I recently suffered a great loss and needed to get away for a while. A lull in my work schedule allowed me to take advantage of an incredible discounted package in mid-November. I had considered various properties and not having been to the Riviera Maya previously I really put weight in other reviews. I also wanted to be relatively close to the activities that interested me including visiting friends in Playa del Carmen.
Due to the last minute nature I ended up travelling alone so the all inclusive resort concept seemed the safest bet. The Iberostar did not disappoint!
Check-in was a bit disorganized after arriving on my tour operator's shuttle as there was no formal queue, but hey, it's Mexico and you're on vacation. The lobby bar was happy to serve cocktails even if you did not have on your resort bracelet yet. The desk clerks usually group guests to go over the property amenities and information. (Note that the exchange rate at the hotel was very competitive however US dollars are accepted everywhere.)
Rooms are in blocks with multiple buildings between the main building and restaurant complex and the beach. I requested and received one midway near the pool (bldg 36). It is a huge resort so if you want to be nearer the food and lobby request a higher number building. I also requested a room facing the pool area as opposed to an outside room that faces the cart path and sister resort next door. All rooms have balconies and it's not unusual to see the peacocks taking perch on a main floor railing - so you might want to consider the 2nd or 3rd floor (there are no elevators however). Rooms are a great size with a couch, chair, small table and desk. There are no real drawers for clothes but ample shelving. Everything was clean, bright and in good repair. The housekeeper made a new towel animal everyday.
The grounds are beautiful with lush greenery and colourful birds and small mammals roaming free. In talking to other visitors staying elsewhere this resort's grounds do rank up there.
The staff is very friendly - EVERYONE says "Ola" and smiles, which on a trip like a did, was a great mood booster. The pool area is large, well designed and very pretty, with a great swim-up bar. This was a slower season so there were ample chaises and "huts" to park yourself. The beach was beautiful, with a bar, lots of chaises, trees and a great view. Swimming was not ideal right in front but a few feet over it was quite nice. It seemed to be windy on the beach all the time so beware little ones and the strong waves and undertow! I was not on the beach too much but it was nice not to be harassed by vendors all the time.
The food, as mentioned in other reviews was not necessarily 5 star but it was good, varied and tasty. And the set-up and view of the grounds from the restaurant could not be beat. With a 7 night stay I was allowed reservations at 3 à-la-carte restaurants. Skip the Italian (I was not the only one who thought so when I was there!). But the Japanese and Steakshouse were excellent.
There are quite a few bars however only one is really open in the evening and the one late night is a bit of a hike away (at the disco). Bring lots of dollar bills to tip the bartender and be sure to request premium brands for straight up drinks (not available at the beach though). The mixed drinks are great and you can ask them for extra tequila no problem.
The main gift shop is actually not badly priced. There is a whole shopping complex and other higher end stores on the site as well. I also found the sister resort next door's gift shop had a few different products.
Could be better:
Even with all the restaurants there are certain times of day where the only place to eat is the pool restaurant or some other small option. So don't miss breakfast! (However there is always 24 hour room service.)
The room service menu is a bit weak but I did try it once for a snack and it was ok. Took the edge off before my late dinner reservation. It came extremely quickly and with a nice presentation.
The mini bar is only restocked every second day (they say). There was always plenty of water however only 3 beers which would not go far if a couple wanted to have cocktails on the balcony before dinner. Ultimately I did not drink even one during my entire stay. (Hint: grab a beer or drink at a bar before heading back to your room and ask for a 2nd to put in the fridge for later.)
I had a running toilet that they came to fix without my asking (not sure how they knew!) however the problem persisted on and off throughout my stay. They ask you to be sure to take any concerns to their attention immediately however just when I would think to call the problem would stop.
The shuttle throughout the resort is not frequent or regular. I gave up and started using the more direct interior path as opposed to the outside path that the shuttle and all the carts use. The walk is very pleasant so this was really not an issue.
The cab shuttle to Playa del Carmen was cheap however the last return is at 8 pm which is quite early if you want to enjoy the night life. A regular cab ride back is $25 however I am told you can negotiate in advance. Not bad for a 25 minute ride!
If you need to talk to the desk staff just hope you don't have a chatty couple in front of you as during off hours there are only one or two staff.
Internet is not included. Wifi time can be purchased and used in the lobby at a cost of about $3 for 15 minutes. Whatever time you buy has to be used in one "sitting" so unless you plan on surfing don't buy too much at one time. The cost can be added to your room bill.
The nightly shows were well attended and I did pop in to see what was going on however they seemed a bit amateurish. Everyone was having fun though and the staff works hard to have a lot of interactiveness in the programs.
You have to formally check out and when I saw a long line one morning I decided to try and clear my bill the night before. This was fine for outstanding charges and returning my pool towel card, however you do still need to turn in your key card in the morning. Fortunately this took no time at all on my check out day.
Overall the concerns were minor and I would highly recommend this property to everyone. I'm not sure what the cost would be during peak season but the value I received was incredible.It is easily a 4 star resort.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Directly on the beach of "Playa Paraiso." Imaginatively designed lake – pool. Convention centre. The holiday complex is perfectly integrated into the tropical landscape. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Paraiso Beach Hotel Playa Paraiso
- Iberostar Playa Paraiso
- Iberostar Hotel Paraiso Beach
- Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar