Upon arrival in Cancun Airport be prepared to encounter a stifling hot scenario of crowding , chaos, and endless lines for customs and immigration. Signs are non-existent, and many of the workers and government officials are only grudgingly helpful. Be sure to fill out all customs and immigration forms fully and correctly before you deplane or you will be reprimanded and pulled out of line. You’ll know you’ve mastered the system when you finally meet up with the nice Apple ground transportation people who greet you at the back door. Beware of vendors who fraudulently claim to be from Apple but who are not.
As for the Iberostar Paraiso del Mar, you really need to be reasonably fit and active to stay at a hotel complex of this size. Specifically, it requires a good deal of walking to reach the beach and the restaurants from your room (they’re in opposite directions). And at night, it’s difficult to follow the myriad of darkened walking paths that dot the courtyard . Visibility is less than optimal because of the dim sidewalk lamps and there are very few, if any, meaningful signs or maps posted. In addition, the del Mar is laid out very close to a second hotel—the Iberostar El Paraiso Beach—and you can very easily wind up at the wrong location despite your best intentions.
At our 1:00 PM check-in there were no lines and our room was ready. We had some trouble understanding the lady behind the desk who spoke really quickly and, as a result, there was some confusion about the various rules, locations and times for meals, buffets and late night snacking. While still in the lobby. we made a quick visit to the concierge who made all of our a la carte restaurant reservations.
While being shuttled to our room, we were impressed with the cleanliness and beauty of the property, including the lush tropical foliage, the peacocks, swans, flamingos and free running coatis. We were also pleased to see that our “standard room” was roomy, bright, up-to-date and well-appointed. However, there were no chests of drawers to store our stuff. Additionally, a toilet clogging problem arose almost immediately and some light bulbs were burned out. Maintenance took care of it within 15 minutes of our call. We later found a few tiny gnats hovering around the bathroom sink but didn’t bother to report it. Again, the mattresses were a bit on the soft side and the A/C didn’t really seem to cool down as much as we needed at night. Some of the caulk was coming away from the interior of the tub but there were no leaks to speak of. In fact, there was lots of hot water and good water pressure.
While the beach at this hotel has been described by a number of other reviewers as “tiny”, this is difficult to ascertain since there are no demarcation lines and the beach itself runs contiguous with the beaches of other adjacent Iberostar hotels. We walked afar to find a lounge chair and no one stopped us, although a bartender at one of the beach bars noticed that our identifying wrist tags were of the “wrong color” and limited us to one drink.
Because we avoided travelling the week of President’s Day and possibly because a storm in the Northeast US apparently disrupted a lot of incoming flights, the hotel and the beach were only about 3/4th full at most. Thus, there was no problem finding a lounge chair. However, there was some problem finding a shaded spot on the beach before 2:00 PM. The sea was relatively calm, clear, beautiful and more warm than cold. You do need to tread carefully, however, to avoid patches of algae/seaweed and clusters of rocks beneath the surface. Swimming shoes might have helped. The swimming pools at this hotel also looked inviting but we didn’t use them very much.
All of the a la carte restaurants had a pleasant ambience, although the rule that males have to wear long pants was annoying. In fact, I saw several women wearing shorts. As for the food, “It is was it is”. My friend was not happy, although she did seem to enjoy the surf and turf served at the Mediterranean restaurant. I, myself, would have to say that the meals were generally Mexican interpretations of various international dishes. Don’t expect Ruth’s Chris, etc. One night, we took a side trip to the nearby city of Playa del Carmen where we ordered wine, meat and seafood at a very nice local restaurant while watching a cheerful and colorful “Carnivale” procession go by.
While on the topic of side trips—we took a very long day excursion to visit the amazing Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. Unfortunately, it hit 95 degrees that day with no shade available. The grounds were also filled with hoards of vendors hawking gadgets, gizmos, knickknacks and tchotchkes. Think twice about making this trip.
One added observation is that all of the Hotel staff that we encountered were very friendly, quick to smile, neatly groomed and anxious to help. We were also pleased that our departure from Cancun Airport was much more pleasant compared to the chaos of our arrival. It was an efficient and nicely air conditioned experience. Also keep in mind that second week of February can provide very favorable weather in the Rivera Maya. The temperatures we encountered ranged from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties and there wasn’t one drop of rain.