Exclusive First Look: The Viceroy Riviera Maya

The Viceroy resort (formerly called The Tides) near Playa del Carmen, Mexico has just unveiled its brand new beach villas and a fresh new look throughout the property. The revamp also include a new beachfront restaurant and new menus. (The resort is owned by the Viceroy Hotels group, which recently sold the original Tides in Miami, so makes sense that the group would want to reposition the brand.)

Starting today, The Viceroy Riviera Maya is debuting 11 new villas, increasing the total inventory to 41. Two of these are the resort’s first beachfront bungalows with direct access to the surf. New furniture has been introduced throughout the resort. Nothing drastic. Just a slightly more contemporary update in lampshades, fabrics, cabinetry and accent furniture (including the private alfresco daybeds). There’s also a new gym. yoga pavilion and temescal (igloo-shaped sweat lodge).

The resort formerly had only one restaurant, La Marea, but guests always enjoyed the option of dining in the restaurant or at the beach bar (with the same menu). The bar has been expanded into an all-day cafe called Coral Grill.

At the candlelit La Marea, long white tablecloths flutter in the ocean breeze inside an open-air palapa surrounded by palm trees and spider monkeys. [Update:] Chef Jorge Ildefonso joined the Viceroy in 2015 and launched an exquisite Mayan-inspired tasting menu. He stuffs local xcatic chilies with sushi-grade tuna tartare. He wraps Mexican goat cheese into a taco with pumpkin-seed pesto and corn sprouts. He serves crisp-skin pork belly in a puddle of black bean sauce with banana blossoms and avocado cream. And for dessert, he stuffs a mulato chili with cinnamon-infused chocolate and serves it with sweet corn ice cream.

One of the things that has always set The Viceroy apart from other resorts in the Riviera Maya has been its rustic interpretation of luxury, a style that recalls Gilligan’s Island or a Mayan version of Robinson Crusoe. The seaside resort is a collection of individual cottages with dramatic palapa roofs and private plunge pools set amid six acres of dense jungle paradise populated with wild monkeys and strange-sounding birds. Narrow pathways crisscross through a thicket of palms, mango trees and giant ferns. A wooden footbridge leads to an indoor/outdoor spa where smoke rises through the trees from a cauldron of smoldering crystals (used for traditional Mayan blessings and spa rituals). Opened in 2002 as Ikal del Mar and rechristened The Tides in 2006, the intimate hideaway has always provided a charming, soothing antidote to the region’s oversized modern resorts. None of that has changed.

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