I am not going to lie this is our second time at the Iberostar in Playa Paraiso (we stayed at del Mar four years ago). Additionally, this is our third time at an Iberostar resort (our first was at Iberostar Bavaro for our honeymoon in Dominican Republic five years ago). And even though we may be biased for Iberostar resorts this review will give you all the wonderful, good, and fair things about the hotel and maybe a couple of things that need improvement. It will also review a few excursions that we went on, a few general tidbits and some helpful tips. That’s a promise from one fellow traveler to another. I apologize for the length but I want this to be helpful.
Service as always was really fantastic. The folks honestly go out of their way to make you feel at home and comfortable. We travelled with Apple Vacations which always does a stellar job. It was relatively easy to get from the plane to the bus to the hotel. Additionally, check in was a breeze and we didn’t have to wait for our room to be ready, which was great. Maid service was always complete before noon fit with towel animals. Concierge in your room block saves a lot of time (we were in 66 at first [more on that later] and then in 64) if you want to change reservations or find out what’s going on. Bellhop service was timely and friendly. If you need a ride to the shopping center or to another hotel someone is always there to take you. Everyone smiles, everyone says hello, Buenos dias etc. Tourism is a big thing down in Playa del Carmen (Cancun etc) and the folks at Iberostar and Apple do it well.
Pool was beautiful. Well maintained but a little cold (it’s to be expected this time of year). They have a really nice lazy river (and it’s really lazy but so relaxing, I actually fell asleep), and a wave pool (if the real ocean waves are too much for you). There are tons of chairs and places to sit both in the sun and in the shade. Lindo and Maya share the pool (Beach and Del Mar have their own).
Beach one word GORGEOUS. Bright blue water, white sand beach, sun and shade it was lovely. It was a bit rough when we were there and we’re not really beach people per se but the beach is well kept, it’s clean there are tons of places to sit and the bar isn’t far :).
Grounds are spectacularly well kept but very expansive it did take us a few days to find our way around (and we had basically been there before!!!) Their staff of gardeners etc is really wonderful. Also the cleaning staff (maids etc) are out at 6am cleaning up the pool area, washing windows, floors, vacuuming the hotel is immaculate.
Specialty Restaurants were actually a lot better than I remembered or expected. We only ate at three though (although we could have eaten at specialty restaurants all seven nights if we wanted- we chose not to). We ate at the Brazilian (located in Del Mar) which was as good as I remembered from the first time we went, maybe better now. Service was great and they had a mariachi band as well. Chicken was tender on the inside crispy and salty and perfect on the outside. Pork, beef all of it was really good. They come around with the meat on skewers so you can have as much or as little as you care to. Dessert was a mango mousse with a dark chocolate shell-really sophisticated for an all-inclusive. We also ate at the Steakhouse located in Maya which was also surprisingly good. They serve onion rings for the “appetizer” (there is also a salad bar). I had the top sirloin and my husband had the beef loin. Both were cooked perfectly, seasoned well and came with a potato and veggies. We also had shrimp cooked in a butter garlic sauce that was really quite good. In fact it was almost all too much to eat. Mini apple pie with ice cream for dessert was the perfect end to the meal. Lastly we ate at the Tex-Mex and I have to be honest I love tex-mex so it would have been really hard for me not to like this place. And I was happy with it. We actually ate here twice- the first time I had the regional specialty tacos called Tacos al Pastor which are pork carnitas tacos made with roasted pineapple. They were delicious. The second time I had what they call Northern “Sheet” which is thinly sliced piece of top sirloin flatted and topped with cheese and served with guacamole and black beans. It was truly delicious. Dessert was a bunch of little things- a coconut cake, a chocolate mousse and an apple empanada.
Buffet at Breakfast I thought was great. They have the make your own omelet bar, scrambled eggs, eggs over easy, more bacon and sausage than you can shake a stick at, pancakes, waffles, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, fresh fruit, cereal, the most awesome al minute donuts covered in sugar, chocolate or frosting, fresh made croissants- seriously it was hard to choose from.
Dinner Buffet was okay if not a little boring. We only ate at the buffet twice for dinner- the second night was a theme of asian styled food which was surprisingly decent. My real complaint about the dinner buffet is that there are only two places to go for dinner buffet either at the pool or across from the Lindo Theater. I didn’t find either place really convenient. Like I said the food was okay nothing I would write home about.
Bar Services so there is only one swim up bar in the pool at Maya and even though it’s huge and they have 3 people working behind the bar it’s not enough. When we stayed at del Mar four years ago there were 2 bars, one in an adults only area that was great. The smaller bar at del Mar allowed for more personal services and it allowed us to get to know the bartender. Here that just didn’t happen at Maya. They rotated the bartenders out every day and there wasn’t enough to take care of both the folks that were sitting there as well as the folks sitting around the pool. However, for what they had to work with I thought they did pretty good. I do wish that Maya/Lindo had an adults only area like del Mar did with its own bar-that would have been really fantastic.
Starfriends/Entertainment we were there for a vacation not to exercise or go shoot air guns but I thought some of the stuff the starfriends did around the pool was entertaining and even funny. The evening shows were also very entertaining and they work hard and were always friendly. On a personal note I can see how this would be great for kids but for most adults on vacation I don’t think they need that kind of stimulation.
Weather now I know the hotel has zero control over this but I wanted to say that this time of year (early November) can be iffy for weather. We had 5 really gorgeous days, one sort of rainy day and one very overcast day. If you want perfect weather you have to go during the high season (and pay high season prices) which is April through early July.
Buffet at Lunch it was boring all the time. I think we ate more hamburgers than we ever have. And they were good, don’t get me wrong, I just would have preferred something else. The El Fagon buffet has a taco “bar” which was pretty decent but the food for lunch was average and nothing special but if you were just looking to fill your stomach it would do. There are three places to go for lunch however one of them requires that you be in regular clothes (i.e. no bathing suits) so most people do eat at the pool bar buffets. The buffet that requires full dress is only slightly better though. In my opinion it’s not worth getting into regular clothing just to eat at the other buffet for lunch.
Rooms are actually nice and well decorated but I don’t see a need for a sitting room, we never sat in it. Moreover, as some have mentioned, the beds are quite hard and if you aren’t used to a hard bed it can be uncomfortable (we got used to it). I am not sure there is really anything that they can do about a hard bed-it just is what it is. I was a little disappointed in the mini-bar it only had soda, water and beer (I am not a huge soda or beer drinker) it would have been nice to have other alcohol in there (like mini vodka or something). Our room faced nothing so that was disappointing (and this was the second room we were in that faced nothing). The room was nothing special to be honest and there was a serious lack of decent English speaking TV.
The Shopping Center not to look a gift horse in the mouth or anything since most hotels only have a lobby gift shop and this one has an entire shopping area with 5 jewelry stores, a bunch of clothing places, shoes etc. But as you might expect it was overpriced in some stuff (like the jewelry for example). I wish there had been more variety of stuff to buy I guess is why I rate this as fair. There is just so much more they could have done with it.
Walkways are hazardous. This was true for del Mar also. They are beautiful when the sun is shining but once they get wet that marble is slippery. I nearly did a header in to the toilet on our fourth day because it was so wet. They need rubber mats by doorway entrances and at the very least a place to dry off your feet/shoes so you don’t kill yourself trying to pee.
Tidbits and Tips:
On room “upgrades.” They “upgraded” our room to a superior junior suite with two full size beds. Which, in retrospect, wasn’t because of our special occasion it was because they didn’t have the room we booked (a junior suite with a king size bed). We only found out about the real purpose of the upgrade after my husband asked for us to be moved back to a king room (it was our 5th anniversary after all). I just wish she hadn’t been deceptive about it and had told us the room they were moving us to had two full size beds at least we would have been prepared. So if they offer an upgrade just make sure it has what you want (i.e. if you want a king size bed be sure to ask if that upgrade has it).
On children. We didn’t mind the kids but here’s the reason why I think they are there. The rooms are all suited and the superior rooms have a pull out couch. Thinking about it it’s more economical and roomier at Maya than at del Mar and Beach (since those rooms are not suited) so even though it’s more expensive for a couple to go to Maya- for a family it’s probably a good deal. If you want to avoid the kiddos the choices are the Grand (if you want to go more expensive) or honestly, del Mar and Beach. We spent a morning over at del Mar this trip and didn’t see many children at all (and none in the adults only area).
On top shelf liquor. Just ask for it. I had all my bloody marys made with stoli or absolute. I had all my coco locos made with Malibu. If you ask, they’ll make it how you want if you don’t you’ll get the cheaper stuff. If you don’t care that’s fine but if you do just ask if it does matter to you.
On tipping. Obviously it’s not mandatory but the average paycheck there is $10 US a day and they work 7 days a week. They really do a good job so compensate them for your good vacation. C’mon you can afford it :)
Garrafon National Park (Isla Mujeres)
This one started out really early (Lobby at 7:45) and a driver takes you to Cancun ferry port. You get breakfast on the ferry which was actually very good. It was chopping going out to Isla Mujeres and so if you get seasick easily I might avoid this trip, honestly. The ferry drops you off at Dolphin Discovery and if you opted for it this is the place you would meet and swim with the dolphins (we didn’t do this so I have no review, others said they had a really nice time, I just felt bad for the dolphins). In order to get to Garrafon park though you need to take a cab (it’s included in the price) to the other end of the island. The ride is a little, um, unsettling so be prepared. Once at the park lunch is included, zipline is an additional $5 which isn’t bad (it’s nice zipline over the water and through some trees and stuff-nothing fantastic though). You can also snorkel, or just relax on a hammock. We took a little hike up to the sculpture park and to the lighthouse. Afterwards we took the ferry to the main shopping area on the complete other side of Isla Mujeres where there are a ton of little stores and restaurants looking to sell you anything you want to buy. This excursion was my husband’s favorite part of our vacation but by the time 3pm rolled around for this one I was ready to go home and we still had another hour and half plus an hour ferry ride plus a 45 minute drive back to the hotel. It’s just a long day with no real structure.
Cancun Lovers Cruise (a.k.a. Lobster Dinner Cruise)
This was well worth the money and the drive to Cancun. We took the sunset dinner cruise and it was so pretty the night we went I didn’t want it to end. The boat isn’t on the “Mexican Caribbean” but rather in the lagoon across the way so it’s very calm. They cook the lobster (and I had steak too) on the grill, on the boat. There were only maybe 8 other couples on the whole boat and 5 or 6 crew members. You can dance, drink, the lobster was wonderful and I don’t even really like shellfish but this was really fantastic. The folks who are on the crew are really lovely, so kind I mean this is a really romantic lovely evening. If you are celebrating something special or even if you aren’t but want a romantic night out I would do this one again in a minute.
I think that’s all for this hotel and our trip in general. I hope you found the review helpful and honest. If you are interested in other excursions we did on the previous trip you can take a look at my Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar review (we did Tulum Express and Mayan Adventure on that trip).
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located directly on the beautiful beach of Playa Paraiso (Mexico). All junior suites with Jacuzzi, DVD player, upgraded amenities. Exclusive dining plus dine around privileges at over 16 restaurants, 17 full service bars. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Paraiso Maya Hotel Playa Paraiso
- Iberostar Playa Paraiso
- Iberostar Riviera Maya
- Iberostar Hotel Paraiso Maya
- Iberostar Maya
- Iberostar Grand Paraiso
- Iberostar Paraiso Maya Playa Paraiso, Riviera Maya, Mexico