Even though the Riviera Maya is growing at the rate of 4,000 new hotel rooms a year, new resort properties offer a sense of space, both in the size of their rooms and the sprawling layout of the resorts themselves, and a list of amenities and activities to fit a wide range of clients.
The pool at the newly opened Sandos Playacar Riviera
An example is the new Sandos Playacar Riviera Hotel & Spa, which opened in April with 400 expansive junior and two-room master suites, many with large, circular in-room hot tubs, all with balconies, some large enough to accommodate a second hot tub. The architecture is split between three-story buildings housing a few dozen rooms each, and two-story hacienda-style villas with 10 accommodations each. Each hacienda has its own private plunge pool, and these accommodations are popular with extended families for reunions, weddings and other celebrations.
Rendering of a Junior Suite at Sandos Playacar Riviera
Guests of the Riviera have access to the restaurants and other amenities of the adjacent Sandos sister property, Playacar Beach Resort & Spa, which they can access via regular golf-cart shuttles, or, for those who want to take in the scenery, a brief walk to the sandy beach from the Riviera property along walkways shaded with palm trees and flamboyant trees, with brilliant red flowers.
The sister properties also share a new spa. In its own villa-like building, the spa consists of 22 treatment rooms, each with its own private shower, a spa pool, and one of the largest hamman steam rooms in the region. For those clients who are fitness-inclined, there are rooms for spinning, yoga and aerobics. Unlike other resorts in the Sandos price-point, access to these facilities is free (treatments, of course, carry an additional fee); a value-added feature agents can sell to clients.
For the Kids
For those traveling with the kids in tow, The Beach Resort is a top-rated family destination, with two separate all-day kids’ clubs, one for children ages two to eight, the other for older youngsters and teens. Once a week, the children take over the 600-seat theater, performing on stage, in Disney character costumes and skits. And the teens have the on-property disco to themselves nightly, until 10 p.m., after which it is for grown-ups only.
Sandos prides itself on the quality of its service and the quality of the food. “A palm tree is a palm tree,” says Assistant Manager Patrick Lorenz, adding, “what guests remember and tell their friends is how well they ate and how well they were treated.”
The Riviera offers three on-property restaurants, including Asiana, decorated dramatically in red and black, featuring pan-Asian choices, including Japanese sushi and Vietnamese Pad Thai, plus family recipes from the chef’s Chinese grandmother. At the sister property, specialty restaurants include Le Gourmet, an Italian restaurant in a setting reminiscent of a Medici palace.
The beach resort reopened in December after a multimillion dollar makeover of its public areas and 460 guest rooms.
The lounge at Sandos Playacar Riviera
For clients who demand VIP treatment, both Sandos properties have a hotel-within-a-hotel component, called Royal Club ($25 per person per day additional), with such features as private check-in, a dedicated concierge, private club room with free top-shelf brand liquors and Internet access, and a roped-off area of the beach with shaded cabanas.
A similar VIP setup at the other Sandos complex a few miles away, Sandos Caracol, is called Select Club, with an elegant Mediterranean-style beach house that was the home of the hotel’s original owner. Caracol is a romantic property, inside a 100 percent natural protected eco-area, dotted with lagoons and wooden walkways, with pelicans, crabs and turtles sharing the space.
In between Caracol and Playacar is the town of Playa del Carmen, which has grown from an old-fashioned, go-barefoot beach village into a sophisticated area with designer shops in the modern Fifth Avenue shopping complex.
Urge your clients to experience the Dolphin Discovery, an opportunity to swim and play with these friendly creatures with the perpetual smile. A favorite trick is the “foot push”—a guest floats face down, and a dolphin pushes you across the large pool area, fast enough that it can feel like flying.
The sprawling, ancient Mayan city of Tulum also is a must-see for its postcard-perfect view of the turquoise sea from a cliffside overlook. There is little shade here, so agents should recommend a tour that departs the hotel no later than 8 a.m.
The Riviera Maya also is home to one of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs, and scuba diving is a top attraction. There is a dive shop at Sandos, with a variety of daily one- and two-tank dives for novice or experienced divers, and golfers will appreciate the 18-hole Playacar Golf Course, adjacent to the two Sandos Playacar resorts.