Now that we’re about two months removed from our most recent trip to Mexico, why not take a look back and reminisce by way of a review of the resort we stayed in? The Unico 20°87°Hotel Riviera Maya was our home-away-from-home for an all-too-short five nights around New Year’s this year and we had a fabulous time overall. Perhaps ironically, my favorite part of this vacation was off-property during the sweet day trip three of us took to Coba and Tulum, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the resort. Quite the opposite, in fact! As you’ll see below, I really loved this place and would go back in a heartbeat.
In this review, I’m using the same format I used for my reviews of the Oasis Sens in 2014 and the GR Solaris Cancún in 2015, but definitely leave a comment if you want to know more about something I didn’t cover enough (or at all).
Public Space (Interior) – 5/5 Stars
Unsurprisingly, I was never that focused on what the interior spaces looked like because we spent most of our time by the pool. 🙂 That said though, all the spaces we were in were really nice. The lobby is HUGE – super high ceilings and lots of places to sit, which is exactly what we did as soon as we arrived and were given a welcome drink (non-alcoholic, but very nice and refreshing). Because we were there over New Year’s, there were still Christmas decorations up, which I really appreciated, given my love of the festive season. There was a really large tree just outside the lobby bar and other, smaller decor items around, but nothing ostentatious or overdone. There’s no way to know if they had already taken some down, but what was there looked great. I also really liked the big lobby bar space – it was huge, with a large bar and lots of stools. On top of that, there were lots of tables available, giving my friend Steve and I a perfect place to play cribbage. 🙂 There was also a pool table, which we didn’t use, but I saw other people using it. That, plus the more comfy seating (couches) near it gave that side of the bar a more lounge-y feel, which was nice. Also, the servers did a great job of circulating regularly to take drink orders, so we didn’t have to worry about getting up to go back to the bar for more bevvies.
Aside from the lobby, the only other interior spaces we spent time in were the restaurants, all of which were nice, comfortable, and most importantly, clean. Everything looked well-maintained and we enjoyed all the indoor spaces, especially the resort’s Italian restaurant, which can only be reached by walking across an outdoor breezeway, which was a nice touch.
Is it terrible that I can’t think of ANYTHING negative to call out for the interior public spaces? I’m sitting here trying to think of something that wasn’t pretty perfect and nothing is coming to mind. I don’t think I even saw any bugs, which is surprising, given how open even the interior spaces are at a resort like this. I even liked the scent they pump through the lobby – sort of floral, but not overpowering. As I said about the restaurants above, everything felt very fresh and kept up well, so I don’t think I can fault anything in this category.
Public Space (Exterior) – 4.5/5 Stars
The outdoor space at Unico was so, so good! As with both of the other resorts I’ve stayed at, this one has multiple pools, with one of them being the more quiet pool. Although we didn’t spend all our time at the quiet pool at those other two resorts, we did at this one. Compared to Oasis Sens and GR Solaris, Unico is quieter overall, but they still had activities happening at one of the pools, but as we weren’t looking to play volleyball, hear loud(ish) music, etc., we were happy to camp out at the quiet pool every day. On the first or second day though, I did walk over to the “louder” pool and didn’t find it to be too noisy (though I’m sure that varies based on time of day), but I was disappointed with how shallow it was. Although the quiet pool wasn’t very deep either (certainly not deep enough to dive into), I liked it better than the other pools.
The rest of the outdoor space (mostly just what we walked by to get to and from the pool and to and from meals) all looked really nice and well-manicured. The grass was green and not patchy and there was a good variety of plants/landscaping to add more visual interest. And as with the interior space, everything outside was clean – I didn’t see any garbage outside of trash cans and it seemed like employees were always outside doing something, like landscaping work, sweeping, emptying garbage cans, etc. Overall, I think the staff at Unico takes a lot of pride in how well they maintain things.
Although not part of Unico’s space, I did want to say that I also enjoyed having the ocean very conveniently located, just down a short path from the louder pools. Although I’m not someone who swims in the ocean, I love to walk by it, so the close proximity allowed me to do that multiple times. I know most resorts are close to the ocean, but I feel like Unico is extra close. I don’t think I walked on the beach at all at either of the other two resorts I’ve been to, particularly GR Solaris, where I feel like the beach was definitely further away.
Are you surprised that I can’t think of much negative feedback in this category either? The one thing that stands out to me is the temperature of our pool – it was a little too warm for my liking. It’s a well-documented fact (if you know me in the slightest) that I do NOT like hot weather (being on a warm weather vacation is different – it’s supposed to be hot and I have constant access to a pool), so on a trip like this where I’m laying in the sun all day, I like to have a cold pool to hang out in (not ice-cold, but pleasantly chilled) and I didn’t get that at Unico. It wasn’t intolerable by any stretch, but it would have been nice if the heating was turned down a few degrees. And I know it was specific to this pool because when I jumped in one of the other pools, the temperature was noticeably colder. This is the tiniest of “complaints” though and really didn’t impact my overall enjoyment of the outdoor space – it just keeps me from giving it a full 5/5.
Another callout to the beach space. Although I loved walking on it, I did find the beach had a lot of coral/seaweed/etc on it, making it a little harder to walk on. I totally understand this has nothing to do with Unico, but wanted to call it out for my fellow beach-walkers.
Food & Drink – 5/5 Stars
I mean, this is kind of a gimme as the food here was SO GOOD. We were there long enough to try all the restaurants, including Mexican, American, teppanyaki, and Italian and they were all delicious. Ironically, the meal we enjoyed the least (though it was still good, just not as good as the others by comparison), was at the Mexican restaurant, Cueva Siete. Though it was at that meal that our server offered Melissa some fried crickets. She declined and he didn’t offer them to the rest of us, perhaps because he figured we would all say no. Oh well!
We had a great experience at the teppanyaki restaurant, Mura House, and were seated with at the teppanyaki grill with a really nice family from Canada (the tables seat ten people, so we were never going to get one on our own). I don’t even like sushi, but I didn’t mind the small sushi appetizer we all got, so that says a lot! Also, if you’re specifically wanting to sit at the grill, definitely book ahead of time, since there are only two grills to sit at.
The American restaurant, 20.87, had a nice variety of food – steak, fish, pasta, etc. It’s probably a bit of a misnomer to call it “American” food, but it’s a nice mix. I had pasta there and it was super good, as was the soup. When you go there, be sure to get the Ice Cream Truck dessert – really fun!
The best meal was definitely at the Italian restaurant, Mi Carisa. We were sitting outside in the evening, the weather was nice, and the food was DELISH. Pasta! Pizza! Bread! Caprese! Dessert! Truly all so, so good.
In addition to eating dinner in the restaurants, we went to 20.87 most mornings to partake in their breakfast buffet, which had all the things you’d expect it to. Is it weird that one of the things I enjoy most at breakfast buffets outside the US is the small slices of cold meat and cheese? No? I didn’t think so. 🙂 Aside from cold cuts, they had most everything else you would want for breakfast, including made-to-order eggs, chilaquiles, oatmeal, fruit, etc, etc, etc. A really good way to start the day!
For lunch/afternoon food (and snacks throughout the day), we relied on the excellent poolside service. Not only were servers circulating regularly, ready to take our food and drink orders, but we could also order directly through the Unico app. Each pool chair had a number on it, so you entered that so the servers would know where to bring the food. Additionally, after submitting orders through the app, a server would always come over to confirm what we ordered. Super convenient! And for those who didn’t want pool food, 20.87 offered an extensive lunch buffet, but only two of us used it and that was only one day (Scott and Nicole ate there the day the rest of us went to Coba and Tulum). They said it was really good!
“But Jeff, wasn’t there a swim-up bar??” I’m glad you asked! Yes, yes there was a swim-up bar and yes, we used it. Regularly. 🙂 As with the other two resorts, I didn’t find the drinks to be very strong, but they were certainly tasty. Four of us drank the fruity, blended drinks pretty much the whole time, while Steve tended to stick with beer, which the servers would bring him at least a few at at time, in a bucket of ice. Very convenient!
On top of alllllll of these options, there was also room service. Each of our two rooms used that at least once and it was, as expected, convenient and tasty. Just like poolside dining, room service could be ordered through the app (though you could also place phone orders from the room phone), which worked well. The app allowed you to choose what time you wanted the food delivered, though it never let you select a time less than 30-35 minutes out for immediate orders (which makes sense – they obviously have to have time to cook it!). As always with room service, you have to consider the fact that the food may not taste quite as fresh, since it has to be cooked and then brought all the way to your room, but we didn’t have issues with that.
Oh, and did I mention that ALL of the food I called out was totally included? With both of the other resorts I’ve been to, most food was included, but some things were a la carte, but the only thing that applied to at Unico (as far as I could tell) was the “nice” bottles of wine. At every evening meal, they asked if we wanted to buy wine, but when we said no, they dropped it – there was no pressure or more discussion after that, which I appreciated. We didn’t have to tip either (tips are included in the cost of the stay), but we did still tip at most meals because the service was really good (more on that shortly).
Okay, I don’t want to harp on this, but I still have yet to go to a resort in Mexico that has endless supplies of chips and guac. We didn’t get that at either of the other two resorts (GR Solaris had it in their “snack hut” sometimes, but not always) and we only sort of got it at Unico. It wasn’t on the menu, but we did have luck a couple of times just asking servers for it. And at least once, we saw someone eating a bit plate of it, but, by and large, it continues to be the resort food unicorn for me.
Service – 5/5 Stars
Everyone at Unico was SO nice! In terms of quality, Unico was definitely the nicest/best/fanciest of the three resorts I’ve stayed at and that carried over into the service. From the restaurant servers to the front desk to the poolside staff, everyone was friendly and helpful the whole time we were there. Remember how we struggled with reserving chairs at during our previous resort stays? Although we did still have to get up early to hold five chairs together (though not at 4-5a, thankfully – more like 630-7a), there was someone working the chairs every morning, which made the process work much more smoothly. Whether you held chairs first thing in the morning like we did or you wandered in from one of the other pools later in the day, a staff member always immediately helped get you situated. And if they spied you trying to open/close the big patio umbrellas on your own, they rushed over to do it for you. So nice! And they all did an excellent job of speaking in English, even though I spoke as much Spanish with them as possible. I was especially pleased with all the poolside staff as I didn’t experience that at either of the two previous resorts – you were on your own if you wanted food, to move your umbrella, etc.
There are only two things I can think of that are even the tiniest bit “bad” about the service. First was one of the swim-up bar servers – he just wasn’t particularly friendly. But he still served plenty of drinks. 🙂 The other was someone who doesn’t even work for the hotel, but he comes in a couple of days/week to paint hats (everyone gets a free hat with their stay). His work was good, but he just wasn’t super helpful or nice. But the interactions with both of them didn’t detract from the overall experience.
Rooms – 4.5/5 Stars
The rooms at Unico were very nice and comfortable, as well as, well, roomy! Because Scott and I shared a room with our friend Nicole, we were in a room with two queen beds, but our other two friends were in a room with a king bed, so we got to see two different types. Aside from the number of beds, we both booked the same room type and both we very comfortable. We had a good-sized bathroom with two sinks (super handy with three of us in a room) as well as a nice big shower. We had a nice balcony with a private hot tub (we didn’t use ours, but our friends used theirs and said it was great) and a nice view of the resort and, through the palm trees, the ocean. The beds were nice and there were plenty of pillows on them, which is great for someone like me who likes a lot of pillows. And as a bonus, we could (and did) order even more pillows (different shapes and sizes) through the app. So plush! As a nice bonus, all the rooms have a great mini-bar, with all sorts of tasty snacks (salty and sweet) and beverages (non-alcoholic and boozy), all of which were included in the price of the room. On top of what was in the mini-bar, the hotel staff did an awesome job of making sure we had lots of bottles of water in the room, too. Although we also got lots of water by the pool, it was nice to know that we always had lots of it in the room.
The aforementioned ocean view was a bit of a downer for us as our room didn’t have much of one because of the palm trees in front of our balcony. Our friends were two floors up and further down the same building and their view was great! Now, I say that so you know your mileage may vary for your “ocean view” based on where your room is, but it definitely wasn’t a problem. The only other small thing was the shower, which worked fine, but had a rainfall shower head, which none of us like as the pressure never feels very strong with those things. Additionally, the shower drained realllllly slowly, but that’s something that can happen in hotels because a lot of showers have to drain! And again, definitely not something that impacted us in any material way. If the worst things I can bring up about our room are an ocean view that wasn’t quite ocean-y enough and a shower that drained slowly, it’s safe to say I’m grasping at straws and the room was pretty perfect. 🙂
Overall Rating – 4.75/5 Stars
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, we had a REALLY great experience at Unico. Whether indoors or outdoors, the whole resort was in great shape and the staff there clearly takes great care of it. From the friendly servers to the chill pool to the tasty food and even to the fun day trip we took, our time at Unico was nothing but relaxing and fun. I know that we would all visit again and I personally give it my highest recommendation. Pay them a visit!