Mexico’s Riviera Maya came into prominence as a tourist destination in1999. Today there are more than 51 world class all-inclusive resorts. Unlike its neighbor, Cancun, the Riviera Maya resorts are not crowded together in one long luxury strip. All of the resorts are set back from the road and surrounded by acres of untouched and natural vegetation. The pervading theme of the Riviera Maya hotels is to build on the magnificent cultures that came before them and not spoil the natural beauty of the area.
There are over 120 km of white sand beaches but there is so much more to the Riviera Maya than sun and sand. The surrounding area abounds with Mayan attractions, nature themed parks, crystal clear cenontes, and small villages that have not changed for centuries. Luxury and elegance are still the keynotes for the resorts, most of which are new and feature the latest in eco friendly innovations. In an area known worldwide for its cultural and eco- tourism, Hacienda Tres Rios, opened in 2008, has in a very short time, risen to the top of the list of eco-luxury resorts.
Sunset World, a group of hospitality and service experts, has created a number of magnificent resorts. The Sunset World properties all offer a luxurious escape for the over 3 million travelers from all over the world who visit the area each year.
The Sunset Royal Beach Resort in Cancun was built in 1992 and has been completely renovated to include 3 restaurants, spa, fitness center and a white sand beach to rival any in the world. Cancun’s bustling hotel zone is just outside its front steps and it is minutes from the famous Cancun nightlife and shopping. The Sunset Lagoon Resort and Marina, renovated in 1994 is a relaxing haven on the lagoon side of Cancun. Casual and chic, this resort boasts a unique blend of Mediterranean and Mexican architectural design. The on-site marina allows guests to board a private yacht for the day to experience the calming waters of the Caribbean. Many guests return year after year to experience the laid-back elegance of this quiet retreat. The Sunset Fishermen Resort is located just five minutes from downtown Playa del Carmen and is a hot spot for European travelers.
Hacienda Tres Rios, is to date, the jewel in the crown of Sunset World properties. This luxury resort, one of five planned for the surrounding 326 pristine acres of nature preserve, offers an Endless Luxury All-Inclusive experience in the Riviera Maya. Since its completion in 2008, the Hacienda Tres Rios has been recognized by the Mexican Government for the delicate balance it has been able to maintain between luxury vacations and environmental conservation. The Tres Rios Nature Park is a natural paradise where three rivers merge into the sea. The pristine tropical jungle and mangrove forest is intersected by the three winding freshwater rivers and decorated by ten fascinating, crystal clear cenotes. The forest is home to 120 species of plants and 90 species of birds and animals. In an area once devastated by hurricane winds and water, Tres Rios has established a nursery where they foster the grown of indigenous plants to be used on all of the Sunset properties. All of the organic left-overs from the restaurants are used a compost. Guests are offered daily tours through this fascinating nature park.
When the Tres Rios plan for an additional four luxury resorts is complete, about 150 acres of land will be maintained as a reserve with little-to-no development to ensure the perfect balance of human enjoyment and protected natural resources.
An integral part of any luxury vacation is the availability of first class restaurants. Hacienda Tres Rios has designed their restaurants so that their guests never run out of choices. El Alebrije excels in Spanish cuisine and entertainment. Kotori is a blend of several Asian cultures and food. Porto Bello is pure Italian and a favorite of many guests. Casa Las Islas serves an array of Mexican and international fare done in buffet style. In addition there are several smaller specialty bars and restaurants serving breakfast and lunch. Il forno dishes up pizza made to order; the Hacienda Grill is a pool-side breakfast and lunch favorite featuring grilled fish and shrimp; Café de Paris is the place for an afternoon latte or cup of tea with homemade pastries, while the Victory Sports bar is open late into the night. All of this, plus 24 hour room service is included in the endless luxury all-inclusive package.
A special treat offered by the resort is the weekly Chef’s Table. We were pleased and rather amazed when this elaborate 7-course dinner was served in the kitchen. With at least two chefs and a specially trained waiter in attendance, there was never a break in the steady stream of food and fine wine. We began our feast with crab cake with pistachio sauce and continued on through salad, asperagus and yellow squash soup, salmon, smoked shrimp with fennel sauce, beef tenderloin in a red wine sauce and a delicious black/white ice cream dessert. It was a meal to remember and a chef was always available to answer questions and share recipies.
Since we were celebrating an anniversary at the resort, Chef Javier and Chef Israel Izquierdo, prepared a special dinner for us the night before our departure. We dined on snails, asparagus and corn soup, lasagna with veal and smoked cheese gratin and beef medallions. Dessert was bananas and coffee cappuccino and kahula cream.
On one morning tour we were escorted along the cenote trail to the cenote Aguila where we were able to swim in the crystal cool clear fresh water. From the dock on the edge of the cenote we tried our skill with one of the kayaks and traveled for a considerable distance through the mangrove forest where we encountered a variety of birds and one intrepid and curious iguana. It was magical. Early the following morning we walked the rest of the cenote trail and visited the other eight cenotes which were mostly deserted and beautifully tranquil. On our way back to the hotel we encountered a number of families exploring the forest by bicycle.
Undoubtedly one of the most interesting and unique experiences I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of was the SenseAdventure Tour. I cannot begin to describe this experience and I do not have any pictures. We were led into the jungle by a guide who explained as we walked along a narrow path that all people were composed of earth, water, wind and fire. We were about to encounter all of these elements and possibly come to understand our nature a little better. We were brought to a halt and told that from that point on, we were going to walk single file blindfolded and with our eyes closed. Admittedly, this took a little getting used to and a great deal of trust. Along the way, we were showered with all of these elements in a sometimes rather shocking manner…but never were we uncomfortable. At the end of the tour we were seated and told to remove the blindfold and look at ourselves in the mirror which was a small cenote surrounded by mangroves. Should you get the chance, do not miss this strange adventure because the only way it can be explained is to experience it. It was one of the many highlights of our visit.
We were taken into Playa del Carmen for a taste of local culture and a little souvenir shopping. Other than that we spent many hours at the two pools and on the beach-beds that lined the picturesque beach. We were even taken for a sail on the colorful catamaran that is offered to all guests as a part of the all-inclusive plan. Since the Hacienda Tres Rio caters to those with families as well as adults only, there are a number of programs to occupy young vacationers including a seperate pool for children.
One evening we were taken to the Hacienda Andalucia for a first class horse show and Spanish dinner. The evening began with traditional cocktails in the patio of the classical hacienda. A typical dinner show featured a display of Mexican traditions, dances and costumes. After dinner we descended from the upstairs restaurant to the riding arena where we were treated to an outstanding array of singers, stunt riders and rope artists performing on dazzling Spanish horses. I have never seen horses perform the intricate dance steps that these horses were able to execute. The Hacienda Andalucia, a part of the Sunset properties, was another of the highlights of our holiday.
One amenity that cannot be over-looked amid all of the luxury features is the Ya’ax Che Spa. The spa has become an important feature of the hotel offering a variety of services that purify the body, balance the mind and uplift the spirit. They have managed to combine the ancient wisdom with advanced Mayan techniques to improve the physical health and regain a balance in the rhythm of life. Treatments are enhances by the edition of such natural ingredients as lemon grass, lime, jasmine, aloe, organic honey and rainforest flowers. We spent an hour as a couple with Rosa and Carolina and came away completely relaxed. For a complete experience, the spa should be included in every luxury vacation.
I do not hesitate to offer that Hacienda Tres Rios is perhaps the most outstanding property in the Riviera Maya. In an area featuring over 51 world class resorts, the Hacienda Tres Rios has gone beyond simple luxury to almost hedonistic opulence. Look for the additional Tres Rios properties in the next few years as a yacht club, convention center, equestrian park and more fully developed nature park are added.
For more information go to wwwhaciendatresrios.com/Riviera-maya-resort. See also reviews on Trip Advisor.