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Hotel Check: Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, Mexico

WHERE IS IT? Over one hour from Cancun International Airport, this resort is located in Riviera Maya, which is just past Playa del Carmen. Located directly on the water, the resort gets plenty of cool ocean breeze all day long. My ride with eTransfers was seamless and easy to find once exiting the hectic airport arrivals area. Due to an involuntary flight change, I had to reschedule my trip, and it was easy to do via social media.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? As many all-inclusive properties are, the mood is festive the moment you enter. What sets Hard Rock resorts apart (like the restaurants of the same name) is the variety of music-themed memorabilia on display. Large glass cases highlight apparel worn by famous musicians, artwork that appeared in music videos, movie set souvenirs and other entertainment items. The hotel company has teams of people that scour the world for unique things to put on display in its restaurants and properties. It’s worth walking around the vast layout of the resort just to spot all the museum-quality items.

Divided between the main section of the resort and the adults-only Heaven section, guests will find plenty to see and do, including numerous swimming pools, beach coves, restaurants and bars. Everything except for spa treatments is included, which means no fumbling around for your wallet once you check in. There is careful attention to COVID-19 protocols, too, with mask requirements indoors, plastic barriers at reception and extra cleaning measures throughout the hotel. When guests arrived, a seal on the door indicates that no one has entered since housekeeping sanitized the room. Hand sanitizing stations are everywhere around the grounds.

ROOM FACILITIES Guestrooms are spacious and vary in layout depending upon the floor and building. My room on the Rock Royalty level of adults-only Heaven section was on the top floor, and as a specialty room, it also had a rooftop panoramic terrace with whirlpool. All rooms have furnished balconies with a hammock. A padded headboard crowning the comfortable bed was flanked by two nightstands with easy-access power outlets. A large flat-screen TV was mounted on the wall, and the refrigerator housed complimentary sodas, juices and Mexican beer. An espresso machine was on the counter, and a side table doubled as a desk. The bathroom featured natural light, stone accents, a glass shower stall and a large stone sink and vanity stocked with Rock Spa toiletries. The room had excellent air conditioning as well as storage space.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS Many all-inclusive resorts suffer from low-quality dining options, but not here. I was incredibly impressed with the variety and presentation. There was one buffet restaurant, which had a Mexican station that varied daily as well as a made-to-order grill and pasta stations, impressive salad and pizza stations, and lovely dessert spread. Other dining choices included a steakhouse, French restaurant, Italian eatery, two Mexican options, a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant and deli with sandwiches and salads. Especially noteworthy was the ice cream and sorbet stand that always seemed popular with guests. Room service made swift deliveries from an impressive menu, while bars are set up around the resort for a quick drink. Some of the bars have a pastry selection with specialty coffees. Club Heaven is the late-night dance spot and bar with billiard table and chic sitting areas; live music plays there as well as both lobby areas. As expected, music is a central theme at the resort, and you’re never far from entertainment here.

LEISURE FACILITIES Sparkling pools line the edge of the resort, all within view of the crashing waves and many with a swim-up bar and DJ-fueled activities. The adult section of the resort has its own pool with waterfalls and quiet sections. There’s another guitar-shaped pool for top loyalty program members. The family area has a winding river-style pool plus water park activities popular with kids. A fitness center keeps the music thumping and encourages a good workout while Rock Spa has a long roster of massage and beauty treatments. A traditional Mexican temazcal treatment area is also available for those that want to sweat out any stress. Relaxation areas feature soaking tubs, steam room and sauna areas, and a place to decompress (or detox!) before or after a treatment. Billiard tables, whirlpools beneath swaying palm trees, hammocks and beach coves with shaded cabanas provide ample diversion. A concierge desk can coordinate visits to area attractions or set up non-motorized watersport rentals. There’s also an excellent photography desk that can take photos anywhere around the resort including in its studio or on the beach.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES Free wireless Internet works well around the resort including by all the pools (I tested it out!) and by the beach. It even works at the gazebo patios jutting out over the crashing waves; these are popular areas for yoga or weddings. The resort has a large convention center, which helps it attract meeting, incentive and convention groups.

VERDICT You can rock it out your own way from morning to night here whether you’re interested in lounging by the pool, tippling at the bar, swimming in the ocean or relaxing in your hammock.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 1,264 rooms and suites

PROPERTY HIGHLIGHTS Splendid beachfront locale with adult and family sections, exceptional dining and all-inclusive amenities

CONTACT Km 72, Carretera Cancun-Chetumal Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, Phone 52-984-875-1100,