Mexico…where do I begin?! As I sit here, I’m dreaming of being back on the beach with a Pina Colada in my hand…even though I just got home 3 days ago. Sigh. Anywho, I wanted to share something that could be helpful for others that love Mexico as much as we do or are complete newbies to Mexico and looking for the best places to stay.
There is so much to unpack as we’ve been going to Mexico since 2012 and absolutely LOVE it as our “go to” vacation spot. In this post I’m specifically going to list the places we’ve stayed, what we liked/disliked about the spot and if I would recommend it or not. I can post about activities in another post if I people are interested.
So let’s get started!
The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas – 2012
This was our very first trip to Cancun, Mexico was in 2012 and was truly a great one. Robert and I had been dating a year and a half and this was our first big trip together. We got lucky with our room since they put us in a room that is usually for their “members” or timeshare holders. We did have to sit through a timeshare presentation and even though we didn’t purchase, we did get a hotel credit which was great. Our room was oversized with a king bed, large jacuzzi tub and kitchenette. They do have a little “grocery” store on site but I would recommend going to the Walmart down the road; we paid double on basic staple items but we didn’t know any better at the time. The pool was large, very nice and clean with a swim up bar which is typically where you would find us. My only “issue” if you will were the drinks quality. They tasted good, don’t get me wrong, but they were extremely watered down. The beach was gorgeous and had plenty of lounge chairs and cabanas but the cabanas were strictly for members only or for an extra price. Unless you are planning on spending your whole day at the beach or have little ones, I wouldn’t pay for a cabana. They also had different activities at night and local vendors that would come and set up if you wanted to shop but not leave the hotel which was nice. At the time of our stay they were extending the resort and had one of the wings under construction so I’m sure there are more rooms, restaurants and maybe more amenities available today.
The Grand Luxxe at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta – 2013
Hands down one of my favorite resorts of all time! Vidanta is a wonderful group and has some gorgeous resorts – we’ve stayed at two now and both are my favorites! This trip was for my husband (then boyfriend) and his twin sisters birthday in 2013. We booked through their dads time share group and lucked out! We originally booked at The Grand Bliss but got upgraded for FREE to The Grand Luxxe 2 bedroom suite at no additional charge due to The Grand Bliss being under construction. As soon as you arrive, you step into luxury. The property is massive since it houses 4 different sets of hotels that make up one large resort. Since the property is sprawling, you have to take a golf cart to wherever you want to go which was pretty cool and made you feel like you were in the jungle with all the foliage around you. Our room was a two bedroom suite with a full sized kitchen, dining room, 2 living rooms and 2 master bedrooms. On top of the oversized jacuzzi tubs in our rooms, we had an oversized patio with a splash pool as well – we spent a few evenings out there and it was great! With the Grand Luxxe you also get a personal butler for all of your needs which was amazing! Very attentive and courteous at all times. All of the pools and restaurants were phenomenal so you can’t go wrong. The resort is not all-inclusive but the pricing is not bad at all, very reasonable given the luxury you’re receiving. Since it’s on the west coast the water was freezing! A hurricane had just come through as well right before we arrived so due to debris on the beach and the temperature of the water, we didn’t really go swimming in the ocean. However, they have a turtle reserve on site so we got to buy baby turtles for $1 each and release them into the wild. One of the best experiences I’ve ever had! On top of that, they had various activities around the resort throughout the day and a different show every evening in the main area. To say I would highly recommend this resort is an understatement. I will say though that The Grand Luxxe books up really fast and most of the time is booked a year out so I would recommend planning ahead for this resort and any of their sister properties.
Hilton Playa Del Carmen – Adults only – 2014
We stayed at the Hilton Playa Del Carmen in 2014 for our honeymoon and had a wonderful time. We ended up getting upgraded to a Presidential Suite in a private section of the resort with the honeymoon package and LOVED it! We had an oversized suite located in the middle section of the secluded area which also provided an oversized patio. The suite had two entrances, one on each side of the suite, which was a great and convenient feature to have. The kitchen was a kitchenette but was fully stocked every day with full size top shelf liquors, wine and champagne and a variety of snacks. We may or may not have brought a few bottles back with us! *Shrug* We also had a full sized dining room and living room that opened up to sliding glass windows/doors that overlooked the private nook area. The bedroom was equipped with a king sized bed and a jacuzzi tub that comfortably fit two people. While there we received a couples massage that took place on massage beds in the living room and in the jacuzzi tub with essential oils, etc. Great experience and would do it all over again! The bathroom could’ve been it’s own room and spa all in the same. It had a master sized walk-in closet and walk-in shower that also doubled as a steam room. The resort was all-inclusive and all of the food and drinks were great, didn’t have any issues at any of the restaurants we went to.
Hard Rock Hotel Cancun – 2016
This was our “Spring Break” trip in March of 2016 and our first vacation to Mexico after having our first son, Grayson. The resort is all-inclusive which is very convenient. We got a Deluxe Gold room with a beach view. It came with a king sized bed, sitting area and was equipped with a hydromassage tub. We split our time between the pool and beach and both were clean and very nice. The service was wonderful and very attentive and detail oriented. While there, we had a wonderful romantic dinner on the beach in a secluded area, a design made just for us in the sand and pink mood lighting surrounding us. I would definitely go back to this resort. Side note, if you’ve never been to Mexico in the early spring, be aware of the winds, there were some days where the wind gusts were pretty strong but is normal for this time of year. Lastly, if you like to collect sea shells, we found several fully intact conch shells on the beach that we brought back home with us. This is the only beach area I’ve ever been able to find them (to date anyways).
Cabo Azul Resort – San Jose Del Cabo – 2016
We went to Cabo in 2016 for our 2 year anniversary trip. This actually wasn’t where we originally booked but so happy we switched resorts. That’s a funny story in itself! Anyways, after landing in Cabo, going to the original resort and leaving, we found this gem a few hours later. We booked their one bedroom suite which was beautiful. We had a full sized kitchen, dining room and living room. The bedroom had a king sized bed and was equipped with a jacuzzi tub and shower. The style seems to be a mix of Mediterranean and Spanish blended together. Dark, thick and intricate detailed wood is sprawling over the whole resort – absolutely gorgeous! The pools were great as well as the food and entertainment. This resort is not all inclusive but priced well, however, there is a grocery store right down the road to stock up on items which is what we did. On top of the resort options, it was centrally located so you had a nice assortment of shops and restaurants right across the street that you could walk to. The only downfall are the beaches. As beautiful as it is, you can’t really go swimming due to the undertows. We ended up going to a beach a little ways down that had an enclave that allowed swimming but still had a decent current so you have to be careful. This resort is also not directly in Cabo San Lucas but about 45 minutes away in San Jose Del Cabo. So if you’re wanting the Cabo San Lucas nightlife or day shopping experience be prepared for a little drive and the taxis there aren’t cheap for such a drive.
The Grand Bliss at Vidanta Riviera Maya – 2018
This was our anniversary trip to celebrate 4 years of marriage. This was also our first trip back to Mexico after our second son, Beckham, was born. We weren’t able to travel to Mexico in 2017 since I was preggo and Zika was having a grand ‘ol time inhabiting Mexico. Anyways, we took this trip with my parents and brother as well and had a blast! We stayed in The Grand Bliss two bedroom suite which worked out great. The main difference between The Grand Bliss and The Grand Luxxe is the size of the kitchen and you don’t have two living rooms – other than that there isn’t much of a difference. We still had a full sized kitchen, dining room, living room and two master bedrooms. The balcony was massive as well with an entrance from each bedroom and the living and equipped with a splash pool as well. The splash pool came in handy for the kids as it was covered so when the sun became too much at the pool or beach, they still had a place to play. The property is also sprawling so they have golf carts to get around but they also have really cool walking trails so you can explore on your own and see the beautiful scenery. It really felt like you were in the jungle at some spots which was really cool! The property is also filled with different animals that freely roam around such as iguanas and coatis which was really neat to see! While walking the trails we also came across a crocodile exhibit and a flamingo exhibit – great experience for the littles. During this trip we spent most of our time at the pool and only a little time at the beach. In recent years the seaweed has come on strong and overtaken the beaches but the resort had crew out there around the clock cleaning the beaches and water. This particular beach front also has a lot of coral so it was hard to really go out far unless you wanted to snorkel and enjoy the water in that sense. This resort also isn’t all inclusive but again has great low prices and great value.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya – 2019
We went to Grand Velas Riviera Maya for 4th of July in 2019. This is another top notch all-inclusive resort that I highly recommend. It is smaller but is my no means lacking in any area. We had a personal butler that was very attentive the whole trip and made things run even more smoothly. He booked our dinner reservations every night, informed us of events going on around the resort, would have gifts waiting for us each evening when we returned to our room and made sure to check-in with us throughout the day to make sure we had everything we needed and were enjoying ourselves to the fullest. During the day they have activities for the children and even have a kids club and teens club where you can drop your children off for a little adult time at no additional cost. Every evening there is some type of show that you can go and enjoy as well. My favorite night was 4th of July! Even though we were in Mexico, the celebrated and it was a huge hit! They had a buffet set up on the beach with a large assortment of different types of food so you couldn’t go wrong. They also had string lights hung across the seating area and a full sized stage where the band performed. During dinner they had a fire show and finished it off with a nice firwork display. Another great night was when we went to their karaoke bar after dinner. The karaoke bar is also kid friendly as people from all ages would get up, sing and have a blast! As for our water experience, we split our time between the pool and beach as both were very nice and clean – the seaweed wasn’t an issue this trip. Hallelujah! Overall, this ranks as one of my top resorts of all times and I highly recommend. Side note, their sister site, The Grand Velas in Cabo, is the #1 ranked resort in all of Mexico – it’s on my bucket list to visit!
Paradisus Cancun – 2020
We went to the Paradisus Cancun in February 2020 for my 31st birthday. It was right around when COVID-19 became a thing so we were nervous at first but there ended up being nothing to worry about. However, we were still cautious especially in the airports. But back to the resort – overall it was great, all-inclusive but it’s not one that I would probably go back to again given other resorts that we’ve been to prior that I absolutely love. We had a nice room that was clean, had a king sized bed, jacuzzi tub and nice sized bathroom but nothing over the top or “luxurious”. The resort did have quite an assortment of restaurants to choose from and all were delicious, no complaints on the food or service. Speaking of service, we had two butlers that took care of us the whole trip which were simply amazing! Not only did they cater to us but they catered to the boys as well and always had something special waiting for them back in the room whether it be toys, a teepee set up for them to play with or a whole array of balloon sea animals set up in the shower! Really super cool stuff! They also have a kids club and teens club where you can drop your kids off to play so you can have some adult time and at no additional charge. My only hangup was the pool. You could tell it was dated and in need of repairs. The grout just looked nasty in a lot of places and tile was missing in more places than I could count. We also were told they had a “kids” swimming pool that ended up just being a wading area attached to the main pool separated only by concrete barriers – a little misleading. Lastly, the pool water was FREEZING!! It was so cold it was almost too much to bear (for me anyways – my husband and kids were able to adapt better than I was) and really enjoy. Other than my issues with the pool it really was a great experience. They had shows and activities throughout the day and in the evening which was always a great time. Again, this was a nice resort and ultimately I would recommend it but this isn’t one that we’ll probably be frequenting again.
The Royalton Riviera Maya – all inclusive – 2020
This was our latest trip that we just returned from a few days ago (August). We went in celebration of our 6 year wedding anniversary. I have to say, with COVID-19, they did a wonderful job on their safety protocols and measures and are only doing a max capacity of 30%. The resort was currently only at 13% capacity so it was pretty empty but great at the same time. The staff wore masks at all times, always checked your temperature and gave hand sanitizer at every restaurant. They even had these special mats with sanitizer in them and a drying mat for your shoes before entering any store or restaurant. Also, due to the lessened capacity, not every restaurant, bar or the amenities were open. For example, only a handful of restaurants were open so we went to the same places multiple times and the kids club and teens club were closed. At time of booking they were not allowing babysitter services either but had reopened that service by the time we arrived. We ended up not taking advantage of that service though due to the price tag of $20 per hour per kid. A little too rich for my blood for a babysitter. However, we knew all of this beforehand so it wasn’t an issue. When choosing our resort, we specifically chose The Royalton for their kids pool area, it was phenomenal! It was all located in one spot by had three different areas for the kids to play in. One spot was a nice sized playground/slide structure that offered 4-5 slides and a cool crossing bridge, another set of 3 larger slides with its own wading pool area and lastly, an area with water fountain structures that catered more to the younger children. In the same area was a regular sized pool with a swim up bar that you could go and enjoy as well. All together, the resort has 4 different pool areas that are all open. As for the beach, we went for maybe 30 minutes one day and spent the rest of our time at the pool. The beach had seaweed and the water wasn’t crystal clear blue as it is just right up the road in Cancun, it was more of a dingy green color with seaweed floating all around. Granted, the hurricanes were making their way towards us so the currents were just churning the nastiness up, obviously not the resorts fault. As for our room, we ended up booking their presidential one bedroom suite with a swim up pool and got their diamond club option as well. The room was great and the swim up pool ended up being used more than we originally thought. The servers walking by would even stop and take drink/food orders for us which was pretty cool. The resort also had different activities throughout the day and shows in the evening. We did have a butler but due to the resorts capacity limits, they also limited the amount of employees per section of the resort so he wasn’t the most attentive due to being in charge of more guests than normal. Very nice guy but nothing really special about the butler service (this time around anyways) except making our dinner reservations every night. Like I mentioned above, we opted for the diamond club experience but I don’t think it was necessary at this time. If the resort was at a higher capacity I would definitely recommend it but amenities such as cabanas that usually only come with the diamond club were always open since there was hardly anyone there to occupy them. One of the perks we did like though that came with diamond club was the full sized liquor, wine and champagne that constantly stayed stocked in our room. I love me some champagne and I never went without on this trip, it was always stocked in our room. Overall this was a great trip, great experience but if I had to say one thing I wished was different would be the water temperature in the showers/bathtubs in the room. At one point the water was barely above luke warm so I didn’t really get to enjoy my typical steaming hot shower that I’m accustomed to. But that is me just knit picking. All in all, I would love to come back to this resort when life has returned to some sort of normalcy and I’m not having to judge it during a pandemic but when it’s running on all cylinders.
I know this was a long post and if you’re still reading, thank you for sticking around! I hope I was able to help in some way and you found this information useful. If you have any questions or would like to hear more about experiences and excursions outside of the resorts, please feel free to comment below!
*All pictures are not mine but are the property of TripAdvisor*