Have you been to Mexico? All-inclusive Vacation is the way to go when you go to Mexico.
But… here are the reasons why we chose the Grand Mayan Resort in Riviera Maya, a not all inclusive resort.
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We went on a 10 nights,12 days vacation in Mexico in 2016 and it was the best vacation ever. I always tell people they should visit Mexico at least once in their lifetime. Of the 12 days though, we stayed in 2 different resorts. The first 8 days we spent at the Grand Mayan Resort by Vidanta in Riviera Maya. The last 4 days we spent in a smaller, all inclusive resort in Cancun for the sole purpose of relaxation before going back home.
The Grand Mayan Resort is not an all inclusive resort that have a cashless system. When you check in, they get your credit card on file and everything is charged through that card from meals in all restaurants, shopping at the Jade Boutique or in their very own grocery store, room charges, excursions and everything else. I find this feature very convenient because you don’t have to carry your purse around when you are at the resort. Of course, you will indicate the people that are allowed to make charges such as yourself and your spouse. And you do have to check your bill and make sure the charges are appropriate.
They also have a wristband system that serves as your electronic key to your room. This is very convenient as well since all guests including children must wear the wristband.You don’t worry about forgetting or losing your room access because it is always around your arm.
The Grand Mayan Resort in Riviera Maya is 35 minutes away from Cancun International Airport, and 45 minutes from Cancun downtown. We chose to stay here for the first leg of our vacation because compared to Cancun, Riviera Maya is about an hour closer to the excursions like Tulum and water parks like Excaret and Xel-ha. It is also about 25 minutes away from Playa Del carmen where you can find shopping and local restaurants for authentic Mexican Cuisine.
Another reason we chose The Grand Mayan Resort is that it is not all inclusive. It was our first time visiting Mexico and we wanted to check out the attractions nearby and it will not be economical for us to be paying for an all inclusive for the entire 7 nights when we know we will be away some days exploring the area.
And the main reason we chose the Grand Mayan Resort is that the resort is gorgeous and vast and the 2 bedroom suite can accommodate all 7 of us.
The resort is owned by Vidanta. The place comprises of 5 resort hotels in a 1000 acres property. The resort hotels are namely, The Grand Luxxe, The Grand Bliss, The Grand Mayan, The Mayan Palace and The Bliss.
This group of resorts has a total of 17 bars and restaurants and 15 pristine pools. This Vidanta property has over half a mile of beach area, 3 sanctuaries namely the turtle sanctuary, flamingo sanctuary and the crocodile sanctuary. It has an 18 hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, and a resident Cirque du Soleil show, the JOYÀ.
Be prepared to do a lot of walking when you choose to stay at this resort. It usually took us 15-20 mins of walking to get to the main pool area. The wooden path could get confusing but we always somehow find our way to our destination.
There is a tram service but the wait is anywhere from 5 minutes (if you are lucky) to 30 minutes the most. If you walk though, make sure you have applied mosquito repellent because there are a lot of mosquitoes due to its tropical setting.
What we love about this resort.
Jungle setting. This beautiful resort is in the middle of the jungle and has wooden walkways to everywhere. Enjoy the jungle scenery and wildlife as you walk throughout the property. There are iguanas everywhere, by the side walk and on the trees.
There are local birds, a lagoon, flamingos, turtles and crocodiles (in the crocodile sanctuary).
Swimming Pool. We all love the main swimming pool which is beautiful and massive. We never really had any difficulty finding a place to settle and relax around the pool. It is recommended though to rent a cabana in the pool area or beach area. The cabana rent is about $30 USD but if you order food and drinks worth $30 or more, then it pays for the cabana.
Happy hour is the best, you can get 2 drinks for the price of 1. The Joy squad does a great job in organizing fun activities for everyone. Sometimes there’s movie night, daily games and dancing. The main pool is open 24 hours. It was in the main pool Troy gained the confidence to swim on his own without a life vest. He was 5 years old then.
The main pool and the Mayan Sanctuary pool both have swim up bars. The Grand Mayan infinity pool overlooks the lagoon and it was beautiful.
The Beach is white and sugar fine but there are a lot of rocks. There is very little area that you can play in the water without fear of scraping yourself against the rocks.
The beach cabanas are larger, and is being served by the Havana Moon Restaurant. The food was delicious and the service takes about 20 minutes.
Rooms. We were in Building 7 second floor, in a grand master suite, which is really a 1 bedroom suite with the living room and kitchen plus a junior suite. The grand master suite can accommodate up to 8 people and there was enough space for all 7 of us including my mom.
The full kitchen is well equipped and adequate in size and with a full refrigerator and microwave. We enjoyed plenty family meals, mostly breakfast in our little home away from home.
There is a small plunge pool which we never used in the veranda because the water is very cold and I didn’t trust the filter. The room is spacious and clean and there’s maid service everyday. We were lucky to be in the second floor because it is where the laundry area is located, by the elevators. It was very convenient for us to do the laundry.
We did our grocery shopping mostly from the resort’s own grocery store which pretty much have the basic breakfast needs. It is a bit expensive compared to the market in Playa del Carmen, but the convenience offsets the price. There is also a small Deli, Bakery and Creperie with mouth watering pastries and cakes and crepes.
Restaurants. We ate at 4 different restaurants and the food was excellent every time and the price was reasonable.
Our favorite though was the Havana Moon. Havana Moon is the restaurant by the beach and was open until 1 am. Happy hour ( half price for the drinks) starts at 10 pm.
Every night was a party date night at the Havana Moon with live band and dancing and food and drinks. It was a good adult time since the kids were tired from the day’s activities and my mom was there with them when we go out and party. We had so much fun with the other guests and we made new friends.
The Excursions that we did!
We arrived on a Friday. The first 3 days we spent exploring the vast property and lounging at the main pool. We slept in, ate at the restaurants and at the pool, we relaxed in our beautiful room. The first three days were slow and relaxing, which was what we needed after the end of the school year.
Playa Del Carmen
We visited Playa Del Carmen on the 4th day of our stay in Riviera Maya. Playa del Carmen is a small coastal town about 20 mins from our resort. You can take a taxi from the resort, or you take a long walk to the highway and take the local bus Colectivo. We opted for the taxi which cost us $22 USD.
The famous 5th avenue is a pedestrian walkway that runs through town and is lined with shops, restaurants, bars and lighted palm trees. We bought souvenirs there and we were disappointed because we found out that the same souvenirs at the Grand Mayan Jade boutique were sold for half the price.
We had lunch at La Caprichoza Restaurant and we sat on the second floor at the veranda. It was fascinating watching locals and tourists pass by while we enjoy our authentic delicious Mexican meal.
Before the day was over, we went to find a grocery store on foot for more food supplies. We were a bit anxious about being in the city by ourselves but the people were friendly and helpful and gave us the right directions. We took a local cab and got back to the resort about 8 pm and we were safe.
On the 6th day of our stay, we did the Tulum Tour. The tour has 2 parts and it was about 6 hours including the travel time. First we were taken to the Matis Jewelry Factory. It was a silver store with fine selection of jewelry.
We browsed and I bought a silver bracelet with a Tanzanite stone that changes color depending on the lighting condition. I have read not very nice reviews about this store but we did have a good experience and I am happy with the bracelet that I bought.
The fun part is the Tequila Tasting next door. We had a lot of fun tasting different kinds and flavors of tequila. We bought several small bottles as gifts to friends and families. My favorite was the sipping tequila that was caramel flavored. My second favorite was the chocolate and I did not like the coconut flavored one.
Then we proceeded to the Tulum Ruins and it was quite an experience. The Tulum Ruins is not as grand as the Chichén Itzá , but it is one of the most well preserved Mayan ruins in the Yacutan Peninsula. Tulum is one of the important settlement of the Mayan civilization dating back to around 564 AD, serving as a major trading hub for Central and South America.
Tulum means “wall” as it was walled on only three sides by stone. It was originally called Zama meaning “sunrise” because of its stunning view at the awakening of the day. Tulum’s opening faces the rising sun and the magnificent view of the Caribbean Sea.
Tulum’s most prominent structure is the main temple, El Castillo. It was purposely constructed in its place so that the sun shines directly into the temple as it rises on summer solstice for some astronomical reasons. Then there is the Temple of the Frescoes. The structure has impressive paintings of some of the finest existing examples of Mayan artwork. And lastly, the Temple of the Descending God, also know as the Honeybee God. You can find depictions of the eye of the descending god on several temples throughout the walled city.
As you walk along the ruins, you will find numerous iguanas lounging. It was fascinating watching them watch us as we walked by. And then there’s the beach in front of the ruins. As you go down the stairs to the crystal clear water below, you will be greeted with the stunning view of the Caribbean Sea.
There is no bathroom or stores at the beach. When you go, bring a towel, sunscreen, water and food.
You should take a dip in the warm waters and play in the waves. It was so beautiful.
Xel-Ha is a natural water park in Quintana Roo, Mexico. It is a natural aquarium, on a natural inlet with a tropical lagoon where visitors enjoy various activities.
You can snorkel all day with beautiful schools of fish and explore the corals and cenotes and caves. There is zip lining, cliff jumping and you can relax on the many floating tubes when you get tired of swimming.
Xel-Ha is all inclusive. All you need to bring is your happy and adventurous self because snorkel gear, life vest and towels and food and drinks are all included in the admission fee. It will be advisable to wear water shoes though. The transportation from and back to your hotel is also included when you book the excursion at the hotel.
We were so amazed of the natural beauty of the place. And we were more amazed of the included buffet meals at the park’s different restaurants including unlimited beverages alcoholic and non alcoholic.
There are other optional activities like the swim with the dolphins, which the children and grandma did. It was only about $69 USD per person.
You have to pay for the photos though because you are not allowed into the area where they are doing the activity to take pictures.
We paid an additional $180 USD for a small photo book and the USB copy of all the pictures. It was so worth it!
If you ever get tired and wants to take a break or take a nap, feel free to take one of the hammocks with the breeze and the shade provided by the coconut trees.
Other Optional Activities for a fee: Sea Trek allows you to walk at the bottom of the sea and experience the under the sea marine life wearing a specialized helmet that allows you to breathe freely. Snuba allows you to swim the depth of Xel-Há using sophisticated Snuba equipment, and you can do the Adrenalina, an adventure at full speed over the sea riding a fast craft.
Of the 7 nights/ 8 days stay, we only did 3 excursions because we wanted to enjoy our time at the resort as well. And we want to visit Mexico several times more in the future and explore the attractions particularly Xcaret and Chichén Itzá for our next visit, because then, Troy will be more mature and will appreciate the activity more.
We had a wonderful experience staying at the Grand Mayan Resort Riviera Maya. It is a huge property and we got our walking exercise everyday as well as enjoying the beautiful jungle setting, the beach and the pools. We did our wonderful and memorable excursions and on the 8th day, we were ready to leave and move on to the second part of our vacation. We transferred to the Gran Caribe Resort and Spa in Cancun and we were ready to relax and enjoy the Cancun environment and all the features of this all-inclusive resort for 3 nights/4 days.
In our opinion, if you want a wonderfully relaxing and full of memories and yet, an affordable vacation? Go To Mexico! And experience Mexico at least once in your lifetime!
Have you visited Mexico yet? What are your experiences?
When are you gonna visit Mexico! It is a magical place!
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