I have just returned from experiencing four nights at the brand new Andaz in Mayakoba with my husband and 9 year old son. The hotel is brand spankin’ new having opened just before Christmas 2016. As a result everything is shiny and new and they seemed to have ironed out any startup bugs. Similar to the other Mayakoba properties (Banyan Tree, Rosewood, etc), the property is very spread out as the main area of the resort (including most of the rooms) are separated from the beach area by about a ½ mile of mangrove and lagoon areas. So beware a golf cart shuttle is needed to get between the beach and the main area of the hotel.There are two large pools. One located at the beach (Beach Pool) and the other located at the main area of the hotel which has very comfortable day beds and lounge chairs with the gym, spa, kids club, gift shop and main restaurant immediately beside you. The Beach pool area at the Andaz is the largest among all of the hotels within the Mayakoba and offers two restaurants with the beach literally steps away. The beach at the Andaz is very nice. White sand and clear blue waters.The rooms are spacious and minimalistic and decorated in a tasteful industrial feel. The bathroom area is large with great showers and double sinks and stocked with high quality robes, towels and toiletries. I believe all rooms have an outdoor balcony or seating area with a table and a couple chairs. Rooms that are called Lagoon rooms are located in the main area of the resort and the rooms that are called Beachside or Beachfront are located very near the Beach area of the resort. The hotel has rooms and suites in various sizes located Beachfront which is very hard to find these days. I also thought these rooms offered good value. I did tour all of the rooms so if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.The property had 4 restaurants. Breakfasts at the main restaurant was superb, and the ceviche and more formal Latin American restaurant (Amate) were definitely worth a visit. In addition to the on property restaurants within the Mayakoba complex you have some great dinning options at the Rosewood and Banyan Tree Hotels which you can walk to via the beach or the property will provide you with complimentary shuttle services that are very prompt and take roughly 10 minutes. The town of Playa del Carmen is also nearby (15 minutes) which offers tons of dinning options. Food is tasty and the service at all of the restaurants is first rate.The spa facility is very nice and certainly can compete with all five star hotels. Given its proximity to the pool and gym it is a great way to finish a day in the sun or to relax after a workout. The Spa was simple but very nice and provided all the bells and whistles you need to unwind from your unwinding. Similarly the gym was small but new and well provisioned with cardio equipment and exercise machines.The resort put out a weekly bulletin highlighting the on property activities. We did not take full advantage of the offerings but fitness classes, yoga, nature tours, cooking classes and a number of kids activities offered opportunity to get off your beach chair and engaged in an activity should you choose. I chose the beach chair.My 9-year-old son spent a lot of time at the KIMBO kids club. Given it’s proximity to the large pool he would come and go from the kids club as he chose. If your child is too young to allow come and go privileges the kids club is a mere 30-second walk from the main pool, however if you were wanting to be at the beach, the KIMBO Kids Club location it is not as convenient. KIMBO kept my son busy with nature tours, eco boat tours, visits to the beach to build sand castles, crafts, some sports and had at least one kids movie night while we were there….giving us a chance for an adult only dinner.On the logistical front, the resort is roughly a 40-minute drive from the Cancun airport and roughly 15 minute to Playa del Carmen. The area has a ton of activities for kids and adults so a quick Google search should show you the plethora of things to do in the area.Great resort with a very reasonable price point that I would recommend to families, couples and groups.
I finally decided to it was time to check out the Grand Velas Riveria Nayarit for myself. After multiple trips to the Riveria Maya location I figured it was time to head a bit further west.Upon arriving in Puerto Vallarta, the hotel is an easy 20 minutes’ drive from the airport. At check in we were greeted with a refreshing fruit drink and a short head and shoulders massage (which I was very happy to oblige). From there it was all relaxation and the wallet never came out once as the property is an all inclusive.I have to start by saying that the service on every front (maids, butler, waiters, pool attendants and everyone else) was almost flawless. Even at busy times around the pool or restaurant drinks and food came well presented and in a timely manner. The staff could not have been more friendly and accommodating, and we were there during a notoriously busy week (Presidents Week) with tons of families. Coming from NYC it is hard to be wowed by the culinary offerings and I would not say that the food was AMAZING however nor were we disappointed with any of the meals. In fact I would rank the breakfasts a 9, lunches a 9 if you stayed with salads and fish tacos (7.5 if you did the buffet entrees) and dinners were an 8. There are three A La Carte Dinner restaurants (which require advance reservations) and a common restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner which serves both buffet and al a carte. The included wines were very surprisingly drinkable and the selection of beer and liquor would be unlikely to disappoint anyone.There are approximately 280 rooms which are situated in a horseshoe shape around the 3 pools that all blend together. The property faces due west so the sunsets over the Pacific were spectacular, particularly with a margarita in hand. The pool was busy and we had to wake up a tad early to secure the best pool loungers. There was a lot going on for the kids around the pool and unlike some all-inclusive I have been they did not pipe techno music, or any music for that matter, which was a relief.It was relatively tranquil, save the kids running around. If you wanted tranquility the beach was very under crowded and always had beach chairs available. The ocean had a sandy bottom, the water was shallow and there was a constant gentle surf rolling in for playing in some very light waves or for kids to boogey board. There was a variety of toys and entertainment provided for the kids as well.Speaking of kid’s entertainment, the TEEN club is a very legitimate Kid Cave. Our son is only 9 years old however kids as young as 5 were there with adults, and our son was allowed to attend un-chaperoned for hours at a time (which he was thrilled over and so was I). The teen club had a pool table, ping pong, air hockey and the list goes on. The club never seemed too congested. The Kids club (for young kids) is pretty standard but well stocked and well staffed. Additionally, both the Kids and Teen club were only a few steps from the pool so checking in on the youngsters was never an inconvenience. Also, the kids club is open until 11PM so feeding the kids at 6:00 and checking them in to the club (or having the kids club take them to dinner) so that my husband and I could have a quiet adult dinner is easy, costless and guilt free since they are certainly having a better time at the kids club than sitting up straight in a restaurant listening to their parents discussing politics.In summary, this is a great place for a family get away. If you are a couple I might suggest the Grand Velas in Riveria Maya as they have an amazing adult only section which this property did not have. The weather on the west coast of Mexico is very reliable. The kids get pretty much everything they want and you don’t give up much to keep them happy.
Tulum is a small beach resort area located about 1.5 hours south of Cancun Airport. The resort area has a very relaxed, bohemian feel to it. Small boutique hotels, shops and restaurants are side by side along a small few mile stretch of road that runs the length of a beautiful soft white sand beach. I would recommend Tulum for the traveler seeking a very relaxed low key environment where you can find many hotel rooms right on the sand. This is not a destination for the traveler seeking a high end luxury experience with 5 star service.During my visit to Tulum I toured one of the newest properties in the area called Sanara. The property is comprised of 17 rooms, a small spa, yoga studio and an organic restaurant all in a beachfront setting. While only a couple of the rooms have full ocean views they are all a few footsteps to toes in the sand and steps to the beachfront daybeds. The rooms are simple (think Santorini) with cool concrete floors, large day beds, modern and newly designed bathrooms with exceptional linens. The ceilings are high and vaulted and the lower level rooms have small outdoor space with furniture and large oversized soaking bathtubs. The spa is small but had a fairly extensive menu and was very zen like. In addition, the spa hosted some nice outdoor lounging space for pre and post therapy hang out. The beachfront restaurant has a modern eco décor and the organic menu included locally grown ingredients.Sanara is for the couple or family looking for not much to do other than chill out and relax. You won’t see many Gucci loafers in Tulum and you could easily spend a week without buttoning a shirt or tying a shoelace. Flip flops, t-shirts and shorts seemed to be the local attire. No fashion police on patrol in Tulum however there are a plethora of small restaurants and bars along the perfect white sandy beach to keep you entertained at night.