After the events of 2020 and beyond, I think we’ve all felt more in need of a vacation than ever. Connor and I had traveled a bit here and there – for a family trip, for many work trips, a wedding, road trips, etc. But I worked through every single one of them, even using up my phone’s hotspot at one point.
So back in early 2022, I definitively blocked out 2 weeks from the end of June to early July and marked them VACATION. I worked with my Operations Director at Copy Uncorked to ensure we didn’t book any projects for me during that period so I could truly unplug and recharge.
Connor had been putting in hours to say the least within his company as well, and was equally ready for some R&R. Our work calendars didn’t entirely align (oops) so I shifted my dates up by a week so we could spend a solid 7 days…somewhere.
By mid-June and after the death of my grandmother, we still didn’t have a place identified to travel to, let alone booked flights, a hotel, or dinner reservations. I’d recently come across Corrigan Luxury Travel Outfitters on Instagram, so I figured now was as good of a time as any to see if/how Ryan Corrigan might be able to help us land somewhere great.
She agreed to do a rush service and turned around ~10 properties that met our initial criteria within a couple of days. The first one, which of course was at the top of our budget (ha), is the one we first locked eyes with and ultimately decided on.
So really, this entire review of our experience stems from Ryan’s initial recommendation! 🙂
THE PROPERTY + LOCATION
Enter: Unico 20° 87° along Mexico’s Riviera Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula. A contemporary take on the all-inclusive, adults-only resort with an air of relaxed luxury.
I’ll completely skip over the travel getting here because airline travel is an unfortunate mess everywhere right now, but Ryan helped us secure private transportation from the Cancun airport to the hotel, which was about a 45-minute or so drive. So, not bad at all! It’s a gated property with security, so I’ll also mention we’ve felt very safe and tucked away from where it sits along the beach right off of the main highway (as all the resort properties in this area seem to be).
We upgraded our room upon arrival because we simply figured if we’re doing this, we’re doing this. So we were able to get a stunning Oceanfront Suite with views of the sparkling Caribbean sea, with a private hydro-tub right on the balcony. As soon as we walked in and saw the space, it already felt like an all-time experience.
There was a second soaking tub in the bathroom, marked by a double-door entry, rainfall-style shower, and large double-vanity.
I loved the decor—a timeless blend of driftwood tones, rich acacia, large gray tiled floors, light fabrics, stone, sliding doors, generously sized chaise loungers, and the cutest woven barrel chairs on the patio. It’s a little bit of rustic-modern, contemporary, and coastal chic, all blended together beautifully with local accents and artwork.
While every single room comes with a soaking tub on the balcony and appears to have a great view (the ground floor rooms even have chaise loungers set within a shallow pool and hanging chairs), our room stole the show for me.
The attention to detail within the rooms was impressive. Slippers, robes, straw hats, hooks for towels everywhere you need them, bath salts & bubbles out by the tub, easily accessible chargers on the nightstands, I mean, it was all right where you’d hope to find it.
The housekeeping staff would even visit our room twice per day – first, an initial bed-making, replenishment of towels & toiletries, and then, a turn-down service, complete with drawing the curtains, setting the lighting, running the diffuser with essential oils (like what!?), and leaving a treat by our pillows.
There was a bit of noise regularly coming from the room above us that Connor was more sensitive to than I was, but otherwise, it was quiet and calm.
Another star of the show at UNICO, every single staff member we interacted with was lovely. They thrive at hospitality and wait on you hand & foot. I’ll get into this more in the food/drink and pool sections, but it feels impossible to find something to complain about with the staff.
At check-in, you’re seated and walked through everything you need to know about your stay, as well as assigned a local host. Ours would send daily text messages of the day’s activities and was there to assist and make our stay more comfortable however needed. Want a different type of pillow? Check. Want to have a bath drawn before you come up from the pool? DONE.
I’ve always felt like luxury isn’t synonymous with ‘pricey’ – but with effortlessness and attention to detail. In short, the UNICO team has nailed laid-back luxury and it was so refreshing to see it all action, working like a well-oiled machine, especially after the hit to the service/travel/tourism industries over the past few years.
Look, I realize I may have lost some people above as soon as I said “all-inclusive” because most of the time, that entails cafeteria-feeling buffets and bland, less than crave-worthy menus.
Not here. You have 4 concept restaurants to choose from with distinct cuisine — Mayan/Mexican, Japanese, Italian, and a surf & turf new-American feeling spot. Much like the rooms, the design of each space makes an impact on you as soon as you step inside.
The dishes are delicious and somewhat tapas-style, which makes it so fun to try, well… anything, and not feel like you need to be rolled out of the restaurant at the end of the meal.
The Japanese restaurant was my favorite and not only includes lots of sushi and classic Japanese fare but there’s also a hibachi/teppanyaki option.
For breakfast, you could choose between the cute little coffee shop off the main lobby (I pretty much got a hot or iced latte every single day) – which also had various snacks, sandwiches & baked goods if you wanted something a bit quicker.
There was also a sit-down breakfast option, room service, or the full-service buffet. Not everything was my favorite breakfast dish I’ve ever had in my life, but I enjoyed all of it!
For dinner, the hotel even has its own app, which makes it really easy to make reservations for each night of your stay upon arrival – so you don’t even have to think about it further. We’d grab a drink at the lobby bar beforehand (Bar Balam), where there was often live music and a lively atmosphere with other guests.
Each restaurant/space of the resort had a slightly different drink menu – each with its own specialty cocktails. I can be pretty picky as I like sweeter cocktails but definitely not toooo sweet, so I ended up resorting to a lot of my tried & true drinks, which they had no issue making. I ordered a dirty martini one night that was a bit weird, but our waitress gladly just got me something different.
The wine options are limited, which makes sense given that it’s all-inclusive. However, I thought the house wines were just fine (I tried the Cab, Sparkling, and Sauv Blanc). They also have an on-site wine shop where you can purchase most high-end favorites – i.e. brands like Caymus, Veuve Cliquot, Whispering Angel, etc. So if that’s what you want, you can get it!
We never felt a weird pressure to tip, but we always did when it felt right or whenever we spent significant time with a particular server/bartender/bellman, etc.
THE POOL AREAS
Ahhh the pool area(s). Yes, there are multiple! One closest to the main building, one a bit further out that was closer to the ocean (complete with a swim-up bar + pool games), a ‘quieter’ pool over to the right side of the resort, a private pool area for “Legendary” members, and then the pool in the spa area.
We stuck to the former and the latter, as listed above. We noticed people definitely got up early and put their hats on the good spots to try and reserve them (a littttle bit annoying) but we didn’t ever have much trouble finding a spot. And it’s not like any of them are “bad” spots anyway.
As was everything else, the service around the pool deck was top-notch.
A server came around practically every 30 minutes, and we’d order ceviche, chips & guac, and drinks of all kinds (virgin for Connor!). Most days we snacked right from our lounge chairs.
But if you prefer eating lunch seated at a table, there was also a pool area bar + restaurant with plenty of shaded seating.
A couple of days there was a live DJ who played a blend of almost EDM/low-fi/trance-style music but oddly, it worked??? Think: Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect when she’d mix up a bunch of trendy club beats. haha
I tended to zone out to it while reading a book, or occasionally, I’d pop in my AirPods to listen to a podcast. If you want a livelier atmosphere, you can find it around the swim-up bar and volleyball net!
Ugh, we had the best time at the spa. We paid the extra $30(?) or so each for the hydrotherapy at the beginning which was a mix of sauna, steam shower, cold plunge, jacuzzi, etc. – I wouldn’t skip it!
That part was separated out into female/male spaces – and then our couples massage was lovely. Although pricey ($$$$), we scored a discount since we booked through our travel agent, which was awesome and made it feel a lot more justifiable.
So just plan on the extra cost of that!
After the massage, we both splashed around in the pool area, having it all to ourselves, feeling weak and practically high off the tension release. I couldn’t stop laughing, laying weightless in the pool and in Connor’s arms. It was a moment I’ll always remember.
Okay, so, in this area of Mexico, the beaches are owned by the federal government, so there’s not a *whole* lot the resorts can do with that part of their private meets gov-owned property.
There were only UNICO guests that we know of out there, except for a couple of random men who’d hang around near the end of the pathway soliciting for…well, yeah, you know where this is going. We’d just walk right by them and weren’t further bothered.
There are a number of chaise lounges + umbrellas right on the beach, and it’s otherwise pretty standard.
We also went in late June (high seaweed season in that part of the Caribbean), to no fault of the resort. It’s a problem for alll of the resorts. (Yes, I did some research on it haha.) It smells a little sulfury but they did have a tractor each morning going back and forth working to scoop it up and haul it out.
You could also walk down a little further where there was way less seaweed and the water was clear, warm & wonderful.
So you get great beach access – it’s just not the best beach area in the world – but it’s by no means a deal-breaker. Just wanted to be honest!
THE SHOPPING/GIFT SHOPS
There are a few cute shops within the resort itself – including a designer sunglasses shop (think similar to Sunglass Hut), a local artisan shop, a resort wear store, a wine shop, and a couple of others.
I had fun browsing each and bought a pair of knock-off Birkenstocks in a pinch before our activity day. We also got a couple of last-minute souvenirs on the way out but they were definitely much cheaper in the touristy city area of Tulum. (More on that below!)
The resort has a team dedicated to helping you book excursions off-site. We definitely aren’t the biggest “group tour” people and prefer exploring on our own, but if you want to be safe and keep it simple, just book through the resort! They obviously know what they’re doing at this point and have really tailored it to give you as much of an ‘authentic’ and small group experience as possible.
We booked two excursions: (1) Zip lining, driving ATVs & swimming in a cenote, and (2) Exploring Tulum, which entailed a guided tour of the Mayan Ruins, swimming in a cenote, snorkeling in a lagoon, and eating a late lunch at a private beach club.
(That’s when we also had a little bit of time to do some shopping in touristy gift shops but honestly found some cute stuff like a marble checkered board, ceramic shot glasses, a cool skull piece of decor, etc.)
Both were great and worthwhile as a whole. The highlights were driving the ATVs, snorkeling surrounded by Rainbow Parrotfish and Dory-looking fish 🙂 and experiencing the cenotes (basically underground caves with permanent pools of water). We met some other fun couples during each and found it much easier to just be along for the ride rather than worrying about cabs and getting from place to place.
There were other excursions to choose from (catamaran cruises, swimming with dolphins, etc.) and I think our balance of 4 resort days and 2 off-resort days was the perfect mix. We were always back in time for dinner.
Obviously, book it! Use Ryan if you want it all booked for you and then head back here to tell me all about your stay, too!