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The water was warm, clear and calm, just like it should be in the Riviera Maya. Mask and snorkel in place, I swam for what seemed like forever — until I ran smack into another body and remembered I wasn’t submerged in the open sea. I was actually swimming laps in a saltwater pool carved into the rocky coastline at Grand Palladium Riviera Maya Resort & Spa, one of five hotels in the Palladium Rivera Maya Complex. A day earlier, I had been sorely disappointed to find the Caribbean Sea was in a choppy, rough state, splashing water into my snorkel with every breath. I found no need to fret, however. The resort seemed equipped to predict my every need.
The Zentropia Spa, for example, was far more than a pretty place with predictable treatments. I could have spent hours every day in the hydrotherapy area’s steam room, showers, cold plunges and pool with wondrous shoulder-pounding jets, all of which are accessible by booking a spa treatment or for a minimal fee. The “secret” pool buried down a hidden jungle path was the perfect spot for afternoon cocktails and conversation, though I did wish I could try out the waterslides in the kids’ pool.
My room was located near the main pool at Grand Palladium White Sand Resort & Spa. The vibrant orange and yellow Junior Suite had a whirlpool tub in the bathroom, a stocked minibar, a couch and a balcony with a view of raccoons foraging for supper beside the jungle. Though I was perfectly comfortable and happy, I admit to envying guests staying in the waterfront Mayan Suites, complete with hammocks and outdoor showers. The resort offers a daily boat ride through the property’s canals, along with other must-do activities, including bartending classes, tequila tastings and archery lessons. Nightlife includes circus shows, karaoke for kids, choreographed performances and a disco — plus, the Ranchito Mini Club for kids between ages 4 and 12 stays open until 11 p.m.
Information on the property’s flora and fauna — such as trees, iguanas and more — is readily available. Trails led from my building to the various hotels and pools; the golf cart drivers who covered the many routes quickly became my best buddies. A train covers the main road between the properties, which made lobby bars, theaters and restaurants easily accessible.
Dining options cover cuisines from around the globe. I sampled Vietnamese spring rolls, Thai ceviche and “shaking beef” (an arugula, watercress and fillet salad) at the new Chang Thai restaurant, and more tapas and fine Spanish wine than I can possibly recall at La Lola. The breakfast buffet included all the standard items, plus a crepe and dessert station rivaling anything at lunch and dinner. Popsicle carts appeared poolside, and bartenders were masters at whipping up electric blue, red and green drinks.