by Candyce H. Stapen
From the entry gate of the resort, we drive through a “jungle” of tropical trees and dense thickets of mangroves, a landscape suggestive of the Riviera Maya as it used to be, a tropical green refuge bordering the blue Caribbean. At the Ambassador lobby, one of the resort’s three areas or “ambiances,” the staff offers us refreshing cold towels and glasses of iced mango-kiwi tea.
It’s hard to take our eyes off the view: a series of infinity pools that seem, from our vantage point, to merge into the sea. The lobby’s tall, white walls, topped by a 100-foot high palapa (thatched roof) ceiling, frame the scene.
The Grand Velas Riviera Maya, is so impressive, that it’s hard to believe the resort functions as an all-inclusive. But it does. The Grand Velas Riviera Maya, opened November 2008, and offers eight specialty restaurants — each included in your price — plus accommodations hovering at around 1,200 square feet and one butler/concierge for every 12 guestrooms. The food and facilities at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya conjure up comparisons to the area’s five-diamond properties such as the Ritz-Carlton Cancun and the JW Marriott Cancun.
The Grand Velas Riviera Maya spreads out on 205 acres and offers 491 all-suite accommodations in three different sections. While the Grand Class accepts only adults, both the Master Class, Zen Grand and Ambassador Class, welcome families. The three lodging areas serve to mitigate crowds and to keep the convention business from overwhelming families traveling on their own.
Grand Velas’ all-inclusive concept also banishes a boisterous activities staff. Instead of dragging guests off their lounge chairs to join in a chicken dance or a volleyball game, the attendants gently inquire if you want a drink or any food. A kids’ club entertains children and a teen club keeps those 13 to 18 year olds happy, even after sundown. Regardless, the resort’s number goal is for everyone to have a memorable experience.
Our Editor Loves
- Upscale all-inclusive resort with very good food
- Over-sized, luxury accommodations
- Programs and clubs for kids and teens
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
The Resort offers three areas full of comfort, whether you desire a tranquil stay among adults or a fun family getaway.
The adult-only area of the resort features 90 ocean-view suites with private plunge pools. This section accepts teens from 12 to 16 years old sharing suite with their parents.
This section offer 195 suites, conveniently arranged around the main infinity pool, near the Kid's Club and the gym.
Zen Grand Class
This family-friendly section offers 206 suites surrounded by lush vegetation and all guests can enjoy of the Zen Grand Pool with a mini-bar for your convenience.
Pick the Ambassador "ambiance." Since the tiered, Mayan-style buildings form a horseshoe, the rooms furthest from the beach offer full-ocean views while the ones on the sides feature partial ocean views. The rooms in this section, called "suites" by the resort for their size, are actually one grand space--1,270 square feet. Tastefully decorated with dark wood headboards, granite desks and flat-screen TV's, the guest rooms feature balconies or patios and marble bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs plus separate showers. Guestrooms can accommodate up to two adults and two children ages 2 to 16 years, plus one baby under 2 years. Couches in the rooms are not sofa beds and cribs are available at no extra charge.
The butler/concierge makes sure your mini-bar has what you want as well as books dinner reservations and tours and serves as the "go-to" person for any questions or concerns.
It wasn’t just great. It was superb. We stayed for 7 nights at the Zen with our 8 year old son till Feb 6. Thanks to Karen for keeping an eye on us. We looked at our vacation that way: You can go to GV & keep fantastic memories of your stay for years to come or you go another resort, pay less & risk having your great trip spoilt by a few service let down such as the ones you read on trip advisor reviews. In a nutshell, maintenance, room cleanliness, food quality, staff training, courtesy all hit high marks. No lineups anywhere whether it’s at the front desk, bars or restaurants. In case, you think your expectations are not met (i am not talking about your expectation of having a zipline built between Ambassador & Zen), they have plenty of staff on hands to help you. Through the day, you get asked at least 1 or 2 times by management/concierge how is your stay & if there is anything you need.
The kids club extraordinary staff & flexible hours (open 9 am till 11pm) allowed us to try almost all the restaurants & go on a date night every day. The GV culinary experience is incredible. At the top of the list is the 8 course surprise tasting menu at Cocina de autor. There is an optional wine pairing. Eduardo the Sommelier & offers wines from all around the work but also Mexican wines (we liked Sala Vive sparkling, Nicole rosado). That's your chance to try as many Mexican wines as possible. The other restaurants were great too. The staff is very professional. They all carry themselves well: synchronize service, promptly served water, wine, bread. They also offer a little stool for ladies' purse. They also have live music players in the evening: the harp player at Piaf was just incredible so was the voice of the Mexican lady singer at Frida. Breakfast rocks as well: Thanks to Alberto at Chaka. What went beyond my expectation also was the Azul lunch/dinner buffet experience: dishes are top quality (great fresh vegetables, beef, lamb, sushi, langostinos, shrimps, cheeses, desserts). Staff held the doors for you everywhere & they will even your plate from the buffet to your table (especially for my son). You have to try it. Without exaggerating, the dining experience at GV is much better than so many pricey restaurants I have tried in Toronto, Paris, New York... or even Italy. Great cuisine & attitude.
We did the bike tour + eco tour under the escort of Christian: took part in the Mayan ceremony done by 2 elegant Mayan ladies. Sand Beaches are very well maintained
For someone who has lived in many parts of the word and traveled to 31 countries I and my husband were blown away by the Grand Velas staff and everyone working in the resort. This is the first time we write the review online. Ever. But even the best review would not do justice to the attention, warmth and care we were showered. We rarely ever drink and eat once a day, even so all inclusive was the way to go---there was no worry about anything... Well just a few small things were not to our liking, but those were soon forgotten. Whenever you walked on their beautiful grounds you were greeted like royalty and treated as such. We were the most impressed with the Frida's restaurant. The food was 7 stars. Art and taste combination was out of this world. Antonio and Victor- our waitors made us feel like the most important guests. And we kept on ordering almost everything off the menu---unforgettable culinary experience! With two chefs in the family and raising five children food was always important, but here it had a different dimension, almost another sensory perception. i never liked Mexican food. Well, until I tried almost every creation at Frida's. Each and every meal was mouth watering. It was Louvre on the plate! Piaf was another spectacular French restaurant-- a must try when you get there. The service and artistry is truly 5,6,7 stars. And the tasting surprise menu on Coucina de Autor was a lovely delight. Dont leave the resort without eating their creations. Our butlers Alan, Karla, Mirllam(forgot her German name) were beautiful and one of a kind souls. Wow... You made my 50th birthday and our 29 wedding anniversary truly special! If the resort would include the spa as an all inclusive package--wow --the whole world would come there!
Unlike some Riviera Maya resorts, the beach at Grand Velas is ample: 1,640 feet of ocean frontage, divided into an adult section that borders the Grand Class wing and the larger section abutting the family-friendly Ambassador Class wing. Along with chaises, bed-sized loungers swagged with white curtains beckon on the sand and the staff is happy to plant a beach umbrella at your side for shade.
Although the sea here isn't flat, a strategically placed artificial breakwater often reduces the waves headed to shore to manageable ripples. Young kids, however, may need some coaxing into the water as the waves crashing on the far side of the breakwater -- delightful to hear for adults -- may sound frightening. Once in the water, the gentle slope makes the relatively shallow area stretch for about 10 to 15 feet, depending on the tide.
Non-oceangoers can play in the pools, three nearly connected expanses of water. Little ones splash in the shallow area with its zero-entry and maximum depth of 18 inches while older kids and adults swim in the other two sections. No fountains, geysers or sprays entice kids, but the pools do come with sweeping beach and sea views.
The Kids Program operates daily for ages 5 to 12 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., with facilities in the Ambassador section. Children craft masks, create balloon animals, play Xbox and Nintendo Wii games, learn Spanish words and listen to stories. Since most activities take place inside the children's activity room, the program typically works better for younger kids. Older children may enjoy of the teen facilities, which is designed with everything a teen could want.
The Teen Center is for teens 13 to 18 years, and features range from billiard and arcade games, to video game systems like Xbox, Kinect and PS3, special seats with built in speakers for enhanced game play, and individual cubicles with a 40-inch LED TV.
A drawback for some guests is that the list of activities--complimentary or for extra fees-- at the Grand Velas isn't as extensive as at some other all-inclusives. While you won't find skateboarding, trapeze flying or even tennis, you can sign up for free snorkeling, sailing and kayaking trips and join in bocce and volleyball games. Or take a free ecological bicycle tour of the property, learn about the eco-system, and adopt a mangrove or zapote tree for a $10 donation to an ecological foundation. The resort, which has already re-forested the property with more than 19,000 adult trees, will plant a tree in your name, provide a certificate and give you the coordinates of "your" tree so you can watch it grow on Google Earth.
What can you do in the evenings with your kids? Take to the stage of the Karaoke bar, open just for families from 6 to 9 p.m. Then settle in to your spacious room for sweet dreams.
With the help of your concierge/butler, book off-property excursions to Tulum, an impressive Maya ruin about one hour away, as well as outings to nearby Playa del Carmen for shopping, and to Xcaret, a park combining animal viewing, swimming with dolphins and evening performances of traditional Mexican dances.
Instead of cavernous, camp-like dining areas, the resort features several moderately sized specialty restaurants, that are all family-friendly.
Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Azul serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets as well as items from a menu. Choose either or select items from both. Options include Mahi Mahi, duck kebabs, lobster tacos and, for dessert, mango sorbet with a touch of chili.
Chaka is a family-friendly dining option open for breakfast and lunch seasonally. It serves International flavors.
In a setting of fountains and cream and rust marble, Frida serves upmarket Mexican cuisine. Be sure to try the lobster and crab chilpachole soup, a tasty treat. Entrees include veal shank, tamarind, crispy duck and enchiladas stuffed with lobster. For those too young to appreciate such pleasures, Frida's kids' menu offers grilled chicken breast, fettuccine and steak with French fries. Open from 6 to 11 p.m.
Sen Lin, serves Asian fusion cuisine from 6 to 11 p.m. daily and is family-friendly.
Lucca, an Italian restaurant, is family-friendly and open daily from 6 to 11 p.m.
Piaf serves French fare and only allows children ages 12 and older to dine there. Open daily from 6 to 11 p.m.
Bistro is another specialty French restaurant, that only allows children age 12 or older to dine. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Cocina de Autor
Cocina de Autor, which serves a Spanish-inspired, eclectic mix of tastes based on molecular cuisine, is also only open to children ages 12 and older. Open from 6 to 11 p.m. daily.
The Grand Velas also features 24-hour room service at no extra charge. This comes in handy when kids (and you) come back from a day in the sun hungry, but too tired to walk to the nearest eatery.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Babysitting is available at $18 U.S. per hour for the first child, and $23 U.S. dollars for two children and $28 U.S. dollars per hour for three children.
The Art of Smart Timing
High season runs from January to May and also includes two weeks at Christmas. Shoulder season includes May, November and the first two weeks in December. Low season includes June through October.
Fly into the Cancun International Airport, which is served by American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United and U.S. Airways and other carriers. Book your transportation ahead of time to reach the resort, located 40 miles from the airport. The resort offers transportation to and from the airport.
The resort will pay for a one-time, one-way cab ride to Playa del Carmen, the shopping and restaurant hub that's about a five-minute drive from the resort.
For Mom and Dad
You'll want to experience the 89,305-square-foot spa. A treatment here begins with a water journey that includes soaking tubs and therapeutic showers. Complimentary with a spa treatment, the water journey costs $80 by itself.