by Candyce H. Stapen
Walking into the lobby of the Occidental Cozumel (formerly Occidental Grand Cozumel) feels like entering a gracious Mexican hacienda. With just 251 rooms, the Occidental Cozumel is small compared to the Caribbean’s mega all-inclusive resorts. The property also houses a smaller, boutique hotel, the Royal Club, which offers families all-suite options. We step through the high-ceilinged anteroom decorated with an elaborate wrought-iron chandelier, then enter a hexagonal courtyard overhung with a red-tiled roof and centered by a fountain.
The resort spreads out as a series of flower-filled courtyards. Palm trees, tall banana fronds, crotons and flowering shrubs edge the walkways. Buildings, each surrounded by plants, shine with the colors of Mexico — ochre, salmon and earth red. Guest rooms are located in three story buildings, each constructed with an interior courtyard open to the sky that adds light and greenery.
Mexican touches bloom everywhere. Ceramic frogs and oversized urns adorn the lawns. A caretta, a decorative wooden cart filled with earthenware flowerpots, points the way toward our room.
With just 251 rooms, the Occidental Cozumel is small compared to the Caribbean’s mega all-inclusive resorts. The architecture, the lush grounds and the beautiful beach combined with the accommodating staff make the Occidental Cozumel a good choice for families who want a mid-level but upmarket and affordable all-inclusive resort.
Our Editor Loves
- White-sand beach and the pools
- Lushly landscaped grounds
- Kids' club and activities
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
At the Occidental Cozumel, the 11 guest buildings are three stories high and each contains up to 24 rooms. Palm trees and flowers surround the buildings, while a center atrium opens to the sky. Forget about dark, interior hallways -- there's always light and greenery. A glorious tall palm tree grows in our building's atrium; seeing it every time we enter or exit our room adds to the Caribbean ambiance. The inconvenient news is that buildings do not contain elevators. With little children and strollers, it's best to request a ground floor room.
The oversized rooms can easily handle a crib or a cot. In addition, rooms with two double beds can comfortably accommodate two adults and two young children. The large marble bathrooms are the same size as those in the luxury Royal Club, except that regular rooms come with a shower and a bathtub, not a Jacuzzi tub.
Adorable towel animals strewn with petals welcome you to your room. Each day a new one appears on the edge of your bed. We like the happy mermaid best.
We have stayed at many all inclusives, and this was the best one. Here’s why”
Food - Have been to all inclusives where the food bordered on inedible, even in the specialty restaurants. Food here was fresh, had something for everyone, and they did change items. The lunch buffet on the beach was our favorite.
Main pool - Here is where we sometimes have trouble due to excessive loud music. The music was kept to an acceptable level, and the activities were not ongoing all day long. We had resigned ourselves to use the adult pool, but while we did visit this lovely pool, most of the time we enjoyed the main pool and it’s proximity to the beach. Our only negative was that it needed more shade options. The umbrellas were very small and didn’t provide enough shade.
Beach - Lovely beach, and yes there is snorkeling. There is no reef here, however at times it was a virtual aquarium out there, wish fish congregated at the dock and in the sea grass. Very convenient without having to commit to going out on a boat and spending $61.
Rooms - While none of the rooms have ocean views, this is not important to us. The rooms are spacious and lovely. The bed was really really comfortable and the bedding heavenly.
Special thanks to the lovely Miel, yoga instructor. Taking her class in the palapa next to the ocean was divine.
This is a smallish resort, so the time required to get around was reasonable. Would highly recommend it.
Excellent service in all restaurants, pools, bars and at the main desk. All staff appear to be very happy working here and do their utmost to ensure you are happy as well. The grounds are beautiful and undergo constant maintenance. The rooms are well-appointed with a bountiful supply of towels and soap, a good hairdryer, cushions for the balcony chairs and an umbrella in case of an early morning shower. The food is plentiful and varied enough for everyone's taste. The three specialty restaurants are a bonus - quiet and relaxing with gourmet menus. There are 2 pools to choose from - the main one with lots of activities and a very busy bar, or the quiet 'adult pool', also with a bar. Lots of lounges at each one and plenty of lounges at the sandy beach. Speaking of bars, the specialty drinks are great.
A word to the management:
The coatimundi are adorable but may be annoying to some. Get the dirty dishes from room service out of the buildings asap because they attract as many as 10 of these little critters at a time. I saw lots of babies and suggest you neuter those boys asap before this gets out of hand.
This is my second time at this resort and I would recommend it to anyone.
Play tennis, snorkel from the beach, kayak, sail a catamaran and windsurf. These are some of the complimentary activities, as are the beach volleyball games, water aerobics, stretching and yoga classes hosted by the resort's recreation staff. The staff maintains a friendly and encouraging manner without being overbearing. Since scuba enthusiasts and snorkelers come to Cozumel to explore the spectacular reef, you can book a dive excursion through the on-site diving.
Beaches and Pools
The beach is long and the white sand is soft, plus the property has three pools. Under the guidance of counselors, little ones splash in the children's pool at the Kids Club. You can read your novel in peace or simply snooze at the kidney-shaped, quiet pool. At the beachfront pool, join in water aerobics or pool volleyball. If you don't feel like participating, no one yells at you through a bull horn. The recreational staff encourages in a friendly manner without being overbearing.
The activity pool overlooks the beach; that makes it easy for those parents to keep an eye on grade schoolers playing shoreside while still keeping their toes in the pool. The pool also has a large shallow area that little ones like for splashing. To reach the activity pool and the beach, you walk on boardwalk that crosses a mangrove estuary. Each day as we went to and from the beach we counted the number of turtles we see swimming among the reeds.
Easy access to the spectacular reef system just off-shore is one of the main reasons people choose Cozumel for a vacation. The legendary Palancar site, with its large coral heads, big barrel sponges and sea fans, is just a 10-minute boat ride away from the resort. Paradise Reef, known for star coral and brain coral, is also nearby.
At the Kids Club, kids ages 4 to 12 play beach games, try snorkeling, learn Spanish, play horseshoes, take dance lessons and create paper flowers, design T-shirts and fashion beaded iguanas. The program runs from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. In the evening kids regroup in the main plaza at 8:30 p.m. for mini-disco sessions where they enjoy musical chairs, do freeze dancing, make crazy sodas and play musical bingo. The Kids Club room is air-conditioned and colorfully decorated with children's art projects. Most of the time, however, kids are taken around the resort to enjoy the property.
Since the Occidental Cozumel lacks an official theater, evening entertainment often takes place in the main plaza, a circular courtyard with concentric rings outlined in pebbles. For events, the resort sets up chairs. Along with the typical music and dance performances, the resort sometimes has a pre-Hispanic show, Mariachi music, a star-gazing session or a Mexican crafts fair. (Remember to bargain, bargain, bargain with local vendors).
Faro Celarain Eco Park, a 2,700-acre park at Cozumel's tip, is also worth a visit. Formerly called "Punta Sur," the park features secluded beaches and mangrove lagoons. Families can visit the park's 19th century lighthouse where, after climbing many steps, you come to a beautiful, panoramic view of the area. Kayaking and sailing in the lagoons are more active options.
Shopping in San Miguel, Cozumel's main town, is another off-the-property lure. Stoll El Malecon, the waterfront strip, officially called Avenida Rafael E. Melgar. The stores sell silver jewelry, pottery, papier-mache, wood and other handicrafts.
If your family has never seen a Mayan ruin, San Gervasio is interesting. It's not the most impressive, especially compared with Tulum on the Riviera Maya's mainland, but Tulum is too far for a comfortable day trip. The Maya inhabited San Gervasi from about 200 A.D. to the late 16th century when the Spanish conquistadors arrived.
At the Occidental Cozumel, more often than not, the food is good. Both La Posada near the lobby and the Beach Club, overlooking the beach, serve breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. Depending on guest capacity, one or the other restaurant may close for a meal. We especially like lunch at the Beach Club, a roofed, but open-air facility overlooking the sandy beach and blue sea.
Unlike at some all-inclusive resorts, where the dining room remains open for 60 to 90 minutes for lunch and those who arrive late get to pick through leftovers, the Occidental Cozumel typically serves lunch from noon to 4:30 p.m. Not only does this work well for divers exploring the reefs and families off-property on other outings, but late lunch is just fine -- in fact preferable -- for teens. After all, on vacations they don't want to see daylight much before noon anyway. 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 fries.
The number of specialty dinners you are guaranteed depends on the number of nights of your stay. With a two- to three-night stay, you get one specialty dinner; with a four- to five-night booking you get two specialty dinners, and with a six- to seven-night booking you get three specialty dinners.
The beach club is one of two buffet-style restaurants at the resort. Along with the chips, salsa and salads, the buffets always include a chicken, fish and a beef entree as well as hamburgers, hot dogs and a pasta dish. The grilled to order items taste best. We especially like the grilled chicken. Desserts, instead of languishing in the heat, are kept in a glass door refrigerator. That's good. We just wish the refrigerator could be moved to a part of the room away from the chef's grill since people waiting for their cooked items collide with those lining up to reach in the fridge. This, however, is a quibble.
You can grab a pizza from the Beach Club restaurant from 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., a timetable that often pleases teens.
The other buffet eatery La Posada, a pleasing space with a barrel-vaulted ceiling, serves Asian, barbecue or other themed dinners 6 until 9:30pm. The staff here is helpful. Instead of watching you balance a tot on one hip and plates in your hands, waiters assist you, carrying the plates to your table. During your meal, even though it's a buffet, the waiters check in to see if you need anything to drink, whether it's juice, water, coffee or alcohol.
One of the two specialty restaurants, Sonora Grill is a steak house with a Mexican flare. Reservations are required, as are long trousers and closed shoes for men.
At Los Olivos, the chef gladly prepares fish with a different sauce because of our food allergy. The dishes are inspired by the Mediterranean. The restaurant is open for dinner, starting at 6:30 p.m.
La Piazza is a fabulous pizzeria that opens for dinner and stays open late into the night.
Planning & Tips
The Art of Smart Timing
High season starts around mid-December and through mid-April. The low season runs from Sept-to mid December. Guests can also come from mid-April through August, though it gets pretty hot.
American and United are among the airlines flying into Cozumel International Airport. In addition, you can fly into Cancun International Airport and connect to Cozumel via an air shuttle flight or you can take the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel, about a 30-minute ride. Among the carriers serving Cancun are Air Canada, Air Tran, American, Delta, Jet Blue, Spirit, United, US Airways and others.
For Mom and Dad
Work off the buffet pounds at the gym or by dancing at La Mission Bar & Disco built to resemble a mission era church. The adult only disco is from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Parents can also be pampered with a massage at the resort spa.