What’s It Like to Visit a Resort in the Riviera Maya Since COVID-19? We Head to UNICO to Find Out

When COVID-19 came onto the scene earlier this year, Mexico did what most countries did — they ordered all “nonessential” businesses to close and implemented new restrictions and rules to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Well, Mexico has begun the process of easing restrictions and slowly reopening. Here in the Riviera Maya, the state government determined that tourism-related businesses could begin reopening on June 8th. That authorization to reopen came with occupancy restrictions and a list of new protocols and requirements designed to protect the health of both tourists and staff members. In other words, the new normal.

So, what does the new normal look like at an all-inclusive resort in the Riviera Maya these days?

We were curious to find out, so we booked a night at UNICO, a beautiful resort located about 15 minutes from our condo, to celebrate Linda’s birthday. Another couple from our complex decided to come along on our research mission/birthday extravaganza.

Here’s an interactive map showing where UNICO is located. You can keep zooming out until something looks familiar:


Safety and Hygiene Protocols

Upon arrival at the main gate, we were immediately given hand sanitizer by the security guard. A second employee with a motorized mist blower began spraying the tires and underside of the vehicle. That was apparently to sanitize the vehicle, but I can’t help but question the effectiveness of this particular measure.

Once we arrived at the lobby, they took our temperature and gave us more hand sanitizer.

The use of masks on the resort property was mandatory for the employees but not the guests. The hotel did encourage guests to maintain social distancing and frequently use sanitizer, which was located throughout the resort.

It was nice to see that the employees were constantly cleaning and sanitizing surfaces touched by guests (e.g. tables and menus).

Since tourism had only resumed a few days earlier, we naturally thought we would be the only guests at the resort. We were surprised to learn that 45 of the 448 rooms were occupied.

That’s still not many people for such a large resort, but as you can see in the photos below, it wasn’t difficult to socially distance ourselves from others.

Restaurant at UNICO (photo: Jane Rodriguez Hasty)

UNICO (photo: Linda)

One of the pool areas at UNICO (photo: Linda)

Outside seating area at one of UNICO’s restaurants (photo: Linda)

The beaches in the state of Quintana Roo are still closed to the general public but a concession was made for hotels and resorts to promote tourism.

The beach area in front of UNICO (photo: Linda)

The beach in front of UNICO (photo: Linda)

One of the other things that we noticed is that there weren’t any bar stools at any of the bars and a velvet rope had placed in front of each to keep guests at a distance.

One of UNICO’s bars (photo: Jane Rodriguez Hasty)

The staff was constantly cleaning and sanitizing. That made us feel very comfortable with staying there and enjoying the property.

Food and Drinks

This was the first time that any of us had stayed at UNICO and we all absolutely loved it. The food quality was excellent and ranks up with some of the top “foody” resorts that we have visited in Cancun and the Riviera Maya. I can’t speak for the others, but I definitely put on a couple of pounds on this mini-vacation.

The drinks were also well-prepared and they had an ample selection of Mexican beer and top shelf alcohol.

Sushi at UNICO (photo: Jane Rodriguez Hasty)

Beef fillet with chimichurri sauce and mashed potatoes at UNICO (photo: Jane Rodriguez Hasty)

Caprese Salad at UNICO (photo: Jane Rodriguez Hasty)

Our Room

The hotel upgraded us to a larger room free of charge. It had a separate living room and two bathrooms. There was a jacuzzi out on the patio too. It was very nice.

Living room area of our room at UNICO (photo: Qroo Paul)

Our room at UNICO (photo: Qroo Paul)

Bathroom in our room at UNICO (photo: Qroo Paul)

Patio area of our room at UNICO (photo: Qroo Paul)

The Staff

I can’t say enough good things about all of the staff at Unico. They were all super friendly and consistently went out of their way to make sure that we had an amazing time.

Linda’s b-day celebration (photo: Jane Rodriguez Hasty)

Let’s Wrap This Up

After being stuck at home for so long, it felt great to finally get out and once again be able to enjoy at least a little bit of what the Riviera Maya has to offer. We had such a great time at UNICO that we ended up staying an additional night.

Just so you know. The majority of the hotels, beach clubs, restaurants and tourist attractions in this area are still closed; however, the good news is that many of them have already announced dates to reopen in the coming weeks and months.

As for us, our plan is to continue to visit places as they open and share our pictures, videos and information with all of you via our blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Well, that’s it for today! Hasta luego.

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

47 Comments on "What’s It Like to Visit a Resort in the Riviera Maya Since COVID-19? We Head to UNICO to Find Out"

  1. Thank you Paul, as a resident of Puerto Vallarta and a Travel Advisor. Your feedback is valuable and timely for me. We are still very much in the upswing of the virus but opening as well. Any comments as to you feel about your side of Mexico and the virus?

    Thanks Nancy

  2. I am surprised at your great time! We might give it a try because of your great review. . We live in PDC and are totally bored. Thanks for the review.

  3. Heck I am still nervous about returning to Mexico, especially since we have it almost eliminated in BC Canada. I hope I feel confident enough by November. I don’t want to have to start my residency process all over again for starters.

  4. John Swanson | June 14, 2020 at 12:08 pm |

    As much as I enjoyed your report on the resort openings in Quintana Roo and the great care they are taking, I”m disappointed in your lack of consideration and lack of safety precautions of not wearing a mask. I live in Chuburna Puerto and we are still observing “Quedate en Casa”, we wear masks when we are out, as do the locals. I just think it shows a lack of respect to the people who are on the front lines of public service.

    • We do wear masks when we’re out and go shopping but we’re much closer to others in those public areas. At the resort, it was easy to socially distance ourselves from others — in most cases the closest other guest was 20 or more feet away — we constantly sanitized our hands and the hotel sanitized everything being touched by guests (e.g. menus). It would have been difficult to wear a mask at the pool or beach, or even while eating.

    • Well John I live in Chelem and your description on the locals here all wearing mask is not accurate at all. Driving through town yesterday, I saw maybe 50% of the people wearing masks locals and expats. Also living on the sea I was able to enjoy several families and couples enjoying a swim and playing on the beach not to mention some jet skis and luxury boats, while having a cold beer on my deck. So, please try to be a little accurate. Thank You

  5. Mexico took the same actions as other countries?

    Name one other country where the president said he could not get Covid 19 because he wears a religious amulet on a chain around his neck.

    You present an inaccurate view of Mexico.

    How about describing the police trucks that drive around, red and blue lights always flashing, with two guys standing in the back, dressed in black, wearing black ski masks, both holding large black automatic weapons?

    You act like everything in Mexico is fun and pretty. It’s not.

    • Hi Brian,

      The line you cited about COVID-19 was referring to the requirements and protocols actually put into place in Mexico and not the content of the Mexican president’s speeches. If you look more closely at those, you should find they were similar to those implemented in other countries.

      I certainly don’t think everything is fun and pretty in Mexico. I warn readers about negative things like common scams, crime and corruption. The goal is to educate them and help them better navigate through a culture that may be different from their own.

      Like the heavily armed police that you mentioned. This type of policing style is common throughout much of Latin America and I thought it would be helpful to let folks know that so they didn’t become unnecessarily frightened when they visited.

      There are plenty of other blogs about Mexico out there. Perhaps one of those would better reflect your opinions about Mexico.

  6. Guests not required to wear masks should have turned you around. That is major ignorance of others and pure selfishness.

    • As we see society opening up, not just here but back in the States, the topic of continuing to require people to wear masks has really become a hot button topic and has really polarized people. Personally, I wouldn’t have gone to the resort of I would have been required to wear a mask while lying by the pool or at the beach. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to eat with one on.

      We do wear masks when out shopping etc, but we’re much closer to lots of other people. At the hotel, we did sanitize our hands constantly and maintained social distancing from other guests. As you can see from the pics, that was easy to do.

  7. I’m reading your blog from my beach chair at The Royal Hacienda in Playa del Carmen. We came for the weekend to celebrate my wife Janelles birthday. They opened yesterday June 13th and as luck would have it we were the 1st guests to arrive. We were greeted with cheers, singing and dancing by the entire staff and Janelle was able to cut the re-grand opening ribbon. Could not have asked for a better birthday surprise welcome. We are also seeing very strict covid19 procedures in place. Very similar to what you described. We feel very safe and it’s great to be on the beach again after 3 months in the condo. See you soon at Lol Ha!

    • Glad to hear that you’re having a great time. By the way, Lol Ha opens next week.

  8. Patti Carnes Roberson | June 14, 2020 at 12:29 pm |

    I am so happy to read your review!! It sounds like they are doing it right!~ We are headed back to our home in Cozumel on Wednesday of this week. Cannot wait to feel that Mexican sun on my skin, feel the breeze in the air and smell the salt water. From what I found on the Cozumel4You page on facebook it looks like some of the beaches on Cozumel are starting to open. I hope so. I am sure needed to feel the sand between my toes. Thanks for all of the info. It looks like Linda had a wonderful birthday.

  9. We love all of the Palace resorts. That is the way they treat you on any given day. The food is always superb and the staff is awesome! Thank you for your review. I didn’t know you could book one or two nights’ stay, since we’re always staying the 8 days. Isn’t it awesome to drive to the resort … get there early and leave late! Happy birthday!

  10. Wow, the guests don’t have to wear mask? That shouldn’t happen at all. You have no idea where what the other guest have been or what they are doing.

    • They were great about social distancing and constantly sanitizing things like tables, menus etc. Most of the time, the closest other guest was 20 feet or more away.

  11. Edith Henneberg | June 14, 2020 at 1:44 pm |

    It’s been years since we vacationed at an AI and thought it would be fun to break up our winter stay in Puerto Morales in 2021. Is there somewhere to find deals or specials for short (2-3 night) stays?
    I am impressed with your report of the care this resort has taken.

  12. Thank you for the update on México. We have a condo in Puerto Vallarta and we left in a rush late March as things were becoming unpredictable. We are back the Fourth of July and can’t wait to resume our adventures. I hear some pretty grim stories of the locals suffering with financial worries from the lack of tourism. Your perspective on the locals would be appreciated. Also the current local attitude towards tourists as I hear of some anger and blame towards North Americans for the COVID outbreak. Thank you again for your continued insight into Mexico.

  13. Thanks for your review. I am going to have to go to Cancun sometime next month for some dental work and was concerned about what food and beverage services would be like at the all-inclusives and if they were requiring guests to wear masks. We certainly won’t mind the resort not being packed out with tons of people, either. Thanks for the info.

  14. We had to travel back to Albuquerque last week to close on our home sale. The DFW airport scared the hell out of me with so many people not wearing masks or observing social distancing. Also, the planes were packed to capacity to and from Mexico City and Albuquerque. Mexico City Airport was doing a much better job than Dallas to keep people safe in the gate and security checkpoints. We decided to drive to and from Mexico City and Oaxaca to avoid spending the night in an airport hotel. Once we returned we are self in a imposed quarantine since returning for safe measure. But I recommend staying off airplanes and US airports until they get a better handle on dealing with the virus.

    Oaxaca is still closed and will be for the next several weeks. Oaxaca has some of the lowest case numbers of the virus in Mexico due to very rigid Covid rules. But even though the rules are strict one of our neighbor contracted the virus from the main city market, He is deemed essential because of his egg business. He recovered with a less severe infection. However, a driver we had hired when we first settled in Oaxaca has perished from the virus. He was 40 years old. He also drove an ambulance and this is where he probably caught the virus. Unfortunately he passed the virus to his brother who died one day after Pedro.

    I guess it’s up to each of us to evaluate the risk to our health. For me and Elizabeth, both 69, I figure we trusted luck to make our trip, but not again. This virus is the real deal, be prudent and safe!


  15. Thanks for your update. The status of hotel beaches has been confusing, so I’m glad to see that it appears if you are staying at a resort, you can use the beach. Our condo (Cancun Plaza Condominiums) opens on July 1. They have already said that masks will be required in ‘common areas.’ So, it appears everything is not the same in all places, so if you are very “anti-mask” then be sure the place you stay has the same opinion regarding masks.

    • Thanks for the update. Our condo complex has a common area mask rule too but it tends to be ignored when people are at the pool.

  16. Melody Williams | June 14, 2020 at 2:45 pm |

    We are also here as expats and have had much the same experience as you

  17. Frances Clark | June 14, 2020 at 2:48 pm |

    Nice to know you were able to celebrate Linda’s birthday! It looks like you made nice memories!! Belated Happy Birthday, Linda!!

  18. looks like a great resort….way out of our price range tho….we have added a bit of normalcy to our lives….booked our February stay at Bahia Principe Akumal a couple of days ago,,,,now we have something to look forward to 🙂

    • Linda used Expedia points to cover most of it. She is a thrifty traveler. Enjoy your vacation! 🙂

  19. Thanks Paul and Linda for you update and review. Your information is very appreciated by me. We are so looking forward to a return trip to Riviera Maya (Iberostar Maya) in late September. As a healthcare worker I am very aware of all risks and required precautions. The common sense approach of social distancing, hand sanitizing and masks if you can’t maintain social distancing should prevail. If others on the posts have other concerns they should by all means remain at home where they are most comfortable. But for those of us who are comfortable heading back into beautiful Mexico using precautions, have a wonderful well deserved vacation and enjoy the quieter resorts! Thanks again!,

  20. How were the mosquitos? They are kind of bad in Cancún right now. The locals tell me it is the season for mosquitos…. No problem at Unico?

  21. Charles Wilson | June 14, 2020 at 5:08 pm |

    I loved your comment to Brian.

    • David D. Kingsbury | June 14, 2020 at 6:18 pm |

      It was a very respectful “don’t let the doorknob hit you on the a** on your way out”!

  22. Jeannie Goldston | June 14, 2020 at 7:50 pm |

    Great news! We all need to just relax to do as we feel comfortable. Thanks for sharing your information

  23. Thank you Paul for your update. You are a very BIG reason we pulled the trigger and invested in Mexico. IMHO We live in unprecedented times and it has little to do with any virus. I hope to meet you when we come there (The condos). Which will be very, very soon. I’ll keep my eye out for you and introduce myself. Thanks again for your continued information about Mexico.

  24. Happy Birthday Linda, so glad you guys had a great time.

  25. Lisa McKinney | June 15, 2020 at 7:35 am |

    Thanks for this update. We are coming the 24th to Isla Mujeres. When you say a concession was made for resorts, did that allow you into the water?

  26. The spraying of the vehicle is usually done, even in regular times, as a preventative to lower mosquitoes. Mosquitoes like to lay eggs in dark moist places and they can be transported in the undercarriage of a car. That might be the reason for spraying the car and the tires.

  27. Hi, Paul. 45 rooms were occupied, that surprised me too. I have been to UNICO and loved there. Besides UNICO what are other foodie resorts you recommend in Riviera Maya? I live here and thinking to stay for a birthday coming up soon.

  28. Shelley Anderson | June 15, 2020 at 7:03 pm |

    Great to see you had fun with the the Hastys…I know Jane from past scrapbooking days and my husband and I currently reside in Minnesota. We are considering purchasing a condo in Mexico-possibly Akumal or the San Crisanto area. Jane has been guiding me from a far but would love your input as well. We hope to be able to travel in October and we will be staying at Secrets Akumal…to look at a couple condos and relax for our 30th wedding anniversary!

    • Well, we’re partial to the Akumal area. We’ve called this place home for the last five years and we absolutely love it here.

  29. Hi Paul. Do you know if there is decent diving in the Akumal area?

    • There is a reef that runs all along the post and there are a couple of dive shops in Akumal that can take you out. From what I hear, there is plenty to see.

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