As a world-class vacation destination, the Riviera Maya is home to a ragbag of all-inclusive hotels and resorts, each one offering amenities that target a specific type of audience. In many ways, that's a good thing as it gives us travelers a chance to pick and choose. But having too many choices can be a frustrating thing, as you know, and sometimes we need to boil it down to what kind of vacation we want to have.
On my recent trip there, I had the pleasure of staying at three equally impressive resorts that are also somewhat different in the type of travelers they would fit best with. Whether you like to party, want quiet luxury, or looking for kid-friendly activities, here are some of my recommendations.
For Those Who Can't Resist a Great Party - Gran Caribe Cancun
While not exactly in the Riviera Maya, the Cancun resort of Gran Caribe has it all--the stunning location right on the beach, fun adult-friendly activities at the pool, alcohol in the room, a lobby bar open until 2 am, and even beach parties. It's a great base for party lovers, and you need not even leave the resort to have fun and drink your socks off. But if you do feel the itch to sample the bustling city's party scene, Gran Caribe is also super close to the action.
Nurse your hangover by feasting on delicious hearty fares at one of the resort's restaurants, included in your all-inclusive stay, or taking it easy on one of the beautiful cabanas right on the beach, fruity drink in hand. If you'd rather stay in your suite, you can enjoy room service--each room has a special room service cabinet that can be accessed on both sides so you wouldn't even have to see anyone--and a stunning view of the beach whilst relaxing in your very own hammock (my favorite part) in your very own balcony. There's a 24-hour snack bar too, so you can enjoy a post-party grub--we all know how important that is--without spending extra.
Note: Gran Caribe also welcomes young guests, and in fact flaunts a fun little Pirate-themed water park, a Pirate-themed miniature golf, and a teen lounge. They even have a Family Junior Suite. Don't worry; while it's great for parties, it doesn't get at all rowdy, and the in-room liquor cabinets have locks.
For Unparalleled, Adults-Only Luxury - The Royal Playa del Carmen
The Royal Playa del Carmen has enjoyed an excellent reputation and many loyal guests that have been returning there for years. This comes as no surprise; the luxury, adults-only only property has a no holds barred policy when it comes to making sure that guests get the exact pampering they need. The Royal's delightful flourishes include an ocean-facing Olympic-sized pool, a quiet pool tucked away from the busy areas, in-room Jacuzzis, a pool butler, a proper coffee shop, elegant beds that feel like you're sleeping on a cloud, a lovely spa with its own temazcal, and many more; all mere steps away from that famous Playa del Carmen beach, the sparkling turquoise waters, and the city's shopping and dining strip, Quinta Avenida. And its marvelous, Hacienda-style architecture that also flaunts a modern flair only adds to its charm. While bathing guests in grandeur and indulgence, however, the resort does posses unaffected warmth that makes any guest feel welcome. So when you're getting back from one of your excursions, looking sweaty, dirty and a little haggard, you need not feel self-conscious.
The best part about this resort, however, is the fact that kids aren't allowed. I love kids, but sometimes it's nice to just relax by the pool without having to worry about getting splashed in the face or woken up by squealing kids.
For Families with Kids - Gran Porto Resort
Across the street from The Royal, also right there on the beach, is the Gran Porto Resort. This all-inclusive resort welcomes guests of all shapes and sizes, but it's especially great for families traveling with kids and teens. Among Gran Porto's amenities for the little humans are the Oki Kids Club, the T-Zone teen lounge, a playground, a couple of wading pools, a mini golf and kid-friendly activities like a performance show for the parents. There are board games and video games available for complimentary use as well. They even have a special check-in for the kids (one that comes with a fun welcome amenity) and Oki, the resort's very own mascot, greeting them when they arrive.
Just because Gran Porto has plenty of cool perks and amenities for kids, however, it doesn't mean there aren't any for moms and dads too--there's the lovely spa with a beautiful outdoor massage area right on the beach, cooking classes, and tequila tasting and pairing (have you tried paring tequila añejo with fried crickets?), among others. When it's time to spend time together as a family at the end of the day, the resort has amazing pools overlooking the ocean for a refreshing dip as well as a fantastic Brazilian restaurant called S'Padas Brazilian Steakhouse for a hearty and delicious feast.
Tip: As with many resorts in the area, they also have friendly neighborhood cats coming and going to greet guests and maybe score a bit of grub. I gave them bits of food from my plate, as did other guests. But shhhh, don't tell anyone!
Michelle Rae Uy is a travel writer, editor and amateur photographer based in Los Angeles. Check out her other adventures on Another Spur on the Road.