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Heading to a tropical destination means you've booked some fun in the sun to erase your daily routine and responsibilities for a while. Staking out a beach or poolside lounger to catch up on some reading with a drink in your hand and toes in the sand are at the top of your agenda. But at some point you'll likely be itching to explore the culture and sights outside your hotel.
Conveniently overlooking the stunning turquoise waters of Mamitas Beach on the Mexican Carribean and within walking distance to the nonstop shopping and dining options on Quinta Avenida in the heart of Playa del Carmen, recently opened Sordo Madaleno-designed urban beach hotel Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen makes it easy to do both.
A unique fusion of contemporary and Mayan-inspired architecture, the hotel's elevated cobbled entrance and main plaza greets you upon arrival with a Mesoamerican pyramid replica to one side where water cascades from the top creating a massive fountain. Gently sloping from the reception area all the way to the beachfront flanked by three Infinity pools, El Paseo, an open-air, covered pedestrian walkway, leads past check-in desks, kiosks selling fresh baked goods, coffee, ice cream, and a bar serving craft made cocktails completely eliminating the need for a formal lobby.
The property's intimate relaxed beach resort ambiance is preserved by having over 15,000 square feet of event space including a grand ballroom with 20-foot ceilings tucked beneath the property. Open air corridors leading to guest rooms incorporate native plantings, wall art, and sculptured lighting. The hotel's 314 rooms include 36 suites - 20 of which are oceanfront “air suites” plus two presidential suites - contained in four stories surrounding a preserved mangrove garden.
A selection of swim-up suites provide direct access to an Infinity pool right outside. All rooms feature Hyatt's renowned Grand Beds®, spacious double-sink bathrooms with three-headed showers while floor-to-ceiling windows and terraces provide either unobstructed ocean or close up views of the preserved mangroves with Caribbean Sea backdrops.
Booking a Grand Club room will of course enhance your stay with private concierge and lounge with open kitchen, dining area, and terrace. Continental breakfast and afternoon hors d’oeuvres are served daily accompanied by evening cocktails and wines from their extensive cellar.
Art is an integral part of the experience here. The first piece you are likely to see is Víbora Emplumada (Feathered Snake), a traditional Mexican sculpture representing Mayan god Quetzalcoátl carved from wood that doubles as a convenient seating area in the entrance. Further exploration throughout the property reveals 44 works of art exclusively designed by renowned artist César López-Negrete as well as six rich acrylic modern impressionist paintings by Belgian artist (and Playa del Carmen ex-pat) Peter Terrin. Ongoing temporary exhibits feature artists like Gastón Charó from Argentina, showcasing vibrant melange of Cubist Expressionism and Surrealism paintings.
Overlooking the pool area and beach, Rhincodon typus I & II, metallic Whale Shark sculptures mounted on the exterior wall underneath the sky suites bridge depict these iconic underwater mammals often spotted just offshore.
Besides visiting the real deal at nearby Río Secreto (a flooded underground cave), escaping to the tranquility and wonderment of cenotes (say-no-tays) is right at your finger tips in onsite Cenote Spa, winner of Interior Design Magazine's 'Best of Year 2015’ award. A conical, stone-clad cone with a hole in the top right at El Paseo's midpoint marks the location of Cenote Spa beneath your feet, funneling a shaft of light below resembling how cenote pools typically appear in nature. Inspired by these iconic underground freshwater sinkholes found across the Yucatan Peninsula that Mayans believed cleansed and purified the soul, Cenote Spa features an underground river, intricate natural stonework, and vaulted ceilings.
Eight treatment rooms, hydrotherapy stations, eucalyptus steam rooms, fiber optic chromo therapy showers, and an Olympic-style lap pool surrounded by the lush greenery of preserved mangroves nicely complement signature treatments like the Agave Utstal Repair treatment, and the Gift of the Gods Obsidian Hot Stone massage.
Helming the resort’s two main on site dining venues overlooking Mamitas Beach with on-the-ground guidance from native food-and-beverage director Rafael Alonso, Executive Chef Nadine Waechter Moreno's mantra is "fresh, simple, and casual." “We're building on Hyatt's overall campaign to source local ingredients whenever possible”, says Moreno. Although the region has abundant year round produce and fresh caught fish, consistently connecting with local fishing boats and farmers that meet the brand's exacting standards in freshness and quality requires ongoing commitment.
Restaurants La Cocina and The Grill at 1 26 feature fresh made in house creations like their signature red wine bread, caramelized brown butter, as well as innovative cocktails like sake martinis garnished with seaweed.
La Cocina showcases a modern Mexican menu, providing an edible tour of the country with refined takes on home style dishes from Sinaloa, Oaxaca, Puebla, the Yucatan Peninsula, and central Mexico. A fresh array of tortillas are made from scratch each morning, complemented by an impressive array of local cheeses and fresh baked breakfast breads. The Grill at 1 26 specializes in prime steaks like signature Tomahawk and seafood, paired with a wine list focusing on Mexican vintages from the Guadalupe Valley and Baja Peninsula.
“Since we aren't an all-inclusive, each dish has to have a unique wow factor. We have ongoing themed dinners like sushi night every Friday and Cena de Luna Llena (moonlight dinner) at the Grill and BBQs on the beach”, says Moreno. And as the craft-beer movement mushrooms across Mexico, their first Octoberfest will soon be on tap.
Just a several-block walk away on Quinta Avenida, authentic eateries like Almirante Pech serve up barbacoa panucho, a traditional street food made with fried corn masa, BBQ beef, beans, pickled cucumbers, & red onion as well as other main dishes like pan-roasted octopus kastakan and pork montadito. Dining alfresco here puts you front and center for watching street performers, artisans selling their crafts, and countless families, both locals and visitors, strolling by enjoying a night on the town.
Coverage made possible by participating in a sponsored visit. Photos: Steve Mirsky, Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen.