I’ve been to Mexico more times than I can count. Cancun, Cozumel, Cabo, you name it…I clearly just can’t get enough of this country, particularly the Riviera Maya region along the Yucatán peninsula where you’ll find some of the top-rated beaches of the world. Last week I decided to return again, this time to the Tulum region, about 45 minutes to an hour outside of the most popular part of the region for tourists, Playa del Carmen. Since I was accompanying a travel partner who was conquering the milestone of earning his first passport stamp, I decided to venture out beyond my normal Mexico experiences and have a few “firsts” of my own…and boy am I glad I did.
Tulum is more subdued compared to neighboring Playa del Carmen and Cancun, and is known more so for its yoga retreats and archaeological ruins than the turn up girl’s trips and mancations for which the other regions are more well-known. So if you’re looking for more of a relaxing vacay or perhaps a romantic getaway with your loved one, this area is a great choice. I chose the El Dorado Seaside Suites because 1) I had been to the El Dorado Royale, a sister property, three times and absolutely love the Karisma brand of hotels and 2) As a travel consultant, I thought it was my duty to try out one of their newest properties, which boasts nothing but suites that have ocean views, and either a swim-up terrace or balcony with infinity pool…as research for my clients of course (smile).
I opted for the infinity pool suite. Amazing! I literally did not want to leave. The suite itself was spacious and well decorated, balancing the nice touch of making you feel at home while being away from home. The generous sized shower stall with the dual rainforest/detachable shower head and separate jacuzzi tub, made this quite possibly one of the best resort bathrooms I’ve experienced to date. And now onto the infinity pool balcony…I could live there, I mean really. The contrast of the blue pool water and the different hues of green and blue of the Caribbean Sea was magnificent. Note, try to get on the highest floor so you’ll have the best view and chance of sunlight with no other infinity pool suites above you.
As you could have guessed, being the foodie that I am, one of the things I love most about the Karisma brand is they offer “gourmet all-inclusive”, which means they take pride in giving you a luxury, gourmet food experience at their resorts. Remember that previous post about not all all-inclusive properties are created equal (Having it All)? If you are trigger shy about testing out an all-inclusive property, I recommend you give the El Dorado gourmet inclusive experience a shot before you give your final answer. This post would be extremely long if I told you about each food experience, but you’ll see some of my favorite food pics below and I’ll share that my highlight was the sea bass dish at the Italian restaurant, Mi Casa. Perfecto! In addition to the 8 restaurants that the Seaside Suites offer, you also have the ability to experience the restaurants at the neighboring El Dorado Sensimar, just a short complimentary cart ride away. Note: they also have a (limited) 24 hour room service menu, which came in handy one morning when I decided to have breakfast with a view.
Before I move onto my experiences beyond the resort, I would do the El Dorado Seaside Suites no justice without talking about the spa. It had me at hola. Considering I’ve become a bit of a spa-snob in my travels, I do not say it lightly when I tell you that this was one of my best spa experiences to date. In addition to the incredible 80 minute relaxing massage, the service among all the staff was impeccable, the relaxation room had everything you would want and need, and the hydrotherapy experience was everything – well except for that ice bath. I don’t really do cold so I opted out of that one. (Don’t judge me.)
As I aim to write a balanced review, I also want to note a criticism I have of the property. If you are looking for a nice beach where you can lay out on the sand and get a nice view of the white sandy beach merging effortlessly into the green and blue waters, you probably don’t want to stay here. There is not much of a beach on this part of the coast. And much of the paltry beach they have is covered in seaweed. The property has done a great job in the investment of beautiful beach cabana beds (what they call Bali beds) that line up amongst the little bit of beach they have, but as a beach bum I must admit I was a little disappointed in that. If you want chairs that lay out in the sun for you sun lovers like me, your best option is to score a lounge chair by the pool.
I made the Bali bed work, though in the shade. Note there were a few lounge chairs out there to sunbathe.
Now onto our exploration of the Mayan ruins. As many times as I’d been to this region of Mexico, I had never been to the world-renowned Chichen-Itza or the popular cenotes. Chichen-Itza, now dubbed one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, was the largest of the archaeological cities of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization in the Yucatán Peninsula. It was incredible to learn about all the history of the Mayan culture and the significance of the pyramids and various architecture within the site. We opted for a tour that included a visit to a cenote, which I highly recommend. A cenote is a natural sinkhole, typically surrounded by a cave or cavern, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. It is literally some of the freshest water you can ever experience. The water was extremely cold but felt refreshing after being subjected to the oppressive heat of Mexico in mid-July. If you are comfortable, I recommend jumping in, you won’t regret it! Note: there are life jackets for those who are challenged in the swimming department. Also, if you plan on doing this excursion, plan for an all-day experience. We left at 8 in the morning and did not return to our hotel until 8 pm. It was worth it though!
Unfortunately, lately Mexico has been hit with some pretty tragic news around “tainted alcohol” at some of their luxury, all-inclusive resorts and rising drug-related crimes within the Riviera Maya region, which has understandably made some travelers wary of making it their next vacation spot. Despite that news, just as with any place you travel, I recommend that you do your due diligence when researching a property, take part in recreational activities responsibly, and be careful of your surroundings, especially when traveling off resort grounds. I still cherish Mexico as one of my favorite travel destinations and I will continue to recommend it to travelers looking for an amazing vacation experience.