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In 16th-century Mexico, when chocolate ruled the foodie scene in the form of cacao, it was a commodity set aside for the ultra-wealthy, elite members of Aztec culture. Even its scientific name — Theobroma cacao — literally translates to “food of the gods.”
Simply put, these bitter beans held their own in Mexico’s high society.
Knowing this, it seemed appropriate that I found myself covered head to toe in chocolate on my first full day at the all-inclusive, adults-only Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso in Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
A signature service at the on-site Sensations spa, the chocolate body scrub is just one of several luxurious, a la carte indulgences available to guests (other tempting menu items include a caviar and argan facial and a gemstone body scrub and massage).
High-end features also exist outside the spa, including 24-hour personalized butler service, oceanfront accommodations, complimentary Wi-Fi access, a lengthy pillow menu, customizable options for in-suite minibars and more.
The AAA Four Diamond resort, a member of Iberostar’s Grand Collection and the winner of the world’s No. 1 Traveler’s Choice Award from TripAdvisor, is located on Iberostar’s Playa Paraiso complex, which comprises the adults-only Grand resort, two Premium Gold resorts (Iberostar Paraiso Lindo and Iberostar Paraiso Maya) and two Premium resorts (Iberostar Paraiso Beach and Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar).
As a guest of the top-category property, I had unlimited access to the other resorts, which were located just a short shuttle ride away.
Not that I ever needed to leave. The seclusion and sense of retreat that Grand Hotel Paraiso provides made it difficult for me to find any reason to venture past its borders (this also seemed to be the case for the flock of peacocks, sunbathing iguanas and band of coatis that lay claim to the area).
In fact, I often forgot that I was on such a sprawling complex. Though there are 310 suites, families and large groups of partygoers are noticeably absent, which helped intensify the feeling of seclusion. The property is perfect for honeymooners and single travelers looking for a bit of R&R.
In fact, one pair of honeymooners said that their travel agent had booked a zipline excursion and dolphin swim in nearby Cancun — but the couple had chosen to cancel both because they were so impressed with the resort’s on-site amenities.
I don’t blame them. Although I did manage to tear myself away from the gorgeous, mosaic-tiled indoor-outdoor spa pool to attend a snorkeling excursion with local operator Cancun Adventures, I happily spent the rest of my time at the beach, the two other outdoor pools (one saltwater, one freshwater) and yoga classes at the fitness center or in conversation at the lobby bar. (For those who do choose to leave the property, downtown Playa del Carmen is just a 30-minute taxi ride away.)
And when my grumbling stomach sent me in search of good eats, I had several choices on-site. There are four specialty restaurants: Haiku for Japanese delights, Venezia for Italian classics, Toni’s for fresh surf and turf and L’Atelier for gourmet French cuisine. There’s also the Bella Vista buffet, which had one of the most impressive spreads I’ve ever seen, from a fresh salad bar and classics like burgers, pizza and fries to high-end protein options such as steak, lobster tail and sushi.
And, of course, there were copious amounts of chocolate.