Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso
Published: June 2010
When it comes to all inclusives I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a snob. I’ve never even been to an all inclusive before but the very thought of it fills me with dread. Why would anyone want to spend their precious holiday time cooped up in a gated compound eating the same food at the same restaurants with the same people day after day? So when I was asked to write a feature on an all inclusive in Mexico, I have to be honest, I wasn’t chomping at the bit, but after a day or two at The Grand Hotel Paraiso I have to admit, even I started to see the appeal.
OK, to coin a phrase this all inclusive isn’t just any old all inclusive, it’s Iberostar’s flagship hotel, one of seven exclusive five star resorts that make up their Grand Collection of which Antonio Banderas is the newly appointed face. Set on a beautiful stretch of sugar white sand known as the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatan Penninsula, The Grand Paraiso really does stand out from the rest of the hotels that jostle for space along this spectacular strip of coastline. For starters it’s adults only so the sparkling pools and private beach are free from blubbering kids and children’s entertainers – not a rubber Nemo in sight. There’s 24 hour butler service no matter what room you’re staying in from shoe shining and pillow service (oh yes there’s six different versions to choose from) to round the clock room service. Bedrooms are gorgeously spacious with both a sleeping and living area plus a huge marble bathroom accompanied by snazzy bathrobes and slippers. In addition to the giant flat screen TV, Ipod docking station and personalised mini-bar (which by the way, is re-stocked every day and included in the price of your stay), you also have an unusually large balcony with an uber cool cocoon swing chair that makes watching the sunset over the ocean that little bit more comfortable.
The grounds are just as impressive with extensive gardens intertwined with curvaceous swimming pools and beautiful canopied single or double sun beds. Waiter service means your Jackie Collins has little interuptions whilst those wanting to be a little more active can quench their thirst at the swim up bar. I thoroughly recommend the Cuban Highball (that’s a Mojito to you and me) but if you prefer something a little more fruity the Strawberry Daiquiri ain’t half bad either.
Sports wise there are plenty of “free” sports included in your stay like non-motorised watersports, thai chi and spinning, but disappointingly, like most “normal” all inclusives, the things you really want to do like diving and spa treatments incur a hefty charge. You do have access to the wellness centre with Turkish baths, Jacuzzis and hydrotherapy pools, but if it’s a back massage or body wrap you’re after don’t expect any change from a hundred dollar bill.
There are four a la carte restaurants including Italian, Seafood, Gourmet and my favourite, Japanese, but a word of advice, make sure you book your dinner reservations as soon as you arrive otherwise you’ll be eating the same food at the same mediocre buffet restaurant night after night. Disappointingly there is no authentic Mexican restaurant on site. As a bit of a foodie I was really looking forward to tasting real tamales and enchiladas and the mole poblano I’d read so much about – and i did eventually but it was at a street stall on the backstreets of Playa del Carmen. The hotel is definitely missing a trick here.
The one thing I don’t get about this hotel is its interior design. Whilst you can’t fault its newness (freshly painted walls, gleaming brass and sparkling surfaces) it’s all a bit too gaudy. I was expecting haciendas and hammocks, ok maybe not hammocks but something a little more Mexican and authentic, but instead, what you get is faux Venetian and Baroque, reminiscent of a cruise ship with towering mint green pillars, terracotta walls, gold and red swirling carpets and mock neo-renaissance murals complete with a life size gondola in the atrium! Perfect for those who like the themed approach but for me a little bit naff.
Up until now I would have sworn blind that an all inclusive getaway was not the type of holiday for me. I normally like to get off the beaten track, experience the local culture, eat the local food and immerse myself in the destination I’m visiting, but I have to say, lying on the beach all day and stuffing my face 24/7 was surprisingly pleasant and something of a revelation. By the fourth day I had to be prized off my sun bed to visit the Maya ruins of Tulum I had been so eager to book when I first arrived. The five star service and luxurious surroundings were definitely to blame – and you know what, I’m not complaining. Despite being half a stone heavier I’m the most relaxed and chilled out I’ve been in months – and that in itself is the sign of a thoroughly enjoyable holiday.
Would I visit an all inclusive again? Most definitely yes.
Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso
Amanda Hudson joined the Travel Channel at the beginning of 2006 as Head of Production and looks after all our in house productions and the production team. She's travelled extensively around the globe and recently fulfilled one of her life long ambitions - horse trekking through the Andes from Argentina to Chile. When she's not writing, producing, directing crew or dealing with budgets you'll find her on a hockey pitch scoring goals for West Hampstead Hockey Club.
To find out more about the Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso visit www.iberostar.com