Unless you find a private villa or your last name is Kardashian, the Grand Paraiso is going to be the best hotel/resort you can stay at in the Rivera Maya. So if you're only considering Mexico as a destination, you don't need this review - there are thousands of others that say what I just did above. This place is definitely befitting of the Ibersostar Grand collection.
But if you're looking outside Mexico, then you've no doubt seen Ibersostar has another option approximately the same distance from most U.S. cities - the Grand Bavaro in Punta Cana. My wife and I stayed there 18 months ago and it was that experience that led us to the Paraiso. Upon returning, I thought I'd spell out the differences between these two hotels to give others a better idea of what to expect. Ironically, 'expectations' is a key word here. Reason being, it's important to remember the difference between standards and expectations. My wife and I LOVED the Grand Bavaro. So much so, that we thought it set such a standard that going to another hotel that didn't have the amenities of an Iberostar Grand, would be a disappointment.
Thus, our trip to the Grand Paraiso.
We learned early on however, that although the Paraiso met our new found lofty standards (butler, room amenities, food, overall service, etc.) some of what we were expecting turned out to be different. In some cases, this was a good thing. In others, they weren't so good. So without further adieu, here's how the Grand Paraiso stacks up versus the Grand Bavaro:
Here's the thing about the Paraiso - it's much bigger than the Bavaro. This has it's advantages and disadvantages that I'll get into later, but overall, the Paraiso FEELS more like a resort. There are big hallways with intricately designed flooring and chandeliers, and the main lobby and bar area are also quite large. Overall, the Paraiso feels like a small city where you can find yourself walking alone down a big expansive corridor whereas the Bavaro feels a bit more confined. The pool at the Paraiso is also much larger (in fact, they have two) and more suited to swimming if that's your thing. The other thing that should be noted however, is that despite its size, the Paraiso is heavily lacking in outdoor seating. This was apparent both for their buffet restaurants (I think we sat outside 3-4 times total), but especially for drinks.The Bavaro had several tables/chairs along the boardwalk area of the hotel that you could enjoy the night and ocean breeze while still getting great service and drinks. The Paraiso, you were pretty much limited to the bar.
As I mentioned, the size of the Paraiso has some allure - but it also has its downsides. The Bavaro although smaller, felt very intimate and private. A beautiful oasis with just enough people to keep it lively, but small to the point where you felt like where you're staying is exclusive.The Paraiso on the other hand, is much different. We ended up talking with more people which was nice, but we also ran into more people who we didn't care for - particularly our room neighbors who woke us up at 1:00 a.m. partying their minds out. Don't get me wrong - my wife and I aren't curmudgeons - but there's a certain point where common decency and respect gets crossed and that did it. The "towel game" was also in FULL effect at the Paraiso, which was really annoying. Put it this way - the Bavaro felt more grown up.
Pretty much a draw in terms of amenities and overall setup. You get nice tile flooring, soft linens, a good bed, nice balcony etc. The Paraiso however had two negatives going against it however. First, sound insulation seemed really poor compared to the Bavaro. We could hear footsteps above us, chairs moving constantly, etc. The Paraiso's rooms also seemed to be rougher around the edges. The bathroom doors are a joke to close (double doors with warped wood means you have to be a power lifter to close them), our power went out at one point, we had no hot water in the tub for one night (cold baths aren't that fun) and our fridge had an opened bottle of water in it when we got there which was kind of gross. Again, you're in paradise so you tend to look past most this stuff, but if I'm comparing the two hotels, the Bavaro's rooms seemed nicer and more modern.
First, the Paraiso deserves big credit for upgrading us (for free) to an oceanfront room. That rocked. It was a ground floor unit which introduced some problems, but ultimately, the view was fantastic and the location was convenient. The other thing that I liked about the Paraiso was the pool area and 'Stars' entertainment guys held daily (and scheduled) activities which were fun and engaging. If it's one criticism I had of the Bavaro, it was that they needed more of that kind of thing. That said - the overall service of the Bavaro was a cut above the Paraiso. The staff there was incredibly friendly at all times, whereas the Paraiso's staff - while cordial - just seemed ok. Maybe they're overworked (entirely possible) but there was definitely a lack of genuine enthusiasm missing from the Paraiso's staff that we had with the Bavaro. Almost every night we went out at the Bavaro, there was someone calling our name and chatting us up. Again, it made the whole experience feel more personal, where with the Paraiso, we felt a bit more like Room # 7105.
Along with with the 'grand' feel of the Paraiso, this is where they really excel. It's still nothing you're going to be contacting the producers at 'Top Chef' about, but the Paraiso's food was really good. I basically ate lobster every day (which I could barely even find at the Bavaro) and the quality overall was just better than the Bavaro. The ambiance of the restaurants was nicer as well. At the Bavaro, their restaurants seemed a bit cheesy - like rooms with an Italian, French, Japanese or 'steak house' theme. At the Paraiso, they're actual restaurants with lobbies and more of a secluded feel. At the Bavaro, you can never quite get past the fact that you're sitting right next to the hotel's convenience store where t-shirts and silly hats are sold.
LOL. There's no such thing at either. That was fine with us since we went there to relax, but if you're looking for a place with a hopping club or energetic bar at night, neither of these will be your cup of tea.
Pretty much a tie here. I enjoy the gulf of Mexico a bit more since I feel like it's a bit clearer and warmer, but both beaches are very well taken care of and offer plenty of room for taking walks by the water, etc. The Paraiso does have a jetski rental right out in front which is nice. I'd also say the Bavaro had a bit more seaweed, etc. that washed up on shore, but again, the staff was really diligent about keeping it in pristine condition.
Since we were repeat 'Grand' guests, the Paraiso was kind enough to upgrade our room and give us a tiny bottle of tequila for our anniversary celebration. That was all very nice. But the Bavaro's extras (they also upgraded our room to a top floor ocean view which was very nice as well) came more in the form of their service. Not enough can be said about how welcome they made us feel. It brightened our entire trip and the staff went out of their way throughout our entire stay to make sure we were having a great time. In short, the Bavaro wanted us to be happy and their own happiness was contagious in providing that. They smiled. They joked with us. They welcomed us to their small island and made us feel right at home. The Paraiso has great things going for it as well, but they let the hotel itself do most the heavy lifting when it comes to guest enjoyment.
You can't really go wrong with either. Ultimately if pressed for an answer, I'd choose the Grand Bavaro over the Grand Paraiso. But only by a hair. It's also important to remember that our trip to the Bavaro was in June (off season) where this trip was right in the heart of travel/tourist time for tropical destinations - which could have contributed to some of the issues we had with the Paraiso. Overall though, if you're looking for a beautiful hotel and resort to visit, the Grand Paraiso makes a fine choice.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Directly on the long, fine, sandy beach of Playa Paraiso in Mexico's Riviera Maya. Top 5-star luxury. Quiet and relaxing. Personal butler and concierge service. 24 hour all inclusive service. 4 a la carte restaurants. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Playa Paraiso
- Playa Paraiso Iberostar