I’ve always had a poor opinion of all-inclusive resorts.
When I was in my late teens, my then boyfriend and I wanted a holiday, but I was a student and I’d never travelled outside Europe without my family. I had no instructions to show me what to do. It seemed the easiest thing would be to book everything in one go. We ended up with a week in Tunisia, near Sousse on the east coast, in an all inclusive resort. Admittedly, it was cheap and it was easy but the endless buffet food was horrible and young children, unsupervised due to the lack of any perceived threat, roamed in packs, bent on disturbing the peace. I vowed never to go all-inclusive again.
So when we checked in to the Royal Hideaway Playacar Resort, I was prepared for the worst. Oh, how wrong I was…
The beautiful lobby was refreshingly cool in the sticky heat of August on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Within seconds of sitting at the check in desk, I was holding a cooling wet flannel in one hand and a glass of bubbles in the other. Not a child in sight, we were reminded that this was an adults-only resort. Our suitcases were whisked away to our suites and, in due course, we followed, drifting down palm-shaded pathways, between decorative pools and fountains to our accommodation.
Royal Hideaway is a medium sized resort, eleven buildings with a handful of rooms in each, as well as the main lobby building, housing some of the restaurants, a business centre, spa, gym, tour desk and boutiques. Beside the sea is another building with two further restaurants and the all important poolside bar. Our luxury suites (one each, and why not?) were adjacent duplex suites in a building called Ilang-ilang. Entering on the first floor from a balcony around a central courtyard (where our building’s concierge was located), we found ourselves in perfectly chilled living areas, each with a well stocked bar of full sized bottles (included), that opened onto sea-facing balcony with amply-sized hammock. Upstairs, each suite had a marble bathroom, enormous bed and a sun terrace for lounging out of sight of other guests. The decor made the room and building feel somewhat like being on a Caribbean island, but we didn’t linger. The beach was calling.
Being beside the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, alternately skipping across the white sands to dip into the warm sea and relaxing on a curtained daybed in a nest of fluffy towels (included), is basically what paradise must feel like. To mix it up, you might venture to one of the pools, two of which are right beside the beach and one, which is open 24 hours a day, located under the shade of the trees further away. People lie on loungers around the pools and on the beach, tanning to impossible nut browns, moving back and forth to the beachside lunch restaurants (included) with the lazy gait of the sun-sozzled. Best of all, you could be anywhere on the private beach, around or even in the pool, and a waiter will find you to bring you the (included) drinks of your choice – in plastic glasses so they can be enjoyed in the water, natch.
It was a pleasure to dress up and prepare for a glamourous dinner (included) after making reservations with our choice of the numerous restaurants on site. We enjoyed an exquisite French dinner at flagship restaurant ‘Las Ventanas’ on the first night – where the steak was so perfectly cooked that it was almost a kind of meat-butter – and an amazing sushi and pan-Asian menu at ‘Azia’ on the second night. Our lunch at the Mexican restaurant ‘Spices’ (included) introduced us to the punch of Yucatecan habanero salsa and we ate breakfast every morning at ‘The Deck’ (included), overlooking the sea while we prepared ourselves for maximum relaxation with fruit smoothies. A nightcap on the balcony in the balmy night air with a freshly opened bottle of Havana Club Especial (included) was a perfect end to each day in paradise.
I am a convert to the all-inclusive experience as part of my holiday experience and I can understand why many would prefer to embrace this set-up for their whole trip. It is truly liberating to not think about costs at all, to lounge around all day or to venture into local Playa del Carmen, to have your concierge (thanks for everything, Adrian!) arrange visits to local archaeological sites such as Tulum or Chichen Itza and to return to the hotel in plenty of time to dress for dinner and embark on a second adventure of culinary exploration.
I think back to my teenage self in Tunisia, racing to the mediocre Western buffet to get there before the grubby children and regretting it immediately when faced with clammy cheese and ham. If only someone had included instructions for me about how to holiday as I am about to do for you. Here it is:
1) Go to the Royal Hideaway Playacar Resort
2) Relax like you’ve never relaxed before!
Royal Hideaway Playacar
Lote Hotelero No. 6, Desarrollo
Playa del Carmen