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Visiting Mexico’s Riviera Maya

Written by  Rita Cook

LATIN Mexico
When you visit Mexico, there are a few things you will always be certain to find. One is plenty of sunshine, and two, plenty of choices in places to visit and stay once you get there. While each destination in Mexico has a unique feel, the Riviera Maya area, along with Playa del Carmen, have a friendly atmosphere with much to offer travelers. When flying into the Cancun Airport, the drive to the Riviera Maya area takes about an hour. Once you have arrived, you will find the ocean lined with white sand beaches, but there is jungle there too, a fact that is often lost on tourists until they arrive and see it for themselves.

All Inclusive and More
The Grand Velas ( in Mexico’s lush Riviera Maya is set just far enough outside of Cancun to boast a more relaxed feel, but won’t fall short when guests are looking for nearby activities and attractions. Ancient Mayan ruins, snorkeling, taking an ATV in the jungle are all time well spent, and staying at this resort will allow you do as much or as little as you choose.
For travelers interested in an all-inclusive atmosphere that boasts good meals and a diversity of landscape, the AAA Five Diamond Resort Grand Velas might offer just the right vibe. Guests have the choice of three different settings for their room, from the adult’s only ocean front area to the family friendly location, or there is a tropical setting that you can indulge in as well.
Food is usually one of the things first and foremost on a traveler’s mind. At some all-inclusive resorts, the meals are not as high-end as a traveler might find if they went out on the town. At Grand Velas, there are eight restaurants with a variety of cuisines from local, to Asian, to European - all on property. While I was there I experienced the Asian-inspired Sen Lin Restaurant & Bar featuring cuisine from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. The Chef, Isaac Esparza, offers dishes that include soft shell crab marinated in roasted garlic, Angus beef, or scallops with rice noodles, to name a few menu options.
Frida is the Mexican restaurant option and it’s easy to get into the mood with a signature margarita. Choices include the rousing Cadillac version of the drink, to flavored margaritas - try the coconut. Chef Ricardo De la Vega rules over this kitchen and the dining area offers indoor or outdoor seating with lovely ocean views.
Francophiles will love Piaf, the French restaurant option with Swarovski crystal curtains and a romantic setting reminiscent of Paris in the 1940s. The restaurant is named after singer Edith Piaf and the chef here is Michel Mustiere - French, of course. He serves up foie gras, escargot and even soufflés. Mustiere is also one of only seven chefs in Mexico to be given the title Master Chef of France.
Cocina de Autor is exactly as it sounds - Spanish. The chefs here are Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso, both from Spain and both enjoying top honors in Mexico with delicious cuisine. The chefs also co-own a restaurant in Mexico City called Biko and they have brought their tasty Spanish Basque flavors to this part of Mexico for tourists to thoroughly enjoy.
For a more boutique and personalized experience, head to Playa del Carmen and check into the Thompson Playa Del Carmen ( The beachfront property is located on the famous La Quinta Avenida, which is Playa’s two-mile pedestrian only shopping and dining district.
Actually, Thompson Playa Del Carmen has two locations. So, in addition to the Beach House location with 27 rooms right on the beach, you could also opt for the 92-room location on 5th Avenue, just a few blocks away, and situated right in the buzz of all that is happening in Playa del Carmen. Both locations have pools, beach bars, private cabanas and very personalized service.
The 5th Avenue location is where you will want to find yourself in the evenings since the rooftop is 30,000 square-feet of fun, including an infinity pool, the restaurant CATCH, made famous from its New York sister property and of course, stunning views of the ocean.
While in Riviera Maya you can take tours that last anywhere from two hours to a full day.Visit the local Mayans, Tulum, or find the perfect place for cliff jumping, canoeing, and even discovering local caves that were once considered very sacred to the Mayan people.
A trip to Mexico’s Riviera Maya can be all about relaxing on the beach, but visitors should take some time to uncover the culture of the towns or spend some time shopping in Playa del Carmen. Guests will definitely find the perfect combination of fun, sun and adventure.

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