By: Pamela Jacobs
It was midway through my first night at Paradisus Cancun—while enjoying one of the best meals of my life—that I realized this place was something special. At most all-inclusive resorts, a good meal comes with a follow-up statement: “the food is good…for an all-inclusive.” Here, while dining at Tempo, the resort’s restaurant by Chef Martin Berasategui—who holds a combined seven Michelin stars—I realized everything I knew about resorts of this kind would have to be rethought.
Paradisus has three resorts in Mexico: the aforementioned resort in Cancun, and two side-by-side properties in Playa del Carmen (one for families, one adults-only). All three are all-inclusive, and all three are like no other I’ve been to before. Of course for me, the realization began with that sublime meal at Tempo, but the recognition of being somewhere special continued throughout my trip, and my expectations were constantly exceeded. I stayed at the properties in Cancun and Playa del Carmen; I can’t possibly pick which one was my favorite, but I can definitely say all were exceptional.
This is not the Cancun you remember from your Spring Break days; this is where you go to be pampered, indulged, and spoiled in all the right ways. From the turquoise waters of the white-sand beach to the four lagoon-style pools and nine restaurants, the atmosphere is pure paradise. Within the sprawling pyramid structures that make up the property, it’s difficult to distinguish the indoors from the outdoors. Lush greenery and hanging vines, along with flowing koi ponds and abundant palm trees, bring the Mexican tropics inside, creating an intimate oasis, despite the resort’s size.
And while Tempo by Martin Berasategui is in a league of its own—it is rated the number four restaurant in all of Mexico—all nine restaurants and five bars surprise and delight the most discerning diners (read: New Yorkers). I couldn’t resist a third trip to the lunch buffet at Naos, and the gazpacho and vegetable quesadillas at La Palapa were both the best versions of those dishes I’ve ever had (as was the peach daiquiri!). There’s also fresh sushi at Bana (served on a Zen terrace), upscale, authentic Mexican food at Mole, Latin-inspired cuisine at Fuego, and an oceanfront Italian-Argentine experience at Market Grill—to name a few. Avenue Bar offers cocktails, small bites, and sea views in a chic, intimate setting, while Red Lounge provides entertainment every day and night, all in a sexy atmosphere rivaling the hottest NYC lounges.
But back to Tempo—an experience I won’t soon forget. The nine-course tasting menu with wine pairing began with Prosecco and two amuses-bouche and continued with extraordinary dishes such as Truffled Egg Yolk with Basque Carpaccio and Liquid Herbs Salad; Black Garlic Beet Ceviche, Marinated Salmon in Nori and Horseradish Cream; and Grilled Butterfish over Truffled Spinach, Crab Gelatin, and Foamed Champagne. The Master Sommelier paired each course with excellent wines, and every dish came with its own homemade bread and butter pairing. Tempo is not included in the stay at Paradisus Cancun (and is open to non-guests), but is an absolute must.
Another must is the Yhi Spa, where relaxation and bliss are inevitable. There are two types of treatment rooms—some of them free-standing Balinese massage cabins within the Oriental Garden—and the entire spa experience serves as a vacation within your vacation. They recommend arriving at the spa up to an hour before your treatment to take full advantage of the wellness experience, from the sauna and steam room through to the experience showers, stone massage foot path, and water ritual spa pool. This, followed by my 80-minute Yhi Mandala Experience (a full-body hot stone massage), erased months of stress and proved to me why the spa is named after the goddess of light and creation; I felt renewed in every sense. (Completely unique to Paradisus Cancun, there’s also a charming Yhi Spa for Kids, where little ones can get mani-pedis, facial treatments, and haircuts).
This sense of lavish indulgence permeates the entire property, and while this is true for everyone staying here, it’s especially the case for Royal Service and Family Concierge guests. With an added level of exclusivity, Royal Service at Paradisus Cancun is most definitely suited for royalty. Within a separate adults-only environment, Royal Service at the resort begins with a glass of champagne upon private check-in, and extends throughout every aspect of your stay. Should you need anything at all—from your clothing unpacked and ironed to your complimentary minibar replenished at your whim—your personal butler will take care of it. Privacy is the key here, as well—there’s the private Royal Service lounge with all-day cocktails and snacks, access to private Bali beds on the beach, the private pool with a bar, and the Royal-Service-only beachfront La Palapa restaurant—where it’s never crowded, and always VIP.
Royal Service Suites also bring an extra bit of luxury to your stay. While all guest rooms throughout the property are spacious and feature a private balcony and a minibar that’s replenished daily, Royal Service Signature Suites—ranging from junior suites all the way up to the 3,431-square-foot Presidential Suite—boast added space, amenities, concierge services (including pool and concierge services), and even personalized pillow menus.
Similarly, Family Concierge offers a range of added luxuries for guests traveling with kids. From the private check-in in a lounge stocked with premium cocktails for parents and gourmet sweets and treats for children, to the Paradisus Kids Beach Kit that’s presented upon arrival, it’s clear Family Concierge guests of all ages are about to be spoiled. The one-bedroom suites are loaded with special touches for kids—including Johnson & Johnson bath amenities, child-size robes and slippers, and nightly turndown service with milk and cookies—and like Royal Service guests, those who choose Family Concierge have access to their own butler. For all Paradisus Cancun guests, there’s tennis, nine holes of golf, a Baby Club and Kids Zone, multiple shops, and service by staff members who bend over backwards to ensure your vacation is superb in every way—which is just another example of how Paradisus resorts are truly one of a kind.
Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla & La Esmeralda
To say that there’s something for everyone at the two all-inclusive Paradisus resorts in Playa del Carmen is almost an understatement; there is indeed something for everyone, but there are also unexpected luxuries you never even knew you wanted. Here, too, I was absolutely blown away by another Martin Berasategui tasting menu and spent time indulging in the quiet serenity of the private Royal Service swimming pool. But I also found myself enjoying a seemingly bottomless champagne tasting at the Moet & Chandon Corner, soaking in an oversized Jacuzzi on my balcony, taking part in an impromptu poolside tango lesson, and marveling at the art-inspired contemporary design details.
Paradisus La Perla is adults-only and La Esmeralda is for families; they’re separate resorts linked by a shared common area that includes several restaurants—so while you never have to venture to the other side if you don’t want to, it’s all within your reach and you’re welcome to enjoy it. After all, with a combined 14 restaurants and 16 bars, there’s a good chance you’ll want to do some exploring. Like Tempo at Paradisus Cancun, multiple-award-winning Passion by Martin Berasategui is exceptional, and proved to be one of the best meals I’ve ever experienced. But there are also never-ending options ranging from overflowing buffets to Mediterranean food at Vento, Latin-fusion at Fuego, wood-fired pizzas at the Market, and multiple spots for outdoor food, frozen drinks, and sunshine. There are also restaurants and bars specific to each resort—families will find child-friendly restaurants with stroller-parking outside the door, while adults can enjoy several kid-free options.
As the sun sets over the Caribbean, various venues come alive, including the sake bar at Soji, the tequila-lover’s Blue Agave, and Gabi Club Bar, a glowing outdoor nightclub on the beach that’s reminiscent of the celeb-filled watering holes of Miami and Ibiza. After an evening partaking in the Paradisus nightlife, once again, the Yhi Spa comes to the rescue. This 19,000+-square-foot oasis offers a full range of services, from blissful massages to anti-cellulite treatments and a full beauty salon and fitness center (including yoga, Pilates, and spinning classes), as well as a complete thermal circuit with wet and dry saunas, hydro massages, and plunge pools. It’s simply impossible not to relax here.
Just like at Paradisus Cancun, Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla offers the ultimate VIP experience in the form of Royal Service, an adults-only boutique style resort-within-a-resort with numerous added benefits, including butler service to meet your every desire, private access to Royal Service beach and pool areas (with beach and pool concierges; want your sunglasses cleaned for you? No problem), exclusive Royal Service restaurants, private check-in, and access to the Royal Service VIP lounge with breakfast, snacks, evening hors d’oeuvres, and cocktails.
Here, too, the Royal Service suites provide even more space and pampering. While the resort itself offers more swim-up suites than any other in Mexico, a Royal Service Luxury Junior Swim Up Suite offers up private access to the pool via your large balcony (complete with whirlpool) and a host of other amenities. In fact, all Royal Service Suites come with countless special touches—imagine coming back to your suite after a day at the beach and finding your whirlpool tub filled with bubbles and surrounded by rose petals. Back at Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda, kids are welcomed, indulged, and pampered as well. Treasure hunts on the beach, pirate parties, climbing walls, game rooms, and inflatable pool toys keep them occupied and happy—while daycare services can give mom and dad the afternoon or evening off.
Family Concierge is available here as well, and brings with it all of the luxuries as at other Paradisus resorts, including private check-in, butler service, and personalized concierge services to meet the needs of all family members. It’s safe to say your kids will never want to go home—and chances are, neither will you. It seems impossible for one place to be so perfect for every type of traveler—families of young children, couples seeking romance, even solo solitude-seekers—yet combined, Paradisus La Perla and La Esmeralda somehow manage to deliver on every level, and promise the best of a luxurious tropical getaway without compromise.
Love, Marriage, and Life Enrichment
There are a few aspects of the Paradisus experience that are unique to the brand, and are available at all properties. Romance by Paradisus is one of them. Their Romance Team delivers the ultimate in love-filled getaways, from the “I will” to the “I do” and everything in between. There are a range of destination wedding, honeymoon, and anniversary packages available, with unique offerings ranging from private “Under the Stars” dinners to beachside ceremonies and poolside celebrations.
For brides, the Yhi Spa Bridal Suite is a little piece of heaven: a glamorous, feminine retreat where champagne and cheese platters are accompanied by makeup applications, manicures, pedicures, massages, and body masks. It’s reason enough to take the plunge.
And whether love is in the air or not, there’s another Paradisus treat that’s unique and extra special: Life Enriching Experiences. Offered throughout the resorts, these are one-of-a-kind programs and activities offered every day to guests that are designed to maximize their time away and enhance their stay on many levels. They include wine and tequila tastings, dance classes (pole dancing, anyone?), eco-walks on the beach, sushi-making classes, horseback riding, and much more.
When you’ve traveled a lot and enjoyed many experiences, it’s nice to be surprised, and exciting to have your expectations exceeded. Paradisus surprised me at every turn, and delighted in every way. My only question now is, is it too soon to return?
For more information: paradisus.com
All photos courtesy of Paradisus