Cancun may conjure up memories (often hazy) of spring break madness, body shots of tequila, and girls gone wild. But, thanks to the recent rebranding of the area's resort row by the clever folks at Mexico Tourism, it has been reborn as the Riviera Maya. A strip of white sand beach populated by adults-only all-inclusive properties designed for those of us who recovered from Spring Break Fever more than a couple of years ago.
The largest of these is the Iberostar Playa Paraiso compound, consisting of five hotels that share a golf course and several miles of private beach. The crown jewel of the Iberostar complex is the Grand Hotel Paraiso, an ultra-luxe, suites-only edifice that gives you front row seats to the majesty of the blue waters and sandy shores of Playa del Carmen.
The Grand Hotel Paraiso is an ideal destination for honeymooners who want the convenience of an all-inclusive resort, but without (let's face it) the throngs of children and family-vacationers that usually populate those sorts of vacation destinations. The Iberostar staff take special pains to ensure total privacy and luxury for their newly-betrothed clients: villas with private gardens complete with an outdoor shower and special butler services mean you might be tempted never to leave your room.
But leave you should, to enjoy the property's other amenities, most of which are included in the package deal (a bonus not to be underestimated in this economy, when vacations are one of the first things to get crossed off a household budget). Here's a rundown to make the most of your Riviera Maya vacation:
STAY: Every room in the Grand Hotel Paraiso is a testament to luxury, but ask for the honeymoon villas if you want the perfect romantic experience. The villa consists of a master bedroom, a large private bath, a personal garden with lounge chairs, a jacuzzi and--wait for it--an outdoor shower. Private butler services are also included, so you won't have to deal with mundane things like unpacking and packing. Save that for when the honeymoon's over. For bookings and more information: iberostar.com or (52) (984) 877-2800
DO: Though it's size can be daunting, one great thing about staying at the Iberostar Playa Paraiso complex is that the activities are endless--and, for the most part, included in the price of accommodations. There are more pools than you can count on two hands, not to mention the brilliant white-sand beach just outside your suite door; two spas, a general one with salt water pools, various mineral-infused jacuzzis, steam rooms, and, of course, massage suites, and a private, couples-only spa exclusively for Grand Hotel guests. But, if you really want a moving experience with your beloved, we suggest signing up for the temezcal, an ancient Mayan ritual involving spending a couple of hours in an oven-like mud hut where you sweat out all of your toxins (including the ones lingering in your body from your bachelor and bachelorette parties) and emerge "reborn." We can't think of a better way to start a new marriage. For spa services and temezcal: El Spa at Iberostar Playa Paraiso
EAT: Order room service for breakfast and eat it on the beach, but for lunch, we suggest leaving the property for a few hours in favor of some authentic Mayan cuisine at Yaxche, on Playa del Carmen's busy shopping strip 5th Avenue. Yaxche offers traditional pibil, fresh tortillas and salsa to die for. Yaxche Mayan Cuisine: mayacuisine.com, (52) (984) 873-2502
PLAY: The Iberostar Playa Paraiso features an auditorium with nightly entertainment (think cruise ship kitschy), as well as a professional golf course, snorkeling, poolside aerobics and ping-pong, and daily excursions to nearby attractions such as the town of Tulum, a Mayan village featuring the area's only seaside ruins.