After waiting in line for nearly two hours to get through
immigration in Cancun, I was afraid the incident might foreshadow
my stay at Iberostar’s brand-new, all-inclusive resort, Paraiso
Maya, on the coast a few miles south. Not to worry.
Though the all-inclusive experience can include lines for
everything from buffets to beach towels, that’s not the case at
this high-end all-suite hotel, which is being touted as the jewel
in the Mallorca-based company’s crown of 90 hotels in 11 countries
around the world.
What distinguishes Paraiso Maya from other all-inclusives is
Iberostar itself. Spanish blood clearly flows through the veins of
and infuses its resorts with a Mediterranean sensibility obvious
in everything from the clientele to the decor, from the wine
selection to the Club Med-like evening entertainment.
“Club Med was the mother of the genre,” said Bettina Boskovsky,
Iberostar’s Caribbean marketing manager. “But the Iberostar
all-inclusive was born in the Dominican Republic out of necessity.
We had to offer everything since there was little else around.”
Since Iberostar owns 350 travel agencies in Spain, has tour
operators in 14 countries and a charter airline that flies between
21 destinations, the clientele at the Paraiso Maya is more
international than you might find at other Cancun resorts. One
night at the Geisha, the hotel’s Japanese restaurant a
Benihana-type tepanyaki grill there were Germans, French, Mexicans
and Americans sharing our communal table.
Paraiso Maya is one of four Iberostar hotels sharing a pristine
stretch of powdery beach between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The
two more luxurious properties Paraiso Maya and Paraiso Lindo share
five dramatic pools, including a wave pool and a “lazy river,”
where guests, lounging on oversize inner tubes, can imagine they
are drifting through the rainforest. They also share the theater,
where lively musical productions entertain guests each evening.
Guests at all the resorts share the gym and spa, though a new
fitness center and spa, exclusively for Paraiso Maya guests, is
presently under construction. A P.B. Dye golf course is also in the
Paraiso Maya has been designed along the southern end of the
enormous and lushly landscaped pool area, with two poolside buffet
restaurants serving breakfast and lunch, a bar serving only fresh
vegetable and fruit juices, an ice cream bar and an outdoor
The hotel’s 432 suites are spread out between several buildings,
each with its own concierge and courtyard, to give guests the
impression that they are actually staying at a small upscale inn
rather than a mega-resort. Each building has its own small private
pool that is the perfect antidote to the main pool area where the
noise cranks up several notches by late afternoon due no doubt in
part to the popularity of the all-inclusive swim-up bars. (Advise
noise-sensitive clients to grab lounge chairs near the waterfall,
which effectively drowns out the ambient din.)
The suites are spacious and elegantly decorated. Attention has
been paid to details from the smallest sconce to the energy-saving
sliding glass doors leading to the terrace, which turn off the
air-conditioning when opened. Another energy saver was a device
that automatically shut off the electricity when I left the
The bathroom was nearly perfect, with its oversize Jacuzzi tub,
shower, double sinks, lighted makeup mirror and abundant towels.
The etched glass wall between the bedroom and the bath allowed
sunlight from the courtyard to filter through the window in the
shower and then into the room.
The most disappointing room feature was its lack of a sea view;
in fact, none of the suites has one. This is one hotel where
ecology won out over excess: the developers opted to save as much
of the mangrove forest from which the property was carved as
possible and, in doing so, sacrificed the views. In fact, to get
from the hotel to the beach, guests cross over the forest on raised
When the sea finally comes into view, it does not disappoint
with its white sand and turquoise waters, but coming to the
Caribbean and not being able to see the sea from one’s hotel
balcony is a little like living on the “wrong” side of California’s
Pacific Coast Highway.
Since Paraiso Maya is the most upscale of the four Iberostar
resorts here, its guests can use the facilities at any of the other
hotels. This means that in addition to Maya’s French, seafood,
Mexican, steak and Japanese “a la carte” restaurants, guests can
also dine at the other three properties’ specialty restaurants,
which adds Brazilian, Cajun, Italian and Caribbean to the cuisine
The best thing about Paraiso Iberostar or maybe its just the
best thing about all-inclusives is that everyone in your client’s
family can have their vacation expectations fulfilled.
Kids will find heaven-on-earth at Lucy’s Miniclub, which
features a sand-filled playground, wading pool and early evening
mini-disco. Teenagers will meet plenty of others their own age from
an eclectic cultural mix. At how many resorts in Mexico will your
clients’ children be able to practice their high school French?
Grandparents will love the water aerobics, dance lessons and
walking along the endless stretch of white sand beach.
And best of all, parents will thoroughly enjoy their vacation,
too, stealing off for a sail or a massage, then being relaxed
enough to a enjoy a banana boat ride with the kids.
Five miles south of Playa del Carmen, the ecological park, Xcaret,
will introduce your clients and their families to wonders of the
Yucatan they won’t see at their five-star resort.Xcaret (pronounced
ISH-car-ett, Mayan for river), was created by a local architect,
Miguel Quintana Pali, who, while building his dream house,
uncovered an underground river flowing through caves and into the
sea. Pali didn’t feel right about hoarding all that natural beauty,
so he joined forces with a couple of entrepreneurs to open the
magical site to the public. Today the park covers 200 acres and has
attracted 10 million visitors since it opened in December 1990.
Visitors can swim and explore the underground river, and the Mayan
village built around the restored pyramids and ruins on the
site.Xcaret visitors can also frolic with bottlenose dolphins, trek
through the rainforest or snorkel or snuba on a coral reef. They
can see giant turtles and pink flamingoes, visit one of the largest
butterfly nurseries in the world, admire endangered species such as
jaguars and whitetail deer, visit mushroom and orchid farms or
check out the Regional Wildlife Enclosure.
At the end of the day, Xcaret visitors get to explore Mexico’s
mysticism, legends and history in the park’s 6,000-seat theater.
The show features song and folkloric dance, as well as the Aztec
games that were the forerunners to soccer and hockey.
Admission: $49, adult; $25, children 5-12. Children under 5,