Vacationers who think that cafeteria-like food, lackadaisical service, and cookie cutter bare bones guest rooms are typical in all-inclusive resorts will have the bar raised quite high after visiting the new UNICO 20.87. This is the very first UNICO all-inclusive property–its unusual name incorporates the latitude and longitude of its location (the numbers translate to a location between the Grand Palladium and El Dorado Seaside Suites resorts). The new UNICO Hotels brand focuses on reflecting the area and culture in which each specific resort or hotel is located through its décor, food, and excursion offerings. As such, UNICO 20.87 has used local artisanal design elements along with natural and handmade materials to create pieces of furniture, guest room décor, art, and personalized items made from local craftsmen/women–each guest can take home a complimentary hat made by local artists, or specific art pieces found at the resort can also be purchased. Its Mexican restaurant offers an annual “rotating chef” concept featuring the best of local and regional talent, while excursions feature standards such as Chichen Itza and cenote swimming along with visits to a Mayan village.
To aid visitors in appreciating local/regional sites and experiences, UNICO 20.87 offers “Unlimited Inclusions“ which showcase the Riviera Maya or the Mayan culture. These inclusions are comprised of specific excursions, spa experiences, beauty treatments, and golf outings which are available for a 20% service fee; for example, a service which has a full list price of $100 would only cost guests $20. While some inclusions better showcase the area than others, some are a virtual steal and worth booking regardless–a 60 min. massage for $32 and a Chichen Itza tour complete with cenote swim and lunch for $30 may be inclusions which are hard to beat. The resort’s Unlimited Inclusions are not a definitive list of services offered, so if guests are not thrilled about them there are always other choices (they will be full price, however).
Vacationers entering UNICO’s lobby are greeted by friendly staff, a signature scent, and a cool towel and drink. Lovely wrought iron pendant light fixtures hang above the comfortable tufted sofas and seating areas, while the large shuttered windows make for a cozy waiting area. Just off the lobby is Bar Balam, a large bar area with sofas, chairs, a pool table, live entertainment, and “mixologists” who create unique drinks for guests. The other bar is Palmera Lounge which has a Cuban ambiance and accompanying cigar bar; DJ’s and other live performances occur here on a nightly basis. In addition to evening entertainment, the resort hosts “pop-up” events which can be anything from pool beer pong to glow paint parties.
In addition to the standard bars, UNICO 20.87 offers two swim-up bars in its beautiful pool areas. The black-bottom main pool has two separate sections with one swim-up bar, while the more quiet Escondida pool has the other swim-up bar. Those who like to swim laps will appreciate that the main pool is large enough to do just that. All pool sundecks offer loungers, day beds, unusual floats, and shade umbrellas, while separate structures hold seating areas. Food can be eaten poolside–guests can even use the resort mobile app to place their orders. While there are plans to install a pizza brick oven, alcohol carts already roam the pool areas–a particular favorite is the Kamikaze shot cart.
Just a short stroll away from the main pool area is the beach with its patches of natural flora and rocky ocean entry (water shoes are a must). It is rather small both in length and width given the guest capacity of the resort, however, but it does offer some loungers and shade umbrellas. Long walks are possible on the beach, but guests should be aware that they may not be able to pass through the Hidden Resort beach section next to El Dorado Seaside Suites since it is a nudist vacation spot. Better ocean entry can be found on either side of UNICO, or further off at the Grand Palladium to the south or Sensimar Seaside Suites to the north. Non-motorized water sports are available, and off-the-beach snorkeling is possible though not a stellar experience.
Most guests will want to spend quite a bit of time in their large suite with locally made wall art, handmade artisanal soaps, large bathroom, balcony day bed and Jacuzzi (swim-up suites do not have a terrace Jacuzzi, however). Suites start at 624 sq. feet and have soothing muted colors of greys, browns, and ecru with various textures used throughout; many suites have an ocean view. Each suite is also assigned an Anfitrion, or “local host”, who will assist with the following:
- help with check-in/out
- late check-out requests
- excursion, golf, spa, and restaurant reservations
- insider information about the area including must-see spots and things to do
- spa tub requests
- laundry services
- cleaning requests
- shoe cleaning, ironing, and steaming services
- bag pick-up at check-out
Other unique room amenities include bathroom panels which can be opened to maximize the exterior view, bath salts/oils can be customized at the Esencia Beauty Bar with the aid of a Mayan herbalist, very comfy bathrobes are available to purchase and take home, in-room Bluetooth accessibility, USB charging stations, and free calls to Canada and the continental USA. Each suite provides a comforting, serene environment which soothes the senses and relaxes the body.
UNICO’s restaurants and bars use locally-sourced ingredients, while the Mexican restaurant, Cueva Siete, changes its main chef on a yearly basis in order to keep abreast of current Mexican culinary innovations. There are three dedicated a la cartes, a buffet for breakfast and lunch which turns into a steakhouse in the evenings, a café which serves sandwiches and pastries until midnight, and 24-hr. room service for those who can’t drag themselves away from the comfort of their own suite.
While UNICO 20.87 is not a haven for partiers, neither is it a quiet, spa-like resort. Only open for little more than a month, it is already a member of the Leading Hotels of the World and can best be described as a “casually luxurious” resort for discerning travelers who also like to have a bit of fun. The resort is looking to be a frontrunner in the destination wedding market in Mexico and has much to offer the jaded or fussy all-inclusive traveler.
Type of Resort: Adult-only
Pro: Food, room décor, free WiFi, balcony Jacuzzi
Con: Rocky ocean entry, limited scheduled entertainment, currency exchange, temporary power outages
Best Suited For: Foodies, those looking for a more luxury-oriented all-inclusive experience, couples, honeymooners, pool lovers
No. of Rooms: 448
Room Amenities: Canopy king or two queen beds, A/C, balcony/terrace with day bed, small sofa in king bed suites, two chairs, table, mini-bar, digital safe, flat screen TV, telephone, alarm clock with iPod dock, USB ports, Bluetooth accessibility, Nespresso coffee maker, clothes steamer, pillow menu, aromatherapy, robe and slippers, flat iron, hair dryer, dbl sinks, shower, toiletries with locally sourced bar soap, free WiFi, complimentary 24-hr. room service, access to a “local host”, complimentary hats made by local craftsmen/women, and free calls to Canada and the continental US. Here is a brief rundown of guest room categories:
- Alcoba Ocean View: King or two queen beds, balcony Jacuzzi.
- Pure Alcoba: King bed, small sofa, balcony Jacuzzi. This suite is designed for allergy sufferers and includes hypoallergenic mattress and pillow coverings, shock treatment to kill mold and bacteria, special cleaning of upholstery surfaces, air purification system, and special air conditioning unit with tea tree oil cartridge. Resort view.
- Alcoba Swim-Up Pool: King bed, small sofa, two terrace loungers and hammocks, direct access to the swim-up pool. For more afternoon sun on the terrace pool ask for suites on the north side. Resort view.
- Alcoba Oceanfront: King or two queen beds, balcony Jacuzzi.
- One Bedroom Estancia Suite: Separate bedroom with king bed and flat screen TV, separate living room with sofa and flat screen TV, dining table and six chairs, bathroom with Jacuzzi tub and separate shower, balcony Jacuzzi, dbl lounger, and two chairs. Oceanfront view.
- Two Bedroom Estancia Suite: One bedroom with king bed and flat screen TV, second bedroom with two queen beds and second flat screen TV, living room with sofa and third flat screen TV, dining table and six chairs, bathroom with Jacuzzi tub and separate shower, balcony with two Jacuzzis, dbl lounger and chairs. Oceanfront view.
- Villa 20.87: Two bedroom oceanfront apartment (both bedrooms have a king bed), two full bathrooms each with its own Jacuzzi tub and separate shower, three flat screen TV’s, living room, full kitchen, dining table, full bar, powder room in the foyer, terrace with two Jacuzzis, loungers, and chairs. Oceanfront view.
- NOTE: Guests in all suite categories can request to have liquor bottles in their rooms, just contact the resort ahead of time or make the request once at UNICO. Also, room service will accept requests for bottles to be sent up to the room. If looking for quiet room blocks, buildings 7-8 miss the pool music during the day.
Physically Challenged Rooms: Available
Resort Amenities: Main pool with two sections (swim-up bar), Escondida pool (swim-up bar), spa, beauty salon, fitness center, tennis courts, basketball court, non-motorized water sports, pool and beach wait service, local hosts, concierge, tour desk, gift shop, car rental, and medical services. It is difficult to change currency at this location.
Restaurants/Bars: One buffet (20.87) which turns into a grill/steakhouse for dinner, and three dedicated a la cartes including Mexican (Cueva Siete), Italian (Mi Carisa), and Asian (Mura House–no teppanyaki show tables); the sommelier can assist with wine pairings. Dinner reservations at the a la cartes are recommended. Inez Café is open until midnight and offers juices, coffee, tea, sandwiches, paninis, salads, and pastries. Lunch can also be ordered poolside. There are two swim-up bars, a lobby bar, and Palmera Lounge (which includes a cigar bar). Additionally, there is a shot cart which makes its way through the main pool area during the day.
Entertainment: UNICO 20.87 highlights “pop-up” events during the day and evenings; this means that guests may not have a lot of advance notice of goings-on. Examples of pop-up events include a Blue Beach Party (guests are supposed to wear something blue), a glow paint party at Palmera Lounge, beer pong at the main pool, mixology classes, and art projects. There is nightly entertainment including a saxophonist and DJ, but no actual theater or nightclub.