The Cancun Palace Hotel is a beautiful, centrally located all inclusive resort in the hotel zone of Cancun. It boasts a beautiful clean beach, white unspoiled sand, and a modern architecture that will raise your hopes. But the Cancun Palace is just another hotel in Cancun, no better no worse than your run of the mill all-inclusive. Let me elaborate:
The Cancun Palace is a relatively new hotel, clean, well taken care of, with several pools and bars. Its beach is sandy and sparkling clean (not all beaches in Cancun are made alike), its staff is courteous and even friendly at times, and in general you’ll find that you’ve made a good purchase.
Nevertheless, the food and drinks, which are included in your package, are rather uninteresting and even bad. Presentation of quite good but flavor and quality leave a lot to be desired. For lack of other way to put it, let’s say that the best food at the Cancun Palace lacks punch and the rest is below standards.
The rooms are nicely decorated and are very clean. The maids do a great job, and ours even left little chocolate bars on our pillows. The beds are quite comfortable but unless you are on one of the top floors, you’ll have a hard time sleeping because all the noise from the pool area will keep you awake until the wee hours.
This Cancun hotel sells itself as a family oriented place, and even devotes an entire pool to kids. But there is no kids club, and no staff assigned to watch the kids. For those parents who want to take a nap or have a drink while their kids are supervised by a hotel employee, this is not the place to go to. There are no toys or games or game room for children, and the kids pool was not as clean as one would expect.
In general we had a good but not a great time at the Cancun Palace Hotel. For its crappy food and lack of entertainment for children, which should be available at a place that labels itself at “Kids and Entertainment Resort”, we give the Cancun Palace a 3.5 star rating.
Xel-Ha Nature Park is a paradise for water lovers. An enormous natural cove surrounded by lush vegetation, and continuously fed by the fresh waters of an untainted river, there is no other place in Mexico like this wonder.
Xel-Ha is called the aquarium of Mexico for a reason. Upon jumping into its crystal clear waters, one will be surrounded by thousands of the most colorful fish the Caribbean Sea has to offer.
If you love to swim, snorkle, dive, explore underwater caves, interact with dolphins or manatees, or practice snuba, Xel-Ha is the place for you. This park has something for children and adults alike, as well as for the elders. In the mood for an extremely active day? Xel-Ha will leave you panting… How about if you just want to relax? Xel-Ha has lovely paths to go for a stroll while admiring Mother Nature’s diverse work. Completely covered by the shade of enormous trees, these paths are as safe for elder visitors as they are attractive for the younger generations.
Probably because of its diversity, because three generations can have the perfect day in one single location, our family is a big fan of Xel-Ha. Our son loves swinging from a rope and landing in the water of one of Xel-Ha secluded rivers, while my father simply lays down in a hammock and drinks beer enjoying the cool breeze of the Caribbean. Personally I love floating on an innertube down the river or snorkeling and using my new underwater camera.
For an all-inclusive price ranging around $100 a person, Xel-Ha is well worth its price. The food is included, and there’s tons of it in the dozen or so restaurants and cafeterias that can be found in the park. Drinks of all sorts, from sodas to beer, from cocktails to specialty drinks, they’re all included as well. Ask your bartender to make you a lemonade with chia seeds (very refreshing) or try one of Mexico’s well famed tequilas with lime and salt.
All snorkeling equipment is included as well, and the good news is that you keep the snorkle to take home with you. Towels and lockers are also free with your entrance price.
We have been to Xel-Ha on several occasions, and we leave so energized and relaxed every time, that as soon as we leave, we want to go back. Those who love the ocean and enjoy doing aquatic activities, will surely love Xel-Ha as much as we do.
For its unique natural beauty, the diversity of its marine life, and the quality and quantity of its food, we give Xel-Ha a five star rating.
Xcaret… oh, Xcaret! The most popular of Cancun and Riviera Maya parks, Xcaret receives more than 10 million visitors every year. Hopefully most of them will like Xcaret more than we did.
This Nature Park is located in the Riviera Maya area, about 1 hour drive from Cancun. It boasts a magnificent entrance and it allows visitors to interact with nature, enjoy the local flora and learn about Mayan customs that most of us were unaware of. Xcaret is very clean, very open and very well taken care of. But despite its popularity we were not impressed with it.
First off, you pay around $100 USD to get in, and this includes ONLY 1 MEAL! Yes, they give you some coupons so you can get some potato chips or a couple of drinks, but you only get 1 real meal, which is supposed to hold you from 9AM to 9PM! The food is good but unimpressive, and the service is just OK.
In all reality Xcaret is a big park with lots of things to see, but little to do. It’d be worth visiting if the price were $40 or $50, but $100 is way too expensive for what it offers. In our opinion Xcaret deserves 2.5 Stars out of our rating of 5.
The Marriot Hotels have a good reputation and they certainly live by it in Cancun. There are 3 Marriot Hotels in Cancun: the Courtyard by Marriot in the Airport area, and the Marriot Casa Magna and the JW Marriot Cancun, both in the Cancun Hotel Zone.
If you love hotels with Spaniard architecture, great food and a pleasantly quiet atmosphere, in addition to one of the best beaches in the world, the Marriot Hotels in the Cancun Hotel Zone are for you.
The JW Marriot is their flagship in the area, with very roomy suites, spacious and elegantly decorated rooms, one more star and a higher price. Its less expensive counterpart, the Marriot Casa Magna, is as grandiose of a hotel, but the price of the rooms is at least 25% lower, and the amenities are exactly the same! What’s more, both hotels are located side by side in a nice sandy beach in Cancun, and the only difference we found was that the rooms in the Casa Magna are a little smaller, with much smaller balconies. The pools are impressive and extremely clean, and the beach is combed every morning so you’ll be hard pressed to find any trash in it.
Service is excellent in the Cancun Marriot Hotels, and the staff will go out of their way to help you no matter what your needs. Breakfast is excellent, and for lunch and dinner they have plenty of restaurants to choose from, be it for Italian, American, Thai or Mexican food.
As for the Courtyard by Marriot Hotel, it is conveniently located less than 3 minutes from the Cancun Airport, and has a big sparkling clean pool and a relaxing jacuzzi which are mostly empty, so you’ll have the place to yourself. The staff is courteous but not as friendly as in the other Marriots, and the rooms are extremely spacious and comfortable. After day of swimming or shopping, you’ll be thankful for this hotel’s soft beds and its highly pressurized showers.
In our opinion both the Marriot Hotels in Cancun’s Hotel Zone deserve 5 Stars in our rating scale, while the Courtyard by the airport deserves a 4 Star.
Sea Adventure Resort is the newest water park in Cancun, and since its opening it has captivated children and adults alike. With a 3-pool system, a gigantic bucket that dumps tons of water on the unsuspecting visitor and a network of 4 full fledged water slides, this water park is a delight to visit, specially for parents of small kids. The pools are all under 1.5 feet deep, and they’re not made for swimming but for wading, so moms and dads can rest assured that their kids will never be in deep water. The slides are safe with tall side-guards and the landing is cushioned by water.
We visited Sea Adventure Resort four times this summer (we also had our son’s 6th birthday party there) and simply loved its slides, its pools and its cleanliness. In addition to the regular water activities, the park also offers free mini-golf, an area to play soccer and a basketball court. On Sundays they also have a puppet show and dancing contest. All food and drinks are included in the entrance fee (including alcoholic drinks), and although the buffet is nothing fancy, you get plenty to eat. The buffet usually consists of burgers (they’re great, highly recommended!), hot dogs, chicken nuggets, pasta, beef stew, chicken stew, rice, beans, french fries and salad. The food is more varied on weekends than weekdays but there’s also more people on weekends. Although the park is never packed and there’s never a wait to get on the slides, it is indeed a lot more peaceful on weekdays.
Sea Adventure Resort is, as its name indicates, a resort. Visitors to the water park don’t get access to the main hotel amenities, but if you have the time, it may be to your advantage to stay at the hotel as a guest. The reason? Hotel guests pay for 2 adults and get up to 2 children in their room for free. That includes obviously the hotel stay with its beach and pool, plus free access to the park, and all meals and drinks. At check in time, ask for reservations at their Ostras and Oysters restaurant, which serves excellent gourmet seafood a la carte.
The hotel rooms are decorated Mexican-style with big solid wooden furniture, comfortable beds, kitchenette with microwave and refrigerator, and they’re very spacious and clean. All rooms have safes, hair dryers and cable TV, but Internet is NOT included.
In a nutshell, if you have small children and would like to do something special for them while in Cancun, Sea Adventure Resort is the place to go for 1 or 2 days. Any longer than that and you may get bored since the beach is not the best in Cancun and there is not much else to do in the area (the resort is located in the Puerto Juarez area, not in the Cancun Hotel Zone).
The Hacienda Tres Rios Resort in Riviera Maya, is located between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, on one of the area’s most desirable location. Nestled between three rivers, and perched right on the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, this oceanfront hotel is the best of the best, a true gem that awaits the visitor with open arms, delicious food and gorgeous Mexican architecture.
We had the pleasure of staying at the Hacienda Tres Rios for a family gathering and the place is so spectacularly beautiful that we had to extend our stay. There are no words to describe this ecologically-friendly resort and the level of service its staff offers, so let me try to do this point by point:
- The hotel itself: A brand new hotel with extremely spacious rooms, where the smallest is already a suite complete with jacuzzi in the terrace, and some with private pools. Built in the best Mexican hacienda style, its open air construction boasts magnificent arches and towers and its light colors make you feel welcome from the moment you set foot in its beautiful lobby.
- The food: oh, the food! We stayed on the all inclusive plan, and we were surprised by the gourmet food the Hacienda Tres Rios offers. Usually in all inclusive hotels the food is kind of run-of-the-mill, but not in this place. From grilled shrimp to brick oven pizzas, steaks, and Asian food, all the way to the most exquisite Mexican and Italian cuisine, we were never left wanting.
- The drinks: all drinks are made with the real deal. If you ask for a whiskey on the rocks, you get Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, Chivas Regal, etc. No matter what type of drink you may want, they have it, and the barman are not cheap with the liquor.
- The rooms: our bed at the Tres Rios was the most comfortable bed we slept on. To the point we asked what brand it was (for those of you who live in the Cancun area, these mattresses can be found at a company called ProEpta). The shower was delightfully strong with lots of pressure and hot water. The jacuzzi was sparkling clean, and even the toiletries were top of the line, leaving our skin soft and moisturized.
- The staff: everybody was extremely helpful, and not only courteous but really friendly. They were knowledgeable, tried to help at every turn no matter what we asked and their smiles were genuine. They seemed like a great bunch of happy people, and if you’ve ever stayed at a hotel where the employees are stiff and unfriendly, you know how much a good staff is worth.
Sadly our highest rating is 5 stars, but if we were to be fair, we’d give the Hacienda Tres Rios a 6 star rating for being the BEST HOTEL IN THE CANCUN AND RIVIERA MAYA AREA!
La Tranquita restaurant in Cancun was a terrific find, and we’re so glad we happened by it. Featuring great quality skirt steak (arrachera), pasta, salad and pizza, La Tranquita offers a tremendous variety combined with very generous quantity, all at rather reasonable prices.
Located in a trendy and very upscale new plaza off Kabah avenue, this restaurant is conveniently located and easy to get to from both Downtown Cancun and the airport; and it is just 2 miles off the entrance of the hotel zone.
When you first get to La Tranquita, you are pleasantly surprised by its quaint decoration and very warm atmosphere. The staff is very friendly, the manager speaks perfectly flawless English (a good amount of the waiters speak very good English as well), and in general you will feel very welcomed. Get a hold of the menu, and that’s when the real fun starts. There are plenty of options to choose from, but I recommend going for their combo packages. We did and loved every spoonfull of it! Our combo was just $550 pesos (about $45 dollars) and more than enough for 4 hungry adults. It included 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of skirt steak, an oversized bowl of a fancy and delicious salad and a plate of pasta of our choice.
We are picky clients and epicurean eaters and we can say hands down that La Tranquita is a great choice for those who enjoy great food in an out of the ordinary atmosphere. Go to La Tranquita, you’ll love it, guaranteed!
Bovinos Restaurant in Cancun – Bovinos, as its name indicates, is a meat-oriented restaurant. Styled in the rodizio-fashion (Brazilian meat restaurant), Bovinos offers its visitors great quality meats and a well stocked gourmet buffet for the price of $25 USD per person. Their drinks start around $5, and so do their deserts.
The service that the Bovinos employees give their customers is comparable to that of any 5-star restaurant in the United States. There’s nothing these guys won’t do for you!
The food is cooked by knowledgeable chefs, the buffet has pretty much everything anyone could ask for (including sushi!), and in general the experience is very enjoyable.The meat is very good (although not the best in town), and it’s seasoned to perfection.
I’d like to especially mention the beauty of this place. It was custom built in 2009, and it boasts the most comfortable and gorgeous hacienda-style decoration. Whenever you visit Bovinos, bring your camera and take photos of this breathtakingly beautiful restaurant so you brag to your friends about it, once you’re back home!
When you’re in town, and feel like having an endless amount of meats, go to Bovinos! We highly recommend this place.
Rio Churrascaria in Cancun – This top of the line restaurant offers Brazilian-style meats and a delicious gourmet buffet, all included in the price of about $30 USD per person. The meats are some of the best you’ll find in Cancun and they are brought to your table on gigantic skewers, right off the grill. The buffet includes soups (we highly recommend their shrimp and lobster bisque, available on weekends), salads, rices, pastas, cold cuts, cheeses and fruits.
Personally I love Rio Churrascaria and after visiting other similar restaurants in town, I can say that they are the best of their kind. The service is excellent, the food is from out of this world and extremely abundant, and the price, although a little high, guarantees that you definitely get what you’re paying for.
Deserts and drinks are not included in the price, and I’d recommend not ordering their regular coke, since it comes in tiny bottles for the price of $3 a pop. Diet coke and other sodas come in regular sized cans for the same price.
We are happy to give this restaurant an enthusiastic 5 Stars! Keep up the excellent work, Rio!
The Italian Coffee Company is a Mexico-wide coffee shop that serves top of the line coffees and pastries in the country. With at least five branches in Cancun, there’s always a hot fresh coffee waiting for you in this coastal city. Their prices are average.
The main issue we see with these coffee shops is that they are franchises, so although the quality of their coffees and pastries remains constant, the service and cleanliness do not. For instance, the Italian Coffee Company branch located on Plaza Las Americas is extremely clean, while the one on the corner of Kabah and Quintana Roo(in the Soriana parking lot) is extremely dirty. Sadly this last one has a kids’ play area that used to be top of the line and currently is extremely dangerous for children (there are steel rods poking out of the play area at eye level, and holes in their netting).
For the quality of their coffees and pastries, we recommend Italian Coffee Company. For the quality of their service and cleanliness, we do not. We especially recommend keeping your children out of the Italian Coffee Company located on the corner of Kabah and Quintana Roo.
LATEST UPDATE: The Italian Coffee Company coffee shops are now gone from Cancun.