The Travel Facter – Riviera Maya

Why has it taken me so long to check out the Riviera Maya?

Poolside at El Dorado Maroma.

toJust 4 1/2 hours away (if you fly nonstop), my base on the peninsula was El Dorado Maroma, one of the Karisma Hotel Group’s honeymoon retreats. I was on a honeymoon, but without the honey! Other media types and I were invited by Destination Weddings to partake in their expo.

Secluded El Dorado Maroma sits on Maroma Beach, known as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. It’s a gourmet inclusive hotel with a variety of restaurants. Hospitality was supreme.

My suite was three floors up (no elevators) with high vaulted ceilings, a canopied king bed, plush pillows, eclectic décor, a Jacuzzi tub for two and two showers, including the signature Aguas de Amor, outside and roofless. Champagne on ice was waiting.

But, I literally had a few minutes to settle in from my flight, shower, change and head to dinner at Roma, an exquisite restaurant at Azul Beach Hotel. A romantic stroll over a mini-bridge led you to a meal of Carpaccio di Manzo, Margherita pizza (very slim sliced), Crema di funghi prataioli arrostiti, Pollo alla Pizzaiola and Crème Brule. There’s a large blackboard not with a menu, but a romantic poem.

My breakfast choice was always Papitos, a casual-chic open air eatery on the beach, the perfect way to start each day. The view of the turquoise water was worth waking up extra early.

We inspected other Karisma Hotel honeymoon destinations. One word can describe them: heaven! But, August in Mexico is a challenge. It’s sizzling. Bottled water, check. Sunscreen, check. Hat, check.

A not-so romantic dinner party with hundreds of travel agents at the Royale Gourmet Circus followed at the ballroom of the grand dame, the El Dorado Royale, sponsored by Destination Weddings.

It was Cirque de Soleil meets uber Vegas, all very upscale. This event surpassed some of the Emmy/Oscar/Carousel Ball events I’ve covered. The party was never over. When we adjourned, fire eaters and acrobats performed. Golf carts transported guests to the after party with a traditional (or not so traditional) Latin show at Guacamayas. I was able to practice my Zumba moves!

A highlight: Participating in a Mayan wedding ceremony on the beach at sunset, overlooking the sea with hundreds of people in white. Eight couples renewed their vows. It doesn’t get any better than that. The spell was slightly broken when I saw the shaman on her cell phone afterwards! A candle light gourmet barbeque (for 300) followed.

Ed Cotton, VP and COO of DestinationWeddings.com, hosted Night of 1,000 Stars, a red-carpet awards evening for top earning agents. The carpets seem to follow me, even in paradise! The El Dorado Royale Ballroom created the wedding-plus décor and catered surf and turf, wedding cake and a grande dessert table. Top-earning travel agents received awards — just like Hollywood!

Each hotel has swim-up bars everywhere, as well as palapas, lounges, bed cabanas etc., with every water activity. Ancient Mayan ruins are a drive away if you dare leave the properties!

Sue Facter runs a news agency specializing in luxury brands and all things A-list. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Women’s Day Australia, Los Angeles Times and on Entertainment Tonight, Extra, The Insider and Inside Edition. Follow her on Twitter @TheFacter.

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