Carefree in the Caribbean: UNICO 20°87°

by Ivan Quintanilla

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday March 12, 2019

Pool at sunset
Pool at sunset  (Source:UNICO 20°87°)

Gay travelers to Mexico are increasingly becoming bi... coastal, that is.

According to the 2018 report by Community Marketing & Insights, Mexico is the second most visited international destination for LGBTQ travelers from the United States (Canada is the first). Within the country, the areas around Puerto Vallarta and Cancun/Riviera Maya are the two most popular.

Wooing our community to Mexico's eastern coast, the UNICO 2087 Hotel Riviera Maya is prioritizing becoming the region's most LGBTQ-friendly all-inclusive. And it's not just lip service. This March the resort is adding an official LGBTQ meet-up to its schedule. Connection is integral to the resort's mission. Incorporating the uniqueness of the location into your vacation is branded into the UNICO 2087 experience. Featuring the latitude and longitude coordinates in its name, UNICO seamlessly weaves the indigenous history, bold flavors and artisanal culture of Mexico's eastern region into a modern, five-star resort.

"The UNICO 2087 Proud meet-up will be a weekly experience that offers guests from the LGBTQ+ community an opportunity to connect while on property in a relaxed and luxurious setting," says Frank Maduro, VP of Marketing.

Immersion into UNICO's relaxed luxury begins at check-in when you pick a scent to create an aromatherapy profile for your room. Whether invigorating or relaxing, the subtle scent immediately personalizes your stay. Each of the guestrooms at the adults-only, all-inclusive resort interacts with its environment in a unique way: ground floor rooms spill onto a personal lounge area and semi-private swim-up pool, while all other rooms open to a private terrace furnished with your own outdoor spa tub. Inside, clean modern lines and a color palate of natural fibers highlight locally-sourced tapestries, handwoven baskets and rustic wooden tables.

The resort feels expansive while still homey. You can easily walk to any spot on-site in a few minutes and yet feel like you've stepped into a new experience. For me, the daytime activities focused around the two large pools at the hotel's center. Quiet mornings transition to group fitness classes like Floating Yoga, Hydro Pilates and Aqua Spinning (yes, they actually have bikes installed in the pool), which morph into DJ pool parties on weekends. Reserve a private cabana, a lounging island, or simply bop around making new friends at the swim-up bar. Those seeking a more tranquil vibe can find it at the resort's third, secluded pool.

Beyond the pools, both the relaxed and the sporty can enjoy the white sand beaches of the Mexican Caribbean. Lounge, swim or take advantage of the "unlimited inclusions" like pedal boats, catamarans and kayaks. For a fully immersive experience of the 2087 coordinates, join one of UNICO's luxury signature tours that engage with Mayan culture, archaeological treasures and the natural wonders of the Yucatan Peninsula (for an additional fee).

Stimulate Your Senses

The resort features five distinct restaurants, each with its own chef, cuisine and design. Every restaurant functions as its own stand-alone concept. And there are no dinner buffets.

"We want you to feel like you're going out to dinner for a special evening, not like a generic all-inclusive meal," says Ilse Gomez, the resort's Sales Manager. To achieve this culinary level, UNICO has appointed Chef Xavier Perez Stone (an Iron Chef Canada winner) to lead Cueva Siete, serving an innovative reinterpretation of Yucatan staples, like his take on Cochinita Pibil or the tamarind-infused crispy duck tacos.

Other dinner options include Mi Carisa, which focuses on coastal Italian cuisine and offered my favorite meal of the trip, mushroom-crusted steak; Mura House, where you can start at the sushi bar before enjoying the expansive Asian-fusion menu; 20.87 Restaurant, the casual beachside bistro that will park an ice cream cart tableside; and Caf Inez, a European coffee shop where you can enjoy a fresh juice or an espresso from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. There is also a pool-side caf during the day and 24-hour in-room dining.

The sipping offerings are equally impressive. The resort's Master Mixologist has created unique craft cocktails for each restaurant and serves top-shelf spirits at every bar. For deeper exploration, join a mixology class or mezcal and tequila tasting. Or if you want to create a signature cocktail for a romantic night, UNICO will deliver each ingredient to your room, measured and ready for you to mix. "After all," Ms. Gomez states, "we are a luxury hotel but not a boring hotel."

VACAYA's full-resort takeover from October 27 to November 2, 2019.
VACAYA's full-resort takeover from October 27 to November 2, 2019.  (Source: VACAYA)

Welcoming the Full LGBTQ Spectrum

For an all LGBTQ (and our allies, of course) experience, join VACAYA's full-resort takeover from October 27 to November 2, 2019. In its inaugural year, VACAYA is a newly launched LGBTQ travel company that aims to target that welcoming, non-judgmental sweet spot for queer travelers by delivering curated experiences and thoughtful excursions, as well as top-notch entertainment and revelry.

"We noticed other players in the market were focused on very niche elements, but we didn't see anyone catering to the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum," says Patrick Gunn, the Chief Marketing Officer and one of the founders of VACAYA. During their residency at the resort, guests can expect tea dances, curated entertainment and late-night parties added to all the usual UNICO inclusions. And, of course, special celebrations for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos.

How else is the VACAYA experience different? "We believe in balance," says Gunn. "We love a great party and we'll produce fantastic ones, but VACAYA is really about discovering and exploring the destination in addition to all the great parties." For those guests wishing to give back to the local community, VACAYA has created a Reach Out program for each of their trips. Among other local organizations, VACAYA will be delivering backpacks and supplies to an orphanage in Riviera Maya during its UNICO residency.

"We visited many resorts before making our selection," says Gunn of the vetting process for VACAYA's inaugural resort getaway. "We were searching for a higher level of luxury and inclusions than had ever been offered to the LGBTQ community as a buyout. From the moment we arrived at UNICO Hotel Riviera Maya, we knew it was the perfect resort for VACAYA guests. We knew right away that UNICO's attention to five-star hospitality and their modern take on the Mexican design esthetic would be a hit with our guests."

Cuban born, Miami raised, Dallas and London educated and New York seasoned, Ivan Quintanilla is a travel writer and professional actor living in Hell's Kitchen, NYC. Read about his latest destinations at TravelingIQ and follow him on Instagram at @TravelingIQ