If you’re planning an all-inclusive getaway on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, you’ll find a dizzying array of resorts to consider along the 80-mile-long stretch. We recently checked out The Fives Azul Beach Resort in Playa Del Carmen and returned with five reasons why this just might be the one for you.
1. The Location
It’s just 40-minute drive south of Cancun but you’ll feel light years away from the city’s frenetic “Vegas-goes-Caribbean” scene the second you hit Playa Del Carmen, the barefoot-casual town that’s home to The Fives Azul.
Sandwiched between a sea fringed by golden-grained sand and a tangle of protected mangrove that’s home to 18 species of orchid, spider monkeys, crocodiles and (we’re told) a couple of wild boars, the resort is definitely a world apart. However, if the urge arises (and we’re sure it will) to explore the shops, restaurants and nightclubs along Playa’s famous Fifth Avenue, you’re a convenient 15-minute cab ride away.
2. The Rooms
Designed as a resort with residential opportunities, The Fives has 582 suites (in two sections — The Fives and Essence — and 19 four-story “villa” buildings), which combine spacious square footage, style and practicality. Ours, a one-bedroom suite in Essence’s Villa 18, offered a full kitchen, two pool-facing balconies, and an open-plan bathroom with copious closet space we can only wish we had at home.
But the cream of the crop is undoubtedly the one-bedroom penthouses. Clocking in at 1,300-square-feet, each of the 78 two-story retreats features rooftop living areas complete with their own hot tub, lounging and dining areas, a bathroom with shower, and an oversized hanging chair that can seat two. Impressed enough to invest? Suites (in brand new Villa 19 and 20, coming soon) start at $350,000.
3. The Pools
Beach-loving guests at The Fives (which lays claim to ¾ of a mile of palm-fringed playa) will be content, yes. But pool people will be in heaven. That’s because there are nine pools spread over the 14-acre property, so deep-end diversions are never far away.
Choose from secluded pools secreted between villas, lively twin pools that overlook the sea, or serpentine pools with swim-up bars and aqua loungers. There’s a grown-up pool at the adults-only Natura Day Club & Grill, and little ones can frolic in the shallows at the kids’ club, Azulitos Playhouse.
4. The Cuisine
Picky eaters, this might be your place! Because with 10 restaurants, three pop-up “gourmet corners,” complimentary 24-hour room service, and even its own Starbucks on the premises, The Fives has something to please every palate. There’s creative Nikkei (Peruvian/Japanese) cuisine at poolside Pisco, modern Mexican at Mestizo, and Arezzo, serving Italian, is a guest favorite.
Dining at all the restaurants is included in the room rate, but we think it’s also worth springing for two standout experiences. Dinner at Casa De Rosa (from $50 per person) is a reservation-only evening for a maximum of 12, during which you’ll be greeted with mezcal and a Mariachi band. Don aprons and help your hosts prepare the traditional Mexican meal, and then enjoy the feast family-style at a festive table decorated with local toys and candies. An intriguing evening is guaranteed when you book the Sensorial Dinner (also from $50 per person), where guests eat a five-course meal with their hands, while blindfolded.
5. The Cultural Immersion
We’re big fans of resorts that reflect their destination, and were impressed with The Fives’ efforts to do so. In Vassa Spa, treatments such as the Kulkulcan massage incorporate local ingredients and techniques, and each service begins with a purification ritual using copal, the incense-like resin traditionally burned during Mayan religious ceremonies.
Guests can (literally) enjoy local flavor with tequila and mezcal tastings at Cantina 1910, a seaside ceviche station at Oriola Beach Club, and Mexican-style hot chocolate on the breakfast buffet at Flavors. Mariachi bands stroll the restaurants and Fives Plaza, providing a fitting soundtrack to your vacation.
And the Cendero Maya — a reenactment of ancient Mayan rituals by costumed actors, performed within the mangrove — is the highlight of the week. The combined effect: A stay at The Fives is truly a multi-sensory experience that captures the country’s spirit, incorporating both subtle and significant reminders that never let you forget you’re in Mexico.