Our 5-day stay at the Grand Hyatt in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen / Riviera Maya
Over the past 25 years we have enjoyed numerous getaways to the azure waters and white sand beaches of Mexico’s Riviera Maya and beyond. During our recent five day grand time at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen we booked an all day sailing trip, swam in miles of underground rivers, relaxed in hammocks on the beach and enjoyed some great food.
Stretching for nearly 100 miles along the eastern edge of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lies what is known as the “Riviera Maya”. This region of all-inclusive resorts, posh boutique hotels along with a wide variety of rental properties begins just south of Cancun in Puerto Morelos and runs south through Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal, Tulum and Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
The Riviera Maya was originally referred to as the “Cancun-Tulum Corridor”. In 1999 under the leadership of the then municipal president of Solidaridad, Quintana Roo, the region was renamed the “Riviera Maya”. This simple name change was responsible for kicking off much of the development that we see today.
On numerous trips to this sun baked region we have stayed at a sand-in-your-toes eco-beachfront hotel mere steps from the warm waters of the Caribbean to stunning properties such as the Fairmont Mayakoba with its nearly 600 acres of tropical forest intersected by crystal clear waterways and surrounded by a pristine shoreline.
For our recent five day trip in May we booked an ocean view room at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort, located in the heart of this fast developing, energetic beach town. The Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort has 314 ocean facing rooms including 36 luxury suites in addition to the Presidential Suite, with its majestic and unparalleled views along with a private plunge pool. Every room has a private balcony overlooking the ever changing turquoise waters of the Caribbean or the preserved mangrove gardens. Our clean, spacious and comfortable room was located on the 4th floor providing us with a fantastic view over the numerous pools out to the sea. Sunrises came early and bathed our east-facing room in a warm rainbow of tropical colors.
We approached the hotel up a long ramp and parked in front of a large cascading fountain inspired by the massive pyramid at Chichen Itzá, considered one of the most iconic archaeological sites in Mexico as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With water gushing over its numerous steps it made for an dramatic entrance. Heading toward the reception area we passed yet another homage to Mayan culture. This time it was the Mayan deity K’uk’ulkan or Plumed Serpent. Carved and assembled from several massive pieces of local eucalyptus. K’uk’ulkan is a deity that symbolizes life, light, wisdom, fertility and knowledge. Measuring nearly 60 feet long it is an impressive work of art and a welcome introduction to our first visit.
As we explored the hotel and it various hallways we discover that the pyramid waterfall and the serpent were not the only works of art that adorn the walls of the hotel, both inside and out. There are large metal sculptures hanging in various places that depict the coral that attracts divers from around the world. Some were abstract while others were intricately detailed and lifelike. One of the more notable, and fantastic, metal sculptures is a pair of life-size whale sharks attached to a 40 foot limestone wall adjacent to the pools. This mother and baby duo is truly a masterpiece and a major focal point of the hotel.
The “cenote spa” is a singular attraction of the hotel. Built to mimic the natural cenotes that dot the Yucatan peninsula it is a peaceful, quite retreat from the bustling scene that guests experience in and around the pools. Instead of being cool underground water the cenote spa is a warm pool much like a jacuzzi minus the jets and the noise that they produce. The hand laid, slate gray stone walls that make up the conical shape of the cenote are a work-of-art in their own rite. The walls are punctuated by numerous cutouts that contain small yellow lights that resemble candles and the vines from above dangle into the space creating the feeling of a real cenote. In addition to the cenote there is a 25 meter lap pool surrounded by more greenery as well as hot/cold plunge pools in both the men’s and women’s spa rooms. There are also a range of spa and wellness options to be enjoyed at the Cenote Spa. Spending time here was truly a highlight of our visit.
While many hotels along the Riviera Maya offer water sport amenities such as jet skis, catamarans, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards it should be noted that the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen offers none of these. What they do offer is a great place to relax, either in one of the infinity pools with a private cabana, the Cenote Spa or on the beach. If a water sport adventure is on your bucket list the hotel’s concierge can easily arrange for a wide variety of offsite activities such as dive and snorkel excursions, trips to various archaeological sites or nearby cenotes and water parks. One such adventure worth considering is the water park know as Xel-Há Park by Xcaret. This all inclusive park boasts a wide variety of water lovers activities including natural aquariums, snorkeling in crystal clear underground rivers and a “hammock garden” overlooking the ocean. Be sure to book your stay early as the park can fill up quickly.
Dining at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen was also a treat as both of the restaurants as well as the outdoor sushi bar served well prepared and artfully presented fresh food. Breakfast was had overlooking the sea and could be had buffet style or ordered from the menu. Our first dinner was at The Grill, an upscale restaurant overlooking one of the infinity pools (not accessible during dinner hours) that expertly interprets classic Mexican cuisine along with some surprisingly good Mediterranean dishes.
For our second evening we chose Cocina Restaurant & Terrace, an open air, ocean facing spot featuring traditional dishes such as fish wrapped in banana leaves, chicken with three different moles and uber fresh ceviche. Several wines from Baja Mexico along with numerous tequilas were on hand to quench our thirst. Although 5th. Avenue in Playa was just a few blocks from the hotel and features some of the areas best restaurants it was hard to leave the quiet and comfort of the hotel. And dining while the sun is setting over the sea with a gentle breeze flowing through the restaurant was tough to beat.