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Suite Secrets of the Riviera Maya

When Mexico reopened to visitors, Porthole Cruise immediately headed south and sampled two highly acclaimed resort properties.

It’s inconceivable how the vibe of two neighboring regions could be more disparate than the tequila-induced debauchery of Cancún and the upscale chic of the Riviera Maya. But there is little doubt that the prominence of Cancún as a highly marketed tourist destination has greatly contributed to the growth of its neighbor to the south. With ancient beach temples testament to the storied heritage of the indigenous Maya, as well as underground rivers and sacred cenotes that flow beneath the jungle floor, the Riviera Maya proves there are few destinations quite like this prime real estate lining the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. 

The fact that English is widely spoken, the U.S. dollar is more than welcome, and short flights are a convenience all contribute to the region’s appeal. While the area has no lack of hotels built on a grand scale, the dream scenario of intimate accommodations plays out with secret retreats of extravagance, sequestered away in the jungle-scape topography of the Riviera Maya.

NIZUC Resort and Spa

The award-winning NIZUC Resort and Spa is discreetly tucked away on a secluded peninsula. Technically just outside the doorstep of the Riviera Maya, it delivers on its promise of a sophisticated personal paradise, graced with ultra-luxe contemporary design tastefully juxtaposed with Maya influence. Basking in the brilliant sun of the Mexican Caribbean, this former presidential retreat throws shade at the mega-resorts that routinely infiltrate destination travelogues. 

NIZUC delivers on its promise of a sophisticated personal paradise, graced with ultra-luxe contemporary design tastefully juxtaposed with Maya influence.

Twenty-nine acres of lush tropical landscape hem in two private beaches and elegant infinity pools. The cinematic drama of sunset casts confirmation on why the resort has been named The Most Instagrammable Hotel in The World by Luxury Travel Advisor as well as been given the Five Diamond designation by AAA.

The marriage of deeply grained woods, indigenous limestone, and polished stone floors is celebrated in the swank design concept of its public areas, extravagant suites, and lavish private villas. Ocean-view junior suites feature spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto a beautiful terrace with private plunge pool. The private villas are palaces of pleasure, loaded with exclusive amenities and private pools ideal for those seeking secluded solace.

Six world-class restaurants overseen by renowned Executive Chef Sylvain Desbois cater to diverse and refined culinary whims far beyond the typical noshing on tacos and tamales. Ramona, the property’s signature dining venue, utilizes local spices and traditions to render a modernized version of regional cuisine. La Punta Grill and Lounge will satisfy the cravings of seafood and steak connoisseurs under a massive palapa roof by the pool. Savor the aromas and tastes of Asian fusion cuisine in the decadent setting of Indochine. And for Italian-influenced dishes, the popular Terra Nostra boasts plates of passion and a unique location overlooking the mangroves and canal. Enjoy classic ceviches, seafoods, and other trendy flavors of Peru in the casual surroundings of Ni, and begin each day with breakfast at Café de la Playa, where traditional breakfast fare is supplemented with Mexican-style chicken chilaquiles or breakfast quesadillas. A glance around these venues of gastronomic finesse confirms the inclination towards elegant dining opposed to all-inclusive buffet-style binging.

It might be a stretch to envision that a property set in the mangrove jungles of the Yucatán could boast a chic world-class spa, but the Nizuc Spa by ESPA evokes absolute bliss. A diverse menu of Maya-inspired therapies is offered to soothe the soul, but the NIZUC Thermal Experience is a game changer that steps off the treadmill of tradition. Traversing the circuit of showers, sauna, aromatic steam room, hydro massage pool, solarium, and heated loungers is a refresher course in total relaxation.

Categorizing NIZUK is difficult. Simply calling it a hotel borders on blasphemy; a “resort and spa” is too pragmatic. Utopia might just work best. 

Grand Hyatt Playa Del Carmen Resort

I distinctly recall my first impression of Playa Del Carmen from a visit back in 1983. Undeveloped, it was a back-to-basics, rough-on-the-edges Mexican fishing village of no consequence. Thirty-seven years later, it has become a shining jewel in the crown of the Riviera Maya.

Gone are the fishing shacks that once littered the waterfront’s white sand beaches, replaced by glamorous hotels and resorts. The masterminds of marketing here have introduced major brands in hospitality, while international retail staples populate the kinetic shopping district of Fifth Avenue. It can no longer be referred to as quaint, but in spite of the commercial growth that comes with touristic success, it maintains enduring magical pizazz. 

As a general rule, I tend to eschew architectural design that infringes on endemic charm and culture. But when done in tune with class and sensitivity to local institutions, it’s a different story. So goes my new love affair with the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort. This property is a masterstroke of design and flair, grand and spectacular in every detail, and tastefully complementing the city’s newly acquired upscale aesthetic.

Grand Hyatt Playa Del Carmen Resort’s atmosphere is strikingly less formal than Hyatt tradition might suggest, with an all-out assault of resort bells and whistles that encourage a fun-in-the-sun ambiance.

With the waves of the Mexican Caribbean caressing the beach, the hotel is conveniently positioned just a short stroll from the animation of the city center. The contemporary open-air entrance is nothing short of architectural genius, with the greenery of lush landscaping embracing an ultra-modern design. All eyes are magnetically attracted to the chic pool deck, with the inviting hue of the infinity pools spilling effortlessly into the sea’s tapestry of deep blues and turquoise. 

But it’s not only looks that make the property excel on all accounts. The essentials of Hyatt’s professionalism in hospitality are eminent in every regard. Genuine, well-trained staff are at your beck and call, available to suggest activities or arrange reservations for intrepid adventure. The ecological park Xcaret is conveniently just down the road, and golfers can arrange for world-class golf at Playacar. For a truly unique activity, exploring the sacred Cenote Chaak Tun is a must. 

À la carte dining is available in a trio of venues — La Cocina Restaurant & Terrace, The Grill at 1-26, and Sushi “n” Raw Seafood Bar — with an optional inclusive dining package available for purchase. Accommodation categories range from rooms with a garden view, some with swim-up pools, and elegant suites that overlook the ocean and the pool deck. The Grand Club category includes amenities such as private lounge with complimentary snacks and house beverages. 

It is rare to find a property that can offer adjacent access to city-center action and yet maintain secluded-beach-resort character. The atmosphere is strikingly less formal than Hyatt tradition might suggest, with a barrage of resort bells and whistles that encourage a fun-in-the-sun ambiance. Certainly not your parent’s Hyatt, this is a premium slice of paradise that stands out in contrast to the spring break reputation of Cancún.

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This is an excerpt from the latest issue of Porthole Cruise Magazine. To continue reading, click above for a digital or print subscription.

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