Review: Palmaia, The House of Aia, Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Palmaia All-Inclusive Resort Playa Del Carmen

Palmaia, The House of Aia, an all-inclusive, luxury resort in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, opened December 12, 2019—and we were among the first guests to check in. In fact, Travelbinger was the first media to stay at the new property to offer a full, expert review (Travelbinger has visited over 600 hotels).

Palmaïa has 314 guest rooms, four gourmet restaurants, a food truck, an al fresco beach bar, a jungle spa and an incredible beachfront location on Riviera Maya. The resort is located in the upscale, residential community of Playacar, just outside Playa Del Carmen’s main town (along Fifth Avenue), near the end of the beach area, so it feels remote and secluded. Guests will feel like they’re staying at a private beach club rather than a typical all-inclusive resort, which distinguishes the property.

Aside from spa treatments, *everything* is included in the all-inclusive rate, including a la carte meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), alcoholic beverages, activities (like yoga and sound healing), mini-bar, room service, butler service and bikes.

Palmaïa also offers guests access to all the amenities at Sandos Playacar Resort next door, including tennis courts, a larger kid pool and nightly concerts (Sandos guests do not have access to Palmaïa). Palmaïa – The House of Aïa, is about an hour’s drive from Cancun International Airport, and the resort can arrange private airport transfers.

Take an exclusive look at Palmaia, The House of Aia, in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

As soon as you arrive at Palmaïa, The House of Aia, your assigned butler greets you in the lobby. Palmaïa’s lobby is gorgeous and spacious, with high ceilings, marble floors and plenty of nature-inspired furnishings, like stone check-in desks and paper lanterns. Here, you’ll get your customized tumbler (Palmaïa is an eco-resort, meaning they take great stride in carbon neutrality and important measures for environmental responsibility). There is no plastic on property. Rather than plastic water bottles in the rooms, guests are provided with filtered water in carafes, which I appreciated.

All 317 guestrooms at Palmaïa are “suites” that span nearly 1,000 square feet (the standard suite is 538 square feet with a private terrace spanning 344 square feet). From the lobby, our butler, Edgardo, drove us to our suite in a golf cart, which took less than 2 minutes.
All suites are within four, five-story buildings facing the beach. At first, you get the impression the resort is huge, but after we settled in the first day, we were surprised at how intimate it is. Palmaïa feels more like a boutique hotel rather than a large, all-inclusive resort. Here’s a look at the resort from the private beach (you can click the photo to enlarge it).

The resort is located on the white-sand beach, just steps from the ocean. You can be in the crystal-clear sea in seconds, rather than having to walk forever, hop in a golf cart or walk through several buildings and lobbies, which is typical at other all-inclusive resorts in Mexico. You can hear the ocean from the suites, that’s how close you are. Here’s a view of Palmaïa from a suite on the 4th floor. Before you book, you have to decide what’s more important to you: having a ground-floor, swim-up suite, or a top-level suite with a view. The suites from the higher floors will have an amazing sunrise and sunset view, as well as an aerial perspective of the resort amenities.
The beach at Palmaia, The House of Aia, is incredibly beautiful with swaying palms and cabanas. It’s also incredibly private. There were 2 security guards every day that prevented non-guests from entering the resort’s beach area. It makes Palmaia feel rather exclusive. Here’s a panorama of Palmaïa Resort’s beach area. This is all reserved exclusively for Palmaïa guests, which is an amazing perk. There are no crowds, no cramped area with sunbeds and no hawkers. You’re hardpressed to find this much private beach space at any other nearby resort. Also, with only 317 rooms, it will never feel crowded.One of the benefits of booking at Palmaïa is the opportunity to stay in a ‘swim-up suite.’ These ground-floor suites have balconies that open up to the pool. You can wake up and literally be in the pool in seconds, straight from your balcony. Each of the four buildings has its own dedicated pool, and each pool is surprisingly huge and deep. In fact, my pool was about the length of an Olympic-sized pool. There’s also a platform by your balcony so you can sit in the pool, and the pool in the second building has a swim-up bar.

The buildings are connected by wooden walkways lined by mangrove. You can swim in any pool that you like, but most guests stick to the pool adjacent to the building they are staying in (unless you have kids, there’s a separate kids pool). 
The kids pool has a slide and waterfall. It’s also a lot more shallow than the other pools for little ones.Here’s the typical layout of the suite. If you book a family suite, there’s an additional room in the back with a bunkbed, and Palmaia also offers master family suites and completely vegan suites. All suites come equipped with a queen or king bed, large bathtub and separate rain shower, double vanity, and organic spa amenities like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, insect repellent and after-sun aloe vera gel. There’s also a free min-bar with thoughtful products, like coconut water and kombucha, which you wouldn’t find at a typical all-inclusive resort. I love how the suite has warm earth tones, as well as a sitting area with sofa, coffee table and two arm chairs. There’s also a ceiling fan with one setting, air conditioning, a large-screen TV that streams your Netflix and artwork. The bathroom is part of the suite (no separate wall).

If you’re going to stay here, you may as well look good doing it. Check out some of the best sunglass collections at Bloomingdales.

The swim-up suite at Palmaia, The House of Aia, is perfect for those who want to chill out at the pool without having to go far from your suite. JetSetRuby is hanging out with Matt, who was also celebrating his birthday. Palmaïa is open to service dogs only, and remember there are new rules for taking your dog to Mexico.

If you book a swim-up suite, you have a table and chairs and quick access to the pool. Because of the layout of the building, you only get sunlight on your deck until mid-afternoon. Swim-up suites are rare in Riviera Maya, so it’s a nice feature if you’re obsessed with a pool like me. The weather conditions in Playa Del Carmen were excellent during my visit, so I spent most of my time swimming in the sea, but we did order lunch at the poolside cabana a few times.

Palmaia House of Aia Playa del Carmen Guestroom

Palmaïa has an al fresco beach bar, which becomes the hub of activity just before sunset. With its Rituals of Sound program, expect live performances, like a flamenco dancer or hip little band, or a DJ (or both) around sunset every night.The resort targets a younger demographic, who thrive on community, nature and wellness, so you can expect a DJ playing more tribal beats. The best one-line description for Palmaia is that it’s “a bit of Tulum in Playa Del Carmen,” or at least, that’s how I described it to friends back home. Due to the eco-conscious theme, holistic wellness program, bohemian sensibility and focus on community, as well as mind, body and spirit, I have also called Palmaïa “The Burning Man of resorts.”
We found ourselves hanging at the beach bar several times a dayand through the night, after sunset, where a fire pit is usually going while a DJ is playing tribal music.There’s a “gypsy tent” on the beach. It provides a nice place to relax, and it also moonlights as the kid’s club during the day. The resort has complimentary, wellness and holisitic-inspired activities rooted in ancient Mayan culture and nature, which include sound bathing, yoga and meditation, many of which will take place here, all part of its Architects of Life program.
The main restaurant is Su Casa, right on the beach. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner. We loved Su Casa. You won’t find any buffets here (again, atypical for an all-inclusive resort), and many of the dishes were healthy and vegan. In fact, the chef is all about plant-based dishes. For example, the butter was vegan butter, made from cashew. 
If you’re not ready to go full vegan, there’s plenty of regular dishes you can order, including steak sandwiches and fries, pizzas, Mediterranean plates and pasta, using healthy, often organic ingredients. Naturally, there’s Mexican food, like fish and steak tacos, chips and guacamole and quesadillas.

The food was fresh AF. The chef works with local farmers and fishermen, which is a far cry from the type of food you’d get at a larger all-inclusive resort.At Palmaïa, there are four other restaurants, including a vegan restaurant, Thai-inspired restaurant, Mexican restaurant and Mediterranean restaurant. All of the restaurants are contemporary with stylish interiors, indoor seating, and they’re open at night serving elevated and modern dishes. I loved the interior design of the dining spaces, including Lek, pictured below.Mar De Olivo, the Mediterranean restaurant, was equally stunning. Every restaurant serves plant-based dishes. While the resort offers plenty of places to relax, unwind and tap into nature, Atlantis Spa is a true hideaway. The jungle spa makes you feel completely removed from civilization. The intimate lobby is understated and gorgeous, with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow guests to immediately connect with the surrounding nature.Atlantis has 5 spa casitas throughout the jungle connected by a stone pathway. Again, all structures are inspired by nature. There is also a glass-wall fitness center perched in the jungle at the end of the path, which has cardio and weight training equipment.These spa casitas are immersed in the foliage, with a glass wall facing the jungle. Honestly, it feels like something you’d see at Burning Man, right? The spa also features a traditional temezcal if you’re looking to go full detox.I had an amazing, 90-minute massage to the soundtrack of nature. I also had a sound bathing session in one of the casitas on my last day.

The sound master guru used traditional props like a conch and Tibetan bowls to lull me into meditation. My friend Brunson had one of his best meditations in history. Palmaia, The House of Aia, was built around two natural cenotes, which are underwater swimming holes found throughout the Riviera Maya coast and precede the Mayans. A cenote is a freshwater pool you can actually swim in, including this one at Atlantis spa.There’s also a yoga deck in the jungle near the beach. This platform is used for daily experiences, rituals and classes, like sound healing and making your own dreamweaver. One of the best features of the resort is service. The property is intimate, so staff is always around when you need something, like cocktails on the beach or snacks. You can order dining anywhere on property, and remember, it’s all inclusive, so you can have whatever you want, when you want it, with no bill to sign. This includes all gourmet food and premium liquor,  whether you’re at the pool, on a beach cabana or even in the spa.While it wasn’t open yet, the resort will also have a taco truck, but you can still order them at the restaurant, pool or beach. Honestly, I loved the tacos served at Palmaïa. The tortilla was freshly made, the chicken was juicy, the fish was fresh and flavorful (and fried, if you prefer) and the homemade hot sauce hit all the right spots. They could be the best tacos I’ve had at an all-inclusive resort. The tacos rivaled my favorite taco spot, El Fogon in downtown Playa Del Carmen, considered one of the best taco places in Riviera Maya.

In subtle ways, Palmaïa reminded me of Nizuc Resort in Cancun, one of my favorite resorts in Riviera Maya, which also offers ala carte, gourmet restaurants, a private beach, an outdoor spa and an all-inclusive plan. The rooms at Nizuc are more private, and there is an infinity pool, but Palmaïa caters to a totally different audience, and it stands out for its wellness/cultural programming, Architects of Life, thoughtful approach to food, spaces fostering community and sprawling beach. Incredibly private and luxurious, and quite unique for an all-inclusive, Palmaia, The House of Aia, is a great property to book if you’re looking for top-notch service, excellent cuisine, spacious suites, holistic activities and a location on a quiet beach. I would definitely book again.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

6 thoughts on “Review: Palmaia, The House of Aia, Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico

  1. Superb across the board. I can’t think of anyplace on the planet that could have been better for the mental and physical unwind I needed so bad after the trauma of the last year. From manager Javier down to the army of maintenance staff, everyone couldn’t have been friendlier or more accommodating.

    The location is just far enough to really let you separate from the world, and the property goes out of its way to ensure tranquility for those seeking it (like me). The beach is perfect and kept clean each morning. The rooms are spacious and well laid out, with just enough amenities. The pools looked beautiful, but with the Caribbean there I never tried them out.

    The food is so good that the menu could convert anyone to veganism. Almost all options come with non-vegan / vegetarian additions. And the house-made chocolates included in the turn down service rival anything else I’ve had worldwide.

    The public areas are kept amazingly immaculate given the largely outdoor design of the property. The grounds are beautifully planted and maintained. I didn’t avail myself of all the services they offer, but the daily yoga sessions amidst the trees were fantastic, and I highly recommend treating yourself to a massage or reflexology session at the spa: ask for Norma, who fixed countless aches and pains for me.

    Across the board this property punches well above its weight in terms of service and quality for the price.

  2. Hi Karie, thanks! It’s best to contact the hotel directly for this information. It was brand new when I visited, so you never know what amenities they may have switched out since. Have a great time!

  3. Thanks so much for this review and the video Jimmy. You helped enormously with my trip planning and I have now booked! I’m traveling solo and don’t drink but am a caffeine addict. Can you remember what type of coffee machine is in the room. If it’s a Nespresso I usually bring additional pods. Thanks again

  4. Hi Dave- I traveled with two friends who brought two kids (2 and 4 years old). They stayed on the 4th floor and loved it. The buildings do have elevators!

  5. Looks nice. Are their elevators to the upper floors or only stairs? Asking because we have two small kids and wondering how high up we should go.

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