The Beachscape Kin Ha hotel in Cancun is at the very center of the hotel zone allowing you to walk or take a bus to just about any activity you choose. But location is not this hotel’s only feature. The quality and beauty of its beach are!
Considered one of the best beaches in the world, the Kin Ha beach within the Cancun coastline has a well earned reputation for its cleanliness, fine white sand and incredibly transparent waters. Tiny little fish will come to investigate your feet while you stand and early in the morning, you can spot dolphins playing in the waves. The beach is huge with lots of palapas (tiki bar style umbrellas) and beach chairs exclusive to the hotel guests, so there is no scurrying early in the morning to secure a chair.
The pool area is a good size and has a play area for kids with jungle gym, trampoline, and slide. There’s even a small area of the pool that is off limits to adults, and designed exclusively for little children with a depth of less than 2 feet.
The rooms are clean and spacious although they could use some updating on the furniture department (we were told this was coming soon). There is a small kitchenette with coffee maker in all rooms, along with a microwave and sink if you choose to eat in. Most of the rooms have incredible beach and ocean views from their oversized balconies, and those that overlook the other side of the hotel, boast an amazing view of Cancun’s famous Nichupte lagoon.
Staff is super friendly, knowledgeable and go out of their way to smile and greet you. Right there in an instant, should you need something and take pride in making sure your stay is enjoyable and issue free.
The food was very good with a wonderful breakfast buffet. Eggs and omelets were made to order along with a vast selection of fruits and pastries. Lunch and dinner were ordered off the menu that was somewhat limited, but what there was to choose from was excellent. Please keep in mind that this is not an all-inclusive hotel, so all the food must be ordered a la carte.
Great staff, excellent food, clean spacious rooms, and breathtaking beach and ocean make this economical hotel seem worth more than what you will pay. In our personal book, this 3.5 star hotel earns a well deserved 5 star rating!
The Occidental Grand Xcaret is a beautiful hotel nestled among lush jungle, rocky paths and the blue Caribbean sea. Majestic and controversial, the hotel is anything but blah, but if you’ll love it or hate it, it will be based on your previous experiences with other hotels and obviously on how things work out for you at the Occidental Grand Xcaret. Personally we hated this hotel.
Our first and last impression, which happened at the hotel front desk, were really bad. We had reserved the junior suite and even called the hotel in advance to make sure it would accommodate 2 adults and 1 child. To our surprise upon arriving to the hotel the front desk employees did not know what to do with our 6 year old son. After a 35 minute wait, the front desk manager approached us and told us that there was nothing to worry about, that kids ARE allowed in the junior suites for free anyway! This was only the first of our mishaps at the Occidental Grand Xcaret resort in Riviera Maya, which concluded with yet another issue at check-out time, when one of the employees insisted we had informed him we were going to check out a day earlier but failed to do so (we were paid in full for 5 days).
But let’s go back to the actual hotel and what it offers its visitors. We would like to mention the beautiful pools and gardens that it features… With the rooms being located in separate buildings (each with its own concierge and waiting area), there is a pool for every 2 or 3 buildings. Sadly there is not a bar, restaurant or cafeteria anexed to those buildings or pools. For an all inclusive hotel this is a problem. Or should we say it is a problem for the hotel guests while it is an advantage for the hotel owners who end up spending less on food and drinks?
The pools are fairly clean but there are no bathrooms next to them, which means lots of people will resort to peeing in the pool instead of having to walk all the way to their building and room. While the pools water appeared to be clean (they must have some very powerful filters!), the paths around them are littered with cigarettes. During our stay there were even people smoking inside the pools and throwing the ashes in the water without the hotel employees doing anything about this. For people who smoke this is not a problem but it certainly is for those who don’t. Other than that the common areas were fairly clean.
There are 6 theme restaurants, 1 buffet and 1 snack-restaurant in this resort. The food is really good and the Sonora Grill steakhouse is actually great. The only issue at the restaurants other than the buffet is that you can only order 1 main course per person, something that does not match the all inclusive model.
The rooms are beautiful and very clean. With solid wood furniture, a spacious marble shower, flat screen TV, private balcony and good quality linens, the rooms are something to write home about. We loved our junior suite and are sure even the most demanding travelers would too. The air conditioner worked to a charm, the minibar was free and re-stocked daily and the mattress and pillows were soft and comfortable.
The Occidental Grand Xcaret resort has an intricate architecture that adds to the area’s natural beauty. They even have their own Mayan Ruins, a small shopping village, live animals and a huge fish pond complete with fish food so you can feed the fish yourself. There is plenty to do on the grounds, and the bars and restaurants are open fairly late. Still, we can’t get over the idiocy at the front desk and the unbelievable amount of cigarette butts everywhere. For this and despite its 4-star facilities, the Occidental Grand Xcaret only earned a 2.5 star rating from us.
Cancun’s Wet N’ Wild water park is located in the southernmost tip of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, right by the ocean. A smaller (much smaller) version of its United States counterparts, Cancun’s Wet N’ Wild park features only 5 slides, among them the well known Kamikaze and the less scary Twister. It also features the Lazy River that has become Wet N’ Wild’s signature, and a pretty spacious tidal pool with quite big and fun waves.
In an effort not to give our readers the wrong information, we won’t publish Wet N’ Wild’s prices here, since they change with the season of the year, but suffice to say that the admittance fee is comparable to other Wet N’s Wilds internationally, but here in Cancun, it includes all you can eat and drink.
Although we love water parks as much as the next guy, we are not big fans of Cancun’s Wet N’ Wild. First of, there are no slides for smaller children so this park is a no-no for families with kids under 6 years old. For those of you who are traveling to Cancun with your small kids, we recommend instead Sea Adventure Resort and Water Park.
Secondly, the food at Cancun’s Wet N’ Wild is simply horrendous. The menu consists exclusively of burgers, hot dogs, tortilla chips and french fries. Both times we’ve visited, there’s been huge lines to grab food with a minimum wait of 30 minutes, and every time we approached the soda fountain, we had to wait for it to be re-stocked. The alcoholic drinks, on the other hand, were always available! Drink as much beer or margaritas as you wish, but wait in line for sodas or water… hmmm…
Also unlike in the USA’s Wet N’ Wilds, there are no free inner tubes to use in the pools or the Lazy River. If you want to float on one, you must rent ($4 USD) or buy one at the convenience store ($17 USD).
Despite these shortcomings, Cancun’s Wet N’ Wild has a few good things about it. The place is spotless, the staff is friendly, there are plenty of lifeguards all over the park, and for those who enjoy swimming with dolphins, there is an on-site “Swim With Dolphins” facility. This is an optional activity, not included in the entrance price.
Because of the small amount of slides, the bad quality and availability of food and drinks, in this Review of Cancun’s Wet N’ Wild water park, we give it a 2 star rating.
Riviera Maya’s Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda is a 4 star hotel with the service of a 2-star one and the facilities of a 5-star. Go figure!
The Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda is nestled among acres of tropical jungle, by the Caribbean Sea and is built in the typical style of the grandest resorts in the Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya areas. A magnificent lobby (in this case open without air conditioning, nicely swept by the ocean breeze), imposing gardens, and independent buildings each with about a dozen rooms and suites, make up this beach resort.
The architecture is modern without being minimalistic, and the furniture and furnishings are beautiful and comfortable. The rooms are clean and spacious, but the hall ways are not only unimpressive but also dirty with dead roaches and used napkins here and there. As a contrast, the pool and general facilities were clean and well tended to. The service though, is simply sad. There is no valet parking, and you must park your own vehicle, sometimes more than a block away from the lobby. Upon arriving we asked the employee at the entrance where to park our car, and he simply shrugged. When asking for help with our luggage at the front desk, the employee was blatantly rude. But what really made us regret staying at the Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda, was the ridiculous wait to grab a golf cart that would take us from our building to the lobby. So we gave up on waiting and every time we had to go to the restaurant or the lobby we ended up walking a quarter of a mile under a raging sun during the day time or eaten alive by mosquitos at night.
The Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda is an All-Inclusive resort, where you can eat and drink to your heart’s content, and the food was actually quite good! We were pleasantly surprised by their chicken soup (yummy!) and their salads. The drinks were good without being anything out of the ordinary, and they were plenty and always frozen cold, which is a blessing in the Caribbean.
So, there are good and bad things about the Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda. A great touch we’d like to mention is a fresh fruit basket awaiting you in your room, in addition to a well stocked minibar (included in the price of your stay). Sadly we must also mention that in this hotel despite being an All-Inclusive, you will pay extra for lots of things, such as room service (there is a $10 USD fee to deliver your free food and drinks to your room), late check out ($10 USD per hour after their regular check out time of 12 noon), and $5 USD per extra room key.
In a nutshell, the Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda was quite disappointing. They’re priced lower than all comparable resorts in the area, and there’s a reason for it: they’re sucky! Therefore in our Review of the Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda resort, we give it a 3 star rating.
We have mixed feelings about the Barcelo Costa Cancun. We love the way the hotel looks, its beach, how peaceful it is, and the comfort of its rooms. Yet we hate how poorly the staff will treat hotel guests, and how unfriendly and unhelpful they can be.
We have stayed at the Barcelo Costa Cancun twice so far, and both times we have enjoyed ourselves greatly. The kids love the pool (always crystal clear), the open expansive beach (also crystal clear), and the plentiful food and desserts. We love the big infinity pool with a couple of areas for small children right on it, which is a must for family travelers. We also love how at the pool bar the drinks are made to perfection, and you don’t have to ask for them twice. Waiters will run to get your order filled.
The rooms are beautiful, elegantly furnished, with comfortable beds, nice airy balconies overlooking the ocean and spacious bathrooms. The hotel in general is modern, but lacks that minimalist design style that we dislike so much; it is clean, with big soft recliners all over the lobby so you can be comfy while waiting for your room, or simply staying out of the sun. The food is good (without being great), there are tons of choices in their restaurants, and the drinks are loaded with the good stuff!
The negative part of the Barcelo Costa Cancun is its staff. Yes, we were right when we said the waiters at the pool area are helpful and will rush to your service. But that’s where it stops. The front desk clerks are rude and will go out of their way NOT to help you. The sales people at the tour desk will try to scratch every penny out of you, and will sell you tours that are useless, and the room maids will give you the evil eye when you request an extra towel.
With so many hotels in the Cancun and Riviera Maya area, we have decided not to return to the Barcelo Costa Cancun Hotel. Even though their facilities are quite good, we know we will be better tended to anywhere else, and that is a big deciding point for us
The Cancun Airport (CUN), is the most modern airport in Latin America, and its Termina 3 for international travel is as well equipped as any in a first world country. Having had its older terminal refurbished just a few years ago, and proudly receiving its world visitors at its brand new Terminal 3, this airport is the pride and joy of Mexico.
With a very modern infrastructure, accommodations for disabled travelers, state of the art shopping and plenty of space to roam around, you’ll enjoy your passage through Cancun Airport as much as anyone could ever enjoy an airport visit. Yes, we all hate having to go to the airport, but all things considered, we don’t hate this one.
Nevertheless, the Cancun Airport has its drawbacks. Free Wi-Fi internet connection is only available in some areas, namely some of its restaurants. Those waiting for international travelers to arrive, have to stand in the heat without a miserable chair to sit on. Bottles of water are in the $4 USD range, which is an outrageous price in Mexico. The most ridiculous drawback of the Cancun Airport is the price of the taxis: $50 USD to anywhere in the city or the hotel zone! Despite the airport being just 7 minutes from downtown Cancun, and about 12 minutes from the Cancun Hotel Zone, the price of the taxis remains a constant, and they’ll even treat you like undeserving garbage if you ask for a lower price.
Lucky for us, there is alternative to the taxis ripoff! The ADO buses, which stop at both Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, will take you to the center of town for about $3 USD per person. These buses run at 30 minute intervals, are prompt, clean, spacious and… cheap! Once you arrive at the ADO bus station, grab a taxi to ANYWHERE in the city of Cancun for $25 Mexican Pesos (around $2 USD), or to the Hotel Zone for $100 Mexican Pesos (around $8 USD).
Parking at Cancun Airport is moderately priced, at $24 Mexican Pesos per hour ($2 USD). You can rest assured your vehicle will be there when you return, since without the entrance ticket, they will not deliver any car to anyone. Parking personal is courteous, and they’ll even offer to wash your car for a little over $5 USD.
Terrible! If I had to describe the Submarine tour from AquaWorld in Cancun, I’d use exactly that word: terrible.
We had high hopes for this tour, since it advertises two whole hours of family fun that finish with 30 minutes of a submarine ride. But we were so disappointed! The entire tour was a miserable experience.
The tour starts at the AquaWorld facility on the south end of Cancun’s Hotel Zone. A small boat takes you to the other side of Cancun, on the ocean side, and there you board a tiny submarine that can only fit two people side by side, about 12 rows deep. If you’re claustrophobic, this is not for you. If you get dizzy easily, this is not for you. If you get sea-sick, this is not for you. And if you hate being treated like garbage, this is definitely not for you!
The day we took the sub tour in Cancun, we arrived there early. Our expected day of fun quickly turned into a negative experience after we tried to pose for the “welcome aboard” photo that AquaWorld offers. We positioned ourselves behind the customary wooden steering wheel, and an employee came running to tell us that we couldn’t be there. We were surprised, since all other tourists in front of us had done it. Upon asking why, the employee in question told us that we were trying to steal from the company by shooting our own photos (all our cameras were inside our purses). After explaining that we were there, waiting to be photographed by THEM, we were ignored, and their company photographer simply walked away.
We then boarded the boat that takes you to the submarine. It was a little on the uncomfortable side, and the captain was a little drunk and was going a little too fast for our taste, but we didn’t complain. Two other families did so, but the captain chose to keep his speed, even though there were kids bouncing all over the place. Oh well.
We finally got into the submarine, which is as small and crowded as a general population jail in Los Angeles, and were tossed around by the waves for the 30 longest minutes of our lives, to achieve absolutely nothing! We saw 1 turtle and a few little fish, a lot less than you can see in any Cancun hotel lobby’s man-made aquarium.
What really topped it off for us, was that upon returning to the AquaWorld facilities (dizzy and frustrated), the captain of the boat asked for a tip. I gave the guy 20 mexican pesos, and he was so pissed at my “cheapness”, that he said (and I quote): “I should throw this shit in the water”. We were appaled, and when we complained to a manager, he simply said that this is the way things work in Cancun. Funny thing is, we have stayed in pretty much every hotel in Cancun and done most tours and excursions offered to tourists, and this is the first time we’ve been treated with such disrespect and blatant rudeness.
So, next time you’re looking for things to do in Cancun, steer clear of any AquaWorld tours or excursions.
For the low quality of the tour, the terrible rudeness of its employees, and general lack of disrespect (and fun), we rate the AquaWorld’s Submarine tour in Cancun a flat ZERO!
Yum! Just the thought of having good Argentinian food in Cancun is enough to keep me from writing this long due review. Sorry, folks, but every time I start thinking of writing a review of the Puerto Madero restaurant in Cancun, I end up leaving the house and going to eat there. Yes, it’s that good!
Puerto Madero is located in Cancun’s hotel zone, in a peaceful area away from the hustle and bustle of the older hotels and shopping plazas. Overlooking the Kukulkan Lagoon, this restaurant offers indoor air conditioned and outdoor terrace dining. Open for lunch and dinner, if you plan on going on a weekend evening, you better make reservations, because despite its huge dining rooms, it gets packed with both locals and tourists alike.
The Puerto Madero restaurant is not cheap, yet it is not overpriced. You get what you pay for, and although their dishes are highly priced, you get a ton of food for your money. When they offer you a 12 ounce steak, you can count on it having those 12 ounces and then some. Side dishes are generously spooned and beautifully presented (I recommend the potato souffle, which comes in an edible potato basket). The quality of the meats is quite good and they’re cooked in true Argentinian fashion, over an open fire or in a brick oven. As you enter the restaurant, look to your right, where the open kitchen is, so you can see first hand how good food is cooked.
If you’re not into meats, they also have remarkably good pastas, pizzas and salads, as well as a great variety of typical appetizers such as empanadas and Argentinian chorizo.
Deserts are also plentiful and they have a pretty good variety, so no matter what you’re on the mood for, you’ll find it there. If you like custard-style deserts, ask for the Creme Brulee, a delicious caramel-covered confection that will keep you going back for more.
The only drawback of Cancun’s Puerto Madero restaurant is that the main courses come alone, without a shred of a side dish. You must purchase these separately at about $9 a pop. Granted, an order of French fries is enough to feed two people, but who wants to pay for their side dishes?
The ambiance is perfect, the decoration makes you feel like you are in the original area of Puerto Madero in Argentina, and the service couldn’t be any better. Your waiter will ask “how high” every time you ask him to jump for you, and he’ll go the extra mile so you can enjoy the most perfect meal.
In general, the Puerto Madero restaurant is one of the best eateries in Cancun, and we assure you will love eating there, and will want to come back on your next trip to Cancun. For its ambiance, superb food and great service, we give it an enthusiastic 5 star rating (despite the fact that we hate to pay for side dishes!)
The Iberostar Cancun is a nice classy hotel that combines European quality with Mexican hospitality. The architecture is modern without being minimalist; spaces are ample and quite airy, and the rooms are
smartly built and nicely furnished. Although not extremely spacious, all of the ocean view rooms are very breezy and comfortable.
An impressive system of pools and Jacuzzis gives the guest plenty of real estate to enjoy the wonderful Cancun weather, and the beach offers its fine white sand and crystal clear waters for countless aquatic activities in addition to swimming.
There are several restaurants on the premises, among them a generous buffet (El Laguito), which is one of the best we’ve enjoyed in Cancun. We highly recommend having breakfast there as its variety and quality are second to none.
Iberostar is a brand new name in Cancun, as this hotel used to be the Cancun Hilton and was acquired by the Iberostar brand during 2011. Upon its acquisition, the hotel was refurbished, even though it didn’t really need it, since as the Hilton it was a magnificent and quite new hotel.
The staff is helpful but we did notice that are times they seemed quite overwhelmed. Despite this, they smiled continuously and tried to accommodate our requests.The prices are reasonable, you get plenty of food at the restaurants and the drinks were quite loaded. The common areas are impeccably clean, much more so than most other resorts in Cancun.
For its comfort, good prices, quality of food and beauty of its beach and pools, we give the Cancun Iberostar a 4.5 star rating.
The Tulum Mayan Ruins are one of the most visited touristic attractions in the Cancun and Riviera Maya areas of Mexico. There’s plenty of reasons for this: they’re relatively close to most hotels (20 minutes from your Riviera Maya hotel or 55 minutes from your Cancun hotel); they’re beautiful, majestic and extremely well preserved; the price is very accessible ($5 per person); the food and drinks sold in the area are moderately priced and on the premises there are plenty of Mayan-made arts and crafts that you can buy for next to nothing, and that will look great on your wall back home.
The Mayan city of Tulum was perched on a privileged cove in the Riviera Maya’s coastline, and those Mayan guys really knew what they were doing, because it has a breathtakingly beautiful small beach and marine turtle nesting grounds that are second to none in the whole world. The Caribbean Sea waters are even more turquoise there, and the sand is finer and whiter than anywhere else in the Riviera Maya. From time to time you can see dolphins surfing the waves just yards from the beach, and seagulls and pelicans fly over the swimmers. Another beach, much bigger and grandiose awaits the visitor just 10 minutes walk away, with a huge stretch of sand, but I guarantee you’ll always remember the small beach off the Mayan Ruins of Tulum.
One of the most important Mayan cities in the whole Pre-Hispanic world, and quite a significant trading post, Tulum will give you a good insight into the culture that inhabited this area of Mexico, and will also make for a wonderful day of sun, sand and knowledge. Be aware, though, that the best time to visit the ruins is early in the day, or past 4PM even in winter time, since the sun can be pretty intense, and shade trees are scarce. Spend the hottest hours of the day at the beach (it is partially shaded by a massive wall of rock), touring the small town of Tulum (adjacent to the ruins) and enjoying the great seafood. Lobster, shrimp and fish are the freshest and tastiest in the region.
For its cultural baggage, magnificent pre-hispanic buildings and beautiful secluded beach, we give the Tulum Mayan Ruins a 5 star rating.