Hotel Decider

Where to Stay in the Riviera Maya

By: Sarah Marcantonio

One of our top recommendation for a quick dose of Vitamin D is always the Riviera Maya: An easy hour or so’s drive from Cancún, which has nonstop flights from just about every major airport, its string of resorts has something to suit every type of traveler. Here’s our rundown of the best options.

Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa

One of the first luxury resorts in Riviera Maya and still one of the best, Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa draws inspiration from Mayan culture with indigenous art, handcrafted furniture and white stucco buildings fringed with thatch roofs. The 63 rooms and suites have private terraces and a distinctly romantic vibe—you’ll get the hint when the sun goes down and thousands of candles light up all the public spaces. Still, families are welcome here, and with the best stretch of white sand on the coast, it’s ideal for anyone who wants to work on their tan.

Who It’s Best For: Romantics who want an authentic Mexican experience and a picturesque beach.

Hotel Esencia

Less like a resort than the beachfront villa of your stylish and wealthy Mexican friends, Hotel Esencia is in fact the former villa of an Italian duchess. It’s tiny (there are only 38 suites and three villas) and homey but still fashionably minimalist, with whitewashed walls and simple wooden furniture. Service is personal and relaxed. If you want the rustic-chic vibe of Tulum without having to sacrifice niceties like air conditioning or hot running water, this is your best bet.

Who It’s Best For: Couples and laid-back families who like hotels with an intimate, residential vibe.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Big and bustling, Grand Velas Riviera Maya is the perfect choice for visitors who want the convenience and value of an all-inclusive without sacrificing luxury. Especially good for families and groups (there’s also an adults-only section), the resort offers a variety of activities including scuba diving, kayak tours and kitesurfing. Suites are spacious enough to fit at least four and come with plunge pools, terraces and a view of the beach. With eight restaurants, three pools and a nearby stretch of beach, there’s plenty of variety to keep you from feeling bored.

Who It’s Best For: Families who appreciate value and constant activity.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba

The point of a honeymoon is to feel like you’re the only two people in the world. And whether you’re newly wed or not, Banyan Tree Mayakoba delivers the goods. The resort has 121 villas designed as romantic hideaways, with plunge pools, outdoor baths and soaring ceilings, but they’re so private you’ll think you’re the only guests there. If you can tear yourself away from the room, there are 14 restaurants serving everything from Thai and pasta to fresh local seafood.

Who It’s Best For: Honeymooners, those looking to relive their honeymoons, or anyone who values privacy.

Thompson Playa del Carmen

Want the best of both worlds? Thompson Playa del Carmen has two separate hotels—a cozy, beachside boutique and a glamorous party venue. Pick whichever fits your style and you can spend ample time in the other. The main hotel is right in the thick of downtown Playa del Carmen, with a booming rooftop restaurant and lounge and a swim-up bar that could have swum here from Miami. The Beach House, on the other hand, attracts tanned and toned types with its relaxed vibe and oceanfront pool and grill (the tacos are on point).

Who It’s Best For: Jetsetters who want to be in the center of the action—but with space to chill out.

Nizuc Resort & Spa

Nizuc manages to pull off the impossible: a secluded, atmospheric resort just 10 minutes from the Cancún airport. Set at the jungle-covered tip of the Zona Hotelera, it feels like a private retreat, complete with two lush beaches, plenty of restaurant options and a terrific spa (book the Nizuc thermal experience). The 274 rooms are spacious and tranquil—this was originally planned as an Aman—and you’re a short taxi ride to all of Cancún’s dining, shopping and nightlife options.

Who It’s Best For: Families and couples who want both a secluded environment and proximity to Cancún and the airport.

Viceroy Riviera Maya

With a rain forest vibe and jungle-fringed beach setting, the Viceroy Riviera Maya is a good choice for couples who want a romantic retreat but with a bit of social interaction. No kids under age 14 are allowed on the property, and beach barbecues, Mayan spa rituals and yoga classes mean plenty of opportunity to meet fellow guests (not to mention the tropical birds and spider monkeys). But the 41 villas are quiet and private, with palapa-style roofs, heated plunge pools and outdoor rain showers. And the soap concierge, butler service and pillow menu take care of creature comforts.

Who It’s Best For: Couples who want to embrace nature but not stay holed up in the honeymoon suite.