by Candyce H. Stapen
For families, the big plus for staying at the (formerly Occidental Grand Xcaret) is that Xcaret, an adventure park and a popular Riviera Maya attraction, is a five-minute walk from the hotel, which has its own park entrance. If you’d like to make swimming with the park’s dolphins, seeing the jaguars, sea turtles and watching Mayan evening shows, a prime part of your vacation, a stay at the Occidental at Xcaret Destination makes all of that easy to do.
Not only does the hotel frequently offer packages that come with discounted park admission, but an Xcaret ticket allows re-entry later on that same day. That means you and your family can visit the park in the morning and afternoon, come back to the hotel for dinner and show up again for the park’s evening entertainment. When not exploring Xcaret park, take advantage of the Occidental’s five pools and calm, sea lagoon.
If, however, you crave beach walks and sails from a resort’s dock, then the Occidental at Xcaret Destination isn’t the hotel for you. Initially, the 796-room property overwhelms us. However, during the course of our stay, we come to appreciate the attractively-landscaped grounds, the expansive lawns, the perches of scarlet macaws and enclosures of flamingos. Eleven restaurants and five pools also provide families with lots of choices.
The property also offers a hotel-with-in-a-hotel with its Royal Club boutique-style hotel, which provides all the amenities of the resort, with the added bonus of a few exclusive restaurants and suites. Staying at the 46-room Royal Club creates a more intimate, upscale experience with much better food than that offered to the guests in the other 750 rooms of the Occidental at Xcaret Destination. But first, be sure that the resort’s location is right for your family.
Essentially, the Royal Club at Occidental at Xcaret Destination has no beach. Instead, a man-made cafe au lait strip of sand edges a man-made lagoon that fills with seawater and fish, much to the delight of kids who like swimming with the wildlife. For families, the big plus for staying at the Occidental at Xcaret Destination is that Xcaret, an adventure park and popular Riviera Maya attraction, is a five-minute walk from the hotel, which has its own park entrance. If swimming with the park’s dolphins, seeing the jaguars, sea turtles and other Caribbean critters or watching the folkloric and Maya evening shows, are the focuses of your vacation, then the Occidental at Xcaret Destination is the best place to stay. If, however, you crave long, beach walks and sails from a resort’s dock, then the Occidental at Xcaret Destination is not the hotel for you.
However, if you want a location close to Xcaret, then splurging on rooms at the Occidental at Xcaret Destination’s Royal Club adds a welcome level of luxury, personal attention and really good food to your all-inclusive stay.
Our Editor Loves
- Easy access to Xcaret, adventure park
- Multiple pools
- Wide choice of dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
A big property, the Occidental at Xcaret Destination offers 796 rooms in 32 three-story buildings, none of which have elevators. If toting young children and strollers, request a ground floor room. Cribs are free but there is a charge for roll-away beds.
The good-sized rooms can handle a crib or a cot. In addition, rooms with two double beds can comfortably accommodate two adults and two young children. In a suite, the step-down sitting area has a day bed. However, only a half-wall separates the sitting area from the sleeping area, providing parents with limited privacy. Rooms come with stocked mini-refrigerators and most rooms have a small patio or a balcony. Few rooms have water views.
The Royal Club's suites are exceptionally large, consisting of a big living and dining area with a television and DVD player. An additional bedroom is complete with another television and a bathroom. Bathrooms contain showers and hydro-tubs that are welcoming after a long day exploring the eco parks. The suites can easily accommodate a cot or a crib.
All Royal Club accommodations, suites or rooms, come with bathrobes, fruit baskets, nightly turndown service, room service and free Internet access at the Royal Club lounge's computers.
Like other buildings at Occidental at Xcaret Destination, the Royal Club buildings do not have elevators. With little children and strollers, it's best to request a ground floor room. As at the rest of the resort, adorable towel animals strewn with petals welcome you to your room. Each day a new one appears on the edge of your bed. Kids can enjoy playing with them until they unravel, which may signal bath time.
Occidental was amazing, keep in mind that ur at a rai forest so it rains but not for long! Favorite drinks are mango tango, pina colada, and banana mama, also the chocolate martini tasted like brownies!
by Justin R
Go for the swimming, drinks, and service. They loved making sure we had anything we needed. Bars everywhere and fully stocked with almost anything. The pools were amazing, never full, and comfortable. The ocean access swimming was a little crowded, but great if you get there early.
Leave for better food and entertainment. The only "local" food was at the buffet, and it was bland. The entertainment was pretty much just on the weekends, and it was never really advertised what was going on, but we didn't really ask either. As for the restaurants, they were pretty average. If you like salmon, then you will be happy.
Two types of families like the water activities at the Occidental at Xcaret Destination: those preferring pools and those preferring their oceans to be like pools. For the first group, the resort has five pools tucked throughout the property. Flamingos, the large activity pool named for the flock of pink birds that inhabit a nearby enclosure, is the hub of activities. Star Friends organize pool volleyball, water aerobics and other activities here. At "Crabs," the quiet pool, punctuate your reading and snoozing with dips in the water.
For those who like perfectly calm seas, the Occidental at Xcaret Destination delivers. Since the site's rocky coast lacks a natural beach, the hotel cut a narrow channel in the rocks, allowing the sea to pool into a man-made lagoon. Young children especially love the perfectly calm water plus the fish swim in it. The beach is a man-made strip of sand with lounge chairs that surrounds one edge of the lagoon. As always arrive early to claim a spot. On our visit, most chairs were taken by 9:15 a.m.
If your family likes waves, expansive beaches or strolls in the sand, then the Occidental at Xcaret Destination is not for you. However, the expansive grounds are great for walkers. We never took the complimentary resort shuttle, which operates from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., preferring instead to stroll the prettily landscaped grounds, pausing to explore the site's two Maya ruins and admire the white-tailed deer, flamingos and scarlet macaws.
The Kids Club operates for ages 4 to 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Generally, counselors divide the children into two groups, ages 4 to 6 and 7 to 12. The indoor activities take place in a large room with a palapa roof and ceiling fans, located near the activity pool. The room is nicely equipped with colorful tables for crafts, bean bag chairs, Foosball, mini-billiards and a stage. Outside, kids can splash in the children's pool, climb ropes and use the swings.
Kids also learn Spanish, play pool volleyball, do face painting and go on ecological tours of the property to see the animals. In the evening children regroup at 8:30 p.m. for mini-disco sessions of musical chairs, freeze dancing and other fun. On Wednesdays, the children break pinatas. The Kids Club also hosts a lunch for children from noon to 3 p.m.
It's a shame the resort doesn't do a better job of hosting its teen club, as so many properties don't offer special places for the finicky age group. Although located across from the theater (look for the green monster sign) and open from 6 p.m. to midnight, the teen club takes place on a little used, open-air patio. Still, it exists and we are told there are plans to expand it.
In the evenings, the resort tries to concentrate the guests around the theater, drawing families out with PG movies such as "Mamma Mia," "Grease," and "Kung Fu Panda" shown from about 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., followed by the children's disco. The adult oriented, live entertainment starts at 9:30 p.m.
During the day, when you and your kids are not lounging at the pool or the beach, play tennis, shuffleboard and mini-golf and also try archery at sessions guided by the Star Friends, Occidental's recreation and entertainment staff.
Eco Theme Parks
Take advantage of the Occidental at Xcaret Destination's proximity to Xcaret to visit the park, a prime attraction Riviera Maya attraction. The hotel has its own entrance to the park which is a five-minute walk away. Often the hotel offers special, discounted park admission.
At the eco-adventure park, you can swim with dolphins (reserve ahead), swim in a natural pool or get a diver's eye view of a reef with Sea Trek or Snuba (neither requires any diving certification). The Caribbean collection of animals includes flamingos, scarlet macaws, sea turtles, jaguars and spider monkeys. Staying at the Occidental at Xcaret Destination makes it convenient to come back to the park for the evening shows, an entertaining folkloric show and a demonstration of Pok-Ta-Pok, the ancient Mesoamerican ball game, with players adorned in traditional body paints and regalia.
At Xplor, another eco-theme park, you glide along zip lines, drive an amphibious vehicle through mud and creeks (the driver must be at least 18), and swim or raft through an underground river. Lunch is included with your fee.
Take older teens looking for adventure to Rio Secreto, a cenote , or underground river, that you enter by walking. As you go further through the cave, dappled with stalagmites and stalactites, the water rises. At one point, you must swim to enter another chamber. Although the tour company allows children 6 and older who can swim to visit, we suggest this outing for adventurous kids ages 9 and older.
To us the food at the Occidental at Xcaret Destination is average with some restaurants providing better than average meals. With 11 restaurants, you will be able to find something that pleases each family member. All of the specialty restaurants offer children's menus. While these may vary a bit with the venue, kids can typically select favorites such as hamburgers, chicken and pasta.
Le Buffet serves an International buffet meal three times daily. It is located at the center of the resort. Breakfast, lunch and dinner options are provided.
Beach Club overlooks the man-made beach and the sea. The dining room serves buffet breakfast and lunch. We like sitting on the restaurant's deck listening to the sea crash against the rocks and the kids enjoy swinging in the deck's hammocks between courses.
At night the Beach Club morphs into El Pescador, a seafood specialty restaurant. Dishes contain fresh-caught seafood, and the open-air environment makes you feel close to the sea.
Sonora Grill, a steakhouse, offers scrumptious meat dishes off the grill. The restaurant is only open for dinner.
Los Olivos, serving Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, is a laidback bistro that serves dinner only.
Visit D'Oriental for Asian cuisine from many countries, including India and Thailand. The restaurant is decorated with hanging paper lamps and parasols that seek to transport guests far from the Caribbean.
La Hacienda offers Mexican fare, and is an all-around kid-pleaser. The chicken tostados at La Hacienda are tasty and so is the bean soup. For dessert try the churros -- fried donuts sprinkled with cinnamon.
The Royal Club Restaurant
At the Royal Club's restaurant, guests dine outside on the deck or inside in the casually elegant room. The dining room made us feel as if we were in the home of a gracious friend, one who has a wonderful chef. The food at the Royal Club Xcaret is very good for breakfast and dinner, but average for lunch.
Planning & Tips
All about the extras
Scarlet macaws look regal on perches throughout the lobby and the grounds. At 6 p.m. each night the resort has an interpreter dressed in Maya regalia light he torches along the canal in the lower lobby.
By request the spa will do 30-minute manicures and pedicures for children with an additional charge. Internet service is available for a fee of about $11 an hour or $26 per day.
Babysitting is available for an extra fee.
The Art of Smart Timing
High season starts around mid-December and through mid-April. The low season runs from September to mid-December. Shoulder season is from mid-April through August.
Fly into Cancun International Airport. Among the carriers serving Cancun are Air Canada, Air Tran, American, Delta, Jet Blue, Spirit, United, US Airways and others.
For Mom and Dad
You can work off the buffets at the gym, open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., get a massage at the spa and dance at the disco.