Grand Velas Is Grand Indeed

All-inclusives have come a long way!

I used to turn my nose up at all-inclusive resorts. Like hotel restaurants, they had a reputation for being rife with lousy food and are more often tired buffets. Not to mention packed tight with people, not all of whom you’d want to share a dining room, let alone a pool, with. But like hotel restaurants, all-inclusives have come a long way, baby.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya is a gorgeous all-inclusive resort with three classes of rooms and a plethora of restaurants. I love the idea of different classes for what different kinds of people want out of their different kinds of vacations from relaxation to active, from romance to reuniting friends, and from family to exclusively adults.

At the top of the ladder, there’s Grand Class just for adults and teens sixteen and up with 1,300 square foot suites and amazing decks with plunge pools. The suites are modern and insanely well-appointed, including well-stocked mini bars that are part of the all-inclusive program.

Then there’s the Ambassador Class, which is totally family friendly, with 1,200+ square foot suites also with killer décor and amenities. Nothing shabby about these digs. They are just open to families with small children as opposed to being reserved for adults and teens.

Last but not least is the Zen Jungle Class which is set into the Mayan Jungle. It too is family friendly with 1,100 square foot suites with great views and a pool where kids are welcome to splash and play. It’s also a great spot for business travelers since this end of the massive resort is super close to the convention center.

Every room is a suite. All of the meals are included. There’s premium liquor and free WiFi. Water sports. Kids’ activities. A karaoke bar. Twenty-four-hour butler service. Transportation between buildings. A sports bar AND a disco. Even a spa with those fish that eat the dead skin off of your feet! I seriously wanted for nothing while I was there.

Their restaurants are what really blew me away. Instead of the same buffet every night, there was a plethora of killer choices. French cuisine at Piaf with inventive food and décor that will remind you of Paris in the 40’s.

Mexican cuisine at Frida with local favorites and modern twists on classics all offered in a bright airy indoor space or on the gorgeous terrace with stellar ocean views. A buffet that I challenge you to hate at Azul with sushi, tempura, pasta, sandwiches, you name it. Molecular gastronomy at Cocina de Autor with food that looks more like art than edibles.

There’s also international cuisine in a super upscale environment at Bistro and in super casual digs at Chaka; Italian-Mediterranean delights at Lucca; and, my favorite, Asian specialties at Sen Lin that will make your eyes and your mouth very happy.  And, of course, you can also get food and bar service at the beach and at the pool.

The property is so tranquil and relaxing at the adult end and the staff is so helpful and kind. I think my favorite moment was when the local coati, who the staff has named Pancho, decided to join us on our balcony where he helped himself to some snacks and a mixed drink! He came by several times during our stay and we got such a kick out of him!

We were treated very nicely by the staff and made friends with other couples. No one seemed to care that we were gay, although one staff member did mistake my girlfriend for a man from the back. To be fair, the suit and short hair can be confusing and although they waited for her to exit the ladies room, once they saw her, the staff member just smiled and went on his way.

It is a lovely place, one that I hope to visit again. And, because I have you here, I want to reiterate what terrific experiences I have had visiting Mexico. I know that sometimes it gets a bad rap in terms of safety and LGBT friendliness. So I urge you to do your homework and check out the info offered on the State Department website and seek tips from fellow travelers.

Grand Velas was full of beauty and surprises. You can certainly go off property to enjoy Playa del Carmen. But for a short getaway, like we were on, not leaving for a minute is ideal.

There is plenty to do and eat and plenty of places to just be, including your suite. I’ve been lots of places and this one ranks at the top when it comes to having it all, without emptying your bank or traveling for days on end all in an atmosphere that is terribly hard to leave.

It’s true, Grand Velas is grand indeed.