In the Mayan Riviera, a short drive from the international airport at Cancun, Mexico’s answer to the Disney amusement park empire has now fully come into its own.
In December 2017 the Xcaret Experiencias Group—the parent company of half a dozen amusement parks in the vicinity of Playa del Carmen—opened its first stand-alone all-inclusive resort hotel, and the facility is a sight to behold. The group studied the terrain on which the hotel is now built for nine years before breaking ground, and break ground they did. Man-made cenotes—underground rivers with accessible openings to the surface—have been busted right out of the bedrock to create a system of canals that run throughout the property, much of which can be kayaked. The same feature creates private spots like tucked away hangouts in rock faces, as well as a general sense of mystery, as if in a maze, that will delight any child, and any inner child too for that matter.
It’s attention to details like these—and others, like having a state-of-the-art gym facility, special areas for kids, and others for teenagers that are cool enough for teenagers to actually want to hang out in—that rescue the new Hotel Xcaret from the pitfall that so many all-inclusive’s fall into, namely that with shrieking children running around and teens prowling the property looking for trouble it can begin to feel like the inmates are running the asylum. Not so at Hotel Xcaret. Though there is a section of the property for adults only—Casa Fuego, which also happens to have a spectacular view over the Caribbean and the swimming-pool bridge feature that makes for probably the most instagrammable location in the place—most of the resort is open to people of all ages. In that sense, the resort is all-inclusive in more ways than one. One can see an entire family having a great time here, including that rarity in a family vacation: actual quality time for the adults away from the kids.
Some of that time ought to be spent dining at Há—the hotel’s most upscale restaurant, headed up by Carlos Gaytán, the first Mexican chef to win a Michelin star. The thoughtfully orchestrated tasting menu at Há, as all the best tasting menus do, elevates dinner from a mere meal to a full-on narrative-driven experience. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but I’ll just say this: there’s a reason a basket of bread isn’t delivered at the start of the meal. And there’s delicious food in restaurants throughout the property too—even room service, somehow, miraculously for an all-inclusive resort, is decent.
Hotel Xcaret is only the first in what will eventually be four hotels for a total of somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 rooms. Those additions will continue the march of development that has transformed the Mayan Riviera over the past decade into a virtually uninterrupted chain of resorts from Cancun all the way south to Tulum, but if Xcaret’s next hotels are anything like its first one, they’ll be setting a very welcome high bar for future construction in the area.