LOCATION: Playa Del Carmen
RESORT: IBEROSTAR PARISIO MAYA
WEATHER IN AUGUST – Great (We had one-hour of rain in 2-weeks)
TEMPERATURE: Tropical & Hot
COST: 2 Adults & 3 Children – £9250 including flight upgrades
OVERALL RATING 4/5
Our children shriek with laughter as the waves come crashing around them… we hold our youngest close, but he just keeps diving under the moving water and giggling with his sisters. “Again, Again…”
Our girls love this time in the pool – when the wave machine comes alive and they dive over and under the frothy waves. Our three-year-old son thinks he’s as old as his sisters and has no fear. We laugh and relax – all together. This is the stuff that magical family holidays are jam-packed full of.
We’re in Playa Del Carmen in Cancun, Mexico – and a world away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. It gives you that vital chance to reboot and recharge…
Mexico might seem like a world away – and it is – but trust me it’s worth the 10-hour flight to Cancun – especially if you have children and opt for an all-inclusive package with one of the big tour operators.
Within the gated community (it’s that big it’s like a small town) there are four hotels – the Del Mar, the Lindos, The Maya and The Grand.
The first three are for families and offer what I would describe as Bronze (Del Mar) Silver (Lindos) and Gold (The Maya) standards in terms of service and rooms. The Grand is a couples-only resort and doesn’t allow kids!
Now, I know it is a massive complex, but it really doesn’t feel like it thanks to the way the hotels are laid out and separated.
I wouldn’t recommend or entertain you staying with a family at the Del Mar. Its entry level all-inclusive and quite frankly the rooms are nothing special. It also seems full of vacationers on mini-breaks whose purpose is to party. Think American ‘Spring Break’ and you’ll be close. Fine is you’re under 25 and single. Not so good if you have a family. My honest advice would be to spend the extra and go for the Maya.
Last time we were there – about four years ago, the Maya was the ultimate in luxury. It’s an all suite resort and it is quite special. This time around, it was a little less glossy, a little more ‘used’ but having said that, the suites and facilities are of an excellent standard. Nothing a bit of maintenance and a few licks of paint wouldn’t sort out. Hopefully soon!
It’s set in lush tropical gardens and of course has direct access to a stunning beach.
And because it is all-inclusive, you don’t have to put your hand in your pocket at all. The food and drink is 24/7. From breakfast, lunch & dinner, to mid-morning snacks, ice-cream parlour, coffee bar, juice bars, wet (in pool) bars, cocktail bars, beach & pool food – you name it – it’s covered – and of course you can always use your in-room mini-bar (again free) and order room-service 24-hours a day!
Top tip – if you drink a specific spirit, eg Vodka, you simply ask Room Service for a bottle for you room and ‘Hey Presto’ you can have a tipple pre dinner on your veranda or while you relax in the huge jacuzzi baths in every suite.
The quality of the food is brilliant in the Maya. It’s not always as hot as you’d perhaps like it – our main gripe to be honest – but you couldn’t fault the variety on offer. It really was a culinary trip around the globe!
A favourite with the kids was the pizza station and the pasta bar – where basically you choose what you want and they make it for you as you wait. Our three-year-old was a frequent visitor to the pasta bar! But having said that our 12-year-old developed a taste for the great hand-rolled sushi and the jumbo prawns and mussels.
We opted for the buffet 9 out of 14 nights, as the kids had the variety they wanted, but our children loved the theatre and spectacle of the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant. The food is great and the culinary show by the chefs is quite something. Definitely worth a visit.
The choice of activities is wide and varied and the kids will NEVER be bored. There is a brilliant water park in the resort, with slides and fountains and a great bucket that fills with water and then tips over you (every 20 mins or so) – sadly it didn’t work for 10 of the 14 days we were there!
The Iberostar resorts also have a special team called ‘Star Friends’ who are brilliant at providing all manner of entertainment – from sporting activities and games to some great big production shows nightly in the purpose-built theatre. They cover all the bases and while they are on-hand to help, they never ‘force you’ to take part in anything.
Our kids spent the time in the pools. Not surprising really. They especially loved the large wave pool which – as the name suggests, has a wave machine which comes on for 20 minutes an hour. It’s a brilliant, safe way to enjoy the water. Another great feature is the ‘Lazy River’ a long and slowly meandering, snaking water trail which you drift round in an inflatable of your choice. When we were last there, the rubber tyres were free to use, this time round you had to purchase your own ring and keep it for the duration of you holiday. It was well worth it if not a little steep at $20 US for a basic rubber ring!
The great thing about the way the resort is laid out is that you can always find a quieter spot to sit and sunbathe. We always had poolside loungers, always had clear views of any of the pools we went to, and always felt the kids were safe. There’s plenty of shaded areas too – if unlike me – you prefer to remain pale and interesting! And did I mention that at the Maya they offer free wifi in your room, by the pool – actually pretty much everywhere, so you can tweet, Instagram and check your emails as you relax!
We travelled aboard the fantastic new Dreamliner 787 – and chose to pay the upgrade to sit in the Premium Cabin. Is it worth it? Well I’d have to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Bearing in mind it will add a huge chunk of cash to your budget and that kids pay exactly the same price as adults, you will have to consider this option carefully.
The Dreamliner does have bigger windows, much more headroom and does feel brighter and airier – although it’s questionable that the improved “air quality and pressurisation system” designed to cut down on jet-lag actually has any benefits. We certainly didn’t notice them. And unless you’re in Row 1 (which we were thankfully) the ‘extra space’ isn’t all that extra in reality and the recline on the seat isn’t impressive at all.
Having been to Mexico before and to the same Iberostar resort, we knew what to expect. The Iberostar group of hotels is great and have a number of properties around the globe..
Would we go again? Almost definitely. Would we choose Iberostar again – 100% – let’s just hope they get the paint brushes out and re-vamp the Maya suites and some of the common areas before it loses its five-star shine or a number of customers are going to be disappointed.
Tour Operators offering All inclusive trips to this resort include:
Thomas Cook and First Choice/Thomson
Scheduled flights can be booked with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Thomson Airways offer a charter flight service from various regional UK airports.
Booking directly with Iberostar – go to www.iberostar.com for all the latest offers and deals.