Let me start off this blog by saying how incredibly grateful I am to have been able to earn this trip through my company! I love my side business, the income, serving clients, and the connections that I get to have through it and to get a paid trip was icing on the cake. Dream & goal come true!
NOW, I have to share with you all about this amazing place my husband and I got to escape to for five days because it was fabulous and I would definitely return!
We flew into Cancun on Friday around midday. This was not the first time I have flown international but it’s definitely not a regular experience for me.
A few tips for the airport:
1) Fill out your customs form online in advance. You can do this online and it really makes it smoother by not having to manually fill it out when you land.
2) Pre-book your transport to the resort, find out their name and uniform and where they are located at the airport so you ensure that you find the right one - they are like hawks trying to recruit you for a ride! We used Amstar for the trip (recommended by my company) and they were fantastic to work with.
We booked a private transfer because it was not much additional and so worth the time saved in my opinion.
3) Don‘t fall for the airport margaritas! If you have time to kill it is what it is, but we paid $40 for two medium size margaritas to-go and felt like we fell for their trap. 20 minutes later we were at the resort with all included drinks.
The resort that we stayed at is Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach, an all-inclusive resort located in Cancun. Below I will break down each aspect of the resort and our experience that you may find helpful for planning your own getaway!
The rooms were all very spacious! The hotel is medium size, but none of the rooms felt too far away. We were very lucky to have a room on the 4th floor that was pretty central to everywhere we wanted to be. I like being able to run back to the room quickly if needed. When you enter the room, there is a large bathroom area with plenty of room and counter space for getting ready and putting all your items out for use. Then you walk into the bed area. Our room had two queen beds (they have King available as well) which I usually prefer so that I have a whole bed to lay my clothes and bags out on for easy swapping. The beds and pillows were very comfortable for my husband and I. Past the bed area is a step-down to a living room space with a desk, coffee table and large couch. We didn't even use this area but would be a great space to relax or get room service to sit down. And then, the best part was the walk-out patio overlooking the ocean! I stopped by several friends' rooms and there is not a bad view at this hotel!
Breakfast was an extensive buffet with a lot of variety. You can eat inside the restaurant or out on a poolside patio (my preference!) and they had a lot to choose from. Some items that we saw offered included: eggs & omelets cooked to order, a bar of fresh fruit, deli meats and cheeses, Mexican specialties, tamales, potatoes, sausage and a large assortment of pastries and breads. Coffee was the one thing the resort was lacking. They had a coffee shop inside but it was not MY typical preference.
For lunch, you can eat at the same buffet restaurant as breakfast but I cannot review it because we never did. I loved the outdoor taco bar that was available though! You could take them to the pool or beach and they will not disappoint.
From our dinner experiences and those of friends I can say that all the dinner options are incredible! Isla Contoy was my favorite with a great atmosphere. The Mexican restaurant - La Joya - had rave reviews and a lively mariachi band! The one restaurant not included for guests is the Le Basilic and we did have one couple we know who ate there, and told us it was their least favorite restaurant of the resort - so maybe save your money and skip that one. Plus, it is the only restaurant with a strict dress code. The others you could wear jeans, shorts, sandals, hats and shirts without collars.
Room service is available 24 hrs and is complimentary. We only ordered late one night but they had a pretty decent selection to choose from and I know many people loved the breakfast delivery.
Note: There is a window of time around 3pm (not exactly sure) that you cannot get food from any restaurants or outdoor bars. I'm not certain why, but I do know that after mid-day margaritas it is very inconvenient when you are looking for a snack or two. The only option for this short window is to retreat to your room for room service. Just plan ahead and know the time when the taco bar closes so you can be sure to have some ready for your afternoon hunger.
There were three pools at the hotel that were all basically connected but separate. One was on and off used for activities like aerobics and water polo, another had a volleyball net set up for casual play, and the other was more of a hang out pool (from reviews I read this one was more frequented by kids and families but I did not notice that, nor did I notice many families during our trip).
All the pools have a swim up bar. I had picked us up some Bubba brand water bottles with straws so they could fill our drinks up in those. It saves you trips to the bar or waiting for your server, and they stay icy much longer! I got them for about $13 each instead of taking a nicer yeti from home JUST in case it got left behind or taken out to sea.
Lounge chairs are first come first serve, but I never saw an issue being able to get one before 10am. They also have cabanas (they call them day beds) that you can reserve in advance through the pool manager. It is a queen size bed with a canopy and pillows, and you can ask for lounge chairs as well so you can get some time in the sun if you’d like. There are very few of these beds so definitely reserve them in advance!
You can also reserve a day bed on the beach front and those include two 15 minute foot massages! Pool beds were $50 a day and beach ones were $100. We used a beach day bed and it was so worth it to get the reserved space, some shade, ae comfy bed to relax on. Several friends on our trip rented the beds right next to us as well, so we had a whole area for our friends to gather which was fun.
The beach was beautiful!
The beach itself was rather narrow, with enough room for a few rows of chairs and then some space for walking, but it was just RIGHT there which was nice. There was an area marked for swimming where it was more shallow. The sand was really nice and not all covered in sea shells or rocks. Some of my friends brought a blow up raft, which I thought was silly but the beach staff blew it up for them and it really was convenient to have! They grabbed them from the dollar store or Walmart and then left them at the resort instead of trying to take them home.
The resort also had an area of the beach just a short walk down from the lounge space where you could take out snorkel gear and paddle boards at no cost. I wanted to try to stand up paddle board, but watching others on the waves getting rocked right off made me change my mind.
You can also rent jet skis through the resort at this area and we did do that. HIGHLY recommend! If I recall correctly, it was $60 for a half hour rental. Up to two people can go on a jet ski- which we did because I prefer to ride. Thirty minutes was plenty of time in our opinion. Riding through the beautiful ocean was an adrenaline rush and one of my favorite parts of the trip!
We intended to only do one excursion while we were there; however we ended up doing one and a half!
On Saturday afternoon a shuttle picked us up for our scheduled excursion to XPlor Fuego. Highly recommend! This was an action-packed afternoon and evening in the Tulum jungle! Once we got our things in lockers and ready to go (side note, don’t fall for the bug spray sales pitch - you don’t need it) we started with the zip line course while the sun was still up. Then, we did the hammock ziplines into the cenote pools. After that, we stopped at a water bar to catch our breath before we headed underground.
Walking down into the underground cave was a long trek, but when we reached our destination we got life jackets and jumped into the chilly water. They have a few lights in the cave and when you go to Fuego (at night) they turn red so it is a very every but neat look and feel. We swam for about 30-45 minutes zig zagging though the underground cave river! It was probably my favorite part of the excursion. When we were done with that, we went over to another part of the river and got to hand paddle a raft through another section.
Whew… time for dinner! They have a buffet at the park and it is GOOD. Much better than I ever expect from any buffet anywhere. After dinner it was time to drive an ATV through the jungle in the dark. They had tiki torches and headlights to lead the way and it was about a four mile drive that was a lot of fun. We still had some time before we had to meet the bus so us and the couple we went with decided to go to the zip lines again, this time in the dark! The zip lines require a lot of climbing stairs… but it was worth the extra trek to do it again because it was so surreal to be zipping around up there in the dark.
1) wear your swimwear and water/sand shoes. You will want to do everything in just that attire, I promise. Some shorts or a t-shirt may be comfortable for some, but you will be wet almost the entire time.
2) You don’t need to bring a phone, but you definitely want a trustworthy waterproof phone case with a cord if you do. There were a few places we wished we had one, but opted to use the photo packages at XPlor. They have self-starting photo ops all over the park for your convenience. I’m glad we did that so we had less to worry about taking our own items out or taking more photos than we needed to. Just focused on making the memories!
On Sunday a group of our friends who were also on the trip were going to take a ferry to Isla Mujeres for the afternoon. We got back from XPlor Fuego around 1:30am, so we slept in then joined them for the noon ferry. It was $30 for a round trip ticket and took about 40 minutes each way to get to the island. On the island, it is a cute little Mexico town and you can walk, shop, grab a bit to eat or some beach side margaritas. A popular option is to rent golf carts and cruise around for the ocean view. We spent a few hours grabbing lunch, drinks and riding around before heading back. I had a blast because of the company we were with - but I really could have skipped this mini excursion for what it was. lunch, drinks, the beach & view were all back at the resort for free. If you do go, take cash because the island isn’t as card friendly as in Cancun.
At the time we went, a negative covid-test was required for entry back into the US. The resort scheduled the test time for us and it was included in our stay and located on property. Tests are scheduled for approximately 24 hours before your return flight and you get the results within about 12 hours. The way they had them scheduled was very quick and easy to get it done and be on with out day. The only downside for us was the 7am test time so we did not get to sleep in on this day. If the resort is not including the test at the time of your stay, there are several places in town just within a few blocks that offer the tests as well and will email you the results. It does cost $50-$100 for these tests, but posts and reviews that I saw about the hotel before our trip stated that some of these places give you a guarantee negative... however that works. Only one person that I knew of tested positive on their test. He took another test that came back negative and he would be able to fly back home as scheduled, but the hotel staff escorted him to his own room for the final evening anyway. He did not have to stay any extra time at the resort. There is insurance that you can purchase from the hotel directly (if your personal trip insurance doesn't cover it) that will cover the cost of having to stay additional nights due to a positive covid test. I believe it was $4/day/person for that option.
Note: I always recommend that you get trip insurance and read and review the policy for what is covered before you go! Some allow cancellation for any reason, and others only have certain covered reasons. With work, kids, sickness... you just never know what will come up and I like to protect my investment. Trip insurance is often very reasonable, inexpensive, and if you need it - it really pays off! If you need a travel agent to help you through the process, I have a great one who does not charge you anything for her services but is excellent at navigating travel and insurance.
I hope this has been a helpful look into our Mexico getaway! If there is anything I missed, be sure to ask in the comments so that I can share all the tips and answers I can.