Hollie-Rae Merrick tests three very different all-inclusive properties in Cancun
Love it or loathe it, Cancun is the undisputed queen of all-inclusives.
Whether visitors want to party ’til dawn in downtown Cancun, splash around with their little ones in its family-friendly waterparks or do nothing but sip cocktails in the sun, this purpose-built resort on Mexico’s Caribbean coast has options to suit all tastes.
What you don’t want to do, though, is send party animals to disturb the zen-like calm of a peaceful retreat, or throw screaming kids in with child-phobic couples.
To help you identify the right all-inclusive resort for each client, we headed to Mexico to get the lowdown.
Best For Romance
Tried & Tested: Secrets Playa Mujeres
Secrets properties are known for providing the perfect setting for loved-up couples and honeymooners, and judging by the number of newlyweds I spotted around this resort just a few weeks after its opening, the brand’s newest Mexican property is no different.
Secrets Playa Mujeres opened in November in the lush green surroundings of the private Playa Mujeres area, half-an-hour north of bustling Cancun in a beautifully serene spot.
The adult-only property has all the features you would expect from Secrets – it is modern, luxurious and aesthetically pleasing.
Split into two areas linked by a 24-hour golf-buggy service, one side houses the reception, spa, gym and a handful of restaurants, and the other all the accommodation, swimming pools and more bars and restaurants.
Each of the 424 suites has a terrace, balcony or swim-out pool. The Secrets Unlimited Luxury package offers endless drinks, complimentary Wi-Fi, and 24-hour room service.
I was also given access to the Preferred Club, a private area available at all 13 Secrets resorts in the Caribbean for guests in higher room categories. The main benefits include a private lounge, complimentary computer access and priority check-in.
I found it difficult to drag myself away from the pool area – particularly one that was so warm it was like lying in a bath – although it was worth it to try yoga and pilates with a view of the sparkling Caribbean Sea.
I also made time to sample the fare at the resort’s nine restaurants and seven bars (purely in the name of research, you understand). My favourites were Italian Portofino and the healthy light-lunch venue Barefoot Grill, plus the piano bar which bizarrely has a grand piano that plays itself.
Book it: Funway Holidays offers seven nights at Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort from £1,975. The price includes British Airways flights from Gatwick.
Best For Kids
Tried & Tested: Azul Beach Hotel by Karisma
Azul Beach is a far cry from the stereotypes of an all-inclusive hotel. Halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, it feels more like a boutique retreat than an all-inclusive resort.
That much was clear as soon as I walked into the open-air lobby, was handed a welcome cocktail and asked to select which aromatic oil I wanted in my room, which fragrance I wanted my linen to smell of and which type of pillow I would like to rest my head on at night. This personalised approach definitely scored points with me.
The property, with 148 newly renovated rooms, is intimate by Cancun standards and follows Karisma’s “gourmet inclusive” concept, focusing on high-quality à la carte restaurants rather than traditional buffets.
The food was among the best I have tried at any all-inclusive property, with healthy options and enough choice to keep me busy, although the dishes at Blue International were so scrummy, I would happily have dined there every day.
My other favourites were Italian venue Roma and the Chill beach bar. Then there was a romantic dinner on the beach, an all-lobster menu and 24-hour room service.
In keeping with the resort’s healthy ethos, La Mancha Energy Bar serves fruit smoothies and juices, plus baby food for little ones. For a slightly less healthy way to spend the evenings, the place to be is Agavero, a tequila lounge that stocks more than 30 varieties of the Mexican spirit.
This resort is plenty romantic, but also caters well for families with young children and babies. The kids’ club offers everything from yoga to arts and crafts, while the main swimming pool has incredibly cute tiny sunloungers for youngsters.
There are three room types suitable for up to two adults and three children: a family suite, family swim-up suite and Fisher-Price family suite, which comes with toys and branded Fisher-Price dressing gowns for children.
Book it: First Choice offers seven nights at Azul Beach Hotel from £1,555. The price includes flights from Gatwick and transfers.
Best For Fun
Tried & Tested: Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort
At first glance, Moon Palace might seem like an old-school all-inclusive but, aside from its multi-coloured wristbands, it’s as modern as they come.
This resort, which was recently voted Best All-inclusive Resort in Travel Weekly’s Hot Hotels survey, sprawls across 50 hectares and boasts the largest swimming pool in Cancun. It’s so big, there is a bus to get from one area to another.
But despite its 2,457 rooms and suites (and eight suite categories), the resort never feels crammed, as there are countless areas guests can go to escape the chaos.
The property is divided into three sections, each with its own lobby and facilities. There is child-friendly Sunrise, featuring teen clubs and surf simulator FlowRider; fun-central Nizuc; and chilled-out Grand, the newest and most relaxing part of the resort, home to two swimming pools and restaurants as well as my rather lovely presidential suite.
The action was just a stroll away at Nizuc, a hive of activity for families. Here you’ll find excitable youngsters hurtling down brightly coloured water slides, crowds gathering to play games by the pool or parents and children taking part in a dance-off.
It is also where you can swim with dolphins, albeit at extra cost (from $149 for adults and $109 for under-12s).
With 15 buffet and à la carte restaurants, the dining choice is impressive. So whether guests want all-you-can-eat meat at Brazilian Arrecifes or Asian fusion at Momo (my favourite), there is something to suit all tastebuds. On top of that, a handful of the bars offer games and karaoke long into the night.
The resort is perfect for families, but it’s also a firm favourite among wedding parties and honeymooners, with adult-only areas for couples looking to escape and adult-only concierge-level rooms.
If customers are looking for peace and quiet, this probably isn’t for them, but if a fun-filled Mexican break is on the cards, then Moon Palace fits the bill perfectly.
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