I recently returned from my honeymoon in Riviera Maya, Mexico which is in the Yucatan Peninsula. If you're still not sure where that is, it's pretty close to your college spring break spot (Cancun), minus all of the teenagers. We stayed at El Dorado Royale on the Villa side. The resort is an expansive adults only, gourmet all-inclusive experience. I love traveling to Mexico for the food, people, and let's get serious...the margaritas and micheladas. I've gone to an all inclusive resort before and was not impressed by the entertainment, food or drinks. El Dorado Royale exceeded my expectations in all categories which is why I wanted to share this spot with all of you. Our friends Gabe and Erin were also recently married, and we took our honeymoons together. Keep reading for my resort highlights.
The resort is large and boasts 8 bars, 6 swimming pools, 7 restaurants, all on beachfront property. It could take more than 20-30 minutes (depending on your pace) to walk from one end of the property to the other. There are golf carts zooming throughout the resort (get out of their way) with designated pick up spots to help you get around, but honestly, they were never around when I really wanted one. If you're not up for a walk, choose a closer restaurant, otherwise...move those feet! The beach area has tons of places to lounge on beach chairs and covered cabanas. We noticed people woke up early to lay towels on chairs to "reserve" them and found this to be completely necessary on the beach or at the main pool. There are plenty of open spots at the "quiet" pools. Servers make their way up and down the beach to take drink orders during the day. You'll notice that the beach has large sandbags and concrete blocks in the water. I'm not exactly sure why this is, but I think it's to preserve the beach. I didn't find them to be distracting. There was quite a bit of seaweed in the water, but the staff spent time each day clearing the main swimming area for guests. Not my favorite body of water to swim in (I prefer the Mediterranean), but it sure is beautiful to look at and it was perfect for a quick dip.
The resort is broken up into two sides: Villas and Casitas. Most of the action is on the Villa side, while the Casitas side is a bit quieter...and more posh with private upgraded rooms, luxurious cabanas and private butlers to fulfill any need you may have. We had a shared concierge on the Villa side which I found to be very helpful. The landscaping on both sides of the resort was impeccable and meticulous.
Our room was a swim up suite which had a lazy river that apparently took you all the way to the pool. I did not personally confirm this but it seemed like a great idea. It was convenient to have a swim up room because it was like your own little private pool with chairs for soaking up the rays. Our room also had a hammock on the porch and an ocean view that called for relaxation. Rooms were stocked with beer, water and snacks daily. I also loved that the staff made the beds each evening. El Dorado Royale pays attention to detail and these small touches enhance the entire experience of the trip. There were iguanas throughout the resort which just became a friendly part of our vacation. You may also see a few cats. The resort had a cute little cat resort on the Casitas side (hidden in the back) which was nice to see that they take care of the animals on site.
I visited the spa 3 times because I kept getting drunk and purchasing spa services. It was like they preyed on me, but I didn't mind at all. I actually recommend not booking spa services ahead of time because staff will walk along the beach during the day to let you know it's a "slow day" at the spa, and you can purchase any service at 20% off. Do this. I had a pedicure, cocoa exfoliating and moisturizing wrap, as well as a massage on the beach. The pressure during the massages left something to be desired, but all my services were still very relaxing and the facilities are beautiful. The honeymoon package included a massage on the beach at no additional cost. Tip: make sure to bring a copy of your marriage license with you to take advantage of their honeymoon package.
There are 7 restaurants to try during your visit and most do not take reservations unless you're staying on the Casitas side of the resort (perk). My favorite spot for breakfast was Spot which has an assortment of charcuterie items, "you call it" eggs made to order, fresh fruit, pastries, and thick, deliciously sugary french toast (YAAASSS). Spot is also open earlier than any other breakfast restaurant. If you are looking to indulge, there is a buffet with every delicious thing you can dream up at Cocotal by the main lobby is your best bet. They didn't forget anything at Cocotal (there is a chocolate fountain here). Go to here. Chocolate for breakfast. Other honorable mentions include Jo Jo's which is convenient and on the beach.
For lunch, I drank tequila. Just kidding (kind of), sometimes I had ceviche and tacos from Rincon which is El Dorado Royale's Mexican restaurant. I frequented Rincon almost everyday because I like to eat Mexican food in Mexico and I loved the waiters at this place. They like to surprise you with shots and make sure your glass is always full. Rincon is friendly and fun. The ceviche was so fresh, I had to try almost every kind (they switch it up daily). Another great option for lunch is the BBQ by the main pool. They grill up chicken, ribs, and fish accompanied by fresh, local ingredients. El Dorado Royale grows all of their own vegetables. I was too busy drinking margaritas to tour the greenhouse, but I heard it's pretty cool. Don't judge me.
My favorite dinner spot was Rincon because, again, Mexican food. Yum. Because El Dorado Royale is a "gourmet" all-inclusive, they really take the time to prepare quality ingredients and plate each meal like a piece of art. Portions are also pretty small. Order something from each section and you'll be more than satisfied by the finish of your meal. I loved the culinary dinner experience at Fuentes where a chef prepares a 5 course meal for the audience via closed circuit TV. It feels like an episode of Emeril Live! As the chef completes each course, a full portion magically appears in front of you. They also offer wine pairings picked out by a Master Sommelier. During our visit to Fuentes, my big mouth offered to volunteer by yelling "si!" when the chef asked if anyone wanted to help. The best part about this is that I felt like Giada and was stopped multiple times throughout the week and asked by strangers if I was "the girl from Fuentes?" "Why, yes. I am the girl from Fuentes!" My 15 minutes of resort fame washed away as quickly as the tide by Saturday.
The resort also offers an Italian option at D'Italia, American Cuisine at Santa Fe which is family style, as well as Japanese at Kampai. We ordered room service a few times which arrived quickly and had a stellar cheese plate.
Staff is not afraid to heavy pour for you. My glass was never empty. Everything is all inclusive, but they will serve you rail liquor unless you request a premium liquor which is not lost, it's hidden under the bar. Ask and you shall receive. I found the margaritas to be very sweet here, but a bartender splashed a bit of soda in there for me and I ordered every margarita that way from then on. Many restaurants offer a wine list at an additional charge, but a house red and white is included in the all-inclusive package.
My favorite bar was on the beach on the Casitas side and Kick on the Villa side. Our group felt it was a bit difficult to get a drink at the bar by Jo Jo's which I imagine is because this bar is very busy. Tip is included in the all-inclusive package, but a few bucks to your bartender at the beginning of the day will go a long way. I recommend tipping for exceptional service.
I'm generally a low energy gal when it comes to vacation and my husband would say this applies to my entire life as well. We didn't do any excursions off of the resort because I prefer to lay on a beach chair or wade in the pool.
The resort offers activities on site which I did try out. I attended a cooking class in the Casitas side and learned to make sushi, painted a ceramic skull by the pool, and attempted a tequila tasting. I say attempt because by the time Erin and I got to the tequila tasting, we'd had enough tequila and excused ourselves before we were excused.
All non-motorized water sports are available for free (kayaking, snorkeling, is there anything else)? I snorkeled for like two seconds and actually saw a bunch of angel fish which was pretty cool. They come right up to you. I also attended a spin class on the beach, and took advantage of the beautiful weather and scenery by running in the mornings. The pool has daily games around the time of day that many have consumed just enough booze to make fools of themselves which was super fun(ny). Our guys played beach volleyball almost everyday and kayaked together (who's honeymoon was it, really)? In the evenings, the resort plays a movie, then has a show, followed up by a DJ who plays music until about 2 AM each night. If you want to head off site, the resort will transfer you to and from Cancun daily, and there are multiple agencies that sell excursions. The Blonde Abroad does a great job explaining different excursions that are available.
I'd love to hear where you have honeymooned so I can start planning my next trip! Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*We booked this trip through Lindsay Barrie at Bliss Honeymoons.