My wife and I just returned from our trip to the Iberostar Beach from Jan 16-Jan23 . I'll preface a few things to start for other first timers planning to go to this particular resort or Cancun / Riviera Maya area in general – namely starting at the Cancun airport upon arrival. BTW: I’m 32 and my wife is 29. We’re both relatively experienced travelers. We’re completely mobile; not picky eaters (she’s a vegetarian …I’m not); no children. This is our first all-inclusive trip. Overall, I would summarize us by saying that swank is good at times and never ever a priority but preferably being off the beaten path and at times even on it is usually better and more fun. Its all relative but we are overall not picky people. I will try to give as clear of a review as I can.
Others have written about this experience but nonetheless I think it is of value in repeating…If you’re arriving into the Cancun airport and onwards to your resort via a packaged tour operator you should typically have a bus transfer included (I’m from Toronto and booked via a web agent with Air Transat). Once you get through Mexican customs, pick up your bags and proceed towards the exit where the double doors open (there’s only one main exit as far as I saw) you will be encountered if not swarmed with literally a dozen or more folks in blue shirts who will ask you which resort you are with. They are deceptive in making you think they are legitimately there to help you along your way. They will then tell you to go to a counter number at which point they will start getting into a pitch of some sort. Luckily, having read other posts on Trip Advisor relating to this I knew better to proceed walking and just say ‘no thanks’ (I almost got trapped because once you exit these people are literally right in your face. I had to ask the lady 3 times who she works for before she said the ‘airport’ and I said ‘Yea, no thanks!” and she responded with ”You don’t need to be rude – go back to Canada!). These people are sharks! They pretend to help you but in fact are trying to sell you something (I believe I read it was timeshares or something). It doesn’t matter – the point is – IGNORE these people at all costs and proceed accordingly until you get outside (there’s only one main direction so you won’t get lost)…Once you get out you will be greeted by the actual employees or agents of the tour operators who are holding signs. They will ask you which resort you are going to and inform you of the proper bus number to hop on. Problem solved. On our way... The total length of the ride was about an hour from the airport to the Iberostar which included 3 other stops at other resorts to drop off other guests. No biggy - the ride goes by quickly with the anticipation of arrival!
Now on to the review of the Iberostar Paraiso Beach/Del Mar.
We arrived in late evening around 10:30pm or so…the lobby of the beach is beautiful. Upon check-in we were given a 3rd floor room in villa 33 with two double beds and when I requested for a king I was told there was no availability at the time and to check back in the morning. Having read the reviews I knew building 33 was in a decent location so I didn’t make any deal of it. The villa is essentially beside the pool area and about a 3 minute walk to the beach. However – by the next day we quickly found out that the resort was at 20% capacity so, if anyone out there can answer as to why the hotel won’t just give a room with a king please let me know. Bascially, the rates are the same so I’m not sure what the big deal is – I’m sure if I had asked in the morning we would have received a room with a king. Again, this is not a big deal but just a point/question worth making/posing. We kept the room we were originally given for the duration of our entire stay.
ROOMS: Space is not an issue for two people. As noted in other reviews, there’s a small TV along with a stocked mini-fridge. Ours contained about 6 bottles of water plus a 1 liter jug along with various sodas (Coke, Coke-light, Fresca, Cristal carbonated mineral water) and 5 beers – mostly Dos Equis. Pretty standard room equipment… one night table between both beds; a phone; a clock radio, a coffee maker with 2 mugs; an ice bucket; a small coffee table; a big chair; a bench, foot stool; a closet with plenty of shelving; an electronic self-programmable safe; about 10-12 hangers; ironing board; iron. No storage drawers; No true desk table. BATHROOM: a hairdryer – which I understand from other reviews where people have recommended bringing your own. If you have short-med length hair the dryer works fine it just takes a while because it isn’t super strong. A big shower/tub. Our shower was not very strong. Floors in both the room and bathroom are completed with marbled tiles. BALCONY: A nice spacious balcony opens up via floor to ceiling glass doors from the room. Our balcony overlooked the path were the trolley ran and we faced the Lindo villas. The balcony has a small table along with two plastic patio chairs. Being a corner unit we also had a little bit more of a view then the interior units. TOWEL ART: Everyone writes about this…What’s the big deal? - its’ not.
The only comment I have about the rooms overall is that the room looked tired. In my own experience/opinion, tired rooms always give off a feeling of not being completely clean. I’m not saying that our room wasn’t clean it was just an impression I felt given everything looked worn out just a tad. Case in point; our clock radio was pretty beat up; the beds are old spring beds that just aren’t the same as a “Hilton Suite Dreams” mattress per se – I didn’t need such a mattress but if the Iberostar is truly a 4.5 star resort then such things should be addressed. The décor looks in need of a complete refresh (think early 90’s vs. what you see now on all those home décor shows now – e.g. modern styling). The walls are in need of a fresh coat of paint, the mini-fridge looked like it was going to stop working; etc., etc. Some people may not care too much but you have to consider that you are staying here typically 5, 7 nights or longer and you are paying to be at a resort and not so much at just another hotel.
The villa we were in is about 7-10 minute leisure paced walk to the main lobby area. 3 minute walk to the beach area. Pretty much a leisure walk from the lobby of the resort to the beach is approx 15 minutes.
Overall: 2.5/ 5
HOUSEKEEPING: No issues. If you need anything e.g. more drinks, just leave them a note. I always left 20 Pesos each day for tip regardless….OH…and towel art – lovely ; )
Overall: 5.0 / 5
GROUNDS: I won’t get too lengthy into this because many other reviews have commented pretty accurately… The grounds of the Beach/Del Mar (And ‘Yes’ they are in essence mirror images of each other and everything from the restaurants, pool, beach, grounds are all communal areas. The only diff are two separate lobbies. Once you past the lobby area everything is shared. The grounds are immaculate. Various wildlife from flamingoes, parrots, peacocks, to other birds. It’s evident that the resort takes pride in the visual appearance of the external property.
Overall: 5.0 / 5
OTHER RESORT STAFF: No issues. Everyone greets you regardless of where you are on the resort or what their specific jobs are e.g. from gardeners, cleaners, general maintenance, etc., etc to those you would expect greetings from. Everyone is congenial and pleasant.
Star Friends: The resort has a group of employees called the “Star Friends” who coordinate all the daily activities around the resort from sports/fitness to other social programs such as dancing, karaoke, etc. They also put on the various evening entertainment at the dinner theatre.
Restaurant Staff: Great. Staff hustle even when its not busy.
The overall impression I got from the various staff at the resort is that they are all very hardworking folks. You will notice some staff such as restaurant staff working 12 hr shifts…you see them at breakfast, lunch, and dinner…you’ll notice others work late evenings only to see them first thing the next morning. Same goes with the Star Friends. These guys/gals give a dose of energy to all events each and everyday from morning to late night. I give them all thumbs up for this.
Bar Staff: Great. Makes anything and everything you ask.
Overall: 5.0 / 5
BEACH: More rocky at the Del Mar side than the Beach side. lots of space. I can see the beach could get overcrowded when the resort hits capacity. Again, we had the privilege of a 20% capacity crowd at the resort and the longest we ever waited for drinks at the beach bar was about a lineup of 5 people in front same with the snack station beside the beach bar. Fine when its not busy but could be a challenge with waiting when it is. The beach is nice and sandy and clean. Its not overly huge and not terribly small. There’s a beach volleyball court; a few beach message huts (have to pay $$); a few hammocks closer to the Del Mar side; there’s also a jet ski rental place which is part of the resort along with scuba diving.
Overall: 4.0 / 5
FOOD/DRINKS: What can be said about the food that hasn’t been said? “Yes”. The food is so-so.
I will start with the buffet
LA PLAZA: BREAKFAST– decent. I’m not sure who wants to eat steak at breakfast but there isn’t steak to be had. Breakfast is breakfast. Fresh squeezed/blended juices (do note: some taste from concentrate or commercial). You can get your cereal, oatmeal, eggs, regular breakfast stuff, fresh fruit etc., etc. They also have a small variety of other hot foods as well. For the most part, everything is pretty repetitive. The breakfast is fine. They make the pancakes, French toast, waffles - all fresh. Same goes with customized egg dishes. LUNCH – decent. Some standard items daily but they try to introduce some different items as well. DINNER – so-so. See lunch. Nothing fancy but in my opinion – breakfast and lunch are better. I would agree with others that the food is for the most part bland. Not overly appealing but there are eatable items to be had. Case in point - 4.5 star resorts should consider not serving sliced up wieners mixed with onions as a hot dish. You may notice that what is left over at lunch makes its way into the dinner menu in a different form and the same applies for dinner onto next morning’s breakfast selection. To put into perspective I would have expected that being in Mexico that salsa and guacamole would taste good but in actuality it was hit or miss. Salsa at times was simply tomato and onions and nothing else. Guacamole tasted like regular avocado. Tortilla chips were stale. How do you screw up salsa and guacamole? Overall consistency and quality definitely was lacking. Some good…some bad…some really bad. There was enough selection for vegetarians. Surprisingly, the desserts were good. Neither my wife nor I have a sweet tooth and we did not have desserts every day but we did sample them. The desserts are definitely better in taste and in quality then the actual main buffet food itself.
La Plaza Buffet Overall: 2.0 / 5
EL PUERTO – SNACK ONLY: This outdoor restaurant serves as the dinner steakhouse venue. During the day it is a buffet snack/lunch venue. Food is the exact same as what you would find at La Plaza Buffet with a smaller selection.
El Puerto snack buffet Overall: 1.0 / 5
A La Cartes: We dined at the Japanese (El Hashiru); Mexican (La Hacienda); and the Mediterranean (La Dorada)
EL HASHIRU (Japanese): I don’t agree with what others have written about the food being good at the Japanese restaurant. The seating arrangements in the restaurant is a communal table where about 20 people sit around the teppanyaki grill where a chef then prepares your food in front of you. To being, you are given a small plate of sushi to be shared between each couple along with your respective choice of a soup or another appetizer followed by your main entrée. Entrees are either cooked in front of you on the teppanyaki grill or made in the kitchen if you ordered a noodle dish. The sushi is not very good and in fact seems more likely that they are mass manufactured rather than made onsite by hand. Not tasty. Teppanyaki is a selection of beef, chicken, octopus, shrimp individually served with fried or steamed rice or all 4 items with fried or steamed rice plus stir fried veggies consisting of eggplant, mushrooms, and zucchini. You can also order a salmon fillet on its own with the other items again with fried or steamed rice. I had the 4 items with fried rice and my wife had a veggie stir-fry noodle from the kitchen. Certainly the teppanyaki food is fresh however it is nothing special. The meat is simply stir-fried on the flat top grill in front of you mixed with a bit of salt, pepper and soy-sauce (or teriyaki sauce). The chef puts on a little show all the while he is prepping your food. Don’t mistake showmanship for food quality. Again, it’s nothing special…you can essentially do the same in your own kitchen. It’s a meal with a show. My food was just as expected and eatable. Cooked meat with fried rice (stir fried plain white rice mixed with scrambled egg and some soy sauce). I tried a bit of the stir fried veggie noodles and that was not very good either. It was a thicker noodle similar to Japanese udon noodle. The noodle was overcooked and a bit mushy mixed with some carrots and broccoli. The sauce tasted like a plum sauce or something similar which was very very sweet again, making the overall dish not so good. Dessert was a buffet selection similar to what you would find in the regular buffet. We didn’t endulge in any of the desserts here. As soon as you finish your entrée you can leave.
El Hashiru Japanese restaurant Overall: 1.0 / 5
If you’ve read so far in my review you may be scared off by my assessment of the overall food. Again, this is my personal opinion and I’m sure others before and after will disagree with my comments. I prefaced my review by stating that both my wife and I are not picky people – and we are not. However, I want to be as brutally honest as possible regarding the food. We as with you who are reading this have or will be paying a decent amount of money to go and have a great time at a resort. You want to know everything you possibly can before making a final decision. I’m hoping my review will help you.
LA HACIENDA (Mexican): We didn’t have much expectation with the Mexican after eating the Japanese but I still figured that we’re in Mexico so they can’t really mess up Mexican dishes can they?! …Fortunately, no. The food I thought was actually pretty good here. You start with an appetizer buffet followed by choice of soup. Appetizer selection was fine…various items tasted good too. Same goes with the tortilla soup I had. Good. I’m happy. Entrée is a selection of various taco choices along with a veggie selection as well. Again, entrée as with the appetizers and the soup was quite good. Overall, good. No issues. Desserts – didn’t try. One point to mention, La Hacienda has probably the largest selection of tequila at the Beach. All brands - you name it you can drink it.
La Hacienda Overall: 4.0 / 5 (more like 3.5 but 4.0 is good)
LA DORADA (Mediterranean): Similar to the Mexican restaurant - you start with an appetizer buffet bar. Food here was ‘ok’. They had fried calamari which was tasty - however they don’t remove the ink pouch when they deep fry – which is not so good. Following your appetizers you’re also given a selection of a soup both of which are non-vegetarian selections so my wife didn’t up having this. I selected lobster bisque. The bisque was fine. My entrée selection was grilled sea bass with veggies on the side. My wife had a entrée of veggies – nothing out of the ordinary. The sea bass was not so good. Had a fishy taste and was most likely frozen fish more so than fresh. Desserts – similar to La Plaza – good.
La Dorada Overall: 3.0 / 5 (I would probably rate higher if my fish was actually good).
That about does it for the restaurants that we tried. We also did try out the creperie over at the shops. Crepe was good. Fresh made in front of you with choice of ice cream and /or fruit jam-like sauces.
I guess the key to the food (and this is common sense as well) …Fresh is best. If you stick with fresh fruits, or food they cook in front of you or the nice hot stuff you see that just came out on fresh platters then you will be fine. Stay away from the food that looks like it has been sitting for hours or yesterday’s leftovers.
DRINKS: I never asked for premium liquor. I know they have some. Mainly in the lobby bars. Everywhere else e.g. pool bar, beach bar, buffet bar, the liquor is not the premium kind. If you’re having mixed drinks its not that big of a deal and I never got sick and I did have my fair share. Also, “yes” it seems that daytime cocktails are not as strong as nighttime cocktails. Mainly drinks made by the pool area and beach area bars are not really that strong. The most potent drinks are those made in the lobby bar followed by the restaurants.
Overall drinks: 4.0 / 5
TIPPING: I know many are thinking that there's no need to tip at an all-inclusive. The employees certainly don't ever give the impression that they expect a tip but I tipped based on how I felt. I tipped 20 pesos daily for housekeeping. I tipped between 10-20 pesos at every meal and the 10 pesos for drinks (not all the time). I think I spent about $60 in tips over the course of entire 8 days 7 nights I was there.
RIDES INTO PLAYA DEL CARMEN: Everyone has written about taking the “Collectivos”. These are small little shuttles that run outside of the resort on the main highway. They do not drive into the resort to pick up/drop off. As noted by others the rate is 2 pesos. Another option to get into Playa Del Carmen is to get a ride on the Playa Express – which is also another type of mini-shuttle operating outside of the resort. The Playa Express stops exclusively in front of the Iberostar to pick-up/drop-off along with a 4 or 5 other resorts and only these resorts. The Playa Express is almost like a bus/taxi that runs from Playa Del Carmen (at its terminal) to Cancun picking up and dropping off locals along the way (with no real stop locations along the way. Basically, they will pickup/drop off wherever the passenger wants along the driver’s route). Again, as I said, they do only stop in front (outside along the highway) at 4-5 resorts with the Iberostar being one of them. You will see employees of the Iberostar taking the Playa Express. The cost from the Iberostar to Playa Del Carmen is 15 pesos per person and the ride is about 20-25 minutes. Get off at the terminal once in Playa Del Carmen (which is more like an empty lot big enough for 3 school buses) and walk 2 blocks and you’re on the main shopping strip (5th avenue). You won’t get lost…Just follow the hoards of other tourists walking around. The Playa Express terminal is diagonally across the Collectivo terminal. You can take either/or to get into the town vs. a taxi. Taxis are allowed onto the resort premises so you can always get a ride but again as others have said it costs about $20 USD vs. about $1 and change taking the Collectivo or Playa Express. The caveat for taking the Collectivo or the Playa Express to Playa Del Carmen is that you have to walk out of the actual resort premise and cross the highway. The highway is 3 or 4 lanes each way with a large grassy median between. Your life is in your hands here because you are literally crossing a highway with traffic speeds at 100km/hr (60 mph). I don’t recall people mentioning this in detail in other posts. Once you cross the highway just stand and wait at the side of the highway. There are no signs and you just pretty much wait. Either a Collectivo or a Playa Express shuttle will stop only if they have room in the vehicle otherwise they will just drive by. Both shuttles are identified as they are on the outside. You get on/off at the same place in Playa Del Carmen. Just let the driver know you want to be dropped off back at Iberostar and you’ll be fine.
Overall, I believe the resort is more like a 3.5 star vs. the 4 star or 4.5 star the resort claims to be. The resort is beautifully manicured and aesthetically pleasing. The staff are great. The beach is nice. As I’ve pointed out, there are improvements that should be made. A refresh and refinement of the rooms and everything in them along with a drastic overhaul of the food would truly improve the resort overall. You will see the resort grounds with all of its amenities, flora and fauna and then quickly see that the internal accommodations and the cuisine are sub-par to the rest. If asked if I were to go back my answer is ‘perhaps’ but I would like to see what the Lindo/Maya or even the Grand have to offer. I would even like to see what other resorts at the same class level have to offer before a resounding ‘yes’ as a response. I would only say ‘yes’ if the items that I’ve pointed out can be improved. My review may sound negative but I want to point out that I thoroughly had a great time at the Iberostar and that I would recommend the resort to others but again highlighting the things as I’ve tried to best address. At the end of the day “To each their own”. I hope this review is helpful to you. Enjoy your trip!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Directly on the beach of "Playa Paraiso." Imaginatively designed lake – pool. Convention centre. The holiday complex is perfectly integrated into the tropical landscape. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Paraiso Beach Hotel Playa Paraiso
- Iberostar Playa Paraiso
- Iberostar Hotel Paraiso Beach
- Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar
- Iberostar Paraiso Beach Playa Paraiso, Riviera Maya, Mexico