Entertaining Elegance

Paraiso Maya delivers upscale family fun

By: Andrea Vaucher

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 the company

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 works.

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 aerobics studio.

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 room.

The bathroom was nearly perfect, with its oversize Jacuzzi tub, tiled stall

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 wooden boardwalks.

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 choices.

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, free.