By Eileen Ogintz
PUERTO MORELOS, Mexico — Jeff and Lisa Park have stayed at all varieties of all-inclusive resorts in Mexico for the last ten years and always have opted to try new places until now.
“We have to come back,” said Lisa Park, a teacher from Vancouver whose two young sons were having the time of their lives alternating boogie boarding with the kids club at the Grand Residences Riviera Cancun in the town of Puerto Morelos about a 25 minute ride from Cancun International Airport.
“The quality of the food is so good,” added her husband, Jeff Park, a chef and restaurant owner. “The food is beyond what I expected.”
Rachel Spector, 26, from Chicago is here with her mom Jill for a long weekend getaway. “I’ve never seen a pillow menu before,” said Rachel. “The service is the best, the room is beautiful, and my phone is turned off,” said Jill, a hospital administrator. “This is perfect.”
The two are lounging in the huge infinity pool overlooking the beach where other families are playing in the surf and building sand creatures. “The kids are all about the beach,” said Jessica Bertoldi, adding that her five-year-old twins “will be back and forth to the water 100 times.” Her mother in law, Mary Madigan has happily joined them, glad to get away from the cold in the Midwest and there are other multigenerational groups at this 144-suite resort, all with their own terraces, kitchenettes, some with outdoor Jacuzzis and washer and dryers.
“No dishes, no cooking,” said Bertoldi. “We can really relax.”
As for me, I’m here with my three friends from grade school and after a day of lounging, we’re also smitten—the good food and service, the spacious accommodations with plenty of hang-out space. That the resort is all-inclusive is also a big plus. The only down side is we are eating too much – tamales, enchiladas, made-to-order omelets, tacos with freshly made corn tortillas and all varieties of fillings and hot sauce among the breakfast offerings; ceviche for lunch and a beach BBQ at the pool for dinner complete with lobster, ribs and chicken.
The parents note that the kids not only love the choices, but that there are plenty of kid-friendly options—freshly made mac a cheese, burgers and fries, quesadillas.
“My eight year old loves trying new foods—grilled octopus! And since the kids’ food is free, this is a great place for them to do t
hat,” said Daisy Schudmak, whose family is back from Baton Rouge, LA for their third visit.
“The kids get a kick out of meeting other kids from other places at the kids’ club,” she added. “And we are all practicing our Spanish.”
It’s rare in my experience to find a resort that suits all kinds of families and groups but Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, affiliated with Leading Hotels of the World, seems to suit everyone from young couples to older groups of friends, young families and those with grown kids as well as girlfriends like ours.
There is no drama reserving beach chairs as you can do it in advance—choosing exactly where you want to park yourselves for the day. The beach butlers come around offering cold towels, Evian spray, all varieties of drinks, fruit kabobs and you can order lunch too.
If you can tear yourselves and your kids away from the pool and the beach, there is the chance to visit ancient Mayan ruins in Tulum, snorkel in the world’s longest underground rivers or the world’s second largest barrier reef, not to mention shopping in the fishing town of Puerto Morelos, a short bike or taxi ride away.
Like any all inclusive resorts, there are activities all day—from the well-equipped fitness center and spa to yoga on the beach, tennis clinics, salsa dance lessons, crafts, cooking demonstrations, mixology lessons and bingo, among them. Check out snorkeling gear, kayaks, beach volleyballs.
The kids club offers everything from pool games and sandcastle building competitions to Pinata making and Mayan games; there are separate teen activities.
But most of the families I meet are happy to hang on the beach or in the pool together.
“I don’t feel nervous at all coming to Mexico,” said Daisy Schudmak, as she videos her son catching waves on his boogie board. “There’s no danger here. And Puerto Morales is a small town and we like supporting business in a small town.”
Another plus: “The kids seeing how alike they are to kids they meet from other places.”