These days “all-inclusive” doesn’t necessarily mean impersonal service and mediocre food. In Mexico’s Riviera Maya, the brief but densely-hoteled strip of coastline between Tulum and Cancun, all-inclusive can actually mean anything you want it to mean. You just have to find the right resort for you. We spent time at three very different all-inclusive resorts (and one uber boutique hotel) on the Riviera Maya and here’s our take on which resort is right for which traveler from sybarites to families.

Grnd Velas small Pool

One of three pools at the Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort Riviera Maya. This one has an awesome swim up bar where the bartender actually tries to talk you into the better booze even though all-inclusive bartenders often try to cheap out to cut corners.

Grand Velas: for world-class indulgers ONLY

Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort Riviera Maya is the newest all-inclusive in the Riviera Maya region but it acts like its been doing this forever. The resort is all suites (from 1,000 to nearly 2,500 square feet) and super all-inclusive.

Now, it’s one thing to be super all-inclusive but offer mediocre food, b-list booze, and lazy service and amenities. At Grand Velas, the food, from five different restaurants, is gourmet (we predict at least four diamonds sooner rather than later), the bars are seriously stocked and staff members actually encourage you to enjoy the best of the best whenever and wherever you desire. You want it? They’ll make sure you get it.

It’s a dangerous combination that should only be tackled by experienced hedonists.

Grand Velas Room

Our 1,300 square foot Grand Class suite at the Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Riviera Maya.

The Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Riviera Maya’s interior spaces are chic and decadent as well. Just as they’ve cut no corners with the food, beverages, or staff they clearly didn’t cheap-out when it came time to choosing the miles of marble, leagues of rich lumber, and acres of art work that polish the place.

Even our (free) in-room snacks and amenities were top-drawer, from Don Julio tequila to Molton Brown toiletries to the wonderful slippers (which Karen stole and is wearing right now as she types this).

When we entered our Grand Class suite at the Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Riviera Maya the blinds were closed but with the  push of a button our dramatic view was revealed. See it for yourself in our video, below.

If you’re ready to test your pampering prowess check out our full profile of Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort for iTraveliShop.

Grand Velas Balcony

The Caribbean just off our balcony (with private plunge pool) at the Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Riviera Maya.

 

Maroma: For the star-struck

Maroma Resort & Spa is not an all-inclusive, but it is a legend on the Riviera Maya so we had to check it out. Hey, if it’s good enough for Robert Redford, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Sean Penn, Cameron Diaz, and Sharon Stone (just to name a few of the hotel’s dozens of famous fans), then it’s (probably) good enough for us.

Maroma

Luxury bungalows on the beach at the star-studded Maroma Resort & Spa.

Okay it was totally good enough for us and delivered all of the style and seclusion you’d expect of a place that makes big time movie stars feel right at home. Even better? The hotel has recently hired a new sommelier and even though, at 24, he’s barely old enough to legally drink, Alexandre Rioux puts on a truly lovely wine-pairing dinner. You can read all about it in our wine dinner review for iTraveliShop.

Maroma lookout

A private perch over the Caribbean at Maroma Resort & Spa.

Maroma pool

The Maroma pool.

 

Zoetry: For the healthy hedonist

Healthy might be stretching it a bit, but Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya spends more time attending to the needs of your body and soul (not just your stomach) than most all-inclusives. Yes there’s a spa and an exercise room (that’s seen better days, frankly).

What really sets Zoëtry apart are things like hosting a rotating roster of wellness experts who offer guests courses covering everything from getting a good night’s sleep every single night, incorporating better nutrition into your life, losing weight, and reducing stress. There are also daily outdoor fitness classes including ab workouts and calorie-burning and muscle-stretching sessions in the resort’s Thalasso sea water pool. And a Temazcal–a kind of pre-hispanic sweat lodge.

Zoetry drinks

Poolside cocktails take a shortcut at Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya.

But don’t worry. Zoëtry also offers two wonderful bars, three restaurants, a sushi bar, a lovely pool and plenty of other reasons to lie around and work on your tan, not your beta blockers.

Zoetry fountain

The view from the open-air lobby at Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya.

 

Hacienda Tres Rios: For the eco-friendly family

We were surprised by three major things at the all-inclusive Hacienda Tres Rios.

1. While many all-inclusives  ban children or say families are welcome, then fail to provide the amenities and services that families require, Tres Rios positively wraps its arms around families with special rates and packages (even a special package for single parents traveling with children), roomy rooms, kid-friendly staff even an ice cream cart by the pool that doles out scoops all day long.

Rates also include plenty of kid-and-family-friendly on-resort activities from biking to kayaking to swimming in the resort’s private freshwater cenotes.

2. Tres Rios also lives up to its claims of environmental responsibility. The building design allows the mangrove environment to flow and thrive, the structures were built modularly in nearby Puerto Morelos with finished sections assembled on site, Kone Ecodisc elevators re-use energy generated while descending to help power the elevator’s journey back up, maids actually leave used towels on the hooks per laundry-reduction efforts, staff sorts and recycles every piece of garbage every single day, heat generated by the air conditioning system is re-used to heat the resort’s water (which is made up entirely of collected rain water or sea water that’s been desalinated through reverse osmosis), the air-conditioning system is pre-cooled using super-cold water circulated from deep underground and the staff at Hacienda Tres Ríos is required to use both sides of every piece of paper (we saw it happen).

No wonder Hacienda Tres Ríos has received a 95% rating from the Green Globe organization.

Tres Rios Chef Oscar

Talented (and energetic) executive chef Oscar Orbe Quiroz runs seven surprisingly good restaurants and is hands-on for his popular chef’s table dinner at Hacienda Tres Rios.

3. Something else we weren’t expecting from a family-friendly, nicely-priced all-inclusive like Tres Rios was noteworthy food but we were pleasantly surprised at every meal–particularly at a chef’s table dinner we enjoyed with gregarious executive chef Oscar Orbe Quiroz. Really, can someone just give this guy a TV show already?

Here’s more about travel in Mexico