Off the Beaten Path in the Yucatan

Grand Velas Riviera Maya has perfected the luxury experience for groups.

A weekend in Riviera Maya seemed like the perfect antidote to a New York City winter that has been much colder than usual — in fact, a snowstorm back home stranded me in Mexico for an extra night during my press trip to Grand Velas Riviera Maya, on the Caribbean coast. After a short drive from Cancun International Airport, I arrived at the property, a 491-suite resort set on 205 acres of white-sand beach and jungle that has 91,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including a 32,614-square-foot convention center that can accommodate up to 2,700 guests.

I checked into my corner suite and headed straight out to the terrace, where I enjoyed a nearly panoramic view of the beach and surrounding jungle, until it was time to meet up with fellow journalists at Frida, the resort’s gourmet Mexican restaurant. I ordered shrimp with smoked-corn butter and fried plantains, and tried the restaurant’s signature deep-fried cheese with puréed black beans.

The next morning I headed to the spa for Grand Velas’s seven-step hydrotherapy treatment, followed by a blissful, 50-minute, head-to-toe therapeutic massage in one of the spa’s private suites. After a quick lunch, I met up with the rest of the group for a “Top Chef”–style contest. We sampled small plates from four of the resort’s chefs to determine which one had made the best sauce. The winner, announced the next day, was Frida’s Ricardo de la Vega.

Next on the agenda was a performance of “JOYÀ,” a permanent Cirque du Soleil show that opened late last year in Riviera Maya. We drank champagne while clowns and acrobats took the stage for the next hour and a half. Afterward, we headed back to Grand Velas for a beyond-decadent meal at Piaf, the resort’s French restaurant.

This rather dissolute evening was followed by a rigorous ATV ride through the jungle at NATiVes Park the next day. After a long, dusty journey, we cooled off in a cenote, one of the area’s many natural swimming holes, where a few brave souls let garra rufa, also known as “doctor fish,” nibble at the dead skin on their feet.

Our last hurrah as a group was at Grand Velas’ Cocina de Autor, the only all-inclusive restaurant in the world to win the AAA Five-Diamond award. The Basque-influenced tasting menu did not disappoint.

The next day I arrived at the airport only to learn that my flight home had been canceled. Happily, Grand Velas was able to accommodate me for another night. I stayed in one of the resort’s Zen suites, which are housed in the deep jungle adjacent to the convention center, and tucked in with a sandwich from the complimentary suite-service menu before returning to the airport bright and early for my flight home. Back to the snow, and back to reality.

Kate Mulcrone

Kate Mulcrone is digital editor of Convene.