Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Mexico - The Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Resort

The Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Resort

Work has been, shall we say, intense for quite a while now.  With both Chris and I feeling stressed and worn out.  So we took a break and ran away to Mexico.   There were some significant changes to our usual travels and they worked out beautifully for what we needed this vacation.

Things such as:

- we travelled in March instead of February; therefore places that are not quite warm enough for me in Feb, were now open options

- we went for as-simple-as-possible.  All inclusive.  I even fairly quickly gave up and called in the expert as to where to start - Kes Smith (find her here if you need or want to book anything - she put a ton of effort into solving a challenge we had while away, AND also was the one who recommended this resort, having been there herself, which we absolutely loved).   We had no plan for excursions although I'll admit I did a bit of digging after picking the location to find what I'd like to do if I were so inclined, but it didn't drive anything about the planning or selection.  (in the end, we only left the resort one day - I'll give it its own blog post.

This, or very close to this, was our view for most of the week.
With a *few* more people, but never crowded.

- we were on a HUGE resort.  By far the biggest we've done.  Usually I intentionally look for smaller ones / more personal / etc.  BUT - what this allowed was that even though they were full, we could always get a seat at either pool or beach, there were three different pools and each one was dedicated to a different preferred experience:  the games pool, the high energy music pool, and the tranquil pool.  One guess where we spent most of our time ;). Also, the tranquil pool was farthest from the accommodations, so it wasn't the one people would just "stumble" over first.  Which meant those with kids, those who just couldn't be bothered, etc ended up at one of the others.  It also had no swim-up bar and lots more trees.  Win all around.   It WAS closest to the beach, which was a win for me since every day I went there at least for a bit :) 

There were even hammocks available!

- it was comparatively far from the airport.   Usually we try to limit transit time - that sweet spot between not hearing the planes and not having to drive for hours to start your vacation.  But this time - I think it saved us a mountain of children.   SO many other resorts closer to the airport and closer to the excursions likely to appeal to families, that it wasn't a kid-heavy experience despite being March Break.  I heard also that they actively discourage "spring break" groups of any age.   Our room was in an "adults only" area, said on the booking 18+, but I'm not sure what that means since for at least a few days we had a baby in an adjoining room.  Not a big deal though.

I sat out on our balcony at some point pretty much every day.
Sometimes monkeys visited :)

So all of this made for a lovely vacation.   Our room was clean, a really good size, and generally kept up.  We were on the ground floor and still had a little balcony that faced trees where occasionally monkeys came to visit.   I would say the maid service was not quite up to the standard we've seen at other places, but it wasn't bad by any means.  It was also comparatively well located as we could get just about everywhere without too far a hike once we knew our way around.  

Running was the opposite of our objective, but this gives an idea of the size.
Our room was in the "Chac" section, "our" pool of choice was the horseshoe-shaped one.

That being said, the resort is huge, if you do the loop of only the main part of the resort it's about 3km.   I averaged 17.5k steps a day.   Now, I partially did that on purpose cause I like to walk and we were eating a LOT and at home if I don't make an effort I'll walk less than 3k (home office remember - and it's winter).   There are shuttles all day going all over the resort - electric golf-cart types, so they're quiet (although Mexico drivers, so slightly terrifying lol).  

Re food and drink, there were all the typical all-inclusive type things: many bars (incl swim-up bars in two of the pools), multiple buffet options, a la carte restaurants (pro tip: book them all the day you get there, they fill up fast), beach snack bar (hot dogs / hamburgers / nachos, etc), etc.   What it had that was awesome that I haven't seen before were:

  • the Italian a la carte restaurant would make pizzas at lunch (think medium size) - you could have 2 per room (C and I together couldn't finish one).  These were thin crust and surprisingly just right after several days of way too much buffet food.  Also, portable - you could easily eat them by the pool or beach or room.
  • there was a coffee shop (still included) that was absolutely lovely.  Multiple coffee options (both hot and cold, and of course alcohol addition options) AND hot chocolate (for she who doesn't drink coffee).  They also usually had light snacks (think tiny wraps,  breakfast pastries, etc).   Chris was there multiple times a day :).  But I really loved going there after dinner, where for at least a few nights there was a woman singing salsa music.   Very much outdoor cafe style, had our coffee at a little table and watched the woman sing and a few of the guests dance.

Even the sleeves of the coffee cup had words to make me smile.
  • my daytime spot which I'll admit I visited more often than Chris was the ice cream bar.   Ideally at the FAR end of the resort from where we were, so helped me get my steps every day.   The ice cream was really good, and they even had sprinkle options :)   Coconut became my go-to, but of the several flavours I tried, there weren't any I wouldn't do recommend.  It was by the loudest pool, so reaffirmed each day that we chose the right location
  • right next to our pool of choice was a smoothy bar.  It and the ice cream bar were the only two that had no alcohol at all.  The smoothies were actually healthy which means, of course, I did not partake as they all had some form of vegetable smuggled in. But Chris enjoyed them and they were always busy, so I have to feel the option was appreciated.
  • re a la cartes: this resort had WAY more options for a la carte than others I've seen.  We chose Steak, Brazilian, and Mexican.  Next time I'd pass on the first two; Steak we do better at home, while Brazilian was interesting and I'd recommend others try it, but too much meat for me.  The Mexican I'd do again and I'd love to try the Mediterranean and the Italian ones.   For real foodies there were lots of others too, but they appeal less to me since I am the extreme opposite of an adventurous eater with the preferred diet of the average 8-yo child lol.  But options include French, Japanese, etc...  I'm definitely forgetting at least one, possibly more.   
On the lazy river - "our" pool was attached via the cut through at the right.

Now - the true highlight was the lazy river.   It's NOT fully connected, it has a stop and an end and one lap is about 15 mins.  But it is extremely well done, very lovely, we never had a problem getting tubes and rarely even found it crowded (even when we knew fully well almost all the tubes were in use).  It twists and turns and most of the time you're under trees.   You go past the loud pool and hear the music for a bit, and other areas you hear more birds or critters.   We did many laps every day and it will be missed.

Gratuitous lazy river shot

That being said, because we knew there was a lazy river and that it was March Break, we were concerned about ability to get tubes so brought some of our own.  We didn't need them for the lazy river but did it ever up our general resort water enjoyment.   The days the ocean was safe (yellow flagged instead of red) we floated on the waves - paddle out, float back in, rinse and repeat (the beach was such that it had very easy/obvious stop points to ensure we didn't end up beyond a safe point).   Other times we floated in the pool (which was not crowded so this worked - other resorts we've been at floaties wouldn't have been a good idea at beach or pool but here it worked, and worked well enough they sold them in most of the shops on the resort).

There really isn't any better way to relax

The beach was stunning, broken naturally into three sections.  There was a lifeguard on duty but they were mostly hidden in the trees.  One of the three sections always had a ton of fish, so usually people there snorkelling or fish watching (super shallow so snorkelling was tricky there).  The other two were more likely to have people swimming.  We tended to go to the farthest one which tended to be smaller and have almost no people.

About half the week the beach was yellow-flagged and we went in.
The rest of the week was red, and we respected the warning.
The area we usually swam was the other side of the ruin from this viewpoint.

There was a ruin on the property that you could get to with just a short wade.  Thought that was really cool (if you squint or make the picture bigger, it's in the photo above :). It was tiny but still great that it's there and protected.

Also, it seems that the resorts here own property all the way to (and possibly into?) the ocean, which meant down-side: paying spa rates for a beach massage (that was *awesome* btw), but serious up-side, no hawkers trying to sell you stuff endlessly on the beach (looking at you Grenada) or just off the beach in the water (Jamaica comes to mind here!).  Potentially it's the tight security at the gate that keeps that under control too, but either way, was appreciated.

I would not want to get in-between these guys and their food
I'd consider them Mexican racoons, except they *also* had actual racoons!  Albeit skinny ones.
Probably because their daytime cousins ate all the food.

There were lots of animals on the resort; some of which I recognised ;). MANY of which would consume any food left out, which resulted in people being less sloppy than normal about leaving stuff around the pool.  lol the 30 or so Coati's swarming somebody's pizza box was fascinating - esp when they came single file from another side of the resort.  Well-organized critters.   Also many cats, monkeys (equally likely to steal food), racoons (dusk and evening), and Sereque.  Those were rat-type critters that I saw a few times but not as many of and know very little about.

Lots of learning opportunities around the resort

The people working at the resort were awesome - they're definitely hiring and/or training for friendly and customer-service oriented.  The resort IS a chain, albeit a small one, and I would definitely consider other versions of it.  I would say it ranks in the middle of the Riu type ranking - it's not top end by any means, but it's a lot better than many and we had a very lovely week there despite them being fully booked (I almost find it hard to believe they were fully booked because it never felt crowded.  If it was, they did something really right).   

Everything was beautifully lit at night.  This was "our" pool after dark.

The only challenges we had on this trip were with Sunwing/Nexus and, well, at least Sunwing has been bought so hopefully service will be better under new ownership.   I would just book the resort and flight directly next time to get around that.  


Post a Comment