a variety of excursions. We enjoyed a day trip to the ruins at Ek Balam, Chichen Itza and swimming in Cenote Ik Kil.
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Editor’s Note: Ciao Bambino was hosted by Grand Velas Riviera Maya in order to review the property for families. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Denise Smith.
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