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Riviera Maya Hotel Comparison

All inclusive vacation is not for everybody. If you are planning to explore the region and travel, taking day long trips on multiple occasions, the all inclusive vacation might be not for you. You just won't be able to take advantage of all the food and drinks you paid for. If you are planning to stay most of the time in the resort, or to take 1-2 trips during your stay, the all inclusive option might be a good choice for you. The all inclusive option gives you the possibility to spend the most relaxing and carefree vacation. You will feel absolutely spoiled! Isn't it what we are looking for, choosing to go to a beautiful beach destination? Surely, I do! It doesn't mean that you can't incorporate some fun and adventure into it. We took one day trip to X-Caret on our first trip to Mexico and we loved it! The caves, the dolphins, the evening show!...But on my following trips to Riviera Maya, I didn't want to go out and "loose" my precious relaxing day at the beach. If you are not as "hungry" for the beach and sun as I am, you might easily spend one day on the trip of your choice: Chechen Itza, X-Caret, Xel-Ha, Xplor adventure park or any other activity this beautiful region has to offer. You can also take a short trip to Playa del Carmen or Cancun.

The location

For the last three years in a row we went to Mexico and stayed in Iberostar Paraiso Lindo, Barcelo Maya Tropical and Grand Palladium Resorts. All three resorts located on Riviera Maya, kilometers of beautiful stretch of white sand beach. We always order transfer from the airport to hotel and from hotel to the airport. I like to know, that when I land in a foreign country, somebody is waiting for me. I don't need to worry about finding the taxi, negotiating the price, bringing the money - everything is paid and organized. Let the vacation of your dreams begin!
The closest of three resorts to Cancun Airport is Iberostar Resort. It's conveniently located in the short driving distance of about 20 minutes. The next one of the three resorts is Barcelo resort, located in a driving distance of about an hour from the Cancun airport. And the last, but not the least of the three, is Grand Palladium Resort and Spa, located approximately 1h 15 min drive from the airport.
Although, most of the people would prefer not to take a long trip to their resort, won't you worry if the chosen resort is a bit far.
First, it's your opportunity to see the country, even if it's from the window of an air-conditioned car. And if you don't want to leave your resort during your vacation, it might be your only opportunity to see some of the local life.
Second, like I mentioned before, the transportation vans are comfortable and have an air conditioner. And, if you come with kids, they will probably be so tired from the flight and excitement, they will fall asleep on the way to the resort.

The grounds

You are finally there!. Once you cross the entrance gate to the resort, your spirit is lifted in anticipation - it's so beautiful, so tropical - it's Paradise!
The check in is quick and smooth in all three resorts. The concierge will meet you in a lobby and take your luggage. The staff is very nice and friendly, and as you come to the registration counter they bring you refreshments. It comes very handy after the long trip. With the cold and colorful margarita in hand, you feel you begin to relax, leaving the hustle behind.
My kids fell instantly in love with their drinks: my daughter with orange juice with grenadine and my son with pinocolada - they ordered it all the time while in the resort.
We registered and chatted for 10 minutes with the guy, who using the resort map, explained us about the activities, amnesties and restaurants.
In Barcelo and Iberostar, we got the room key and went to out building (villa) , when the luggage was brought to the room. In Grand Palladium, we were taken, together with our luggage, directly to our room in a cart.
The resorts are huge and very beautiful. The grounds are immaculately clean and polished. All three of them are divided to 5 resorts: 4 family oriented resorts and one for adults only.
It's important to mention, that we were not sure before our first trip if we preffered the big resort or a small one. I looked at the pictures of the resorts, compared services and amnesties, read other traveller's reviews. But after visiting for the first time All inclusive resort - Barcelo, we instantly understood that we like the qualities, only a big resort can provide. This is especially true when you travel with kids older than 5 years old.
Some people definitely prefer small resorts, they don't like to have to take a long walk to get around. For others, the distances are the issue because of the little children or health limitations. Choosing my first all inclusive vacation I didn't really know what I prefer, and the size of the resort wasn't on my check list. I looked more for the kids friendly features. When I saw this picture of the Barcelo pool with waterslides, I knew I wanted to know more about this place. Since our first all inclusive vacation, I know that the size of the resort is important. So, people that prefer the more private and intinimate place would go for the small resort. And this might be a nice option for adults traveling without kids.
We decided we like big resorts, and I'll outline the main resons:
* you are on vacation, the weather is great, the grounds are beautiful, and the walk is very enjoyable
* you eat and lay down so much, that a little walk here and there won't hurt, but will work for your benefit
* the variety of the a la carte restaurants is much better in the big resort than in the small one
* the choice of activities and amnesties is better in a big resort than in a small one
* the commuting is very easy, as all of the resorts have trains going frequently around the resort
In general, if you decide not to leave the big resort for the whole week you will always find what to do and explore. These three resorts, each of the size of 5 resorts, is like a city. We never felt bored or trapped in the small and limited place.
The resorts have rich and beautiful flora and fauna. But the winner is Iberostar that has absolutely amazing collection of animals. On you way to the beach you can frequently meet Mexican raccoons. The peacocks walking around, making their sounds and opening their gorgeous tales. You can see white swans laying on the grass here and there.
Grand Palladium has a big fenced area for crocodiles and a nice pond with flamingos. Sometimes you can see anteaters or some kind of "red" raccoons walking around.
The restaurants surrounded by beautiful ponds with fish. My kids liked to bring a piece of bread from the breakfast and feed the fish.

Amnesties and activities

Because we travel with kids between ages 4 to 11, the kids activities are important.
There are two kids clubs at the resort "Barcy Club" and "Miniclub Miki Maya" and one kids water park. The pools also have kids sections that are shallower. There are organized activities at the kids clubs with trained staff. You will often see the club leaders with a group of kids around the resort doing all sorts of activities. My kids enjoy it very much.
The Grand Palladium has a kids club, but the experience was not so good as in the other 2 resorts. The activities themselves were not really interesting and organized. Also, there were not many kids coming to the club. So, even when my kids tried to stay in the club, no kids their age were there and they didn't have whom to play with.
The winner was Iberostrar kids club as it is the best out of three. They have plenty of interesting activities my kids wanted to participate! At times I felt guilty that they spend so much time in the kids club on "family" vacation. But they met kids from different countries, became friends, they played together in the club and on the beach, took bicycle and walking ecological trips around the resort grounds, participated in the show, which was played in the end of the week. They did a very nice craft activities, like bottle the colored sand to take as a souvenir home. They even had the a dinner and movie around the fire on the beach. The kids club in Iberostar is great and scores 10 out of 10.
When you have an option of a club, where the kids can spend fun time, adults also can enjoy the break, using it wisely by going to the Spa, to adults only restaurant, or just relaxing at the beach.
All three resorts have Gym, Spa, Evening shows and pool activities. These are comparable in all the resorts.


All of the three resorts have large amount of a la carte restaurants. The quality of the food and the portion size is equaly satisfactory in all of them. The only difference is in the way you have an access to these restaurants.

In Barcelo, we had choice of 3 a la carte for one week stay and other nignts we could eat in the buffet.
In Iberostar we could eat every day in a la carte restaurant but to make sure we get to go to all the restaurants we want, we needed to book for the week in advance. It didn't bothered me as consierge in our building explained all the options , we checked the menus and she made the reservations on the spot. If you want to change the time or the restaurant later on and it is available, you can do it.
In Grand Palladium - you don't need to reserve in advance. You can't even if you want. You should just show up at the restaurant of your choice in the evening and wait until the table is available. If the waiting time is long (and after 7 pm it takes on average hour-hour and half) you get a pager, can go for a walk and they will pager you when your table is available. Some people like the possibility of going spontaneously to the restaurant and not to make the decision for the whole week in advance. Others, like me, prefer planning in advance than waiting for an hour to get the table. Especially, when you are waiting with kids...


The pools are great in all the resorts. All have water sport activities, like aerobics, in the pool and in the ocean. Motorized and un-motorized water sport on the beach.
Barcelo's pool is great. It's spacious and beautiful. It goes along the resort and it's huge. In the part of Barcelo Maya Colonial they have kids pool with beautiful waterslides and waterfall. My kids loved it!
The Grand Palladium pool is also nice and big, but not as big as Barcelo's or Iberostar's pool, they have separate pools in each part of the resort vs one huge "infinity" pool that goes through all the resorts, where you can swim, and swim, and swim... Where for me it didn't make a big difference, my husband liked Barcelo and Iberostar pools better that GP.
Iberostar has the best pools and water activities! The main pool is huge and gorgeous, but also, the variety of different pools what's made all the difference. Beside the main pool, Iberostar has separate pool with net for water sports, where people can play voleyball.
They have an amazing wave pool. I liked it even better because of it's grand design - it is built as a Chichen Itza - it is a great architectual feature and a photo point. But my personal favourite - the lazy river! You can choose a single "tube" or a double one for 2. You can just lay down and relax on the slowly moving water, passing beautiful flowers and palm trees under the bright blue sky. But be prepared to be waken up by a waterfall on the way, b-r-r-r, it feels refreshing!
Another great feature that is surprisingly not found in every resort are hammocs. I love hammocs, they give a place a real tropical feeling. Iberostar has hammocs all around the pool in addition to traditional lounge chairs.
Now - the beach! Aren't we all go to these places for the beach?
The beach is good in all three resort and wearing shoes is not required. The best one, bul probably, the smallest is Grand Palladium beach. The best beach area in GP is in the "Kennthanah" and "White Sand" parts. "Royal Suites" don't have beach at all, only sea water pool, that I personally tried once and didn't like.

Iberostar's beach is good and big. Barcelo's is big and nice, but a bit rocky. The best part of the beach located in Beach and Maya resorts.

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