In early January 2009, we stayed at two all inclusive resorts in the Mayan Riviera south of Cancun. We spent our first 3 nights at the Valentin Imperial Maya
and the next 3 nights at Secrets Maroma Beach. The two resorts are both for adults only and are near each other, about a 10-15 minute taxi ride between them. But their beaches are a world apart. Maroma Beach at Secrets is world class – it’s fine sand it goes for miles. When we travelled to Excellence Playa Mujeres
last year we did a day trip to the Marina Maroma for snorkeling, ATV rides, and other water and land sports. Marina Maroma is right next to the El Dorado Maroma . As we walked south along the beach from Secrets, we met a couple walking north who were staying at the El Dorado. We got to talking because there were a number of sea slugs that had washed up on the beach and they were discussing what they might be. We asked them about the El Dorado and they said the resort was wonderful and food excellent.
It was noon when we arrived at Secrets Maroma and our room wasn’t available until 3:00 P.M. We didn’t ask for our room earlier because we wanted to go into Playa del Carmen for an hour or so of shopping. The staff stored our luggage, including our computer which they secured. They gave us a couple of bottles of water to tide us over and ordered a cab. We enjoyed our outing in Playa and returned to be escorted to our room by one of the head bellman, Ernesto.
Ernesto speaks English like an American - so I had to ask. He was born in Mexico and moved to Dallas at age 3 where he lived until he and his wife took their 2008 honeymoon in the Riviera Maya – they loved it so much they just stayed. Ernesto showed us to our room and pointed out some of the features of the resort on our walk from the front desk to our building and then from our balcony. He let us know that lunch was still available at the poolside restaurant, where we went and enjoyed a delicious repast.
Our room had a king bed with some draping. It also had a cute little built in love seat and a desk. There were his and hers cabinets with drawers and a spot in each cabinet for hanging clothes. The cabinets also hid a nice large screen television that had a nice selection of channels. The room came with a hot tub that holds two. The hot tub was the divider between the bedroom and bathroom area – the room had an open architecture plan. There were double sinks in the bathroom and a variety of soaps, shampoo, and other amenities, including a hair dryer. The walk-in shower stall and the toilet had frosted glass doors.
The room had a coffee maker and a little frig stocked daily with beer, soda, and water. We got slippers and a bathrobe for each of us. The room also had WiFi as well as an Ethernet plug for internet access.
Our porch had a second built in love seat just like the living part of the suite. The porch also had two chairs and a table. The view from our porch was toward the ocean, but mostly we saw the grounds. The resort is relatively new, open less than six months. The grounds are relatively newly planted so the vegetation is not mature. We noticed that there are no iguanas – probably a sign that the vegetation is not mature.
All of the ground floor rooms are swim-up. They have steps leading into ribbon pools that serve only the rooms on the ground floor of one building.
The evening before we checked out and the day we checked out were a bit rainy. The hotel has umbrellas stashed around in a variety of places. They were very helpful for those who didn’t want to get wet. It was the little things like that and the excellent service of a number of the staff that made the visit a bit memorable.
The beach has palapas and drink service. Gaspar was our server and he was great. In addition to providing great service, he was great to chat with for a few minutes about all sorts of topics. Water sports available on the beach include Hobie Cats, boogie boards, and kayaks. You can also get a massage on the beach. A full spa is available at the resort.
There are two tennis courts and a basketball court. A batting cage was scheduled to open within a few weeks of our visit and archery was available in the meantime.
The entertainment staff at the resort are very good, engaging, enjoyable, and entertaining. One woman we met told us that two of the staff chaperoned them on an evening outing to a nightclub in Playa del Carmen, where they had a great time. The also organize various events like volleyball on the beach, aerobics in the pool, water polo, and other activities.
Our room was in the category that came with a concierge for the building. That means that she was quite busy and not at her desk a lot of the time. She printed out our boarding passes for us on the day we checked out and helped us with a couple of other items. When she was there she was great. When she wasn’t there, she left a sign with a number we could call for assistance – but we like that personal touch. One time when she wasn’t there, the concierge in the next building told us to feel free to call on him or any of the other building concierges.
The willingness to provide service was one of the outstanding aspects of this resort. On the day we arrived, we were wandering around the pool past the swim-up bar. We slowed down because Sue thought she might like something to drink but wasn’t sure what. One of the bartenders looked over and asked what we’d like – and then made some suggestions and brought us what we finally decided upon.
There are two main pools and two Jacuzzis. One of the pools, the larger of the two is heated. The larger pool has a swim-up bar. There’s a bar adjacent to both pools and a restaurant open for lunch beside the heated pool. There are lounge chairs and umbrellas around the pools. There are double lounge chairs at the pool on special areas protruding into the pool, as well as at other locations around the grounds. There are hammocks near the pool. I spent about half an hour swinging in one of them. They are very comfortable. The seating in the Jacuzzis took a little getting used to.
You can’t miss that this resort has lots and lots of concrete. Part of it is that the resort is new and the vegetation hasn’t fully matured. But part of it is that there’s just lots of concrete. One very odd aspect of the resort’s decoration are the huge rocks along a portion of one side of one of the main pools. The rocks are along the side with the steps into the pool – they make the steps impossible to access from dry ground and the other side of the pool is a sheer drop to the depth of about 3 feet. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s just odd.
There’s a wedding gazebo that has the ocean as a back drop. We say the area set up for a wedding, with tables and chairs decked out in white.
There’s a game room with some tables in very shallow water. Under cover there are ping pong, billiards, and foosball. There’s also one hole of putt putt and a gym with a variety of machines. Croquet is set up just adjacent to the main pool.
There’s entertainment every evening. In the early evening there was live music in the lobby. The lobby has relatively poor acoustics, so the music was difficult to fully enjoy. Poor acoustics in hotel lobbies is typical, so this really is something we find at lots of resorts.
Later each evening there were shows in the resort theater. We saw a sleight of hand expert do some rather interesting card tricks on night. The next night there was a pair of comics who were a gas – especially when heckled by the audience. The third night there was a live band. There’s also a disco that’s open every evening.
The restaurants were generally very good. However, we did notice a few times that the food served bore little resemblance to what we ordered – but it was good food, nonetheless. We tried the French restaurant, the Mexican, and the Japanese. In the Mexican restaurant Sue had a piece of veal that she raved about for days. The Japanese restaurant was the best overall. In addition to the standard fare, teppan and sushi were also available. The French restaurant could stand to provide more bread with the meal and have champagne in the restaurant – it is a French restaurant, after all.
The deserts in the French restaurant pointed out something that we’ve found many times in Mexico and it may be a cultural thing. Desert seems to be a somewhat foreign concept. We ordered crème brulee and an orange soufflé. I have eaten many many crèmes brulees and what we got was a bit of crème but no brulee. I doubt that the orange souffle ever saw the inside of an oven.
The daily lunch and afternoon grill at the main pools was excellent. The first day was a paella in a four foot pan. It was excellent. We had lunch at the Seaside Restaurant twice and it was great both times. The Seaside is an open air restaurant next to the pool.
Breakfast was a buffet. Omelettes, crepes, and other items were available to order at the buffet. I had breakfast crepes two mornings. It takes a special skill to make a crepe – so thin and delicate. The cook made them exquisitely both days. The buffet was a good selection, with breads, fruits, and a good variety of other fare.