Viceroy Riviera Maya
What We Love
- The traditional Mayan Temazcal sweat lodge ceremony at the spa, meant to cleanse the body and the soul
- The resident spider monkeys
- Tequila and ceviche tastings in the Library bar
What To Know
- No kids allowed—this resort is adults only
- The ocean can be rocky, so wear the provided water shoes
- Both restaurants close at 10:30 p.m., and room service finishes at 11 p.m.
- Free WiFi
- Parking On Site
Despite the Viceroy’s airy, thatched-roofed villas filled with oversized beds and comfy sofas, most visitors spend 99% of their time outdoors, whether it’s frolicking in the turquoise water, sunning themselves on the white sand beach, or simply chilling in the private gardens of their cottages thanks to the outdoor shower, deck, hammock, and plunge pool. The resort’s attitude towards guests is to spoil, pamper, and spoil some more: staff poolside will change the covers on the sun loungers once they get damp, polish your sunglasses, and there’s even an actual soap concierge. Need service in the villa? Just call the butler. Couples will go crazy for all the romantic accents, from private dinners on the beach to massages at the spa to swimming sans bathing suit—why not? —in their private pools.
In the Area
The Viceroy, along with a handful of other high-end resorts, is just north of Playa del Carmen, where party animals will want to head for more vibrant nightlife than they’ll find in the resort community. Less than an hour’s drive north toward Cancún is the glitzy La Isla Shopping Village, home to over 150 stores interspersed with small canals and bridges; the aquarium is worth visiting if you’re traveling with children. A 15-minute drive to the south brings you to the Centro Cultural, which hosts art exhibitions and performances that are well worth seeing. There are several world-class sights a few hours from the resort, like the ruins at Chichen Itza and the Yucatan cenotes, sinkholes once sacred to the Mayans where visitors can go swimming: the hotel can arrange trips to both, as well as horseback riding, deep sea fishing, and various watersports.
How to Get There
My wife and I, both in our mid-50’s, recently returned from a 10 day stay at the Viceroy during early February 2019. We travel quite frequently, and are fortunate enough to predominantly stay at exceptional resorts. For the last few years, when in the Cancun/Playa area, we usually stay at Le Blanc in Cancun (3 times in the last 4 years), having enjoyed the adults only resort which features exceptional service, food (all inclusive) and refined ambiance. For a change of pace, we decided to stay at Viceroy this time, primarily due to the great reviews and private bungalows with pools. For comparision, last year at this time we stayed at Nayara Springs (also with an adults only section) in Costa Rica, which is another higher end resort which features private bungalows with pools, great food (although here, no all inclusive pkg is offered..at least, not when we were there) and service. We really enjoyed the private bungalow with pool at Nayara, and thought the Viceroy would be an ideal choice this time around in Mexico. I mention the above two resorts (Le Blanc/Nayara springs) as a basis for comparison. As such, I will provide details of our experience at Viceroy with the occasional comparison to these other two resorts...as they both had similar price points to Viceroy.
Bungalows: 3.5 for luxury, 5 for privacy (depends on which specific bungalow you get), 4 for utility....overall score of 4/5.
We booked the lowest catagory bungalow, and upon our arrival were pleased to be upgraded to the next level up (same as the one we booked, but including a slightly expanded outdoor area with sundeck along with nightly turn down service). The bungalow was probably our favorite feature of this resort, and the adjoining outside area is where we spent most of our time. The bungalows themselves are much smaller than the ones in Nayara springs, as well as more dated. The age of this resort is starting to show, although I wouldnt say it was run down. Certainly, it could use some refurbishing. During our stay, the air conditioning broke down twice, we lost hot water for half a day, pool light stopped working twice, water level in the pool got dangerously low, etc. Once brought to the attention of mgmt, the problems were quickly resolved, but it was still a bit of a let down. The outdoor shower was nice, but far smaller and less practical than the outdoor showers at Nayara (which featured 2 showerheads for couples to use at the same time, and a much larger outside shower area). As such, I only used it once during our stay, and my wife not at all. By contrast, we only used the outside showers at Nayara, we enjoyed the experience so much.
At the Viceroy, we stayed in bungalow #16, which had excellent privacy (if you like running around el fresco in your outside area). Some of the other bungalows, even those in higher categories, were not as private..so we lucked out here to some degree, and depending on your specific bungalow, your experience/privacy level may differ.
Again, compared to Nayara springs, the bungalow itself along with its utilitites were far smaller and not as luxurious or modern. Bottom line, the bungalow was nice, but we have seen a lot better.
As other reviews detail, the staff at Viceroy really does go out of their way to make your stay as nice as possible. Without exception, everyone we interacted with was pleasant, helpful and did their best to accommodate your every request. Occasionally, there were some small hiccups, but these were mostly of the communication type (wrong order, language issues...and are to be expected to some degree when traveling outside NA).
Even still, I thought the service was excellent, and I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the exceptional efforts of....
...Hugo (front desk, who went above and beyond helping us resolve an airport missing suitcase...even to the extent of coordinating its return from another hotel during his day off)....
...and Edgar (La Maera restaurant, who could literally make you salivate as he described some of the dishes and did everything he could to customize the menu so that my wife could enjoy her food. She is not a fan of mexican food, spices, etc...and Edgar was fantastic at tweaking the dishes so that she could at least find something to eat).
I have to say that this kind of service is truly rare, and we really appreciated the efforts of these 2 gentlemen, along with the all of the other attentive and friendly staff members.
For comparision, Le Blanc has butler service for all the room catagories, but it is far more impersonal (2 butlers for the entire floor of many suites) and not as graceful as the Viceroy service experience.
Nayara springs also had exceptional service, but overall I would say that the Viceroy trumped both of these other two resorts, but not by a lot.
Here is where we felt the reviews of Viceroy let us down. I am simply shocked that so many of the self professed “foodies” in the reviews say they loved the food at Viceroy. The drinks were watered down, the coffee throughout the resort was simply terrible, the wines included in the pkg were atrocious...and the ones available at additional cost (by the bottle only) were easily at a 4-5 times cost markup. Having only 2 restaurants on site really compromised the variety of food and cuisines available, and both were too similar in the foods on offer, considering same. We also read some reviews suggesting that the menus were changed over the week to promote some variety of food choices...this is simply not true. The Coral restaraunt did have a few theme nights (trattoria/tapas, etc), but these only added a few minor dishes to the same existing menu. The La Merea menu was the same for the entire 10 day stay. I will say thay it was nice that you could order any food, from any menu (restos and room service) from any location (bungalow, each resto). But.....
The food was well below the standards (and value) of the resorts I have previously referred to in comparison. Most important of all, DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT STAYING HERE WITHOUT THE ALL INCLUSIVE PKG. To say the prices are outrageous is an understatement. How about $8 (U.S.) for a small glass of orange juice, $25 for a small plate of (really terrible) “truffle” fries, etc. I could go on and on, but suffice to say that if I had to pay these prices for this quality of food, I would feel ripped off in the extreme. We are no stangers to high end, expensive restaurants and resorts...but this place takes the cake! There was also a distinct lack of smaller, snack type foods available.
Worse, because of the remote location of Viceroy, eating here is almost a necessity...unless you want to take a cab into town every night.
Most of the food is Mexican cuisine based, and even if you are a fan of mexican food (as I am), I doubt you will be thrilled. As I understand it, the restaurants are open to the public, so maybe they are catering to local tastes? If you don’t like Mexican cuisine (as is the case with my wife), prepare to suffer, gastronomically speaking. I understand that we are in Mexico, but so is Le Blanc, and the quality and variety of food (and differing cuisines) there was simply fantastic. The food (and cuisine variety) at Nayara springs was also vastly superior, and far less costly in comparison (although not inexpensive)
The Viceroy seemed to attract mostly North Americans guests on vacation in Mexico...so they might want to consider those tastes as well. Even with the staff willing and trying their best to adjust the dishes to account for personal tastes, my wife had to eat virtually the same 3 or 4 dishes every day/night. The presentation was mostly good, and everyone working here truly wanted you to enjoy the food...but overall, it was a huge disappointment.
The resort itself is fairly old, and the age is showing. Many building areas could use some TLC, paint, plaster, etc and the architecture/style is somewhat dated. We had numerous and repetitive issues with the facilities at our bungalow (see above). The beach is a mess...small, rocky and loaded with sea weed (even with their constant attempts to clean it). We didnt even bother going in...thank goodness for the pool at our bungalow. The grounds were jungle like, but as my wife noted, about half the foliage was brown and dead looking...certainly, not a feast for the eyes. Virtually no flowers or natural beauty in and around the resort. The need for privacy in the bungalows pool areas required many natural style walls to be built throughout the resort and along the pathways, which almost always consisted of dead palm leaves and old brown bamboo supports. We were not impressed.
For comparision, opposed to Nayara Springs, this place looked more like a work camp than a resort. At LeBlanc, the hotel-like setting was obviously not as natural, but the ambiance, decor and general level of wear and tear were far superior.
Very little to do here. No live music, activities or entertainment to speak of provided by the resort. The few that are (tequila tasting/soa services) are only available at additional (and exorbitant) cost. Most “couples based” smaller resorts at least have some activities/nightlife on offer..but in this case, nada. We deduced as much before booking (from reading other reviews), so this didnt really bother us, but if you need to be entertained....consider this fair warning.
My wife visited the spa, taking advantage of a pkg deal for a massage/facial. While the service itself was satisfactory, she noted that the spa area for massages was not that private, and once again, the facilities were a little worn looking. Certainly, not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination. Once again, Le Blanc’s spa was far superior in every conceivable way. Also, the spa at Nayara springs was far superior as well, in a superior “jungle like” setting.
Additional points of interest:
Many of the reviews we previously read about Viceroy had a number of reoccurring topics, and I will touch on some of these here....
Noise from the adjoining resorts:
Due to the many negative comments regarding the noisy neighbouring resorts, we feared that this might dampen our enjoyment, but it wasnt that bad/unbearable. We were particularly concerned when we noticed that our upgraded bungalow was at the resorts edge, directly beside one of these “offending” properties. While the music did get loud and annoying on occasion, it was mostly limited to the weekends (Saturday night in particular, the booming bass from the nightclub at the adjoining property could be heard quite clearly inside our bungalow until around 2 am).
Also, it didnt seem to matter where your location was inside the Viceroy...the noise was quite noticeable anywhere within the property and seemed to “bounce around” unpredictably. Still, unless you tend to retire for the evening extremely early, or are very sensitive to it, I wouldnt worry too much about it. However, depending on your location within Viceroy, YMMV regarding this particular issue.
This was also a huge problem for us. We were literally eaten alive during our stay, even while we were very diligent about using the provided bug repellent cream and mosquito coils made available to you by the resort. I have been to many tropical locations for many decades, and far deeper into the “wilderness” than at Viceroy, but this was the worst place for mosquitos and the associated bites that I can ever recall (even while camping up north in Canada).
Not sure if it was the time of year, specific location of the resort, or a bad time for mosquitoes in general for the area...but damn, I will be scratching for some time to come after this vacation! If you are particularly sensitive to mosquitoes (and I was never their “preferred blood type” in my previous outdoor experiences) you might really want to consider this issue.
I had read many reviews raving about the handmade soaps provided to you upon your arrival. I had intially surmised that this was a trendy, new age gimmick to enhance the Viceroys image as a luxury resort.
Boy, was I wrong!
I never enjoyed using a bar of soap so much as I did while staying here. The scent and feel of the soaps has to be experienced to be appreciated, and to say I was hooked would be an understatement! I don’t usually comment on amenities such as this, but I have to say that if anything..the reviews didnt rave enough. I must have purchased 30 bars of soap from the gift shop to take back home, and if I could purchase them while at home...I would be a life long customer. They come in a number of different “flavours” (watermelon, mint, chocolate, oatmeal, lavender, etc..) and while my favorites were the mint and watermelon..all were fantastic and unusual in their own way. One of the best surprises of our stay, for certain!
In summary, I don’t think that Viceroy was a good value or fit for us, primarily due to the food (and also, not to forget, the mosquito issue). Next time we go for the private bungalow/pool vacation, it will be Nayara springs, for sure. When we visit Mexico next time, we will do Le Blanc again (either at Cancun, or their new location at Los Cabos)...or maybe try one of the Mayakoba (not sure of the spelling, sorry) resorts. While the bungalow/private pool experience was excellent, and the service absolutely first rate....I don’t think we would return.
I wanted to score it a 3.5, but as I couldnt do that, I went with a 3 rather than a 4, as the resort was extremely expensive which negatively impacted the QPR.
If you're expecting to have anything close to a 5 star luxury experience you will be sorely disappointed. With the reviews I thought I showed up to the wrong place. While the rooms are nice and certainly spacious the public space is crying for an update. The pool is nothing special and the bar/cafe on the water is ten years past looking alive. Almost everything was worn and in need of some attention or just replacement. The fitness room equipment was easily a decade old. Added to that the hotel is squeezed in between a group of large hotels with chair farms along the fairly tight beach. I will say that the staff at the pool and the fine dining restaurant were warm and really professional. Unfortunately the food and drinks were not as good, and you bet, quite expensive. I have stayed at the Viceroys in New York and Chicago and found them to be very nice but this was not nearly the caliber I thought they were at. I bet you in 1999 this place was a fabulous offering at the time but at the price they are asking there's a host of better alternatives in the area that I've stayed at.
This place is one for the books. A jungle-like experience as they try to keep nature at the forefront of what they do. The staff is there to make sure every moment is perfect. From arrival to departure, this place was perfection. The rooms are fabulous with a private plunge pool and outdoor and indoor shower.
My wife and I had an extremely memorable stay here, the staff was beyond anything I could have expected. We went to the resort for a relaxing private vacation and got exactly that, it was Fabulous. We will return here for sure.
Heads up - we stayed here and the Esencia as wanted to see the difference. Esencia wins but is a lot more expensive but doesn’t win in all criteria !
Villa 29 - had a great plunge pool, table and sun beds. Very secluded. The plunge pool was a slight hassle. The running water kept me awake at night, so you have to call to have it turned on and off, plus to get it heated.
The room was large, very private outside shower that was a joy to share - no one could peek in.
Room felt a little dark and heavy - the air con had to be set just right. About 70F. Any colder and the fan came on like the sound of a jumbo jet.
All staff charming and faultless. Pepe by the pool rightly gets plaudits here but it would be good to see the other pool staff given the space to develop like him. His style was a little forward but he is clearly popular.
Food was mixed and is nothing on the Esencia. The Italian night on the Saturday night was excellent, everything else down hill. Very strong Mexican overlay, yes I know it’s a Mexican hotel but little concession to Europe. Room service breakfast was excellent and when we called at 6, was delivered 20 minutes later.
Drinks a little weak. Good wine list.
Beach like all was now was covered with sea weed but staff worked hard to clear.
I am being a little harsh, staff were all charming, the hotel is a little noisy at weekends due to a disco at a sister hotel.
If you want a truly superlative trip, go to the Esencia, if you want an excellent one, go to the Viceroy.