The Riviera Maya is a 100-mile stretch of beachfront on Mexico's Caribbean coast, packed with luxury resort spas and all-inclusive resorts. It's located in the state of Quintana Roo, which is part of the Yucatan peninsula. This coastline used to be mostly fishing villages, but once Cancun was developed, the beachfront to the south was built up and rebranded as Riviera Maya.
Surrounded by low mangrove jungle, the resorts of the Riviera Maya are more spread out, luxurious and expensive than the high-rise hotels of Cancun. Their spas are also among Mexico's best, with upscale properties such as Rosewood Mayakoba and Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa.
Several are centered on the coastal beach town of Playa del Carmen, just 35 miles from the Cancun airport and famous for its palm-lined beaches, coral reefs, shopping, and nightlife. Mayakoba an extensive resort development that includes four high-end hotels, upscale residences and an 18-hole golf course just north of Playa del Carmen.
Most of the spas along the Riviera Maya have Maya-inspired therapies. Some even have a Temazcal, a traditional Mexican sweat lodge, or may offer experiences with a local shaman. Riviera Maya is also home to the great Maya archeological ruins of Tulum, an ancient city perched on a outcrop above the ocean and a must-see excursion 40 miles south of Playa del Carmen.
Peak season is December to April, when the temperature is in the 80s and the humidity is low. It can be steamy during the summer, which is also hurricane season, and the prices are lower then.
If you like to get away from it all, this is one of the most elegant and intimate retreats on the Riviera Maya. Located just 12 miles from the Cancun airport, Zoëtry Paraiso De La Bonita has the region's only certified Thalassotherapy Spa.
The impressive 22,000-square-foot spa features a seawater pool and treatments that incorporate the detoxifying powers of seaweed and marine mud. Its extensive menu also includes Mayan healing practices, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, physiotherapy and healing sounds therapy.
With just 90 suites on 14 lush beachfront acres, this is an all-inclusive without the crowds — and all the rooms face the ocean. A sunset catamaran sail is part of the package, and you can also enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, shopping and golfing at a nearby resorts.
Its Temazcal ceremonies are led by an Intercessor, or healer, and are one hour long. The shelter is filled with hot stones and the Intercessor will guide participants through the spiritual ritual, involving aromas, herbal steams, sounds and sensations. Afterwards, cool off with a shower or plunge in the ocean, then rest to allow the body and mind to process the experience. You can also enjoy classes in yoga, meditation, nutrition and wellness cooking.
Built along winding lagoons and a mile‐long arc of pristine beach, Rosewood Mayakoba is a serene oasis of 130 suites with private plunge pools, rooftop sundecks, garden showers, individual docks and the finest in‐room design and detail. A palapa-roofed boat even brings you to your room's private dock.
Rosewood’s 17,000-square-foot Sense Spa is designed as a retreat-within-a-retreat, where visitors cross a bridge to reach the private spa island. Wooden walkways lead to a swimming pool and limestone cenote. Treatments such as the temazcal ritual and the Mayakoba ancient massage, incorporate indigenous ingredients such as aloe and agave cactus, as well as Mayan traditions. You can even have energy balancing sessions with a Shaman.
Separate spa facilities for men and women include therapeutic plunge pools, steam grottos, saunas and experiential showers. Outside, the spa includes a meditation platform, pool and relaxation deck. Though the resort is super romantic, it welcomes families, and even has a junior spa menu.
Banyan Tree is known for melding its Asian traditions with local traditions, and aa Banyan Tree Mayakoba that means a tasteful Mexican-Asian style. Built between freshwater lagoons and the Caribbean Sea, it offers 116 elegantly-designed private pool villas, several distinct dining options and an award-winning spa.
The spa draws on Asian traditions with the Royal Banyan Herbal Pouch Massage, where a herbal poultice is dipped in warm sesame oil. It is also known for the excellence of its therapists. Each Banyan Tree Spa therapist undergoes at least 350 hours of training based on stringent curriculum of the accredited Banyan Tree Spa Academies in Thailand and Indonesia.
Banyan Tree Spa Mayakoba is famous for The Rainforest — eight different hydrothermal experiences, including a rain walk, rain shower, brine cavern, and the rainforest, where a light sprinkle of rain and warm mist surrounds you. Complete the indulging experience in the Vitality Pool, followed by a 60-minute massage.
Other treatments use local Mexican Melipona honey, a time-honored remedy for detoxifying and healing skin. You can book your entire stay in one of the new Spa Sanctuary Villas. Each are equipped with their own spa facilities, and come with a dedicated host who will create a daily treatment program that starts with a wellness breakfast.
Be sure to try HAAB’, a dining experience that celebrates how the ancient Mayas cultivated their food in agricultural fields and forest gardens. Guests even get to participate in the narrative.
Located on Mamitas Beach, Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen is set in the heart of Playa del Carmen, just steps from the resort town's famous 5th Avenue. This luxury beach hotel has 314 guest rooms and suites with stunning ocean views, as well as two restaurants and a small but beautiful 6,000-square-foot spa. Guests can enjoy Maya-inspired therapies such as obsidian hot stone massages or treatments with healing aloe, cocoa and Mexican plant extracts.
Named for the natural water features that are sacred to the indigenous people, Cenote Spa is a calming sanctuary with subdued tones, tall ceilings and natural décor that complements the surrounding mangrove reserve. Its dreamy relaxation area even has a plunge pool that resembles a cenote.
All eight treatment rooms — six for singles and two for couples —feature a full bath and shower, which are incorporated into many of the treatments, and iPod dock stations so you can bring your favorite music. Several offer views of the jungle.
Amenities include cacao and fresh pineapple juice, hydrotherapy stations (including hot and cold plunges), sauna, eucalyptus steam room and fiber optic chromotherapy showers.
Family-friendly and luxurious, Fairmont is the largest of the Mayakoba resorts, with 401 guest rooms (including 34 suites) set amongst the lush mangroves and winding lagoons along the Caribbean coast.
The 20,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa features 20 treatment rooms, including a couple's suite in the treetops, plus two mineral pools and steam rooms. The spa menu includes Kerstin Florian facials as well as treatments incorporating indigenous ingredients and ancient native traditions.
The Cha Chac Rain Ritual is an exfoliating treatment with cornmeal, clay and oats that takes place on a seven-jet Vichy table. Once you're dry, enjoy a soothing massage with sage-infused oil. Mexican obsidian stones are warmed to soothe your weary muscles, and other treatments incorporate chocolate, honey and papaya for therapeutic results.
Located about ten miles north of Playa del Carmen, this adults-only all-inclusive is a popular honeymoon spot that has become even more delightful with the addition of 30 overwater bungalows -- the only ones in Mexico. They have glass-bottom floors, private infinity pools, outdoor showers, indoor Jacuzzis for two and a deck with fabulous sunset views.
The overwater Naay Spa spa features cheeky treatments such as the Tequila Ritual — a body scrub with the scents of tequila and melon extract, followed by a white clay detox wrap and 30-minutes massage. The Mayan body treatment starts with a natural scrub based on coconut oil and powdered walnut shell, followed by a clay, papaya, honey, and aloe vera wrap, then an application of vanilla body lotion.
Naay Spa has floor-to-ceiling windows, traditional Mexican design accents, and natural art throughout to reflect indigenous plants and herbs.
Ten miles north of Playa del Carmen, Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa is a tranquil haven offering an escape from the fast pace of everyday life. The resort’s 63 rooms and suites overlook the turquoise ocean, and the spa takes cues from the area’s traditional Mayan heritage.
Every part of Kinan Spa has meaning: The space has been aligned with the stars to create a positive energy flow; treatment rooms point east to west, representing day and night; and massage beds face east, symbolizing new beginnings.
Kinan Spa also keeps a hive of Melipona bees — stingless, friendly creatures that are a vital part of the local ecology. The honey harvested from these bees is coveted for its strong anti-microbial and healing properties. The spa uses it in a range of treatments and products, to ensure total well being and to offer a uniquely Mayan experience.
The newest addition to the Mayakoba resort community north of Playa del Carmen, Andaz features 214 guest rooms (including 41 luxury suites) and three outdoor pools. The 10,000-square-foot Naum Spa features "Naum Rituals" designed "to help you to pay homage to yourself and to the Mayan gods that brought you here," according to the spa.
Rituals are heavily focused on the balancing nature of the number three, where everything has a beginning, middle and end. The rituals offer a brief time of reflection in the beginning of the treatment and a time of celebration at the end of the treatment, where you will get a beverage of intention to celebrate your wellness path.
Be sure to visit El Pueblito, a traditional village square in the center of the resort, complete with shops selling authentic Mexican crafts;
Just north of downtown Playa del Carmen, The Viceroy Riviera Maya has just 41 villas nestled in the jungle — not a high-rise in sight.
The Wayak Spa at Viceroy Riviera Maya adopts traditional Mayan healing techniques, treatments, botanicals and indigenous products with its Mayan Traditions signature spa collection, and at the same time celebrates the latest spa techniques and innovations with special treatment collections and programs of revitalization and rejuvenation. It even has a shaman, who greets arriving guests with a traditional Mayan blessing.
The resident shaman, who comes from a long family line of Mayan shamans from the Yucatan village of X-pichil, cultivates and cares for a sacred Jardin Pak'al, a garden of healing plants, at the resort. At the new K’óben, where he dries and prepares the wide array of herbs from his garden, he conducts an individual consultation to determine the guest’s preferences and needs, and the most appropriate product and treatment. He then creates a completely personalized healing experience for guests — delivered in the comfort of their villas.
This all-inclusive adults-only resort five minutes south of Playa del Carmen is a colonial-style property with 13 lush acres and water sports, private tennis lessons and excursions to nearby Tulum.
The spa, called Retreat by Royal Hideaway, is a colonial-style building with a range of facials, massage and body treatments, including Thai massage and reflexology.
The Spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya
This is one of the largest all-inclusive resorts on the Riviera Maya, featuring 539 luxury suites large enough to vacation with your family or have a romantic getaway. The spa is enormous, with 42 treatment suites featuring beautiful native art work. Set amongst the jungle, the spa features massage, body wraps, facials, manicures, romantic couples's rituals, water journey and the Seven World Journeys spa menu.
Don't miss its Spa Water Journey, complimentary with a 50-minute spa service. This leisurely hydrotherapy circuit features sauna, color therapy steam, polar pool, clay room, ice room and experience pool, and features aromatic essences, flowers, candles and hot smooth stones, with a self-service water and juice bar for relaxing between stops.
This large, adults-only retreat has 412 gorgeous suites with either terraces or balconies, en-suite whirlpools, four-poster beds and seven a la carte eateries. Spanning over 13,000 square feet, the magnificent Secrets Spa by Pevonia treats you with dozens of pampering choices. Experience pure indulgence through a combination of the latest hydrotherapy and a wide variety of treatments.