"They serve lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner, everyday, 7 days a week".
That was the selling point which I was sold on the idea of going to the Iberostar Grand Paraiso by my wife. We could quite easily have paid considerably less to stay at the Lindo instead, but no, lobster everyday was the deciding factor.
As always, wife does all the research prior to the holiday, I simply "tag along" and enjoy the ride. Often, I would have many misconceptions of the places I go to, or I might have misheard certain details prior to the trip, then it would be a surprise!
So I was pleasantly surprised when we were the first ones to be let off the connecting shuttle bus from Cancun airport as it drops holidaymakers off at their respective hotels/ resorts. Normally, we would be the last but a very speedy 1/2hr coach ride from the airport to the Iberostar Grand Paraiso gets the thumbs up from me.
After a very speedy and welcoming check in, we were off on a little wander. I couldn't help but to notice that there weren't anyone else around!! It was like we had the place all to ourselves. It was actually a bit surreal.
Jetlagged + hungry, we were the first ones at the buffet restaurant most days. We arrived on a Wednesday and the missus already knew that Wednesday night = Super duper seafood night. It certainly did not disappoint... you walk in and right in front of you is a huge tray of Alaskan king crab legs, a bit further down, about dozen brown crab claws, lobsters... if you're not into the cold stuff they also cook you lobsters on the hotplate, pretty sure they had scallops as well. Tried hard not to come across as a fat-greedy pig, instead of overloading my first plate, I simply went back for seconds, and thirds etc... I'm not a dessert person, but they had masses and masses of desserts, it does make me wonder what they do with all the leftovers? Oh, and they also had a pretty impressive range of sushi on the night. My mind was pretty blown at this stage. I polished off a fair amount of fruit from their fruit section which had guava and starfruit and I was pretty much ready to hit the sack.
The main building to block 72 is very big, airy and spacious. Having watched the TV program "Hotel Impossible", I have the urge to run my finger across surfaces and look for imperfections. The Iberostar Grand Paraiso is such a big place, and if you look hard enough you will find bits that need a new coat of paint, a fixture that needs straightening or a couple of tiles that's missing from the pool. It would be unfair to make these criticisms because you see cleaners and repairmen constantly working.
Anyhow, there are a few quirks in the design of our room. Personally, I wasn't partial to the separate his & her faucet bathroom design and the taps were also funny (I can't be the first person to mention this, surely). There probably is a perfectly good reason why the mosquito netted door to the balcony opens the opposite direction to the glass door, but I found it rather cumbersome.
However, the room is modern/ clean/ spacious. You get wifi in the room which is a requirement now for all good hotels, and it ran at a decent speed (wifi stretches to the beach too which is fab). The bed is huuuuge and super comfortable. The aircon is efficient and never noisy. The flatscreen TV had HDMI sockets so I could review my daily video footage at the end of the day. Our balcony overlooked the tranquillity pool which also has a sit-in basket thingy suspended from the ceiling. I swung about in that quite a few times it was quite fun & comfortable. We had a million electrical devices to charge and there weren't that many power outlets, so do bring some adapters.
The other 4 "lesser" hotels are not that far from the Grand if you want to walk, but if it's really hot and sticky or you are in a hurry then you just need tell concierge and they will arrange to have you driven to the other hotels in one of their buggies. You can even have them come collect you too which is super handy especially if you have been out to Playa del Carmen all day and have just been dropped off at Lindo by the people carrier.
As great as the Grand is, you've paid for the access to all the hotels so you might as well go to them and enjoy what they have to offer. One particular afternoon, we were wandering through one of the other hotels and were notified that they're having a beach party with the promise of paella. We walked down to the beach and there was a great party atmosphere which you won't find at the Grand. It was a nice change of pace if you want it but the same can't be said about the quality of food or the attention to detail from the staff; while it's perfectly acceptable, but seriously they do not compare to the Grand. I don't know how many extra years of training they have to get to work at the Grand or how much more they get paid, the Grand is the bees knees when it comes to service. Case in point: I'm in the buffet and I've got my food making my way back to my table with a big grin on my face. The manager comes over and offers to carry my plate for me. I'm in my 30s, is that overbearing? I did notice the more elderly did take him up on this offer so I wasn't getting special treatment. =)
Another thing. Does housekeeping spy on the guests? I say this because they are ninja with their turndown service. Sometimes we don't give them much of an opportunity to turn down our room. Sometimes we might give them an hour between us stepping out and going back in, and unless you've put the do not disturb sign out, they'll have your room done. (They even acknowledge your do not disturb sign with a note if that's what you have). On the night of our anniversary, again, didn't give them much time between us heading out for dinner and coming back to the room, they ran our jacuzzi bath, left a trail of rose petals to the bed + champers on ice.
I know I'm rambling so I'll just finish with the shuttle service to Playa del Carmen. You take the buggy to Lindo because that's where the people carrier leaves from, I think it's 4 or 5 times a day. It carries about a dozen passengers, but I was told if there are more they simply send for another vehicle. You pay 50 pesos or a US$5 per head when you get on and the trip takes about 20 mins. Do you homework like my wife did prior to heading out there so you know where the best places are to eat & drink if you wanna try something different from what the hotel has to offer as they are not on the main touristy paths.
Other random thoughts as bullet points:
- The beach is great, no need to look for an empty deck chair there are always loads.
- Head down to the beach for sunrise/ sunset, it's awesome.
- I have never felt the sea so warm.
- Great place for animal lovers, you see peacocks, lizards, coatis strolling around all the time.
- Use the gym, no one else ever seems to do so, so you'll have it all to yourself.
- The a la carte restaurants weren't at the same level as everything else, keep your expectations in check.
- Order a lobster bellini at breakfast, try all their juices.
- Check out the lazy river & the wave pool at the other hotels for something different.
- Download "MapsWithMe" onto your cellphone then you won't get lost when you're out.
- Go to the mini shopping centre in the resort and eat the stuff there as well. (It was actually quite a sorry sight when we went there a few times because it just doesn't get much foot traffic, day or night).
- The bureau de change booths in town vary greatly with their exchange rates, compare before you commit. Spend local money, as not everyone does US$ and you' tend to get a poor deal.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Directly on the long, fine, sandy beach of Playa Paraiso in Mexico's Riviera Maya. Top 5-star luxury. Quiet and relaxing. Personal butler and concierge service. 24 hours all inclusive service. 4 a la carte restaurants. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Playa Paraiso
- Playa Paraiso Iberostar
- Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso Playa Paraiso, Riviera Maya, Mexico