What’s Happening in the Riviera Maya?

This area south of Cancun on the East Coast of Mexico is growing so fast it’s hard to keep track.  One of the new All Inclusive resorts is Sandos Playacar Riviera Hotel & Spa.  This is a sister resort of Playacar Beach Resort and Spa and guests have access to both resorts.


Sandos Resort has 400 junior and 2-room suites, many have large in-room hot tubs and all have balconies.  Most rooms are in three story buildings containing a few dozen rooms each, but there are also two story hacienda villas which have 10 rooms each.  These haciendas are popular for family reunions, weddings and other special events.  Each has its own private plunge pool.


The property at Sandos is shaded with palm trees and other foliage and it is just a short walk between the 2 resorts.  The sister properties share a new spa with 22 treatment rooms, each with a private shower.  There is also a fitness center with spinning, yoga and aerobic classes – these facilities are free other than the actual spa treatments.


The Beach Resort also has a kids program.  Once every week they take over the 600 seat theater performing in Disney character costumes and skits.  The disco is for teens only until 10PM when it changes to adults only. 


Each resort has several restaurants serving gourmet meals. For those of you who want the VIP treatment there is a hotel-within-a-hotel component called the Royal Club.  For only $25 extra per day you can have features such as private check-in, a dedicated concierge and a private club room with free top-shelf brand liquors and Internet access.


While in the Riviera Maya there are a couple of things you shouldn’t miss.  Snorkeling and Scuba Diving are fabulous here.  The Mayan ruins of Tulum are close by.  And the Dolphin Discovery where you have an opportunity to swim and play with the dolphins.

Cancun with the Girls???

A few months after my trip to Puerto Vallarta, another friend, MA, suggested a girls week to Cancun.  She put together a group of 4 of her friends – we didn’t know each other before this, but she felt we would all get along well. 

Our first meeting was at Sandra’s for a group craft day.  I can’t remember what we were doing as far as crafts went, it turned into a wine drinking day.  During the day, Sandra brought out her mom’s RCI book and someone started thumbing through it and saw Jamaica.  Everyone squealed “Jamaica”, maybe we should go there instead.  Well, I was all for that.  Cancun has never held a lot of appeal to me – I enjoy the beach and sun, but I’m not really into the big mega-resorts.


A couple of weeks later we had a planning session at my house.  The girls were throwing out other island ideas and I said that anywhere in the Caribbean would be great – sun, sand, clear blue water, and relaxation!  After a little more investigating we decided on Negril, Jamaica because it would be easier to get to than some of the other destinations.  This was all before I got into the travel business.

As time went on we settled on a week in January, 2004 and started contacting travel agents.  It was this experience, along with a timely ad in the paper for a local agency, that moved me towards my travel career.  Out of 6 agencies we called, only one called us back. 

I’m one of those people who loves details and research so I had been designated to work with the TA.  I told her when we wanted to go, that we wanted two rooms – we needed a refrigeration or kitchen in at least one, and what our budget was.

She came back to me with a list of 4 resorts that fit our budget – beyond that she did not give us any information.  We started investigating and found that one got horrible reviews on Tripadvisor so we crossed that one off.  One was an all-inclusive which might have been alright, but we didn’t like the location.  I called the agent again and asked if they all had refrigerators.  She said “oh, I don’t know, let me check.”  The ONE requirement that we had she had not even checked.

She came back and only 2 of the resorts had the possibility of refrigerators, one of which had some 1 bedroom units with full kitchens.  We decided to go with this property, White Sands. 

We kept researching and found a great tour guide recommended by numerous people on Jamaicans.com.  They are Sienna and Solomon of Talk of the Town Tours.  I wrote back and forth for several months – the other girls would only agree to leave the beach for one day so we booked a great one day tour with them.  We also checked out restaurants and entertainment so we would be ready when we got there. 

The travel agent we had used did not offer any suggestions of tours, restaurants or anything else.  By the time we left I had arranged to start training with the agency I had found.  I was looking forward to it because I knew that I could offer better customer service, starting with returning phone calls from prospective clients.