Located several miles north of Playa del Carmen on Xcalacoco beach, the Viceroy Riviera Maya is an eco-conscious oceanfront hideaway that successfully integrates understated luxury with the natural beauty and serenity of the Mayan tropical jungle. Most of the 41 individual stucco villas with thatched palapa roofs are situated deep within the six-acre preserve and offer guests the finest in stone, wood, and local handmade furnishings including crocheted hammocks and sisal rugs. Mahogany louvered doors separate indoor/outdoor spaces, while large spa-like bathrooms with separate indoor and outdoor showers provide different bathing experiences depending on one’s mood. Heated plunge pools grace each villa’s outdoor dining terrace, while small waterfalls can be found near several villa locations. This exclusive property has recently achieved several significant accolades including the following:
- US News and World Report Best Hotels in Mexico (ranked #37)
- US News and World Report Best Hotels in Playa del Carmen (ranked #7)
- Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2015 for Top Resorts in Mexico on the Caribbean Coast (ranked #2)
- Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2015 for Top 100 Hotels and Resorts in the World (ranked #97)
Formerly known as The Tides Riviera Maya, Viceroy took over the property January 2012 and promptly added 11 villas (including two beachfront villas), a fitness center with an ocean view, a wine cellar, and the oceanfront Coral Grill and Bar. Existing villas were also given a “facelift”, while the property continues to make periodic renovations of existing amenities including the recent revamping of the oceanfront bar area.
Guests who wish to rent a car from the airport and drive to the resort should be aware that the Viceroy may be difficult to find–it can only be reached via an unmarked road off the main highway (iPhone/Smartphone assistance may be needed). The entrance and lobby may underwhelm as well since the open-air, circular thatched roof structure definitely lacks the “wow” factor of most Riviera Maya resorts. Instead, what does impress is the onsite Shaman who performs a Mayan blessing upon each guest, the artisanal handmade soaps cut and distributed by the “soap concierge”, the delightful meandering paths through the jungle to each individual villa, and the quick response by staff to questions, concerns, or needs during one’s stay.
Following the lush, tree-lined paths through the property, guests may encounter local iguanas or spider monkeys on their way to an expansive view of the lagoon-shaped pool and ocean at the end of designated walkways. The pool area has a large sundeck with double loungers and an ocean view, the occasional umbrella, and lots of natural shade via smaller palm trees; however, there is no swim-up bar. Just a few steps away is the white sand beach and turquoise ocean water, but real beach lovers will find it disappointing since the shoreline is marred by small and large chunks of coral and rock which makes direct water access difficult (the resort does provide water shoes). There is a private pier which serves as ocean access past the breakwaters–guests can use the provided steps or jump into the sea at this point in order to avoid the rough ocean entry. Voile-draped swinging beds and palapa-roofed cabanas and double loungers dot the white sand beach, while beach butlers will clean sunglasses, bring drinks/iced facial towels, and change damp lounge covers. Drink and food service is also available on the beach. NOTE: For easier water access, guests may want to use Azul Five’s beach which is the adjacent resort south of the Viceroy. Karisma has done a nice job of clearing away shoreline rocks making for a decent ocean entry.
When tired of pool or beach time, guests will most certainly enjoy the resort’s unique spa whose circular design and holistic treatments mirror the Mayan philosophy of physical and spiritual wellness. The Viceroy spa is one of the finest in Mexico with Mayan ritual treatments using medicinal herbs grown in the resident garden. Couples’ treatments are also offered, and Temazcal ceremonies are performed in a traditional sweat lodge. All guests are free to use the steam room, hot tub, and showers at no additional charge.
Vacationers coming to the Viceroy for privacy are likely to find it as long as one is willing to sacrifice an ocean view. Each suite is a stand-alone thatched roof casita which appears to blend in with its surroundings. Villas closer to the lobby on the north side and away from the pool and beach are more likely to offer seclusion; villas on the north side also offer quieter evenings since Azul Fives resort to the south typically has music playing until 11 p.m. Villas start at 1,000 sq. feet (the Luxury and Royal Villa categories) culminating with the Ocean View Two Level Villa at 2,000 sq. feet. Those who enjoy large, spa-like bathrooms will be impressed with the indoor and private outdoor showers in each villa along with the spacious terrace with heated plunge pool. These are definitely rooms in which to linger.
This is a quiet resort with an emphasis on service, so there are very few scheduled activities which don’t have something to do with dining or drinking. The Viceroy does offer a Friday night BBQ, “street food” night, seven course Chef’s Table meal, and tequila and ceviche tastings in addition to two a la carte restaurants. Since the Viceroy has an all-inclusive optional meal plan, restaurant wait times are generally not an issue due to the fact that many guests choose to have dinner elsewhere or in the privacy of their villa, courtesy of the resort’s “dine anywhere/anytime” policy.
An unusual perk of the resort is the PetVacay program which allows guests to bring their favorite pooch who will also receive five-star treatment (the weight limit is 20 lbs.). Dogs also receive the Shaman’s blessing and can lounge in their own portable palapa. Chefs construct special menus for the animal with dietary restrictions/requirements in mind. There is an additional charge for a pet stay and meals are also an additional cost.
Type of Resort: Age 14+, all-inclusive optional
Pro: Private heated plunge pools, large bathrooms, some villas are very private, service, onsite Shaman
Con: Rocky shoreline/ocean entry, not all villas are private, pricey, insects
Best Suited For: Affluent couples, those who wish to spend more alone time/couple time while on vacation, honeymooners, destination weddings
No. of Rooms: 41
Room Amenities: King or two queen beds with 500 thread count Egyptian cotton bedding, A/C, armchair, terrace with hammock, heated plunge pool, outdoor chaise lounge, table and two chairs, digital safe, mini-bar, flat screen TV, DVD player with loaner library, telephone, alarm clock with iPod dock, his and her closets, robe and slippers, hair dryer, indoor and outdoor showers, dbl sink, toiletries including handmade soaps, pillow menu, insect repellent, complimentary WiFi, and butler service. Room service is from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Here is a brief rundown of villa categories:
- Luxury: King or two queen beds. Located throughout the resort, but more concentrated by the lobby and spa. 1,000 sq. feet.
- Royal: King bed, large wooden sundeck for sunbathing. Located behind La Marea restaurant with a few in the central resort section. 1,000 sq. feet.
- Signature Villa: King bed, deep soaker tub, Bose radio, Nespresso coffee maker, table and two chairs, lounging sofa, large wooden sundeck. Located by the spa and on the southern side of the resort. 1,400 sq. feet.
- Premium: King bed, deep soaker tub, Bose radio, Nespresso coffee maker, table and two chairs, lounging sofa. Located central resort section on the northern edge of the property. 1,722 sq. feet.
- Ocean View: King bed, walk-in closets, deep soaker tub, Bose radio, Nespresso coffee maker, table and two chairs, lounging sofa. Terraces are clearly open to resort areas with partial ocean views. Located on the northern edge of the property closer to the pool and beach. 1,722 sq. feet.
- Beachfront: King bed, dedicated butler service, walk-in closets, deep soaker tub, Bose radio, Nespresso coffee maker, table and two chairs, lounging sofa. Terraces are clearly open to resort and beach areas with ocean views. 1,722 sq. feet.
- Ocean View Two Level Villa: The first floor includes a dining area with table and chairs, flat screen TV, DVD player, glass coffee table, fully stocked liquor cabinet, sectional sofa with view to the terrace and private heated pool, and second bathroom, while the second floor includes a king bed, dressing area and walk-in closets, bureaus, bathroom with soaker tub, while the balcony includes a round chaise, hammock, and dining table. This villa category also includes dedicated butler service, Nespresso coffee maker and home theater system. This used to be called the Presidential Villa; it is located center resort by La Marea restaurant and the pool. 2,000 sq. feet.
Physically Challenged Rooms: Not available
Resort Amenities: Pool (no swim-up bar), Jacuzzi, heated plunge pools, spa, fitness center, paddle boards and snorkeling equipment, water shoes provided, Library Lounge, painter’s and writer’s areas, handcrafted soaps, DVD check-out, pool and beach wait service, insect repellent, laundry/dry cleaning, concierge, onsite Shaman, Limo/Town Car service, private excursions arranged, gift shop, complimentary WiFi, and PetVacay program.
Restaurants/Bars: There are two a la carte restaurants including the more formal La Marea (surf and turf), and the beachfront Coral Grill and Bar with locally caught and responsibly-fished seafood, organic produce, and homemade wood-fired pizzas. The resort offers a weekly BBQ on Friday, “street food” night, seven course Chef’s Table, and tequila/ceviche tastings. There are two bars at this resort. NOTE: The all-inclusive optional dining program is called Mayan Indulgence; it is listed on the official website under “Special Offers”.
Entertainment: There is no scheduled entertainment at this resort; however, Playa del Carmen is a 15-min. cab ride away for non-stop action.