This excursion to the Caribbean Sea was a bonus trip we had not planned to take in 2023. With my significant other’s line of work, we occasionally find ourselves with unexpected pockets of time between her assignments as a travel nurse.When doing preliminary research for a possible beach vacation in February (which turned into flying ANA’s The Room to Japan), I stumbled across this resort and was immediately intrigued. The design is gorgeous, if not somewhat imposing, almost like what the Imperial Empire would have designed as a vacation destination. We have never spent time at a beach resort before, and we decided to give it a go after her busy contract.Let’s dive into my review of the recently opened St. Regis Kanai Resort in the Riviera Maya.Booking the St. Regis Kanai ResortResort OverviewArrivalGrand Luxe Room with Plunge PoolThe St. Regis SuiteDining & BarsToroChayaThe St. Regis BarRivieraThe Beach ClubThe LibraryThings to Do at St. Regis Kanai ResortThe BeachPoolsAthletic ClubSpa and SalonExcursionsConclusionBooking the St. Regis Kanai ResortThis was one of the more complex bookings I’ve made for a hotel. A cash booking was not considered, with the nightly rate totaling $1,255 USD and $6,030 USD for the 5-night stay. Since the property is part of the Marriott Bonvoy program, I looked to redeem points for my stay. However, points prices were equally high at 132,000 points per night but included Marriott’s 5th night free, bringing the average nightly rate to 105,600.Thanks to the recent sign-up bonus’s from my US-issued American Express Bonvoy Brilliant credit card (95,000 Bonvoy points) and US-issued American Express Bonvoy Business credit card (125,000 Bonvoy points), along with some organic stays, I had a healthy balance of 263,000 Bonvoy points. The St. Regis Kanai does allow cash and points bookings, but at a rate of $618 USD and 66,000 points, it’s not favorable.Instead, I purchased 140,000 points for $1,250 USD, thanks to the 40% promo. I then transferred 100,000 points from Marta’s Bonvoy account into mine, and finally, we used American Express Membership Rewards in Canada for the favorable 1:1.2 transfer ratio to earn the final 25,000 Bonvoy points.While Marriott Bonvoy redemptions have gotten more expensive, I was happy to get 1.1 cents per point (USD) for this redemption.Resort OverviewThe St. Regis Kanai is a brand-new resort located in Riviera Maya, Mexico with 124 rooms and suites. Butler service is also included with every room type at this location. The resort sprawls over a mangrove forest and features eight dining establishments, six of which were open during our visit.All rooms have an ocean view, but the mangrove forest is a main focal point as the resort sits next to a UNESCO heritage site. Because the natural forest is intertwined with the resort, you can’t see much of the beach if you’re on the first or second floor of the three-story resort.The Mayan Calendar inspires the hotel’s design, with the guest rooms creating three circles when viewed from above.Construction began in 2008 for this long-anticipated premium resort, and you can see why it took so long. As you saunter through the halls, the stunning architecture feels grand, like an art museum.ArrivalAs we weren’t sure if we would enjoy lounging on the beach all day, we decided to rent a car for the freedom to go at our own pace. Pulling into the property from the only highway along the coast, you’re greeted with a large Kanai sign.We then realized the property is somewhat shared with the Auberge resort Etereo and the under-construction EDITION.After some beautiful landscaping, a security gate is found, and a friendly staff member greets you as they ask which resort you are staying at and what the name is on the reservation.Once they radio the hotel, the long and twisting drive starts to the reception.You’ve arrived at your destination at the end of this five-minute drive.Upon arrival, the valet was prompt to greet us and indicated we could leave our bags in the car. A small bonus is that even being a premium resort, they don’t charge for valet parking, regardless of elite status.We were quickly ushered through a very grand entrance hall with a ceiling that must have been 30 or 40ft tall. It is striking.We were greeted at the check-in desk by name and given a welcome drink, of which the main ingredient was Chaya, a spinach-like plant native to this part of Mexico. It was refreshing and appreciated after our departing flight was delayed a few hours.We applied our Suite Night Awards to the booking, and to my greatest pleasure, the request cleared five days in advance for the St. Regis Suite.However, we wanted to experience a room with a private plunge pool. While grateful for the confirmed upgrade, I asked if anything was available with a pool, and there was! It needed some time to be prepared, so they showed us to their flagship restaurant, Toro.During the walk to Toro, one of the butlers set us up in a WhatsApp chat to ask any questions and make any requests. Once we finished dinner, the butler team met us with a golf cart and drove us to the specially requested room.On the walk over, he asked us why we changed to a smaller room, as most guests go the opposite way! At this time, I realized I had traded my St. Regis Suite for a Grand Luxe Guest Room with a plunge pool. We spent one lovely evening with our plunge pool but ultimately decided to use our Suite Night Awards to their full potential for nights two through five.Grand Luxe Room with Plunge PoolWhile this room was smaller than the St. Regis Suite, we both agreed that the private pool was a fantastic feature and by day four, we began to miss it. But who am I to complain about the type of room I get upgraded to at a St. Regis property?!The entrance to the room is a small hallway that contains access to the closet and an entrance to the bathroom.At the end of this corridor is a bar cart containing a few bottles of wine and the mini-fridges pricing for the drinks and snacks.The drinks and snacks station with complimentary coffee and water is on the opposite side of the room. Something this resort offers we took full advantage of is on-demand complimentary coffee and tea. At any point, hot or iced coffee, espresso beverages, and tea can be ordered through WhatsApp.As Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elites, our welcome gift included fresh mangos and white chocolate, which were exceptional. Next to the mangos included a handwritten note, which was a great touch.At the foot end of the bed was a loveseat and a small dining area, but the main area for dining in the room was the terrace outdoors.The bathroom was about fifty percent of the footprint, with one of the most unique double vanities I’ve ever seen.The bathroom also included a tub which our butler excitedly offered to prepare for a bath after dinner one evening. The shower is large and has the standard features of rainfall and handheld sprayers.The terrace was the highlight of the room, it included a small daybed and a table for outdoor dining. The plunge pool was amazing, looking back on our experience, we would have preferred to stay in this room for the duration of our stay.The St. Regis SuiteAfter checking out the gym and grabbing our Platinum breakfast at Chaya, we were notified that our suite was ready to be moved into. The butlers at the property are very accommodating and found us on the beach to walk us to our suite. Immediately upon entering, you could feel the extra space as a grand foyer welcomed us into the room.The main sitting area hosts a TV, an oversized sectional, and two sleek armchairs. Just behind that is a dining room that seats four and the minibar.A powder room is found on the short walk from the living room to the bedroom.The master bedroom has a significantly larger closet space compared to the Grand Luxe room, which we enjoyed.The bathroom is virtually identical to the Grand Luxe room, just larger overall in dimension.The bedroom has a beautiful view of the mangrove forest below, but its design and artwork are minimalistic like the rest. The furniture and headboard make up most of the artistic flair in the room. There’s also a TV cleverly mounted in the corner of the room, but we didn’t use it during our stay.The terrace in the suite is enormous. If you’re so inclined, three separate seating areas and two entrances make for lots of outdoor time. We only used the outdoor dining table as we found better options for daybeds by the pools and better sunset-watching at St. Regis Bar.Dining & BarsDining at this resort was a true pleasure. While the pricing includes some St. Regis tax, at least you’re paying for quality food. One thing to note, at every restaurant except for Chaya, the water is $10 USD per bottle. We avoided unnecessarily spending too much by grabbing extra bottles of water during the turn-down service and bringing them to the beach. We spent about $1,400 USD on food and drink during our 5-night stay.Unfortunately, the deli shop, Pik-Nik, and Jacks Club had yet to open when we were there.ToroAt the flagship restaurant, Toro, the food is fine dining quality. We spent two years living in Toronto, which, if you don’t know, is famous for being a food fusion city. I bring this up because Toro also has a fusion theme, blending Latin American and Asian flavors. The food here could easily rival some of the best Toronto offers.I recommend taking advantage of the outdoor seating at this location, as the patio is unquietly designed.It’s also located further from the resort’s central hub, just next to the beach. The walk to the restaurant is quite beautiful.Pictured below are the Lomo Saltado, Catch of the Day, Flamed Salmon Roll, and Toro Old Fashion.ChayaThis is where breakfast is served, being a Marriott Platinum Elite member, the complimentary option is a fruit platter and pastries or toast with freshly squeezed juice. This would normally cost $35 per person without elite status.I’m not usually one for fruit, but this was incredibly delicious. And the pastries were either made in-house by a pastry chef or delivered fresh every morning. We were very impressed with the quality.For an extra $25 USD per person, the breakfast buffet is an option to add on. It’s extensive, with made-to-order omelettes, western choices, and traditional Mexican options. The highlight from the breakfast buffet was the freshly made corn tortillas, wrapping up some eggs with pollo asada is a fabulous breakfast taco.Alternatively, they have a breakfast menu available to order from. The best value as a Platinum Elite member was to enjoy a fruit platter and pastries and then share a $25 breakfast item.One morning we ate without upgrading the breakfast and felt it was filling, but we did enjoy the days with eggs in the morning.The St. Regis BarThis is where the traditional Sabrage takes place! If you’re unfamiliar, the Sabrage is a St. Regis tradition with a unique twist on opening a bottle of champagne. It’s a celebration of day turning to night.The St. Regis Bar is also the best place to take in the sunset on the property, as the bar is located on the third level. The stairs to arrive at the bar are very grand and are just as visually appealing after sunset.The food here is Asian-inspired, but it also operates as any lounge would, with chips and other snacks being brought to the table. The presentation of cocktails is also impressive, with my old fashioned being served in a glass case.The portion size is smaller at the bar compared to Chaya and Toro. We had a small bite with the sabrage, took a walk down the beach, and then returned for a poke bowl and skewers. It worked for us, but might not be enough for some.RivieraRiviera is located just next to the largest of three pools and is an open design with ocean views. The menu includes salads, handhelds, and seafood. We only ate lunch here once, wanting to try every restaurant, but I would say it’s superior to The Beach Club. Riviera and Beach Club are the only two restaurants open for lunch.The Beach ClubA small menu is offered here. According to our butler, the menu changes every week. During our stay, it was a slider selection. The Beach Club is located just behind the adults-only pool, where the ambient music is notably more like a day club.The sliders were tasty, but I ultimately preferred the more expansive menu at Riviera.The Beach Club has loungers right next to the coastline, and the staff are attentive and always happy to take drink orders or prepare chairs with towels for you.The LibraryI wouldn’t so much call this a restaurant but more of an experience. There are eight Mexican-inspired chocolate creations and three biscotti to try, all of which are delightful. The smell of chocolate punches through the air as you peruse the selection.The Library serves coffee and tea and is an excellent place to escape the sun if you’ve had enough beach time. From 3-5 pm, afternoon tea is served with light snacks.The Yucatan peninsula is also the birthplace of chocolate, and the menu includes some interesting literature about that.Things to Do at St. Regis Kanai ResortMuch like Hugh’s experience at the W Maldives, this resort is about kicking back and relaxing. There are too many sitting areas to count, with an option to take a break at any point as you explore the resort.Walking around the resort is a treat; its massive footprint is beautifully designed. It feels like being in a fine art museum, but you’re in a comfy shirt and flip-flops. Walking through the curving hallways, the design almost encourages exploration, leaving you wondering what sight you’ll take around the next bend.There’s also an abundance of wildlife, which I was not expecting. It’s common to see hawks flying or other small birds enjoying the mangroves. The water at the base of the mangroves is also an intriguing shade of red, thanks to some plant science I don’t fully understand!The BeachWhile the warm Caribbean Sea is available for a dip, the water is shallow, with a fair amount of seaweed bed. I didn’t see any guests venture in during our stay, we dipped our toes in, but this isn’t a resort for snorkeling enthusiasts.There’s an impressive amount of seating around the beach if you’re looking for a change of scenery. Hammocks, daybeds, and virtually any seating apparatus you can think of are available.PoolsWith three pools to choose from, even when the resort is at full capacity, you should be able to find a place to relax. The Beach Club serves the adults-only pool I mentioned earlier.There’s a smaller pool with some small cabanas with direct pool access just off the side of Riviera restaurant. The cabanas fill up quickly in the morning, so I recommend an early breakfast if you’re looking to snag one.The family pool is in front of Riviera and has excellent daybeds suspended above the water. These were our personal favorites after trying all the other lounging areas.If you want a more private experience, you can rent deluxe cabanas with direct access to the family pool.Athletic ClubA short walk through the main building, down the end of the curving hallway, brings you to the fitness center.We enjoyed the fitness center before breakfast on days we didn’t leave the resort. Enjoying some espresso, working out, and enjoying a later breakfast became a nice routine. It also allowed us to skip lunch some days, an excellent way to save a few dollars.The gym is well-equipped with everything you need for a moderate workout. The cardio machines have a view overlooking the mangroves the resort sits atop.Spa and SalonJust before you reach the gym, a full-service spa and salon are available for guests who wish to take relaxation even further.However, we felt relaxed enough during our stay and didn’t partake in any treatments.ExcursionsAbout a 45-minute drive away are the ruins of a trade port used by the Mayans. We didn’t hire a guide, but I recommend reading about what to expect for parking. The tourist traps are real, and many third-party vendors are trying to sell you more expensive tour packages upon arrival. Parking is only $8, and entry to the ruins is $4.50 per person.We didn’t plan much for this trip, but approaching our final day, we thought it would be nice to do some snorkeling. I sent a quick message to our butler, and she promptly found us on the beach with research done and options available!This impressed me, but I wish I had known butlers could make these arrangements, we probably would have done more. The welcome email we received a few days before arrival didn’t mention anything about excursions, which would be my only criticism of our experience.ConclusionWe immensely enjoyed our five nights lounging in luxury at this brand-new resort. Truth be told, we were a little nervous we would be bored with a slower-paced vacation, but this resort proved us wrong. The design of this resort encourages exploration, and with lots of variety in lounge options, it would be difficult to get tired of your scenery. Compared to a vacation like the Maldives, fewer travel logistics are involved, and the pricy seaplane transfers are also avoided. This resort is perfect for a traveler that doesn’t have the time for four-plus travel days but is looking for a taste of that Maldives resort luxury feel.