Between the crowded tourist meccas of Cancun and Playa del Carmen, there lies a little slice of heaven at the Grand Residences, Puerto Morelos, Mexico.
The weather has turned from glorious to il fait moche (yucky).
When there were little people in our lives, we would force ourselves to go for walks in the park, make snow people and forts, paint the snow with food colour, and have slush-ball fights… But those days are long gone. Winter has come.
Unlike more rugged Canucks, we begin our winter hibernation as soon as the northern winds, sleet and snow start to besiege our beloved Ottawa. Late fall: that utterly gruesome time of year when people kick themselves for not having put on their winter tires, and when they call the auto shop they find they have to wait for weeks to get an appointment.
When the first snow of each year comes, we begin what is rapidly becoming our new normal: we buy a pass at our local gym, where we can take our evening constitutional on a treadmill rather than slip, slide and ouch on the sidewalk; we turn on the gas fireplace; and we take the odd long weekend in a tropical hot spot.
Using Orbitz and a coupon code, we booked a four-day all-inclusive including all meals, drinks, room service and airfare, to the Grand Residences on the Mayan Riviera, at the eastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. The Grand Residences received a 5 out of 5 rating and a 2016 Travellers’ Choice award on Trip Advisor.
While our bags were being placed in the trunk, the driver gave us bottles of water and refreshing cold, wet towels that smelled of orange blossoms to cool our brows. He asked us what flavor of margarita we would like to find waiting for us when we arrived at the resort, and placed our order by cell phone before pulling out into traffic.
The driver gave us a brief tour around the quaint town square of Puerto Morelos.
Puerto Morelos, Mexico
From Puerto Morelos it was about a ten minute drive to the most luxurious resort we have ever visited.
Grand Residences, Puerto Morelos, Mexico
On arrival, our bags were whisked away to our room and we were handed ice-cold lime margaritas while we chatted with our own personal concierge Marcella, who wore a name tag that said Maria. Apparently all the new women who work there get to wear the Maria name tag for the first few weeks while theirs is being made up.
Check-in went very smoothly and we were given our turquoise coloured resort foam rubber bracelets with embedded chips. The bracelet was our pass to luxury, opening the door to our room, using the elevator, and to confirm our all-inclusive status at the restaurant and several bars.
A sliver necklace was also given as a welcome gift.
As we had to wait a few hours until our suite was ready, we went to the El Faro (Lighthouse) Grill and ate a magnificent seafood lunch al fresco overlooking the impossibly blue water and sky. Just as we finished, lunch Marcella who is not Maria came to tell us our suite was ready.
The junior suite was simply lovely.
Inside the room there are two buttons: one to indicate you want to have your room made up, another to indicate that you do not want to be disturbed. These light up discrete indicators outside to direct housekeeping.
The spacious air-conditioned suite had three large cupboards which contained: pillow menu, iron/board, a safe, XXL white cotton robes, lots of hangers, and drawers.
Beside the cupboard was a kitchen with high-end dishes, glassware, cutlery, a mini-bar fridge with beer and soft drinks (for which there was no extra change for guests on an all-inclusive plan), coffee maker, microwave, toaster, Nespresso maker with capsules, a Toblerone bar, containers of dried fruit and nuts, a bottle of Herradura gold reposado tequila with two shot glasses, salt and a cut up lime. Had we not chosen the all inclusive, we would have been able to easily prepare meals in the kitchenette.
Across from the kitchen was the bathroom suite, which had a double sink vanity with top-end amenities including a bar of hand-made chocolate soap, a spa tub, a shower room and a toilet room. The fixtures and hardware were top end Kohler. The towels were high end, thick, huge, and heavenly. While the water is potable throughout the resort (they have their own reverse osmosis plant on site), bottles of chilled water were everywhere in abundant supply.
The suite has two double beds, a night-stand, a dining table/desk, free WiFi, HD flat screen TV, DVD/Blu-Ray player, phone, cable and pretty much anything else you could need. They even provided a complimentary beach tote bag and Off mosquito repellant.
When we returned from dinner our beds had been turned down, slippers laid out and there was a charming pillow gift – a Mexican wooden bobble-head in a box.
We slept for 12 hours straight. The stress of the developing frozen white landscape that we had escaped melted away, and soon we had almost completely forgotten the “real world” of sleet and 9-5 jobs with unpaid overtime.
The European breakfast at the El Faro restaurant, both buffet and menu, was simply wonderful.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
The next day we decided to go to Playa del Carmen to stroll down the main street, Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), home to international restaurants, high-end shops, pharmacies, ticky-tacky tourist trinkets and hustlers. After the 11th stranger who introduced himself as our “waiter from the hotel last night” who was working at his parent’s shop that was having it’s “grand opening today”… we decided to go back to the tranquil paradise where we had unpacked our suitcases, rather than making it an even dozen.
Grand Residences, Puerto Morelos, Mexico
We spent the rest of the day (and the next few days) by the pool indulging in lounge chairs that the ever-attentive staff made up with towels which they tucked in so they would stay in place, and towel headrests, accepting the chilled Evian water spray, fruit kebabs, nibblies, frozen fruitsicles, water, and drinkipoos that were offered throughout the day.
For every two chairs there was a table and an umbrella. One could remain as pasty or as red as one desired. To get some exercise, we swam to the bar in the middle of the pool or moved to beach chairs by the ocean and walked along the silky white sand beach holding hands looking at corals that had washed ashore.
On Saturday and Sunday, just before dinner, there was a wedding under a canopy on the beach… with ubiquitous Mexican musicians soothing the romantic soul.
The Grand Residences is Boomer friendly. During our brief stay we met many friendly and extremely interesting Boomers who owned a suite for a few weeks a year for the next 100 years (kinda like a time share but not quite). As a whole, the “owners” seemed to have developed a happy and close-knit community who were living the a pampered life.
The resort is superb and well-worth the five-star rating.
- Great international food and drink.
- High-end rooms and amenities.
- The resort is spotlessly clean (eg., the room is cleaned twice a day, they spray every evening to eliminate the mosquito population).
- The tap water is “gringo” safe (a real issue in much of Mexico).
- The most attentive and extremely professional resort staff imaginable.
- The staff and “owners” are extremely welcoming.
- A great spot for destination weddings and extended family gatherings.
- We barely scratched the resources available at the Grand Residences (e.g., the gym, the spa, the lap pool). But our prime goal was sun, sleep and relaxation, and enjoying the good life in Mexico, which we had in spades.
- Not a resort for evening party animals.
The only negatives about this superb resort were (and we are being picky):
- The hotel charged an extra 10% for calling a cab.
- The hotel shop would not accept cash (only room charge or credit card), leaving us with a fist full of pesos at the end of the trip.
- To get pesos at the hotel you needed to have foreign currency. The ATM at the hotel would give American dollars only for a very high fee (US$6.95 to use the machine and an extra US$6.95 for each $100 you took out) which you then had to exchange for pesos at the front desk where at least there was no fee and an OK exchange rate.
Sometimes life is very good. Then you have to go back to reality…