Standing in front of Grand Velas Riviera Maya entrance

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I returned from THE most luxurious resort vacation we’ve ever been on at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya thanks to Air Transat. As I sit here writing about what it was like to spend a week in paradise and looking at all of our photos, there is a blizzard happening outside my window and I’m thinking, “Why did we ever come back?!”

Can I just sum up the entire trip in one word (AMAZING) and leave it at that? While that would be 100% accurate, I definitely have way more to say about our experience! (…But seriously, if I use the word “amazing” more than 20 times in this blog post, would it begin to lose its effect?!)

Relaxing at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

So, where to even begin with this trip of a lifetime? We were invited by Air Transat to spend a glorious 7 days at Grand Velas Riviera Maya at the beginning of December. The entire trip went off without a hitch and was perfect from start to finish. The weather was beautiful. The food was spectacular (I warn you: DO NOT scroll down to the food section of this post, if you are currently hungry or on a diet). Our stay was ultra luxurious, and we were treated like royalty. I cannot say enough good things about Grand Velas Riviera Maya and Air Transat, but I will certainly try to limit myself for the sake of this post.

Getting There with Air Transat

Flying to Mexico with Air Transat

Grand Velas is in Riviera Maya, which is in a Mexican state on the Yucatán Peninsula called Quintana Roo. The closest airport is Cancún International Airport, which is a quick 4-hr. direct flight from Pearson International in Toronto. From Cancun International Airport, it’s a comfortable 45-min. bus ride to the hotel.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya is part of Air Transat’s Luxury Collection. Available in 10 southern destinations, the Luxury Collection is Air Transat’s most premium vacation collection. Some of the benefits of the Luxury Collection include: free access to airport VIP lounges, upgrade to Option Plus on flights, and private roundtrip transfers.

The hotels that are part of Transat’s Luxury Collection also offer things like:

  • Unlimited à la carte gourmet dining
  • Access to spa facilities
  • Personal concierge or butler service (more on that below!)
  • Waiter service at the pool and beach
  • Unlimited premium-brand drinks
  • 24-hour room service
  • Welcome drinks upon arrival

Enjoying complimentary sparkling wine while flying Option Plus with Air Transat

Being upgraded to Option Plus meant that we had 2 checked pieces of luggage each (absolutely needed for the 10+ pairs of shoes, hair appliances and toiletries I was bringing with me!), priority check-in, priority boarding, and priority baggage handling. When we arrived in Cancun and returned to Toronto, our bags were already off the conveyor belt waiting for us! Option Plus customers also get a comfort kit on the airplane with a blanket, earbuds, a free meal from the Bistro menu and alcoholic drink (my kind of services!). We were treated to the Chef’s menu by Daniel Vézina aboard the flights (normally a cost of $25 per person).

The Resort

Entrance at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Entryway at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Frolicking around at the entrance to Grand Velas Riviera Maya

When our bus pulled up to Grand Velas Riviera Maya, my jaw literally dropped to the ground. Is it even possible to be blown away by a hotel’s entrance? The answer is: absolutely yes; yes, it is! The resort is a gorgeous, modern property that sits on 83 acres of the lushest tropical greenery. Picture palm trees all around, and looking out into a sea of mangroves from the balcony – it was absolutely amazing!

Beautiful walkway at Zen section of Grand Velas Beach and sunbeds at Grand Velas On balcony overlooking the mangroves at sunset

Grand Velas has 539 rooms divided into 3 sections: Zen, Grand Class (premium/adults-only), and Ambassador (family-friendly). There are also 3 pools, direct access to the beach and 6 bars. While there are lots of rooms, the resort was quiet and peaceful. At times, we felt like we had the entire place to ourselves! That was one of the things I appreciated most about Grand Velas, because my previous resort vacations have always been to hotels that were way too crowded. One day, we walked down the beach to the neighbouring property and there wasn’t a single beach chair that wasn’t occupied (yuck!).

View at Zen Lilypads in the ponds at Zen Seating area inside the rooms at Zen On our terrace at Zen

We were staying in Zen, which is the quietest and most serene part of the hotel – perfect for an escape from reality. Our 1,100 sq. ft. room was like a little oasis in the jungle. We could step out onto our private terrace and see turtles swimming every day. We split our time equally between the Zen pool and the beach …okay, and maybe at Azul (the buffet restaurant). Navigating around the hotel was a breeze, since there were always shuttle buses to escort you.

Zen pool area Relaxing on sunbed at Zen pool

The Service and Amenities

Okay, so you might be thinking, “it’s probably just another resort vacation”. But, I can honestly tell you that Grand Velas was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced! It took the all-inclusive resort vacation concept to another level. I have never been treated to such ultra luxury in my whole life!

We had a 24-hr. personal concierge (Ricardo), who arranged all of our activities, private dining, and accommodated all of our requests. Ricardo made the experience feel so much more personalized – he somehow always found a way to check in with us (no matter what part of the resort we were in), and would leave personal greeting cards for us on evenings. It was such a nice touch!

We never needed to go far or wait for anything we needed – it was all right there at our fingertips. There was always a bar or restaurant within arm’s reach; and if it was after-hours, we had 24-hr. gourmet room service. Ummm, goodbye diet! There were also pool and beach concierges, who would bring us beach towels, drinks, and snacks. Each day, the hotel offered different free activities, like kayaking, snorkeling and bicycle tours. There were also 2 gyms and regular fitness classes throughout the week. And if you’re wondering about the WiFi, it was amply available all throughout the resort, including the rooms, and it worked perfectly!

The Food

Top down view of food at Chaka restaurant

Breakfast spread at Chaka restaurant (Mexican à la carte)

Grand Velas has 8 à la carte restaurants! Oh, and did I mention the 24-hr. gourmet room service?! The resort takes great pride in the quality of food, made from fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. They are also committed to upholding Mexico’s heritage, which was reflected in a lot of the food (no complaints from us, because we luuuuuuurve authentic Mexican food!). The food at Grand Velas blew any resort food that I’ve ever eaten clear out of the water! In fact, Grand Velas Riviera Maya has the first all-inclusive resort restaurant (Cocina de Autor) to receive the AAA Five Diamond Award.

I normally try to eat pretty healthy while on a trip, but I would’ve been doing myself the biggest injustice if I didn’t allow myself to indulge while there! Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of healthy options too. But as soon as we arrived and saw the sheer bounty available, the inner fat kid in me was dying to be released!

Eating fruit at the Zen pool Lunch spread at Bistro at the Grand Class section Lunch and drinks at Azul Dinner on the Grand Class beach Fresh oysters at Piaf Cocktails at Lucca (Italian restaurant) Delicious authentic Mexican food Dinner at Frida Lunch picnic at Grand Class beach

We ate, and ate, and ate…and then ate some more! The lovely people at Grand Velas went out of their way to ensure we got the full gastronomic experience, including our own private terrace breakfast, picnic on the beach, candlelit sunset dinner on the beach, private tequila tasting, and private cooking class at Cocina de Autor (the AAA Five Diamond Award-winning restaurant).

Tequila tasting

Our private tequila tasting

Cooking class

Our private cooking class with Chef Nahum at Cocina de Autor where we learned molecular gastronomy!

The Activities

Mayan Shaman giving us a blessing before entering Cenote Maya Sanctuario de los Guerreros cenote Ek Balam Discovering Ek Balam

Not surprisingly, most of the activities we did revolved around eating. But we did manage to get off the resort to explore the Yucatàn Peninsula on 2 days. We went on 2 excursions, courtesy of Air Transat – an underground cenote and snorkeling adventure, and one excursion to Cenote Maya and the Ek Balam ruins. It was great to leave the resort and learn more about the part of Mexico we were visiting (I’m a nerd at heart). Our guides were super knowledgeable and we got quite the history lesson and were told some pretty fun facts.

Drinking a pina colada

Besos from Riviera Maya Zen lobby Personal concierge Sunset at Grand Class beach Twirling Azul restaurant Taking it all in at Zen Discovering the vegetation Running towards the palm trees Our favourite drink Smile, you're on camera Ellen & James bucket bag Toasting while at picnic on the beach Grand Velas Riviera Maya was such a beautiful property Pure bliss

I suppose some things are too good to be true; and being stuck here in the cold is the price we pay for the 7-day glimpse we got into paradise. I’m already dreaming of the next destination to visit with Air Transat, but I’m pretty sure it will be next to impossible to top this trip!

We cannot thank Air Transat and Grand Velas Riviera Maya enough for hosting us on this incredible trip and treating us so well! And to be able to share in this experience with my husband was also truly special! To see more of the Air Transat Luxury Collection, make sure to check out Air Transat’s website.

xoxo, Krystle & Alex

While this post was done in partnership with Air Transat, all opinions and thoughts are 100% my own.