There are only a few all-inclusive resorts that cater to the picky, pampered, luxury travelers who want personalized service and a great culinary experience. Blue Diamond Resort and Spa, in the Riviera Maya region close to Playa del Carmen, is a new addition to the handful of true luxury all-inclusives operating in Mexico.
The property that Blue Bay Resorts took over to open Blue Diamond was once the only Mandarin Oriental hotel in Latin America. Now there are zero because after struggling a few years, that hotel closed. After some sprucing up and an air conditioning upgrade, it’s now open again with the same great design but on a plan that includes meals, drinks, and more.
This is not the kind of all-inclusive that usually turns off high-end vacationers, however. There are no wristbands, no buffets, no dancing shows, no chirpy social directors with a microphone trying to push people into activities at the pool. The drinks on offer are things you would actually order at a good bar (like quality 100% blue agave tequila and 12-year Flor de Cana rum) and you have full liquor bottles and Dos Equis Amber beers in your complimentary minibar.
The 128 rooms and suites here are really something special, with the new managers wisely leaving all the Mandarin Oriental elements in place. Quality furniture with flair and stupendous bathrooms are the norm, plush mattresses and good lighting contributing to the comfort. All come with large satellite TVs, full stereos with iPod docks, phones that you can use to dial anywhere in the world complimentary, included Wi-Fi that works well, a walk-in closet, and nice touches like robes, slippers, and a range of quality toiletries.
Some of the larger suites have outdoor showers and most have some kind of terrace, roof deck, or balcony. Patio suites have their own plunge pool, while several of the upper categories have Nespresso coffee machines. My suite was the bottom floor of one of these lagoon casitas pictured below, with floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing a killer sunset. It had a bathtub big enough for a threesome (though I can’t vouch for the suitability of putting that into action.)
Dining options are in a beachside indoor/outdoor restaurant that serves all three meals from a menu and specials, with a focus on Mexican dishes and seafood, or in a dramatic circular space where you can enjoy the air conditioning inside or be on a terrace over a lagoon outside. Don’t reach in though: there are real alligators swimming around!
This Alma international restaurant has candles, alabaster lamps, and an impressive menu with wine suggestions for each dish. Meals here are on par with any top restaurant you would pay for in Playa del Carmen, presented with care and flair, but whatever you order is included in the rates. During my visit a talented guitar duo was performing as well.
A nearby open-air cigar bar has a big city lounge feel, with chillout music on the sound system and couches for sprawling. The bar by the beach and pool also stays open late for those who want to listen to the waves instead of the crickets.
During the day, lounge chairs are set up on the beach, with an attendant bringing towels and fetching drinks. A regular pool, lap pool, and whirlpool overlook the Caribbean. A full spa is on site, as well as a gym.
The only real negatives I experienced during my stay were related to the layout of the property: it’s a long, skinny rectangle perpendicular to the sea, so it’s a significant distance from one building to the other and some units are too far from the beach to walk. There’s on-demand golf cart transportation and bikes to borrow, but in my experience during a peak occupancy period, both came up short. I never was able to secure a bike and during a rainstorm the transportation line would just ring and ring. Hopefully in time these glitches will work themselves out as the company buys more bikes and/or comes up with a better system.
Everything else at Blue Diamond flowed well, service was excellent, and it felt like being at one of the Riviera Maya luxury resorts, not a routine all-inclusive. Despite first opening last decade, everything looks new. This is a hotel performing at a level of service you would find at Mayakoba complex neighbors Rosewood and Banyan Tree, but with no surprises when it comes time to check out and pay your bill.
Blue Diamond rates start at $496 per room all-inclusive during low season—with upgrades to a better level not much more—rising to several thousand in the best beachfront suite category at peak times. Book direct at the Blue Diamond website or check rates at Travelocity.
Review and photos by Mexico resident Tim Leffel, who was a guest of the Blue Diamond Resort while attending the ILTM Americas travel trade show.