Experiencing the Riviera Maya

Slide down the Yucatan Peninsula, as I did, and you’re going to find the newest hotel in the region. Set between the Riviera Maya jungle and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea is Hotel Xcaret. Having been to the nature parks by the same name, I had to come and check out the resort. The coves, rivers, caves and jungle, that are their signatures throughout the nature parks are present throughout the resort. The presence of water is inescapable. The architects designed the buildings to maximize the impact of the vistas that surround the property. You get an eye-full of Caribbean Sea, redirected river or full-on jungle. Their efforts to create a sustainable environment is what led them to reengineer some of the cenotes around the property and create a beach, sheltered from the winds by massive boulders. This was it is easy to cross from manicured resort to the natural rush of the Caribbean Sea. It is done with attention to detail, making it almost impossible to question what is real and what is manmade.


This feeling is a constant throughout the resort. One of the first things that played tricks on my mind was the seating in the lobby. What appear to be giant river rocks that one can potentially sit on are couches and individual seats, made from upholstery made to mimic natural stone and stuffing that is far softer than a rock. After figuring out this illusion, I took a seat and raised my eyes to look upward. Hanging above my head were hundreds of plants appearing to grow out of suspended river rocks. I was starting to sense a theme. Those turned out to be handmade pots that kept the theme consistent. All the furniture and artwork are brought from various states around the country of Mexico. The proprietors thought it necessary to bring authentic Mexican artisans in to give their guests a taste of the country as a whole.


Rounding out this experience are the hammocks on every balcony. Each guest room has one and there are few places cooler to hang out and watch the day go by besides a Mexican hammock. At Hotel Xcaret, there may be one other spot that can top this and that is Las Playas where the bar stools are large wood-plank swings, giving an entirely new meaning to the term “belly up to the bar” here at this manmade beach area, away from the winds and sea. I swung for a bit, grabbed a cocktail and then headed to put my toes in the sand, only six feet away. After a second round of cocktails, I decided I would try my luck on the stand-up paddle boards and make my way around the cenotes exposed parts, giving me a good look at some of the hotel’s river view rooms. Maybe after two drinks, I should have sat myself in a kayak and given myself a fighting chance. The water is calm but the experience can be bit rough after some drinks. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you hop of the paddle board and find yourself parched, there’s always one of eight bars you can quench your thirst for Mexican and international specialty beverages. I recommend the Wellness / Spa Bar for drinks like teas, tisanes and fresh seasonal fruit infusions with spices and roots; fresh drinks that will bring you back to life.


You’ll need this strength if you’re going to take one of the short shuttle rides to the surrounding nature parks and make it back in time for a fantastic meal at one of the 10 restaurants. Everything is at your disposal as the resort takes you on a global culinary journey; fresh Mexican specialties all the way through to seafood and one of my particular preferences is at Ha’ where I experienced an evening of Mexican Gastronomy brought to me in Michelin style. They weren’t faking the Michelin level service, food and wine pairing here at Ha’.  Chef had a Michelin star for several years before opening this restaurant in early December. He brought his A-game and the resort brought in the backdrop to support his creativity. Step carefully down the slabs of raw concrete, into the contemporary design of the restaurant, showcasing a water vortex, a unique cocktail bar and a private cava and dining room. You’’ need to reserve a spot here for a couple of nights during your stay.


Most of this level of service was totally unexpected as I knew the hotel was designed and owned by the same group that brought the activity nature parks to the Yucatan; Xenses, Xel-Ha, Xplore,Xenses, Xichen, Xplor Fuego, Xplor and Xoximilco. Although my previous experiences at a few of those parks had been good, it was hard to see how that would translate into a hotel experience of this caliber. Happy to report that they did well and these 900 rooms feel more intimate than that and the plans to build more phases of the hotel is music to my ears.




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