The Chicago winters can be pretty brutal. This year we had some days with a windchill of around -50°F. Lauren's birthday is also during this time of the year. Both Travelers also had a busy year end schedule. All of these sounded like great reasons for The Tasty Travelers to escape for a week and collect some much needed vitamin D.
This year the Tasty Travelers decided to make our way to Playa Del Carmen which is about 45 minutes south of Cancun. This area of Mexico has seen a good amount of growth over the last couple of decades and still continues to grow. We landed on the Ocean Riviera Paradise, a newly opened resort with some great reviews on sites like Expedia.com or bookit.com. The rooms looked great, the resort was on the beach and it was all-inclusive with alcoholic beverages also included. Further more we got an awesome deal, so we pulled the trigger and booked our trip!
While researching how to get from Cancun to the Playa Del Carmen area there are many other blogger or vloggers that will steer you away from catching a cab from the airport. So we booked a private car service from the airport to the resort through etransfers.com. This process was great, about a 25 dollar savings over taking a taxi and we rode comfortably by ourselves in the back of new Chevy Suburban. We did add on for an additional 3 dollars each, some wine coolers and beers for our 45 minute ride to the resort.
Many of the established resorts in the area had grand entrances from the main highway, the Ocean Riviera Paradise did not have this. It was behind an area that was still developing which did bring some concern, but we remained optimistic. As we pulled up to the actual resort our concerns were diminished and what we had seen online was apparent.
We were greeted by bellhops who took our bags and led us into the main lobby. Since we had arrived around noon and check in was at three, we figured that we would need to hang out in the lobby for a few hours. The reception immediately checked us in, gave us our bracelets, told us to explore, eat, drink and make our way back to the lobby around three for our room assignment. Pleasantly surprised, we changed into some more comfortable attire and then we went to get some lunch at the buffet and see if the rest of the resort was as nice as we were led to believe. It was.
The resort was clean, the staff was friendly and we made our way around the resort. For the next week we ate, drank and took full advantage of the different things that were available to us.
Our room was very nice. Nicer than we even expected! It was large, clean, quiet and our outdoor seating area was private and backed up to quiet jungle like setting. The four post king sized bed was comfortable and plush. The daily cleaning service attendants were pleasant and took care of us during our stay. Our mini fridge was stocked daily and the room was cleaned daily. The bathroom was nice. There was a double sink, a jacuzzi soaking tub and a shower with an overhead rain shower nozzle. The shower was awesome!!
The only downfall was at night. While the air-conditioner was great and kept the room cool, the humidity was seemingly locked in the room. We would wake up in the middle of the night with our bed sheets feeling damp....every night. The rumor was that you could get a dehumidifier at the front desk but it would take some time. We didn't hear about this amenity until our adventure was almost over. I would recommend looking into a dehumidifier at check-in.
This resort had many activities to participate in. Everything from peaceful early morning yoga (we did not attend any of these) to pool foam parties to their own take on a couple of Broadway shows. Since this was more a relaxing and decompressing trip for us, we spent the majority of our time at the adults only pool, swim up bar and down by the beach. We learned that this time of the year in Playa Del Carmen is when our Canadian friends visit this area of the world.
We read several reviews and spoke with several of the guests and this was the one area that sounded like there was some room for improvement....or desired variety. There were several options on where to eat everyday for dinner. Breakfast and lunch was limited to the buffet.
While all of the restaurants were themed differently, it was the same protein and flavor served different ways for each of the locations. Especially beef items like steak were cut extremely thin, cooked very well done and under seasoned. We were told that it was due to the lack of cattle farms in the area. We are spoiled mid-westerners and love our beef. Several restaurants had beef filet on the menu but it was not the beef filet mignon that we are accustomed to at home. Instead, the beef was a lower grade cut of frozen meat. With all of that being said, the food conversation seems to be a common thread among all all-inclusive resorts in the area.
The best restaurant by far is the "Blue Moon", however the Italian restaurant was our second favorite. If you are planning to dine at the "Blue Moon," which is the only all adults restaurant on the resort, be sure to pack accordingly because there is a dress code. Men must wear long pants and shoes, no flip flops. While this makes some sense, it was a bit inconvenient due to the temperature and atmosphere of the resort. We got lucky because Luis wore long pants and shoes to the airport, but if it had been warmer when we departed, he would not have packed either.
We had dinner at "Steak" restaurant on the first night. We were both pretty excited. Steak...at an all-inclusive?? That pretty much means it's all you can eat steak!!! The appetizers were great, the steak wasn't so great. I will say, that if you are looking for a stiff drink, this is the best place on the resort to get it!
There is a Japanese restaurant on the resort as well. This is the only restaurant that requires a reservation. They do 3 seatings per night. Everybody gets seated and the show begins. The show was very similar to the Japanese restaurants in Chicago. There's a lot of knife tricks, flaming onion volcanoes and catching flying shrimp in your mouth. There is no menu. Everyone gets a little bit of everything. The meal starts off with a sushi appetizer and then you are served steak, chicken, salmon and rice. The salmon was by far my favorite!
We ate at the Italian restaurant 3 times. It was actually pretty good. They served fresh burrata, eggplant parmesan, shrimp fettuccine, lasagna and a beef filet dish. This was our reliable, go-to for dinner while we were at the Ocean Riviera Paradise!
Each day of the week had a different theme. Sometimes, the theme came with a special dinner. We stumbled upon a purple day and all of the desserts were beautiful shades of purple. Seriously, it was quite a sight to see.
We tried a lot of the specialty cocktails that were offered but ultimately ended up going back to our favorite, simple cocktail. We felt as though the alcohol was watered down some but this may have been due to the size of the drinks. They are quite small. We did see the Our level of intoxication was on the lower end for the amount of cocktails and sun we had. Others that we had also spoken to at resort had similar feelings with the exception of the beer drinkers. We were able to see that the bartenders were opening freshly sealed bottles each day. We also needed to be creative with the kind of drinks we ordered since most of the available mixers were very sugary and sweet.
- If you are looking to spend a lot of time at the beach...do some research before you book your trip. The beach area for Ocean Riviera Paradise is incredibly rocky! We aren't talking small rocks either. The beach (the very shallow part of the water) is covered in humungous rocks. This makes swimming very difficult, especially for small children. Due to this, the beach is busy, but the water is not. There were not many people actually swimming in the water, instead, they swam in the pool.
- Bring your own insulated cup with a lid. The plastic cups that they bring for the pool area are small. We saw that people brought their own Yeti cups which made for less frequent refilling.
- Men should bring a pair of long pants and shoes. The best restaurant on the resort for dinner does have a dress code. I was able to get in with jeans and a polo shirt.
- If you think that you would like to be a part of the "Privilege" group (upgraded room and top shelf alcohol), select the room when you book your stay online. We did not and it was a 90 dollar per day per person upgrade.
- You will be offered a membership opportunity. It is not a time share but sounds a lot like one. We spent 2 hours with them and received a 30 minute couples massage. However, when we went to book our massage, we were given the option of either having our neck or our back or our legs massaged. OR! The massage was not a full body massage. But, of course you will be given an option to upgrade to an hour long full body massage for $35 per person. Because of the time that we had already invested in the "offer" we opted to upgrade. It was a good massage...but you can get an hour long massage on the beach (not from the hotel vendors) for $35 and you don't need to attend the session. I think the worst part of this opportunity is that they tell you that they are taking you to breakfast, be sure not to eat because they are taking you to breakfast. But, in actuality, they took us to the buffet. The same buffet we ate at everyday for breakfast. The difference? The host for the opportunity awkwardly sits at your table and has breakfast from the buffet with you. In retrospect for us this was not the best use of our time and should have declined this offer. Oh...and...we didn't get our other free gifts.
Over all we enjoyed our experience at the Ocean Riviera Paradise. This was great for a relaxing vacation. However, we are learning that an all inclusive resort without our kids may not be what Tasty Travelers really embrace. The Tasty Travelers will go on future trips that will be Tasty Traveler based. We need more variety in food, drinks, activities and surroundings. 🙂