By Kara Williams, on May 7, 2013

Romance in the Riviera Maya

Over the past 12 years – since my daughter was a toddler – my family and I have visited the Riviera Maya five times. We love this stretch of coastline on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula for its ease of access (flights from our home Denver airport to Cancun are direct), the guaranteed warm weather (it’s cold in Colorado in the winter), and variety of things to do (snorkeling in cenotes, ziplining in adventure parks, touring Maya ruins).

Here are my picks for top child-free resorts in the Riviera Maya for a romantic getaway – hotels I wouldn’t hesitate to book with my husband, whom I hope is reading this (hint, hint):

Viceroy Riviera Maya

Situated on seven miles of white-sand beach, the Viceroy Riviera Maya enjoys an enviable location a few miles north of Playa del Carmen (40 miles south of Cancun). With just 41 thatched-roof villas – each with a private plunge pool and outdoor shower – it’s truly an intimate resort with some unusual services. For example, a resident soap butler delivers fresh bars of hand-cut, artisanal soaps made in local Maya communities and formulated with organic ingredients found on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Sunrise at the pier at Viceroy Riviera Maya

The adults-only resort further honors local culture with its resident Shaman, who welcomes all arriving guests with a special Mayan blessing designed to remove negative energy and spirits – what a great way to set the tone for a relaxing, romantic getaway!
The Viceroy Riviera Maya’s pier is private, available only to its guests, where you might practice yoga, have a private dinner for two, or catch a boat to go snorkeling. Still other fabulous amenities and services: on-site cooking classes, a full-service spa offering Mayan rituals (such as the Temazcal steam), and “tropical butlers” who are quick to offer iced face cloths to loungers around the outdoor pool.

Royal Hideaway Playacar

I like this property because of its convenient location in the Playacar development of several all-inclusive resorts, all set right on the beach. It’s an easy, straightforward walk on sidewalks – about 30 minutes at a moderate pace – to downtown Playa del Carmen, with its plethora of shops, dining options, and upbeat nightlife.

That said, the Royal Hideaway Playacar is all-inclusive, so you never have to leave the property if you don’t want to, since all meals – and drinks – are included in your nightly rate. I appreciate that dinnertime brings an air of sophistication to the resort: men are required to wear collard shirts, long pants, and closed shoes for dinner at the a la carte restaurants. What a great excuse to get dressed up nightly for a romantic meal!

Also included in the nightly rate: a champagne welcome, your own villa concierge, the use of six different pools, tennis courts and water sports, and 24-hour room service (heck, you never have to leave your room, ahem). And I’ll tell you this: they take the “child free” policy very seriously here. Years ago, when I was staying at a family-friendly resort down the beach, I tried to walk onto the Royal Hideaway property just to “check it out for a future visit” while carrying my baby son. I couldn’t get past the pool’s security guard. So if you think you might miss your own children too much when spotting other peoples’ kids by the pool, the Royal Hideaway Playacar, an Occidental Resort, is for you.

El Dorado Maroma

When my best friend got married last year, this is where I suggested she book her honeymoon; she did, and she reported back that it was the perfect place to de-stress after the wedding and connect with her new husband. Foodies, they both appreciated that this adults-only, beachfront property about 14 miles south of Puerto Morelos is not only all-inclusive, but “Gourmet Inclusive,” with quality dining experiences and first-class service.

In fact, mealtime at El Dorado Maroma is often a festive affair: the most popular night at Sabores, the Mexican-Caribbean restaurant, is the weekly serenade from a classically trained opera singer; at Asian-inspired Kiyoko, the chef prepares meals in front of the guests for an interactive experience; an authentic fish market allows guests to select their own fish from the catch of the day and have it grilled at the oceanview Papitos Gourmet Beach Club.

Viewfinder Tip: Snorkel gear and kayaks are complimentary for guests at El Dorado Maroma.

Choose from various types of suites and villas, including swim-up suites, where you can step right off your terrace into a lazy river that connects to the main pool. Or you can lounge in one of the beach beds on the pristine sand, where beach waiters take drink orders and deliver gourmet bites to guests. If you’re inspired to be active during your stay at El Dorado Maroma, borrow complimentary snorkel gear or kayaks to play in the ocean in front of the resort.

So many luxury resorts, so little time. Other upscale spots I’d love to visit with my husband include the child-free Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun, as well as these others that do allow kids: Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Fairmont Mayakoba, and Banyan Tree Mayakoba

What’s your favorite romantic resort?