Spring is upon us and that usually means lots of new and exciting adventures here at House of Coco. Team Coco recently went to experience world-class Mexican hospitality at UNICO 20˚87˚ Hotel Riveria Maya. One of the region’s youngest resorts, UNICO seeks to redefine the concept of all-inclusive holidays through immersive and conscious travel experiences.
A few feet away from me, a small team were hard at work, setting up a beach gazebo for either an intimate dinner or wedding ceremony. The gazebo’s white curtains fluttered in the same ocean breeze that gently caressed my skin.
“Lucky couple!” I thought to myself. The turquoise colour of the sea, the soft white sand and the golden hues from the sunset were sure to provide an excellent backdrop for whatever celebration followed.
I was enjoying the beach at UNICO 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya, an adults-only, all-inclusive luxury property located along Mexico’s Caribbean coastline.
Although I was only an hours’ drive from Cancun International Airport, I could not have felt further away from the riotous stag and hen parties synonymous with destinations further north along the Yucatán Penninsula coast.
I typed some text into my phone. “¡No pajitas de plástico, por favor!” was how Google Translator told me to say to the beach bar waiter that I needed no plastic straws with my mojito order.
I needn’t have bothered. I later discovered that UNICO has eliminated the use of plastic straws and keeps the use of recyclable plastic to a minimum.
My mojito arrived soon after. It tasted perfect. I adjusted my sombrero, applied some more sunscreen and reclined on the beach lounger, fully embracing the tranquillity of my surroundings. If this was the world UNICO (‘unique’ in Spanish) had created for their guests, I was happy to live every moment in it.
Visiting Mexico’s Riviera Maya
Coastal Mexico remains popular as a spring getaway destination (Playa del Carmen reported a hotel capacity of over 90% in 2018).
Towns and cities across the Yucatán Peninsula, a region which separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea, pull their share of visitors, competing with equally popular destinations around the Gulf of California.
The Yucatán Peninsula offers UNESCO World Heritage pre-Hispanic ruins, colonial towns, tropical beach playgrounds and plenty of nightlife fun. From Campeche to Mérida and from Isla Mujeres to Cozumel, there’s something for every budget.
Sandwiched between the rambunctious Cancún and the quieter Tulum however, is the Riviera Maya in the state of Quintana Roo. This stretch of coastline is known for its long beaches, cenotes (underground pools) and the Mesoamerican coastal reef (second largest in the world) which makes it perfect for aquatic activities.
UNICO 20˚87˚ (a name inferring its geolocation) seeks to stand out in this fast-growing tourist corridor as a resort that combines contemporary Mexican architecture with modern luxury and beach chic.
UNICO seeks to redefine the term ‘all-inclusive’, avoiding the impersonal mega-resort approach and instead immersing guests in a meaningful way into the region’s music, art, history, geography and gastronomy.
Exploring UNICO 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya
Done with my drink, or maybe two (drinks are inclusive here), I sunk my feet in the white coral sand and willed myself to move in the direction of my ocean-view room.
Walking along the beach, I skipped over some seaweed that had begun to collect on the sand. This naturally recurring nuisance along Mexico’s Caribbean coast keeps UNICO’s groundskeepers and environmentalists busy, a few times each day, in a bid to contain mother nature.
My afternoon plans included a scheduled spa session – steam room, sauna, hydrotherapy and a 50-minute massage. The joy of vacationing at an all-inclusive property is that you’re never in a hurry to be anywhere else.
I took a circuitous route back to my room, passing by the lively La Unica pool where a small group had gathered for an afternoon game of water volleyball. Thanks to being an adults-only property, there were sun loungers in abundance. Being able to order drinks from the swim-up bar using the hotel app was a nice touch.
At that moment, my dilemma was between lounging by the pool or enjoying a relaxing massage. Life gives us tough choices sometimes!
Luxury vacation with a cause
Like other popular destinations across the world (Venice and Barcelona spring to mind), the Riviera Maya is a region where mass tourism has also raised environmental impact concerns.
It was heartwarming therefore to learn that UNICO 20˚87 ° recognises this and has incorporated sustainability into their operating philosophy.
Efforts to manage their environmental footprint include the use of solar power to complement the energy resources needed for street lighting and water heating of their three swimming pools. An on-site nursery, housing trees and ornamental plants native to the region, also hints at a conscious effort to preserve the natural environment.
Additionally, UNICO is a certified turtle camp. Eco-conscious guests can support wildlife preservation initiatives to help endangered sea turtles nest and survive. Day tours to places like Isla Mujeres (where there are larger scale wildlife conservation projects) also offer guests a controlled yet immersive experience of the local landscape.
Guests who are keen to positively impact the everyday lives of the local community during their visit will find opportunities to do so through donations (such as school supplies) to UNICO’s ‘Vacation with a Cause’ volunteer program.
Over dinner later that evening, during a chat with Irma Yeo, UNICO’s Director of Sales, I learned more about UNICO’s approach to conservation.
Re-emphasising what I had already begun to learn, she said, “Our trees have transformed this place since we completed construction and opened two years ago. When I first heard birds singing, I knew then that we had done something right.”
The next day, I walked out onto my private balcony to welcome a glorious sunrise over the Caribbean. In the morning stillness, I heard them singing too.
British Airways Holidays offers seven nights at the 5* UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya from £1,269 per person. Price is based on two adults sharing an Alcoba Room on an all-inclusive basis. Price includes return World Traveller flights from London Gatwick to Cancún (based on selected September departures).
Select tours, golf, spa services and beauty salon treatments are available to all guests for a 25% service fee. An 80-minute UNICO 20°87° relaxing massage costs £70 as part of the Unlimited Inclusions programme.
Visit unicohotelrivieramaya.com for further enquiries