Please let me start this by saying I really dislike all inclusives. But I'm considering a wedding in Mexico and it was pointed out to me that my guests may appreciate that. I guess not everyone considers scouting out the best local restaurants as a relaxing vacation! :) That being said, can anyone think of an all-inclusive (my stomach turns just typing it) that has food a chowhound can stand? I don't care about the budget, I just want good food and a beautiful beach. A sushi bar may help to take the sting out of a place like this, but isn't a must. Help!
Secrets Capri is one of the best without breaking the bank, depending on your bank. Food feedback is uniformly positive, and it has the pan-asian restaurant you want. But it's not cheap. Maroma as suggested by the poster above, is so expensive it would probably be a strain on some of your guests. Most of the concierges at the all inclusives have no problem helping to arrange a wedding reception or rehearsal dinner off site, usually in Playa del Carmen, it happens all the time. I am well acquainted with a very capable wedding planner in Playa and could put you in touch. I attended a beachfront wedding at Mayakoba last November which was so much more enjoyable than customary church weddings. Happy planning!
The El Dorado Royale has fantastic food. We went there on our honeymoon earlier this year and didn't have a bad meal the entire time (one or two weren't as fantastic as the others, but that had more to do with our food allergies and the accomodations they had to make, than them). They bill themselves as "gourmet inclusive" and really they live up to that.
We went there on the recommendation of friends, that have gone there for several years (and are going again next week).
There are about 8 restaurants on site, none of them buffet (except for breakfast), all featuring different cuisines. We highly recommend JoJo's--the little caribbean place by the beach--for lunches (their grilled pineapple with caramel and ice cream is something I wish I could have brought back with me--I have a craving right now). We also really enjoyed the fondue restaurant (about 8 different kinds to choose from, just a lovely evening) and the "international" restaurant.
Our only food-related disappointment was the wine that was "included" with the "all inclusive" package--we're not wine experts but even we could tell it wasn't great. But there was always the option of paying more for a premium wine if we chose to.
There were a few destination weddings happening at the resort each day we were there, and they all seemed to be done up very well. If I was considering a destination wedding this would definitely be a top choice. It is definitely a place we would like to go back to.
I hear ya...went to Beaches Turks & Caicos once, and it was the worst eating of my life.
I've only been one place near PdC, and found the food perfectly acceptable, but not great, which I think is probably unrealistic for any all-inc place.
And food aside, the hotel was spectacular.
Stayed at Iberostars Paraiso Lindo (shares pools with their Paraiso Maya--it is basically one side of the pool or the other, little difference, and you have run of the place. I'd highly recommend it. Plus, you can always "go off the reservation" and go down to PdC for eats--it was inexpensive enough that we didn't even feel guilty about buying our own meals. If you consider going that route, here's a great, up to date hound-y list of places to check out:
Also, while I haven't stayed there, Iberostar has also opened a no-kids resort right next door called the Paraiso Grand, which I've heard good things about, including the dining, which is supposed to be very high end, and unlike any other all-inclusives--including things like lobster, imported wines included in price, etc.
Thanks for the pointer. We're seriously considering going to Paraiso Lindo for a week with our 3.5-year-old, and I can't imagine spending the entire time at the resort. What are our transportations alternatives for getting to PdC? How far is it exactly? (it looks like the Iberostar complex is in the middle of nowhere). Any other Chowish or local color suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
A bit off the food subject, but getting to PdC is easy. There is a regular shuttle from the resort that runs every 1/2 hour or so, and it is about a 15-20 minute ride. They drop you off at the bottom of the main tourist drag, which is a drag of a street, with he hawkers, and identical made in china faux Mexican junk, but there are tons of dining options in PdC that are an easy walk from there. Check the link I provided in the earlier post, and find what looks interesting to you. We went "off the reservation" twice in the course of a week, and ate at 2 great places, both right near the giant MEGA (like a Mexican version of Wal*Mart). The first was El Fogon, for tacos al pastor. 2 locations: 30th Ave and 6th St and 30th Ave near 32nd St.
The other was La Pesca, for great seafood, casual, and inexpensive, with great drinks, too.
(Note: Aside from food, I found the city of PdC largely without charm. The place must expand by 10 streets in each direction each year, so don't expect a quaint colonial Mexican feel, or some barely discovered barefoot fishing village)
Getting back after dinner, it's a bummer treking back to the bus drop-off place, and waiting for it, so we just grabbed a cab. They are everywhere, and while I don't remember the price for the ride, it couldn't have been more than $25 bucks or so (or I would have remembered!) .
The second trip off the reservation was in a rented car, because we were going to Xel Ha (highly recommended--go out to the floating bridge part of the lagoon). Given the distance, and cost of a taxi or tour, it was cheaper to rent a car for the day (about $80, if I recall). Plus, it had the added advantage of allowing us to stop in PdC again for dinner on our way back. They rent directly at the resort as well.
Having said that, again, the food was good at the resort, given the expectation that we didn't pick the place with food as a primary consideration. We heard reasonably good things about the food before booking (a requirement after our Beaches all-inclusive experience, which nearly turned us off all-inclusives for ever) Check tripadvisor.com if you haven't already. Also, as Spanish-based operator, it draws probably draws more Europeans than Americans, so we figured on a higher degree of food-centricity than a place catering almost exclusively to Americans. Lastly, unlike Paraiso, on an island resort everything has to come in by boat or air, so good fresh ingredients are expensive and tough to come by (I had this brought home to me in spades on night one at Beaches Turks & Caicos, when I when to the Island Fish House with visions of conch, grouper and maybe a spiny lobster for an upcharge dancing in my head, and saw the choices were king crab and salmon, flowing in frozen from Miami). Iberostar, and most of Mexico, fortunately, has 400+ miles of cheap agriculture right there out the back door, looking for a buyer, and you could see it in the food they put out.
For all kinds of appetite whetting information on the area, plus a chow-ish discussion board, look here:
But you really won't feel trapped or deprived even if you don't leave..its huge, beautiful, and with plenty to do for a week.
Oh, last thing...across the road from the check in area at the hotel is a little shopping area that belongs to the resort. the first night, we wandered over, and found a gelato and crepe place (nothing that would put Italian gelato or French crepes to shame, but good.) Went to pay, thinking it was a separate retail environment, and found out it was included! So, the kids had our desert plans booked for the rest of the week--there is also a little merry-go-round they can ride in the evenings. Basically, I love the place, and can't wait to go back
Thanks, ChefBoyAreMe. Great information. This will be our first time at an all-inclusive -- we're usually independent travelers, but we thought this might be a good first trip with our little one. The thought of being in Mexico without access to great Mexican food is just frightening to me, but PdC sounds like a decent escape.
Where were you when I needed you, ChefBoyAreMe??? Hubby & I had some terrible meals softened by great times at Paraiso Lindo. We're planning to return this year to check out Paraiso Grand. Will let you know how the food is there. I actually have a glimmer of hope.
Thanks for the Playa del Carmen info. We managed to find a gem of a place too, but unfortunately can't recall the name. I'm certain my nose and instincts will find it again. Will add some of your places to ours and report on all. Thanks CBAM.
I have had the opportunity to stay both at Maroma and Secrets Capri.
Maroma has an incredible beach, excellent service and the best food I have ever tasted in an all inclusive.
Secrets Capri is ok. You won't starve If you are obsesed about technique, presentation, flavor harmony (I am), but you certainly won't feel like your money's worth. I ended up dining lobster and scallop tepanyaki 3 nights in a row in the pan-asian restaurant, which isnt in the menu.
The beverage selection was a huge dissapointment for me, low end brands for spirits and cheap wine. It was not until I complained about the quality of the drinks that they took out hiding the premium brands.
Please keep in mind that the hurricane season ends in late october. This is a huge factor on the beach's state.
If you're up to some dining in Playa del Carmen, try DI VINO; www.divino.com.mx
COngratulations on your wedding