Family Holiday to Mexico
Some 20 years ago husband and I, along with two of his colleagues that I barely knew at the time, booked a last-minute holiday to Playa del Carmen. I’m happy to say we had an amazing holiday, although it was not as cheap as my husband had led our friends to believe (now a standing joke)! This couple have been our dearest friends ever since. I was overjoyed when they suggested a return trip.
We booked the holiday for the end of May for 14 nights and we are now two families comprising four adults and four boys aged 7-12 years old. We stayed at The Occidental Grand Xcaret, on the Riviera Maya. On arrival, mid evening, our transfer arrived into a sweeping, discreetly lit driveway, up to the reception foyer. The sheer grandeur and tropical surroundings felt like stepping into Jurassic Park.
After checking in, we were guided through the grounds to our room. Immediately we began to experience the surprises this hotel had to offer. Within yards we had encountered Macaws, monkeys, and these funny little miniature Capybara creatures, we never did learn what they truly were – this was just the start of many animal encounters.
First morning, due to jet lag our 7year old was up at 4am, so we walked to look at our closest pool. The temptation was too great, a paddle wasn’t enough, so we took a little dip. With hindsight, I’m not so sure I’d do that again as the very next day, in broad daylight, and a pleasantly active pool a large Iguana decided to take a swim to the other side, quite an extraordinary experience!
Our closest pool was freeform, surrounded by lush tree’s and a poolside bar. There were four jacuzzi pools sunken into the pool too – heaven! This place just keeps on giving. Mid-afternoon a troop of monkeys arrive across the rooftops of the surrounding accommodations to play and feast in the trees over hanging the pool, a regular occurrence. We were careful not to stand directly under them, once they’ve eaten the fruit, they discard the husk downwards!
The next day we decide to explore the grounds before breakfast (still jetlagged). We found the adult only saltwater pool, this is a living pool with a channel out to sea, so the pool is filled with every lapping wave. As we stroll the perimeter, ankle deep, our ‘eagle eyed’ eldest son discovered an octopus about the size of a dinner plate, just resting there. It kindly allowed us time to take some photos before it ‘inked’ us and thrusted away.
And then came the Coati’s. These cute long-tailed animals wander the hotel grounds freely. We bumped into them a few times as we wandered to breakfast. They’re curious but quite shy. By this point my children are teetering on the edge of wildlife sensory overload! However, the magnificent animal kingdom did not stop there - iguanas, lizards, geckos, deer, snakes, tropical fish, birds of paradise, hummingbirds, all before we even got into Xcaret Park where the wonders continued.
With our holiday purchase we decided to pay extra to have unlimited access to Xcaret Eco-Archaeological Park which is situated right next door. We had visited this park BC (before children!) as a day trip. The park celebrates the cultural, archaeological, and ecological history of Mexico. It has its own private entrance close to the beach restaurant, great for doing a morning visit, and you can walk or catch a boat from inside the main hotel foyer, all great experiences.
For me, by far the best experience at Xcaret are the underground rivers. There are three to choose from, varying in length, so once you’ve got your life vest on and chosen your path, you climb down into the river, it’s a bit chilly but if I can do it so can you. We floated and paddled a little down river through the caves lit by natural light from air vents above. I can’t explain how wonderful this experience is.
One evening we decided to go to the Xcaret Theatre. The building was awesome, a combination of small stadium size and theatre with stunning Mexican design. It even has waterfalls cascading around the exterior which you could see from inside as it is open sided. The show’s a spectacular performance telling the story of the Mexican culture, traditions and regions of the country. A fascinating show of epic proportions, take a snack and water as it’s quite a long show but you can leave at any time.
Food in the park was varied but quite pricey but as we had unlimited access, we could pop back to the hotel to eat or usually we organised our visits as half days around meal times.
On a couple of occasions, to have a change of scene, we caught a taxi into Playa del Carmen, only about £5. It dropped us at a taxi rank, so it was really easy to get a taxi back at the end of the day. Playa del Carmen had grown a lot since our first visit. There are many shops selling Mexican trinkets and souvenirs along the pedestrianised central parade (great for the kids), and so much choice for seafront eateries on the great expanse of beach. We also found Paseo del Carmen, an open-air mall where you walk along cobblestones paths to the different shops like Gant, Vilebrequin, Tommy Hilfiger, Zara and the likes of, some eateries and coffee houses too. This was a very enjoyable afternoon out.
The Occidental Grand Xcaret, in my opinion, is undoubtedly one of the top all-inclusive resorts in Riviera Maya and makes the perfect getaway for those seeking tranquillity and adventure. Facilities and service here are second to none with a choice of 11 restaurants and 10 bars allowing you to choose to snack, take an informal gourmet lunch or a candle-lit dinner whatever takes your fancy. There are seven swimming pools (some exclusive) and an excellent kid’s club, there’s something here to suit all kinds of traveller.
We booked this holiday thinking we knew what we were in for. The Occidental Grand Xcaret and Xcaret Eco-Archaeological Park excelled on every level and surpassed all my expectations. A fantastic holiday and experience for us all.