by Carrie Calzaretta
Azul Fives is the newest Azul property, and like its two sister properties, Azul Beach and Azul Sensatori, is located in the Riviera Maya. Fives is about a 40-minute drive south of Cancun International Airport, and about 10 minutes from Playa Del Carmen. It’s a modern, upscale, all-inclusive boutique hotel that caters to families. Unlike the other Azul properties, this one is an all-suite property, so it’s perfect for large families, extended stays or family reunions. The hotel has a supervised kids’ club, truly top-notch service, four terrific restaurants and a beautiful beachfront location families will love.
Since Azul is a boutique chain, you can expect personal service, and more intimate experiences than you’d find at a traditional all-inclusive hotel. But the standout feature of this elegant new property are the 360 suites, which sit aside an enormous meandering pool that snakes through the property. They are available in one- to three-bedrooms, and some have private roof-top decks with barbeques and spas. If your family prefers a beachfront room, you won’t find them here. The waterfront is reserved for the restaurants, bars and an infinity-edge pool.
Azul Fives also offers something that families are demanding more of these days: flexibility. In addition to the all-inclusive plan, families can opt for the European plan, which gives you access to most of the activities, without the meal plan. Because the suites have large kitchens with stainless steel appliances, including a stove and refrigerator this can be a very cost-effective option.
In December 2014, Azul Fives completed a $40-million renovation and expansion project, which added a new section to the property, now titled the Essence Section. The Essence Section includes 64 luxurious suites and The Fives Plaza, with three gourmet restaurants, two bars, a coffee shop and a gym.
Our Editor Loves
- All-inclusive rates
- Supervised Azulitos Kids' Club
- Enormous, modern suites with great family amenities
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
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The hotel has a beautiful location on the Caribbean Sea, but the rooms do not have beachfront views, as you might be expecting. That's because the lobby and rooms are a short walk (or golf cart ride) from the beach; two of the hotels restaurants and the pool get the prime beachfront real estate. The upside to this is that everyone can enjoy it.
The suites at Azul are luxurious, modern and have all the space and amenities a family could ask for. There are 360 one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, which range in size from 1,125 to 2,500 square feet, all of which are decorated with dark woods, neutral walls and modern art. All suites have a large kitchen with marble countertops and stainless appliances, a balcony or terrace, an LCD flat-screen TV with a DVD player, an iPod docking station, and marble bathrooms with rainforest showers. Many have views of the meandering pool that runs through the center of the property, access to which is no more than a few steps away from any of the rooms. Wireless Internet is available for a fee, both in the suites and in the lobby. Large balconies are offered off the living areas of suites and a smaller balcony can be found off the bedroom. While we loved the room, we found there were some small quirks that still need to be worked out.
The Penthouse Suites at Azul Fives have 2,500 square feet and are completely indulgent. You get a 1,300 square-foot private rooftop lounge with a huge sitting area with a couch, a dining table with sun umbrella, a double whirlpool, an outdoor bathroom and shower, chaise loungers, a charcoal barbeque grill. Families staying in a Penthouse Suite can choose a barbecue package and host their own BBQ, or hire a private chef.
You can have your room set up with baby gear, including a Pack 'N Play, monitor, stroller, changing table, bottle warmer, baby bathtub, and even baby food. You can also select Fisher-Price toys that are on loan from an in-room menu. Rooms are accessible via exterior corridors.
The Essence Section, which was added in December 2014, added 64 more luxury-appointed suites, with all of the same amenities as the other suites on the property.
The family activities at Azul Fives center around a small white sand beach that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. There are lounge chairs, a volleyball net, and amazing beach beds which can be reserved daily, complete with free butler service. The service on the beach is amazing and was our favorite part of the experience at the hotel. The butlers will set up your bed with towels and pillows, and take care of your every whim. They come around with cold scented towels, Evian spritzers and snacks and drinks. You can also borrow magazines and books in several languages, as well as snorkel equipment, boogie boards and kayaks. Jet skis can be rented for a fee. There is an activity hut where you can book tours to nearby attractions like Playa Del Carmen, Xcaret and Tulum.
While the beach is beautiful, the sand is soft and the water is warm, it's not particularly conducive to swimming with small children. There is coral at the water's edge which could cut small (and big) toes, so either bring water shoes with you, or better yet, walk a few hundred yards up the beach where you can enter without a problem.
There's a large infinity pool overlooking the beach, which has two built-in spas with jets; but they are not heated. Since it was somewhat cool when we visited, we found this a little off-putting since the water was chilly. There is a swim-up bar that serves drinks and light snacks adjacent to the pool. Free SCUBA clinics, water aerobics and other activities are occasionally available here, too. There is also a large river-like pool that winds between the rooms and through the entire property. We liked the layout because we could literally walk out of our room, jump into the pool and start swimming laps, or wade over to a swim-up bar.
Azul Fives has a supervised kids' club, called Azulitos, which is housed in an adorable building near the edge of the property, which is really appealing to the kids. It looks like a mini-house with a small pool in the front yard, complete with child-sized loungers (so cute!) and a basketball net, and a playground with brightly colored equipment. Inside, the kids' club is divided into several separate spaces to accommodate the different age groups and activities. There is a Fisher Price room filled with toys for the tots 5 and younger, as well as a My Gym room with a padded floor, uneven bars, ropes, a trampoline and a springboard, where they hold gym classes for kids ages 6 to 12. There is also an arts and crafts area, a game room (with Wii and PlayStation) and a nap room for little ones. They really have thought of everything here, including the funniest little mini toilets. The club stays open until 9:30 p.m., so mom and dad can dine alone they wish.
While children must be between 4 to 12 to take part in the activities at Azulitos, younger children who are at least 6 months old are welcome to stay and play with a parent, or a babysitter if you choose to hire one. For children under age 4, private babysitting for $15 an hour is offered by employees of the hotel.
Families can also play on a grass tennis court (equipment provided), and take Spanish, Yoga or salsa lessons, and enjoy table games, shuffleboard, volleyball, and aqua aerobics.
In the evenings there is a family entertainment show in the hotel's sky top Zky lounge. For an additional fee, you can book a private family dinner on the beach, or a roof-top barbeque.
New as of 2015, all Azul properties will offer families the Nickelodeon Experience. Kids will enjoy special check-ins just for them, as well as Nickelodeon concierges, a Nick toy lending library, special Nickelodeon-themed amenities and character experiences.
Dining at all of the restaurants at Azul Fives is a refreshing change of pace from the boring buffets and predictable choices at most all-inclusive properties. Chefs use organic produce from the 70,000-square-foot Greenhouse at its sister property, El Dorado Royale. In all of the restaurants, the service is wonderful, and if there is something you don't see on the menu, or you have specific dietary restrictions, the chef will come out and personally discuss it with you and try to accommodate.
A large, open restaurant with floor to ceiling windows that bring in views of the thick vegetation from the mangroves outside (it's the only restaurant with no water views), is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and has a relaxed, kid-friendly atmosphere. You'll see highchairs lining the walls and plenty of kids running back and forth to the buffet (they don't call it a buffet, but it is). The selection for breakfast is fantastic and offers some local specialties like huevos rancheros, frijoles negros, and tamales. We even tried cactus!
The food at Sea Olive, which is open for lunch and dinner, was our favorite, as it had great views of the Caribbean from the outdoor patio, and an excellent Mediterranean-inspired dinner menu. We had spanakopita, lobster stew, black squid-ink pasta with scallops, and one of the best lamb shanks my husband has ever eaten. Lunch is also good, especially the guacamole; it's best to sit outside and people-watch because it's adjacent to the pool. We did find the service was somewhat slow.
This restaurant is open for dinner, and is located right next to Sea Olive. Here there's no outdoor patio but there is a small sushi bar. It's small but lovely space, surrounding by shallow pools, with a wooden footbridge at the entrance. The menu is described as "Pacific-rim" but we found it to be an interesting mix of other items as well, and enjoyed the sushi rolls, lemongrass soup and suite sushi rolls with strawberries and sweet rice for dessert.
Oriola Beach Club Grill
Sit oceanside and enjoy burgers and bites from noon to 5 p.m. at the Oriola Beach Club Grill.
Opened in January 2015, Meso Tapas is a Mexican-inspired eatery in the Essence Section of the resort that is open from 5:30 to 10 p.m. for dinner.
Oka is the onsite sushi bar open from 6 to 10 p.m. daily. It overlooks Koh Tai and has an outdoor balcony area.
Make reservations for Koh Thai and enjoy a Thai experience with classic dishes including Coconut Soup and Green Curries. Koh Thai is open from 6 to 10 p.m. daily.
Opened in January 2015, La Brasserie serves breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. In Fall 2015, the restaurant will also serve dinner. Dishes are French-inspired and include small, bistro-type bites.
Zky is a skytop lounge with yet more awesome views, and there are four additional bars, Breeze, Palmas, Lizards and Rainbow, three of which have swim-up access.
Other great dining options are the 24-hour room service with a separate kids' menu, and the picnic lunches on the beach, which can be delivered to your beach bed. For a fee, you can hire a chef to cook a meal in your suite kitchen.
Planning & Tips
All-Inclusive or European Plans
At Azul Fives, you can choose between the All-Inclusive plan or the European (non-inclusive) plan. All-inclusive includes your room plus all meals at all of the restaurants except Senses, room service, select local and international alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, access to all facilities including pools and fitness center, sauna and steam room, snorkeling and kayaking, access to the Kid's Club. The European Plan includes your room plus access to the daily activities program, nightly entertainment, tennis court, table games, shuffleboard, volleyball, Spanish and Mayan lessons, stretching, aqua aerobics, dance and cooking classes, SCUBA diving clinics, and all the pools.
All About the Extras
The service at Azul Fives is top-notch from the staff at check-in, to the beach butlers and housekeeping staff. Everyone greeted us with a smile and a buenos dios and went out of their way to make us feel welcome. We appreciate that the staff makes an effort to speak (and teach) some Spanish to the kids so they can get at least some sense of the destination. Children are met in the lobby upon arrival with a fruit smoothie, and champagne for mom and dad. Families with young kids will love that you can have your suite outfitted before your arrival with will baby gear, including a Pack 'N Play, monitor, stroller, changing table, bottle warmer, baby bathtub, and even baby food. You can also select Fisher-Price toys that are on loan from an in-room menu. There are DVD players in all the rooms, and you can order family movies and popcorn to your room for a family movie night
The fitness center has elliptical, cross-training and free weight equipment, and offers classes in Yoga and water aerobics. There are trainers on hand. The spa has a kids' suite for children ages 5 to 16, and packages like My First Facial, Sparkle Makeover and Teen Girl's Spa Day. In December 2014, the Essence Section opened with a brand new gym for guests to use, as well.
The Art of Smart Timing
The average temperature in Riviera Maya is around 80 degrees. Between February and May there is little rain, and the water is warm. Spring Break gets very crowded, so if you're planning to visit then, be sure to book well in advance. From June to August the weather becomes very hot during the day, it can get up to 100 degrees, and it stays warm well into the evening. It's also the rainy season. Hurricane season starts June 1 and ends November 30. November through January are generally the chilliest months, but even then the daytime temperatures are very comfortable, usually in the 70s. Evenings tend to get chilly quickly, though, and the water isn't as warm. High season is mid-late December though March.
Getting There and Around
Azul Fives is not quite as easy to get to as its sister properties, Azul Beach and Azul Sensatori, which are only about 20 minutes from the airport. Fives is a 40-minute taxi ride south from Cancun International Airport, but taxis are readily available and it's a straight shot south. The upside is that if you plan on visiting Playa Del Carmen (which you should) it's only about 10 minutes away. Once you arrive at Azul FIves hotel, you won't be in a location where you'll want to do any walking around, unless it's on the beach. Taxis or organized tours are the best way to get around if you want to visit Xcaret, Cancun, Playa Del Carmen or the Mayan ruins.
For Mom and Dad
The spa at Azul Fives is gorgeous and the perfect place to spend a few hours without the kids. It's a very tranquil and peaceful space. At 10,000 square feet, with two stories, decorated in pale greens and blues, you'll feel miles (when in reality you're just steps) away from the kids. There is a wonderful "water ritual" experience, which alternates hot and cool water, so you go from steam room to plunge pools. It's free when you book a 50-minute treatment. There are some very interesting treatments that use natural (and delicious) elements like honey, chocolate, kiwi and mango, and clay. You can also have a massage on the beach, or in your suite.
If the spa isn't your thing, take a taxi to nearby Playa del Carmen, where you can walk along 5th Avenue there and find souvenirs, quaint little shops and restaurants. It's about 10 minutes away and definitely worth a visit.