Dispatch: Going All-Inclusive with Playa Hotels & Resorts in Cancun
PHOTO: Gran Caribe's waterfront area with the Caribbean Sea stretching into the distance. (Photos by Michael Isenbek)
Flying in on JetBlue from Fort Lauderdale, I arrived in beautiful Cancun! But before I could melt into the beautiful beachfront all-inclusive ambiance, I had to navigate the sea of drivers clustered around the airport exit, all vying for my business. In needle-in-a-haystack fashion, I found my transport to Playa Hotels & Resort’s Gran Caribe property, set in the prime Cancun Hotel Zone.
During the ride, Cancun’s row of Caribbean Sea-facing accommodations unfolded before me, a series of bold architectural shapes and towering structures (not to mention the most massive tiki huts I’ve ever seen), all branded with some of the biggest names in the business. But I was here to bask in the bliss of Gran Caribe.
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I ventured into the cavernous lobby of the Mediterranean-style resort, but did not walk through a door; the entire entrance is open to the elements. It was here that I ran into the first of many amiable, helpful employees, who all performed Playa’s trademark gesture of the hand over the heart.
Playa’s Public Relations Manager Wally Digri, declared the region “the land of the Maya,” and this was abundantly manifested in Gran Caribe’s lobby artwork, reproductions of ancient Mayan artwork wrapped around columns and spread across walls in giant murals.
Check-in was at the 24-hour VIP Lounge located at the sixth floor, which has a commanding view of the surrounding waters. Food, drinks, top-shelf liquors, excellent coffee and a billiards table comprised the spread here, one of the most exclusive areas in the resort.
My fifth-floor room continued the Mediterranean theme, complete with marble floors, fresh white walls, iron railing accents and dark wood trim. The requisite mini-bar makes pouring easy with a spigot system hooked up to a trio of inverted liquor bottles.
The breathtakingly gorgeous, dark-to-light turquoise Caribbean Sea was visible through the sliding doors to the balcony, and as I stepped out into the steady breeze, I noticed a bona fide hammock ready to be strung up at a moment’s notice.
I obliged, enjoying a gently-swaying mini-siesta — to the sounds of a bingo game, the announcer calling out numbers poolside on a PA system. Live bands, recordings of top 40 hits and declarations by the resort’s enthusiastic hype men reverberate throughout the area. But this entertainment doesn’t go much past dark, so quiet time is preserved.
PHOTO: Gran Caribe's expansive pool area.
After enjoying welcome drinks and small bites in a veranda by the beach, it was off to dinner at Il Pescatore, the resort’s Italian a la carte eatery. A special tasting menu was presented that encapsulates what the restaurant is all about, and this was my first (but not my last) encounter with the elaborate, artful plating of each dish. Whether it be the assorted bruschetta starters, the rack of lamb main entree and everything in between, presentation was not neglected in the slightest.
Topping off the feast was a tiramisu accented with M&M-type candies gilded with honest-to-God gold — now that’s elegant.
A chocolate plate full of chocolate/fruit delights was waiting for me when I got back to my room, followed by a midnight snack at the VIP Lounge (quickly becoming one of my favorite places to visit), then sleep.
Touring the property next morning, I got a fuller picture of the experience offered by Gran Caribe. Versatility of room offerings is the name of the game here. Starting at the very top of the hotel, the Presidential suite offers perhaps the grandest view of surrounding beach and ocean, along with its expected amenities.
But there are also benefits with a stay on the lower floors. Select suites there have the pool and beach just steps away, or even incorporated into the accommodations.
Children can have some fun experiences here as well. The Oki Splash Water Park dominates a large corner of Gran Caribe real estate with a pirate ship and castle that sport multiple water slides.
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Weddings are a big part of Gran Caribe’s business, with over 200 a year taking place either in the beachfront veranda, on the beach itself, or in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Oceanfront Chapel, Cancun’s only consecrated Roman Catholic resort chapel.
The views and ambiance are intoxicating here, but there are other resorts to see. Now it’s off to Playa del Carmen and its twin Playa properties: Gran Porto Resort and The Royal.
More by Michael Isenbek
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