Barceló Maya Grand Resort truly is grand, a sprawling complex on a mile of Mexican sand, a 45-minute drive from Cancun’s airport (CUN) and 20 minutes south of Playa Del Carmen.
With 2,760 rooms spread across five Maya-themed all-inclusive resorts — Barceló Maya Beach, Barceló Maya Caribe, Barceló Maya Colonial, Barceló Maya Tropical and Barceló Maya Palace — the playground offers many of the bells and whistles (think specialty restaurants and a water park) we’ve come to expect from modern all-incs. So why, of all resorts along the Riviera Maya’s 80-mile stretch, should you pick this one? Here are our top five reasons to book.
1. Access to Multiple Resorts
The only thing better than staying at a beachfront all-inclusive resort is staying at a beachfront all-inclusive resort with complimentary access to the services and amenities of several others. Every Barceló guest can bounce (or take the company’s red double-decker shuttle bus) between at least three additional resorts in the complex, and those staying at top-tier Barceló Maya Palace enjoy the run of all five. Which means you can have breakfast at the Maya Caribe buffet; drop the kids off at any of three Barcy Clubs; sip a margarita (or five) at Maya Colonial’s swim-up pool bar, and end the day with dinner at Maya Tropical’s Capri Italian restaurant, all for no extra charge. Because, sometimes more is better.
2. Swim-up Suites
Want to roll right out of bed and into the water? You (almost) can when you book one of 26 swim-up suites (exclusively at Barceló Maya Caribe), which each open onto a patio and your personal portion of a shimmering lap pool. They’re the perfect spots for soaking up the sun during the day or stargazing at night from in-water “aqua loungers,” and each patio also has a hot tub for romantic dips a deux. Even better: Guests in this room category score Premium Level perks, including concierge service, 24-hour room service and resort-wide Wi-Fi.
We’ve seen some decent spas in our travels around the Caribbean, but this gargantuan sanctuary and fitness complex, shared between all five resorts, is exceptional. The spacious gym boasts 15 treadmills, 19 spin bikes and Technogym strength training equipment, and the spa itself has 22 treatment suites, a beauty salon and a hydrotherapy circuit featuring hot and cold plunge pools, aromatherapy showers and an ice bath. And we couldn’t resist peeping into the kids’ spa and salon, where little ones can have manicures, “Super Hero” haircuts, and massages. Our advice: Pack your workout gear.
4. Maya Mall
If you go on vacation and come home sans souvenirs, does the trip even count?! We’re firm believers that every good trip should be marked with a memento, and Barceló’s Maya Mall makes shopping a cinch. At Maya Caribe, this open-air emporium has 20 stores selling everything from Brazilian swimwear to handmade soap (check out Bloomish, Mexico’s answer to Lush) and a large adjacent craft market where you can score a deal on locally harvested honey and luchador masks. Throw in a casino, a carousel, a teens-only nightclub and a bowling alley, and even the non-shoppers are happy.
5. Barceló Gourmet Festival
As if having access to 22 restaurants and 19 bars wasn’t enough, for the last three years Barceló has also been enticing foodies with a festival featuring Mexican cuisine and international culinary talent. This September the lineup included Michelin-starred chef Alejandro Sanchéz and 10 others from as far afield as South Africa, serving up inventive delicacies such as sea urchin with escabeche mushrooms and king crab with bone marrow. If a week of cooking classes, wine tastings and elegant pairing dinners sounds like your speed, better start planning for the 2018 edition. And better pack your stretchy pants.