escape A tropical idyll on the Riviera Maya.
Hit the beach and the jungle in Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
In Mayan mythology, there is a legend about two warrior-prince brothers: One is saintly and the other is a nasty rogue. The pair fight to the death over a woman, but the gods bring them back to life as trees. Today, in the Mexican Riviera’s wild mangrove forests, the two trees grow intertwined. The chechen tree is poisonous—it oozes sap that can severely burn skin—but the chaca tree produces a nectar that can treat and soothe the wounds. At Grand Velas Riviera Maya Resort, just over an hour’s drive south of Cancún, you will find only the soothing chaca tree growing in large pots beneath the lobby’s immense vaulted ceilings. Yet there is a similar symbiotic relationship—this one is all good—going on at the property, where you essentially get two resorts in one.
There is, of course, a beautiful beachfront with infinity pools looking out to the ocean, which is dotted with kite surfers and snorkellers. The “Grand Class” suites even have their own private plunge pools. Choosing one seems like a #nobrainer—until you check out the “Zen Grand” suites, which are tucked two kilometres back in the jungle. Each suite comes with a private terrace that looks out onto an aquatic garden filled with blooming lily pads. Nearby are more infinity pools surrounded by fan palms and other lush greenery. The adjoining spa’s sevenstage hydrothermal water world is also a big draw.
You can explore the laid-back jungle scene on raised mahogany walkways. Every time I take a stroll on the wooden paths, I feel like a posh castaway who has landed on a luxe version of Robinson Crusoe’s island. Instead of all-inclusive, it’s very all-exclusive. And a quick shuttle ride keeps you directly connected to the high-energy beach.
With just 30 percent of the 32-hectare site developed, it feels like you’re in a private, untouched oasis. In addition to the wild mangrove forest, which protects the local ecosystem from hurricanes, there are freshwater pools fed by an underground river system. So it’s no surprise that a melodic avian soundtrack follows you everywhere. These are the kinds of sounds that induce relaxing alpha waves in even the most Type A of brains. Aside from parrots and other birds, there are white-tailed deer, spider monkeys and the occasional jaguar, property representative Jorge Ruiz tells me. “So is that why most of the forest is off limits to guests?” I ask. “Have you heard about aluxes?” he responds. “According to local lore, these are jungle sprites or elves that protect you in the forest. Some people still make shrines and offerings to them.” When I ask him if he believes in the creatures, he responds with a big mischievous smile. “You never know,” he says. “This area is still very unexplored.”