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Be it a beachfront palapa that’s within a stone’s throw of ancient ruins or an all-inclusive fortress resort where you needn’t step foot in the same pool twice, Riviera Maya has a home away from home for everybody. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editors’ choices for the best places to stay in Riviera Maya:
1. Rosewood Mayakoba. An exclusive boutique hotel in the resort of Mayakoba, Rosewood Mayakoba is arranged around a series of canals — you’ll be taken to your white-washed private casita via a charming teak-clad boat. Though the quaint beach here is a bit of a hike from most guest rooms, you’ll be just as happy in the full-service cabanas and chairs that surround the two pools, where you can order a gourmet Mexican lunch, fresh-fruit cocktail or alfresco massage. The spa is one of this resort’s most stunning facilities — it’s massive and includes outdoor showers in the changing areas.
2. Banyan Tree Mayakoba. Also tucked in the Mayakoba resort (which hosts an annual winter stop on the PGA tour), Banyan Tree Mayakoba is an exotic retreat with Moorish style design accents and a series of private villas arranged around pools and gardens. Its Saffron restaurant is acclaimed for its authentic Thai cuisine (the international brand Banyan Tree has its roots in Thailand).
3. The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun. From the moment you step into the luxurious lobby, you’ll feel pampered at this Ritz-Carlton resting along the Caribbean Sea. The waterfront rooms are large and elegant, and come with a balcony so you can better enjoy the view. To get even closer to the water, rent one of the beachside cabanas for drinks or an intimate dinner. Don’t forget to try out the tennis center and sign up for a relaxing massage in the spa.
4. Hotel Secreto. It’s undeniably all too easy for Riviera Maya’s sprawling maze of monstrous hotels — which average around 300 rooms a piece — to leave you feeling like just another body bobbing in an overcrowded pool or waiting around in a buffet line. The solution at Hotel Secreto, a Mediterranean-inspired take on cubed, modern design in Isla Mujeres, is to forgo any sort of official signage, stretch the lap pool out to 60 feet and cap the room count at nine.
5. Viceroy Riviera Maya. With only 41 villas, this intimate Playa del Carmen resort exudes the same laidback, chic design as its brand sisters in the U.S. (all bare the style stamp of interior designer Kelly Wearstler). The resort’s La Marea Restaurant is one of the area’s most romantic, where fresh seafood is served in a room that looks out onto the ocean.
6. Fairmont Mayakoba. This 401-room wonder, set on 45 acres within the secluded Mayakoba community, makes you feel like you’re part of the lush mangrove forest that surrounds it. The property’s casitas and suites are woven seamlessly into their tropical forest surroundings; oceanfront suites may even get their own stretch of pristine white beach. Spa-goers will go gaga over the 37,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa’s 20 treatment rooms and impressive menu of services. At the same time, golf buffs will experience the splendor of the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleón Golf Course, site of the PGA Tour’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
7. Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa. With an unassuming entrance tucked away in Riviera Maya, Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa is a quiet gem obscured by lush foliage and giant coconut palms. Guests take a short drive under a tropical canopy to discover a luxe, colonial-style hacienda with gorgeous manicured gardens surrounding a pool. Located between the sometimes-touristy Cancun and the sleepy bohemian town of Tulum, the high-end resort sits on a gorgeous stretch of beach surrounded by tropical jungle.