Review: the Conrad Riviera Maya Tulum resort – an unexpected gem
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This is our review of the Conrad Riviera Maya, a new resort just north of Tulum.
It is the third and final review from my trip to Mexico. You can read my review of the W Mexico City hotel here and my review of the Papaya Playa Project here – another Tulum hotel, but part of Marriott’s Design Hotels brand.
Anyone who might not be enamoured with the raw, boho style of Papaya Playa Project will be happier with Conrad Tulum, which offers a much more complete resort experience with multiple restaurants, its vast scale and amenities.
Conrad Tulum really is a hotel you don’t need to leave if you don’t want to, and its location slightly farther out of town also means it is a bit more isolated. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is soulless. Read on to see why I was impressed.
The hotel website is here. Thanks to Hilton for arranging my stay for review purposes.
Where is Conrad Tulum?
The Conrad Tulum opened in early 2022. As mentioned above, it is slightly further out of town, about 20 minutes north of Tulum itself.
Whilst that does mean you really do need a car to get around, it is also 20 minutes closer to Cancun Airport which is where 99% of travellers are likely to be coming from. The journey takes around 80 minutes.
The Conrad is just off the main Cancun-Tulum highway, which is where the majority of resorts along the Riviera Maya are located. The closest town is Akumal.
Arriving at the Conrad Tulum hotel
The Conrad is part of a dual-resort development, with the other half consisting of a 750+ room all-inclusive Hilton. For clarity, these are two totally separate resorts and there is no integration between them. The Hilton guests won’t be stealing your sunlounger.
Both share a grand entrance:
This is, to put it mildly, a big resort. Once through, it’s another five minutes until you arrive at the entrance to Conrad Tulum. If you’re concerned about road noise from the highway you shouldn’t be as it is fully out of earshot. I didn’t hear it once during my stay.
The main building of the resort is very impressive, with a vast, open-air lobby with huge wooden pivoting doors that look across a massive reflecting pool towards the sea:
In the centre is a massive artwork of hanging ropes which gently shift in the breeze:
We were immediately greeted by the reception staff, who took us to the central seating area and asked us for our passports and booking details. We were also offered a delicious welcome drink:
We had arrived early – just after midday – and didn’t expect our room to be ready, but we were told it would be about an hour and that we would receive a text. Fine – we could wait at the pool bar.
After about 90 minutes nothing happened, so I walked up to see what was going on and was told it was going to take another hour. This was a bit frustrating as if I had known that, I would have made myself more comfortable and changed into some swim shorts around the pool.
At 4:30pm – a whole 90 minutes after the advertised 3pm check-in time – we got fed up and once again headed up to the lobby, to be told that our room was ready, despite having not received a text.
This was, as you can imagine, hugely frustrating, and the hotel didn’t make any offer to accommodate their tardiness when it came to having the room ready. Whilst I didn’t expect the room to be ready when we initially arrived, the poor communication and 90-minute delay over the official check-in time was poor and they could (and should) have offered something in compensation, such as a drink or something from the pool menu.
Fortunately, this is where the rocky service ended and for the rest of the stay we experienced hands down the best service we had had for our entire stay in Mexico.
Rooms at Conrad Riviera Maya Tulum
There are 349 guest rooms at the Conrad, although you wouldn’t know it given the sheer scale of the resort. The rooms are split across six different ‘houses’, all of which cup a small bay as you can see here:
The buildings themselves are all almost identical, with three storeys. All of the rooms face the ocean, although in reality not all the rooms have ocean views, as Conrad has chosen to keep a lot of the native flora in place. This means that ground floor units are ensconced in jungle, whilst even upper floors occasionally only have partial views due to the height of the trees.
Looking out from the back of the corridor you feel very remote, with just a sea of jungle beneath you. It is quite beautiful:
We were given a ocean view room on the top floor with two queen beds. The rooms are very spacious:
The room certainly feels luxurious with real dark wood panelling, from the headboard to the wardrobes and more.
To the right is the (stocked) mini bar with fridge and Nespresso machine:
Both beds share a central bedside table with phone and alarm clock-speaker:
There were plenty of sockets, with a USB-A port and three mains supplies too.
Opposite the bed is a very large TV mounted to a three-quarter height wall that obscures the bathroom.
The bathroom is semi-open plan, although the shower and toilet are in separate cubicles. There are two basins:
The shower is nice and large and tiled in dark stone, and also features a window overlooking the ocean which was a wonderful touch:
Toiletries are Mojave Ghost by Byredo, with a nice subtle scent. This is a good partnership with Conrad and suitably high-end.
Finally, you also have a large balcony with an outdoor bath tub:
Unfortunately I didn’t get time to try the bath!
Overall, the rooms are spacious and well designed with real wood furniture helping to create a naturalistic feeling that’s befitting a beach resort like this. Rooms were cleaned promptly and there’s even a turn-down service, although it’s a bit early when they come before you’ve even been to dinner.
Pools, beach and gym
One thing that struck me during my stay at the Conrad Riviera Maya was that the resort never felt particularly busy or full.
This is one of the benefits you are paying for if you stay at the Conrad over the 750-odd room Hilton next door. There are four pools throughout the resort and what must be hundreds of loungers – far more than there are guests at the hotel, I imagine.
Whilst some of the day beds at the central pools were quickly snapped up, there was always a choice of loungers at all the pools or by the beach.
The busiest pool was the main one by the entrance building, which is where the majority of restaurants and bars are clustered.
However, if you went to either end of the resort, around the cove, you could easily find more secluded and quiet pools. Although not strictly adults-only, in practice they did feel that way:
There is a stretch of beach maybe 150m-200m long in the centre of the resort. Like the rest of the hotels along the Riviera Maya they are fighting a losing battle against sargassum sea weed, although staff did a fairly decent job of clearing it most mornings.
Other amenities include a large gym, in the lower ground floor of the main building, which is surrounded by windows looking into the jungle:
A kids club and teens club is also available, although I didn’t see inside these.
One thing I do want to comment on is the naturalist design of the resort. Rather than manicured gardens with artificial lawns, the hotel has retained a large amount of the jungle that was here previously. There is a 10m stretch of jungle between the hotel rooms and the pools, for example, as well as a little jungle trail off one of the buildings. Here was our walk to the pool and beach:
I personally love how this has been done. It means the resort doesn’t feel as destructive or artificial as you might find at some other properties, although I admit this is down to personal preference.
Breakfast and dinner at Conrad Riviera Maya
There are a number of restaurants and bars at the Conrad as befits a resort of this size. In total, you have:
- Autor, serving Mexican cuisine
- Kengai, pan-Asian
- Ukai, Japanese and sushi
- Maratea, serving Mediterranean food
Maratea, Autor and Ukai are all within the top three restaurants on TripAdvisor in Tulum. Whilst that’s not always an accurate indicator of quality, in this case it is, as you’ll see below.
There are also a number of bars and cafes, including at every pool.
Breakfast was served at Arbolea, a buffet restaurant that is only open in the mornings. You had a choice of indoor or outdoor seating:
The breakfast buffet at the Conrad Tulum was very impressive, and one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a while.
My highlights included a fresh fruit station, with delicious mangos (it is mango season!) and more.
To my delight, unlimited guacamole and avocados were also available:
You’ll also find the usual egg / omelette station and hot food, including bacon, sausages, hash browns and more:
…. plus the usual selection of cereals, pastries and yoghurts. This was what I had one morning:
I managed to try dinner at two of the resort restaurants. All the restaurants offer indoor and outdoor seating, but I always prefer to sit outdoors.
Dinner at Autor
On our first night we were invited to try dinner at Autor and were presented with the tasting menu. Main courses are generally between £20 and £40. My highlights from the tasting menu were the talla style shrimp:
…. plus the ceviche-like tuna:
…. and al pastor pork belly:
The food was delicious and the portions generally very generous, as I noted from main courses being delivered to other guests.
Dinner at Ukai
On the second night we found ourselves at Ukai, the sushi restaurant. This is just opposite Autor, on the other side of the main building and about half the size. That said, it was full throughout our dinner and clearly very popular.
I have to admit I was really impressed with the food at Ukai, which I thought was even better than at Autor. Prices ranged from around £5 for a piece of nigiri to around £20 for the kampachi and truffle sashimi.
We tried a number of items, including the soft shell crab and truffle edamame:
The toro maki was a particular standout for me:
…. as was the fantastic kampachi & truffle sashimi and the octopus nigiri:
I wasn’t expecting to eat excellent sushi in Tulum but Ukai definitely delivered with some of the best sushi I’ve had in a long while. Having tried both Autor and Ukai, I can see why they are well regarded.
Overall, I have to say I was really impressed with my stay at the Conrad Riviera Maya Tulum resort.
Despite a bit of a check-in nightmare, the service throughout the resort was the best I received during my entire stay in Mexico.
What stood out to me in particular was how polished it was. Whilst the service culture in Mexico is generally friendly, it is not always very proactive or slick. In this case, the staff were both exceptionally friendly and incredibly professional, which suggests to me that Hilton have really made an effort to recruit some of the best people and to train them properly.
I was also impressed by the food offering, which was consistently good, all the way from breakfast through to dinner. This is definitely one of the better resorts I’ve stayed at in terms of overall quality – the only other one that comes to mind is the St Regis Mardavall in Mallorca, which was also exceptional.
If you’re looking for a modern, well run and well-staffed resort in the Riviera Maya then I highly recommend you consider Conrad Tulum. Regardless of whether you’re with family or just coming as a couple, the resort tickets virtually all the boxes.
Rates at Conrad Riviera Maya Tulum generally hover around the US$500 mark, whilst Hilton Honors redemptions are 90,000 points per night. You can find out more, and book, on the hotel website here.