lesbian travel UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya.
UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya.

Perhaps the ultimate luxury when travelling is not having to worry about anything once you arrive at your destination: from bedding to bathing to dining to tipping.

In all my travels I hadn’t yet experienced a property that could pull this off—until I tried 5-star, adults only UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya.

This is a unique all-inclusive hotel that sets a high standard and achieves it. The property’s definition of all-inclusive (along with the usual inclusions) means: select tours, spa treatments, beauty salon, barbershop services and unlimited golf for a 25% service fee.

And not only do you feel as though you are sequestered on in sophisticated oasis, but you also feel a connection to the culture around you—and I don’t mean the tourist strip in Cancun. I am referring to the beauty of indigenous Mexican culture of the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s this cultural immersion combined with state-of-the-art luxury that makes for a perfectly easy holiday. 

But first let’s start with the location, signified by the resort’s title, which includes the exact latitude and longitude of the region: 20°N 87°W.

And the property has taken major steps to represent these co-ordinates during your stay. The staff are local, friendly and knowledgeable individuals. For example, at the spa I asked for a special blend of bath salts that might produce an effect of calm and happiness in the bather and the spa attendant used a blend of aromatic oils and local herbs in my preparation, explaining the benefits of each ingredient.

Elsewhere on property everyone from chefs to baristas to mixologists are proud to incorporate the region’s absolute best in your experience.

The landscaping of UNICO 20°87° makes the most of its location nestled between Mayan jungle and the oceanfront. Many trees were preserved when designing the contemporary hacienda-style hotel and drought-proof vegetation indigenous to the Riviera Maya adds to the soothing effect the grand scale of the statement architecture by Artigas. Design and decor are proudly Mexican, conceptualised by AvroKO. If you’d like to take home a little keepsake, high quality local art and souvenirs are available for purchase on property.

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of UNICO 20°87° is the suites themselves: 448 modern-rustic guestrooms decorated with handcrafted accent pieces and local artworks, and boasting mostly with panoramic ocean views. You get to choose from either a swim-up pool (ground floor suites) or outdoor hydro spa tubs (upper floors). I was delighted with the latter, which was almost as large as my New York City apartment, and I relished relaxing in my outdoor tub and using the custom bath amenities supplied by Botanicus, a Mexican company of beauty products that incorporates traditional essential oils and natural extracts. And good news for allergy sufferers: ask for a PURE® Hypo-Allergenic room, which undergoes an additional seven-step purification process that reduces airborne particles and minimises potential irritants. My suite was delightfully fresh.

Other resorts have gigantic pools, swim-up bars, and 24-hour room service but UNICO 20°87° has tweaked these imaginatively to offer fresh hot chocolate and churros as part of that room service; and instead of traditional butler service, your own personal Local Host assists you with things such as restaurant and spa reservations, laundry, pop-up programming, or a perfectly-mixed cocktail brought to your suite in time for sunset. My Local Host was happy to prepare my outdoor tub for me so that when I got back from dinner it was ready and waiting for me.

Sign up for some extra-curricular activities such as the outdoor cooking classes using local ingredients and flavors, live demonstrations from musicians, artisans, and more.

And if you fancy yourself as a foodie, the dining at UNICO 20°87° is a cut above other all-inclusive resorts. Five unique onsite restaurants combine the best of international cuisine with local flavours.

Cueva Siete (Cave Seven, after the Mayan legend about the origins of the world) showcases the hearty Mexican flavors of the Yucatan Peninsula with menus created by a rotation of top chefs who tap into the soul of Mayan Mexican tradition. Mura House serves Asian-influenced meals including excellent sushi and yakitori that can be enjoyed family-style in a stunning ambience. Mi Carisa serves elegant coastal Italian—antipasti, pasta, enrees and excellent woodfired pizza. 20.87 Restaurant is your venue for casual beachside dining and the superb breakfast buffet. And Cafe Inez is the place to pick up a fresh juice, or healthy lunch of salad or panini. Four bars and lounges make socialising over sommelier-selected wine and top-shelf cocktails a real pleasure. Palmera Lounge is a Prohibition-era Cuban cocktail lounge with Latin entertainment on Thursday and Saturday nights. The stunning Bar Balam, off the lobby, is the place to try a cocktail with a modern Mexican twist. (“Balam” is Mayan for jaguar and say hello to the namesake statue). For something special to enjoy later on drop by La Botella wine shop; or simply cool off poolside with a gin and tonic from Gin Time.

To truly immerse yourself in the local history and culture, sign up for a signature excursion. Just a short ride from UNICO is Tankah Mayan Community where you can learn about the indigenous culture, explore the pristine and sacred cenotes, and share a traditional Mayan lunch.

And don’t forget: UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya is LGBT-friendly, and in addition to being booked out by LGBT travel company VACAYA this fall (see sidebar), it has already hosted a number of same-sex weddings. Marylen Exposito is standing by to help you plan your dream wedding and her work has been featured in multiple major wedding publications.

LOTL Spring 2019Experience UNICO 20°87° with VACAYA

From October 27—November 2, 2019, premiere LGBTQIA travel lifestyle company VACAYA will take over UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya for a week of endless adventure and festivities including a Halloween costume party on October 31st and a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration on November 1st. This is a week not to miss out on and with VACAYA pulling out all stops to include more women in their events I asked for their thoughts on why they chose UNICO 20°87°. It all came down to shared values. “We wanted to provide the LGBT+ community with the opportunity to experience a higher level of luxury and Mexican culture with a modern twist,” said VACAYA’s Patrick Gunn. “As the newest member of The Leading Hotels of the World, UNICO 20°87° offers a level of luxury and inclusions never before seen in the world of all-LGBT travel.” If you’re on a budget VACAYA is offering an “Essentials Rate” starting at just $1397—“without a few of the extra bells and whistles, but still with an undeniable 5-star luxury, top shelf drinks, and all the VACAYA parties and activities.” Other reasons VACAYA and UNICO joined forces was their belief in unsurpassed hospitality, welcoming to all, and giving back to local communities.  myvacaya.com/trip/mexico-resort

This article appears in LOTL Spring 2019 Edition