Travel Thursday: Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, All-Inclusive, All Friendly, All Fun
For my first trip to Mexico, I wanted an environment that I knew would have the quality, safety, and resort like amenities. I also desired to be able to experience the culture and the history of the region. My choice was Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya.
With a simple two-hour $200 roundtrip direct plane ticket on Southwest, I was on my way from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Cancun, Mexico. Before boarding the plane at FLL, I had heard some college kids obtaining a shuttle for $25 per person. I thought about finding a cheaper shuttle than the Hard Rock recommended $60 roundtrip resort shuttle service, but my choice to stick with the higher resort recommended shuttle was reaffirmed when we landed in Cancun and I saw the kids pile into a mini minivan with 7 other people and all their bags. My ride to the hotel was a great start to the trip as our 8-passenger luxury SUV whisked us three away, me and a Canadian couple to the Hard Rock. I think I always meet wonderful Canadians when I travel. This wonderful couple from Alberta had been to this resort before, once before and once after it was rebranded as the Hard Rock. The couple gave me some great pointers and our conversation reassured me that I made the right choice with the Hard Rock.
Located just off the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya offers the ultimate vacation for guests of all ages with both the adults-only and family friendly resort experiences. With a combined 1,264 ultra-posh and lavishly appointed guestrooms boasting balcony, terrace views or new, expansive sky terrace options with picturesque views, hydro tubs in each room, world-class shopping and endless style and the largest celebrity-branded Rock Star Suite in the Hard Rock International collection designed by legendary singer Bret Michaels, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya is nothing short of the ultimate crowd-pleaser. Complete with expansive outdoor pools and private beach, this all-inclusive escape offers nine world-class restaurants, eight bars and lounges, in addition to 88,915 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting and event space ideal for elegant banquets, themed parties, weddings, concerts and more. Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya offers several youth-friendly components including the brand-new Woodward Riviera Maya action-sports facility, The Cavern — a teens lounge, snorkeling and kayaking for an unparalleled adventure and more. In addition, the “resort within the resort,” adults-only section Heaven, includes the Hard Rock signature Rock Spa® with 75 treatment rooms, four restaurants and three sophisticated bars and lounges, including a premium service nightclub.
Margaritas where at the ready when I arrived at Heaven, yes, Heaven, the lobby was the opulent plush oasis I was seeking. Booking a stay at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya, one can choose Heaven (Adults Only) or Hacienda (Adults & Kids). More about that later. Guest services gave me my liquid libation while the front desk provided me with the bracelet (key) to my Rock Royalty – Deluxe Premium room. Some of the perks of the level of room I booked were:
- Rock Royalty Personal Assistant
- Personal Assistance with reservations (on and off property)
- Balcony with hammock in most rooms
- Premium Liquor Dispenser – Absolut, Bacardi White, Johnny Walker Black Label, Jose Cuervo Especial
- Mini bar with soda, bottled water, juice, domestic beer and snacks
- Free wireless internet
What I grew to love was the personal assistant. If I had any need, the personal assistant team of Antonio and Abraham met and exceeded my expectations. The ability to contact them through WhatsApp made it even more convenient, especially when I was returning from the excursion they helped me coordinate. I had reservations for 8, but the bus was still 40 minutes away at 7:30. They were there to alter the reservation and when I arrived at the restaurant, Antonio was actually there to say hello. Antonio and Abraham, thanks again for helping me truly enjoy my time at the Hard Rock.
What I also enjoyed was even though the resort was massive, it did not seem so. The adult and family sections, restaurants, and pools were well divided. I did stroll around the entire resort and even had breakfast on the family side. Besides seeing some hot daddies, I was happy I was staying on the adult only side.
You never can plan the weather, even in paradise. One afternoon, I found myself grabbing a drink at the Eden Bar and then the rain came. I lost track of how long it rained as well as how many drinks I had, but the company of both the other guests and the bar staff were great. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, rum punches, daiquiris, tequila, and some other drinks I cannot remember the name of. Another great benefit of staying on a resort is that you can stumble home, even if you don’t remember it. If I had not been at the Hard Rock, I would not have been able to splurge as much, especially since I was traveling alone.
As mentioned, Antonio and Abraham assisted me in arranging a day long excursion to Chichen Itza and Cenote. The trip took off around 7:30 am, included admission to all parks and a lunch buffet at a Cenote restaurant, and I was dropped off at about 8:15 PM. The day was such a great experience, I would do it all again and the price was rather reasonable for all it included. I actually ended up misplacing my ticket for the day, but since the excursion company had service desks at the resort, it was easy to have another ticket printed in time to catch my transport.
My trip to the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya was a little too short for I did not have enough time to over eat, I mean try out all the restaurants. The ones I had a chance to sample are worth writing about.
Le Petit Cochon - Serving remarkable dishes à la carte, Le Petit Cochon features the finest ingredients for a delicious taste of the rustic French countryside.
My WhatsApp Personal Assistant Team high recommended Le Petit Cochon and I went with it. Sitting down to the table and seeing the menu for the first time, I knew I was in for a treat as there was so much that were my favorites. From foie gras, to French onion soup to, a scallop dish that was creamy, spicy, and heavenly. Can I get the recipe? While enjoying my morsels of heaven, I overheard one table telling another that this was their third time eating at Le Petit Cochon.
Toro was the other restaurant I had time to enjoy. Le Petit Cochon was for adults only, but Toro was open to all. My reservations were always for later in the evening so I never saw kids in there. Instead, I saw some great cuts of meat and multiple glasses of wine being consumed at my table.
Toro - The good life deserves a great steak. Step inside and enjoy premium cuts of the finest steak and a menu of lavish dishes served à la carte.
As I mentioned, I desired more time at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. This is a resort and a brand I will give my business to in the future.
What I liked about this large resort was that it still had a small feel to it. The video below shows the size of the property, but you still had intimacy and privacy as well as you were able to find where the parties were. With it's size, they can offer such great amenities, but still know who you are as an individual and help you keep that individual feel by giving you the chance to customize your escapes, your own personal sound track, to help you make your room truly your oasis, and everything else imaginable.
As an added side note … I do have multiple friends that are looking for destination wedding venues so I do take it upon myself to do some research on the topic when I travel. I had the chance to ask Carilis Felipe, Director of Weddings North America, AIC Hotel Group, some questions about same-sex couples (SSCs) and their experiences at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Do you offer anything different or special for the SSCs than you do heterosexual couples? Apart from offering SSCs the option of having either two bouquets or two boutonnieres, the wedding process and amenities are the same for all couples. This also includes the same benefits and inclusions. Our weddings are customizable, so all couples can add a personal touch and have the wedding they’ve always envisioned. Additionally, all our weddings are handled by our event consultants, who are certified by 14 Stories and TAG approved.
What is the most common request from SSCs? Different than heterosexual couples?
The most common request we receive from LGBTQ+ couples is for their ceremony or wedding events to be held in private locations. While we offer SSCs and heterosexual couples the same location options, most of our SSCs do not want to be placed in locations where other hotel guests have access to walk by, as they prefer to opt for a much more intimate setting.
Carilis Felipe elaborated that last year, 3% of the weddings were SSCs, with it being split 50/50 between male and female couples. The most popular type of ceremony the couples choose is a symbolic ceremony, which is non-legally binding and performed by a non-denominational officiant, giving the couple flexibility to incorporate religious aspects into their ceremonies such as scripture, readings, or candle ceremonies. Carilis stated that this type of ceremony is popular because it is free of charge, and couples typically prefer to be legally married in their hometown. They are also able to perform same-sex civil ceremonies at the Hard Rock properties in Mexico, as same-sex marriage became legal in Mexico a few years ago.
Out of all the weddings, SSC or straight, what has been the oddest request? The most fun request?
Many couples look for different ways to make a special entrance on their big day. At Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta, one of our same-sex bride’s family was unable to travel and attend the wedding. So, to do something special, we helped her fiancée (soon-to-be- wife) arrange for the bride to arrive at the beach ceremony on a white horse covered in flowers.
Do you see small or large parties attending the weddings or does it vary?
Our average size wedding parties are between 40-60 guests. However, we occasionally have small weddings of just two people. Our Wedding Group Benefits vary from as little as 5 rooms, to as large as 100+ rooms so it helps cater to all types of weddings.
What makes you confident that you are providing the best wedding/services to SSCs that come to the Hard Rock?
The feedback we receive from our SSCs once they begin working with us, versus the information they received from other hotels during the shopping process clearly outlines that our wedding services are unmatched. We also have travel agents who specialize in LGBTQ+ travel who are continuously recommending our hotels to their couples.
What sets your services apart from others, may it be for straight couples or SSC? Why would I choose to get married at the Hard Rock over other places?
The main differentiator is the inclusions we offer, as well as the in-room amenities, resort credit, a complimentary wedding collection and wedding group benefits. The size of the group will qualify for the group benefits and entitles the couple to complimentary nights, room upgrades and private events.
We also offer a complimentary wedding collection for all ceremonies for up to 32 guests, so any couple travelling on their own would be able to enjoy all the package inclusions. We do not require the couple to book any specific room category or minimum length of stay in order to receive the complimentary wedding package.
Do you call in “more accepting” staff to assist with SSC weddings or is the same staff used for all weddings? We worry that we may not be accepted or not all employees would be open to seeing us getting married. How do you handle that? How do you counsel your staff?
The same staff is used for all weddings, and all our staff have past experience working with SSCs. At Hard Rock, “Love All, Serve All” is one of our mottos. Our staff is thoroughly vetted to ensure everyone on our team lives by this message, and delivers the same level of service and hospitality to all our guests and wedding couples – regardless of where they come from, whether or not they are a SSC, their age, etc.
For information on services, please refer to our weddings website: