During a tour of hotels in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Travel Agent had time to sit down with Jean Agarrista Marfin, president of the Riviera Maya Hotels Association. During the conversation, we learned that the hotel product in the region has soared to 37,000 rooms, up from 17,000 just five years ago. Here are some of the best properties we saw during our visit.

Azul Sensatori Hotel, by Karisma.

We know it’s hard to swallow the idea of a luxury all-inclusive but trust us, this place doesn’t feel like an all-inclusive. What raises this property above most all-inclusives in Mexico? The food.

azul sensatori hotel

Azul Sensatori Hotel, by Karisma is a 438-suite resort

Since it opened only a couple of weeks before we stayed in November, the property was still doing some last-minute touches, such as crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on the landscape, but this was probably the most fully operational resort we have seen so soon after a grand opening. As we mentioned, the food is what separated this 438-suite resort from all other Mexican resorts. Travel Agent highly suggests sending your clients to Le Chique, the property’s trendy, molecular fusion restaurant, which felt more like a cooking demonstration than your usual dinner experience. Each of the 12 courses was small, but by the last, your clients will be full. The chef explained what each dish was and why the wine was selected for that particular serving. The restaurant sat a maximum of four people per table, which were separated by a chic design of red and black strings in a dimly lit atmosphere. Another unique touch was the color-changing wine cellar in the front of the restaurant. We also loved the rooms at this property, which shouldn’t get overlooked.

Although Azul Sensatori Hotel, by Karisma has the best Kids’ Club we’ve seen at an all-inclusive (mainly due to its partnership with Fisher-Price toys and its highly trained staff), we loved how it still offered an adults-only section. We stayed in room #2409, a Jacuzzi Junior Suite in the adults-only section. It came with a king bed, a large outdoor balcony with ocean views and a Jacuzzi to the right of the bed with views to the TV. Agents should call Alexia Muralt, sales manager, at 011-52-998-872-8080 or [email protected].

Azul Fives Hotel, by Karisma

This resort was the second stop on Travel Agent’s one-week tour of the Riviera Maya and Cancun properties. The hotel opened earlier this month and, like our host property the new Azul Sensatori Hotel, by Karisma, this was also unlike many all-inclusive properties we’ve visited in the past.

azul fives hotel

Azul Fives Hotel, by Karisma opened earlier this month in Playa del Carmen

Just 15 minutes from the heart of Playa del Carmen, this resort features close to 360 rooms, but you don’t need to look beyond the One-Bedroom Suites. There is perhaps no room more impressive at this price, and by booking a One-Bedroom Suite and a Deluxe Room next door, you can essentially create a two-bedroom suite. The stairs of the One-Bedroom Suite lead to the rooftop where a Jacuzzi, bed, bar and wraparound couch await. The Jacuzzi is high enough for a client to appreciate the views while soaking. The rooftop area can accommodate 30 to 40 people and the room, including the Deluxe Room, can have up to six people for a total cost of about $1,100—or about $150 to $170 per person, per night.

Think about it: For $150 to $170 per person, your client can experience an all-
inclusive with some of the best amenities you can get anywhere in Mexico. This is the perfect spot for a bachelor or bachelorette party or perhaps a family reunion. A personal chef and/or bartender can also be hired for this room at an extra cost. Agents should again contact Muralt, sales manager, at 011-52-998-872-8080 or [email protected].

mandarin oriental riviera maya

The living room of the Presidential Villa at Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya

Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya 

Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya was one of the best luxury products Travel Agent has ever seen in Mexico. It is very modern and trendy, from its six sculptures located throughout the property, which essentially create an outdoor art museum, to incredible rooms like the Presidential Villa, offering three bedrooms, a rooftop plunge pool, two floors and perhaps the best view we’ve ever seen from a sink. Yes, a sink—there are windows in front of the sink offering views of the ocean. Book these for clients looking for the best of the best, but other rooms—like the Villas Selva, or “jungle”—will not disappoint. We stayed in Selva room #347, which offers an outdoor pool set in the heart of the property’s jungle landscape. The room also comes with a king bed, a bathroom with a Jacuzzi and a separate closet area. Our favorite subtle feature was the sliding door from the bedroom to the bathroom, which was actually a mirror on the other side, making you feel completely isolated in your bed. All remote controls in every room glow, so you won’t have problems channel surfing in the dark. Agents should call Oscar Molina, senior sales manager, at 011-52-984-877-3251 or [email protected].

Hacienda Tres Rios 

Hacienda Tres Rios is ideal for families because its guests-only Tres Rios park is perfect for your clients looking to snorkel in cenotes (underground caves) and see all kinds of flora and fauna just a short walk from their hotel rooms. When we arrived in late November, the property was preparing for a soft opening, but should be fully operational by the spring. Of its 273 junior suites, Travel Agent saw room #1121, a Ceiba Junior Suite, which comes with two double beds or a king bed. It also features a sofa, balcony and indoor Jacuzzi. We also saw room #1122, a Casa Grande, which can accommodate six people and which we consider the best room in the property. It has a king bed with a Jacuzzi right next to it, and a separate dining area. Agents should contact Miriam Martinez, wedding and social events sales manager, at 011-52-998-891-5266 or mmartinez@hacienda tresrios.com.

occidental royal hideaway

Royal Hideaway accommodations offer a classic form of luxury

Old-School Luxury

Whereas the Mandarin Oriental, Riviera Maya offered a modern, trendy form of luxury, the Occidental Royal Hideaway Resort & Spa specializes more in classic elegance—or to put it quite simply, this was “old school” luxury. A saxophone player provides soothing tunes near the poolside around 4 p.m. every day, and in the Club Royale theater, guests can watch an old-fashioned dinner-theater performance. Agents can book these shows up to a week before their clients arrive. Of the 200 rooms, the best are the two Presidential Suites, which have a mini-refrigerator both inside and outside of the room, with one located on the balcony. We got a look at room #2523, a Luxury Room, which is the property’s standard room. It had very subtle browns and grays and just felt classic, not over the top. All rooms, including this one, come with a terrace where your clients can have breakfast delivered. Agents should call Felisa Padilla, director of sales and marketing, at 011-52-984-873-4500, ext. 8530 or [email protected].