Escaping the Winter to Cancun
Beach All-Inclusive Vacation
Winter in NYC can be fun and exciting, especially around the Christmas season, as you can read about in my previous post. But outside of that, the wet grey cold can last a solid three months. So by February, we are ready to go somewhere warm. With a baby that just learned how to crawl, we knew we wanted to go vacationing somewhere close.
We decided this time go to Cancun, Mexico with a direct flight from NYC, and for the very first time booked an all-inclusive resort in the Cancun-Playa Del Carmen area.
In the past, we’ve gone to the Caribbean and Florida around February, but the weather can be unpredictable. When we went to Florida in February, it was so cold that we sat by the pool wrapped up in towels.
Planning a beach getaway
We’ve always wanted to check out Tulum, but our research showed that the kind of resorts that we prefer to stay at were mostly adults only, so our next top choice was Playa Del Carmen.
For us, when we are planning a beach vacation, the resort is our focus. We look for stylish, clean, modern accommodations with quality service; a central location that’s easy to access; and family-friendly amenities since now we travel with Mathis.
The Azul Mistake
When I was still pregnant back in December in 2016, we went to Los Cabos and stayed at a resort called Cabo Azul – that was hands down one of the most amazing places we’ve been at (maybe I’ll write up a post on that one separately ).
So, when we saw that there was an Azul resort on Playa Del Carmen, we assumed that we were in for another fantastic experience. We booked an all-inclusive three-bedroom villa to accommodate the three of us and my husband’s parents and brother who were joining us. What we didn’t realize was that this resort was not the same brand as our Cabo experience. As you can probably guess, we were in for a bit of disappointment!
Inclusive vacation isn't always the best option
We are family of foodies, so we enjoy trying the authentic local food when we travel so all-inclusive resorts are usually not our first choice. Given that this was a short trip with our parents, we chose to make it simpler and go with an all-inclusive.
In my opinion, if you are planning to do other activities outside the resort, an inclusive experience doesn’t make a lot of sense to do since a lot of destinations are full/half day trips, and you will end up eating when not on the resort.
Azul Fives Playa Del Carmen
Azul Fives was a large resort, with a lot of smaller buildings spread out so much so that they have golf carts that drive around the property perimeter every 15 minutes and can give you a lift if you need one. Although the resort was next to the beach, the ocean was not very inviting since the water was very rough and the pool water was refreshing enough for us.
With five restaurants, a juice bar, various swim-up bars, random taco stands, and even Starbucks (not included in the package), we had a wonderful time lounging by all the pools, enjoying the sun, and catching up with family. Mathis loves swimming in the water and never wanted to leave the pool!
Since Mexico is in the same time zone as NYC, we did not have to worry about naps and bedtime (we try to keep him on the same schedule even when traveling.) He takes naps in the stroller outside by the pool, and we usually have early dinner so that Mathis is in bed by 9 pm. Since we are up around 7 am with him, we are ready to turn in by 10 pm as well – yes, we are a boring married couple now.
Pros and Cons of Azul Fives in Cancun
Amenities – A family-friendly resort providing helpful baby accessories: crib, highchair, baby bath, and even a child daycare for older kids
Atmosphere – A small tropical jungle with monkeys right in the middle of the property
Pools – The layout of the pool gave us options to be in the center of the action or off to the side and more secluded
Food – we had good experiences, especially at dinner. We were even pleasantly surprised a few times! Most places even had baby purees!
Beach – Resort located on a rougher ocean beach, so no water activities like kayaking or snorkeling
Nickle and dimed – several amenities had extra daily charges and special reservations (the poolside beds, beach cabanas, some menu items).
Customer service – This was our biggest complaint. The concierge attendants not only had difficulties understanding English but overall had poor follow-through. We had to call in multiple times to request baby items and even escalated to a manager.
Food – Only two restaurant options for breakfast.
We used reward points to book most of our travels. This time we flew with JetBlue, choosing the weekend week before Presidents’ Day as it was significantly less expensive (the flight cost to CUN cost us 32,200 points + taxes). This was my second time in Cancun and my 4th time in Mexico. We enjoy going to different beach destinations and have visited been to a quite a few now, but I can say for sure that Mexico is not my first choice.
Since this specific trip was short and we did not go anywhere outside of the resort, here are some of my must-have travel items and some recommendations on activities from my previous Cancun trips.
Must-haves for traveling and vacationing with a baby
Babyzen Yoyo Stroller - the best baby product we’ve ever bought. We always bring it with us on the plane as a carry-on, it’s compact and fits easily in the overhead bin. It's also the only stroller I use when I go on the subway with Mathis
Backpack – I use this one as diaper bag/carry-on; always pack an extra shirt for me as well as an extra outfit for Mathis
Baby Carrier – I find using a carrier like the LILLEbaby to go through security with Mathis is helpful as the stroller needs to go thru the security scanner.
KicKee Pants Onesies - These are soooo soft and lightweight, perfect for travel and sleeping.
Mobile Passport App – This app is amazing. We used it the first time when coming back from international travel (Cancun). Download this app to skip passport control lines. It works even faster than global entry (many airports will have these kiosks.)
Destinations for Site-seeing
Chichen Itza - An archaeological site ruins of what used to be a large pre-Colombian city built by Maya people. It's a touristy place and about a 2-hour drive, but you get to stop at the villages along the way. This means you get to see the real Mexico and shop for local souvenirs.
Xcreta - A nature-based attraction park with a river that goes through a Mayan village. From what I remember, it was a full day trip with food included in the package.
Muyil - Hidden and not touristy, this Mayan ruin is about a 15 min drive from Tulum. It starts with a visit to the archeological site, then a walk through the jungles into the beautiful turquoise lagoons, and ends with swimming in canals surrounded by mangroves.
Cenote – Sunken cave/sinkhole system, with many different ones nearby. Few of the popular: Dos Ojos, Sacred Cenote, Grand Cenote, Ik Kil
Rio Secreto - An underground river and caves with bright turquoise waters.
Lake Bacalar - A long and narrow lake with beautiful different shades of blue waters. Lake of seven colors with clear waters is about a 3-hour drive from Playa del Carmen. It is very worth the drive if you have the time. You might think you are in the Maldives ;).
Thanks for having your cup of tea with me – I’m excited to hear about your favorite beach destinations. I know I’m already thinking about the next one!
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