We stayed at the El Cid Marina from August 6 to 13, 2011. We had been to this hotel last year and loved it, and this time we brought my 9 year old son with us for his first trip to Mexico. Before the trip we showed my son pictures from our previous stay, and told him about all the fun he could look forward to.
We arrived at the hotel hot and sweaty from our trip from the airport, and the front desk staff greeted us with ice-cold water bottles to get us checked in. The staff was already helping my son practice his Spanish and making sure he had a memorable trip on his first time to Mexico.
Our room was on the top floor of the tower closest to the ocean and the view from the balcony was amazing! It was nice to watch the waves from up there, or just watch the yachts coming in and out of the marina. The room was a Junior Suite and it was very spacious. It had two double beds, a very large sitting area with two sofas, and a kitchenette. The floors were all tiled and we couldn't hear any noise through the walls. The cleaning staff always kept everything very clean.
The large swimming pool , the “Iguana Pool,” is the best pool I have ever seen anywhere for kids to go play and have fun. There is a shallow area for little ones to wade in and splash around, and then in the deep area, there is a large artificial rock formation with waterfalls coming down it. There are steps up the rocks where kids can climb up and jump off the rocks into the deep water, or go down on the slide. If you swim into one of the waterfalls, you enter into a network of caves beneath the rocks, and you can swim through the shallow water in the caves and come out through another waterfall in another pool on the other side of the rocks. My son spent hours and hours jumping off the rocks and swimming through the caves. “Young-at-heart” adults have a lot of fun jumping too!
Fidel at the Iguana Pool still remembered us from our last trip and made us feel very welcome. Edgar and Edy at the Iguana Pool bar remembered what our drinks were and often had them ready before we could ask.
The other thing about the Iguana Pool is the iguanas. Many wild iguanas live in the hedges and bushes beside the pool and come out during the afternoon sun. They are quite tame and friendly and very soon my son was petting them and feeding them snacks. Seeing the iguanas was a huge part of his vacation experience. For those folks that are not fond of iguanas, they don't seem to go to the other pool or around the bar area, so don't worry!
At this hotel, the beach is not directly in front of the hotel buildings. They also have a yacht club and a marina, and you must cross the entrance to the marina to get to the beach. This is done using a complimentary water taxi which runs all day and ferries guests across from one side of the marina to the other. It is very fast to get to the beach. Compared to the “Golden Zone” hotels, this beach feels almost private because of the water taxi access, and there are only a few beach vendors. El Cid has a bar over at the beach and you can order burgers and snacks there too. It was never hard to find a couple chairs under an umbrella. I found the beach to be quite swimmable, but then again I like to play in the waves. This is on the Pacific Ocean, so there can be some fairly large waves. I found that the waves were not too big to be dangerous but not too small to be boring. My son loved playing in the waves and could spend all afternoon out there in the water.
Now, on to the food! There are snacks and lunches available all day long at the two pools, so you can get a plate of garlic shrimps, or a burger, or whatever to keep you going while you are playing in the pool. Just before supper, they set up a taco bar beside the Iguana Pool and we enjoyed eating fresh tacos there, including marlin tacos which were a real treat. We went for the all-inclusive option and found it to be an excellent value. This hotel is smaller than some of the other huge sprawling all-inclusive resorts we have stayed at, so you must keep in mind that there is no need here for 7 different restaurants and a buffet room that seats 1000 people. There is only one main restaurant, and it has both a buffet and menu selections. We ate breakfast and supper there every day, but never tried it for lunch because we were always out at the pools or the beach. Because of the smaller size the buffet selections in the restaurant are limited compared to the mega-resorts, but the quality of the selections they have is excellent, and there was certainly enough variety to keep both adults and children well-fed and happy. Since the restaurant is smaller than the big resorts, you get to see the same dining room staff every day, and they bring a very personalized service to you. It was really nice getting to know the staff and we always felt very welcome and taken care of. Lupita took care of us every morning at the omelette station, and Ernesto cooked fantastic creations for us in the evenings at the live cooking station. It was fun to watch Ramón making a tableside banana flambée, and Javier's humour kept us laughing the whole time. Most evenings there was also live music in the restaurant.
Inside this hotel, there is no late-night discoteca or all-night party spot, so late nights are fairly quiet, and it really makes the hotel a quiet and safe spot for families with children. We met many other guests there who lived in other inland locations in Mexico and were bringing their family and children to the beach for the week during school holidays in August. Many of them also commented what an excellent family resort this was.
The best thing about this hotel is the staff. They enjoy their jobs and and truly care about the guests. The smaller size of the resort means you get to know the staff members and the service feels very personal, almost like an extended family.
As for my 9 year old son, the trip was more fun for him than he could ever imagine. He said everything was even better than what we told him about in advance. His first trip to Mexico was a memorable event thanks to the great staff and the excellent facilities like the Iguana Pool. We've decided that we will make this an annual family trip each summer, back to El Cid Marina where we had so much fun and felt so welcome.