by Stephen Jermanok
A mere 30-minute drive south of the Cancun International Airport, you reach the 80-mile stretch of coastline called the Riviera Maya. It has the same pearly white sand and aquamarine waters that made Cancun a popular retreat. Yet, unlike its neighbor to the north, there are no high-rise resorts standing broad shoulder to broad shoulder. Resorts in Riviera Maya have to adhere to strict building zones resulting in three-story villas nestled in an overgrowth of palms and mangroves.
Few other resorts take advantage of this natural splendor better than the Spanish-owned Iberostar. North of Playa del Carmen in the Paraiso Playa section of Riviera Maya, Iberostar has unveiled not one, not two, but five resorts, including the adults-only Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso. The first of these hotels to be built, Iberostar Paraiso del Mar shares its restaurants, pools and bars with neighboring Iberostar Paraiso Beach. But all five hotels of the hotels are linked, so you can walk the long stretch of beach and still be on Iberostar property.
Strange as it sounds, it is the interior, not the beachfront where the Paraiso del Mar excels. Watch white swans and pink flamingoes cooling off in the small streams, peacocks and iguanas running in the shade of the tall palms and other indigenous trees. Follow their lead and grab one of the chaise lounge chairs under a shaded thatched cabana or wander over to the beach and catch the surf. It’s a hard choice to make.
To learn more, visit IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts.
Our Editor Loves
- The stretch of shoreline
- The large pool complex
- Lucy's Mini Club
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All 388 rooms at the Paraiso del Mar are the same, with two double beds, small sitting area, and balcony or terrace. The flamingo pink sofas and paintings of parrots on the walls blend in naturally with the vast array of birdlife found on the premises. Each room has a shower and bath, with hairdryer, and Iberostar's own line of shampoos and soaps. Also found in the room is a television with satellite channels, coffeemaker, ceiling fan, and safe. This being an all-inclusive resort, all the drinks, including the Dos Equis beer in the mini-bar is free of charge.
What can I say about this fantastic resort other than FANTASTIC! We have travelled to various locations throughout the Caribbean and have stayed at very nice resorts but, the Del Mar by far has been the best so far. They exceeded our requirements of which one was food allergies as I’m highly allergic to Coconut. I mentioned this to our travel agent upon booking and it was noted for the hotel to see..before leaving for our trip I received an email from the hotel advising me that they received the report and I was to see the Conceige when we arrived at the hotel. After checking in, we went to see the conceige and another letter was given to me to give to the chef at all locations where we were eating. I did this and was shown the foods that contained coconut and to stay away from the deserts as they may contain coconut. We went to the Japanese restaurant (excellent choice) the Head Chef introduced herself and made me feel very comfortable. The rooms, grounds, restaurants, pools, lobby were great. A must see is the waterfall situated at the other end of the river pool (the pool is like a long winding river), there is also a water slide but, it was under construction. I could go on but, won’t...it’s a must see resort and I highly recommend it..
I have booked the hotel regarding the good comments and that was the best I could do. The hotel with his really good employees is worth every penny. We have arrived really late, due to a delayed flight, but the reception employee was there and took his time to check us in. No stress.
At the second day my partner got stung by a stone-fish. He felt really bad, so I was searching for help. On the beach there are lifeguards and I thought they know what to do and I was right. The lifeguard which helped him was Alejandro Vázquez. He knew exactly which fish it was and helped directly. He said, he could sent us to the doctor or he treat it for free by his own. We have decided that he should help, because he looked really competent. So Alejandro explained some things to my partner and got then all stuff that he needed to treat him. The security guys were there also, every employee tried to help the best they could. Alejandro stayed really long until my partner got better, that took really time, approximately two hours. The next day my partner felt much better, thanks to Alejandro. Every day we were on the beach, Alejandro asked my partner how he feels. The next days on the beach felt really safe, to know, that the lifeguards take there job seriously. From the hotel we got also champagne. I think that was not necessary, because they can't anything for the life in the ocean. But it shows that they take there jobs serious.
Also our housekeeping women, she was great. Unfortunately, I forgot her name. But we had the room with the number 4444. She full filled me every wish and cleaned really good. I liked her so much that we hugged when we left the hotel.
Regarding the food is only one thing to say, very delicious and enough from everything. I was eating really good there. The employees were so nice and make every wish came true. Bad only that some guests do not value the employees behind the food counter or waiters and usher. They do really a good job and it is not too much to ask how are you today or thank you. I do not know all names but we had Marciano as waiter, he was great and knew exactly what we want. Also Felix, he was really nice.
Then we had also one discussion with the upper management, that was a huge different. They were not that friendly. I made really often sport there because the trainers are great. So I was sweaty and waiting in the lobby at the white chairs, because I want to book a trip. I did not sit on the pillow because I was sweaty, so I sit on the back of the chair. But I after this my trousers was white like the chair.So we start discussing with the upper management and that was totally different. At least they tried to clean it but it doesn't help. It was like a never ending story.
But back to the sport and the great trainers. Names like Beto Albores, Luis Pana, Diego Montiel, Uziel Garrido, Adriana Lara, Emanuela Serrelli etc. They really know what they are doing and the offers are for everybody. I loved the sessions at the beach, because I can be in the gym at home. At its so nice to go in the ocean after sport. Guys, when you need sport, good food and safety at vacation take this hotel.
On the beach, kids can grab boogie boards to catch the waves, try the catamarans for a sail, go for a kayak, even try windsurfing. Jet skiing, banana boat rides, and parasailing are available for an additional charge. For older children, there's also the chance to learn to SCUBA dive in an area of the swimming pool. This being Mexico, expect the ocean temperature to be warmer than the pool and the outside temperature rarely dips below 75 degrees during the day, even during December break, when Florida and the Bahamas are cooler.
Lucy's Mini Club
Kids aged 4 to 14 can head to Lucy's Mini Club, the kids' club for Iberostar. Counselors keep kids active with sand castle competitions, arts and crafts, learning Spanish, and meringue dance moves. Outside in a sandy area, there's a playground with slides and seesaws.
The three pools at Paraiso del Mar are interconnected, with a shallow area for kids in one area and several swim-up bars to order that virgin strawberry daiquiri. There's always some activity happening at the pool, from dancing to water aerobics to beach volleyball. The young staff keeps everyone entertained during the course of the day.
Every night, there's a performance by entertainers for children at 8 p.m. and for adults at 9:45 p.m. at the Teatro, the resort's big theater. Expect to hear the sounds of the salsa and meringue and don't be surprised to see elaborate dance numbers in full costume. Kids are also asked to come on stage much to the merriment of their parents in the early show, so have that camera ready to shoot.
For teenagers, there's also the discotheque, open nightly from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
With two main buffets off the lobby, seven a la carte restaurants, several snack bars, including a beach grill, and an ice cream parlor near the pool, you don't have to worry where your next meal will come from. When it comes to dining, it's like being on a cruise ship.
Start with the breakfast buffet at El Mercado or La Plaza restaurants serving omelets, eggs, pancakes, churros (homemade donuts), hot out-of-the-oven breads, and fresh fruit, including sweet bananas, pineapple, and papaya. Lunch at the buffets is another gluttonous feast of salads, fish, pork, chicken, fruit, and the requisite rice and beans. Dinner at the buffet can also be good with a vast selection of salads, cheeses, salmon and other fish, grilled meats like turkey, chicken, steak, and many cakes and pastries for dessert. On special nights like Holidays, expect surprises like carved fruit in the shape of animals.
There's also the El Faro snack bar down by the pool, cooking hamburgers, hot dogs and a seemingly endless supply of French fries.
A La Carte
For the a la carte restaurants, reservations are mandatory, best made after 9 a.m. in the morning. The Japanese restaurant, with its selection of sushi, tempura and teriyaki, is a highlight. Also grab a sirloin at the steakhouse, El Puerto. Other selections include a gourmet restaurant featuring continental fare, an Italian restaurant, the Mexican restaurants dishing out mole poblano spicy seafood entrees, a Brazilian restaurant, and another favorite, the Mediterranean restaurant, La Dorada, offering Greek salads and grilled seafood.
A bonus for parents of small children is that room service is available from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. If Junior has had enough socializing for one day, you can call up and order chicken nuggets, hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers, nachos, wraps and salads.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Zip under the highway by golf cart and you'll be staring at the lush green par 72 course designed by P.B. Dye. In the distance you can spot the Mayan-like temple that sits atop the Iberostar Paraiso Maya.
There's a trolley running every 15 minutes that will take you anyplace you want to travel in the resort.
A fitness center with weights and aerobic machines is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Internet is available in the lobby for an extra charge or you can venture to the Internet Center and try one of their computers.
The Art of Smart Timing
Iberostar is a popular hotel chain with charter travel companies like TNT Vacations in Boston, Liberty Travel in New York, and Apple Vacations in the Midwest. Be sure to check and see if you can get a cheap flight included in a package with your room. After all, one of the main reasons folks visit Mexico is because of its affordability. If you want to get a room really cheap, come here during the summer. Christmas week and spring vacation weeks are the most expensive time of year.
For Mom and Dad
When the kids are with counselors at Lucy's Mini Club, escape to the Spa for a massage, golden paradise wrap, and use of the steam room, sauna, and saltwater pool. Or take advantage of that golf course next door and go for a round. Someone will pick you up at your villa and head straight to the Pro Shop and Clubhouse to get you a tee time.
Arrive to the area via flight to Cancun International Airport. The resort will arrange transportation at booking.