For this trip, I was a solo traveler and decided on the Cancun area. I was in Mexico for 11 days and decided on splitting my trip up among 2 different resorts and areas. Although the check in process and transportation can be a hassle, I enjoy experiencing various resorts and room types whenever I go somewhere for a week or longer. I decided on staying at the Iberostar Quetzal/Tucan while in Playa Del Carmen. I also stayed at the Grand Oasis Cancun.
The resort is in a guarded and gated community called Playacar which consists of several different resorts and condominiums. Don’t let the gates scare you from exploring outside of Playacar because the area is completely safe both inside and outside of the gates. I explored downtown Playa Del Carmen and loved it! There are streets and streets of shops, restaurants, nightclubs and tour operators. It’s only a 5 minute ($5 USD) ride from the hotel and there are countless taxi’s lining the bustling streets ready to take you anywhere you want to go.
You can expect to find all the convenience you’d find at home. This includes transportation, shops, restaurants, medical, grocers, etc. As with many places outside of the United States/Canada, bartering is a common practice here. I’m no fool but I’m really not the type to barter so I tend to go from place to place until someone gives me a price I feel is fair. Most of the time, there was no need to do this. Everyone I encountered gave me what I thought was a “good deal”. Cancun, however, is another story. There was no bartering and you can expect to pay prices you’d find in New York or San Francisco – very expensive!
Since this was my first time to Mexico and despite all the glowing reviews, I didn’t feel comfortable taking public transportation so I considered both renting a car as well as private transportation. After much research on car rentals, I decided against it. This is due to the crooked police and the very high mandatory “Mexican” Insurance. Instead, I opted for private transportation via Cancun Shuttle. For a private ride from the airport to Playa Del Carmen, Playa Del Carmen to Cancun Hotel Zone and Cancun Hotel Zone to the airport, the cost was about $175.00. After getting to the resort, talking to other travelers and experiencing the public bus myself, I can confirm its value and safety. Their public transportation system covers the entire country, is very inexpensive and is much nicer than anywhere else I’ve been. If you’re just 1 or 2 people, save yourself tons of money by paying just $7 per person for public transportation! For larger groups, a private shuttle makes the most sense.
The resort is beautiful - situated in a tropical/wild environment with all the comfort, amenities and service you would expect from an Iberostar resort. For those unfamiliar, once you stay at one you’ll likely fall in love with the brand. They really have 2 class levels which I would consider 3.5-5 star properties in the lower end and 5+ star properties in the upper end (Grand Iberostars). This one is the lower end most likely because of the food quality, level of amenities and personalized service. I typically don’t like the really high end resorts because they are too “snobby” for me. When I’m on vacation I am not interested in wearing a suit and tie to dinner nor do I need a butler on command. With that said, unless you’re expectations are in line with services offered by Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, St. Regis or Intercontinental, you’ll love this place!
The tropical/jungle environment was an unexpected but spectacular surprise! You’ll find wild monkeys, Iguanas, Pink Flamingos, Swans and Tropical Birds roaming throughout the property. I assume they must be contained somehow because I never saw any mishaps with any of the wild animals but I also never noticed any sort of fence or cage.
I stayed in a regular room, an ocean view junior suite as well as the Presidential Suite during my stay. Although I'm never in the room much when traveling to tropical places, being ocean front is important to me so after the first night and realizing my original booking had a view of the trees, I called the front desk and upgraded to a Junior Suite. It was basically the same room with an extra bench and table but had spectacular views of the ocean! The cost for the upgrade was about $75 per night. Both of these room types were very comfortable. There are no extra outlets in any of the rooms, unless you want to unplug a lamp or the TV.
The 3rd day, while in the lobby using the internet ($5 for 15 minutes), I noticed a sign offering a Special Upgrade Price for the Presidential Suite. It ended up being $400USD for 4 nights which was in addition to my original package price and the $150 I had already paid for the 2 nights in the Junior Suite. I was a solo traveler but again, I love checking out hotels and different room types so decided to upgrade, yet again.
The Presidential Suite was enormous and very nice but admittedly, below my expectations. These suites are actually Penthouses in buildings 10 and 20 and have remarkable views complete with multiple terraces/balconies and Jacuzzis. It had 3 bedrooms and 3.5 baths, a food preparation area, living room, parlor, and multiple closets and sitting areas. Bedroom #1 had 1 Queen Sized Bed, #2 had 2 Doubles and #3, the Master Suite, had a California King. Each room had its own sliding glass doors to the terrace and bathroom.
The reason I was a little disappointed with the Presidential Suite is because I expected it to be more modern and include some extra “perks”, such as liquor service, stocked food/snacks and perhaps an internet connection. This was not the case – I even called the front desk and asked. Since the suite was so large, I wanted to invite some people I met back for a drink once the disco closed at 3AM but ended up having to pay $25 for small, off-brand bottle of vodka.
Keep in mind the suites are at the other end of the resort so are a good 15 minute walk from either main lobby and all of the night time entertainment areas. This shouldn’t be an issue for most people, especially because walking throughout the resort at night is very magical somehow.
Room Tip: Only Buildings 10 and 20 are “ocean front”. If you want to avoid any upgrade costs, you can try for a limited “ocean view” room by asking to be placed in buildings 11 or 21! I only counted about 6-8 rooms that may have a very limited view of the ocean in either of these buildings. There is also no option to have a “pool view” room. The resort just isn’t setup this way which I can appreciate because of all the trees, privacy and tropical environment.
I kept all of the check-in documents I received including a list of activities, schedules, places to eat, disco and room service info, a map, etc. I uploaded images to Trip Advisor but they are pretty distorted so for higher resolution images, contact me. Please include your e-mail address if contacting me via Trip Advisor so I can send them to you!
The beach is great! When I sent pictures to my friends back in the states, they thought I was sending them a post card! The water is gorgeous, sand is soft and the beach is super clean!
There is one large main pool which I found to be pretty deep. I couldn’t comfortable stand or walk around but I’m only 5’4”. There is also a smaller “activity” pool where they play games and water sports as well as a “kiddie” pool and an “adults only” pool which had the swim up bar. I found this arrangement kind of bizarre simply because I like to have drinks at a swim up bar but often felt disconnected from the rest of the resort.
There are endless activities throughout the day for all ages. You can take dance lessons, do pottery, paint, learn how to scuba dive or take Spanish lessons. All are included in the price!
I love nightlife, clubbing and dancing the night away and have been to clubs all over. I found the discothèque to be phenomenal for an all-inclusive resort. They played great music, had wonderful drinks and was very high tech.
Overall, my experience at these Iberostar resorts was fantastic and families, gay travelers, solo tourists and couples will all feel welcomed. If you'd like more information on this resort or any others, please contact Vacation Side Travel by calling (855) 822-8747 or by visiting www.vacationside.com.