Exploring Cozumel and Riviera Maya

IMG_2681I try to get to Mexico every year. It is such a great value for your vacation and they always have new resorts being built. The first week we returned to Cozumel to stay at the Occidental Grand at the Southern end of the island. This was our fifth visit to this resort and it just keeps getting better. Barcelo Resorts just purchased the entire All Inclusive Occidental chain. They say everything will remain the same plus improvements to come. They were replacing all beds, mattresses, etc. when we were there.

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Some of the strongest selling points:

  • Great wide sandy beach, little seaweed on Cozumel compared to Eastern facing Riviera Maya.
  • Great snorkeling & reasonable priced diving in area
  • Beautiful grounds of well maintained gardens
  • Hardly can see the three story octagonal buildings
    housing 24 units above the foliage
  • Total of 243 rooms
  • Good food and service. One main buffet and two specialty restaurants that require reservations. No problem at least in low season.
  • Professionally entertainment brought in most nights- Folkloric Show, Fire Show, Mexican Rock band, etc.
  • Resort is for everyone but few children off season. I would assume a great resort for families during prime vacation times.
  • No wristbands needed.
  • Wi-Fi available at a cost of $60 per week

I hope to return again and hope the area never over-develops like so many other places.

DSCF1164Then we took the Ultramar ferry to Playa del Carmen ($10), now a town of over 100,000 residents. We picked up our rental car and were off to the brand new Secrets Akumal, Secrets fourth resort in Riviera Maya. Located one hour and ten minutes south of Cancun Airport on the infamous Akumal Bay which has been an undeveloped favorite beach and snorkel spot for over thirty years.

Having built five resorts in this area of Mexico before, Secrets really knows how to plan a beautiful and easy to navigate resort for Adults Only. 430 junior suites or suites with modern decor, double jacuzzi tubs in bath, double sinks, glass showers with seating, stocked refrigerators, 24 hour room service and free Wi-Fi throughout.

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All rooms are nice but Preferred Club gives you better location with better views, plunge pools on balconies, Preferred Club lounge with premium liquor, snacks and concierge service.

Some of the strongest points:

  • Adults only that would work equally well for couples as singles
  • Professional entertainment every night, Mexican Warrior Show Cirque de Soleil show, Rock bands, and comedians that involve guests in their shows
  • Six specialty restaurants plus buffet, beach grill and coffee cafe. No reservations needed except at Japanese Hibachi style table. Longest wait was 30 minutes for the Portofino Italian restaurant that passed quickly at the poolside lounge with professional musicians. Food was very good throughout.
  • No wristbands needed. Really a challenge for security with other resorts next door.
  • Three main HEATED pools and continuing heated river pools fronting all buildings for swim out rooms. It is rare that hot tubs are heated in Mexico let alone pools so this was a real treat.
  • Lots of activities in the infinity pool. Main and Arch pools are quiet.
  • Beautiful, well maintained beach, seaweed cleaned up daily, no rocks in water and some of the best snorkeling in area.
  • Great service throughout. All of the staff is fresh from training and end each conversation with “It is a pleasure”.

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Problems:

  • Sometimes slow service in the specialty restaurants, waiting thirty minutes for next course. Whether these delays were caused by kitchen or wait staff, I think they will be resolved. The resort and staff are new so it takes time to get up to speed. Secrets has the manpower to fix it.
  • Preferred Club Lounge check in. If your reservations are in the Preferred Club section you will be escorted to the lounge which adds to the waiting time. Then, since they only had two staff members handling every job at the lounge it took another thirty minutes to check in. It only took me five minutes once I got to the desk but this needs to be expedited. No one wants to wait an hour to check in.
  • Of course our room was not ready until after 4PM so we just went to have lunch at 3PM to pass the time.

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Famous Akumal Bay

We and everyone else have been coming to snorkel there for over thirty years. In fact, it is sold as an excursion as a “learn to snorkel” trip. As a result, you have all the locals, all the guests of hotels, apartments, homes next door and groups of twenty snorkelers every half hour coming to this beach. According to Mexican law, the first twenty feet from water’s edge is open to the public throughout all of Mexico. However, we had never had this problem anywhere else in Mexico for that matter.

This is a constant challenge for the Secret’s security guards to maintain order and protect their and the guests property. During our stay, they came up with a great solution. They placed poles and planted palm trees on their property at the twenty foot mark. However by week’s end the community made them remove all even the palm trees. I do not know how this will end but unfortunately having the best beach with snorkeling in area, everyone wants the use of it. We never felt in danger but glad security was there and felt badly that Secret’s has to deal with this issue. Time will tell and maybe be resolved in the future.

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Xenotes Excursion

I took an online course “Xcaret Expert” that agents trains on the most popular excursions in the Riviera Maya area – Xcaret, Xplor, Xelha and the new Xenotes. This newest consists of five separate cenotes that allow for various activities in each. They are located thirty minutes inland from Puerto Morelos, off a very rough dirt road. Transfers are included for $109 per person.

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You get to repel down into a water filled cave, snorkel in clear water cenote open to sun, kayak down a mile long river, zip line into the water from three different types of lines, water slide into
another river, swim down lazy river and jump 30 feet into cool waters below. All of this with lunch and snacks makes for a nine hour excursion. It was lots of fun, professionally run and well worth $109. We have done so many of these excursions and they really make this Riviera Maya so popular.

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