Friday,  January 27, 2023  11:09 pm

PAX On Location: Unico 20°87°, a luxury hotel where it's all about U

PAX On Location: Unico 20°87°, a luxury hotel where it's all about U
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch:

“Carlos,” I started typing furiously into Whatsapp, “I’ve made a terrible mistake!”

Within minutes he replied, “How can I help, Christine?”

“I forgot to get those churros everyone’s been talking about!” I texted back.

“No problem, would you like me to do that for you now?” Carlos asked.

I was on the third and final evening of my “Embrace the Local” media FAM tour to Unico 20°87°, which ran from Mar. 14 to Mar. 17, and like the messages suggested, not tasting those churros was a real concern. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try the churros offered in the hotel’s 24/7, elevated room service offering.

But, the underlying context of the messages is so much more—one of the major elements that sets this luxury, curated, adults-only boutique hotel apart from other hotels in Mexico is that Unico 20°87° employs a Local Host for the entire duration of your stay, who’s ready to go above and beyond to make sure your Unico 20°87° experience is nothing short of extraordinary.

At the time of check-in, guests connect with their Local Host by exchanging phone numbers. And, should they happen to need anything, from scheduling a late-night bubble bath complete with a bottle of champagne, to getting help with a restaurant reservation, your host is there to make it happen.

So, if I wanted late-night churros, Carlos wasn’t about to let anybody stop me.

“Just think of your host as your best friend for the week,” said Ilse Gomez, sales manager, as she led us around the hotel during our site inspection.

Blending authenticity with contemporary 

Unico 20°87° opened its doors in 2017.

Featuring 448 guest rooms, each with either an outdoor soaker tub or swim-up pool, for guests who opt to stay on the ground-floor level, this hotel blends Mexican authenticity with contemporary, rustic design inspired by the region of Riviera Maya.

Soaker tubs on every balcony.

The result is an intimate space marked by towering ceilings and walls done in cool grey stone that are hugged by cream-coloured pillars.

Leather couches and linen-covered footstools dot the lobby, paying homage to traditional Mexican materials and colours, and the main lobby bar, Bar Balam, which means jaguar in Mayan, features an incredible pre-Hispanic sculpture of the animal itself.

Balam means jaguar in Mayan, hence this gorgeous sculpture of the animal that rests on the bar counter.

Embracing Mexican artwork is important to the hotel—in partnership with a local curator called Tasting Art, Unico 20°87° has acquired the original works of some of Mexico’s most prominent, revolutionary artists, and guests of the hotel can wander through the hallways and see them up close.

Bar Balam lounge area.

Giant wrought-iron lanterns hang haphazardly in the lobby, creating a warm and relaxing atmosphere.

It’s hard to miss the abundance of live plants, native to Mexico, that are potted and placed inside the main areas of the hotel.

Unico 20°87° might be an all-inclusive, but its offerings are a far cry from the all-you-can-drink mentality at many of the all-inclusive resorts scattered nearby in the popular Riviera Maya district.

Modern contemporary decor, even in the main buffet, pictured here.

According to Gomez, 80 per cent of the hotel’s guests are North American. 

The demographic ranges anywhere from 25 to 65, and is a big hit with couples. 

It's also popular with bachelorette parties or girls’ getaways thanks to great offers from Esencia Wellness Spa, where guests can enjoy unlimited spa and beauty salon treatments on select packages or services and pay only a 25 per cent service fee of the full cost (a manicure costs $12, for example).

Entrance to Esencia Wellness Spa, where guests can enjoy all-inclusive spa treatments.

The hotel includes three pools, not including rooms with swim-up suites, and also has a swim-up bar.

One of three pools at Unico 20°87°.

Room with a view

UNICO 20°87 gets its name from its coordinates; 20° north and 87° west, and with its unique horseshoe shape, this guarantees that 90 per cent of the rooms face the ocean.

90 per cent of rooms face the ocean.

True to the contemporary Mexican décor, in every guest room hangs an original hand-woven wool rug made by local artisans, as well as coffee table books on Mexican history and culture.

All rooms, regardless of category, come with free WiFi, a Nespresso machine, and authentic Mexican decor.

There are nine room categories:

  • Alcoba King
  • Alcoba Swim-Up Pool
  • Alcoba Ocean Room
  • Pure Alcoba
  • Alcoba Ocean Front
  • Estancia Suite Tropical View
  • Estancia Suite (One Bedroom)
  • Estancia Suite (Two bedroom)
  • Villa 20°87°

Each room features an over-sized soaker tub on the balcony (except for the swim-up suites), a Nespresso machine, 24/7 room service, a mini-bar restocked daily, complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi both in the room and throughout the resort, custom bathrobe and slippers, an aromatherapy and pillow menu, and so much more.

The Villa comes with a kitchen and a living room, whereas the suites (one or two bedroom) come with a living room.

Villas include a kitchen and living room.

And, let's not forget how the room smells. 

At the time of check-in, guests are presented with a choice of candle scents, asked to choose their favourite, and based on what they choose, they can expect that scent in their room by nightfall.

All rooms also include free international calls between Canada and the U.S., making it a great choice for those who are in Mexico on business, or just want to be connected and not worry about roaming fees.

Who’s hungry?

Gastronomy is something UNICO 20°87° does exceptionally well.

Much like enjoying all-inclusive spa treatments, guests of Unico 20°87° can enjoy unlimited fine-dining at the hotel’s four restaurants

Unlike some resorts, where guests can have three fine-dining experiences per week, here, you can eat as much of the good stuff as you want—and don’t worry, guac doesn’t cost extra here, so you can cart off a plate of it and no one will judge!

Fresh ceviche, anyone?

The hotel’s regionally-focused restaurant, Cueva Siete, features a rotating chef program, which sees exceptionally-talented Mexican chefs stay for the duration of a year, and then switch out. 

Currently, Chef Xavier Perez Stone, owner of Axiote in Playa del Carmen is on site, serving up soulful Mexican bites that include everything from crispy duck tacos, to guacamole sprinkled with fried grasshoppers.

Chef Xavier Perez Stone leads an exclusive cooking class for journalists last week during the Unico 20°87° FAM.

There are three additional a la carte restaurants at Unico 20°87°: Mi Carisa (Italian); Mura House (contemporary Asian with a focus on Japan); and the Unico 20°87° main buffet which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Did we mention there’s a make-your-own Bloody Mary or mimosa bar, every morning?

Speaking of drinks, with a strong devotion to sustainability, Unico 20°87° has done away with straws, and has employed a mixologist who masterfully and intentionally only creates incredible cocktails that don't require a straw.

No straws necessary!

All four restaurants cater to specialty diets, and have been designed to include vegan and gluten-free options—on the first night, our group dined at Cueva Siete and sampled more than 20 dishes on the menu; only one wasn’t gluten-friendly, meaning guests with sensitivities have more than enough choice and won’t ever be hungry for the duration of their stay.

Unico 20°87° is proud of its authentic Mexican dining options, like fresh guacamole, even sprinkled with fried grasshoppers, if you'd like!

Currently, Unico 20°87° is celebrating the second year of Superbia Summer, a fantastic culinary journey that sees six chefs take over the kitchen at Cueva Siete. From July 17th through August 25th, the hotel will see talent coming from Michelin Star-rated and 5 Star Diamond Award winning restaurants.

And, the best part?

Guests who stay during that time frame can enjoy Michelin-level dining every single night, at absolutely no additional cost.

For more information on Unico 20°87, click here.

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