layacar has a totally different feel to it than other areas of the Yucatan. I knew there was diversity here as I’ve visited many of the destinations from Cancun to Cozumel. Somehow, I glossed over this intimate nook, adjacent to Playa del Carmen. The cluster of adults-only rooms and suites had my attention from the moment we entered the gates and I was greeted with a cool refreshing towel. That’s something I never turn away upon arrival. There’s that quick note of the freshly scented towel that says, “Wake up, you’ve arrived.” As I wipe my brow and press the towel firmly against my wrists to cool me all the way down, I begin to take notice of my surroundings. There was a lot to take in her at Royal Hideaway. This had to be one of the few Caribbean beach resort arrivals where I found myself initially admiring the foliage, fountains and paths that wended their way through what appeared to be pockets of accommodations. There are only 200 rooms at the hotel and the design separates them for maximum privacy and ultimate exclusivity. My reaction to not being immediately greeted by a sea of beach chairs and lounging guests was surprising. I think I had become a bit jaded or had grown so accustomed to that opening scene upon almost every arrival that I must have looked as though I had never been to a luxury resort in my life. Truth was that I was pleasantly surprised by the sumptuous gardens and decided to take it all in before being escorted to my suite.
As I was let in to my room and simultaneously introduced to my butler, I learned about my Nespresso machine, the amenities throughout the room and resort, operating the lighting and of course the functionality of my butler himself. He was at my service until evening fell and after his departure, If I needed anything at all, I could press zero and someone would be on the other end and fully at my service. These details mean a great deal to someone like myself. Travel is a passion for me, and because I do it so frequently, I often overlook some of the finer points. Having them spelled out, from time-to-time, can be an immense help in making sure I take full advantage of all the luxuries offered. One of those favorite offerings, although not in my face upon arrival, is the beach. There was no missing this strand of glistening white sand, from my room. I was practically perched on top of one of the best beaches in the world.
Although tempted by the sea, I had time to unpack and unwind, then ate lunch at The Deck. This restaurant hit the spot after a quick flight and a drive from the airport. I munched on nachos and grabbed a glass of wine. I was quite comfortable feeling the breeze, sipping my rosé and gobbling up all the traditional Mexican snacks, until the urge to hit the beach came over me. That’s when I headed back up to the cluster of rooms that I refer to as the villa, and just so happened to mention to my butler, who is seated only a few feet from my front door, that I absolutely loved the wine I had with lunch. Two questions later (in which restaurant did I dine and was it a white, red or rosé?) and I smiled and slipped into my room to change into a swimsuit. In the back of my mind, I felt like he might have a bottle sent to my room, but I had no real idea. Royal Hideaway is an adults only all-inclusive hotel, so I figured it was just the beverages I had stocked in my refrigerator that were part of the plan. I was proven wrong in that assumption. Before I could slip on my cover-up, there was a gentle tap on the door and like an angelic sommelier, my butler was there with wine in hand and ice bucket ready to receive the bottle of pink goodness. Some parts of the world may only experience three to five months of pink-wine weather, but here in the Caribbean…I indulge whenever I want. The weather is always perfect for sipping on this.
Having witnessed the bottle cozy up to the ice cubes, I skipped out of the villa and down to the beach, happy to know I would be coming home to a perfectly chilled elixir if I somehow needed a magical potion to cure me of anything that inflicted me on the enviable stretch of white sand upon which the beach butlers had set up my covered seating. The now inescapable views of palm trees, white sand and baby blue water, was now surrounding me. I managed to immerse myself in the picture I was, only moments ago, merely admiring. I am in paradise and ready to relax, deeply. The breeze carries notes of suntan oil, sunscreen, freshly grilled temptations and notes that formed music to my ears. There’s a saxophone player playing at the pool behind me. As that breeze carries his music to my ears, I feel a drink order coming on. I’m in Mexico, so tequila comes to mind as a first option, but I am already attending the tequila tasting upstairs in Spices in only a few hours. I don’t want to spoil that experience, so Piña Colada it is. When at Royal Hideaway, I have come to discover that there are very few things that are off limits to their guests. All the usual amenities are offered to every guest, but activities like my upcoming tequila tasting are so unique and experiential that I can hardly wait to get my sandy bum rinsed off and changed. I can’t do that just yet. There’s a Piña Colada heading my way, and I think it has my name on it.
It’s a good thing I can read Spanish…it was indeed my adult beverage. I am not sure if it would have mattered as these servers on the beach are plentiful and quick to bring whatever it is the guests request to snack on or drink. Sipping on my cocktail, I take the calories laying down, I gaze out of my cocoon and imagine myself being far more active than I am. There are all sorts of watersports being offered, only feet away, but I refrain. There are even boat rides, where very little would be required of me, and still I lounge. Me and my Piña Colada are doing just fine where we are and that will be enough until the tequila tasting. I am pacing myself because there’s a long night ahead plus I arrived just today. Four more days to explore the resort and head to Tulum for an afternoon, so there’s enough time to be active in my near future. In anticipation, I do plan on getting prepared for Tulum and the further exploration of the resort. That preparation needs to include long walks on the beach, in the evening, and time in the gym because I fully intend to take part in dining at each of the six restaurants here at the hotel. I am especially looking forward to the intimate Chef’s Table, where I am to be seated directly in the kitchen in a glass encased dining room outfitted with cameras and a flat screen television to showcase the detailing that takes place as each dish is plated for my enjoyment. That Chef’s Table is happening tonight, right after my tequila tasting.
Give the time of day and current sandy situation, I decided to head back to the villa and slip into my room. Greeted by name, by my butler, I paused for a moment as he seemed to have something to tell me. The news was an update to my itinerary. Tequila tasting had been bumped up for me by half an hour and since it was a private tasting, he wondered if I was ok with it, otherwise he would have moved it back to the original hour. I was fine with the shirt because, as he said, it gave me more time to prepare for the dining experience. Thinking rationally, I wondered, realistically, how many tequilas I could sit there and taste and still be able to get up and stand.
One tequila, two tequila, three tequila…nope, not going to catch me saying floor, nor will I say four. We tasted six different types of tequila and my appreciation of the product soared. The head barman who hosted my tasting was so knowledgeable about the entire, painstaking, process of making tequila that I will now scoff at anyone who dares to shoot it in front of me. I fancy myself a bit of an aficionado at this point and a defender of the agave harvesting and roasting process. This liquor should be held up as the prize that it is. Ok, maybe I had a taste too much. Here I am, ready to don a cape and prevent alcohol abuse by anyone who chooses to do anything less than sip and savor tequila. I need to go and take another shower and calm down. Dinner is only an hour and a half away. Time to simmer down and get ready for what I have heard is a unique culinary experience. The chef is from France, the experience is focused on the fusion gastronomy and the preparation of each dish. The desire to experience this kept growing as I prepared for an elegant evening in the kitchen (behind glass and not cooking).
A more eager diner they probably have never seen. I had a quick tour of the immaculately maintained kitchen and was then seated behind a wall of glass to observe the working kitchen. Chef paid exclusive attention to us and our dishes but the diners in the main dining room were ordering from the menu, so the show had to go on. I didn’t mean for this to be such a literal jump, but since the opportunity has presented itself, here I go. Speaking of show…we have a plasma TV hung in our dining room showing the live feed of what is just twenty feet away from us. The final station where our dishes get the last touches of our chef before being brought in to us. This addition to the room made the experience even more spectacular. We could see every bubble of foam being added to dishes. Leaves that one might suspect to be only garnish were artfully plated and then explained. The chef infused his global style with the Mexican standards. We started with tuna, fresh caught, and wrapped in a native leaf vs seaweed. Our dishes made use of native baby corn in our second course and ran throughout the meal all the way to dessert. The chef came in and explained each course and the sommelier plied us with the knowledge of each wine he paired with each course. This was an enriching evening on many levels. Dessert was constructed in front of us, with flair and orchestration. Chef had an assistant on hand as he placed ingredients from individual bowls on to a marble slab. The colors, flavors, textures and presentation all took my breath away.
Finding it difficult to inhale too deeply after such a wonderful meal, I vowed to hit the resort gym the next morning. I made it to the front door of the spa, in which the gym is located, and managed to somehow talk myself into a spa treatment at The Retreat. I was good though. I scheduled it for after an hour of cardio. I think I earned that massage and boy was it good. I went for the signature massage and it worked wonders on every part of my body. This treatment was so good that I had to book another one for the following day. It was worth it, but now that I had digested last night’s dinner and was now in top cardio shape, plus relaxed, it was time to take on Tulum and the ruins that overlook this gorgeous stretch of the Caribbean Sea. The ruins did not disappoint. We grabbed a guide who took the time to point out details carved into the stones. These are things that we would never have picked out on our own. The details, some of which were left open to interpretation, seem to represent Venus and femininity. The ruins hold secrets to what the Mayans believed were connection to fertility and birth. I love gaining insight into the past. The one thing I was left wondering was how they stayed out of the sun. It was a scorcher and I was ready to head out of the ruins and hit up a few cenotes. These are the underground rivers formed by natural pits, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone that exposes the fresh groundwater underneath. A I swam in the clear blue fresh water, all I could utter to myself were the words cool and refreshing. A swim in these waters were just what the doctor ordered.
Refreshed and ready to call it a day, we returned to Royal Hideaway. The comforts of our room called out to us even more loudly today. We love Mexico and exploring, but there is something to be said for the luxuries of a resort like this. Thankfully we have a few more days to do nothing more than relax, and maybe grab a bike and ride the short ten minutes to Playa del Carmen and get some shopping in. Everyone back home is going to want a piece of paradise, but there’s nothing like actually being here to satisfy your soul and complete the understanding of this adults only, all-inclusive experience. When you come, remember to book your spa treatment and make reservations for the Chef’s Table. Vacationing here without experiencing these treats would seem incomplete. Treat yourself and throw in a tequila tasting for good measure.