Resort-hopping in the Riviera Maya

I just got back from a quick trip to Mexico, and wanted to share my impressions of the resorts that I visited, but let me first say that Mexico is – without a doubt – open for business! The resorts were busy, the weather was beautiful, and I saw LOTS of people enjoying themselves. I did notice a lot of Europeans on this trip, and I’m not sure if that’s normal for this time of year, or whether they were there in greater numbers to take advantage of all the promotions and deals that the resorts are offering right now. Regardless, it was absolutely lovely!

If you’re impatient, and want to skip to the photos, you can find them on the Annie’s Escapes Facebook page. In the meantime, here are my impressions:

Dreams Tulum

Dreams Tulum, which was my home base for this trip, is at the far southern end of the Mayan Riviera, well south of Playa del Carmen, and about a 1 ½ – 2 hour drive from the Cancun airport. It is  ideally situated for those who want to spend time exploring Tulum, Xcaret and Xel Ha, but might be a little remote if you’re taking a short vacation (too much time spent in transit).  Dreams is a family-friendly all-inclusive chain with locations in Mexico and Punta Cana, and they really do a great job of pleasing all types of travelers, including multi-generational families, couples, singles, and more. We saw more than one destination wedding while we were there, but we also saw moms and dads with babies/toddlers in tow.

The property sits perpendicular to the beach, so there aren’t many true oceanview or oceanfront rooms, but the grounds are absolutely beautiful, and I loved that my balcony looked out onto a quiet courtyard. The low-rise (three story) buildings are Mexican hacienda in style, and the rooms are spacious and comfortable. We were in a basic gardenview room, but we had a large bathroom with whirlpool tub, furnished balcony, and a stepped-down living area with a large daybed.

There are multiple a la carte restaurants, and no reservations are required, so we tried the Italian, French and Steakhouse restaurants while we were there. Everything I ordered was delicious, and the portions were on the small side so that you did not feel stuffed. The omelet station at the breakfast buffet was standout!

The larger, more active pool has a swim-up bar and a children’s area, but there’s also a quieter pool for adults only. The beach was nice, although the surf was fairly rough for the duration of our stay (red flags were up on two out of the three days), and if you like to walk the beach you’re in luck – there are no other resorts to either side, so it feels like a long private stretch of sand.

I can’t really speak about the kids’ club, but it looked like the children were enjoying themselves. And there was a daily schedule of activities and entertainment for all ages…including nightly movies on the beach.

The thing that impressed me the most about this resort, though, was the service. No matter what we asked for, the response was always “It’s a pleasure”.

 

El Dorado Maroma

I had really been looking forward to touring this intimate, boutique, adults-only all-inclusive, and I was not disappointed! If I were planning my honeymoon right now, El Dorado Maroma would definitely be among my top selections.

Set  on one of the world’s top beaches (as ranked by the Travel Channel), with its own adjacent marina for water sports enthusiasts, the property includes just 74 romantic suites. The various room categories offer things like private Jacuzzis, swim-out terraces with direct access into the lazy river pool, romantic outdoor daybeds, private outdoor “love showers”, infinity plunge pools, and more.

The overall atmosphere is luxurious and serene, with plenty of space for couples to spread out and find their own quiet corner. They do offer low-key evening entertainment three times per week, and some daily activities like volleyball and morning yoga classes, but this resort is definitely aimed at couples who want to relax and unwind. That being said, those who want a little more excitement can book daytrips and excursions, or take the shuttle into town.

There are multiple gourmet restaurants, with more than enough seats for everyone, so there’s no need for reservations or waits. The staff is very friendly and accommodating, and I got the sense that no reasonable request would be denied!

The onsite chapel is a definite plus for couples trying to plan a Catholic destination wedding.

 

El Dorado Royale

Ten minutes away from the El Dorado Maroma, its sister resort —  the El Dorado Royale – is also an upscale adults-only all-inclusive with fantastic gourmet food. But the similarities stop there. The El Dorado Royale is a large, sprawling property that provides golf carts and shuttles to whisk people around the resort. It is spread along a lengthy (and somewhat rocky) beachfront, but has so many lovely pools that it’s easy to overlook the less-than-perfect beach.

There are 600 rooms/suites which are divided among the regular El Dorado Royale and its smaller, more exclusive section, the El Dorado Casitas Royale. The main resort is more lively and active, with multiple restaurants and bars, tennis courts, bikes, a disco, and more. The smaller Casitas section has a very large and luxurious spa, and each oceanfront casita features a Jacuzzi tub and romantic “Aquas del Amor” roofless shower. Some have swim-up terraces, private infinity pools, or both!

On the day that I toured the resort, there was a large incentive group checking in (200 rooms), and this is a property that can definitely handle large volume like this, but without feeling in any way “mass market.”

 

Azul Sensatori

North of the two El Dorado resorts, and closer to the Cancun airport (in the town of Puerto Morelos) is another sister property — the family-friendly, all-inclusive, Azul Sensatori. This modern and beautiful resort is divided into three buildings – one for families (with guaranteed connecting rooms for those who need it), one for adults only, and one with premium-level rooms for adults only.

The facilities for adults are absolutely fantastic (including adults-only pools, restaurants, and more) but what really struck me about this property were the amenities for families. The rooms feature separate living areas curtained off from the main bedroom, with their own TV for the kids. The resort provides changing tables, cribs, baby monitors, strollers, baby food, diapers, and just about anything else you might need (and not want to carry with you from home). Through a partnership with Fisher Price, they also provide all sorts of great toys (available in the room, the restaurants, etc.) There’s a playground on the beach; a fantastic Kids Club facility with a rock climbing wall, a theater, age-appropriate video games, and a separate nap room; and a large and well-equipped Teen Club with large-screen TVs, pool tables, video games, and more.  The restaurants feature kids menus, and the check in desk even has a special area dedicated to the little ones.

The resort is popular for destination weddings, since guests of all ages can stay right on the property, and they offer traditional ceremonies on the beach or under a gazebo, as well as a unique “Sky Wedding” on a private rooftop terrace with views of the ocean and the jungle.

 

If you have questions about these or other resorts in the Mayan Riviera, give me a call. There are some tremendous deals to be found, and there are resorts to please just about anyone!

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You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)