Below is a post submitted by our Director of Marketing, Lillian Aviles.
Mexico´s Riviera Maya is known for its sparkling crystalline waters flanked by powdery white sand beaches however, what makes this destination so special is its combination of sun and beach attractions with culture and cuisine that is unique in the world. And for families, the list of activities for children of all ages is endless and can range from visiting mysterious and awe-inspiring pre-hispanic archeological sites to exploring amazing feats of nature such as Cenotes (natural sinkholes exposing groundwater). After a recent stay in the area I have special family-friendly travel tips to share that will make your next trip to the region even more exceptional.
We split our stay between two family-friendly hotels; Grand Velas Riviera Maya and Hotel Esencia, both outstanding properties yet both very different in feel. Grand Velas is an all-inclusive resort composed of three different buildings that house accommodations geared for three different segments; families, adults and groups. The Ambassador portion of the resort offers beach view accommodations and is dedicated for families. The Zen area of the hotel offers jungle view accommodations and also allows for families and has interconnecting rooms that are ideal for multi generational travel and groups. Grand Class is adults only with a cosmopolitan style and approach. What sets Grand Velas apart from other all-inclusive resorts is its service and gourmet cuisine. From the welcome drink to welcome amenities in our Ambassador Suite, everything was taken care of with ease and smiles from their friendly staff. The baby concierge offered by the hotel made sure that we had a bottle sanitizer, crib and rocking chair setup in our room by the time we arrived which made traveling with our baby of less than two years of age a breeze. Our personal concierge filled us in about the daily activities available for our older son of 9 years, confirmed dinner appointments and setup a babysitter on the last night so that we could enjoy a “date night” at one of the hotel´s most coveted restaurants, Cocina de Autor, which is the only restaurant in an all-inclusive resort to receive the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award.
And this brings us the hotel´s cuisine….from the bountiful buffets of fresh seafood, fruit, salads, and artful pastries made in house to the stylishly served room service to the delectable cuisine served at restaurants Frida, Lucca and beyond, our culinary experience at Grand Velas exceeded our expectations. There is something available for every palate and attention to detail is paramount. We particularly loved our experience at Cocina de Autor which took us on a journey by way of eight small plates through dynamic flavors paired with select Mexican wines.
During the summer months, Grand Velas Riviera Maya offers summer camp activities from 1-5pm for children ages 4+ in addition to poolside and beach activities that include zip line, rock wall climbing, bungee jumping and closes each day with a fun-filled foam party. Back at the pool and beach children can relax and swim, kayak, participate in group activities such as karaoke and beach volley ball, or view one of the many lively shows that the property curates such as an authentic Brazilian capoeria dance. Not to be missed is Grand Velas´ award winning and expansive spa which offers a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy circuit with the purchase of any spa treatment of 50+ minutes. It´s an excellent venue to give parents of active children some well deserved TLC.
At Hotel Esencia, we enjoyed a jungle suite which is perfectly set amongst thick and verdant gardens offering privacy and the soothing sounds of what we called nature´s orchestra – birds, crickets, and leaves rustling in the wind. A boutique hotel half way between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, this property was once the private home of an Italian Duchess and has been renovated and transformed over the years into a luxurious hotel. With new ownership and management at the helm, Hotel Esencia is being carefully renovated; rooms are being repainted and restored with fine fixtures, state-of-the-art technology such as surround sound, mood lighting and flat screen TVs. The renovations are being made with a careful eye on design to ensure that the essence of this hotel remains unchanged and continues to offer understated luxury at every corner.Now more than even each and every detail is being considered, such as the hue of the color of white paint used in refurbished rooms. A renowned designer from Mexico City has been working as the hotel´s Creative Director and has designed and built sleek outdoor furniture exclusively for the hotel. Additional new furnishings are included in the main building of the property that mix perfectly with the owner´s private collection of vintage furniture, books and artwork. A new bar area has been created next to one of the main houses two outdoor pools offering an inviting area for guests to mingle and a wonderfully curated boutique with a handpicked selection of beachwear such as kaftans, sandals, sunglasses, jewelry and more has recently been launched.
What Esencia offers is a feeling of being at a luxuriant hideaway without pretentiousness.The relaxed feel and overall essence is focused on the nature that surrounds the hotel. Iguanas and coatimundis that live on the grounds are part of the Esencia family and can be seen throughout the day basking in the sun or scurrying about. The hotel´s organic spa, that creates its very own herbal blends of massage oils and essences, is built with Mayan inspired architecture and has no sharp edges, only curved spaces fostering a positive flow of energy. Specialized massages, such as the energetic massage that uses pulling techniques, are an excellent way to ease tension. Evenings at Hotel Esencia are magical as the outdoor dining area is lit by candles and with the wonderful selection of soulful music, and over the weekends live music, combined with the soft sounds of crashing waves nearby makes for a soothing atmosphere. The cuisine served is fresh and delicious and we found the vegetarian options, such as the chayote lasagna, roasted beet salad, and Esencia arugula salad to be extraordinarily fresh, light and scrumptious. Since the region boasts so many natural wonders we had to be selective about deciding what to explore considering the ages of our children.
Since our son is an avid swimmer we decided to wake up early to visit the Sea Turtle Sanctuary in Akumal and the aquatic adventure was well worth the early rise! Our snorkeling group comprised only of four people lead by a guide specialized in the conservation of marine life and particularly of sea turtles. After a briefing and suiting up we headed into the sea and saw all sorts of colorful fish, several sea turtles, coral reefs and squid. It was a perfect short adventure that allowed us to have the afternoon back at the hotel for relaxation and beach time.
On another day, since we had all toured cenotes previously we decided to visit Rio Secreto, an underwater river system that stretches along 35 kilometers of caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites. We also opted for a morning tour where in a small group escorted by a charming and enthusiastic guide, we delved down into an underworld of crystal clear lagoons and pools. We climbed through caves, viewed the incredible formations of limestone and crystal that took thousands of years to create and learned about the blind species of spiders, insects, fish and bats that live in this fantastic underground space.
Since we are passionate about theatrical arts we decided to spend an evening at Joya, Cirque de Soleil´s first permanent show in Latin America. The theater and grounds are extraordinary and take visitors on a voyage into a mystical space of legends. A walkway surrounded by a lagoon and two outdoor dining spaces are part of the complex and adjacent to the actual theater. When the sun starts to fall the lighting changes the atmosphere creating a whimsical scenery with large lanterns, fire and colored lights. Joya can be experienced with VIP lounge seating, dinner, a champagne package or just regular theater seating. For those who wish to dine during the show the cuisine is contemporary gourmet and incorporates themes and images from the performance in the meal. As with all Cirque de Soleil performances the acrobatic dancers, actors, singers, musicians and contortionist are amazing. Physical boundaries were pushed and with an elegant and fun presentation that kept us on our toes. Mexican symbolism and myth were intertwined within the program. One of my favorite parts of the performance was a flying acrobatic dancer that moved gracefully amongst floating orange butterflies symbolizing the voyage of the monarch butterflies between Canada and Mexico.
Although the above mentioned activities were important highlights from our trip something to keep in mind when traveling with little ones is to not overbook with activities and due to the climate of the area in the summer opt for early morning activities so that by mid-day when the temperature heats up you can be back at your hotel with a pool nearby or enjoying lunch at one of the many fantastic restaurants in the area. One of the best times we had as a family was building sandcastles, burying each other under mounds of sand and kayaking… a great way to disconnect and reconnect with your love ones and enjoy the simple things in life. Couple this with delectable cuisine and extraordinary service makes for a summer vacation to remember!
Many thanks to the entire team at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Hotel Esencia and to our fabulous ground partners for making this trip so wonderful. At the end of the day, it´s the people that really make hotels and experiences shine. Thanks to all the staff!
READY TO PLAN YOUR family vacation to Riviera Maya?
Riviera Maya Family Adventure – Ancient ruins, horseback riding, zip lining, snorkeling, and beach time is a great way to fit in culture, adventure, luxurious relaxation, and nature!
Yucatan Family Adventure – The Yucatan Family Adventure Tour is designed for families combining outdoor adventure and the rich history found in the Yucatan Peninsula and Mayan World.
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