I thought it would be appropriate to kick off the story of our trip to the Mayan Riviera, Mexico with photos of where we stayed. I did a lot of research before deciding on which resort to book, and chose the Occidental Grand Xcaret resort near Playa Del Carmen. The reviews for this resort (I found them on TripAdvisor) said it was very family friendly, clean, and close to a wide range of tour locations. When staying with kids, it's very important to be sure your resort is geared toward families as may places are not, and some are adults only. The only reservations I had with this particular resort was that it seemed very large, and much of it was away from the beach. Although I didn't have an ocean view from our room, I was blown away by the lush beauty of this place. We were surrounded by nature at all times, yet the grounds were immaculately clean and well kept. The food was good and plentiful, especially at the buffets and the Mexican Cuisine restaurant. Wildlife was everywhere. It was close to almost all our excursions. In all, it was a truly beautiful place to spend the week. We were very happy with our choice to stay there. Here are some photos we took of the resort itself (part 1 of 2 posts).
The Occidental Grand Xcaret (rated 4 + star) is large, consisting of a main building with a lobby, bar and dock, a large all day buffet, a courtyard adjacent to the permanent stage and room accommodations. We stayed in this area, but there are many other buildings by the pools and one with an ocean view. The main building also houses many stores, a disco, a sports bar, 3 restaurants and a gym. Just the main building itself is huge, entirely open air, and features beautiful vines and canals running through it. You can see the employees cleaning and cutting algae out of the bottom of the pond and rivers daily. They do a good job because it was extremely clean and beautiful.
Wildlife is all around you here despite the obvious luxuries a resort can offer. Vibrant macaws sat in the lobby and along the pathways. We saw many beautiful jay birds and sea birds. There were large iguanas casually sunning themselves on rocks and cobble stones, a tiny gecko hung out on our balcony lamp one night, and a lemur the size of a large cat climbed the branches above our hammock while we enjoyed the moonlight. We heard the calls of what sounded like a baboon, some sort of monkey that we never had the opportunity to spot but was definitely near. I found those a bit scary, but fascinating. At the ocean, pelicans swooped for fish by the shoreline. The picture I shared yesterday was taken near sunset by the saltwater pool. To my interest and dismay, Todd discovered an incredibly exotic looking spider on it's giant web near the gym one day. Let's say, he took the picture and I never went down that pathway again. It's a beautiful photo though, isn't it? This place was anything but sterile. It was alive, and a real adventure in itself. We all loved it.
The evenings brought a new, magical feel to the resort. Everything was lit from above by lamps and twinkle lights, and from below through the water's reflection. At around 7 pm each night, a group of Mayan warriors steered their hand carved canoe through the canal to the beat of a drum. Conch shell calls and ancient cries rang out through the night. It was a quieting experience. I truly wish I had captured it on camera, but I won't soon forget it, or the look on Luke's face as he watched the boat paddle by.
Things I didn't get a photo of, but have to be mentioned:
- The stage area is adjacent to a cobble stone courtyard full of trees and bistro tables and chairs. During the day, it's a laid back area to relax in the shade. At night, vendors and craftspeople set up tables around the perimeter and sell their wares as music and entertainment happen on the stage. This spot really came alive at night and was so colorful.
- One evening there was a mechanical bull set up. I wish we would have seen it in time for Luke to give it a try. Every night before 9ish there was a kids disco but we managed to miss it every day. There's never enough time to see it all.
- The pools were huge and lined with fantastic bars. Luke found lots of kids to play with from different countries I remember being a kid on vacation, being so impressed that I had made a friend from somewhere else in the world. I could tell Luke felt the same way. He was especially interested in their accents.
This one is a two-parter friends. The next post, we'll visit the beach. We spent some quality time there too. The water in this part of Mexico is unbelievably clear and full of life.