How does taking a break from all the madness of the past year and heading to an all-inclusive property in a breathtaking country where you can relax and recharge your batteries – or you can partake in numerous activities to shake that stress right out of you sound? Yeah – sounds pretty awesome to me too!
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Kathy Stevens who is the Business Development Manager for Sandos Hotel and Resorts All-Inclusive properties in Mexico. And needless to say, Kathy agrees with me that we have been cooped up far too long and it’s time for a change of scenery – with no better place than one with the great rates, beaches and customer service of our neighbor to the south. And Sandos happens to have four properties – one on the west coast in Cabo San Lucas, one in the hotel zone of Cancun and two in Riviera Maya.
So, mi amigas and amigos – let’s find out exactly what we can expect from these magnificent all-inclusive budget friendly properties!
Properties: As mentioned above Kathy represents four properties across Mexico – stretching from one end of the country to the other.
- Sandos Cancun: Kathy’s personal favorite – this four-diamond resort features just 214 rooms making it more of a boutique property. To give you an idea of the size – Kathy boasted that you can get from one end of the property to the other in just a few minutes. Plus, if you want to be pampered – this one is for you. With complete food and drink service on the beach or by the pool – plus 24-hour room service and entertainment – you only have to worry about getting here. Oh, and tips are included too!
- Accommodations: All of the rooms are partial lagoon view and partial ocean view giving you the best of both worlds. The Superior Room does not have a balcony, but still has the views. The Deluxe Room, however, has a private balcony and Kathy shared that if you if you are like her and enjoy sipping on an afternoon drink on your balcony or perhaps having your breakfast in the room the Deluxe Room is the way to go. And as for me – I always like to share with you guys the room category that I love the most at each property so I will always offer you the room type that I would choose. So, while the superior rooms are a great option as you probably aren’t going to be in your room that much – I really would suggest the Deluxe Room or higher because I want to make sure that you get the complete experience that you are paying for – and being able to sit on your balcony with your feet up listening to the sounds of the ocean and breathing in that magnificent ocean air is all part of that experience.
- Activities: Kathy made note that this is the only hotel in their portfolio that caters a little bit more adults. That doesn’t mean that it is adults only, however. They do accept children, but they don’t really cater to them – meaning there’s no children’s rate and no children’s activities or kids clubs – so this is important to know should you be planning on a family vacation. That being said there are a ton of activities and they are unique in that they can be found throughout the entire day.
In addition to a casino, they also have plenty of entertainment if you are not the gambling type. And it’s not the typical resort entertainment where you go to the theater in the evening and the same staff that was running the afternoon activities is putting on the show. Here they offer spots of entertainment during the day and also in the evening – so if you’re up for it – as long as you have the energy to keep going – they are always entertaining you!
There are three infinity pools on the property in addition to the beach – where you can do some parasailing by the way. And as Kathy mentioned it’s located right there in the hub of Cancun – so when you walk outside the resort onto the street there is a local bus that you can take – or you can even walk if you prefer – to the hotel zone. It’s very safe and friendly and you’ll find plenty of places to go shopping among other things.
One of the things that I like about this property in terms of also the location is that you can easily enjoy a myriad of different things. If you want to get out and not be on the property all the time you have the ability to do so and still be safe – even if you are as me – a woman traveling alone most of the time. I’m extremely comfortable in the hotel zone and when people ask, I tell them Mexico is like any other place you’re going to – be cautious but not afraid and don’t do what you wouldn’t do at home. Side Note: A lot of people still think of Cancun proper as spring break destination only – and that is not true anymore.
- Restaurants: There are plenty of places to dine – and drink at Sandos Cancun – including Seasons A La Carte Restaurant, Bar One, Bar Two, Gaijun, Frattini’s and Zango. Here you can explore the flavors of everything from a steak house to a hibachi experience and more. Plus – you are getting a fine dining experience in a laid back, casual setting.
One of the great things about Sandos properties is that they have no restrictions, no limits and no reservations required in all of their a la cart restaurants. Meaning – at some all-inclusive properties you can only go to each specialty restaurant once during your stay or you need reservations in advance. At Sandos you can go once a day to an a la cart restaurant or three times a day. As Kathy joked – if you have the stomach and the clothes that fit! The only exception are their hibachi restaurants – as they do require reservations just because of the set up – as they are dinner and a show.
- Sandos Caracol Eco Resort: Part of the signature eco collection, Caracol is located in Riviera Maya which is about maybe – depending on traffic – 25 to 30 minutes from the airport. One of the great things about this property is that soon as you enter it you forget there’s a city out there. This property does cater to families even though they do offer an adult only section. This is always a great option for our multi-generational families who are traveling together but perhaps have an aunt and uncle whose kids are younger and then you also have grandparents, etc. – so some can opt to stay in the adult only section while the others can stay in the family friendly rooms.
- Accommodations: In the family section you will find the Eco Family Superior Room which are brand new rooms that have been totally redone. They each feature a king bed as well as a bunk bed so you’re not going to have a problem sleeping a family of four. They also have an Eco Family Suite if you want a little bit more room which has a master bedroom with a king bed and a trundle bunk bed. Bonus – it also features a plunge pool on the private balcony! There is also the option of the Eco Penthouse Suite which is a true two-bedroom suite and gives you even more space. Here the parents get their own room with a king bed along with a few feet of separation from the kids – who have their own room with a trundle bunk bed – and – get this – they also have their own living area with a tv!
- Activities: Since Sandos Cancun did not cater to kids – let’s talk about the kid’s club at this property. Open to children age four to 12 – the great thing about this kid’s club is that it is available from 10:00am to 10:00pm – giving parents an opportunity to enjoy alone time pretty much any time of the day they want. And the kids love it! Kathy said she is constantly hearing stories from families saying their children met kids from other states – or even other countries – that they made friends with and have continued to keep in touch with.
Sandos Caracol also has a fabulous water park – Aquapark – that Kathy insists is for kids of all ages – and sizes! It is divided into three sections so that you don’t have to worry about the bigger kids crashing into your little ones. And of course, there’s no added cost and you can use it as many times as you want. It really is a great experience for the whole family and Kathy added that sometimes she sees the adults more excited to go to the water park then the kids!
One thing that makes this property unique is their All-Nature Experience that includes daily activities – such as eco-guided tours – to introduce you to the lush ecosystems and are open to all ages. And there are a lot of other things that you can experience while you’re at the property including Day of the Dead activities (a very popular celebration in Mexico), bird watching, bike trails, yoga, Mayan shows and more. Here you’re truly getting that cultural immersion and the ability to really enjoy what this destination is all about.
And we can’t forget about the pool! The main pool just underwent a major facelift so if you want to be by the beautiful turquoise water and sandy beaches but don’t want to actually swim in the ocean – there is a beautiful pool to enjoy.
- Restaurants: Among the venues here are El Templo, La Toscana, La Laguna and Los Lirios – which include Mexican (of course), Italian and another hibachi. And once again you will find the focus on fine dining in a casual setting. Another thing that Sandos is great about is catering to those with food allergies or restrictions such as gluten free, vegan or vegetarian diets. In all of their restaurants – at all of their properties – you will find there are options for everyone. Not only that but you will never go hungry at a Sandos property thanks to snack areas during the day and 24-hour room service in addition to the restaurants and bars.
- Sandos Playacar: Sandos Playacar is located in Playa del Carmen – which is located in an area I adore – Riviera Maya – an area filled with flavor. You’ve got Fifth Avenue which is very similar to the hotel zone in Cancun, a beautiful beach with tranquil waters and an uncrowded, safe environment. In fact, the great thing about this property is that it is located in the Playacar area which means it is about 25 to 30 minutes from the airport. And – once you get to Playacar – it is a gated community – so you have to pass through a checkpoint and then you have to go through the security checkpoint of the hotel -meaning – there are only people here that supposed to be here.
This one has a quite different vibe from Caracol which is a little bit more about exploring the jungle and the Mayan culture. This one is all about the location. The beach here is absolutely amazing – and Kathy said that she has often shown videos or pictures of it to friends and relatives who think that they are fake. But it really is that calm that beautiful – trust us!
- Accommodations: This property features totally separate sections for families and for adults. The adult only section is in the front part of the hotel which offers you either a garden view, a partial ocean view or an ocean front room. Once again should you be a multi-generational family or perhaps, you’re having a girl’s getaway or guys getaway – this is a great property as it offers options for everyone!
In the Riviera Family section, you’ll find the Riviera Family King Jr. Suite and the Riviera Family Queen Jr Suite. The family suites feature bunk beds so there is room for everybody. And should you have a party of five – because they know some families do have three children – there is a suite available with a king bed and a trundle bunk bed or one with two queen beds with a sofa bed – so everyone will have their own space and sleep comfortably. And if you have more than three children – there are connecting rooms available – subject to availability of course.
- Activities: There is so much to do here whether you want to turn on your chill or turn on your fun. Everyone is different and Sandos knows that even the same person can have different wants or needs during their vacation. Some days may be for just chilling out on a hammock with a frozen drink within reach, reading a good book or listening to your favorite music. Which other days may be an “I want to play to volleyball, take a yoga class on the beach then play in the water park with the kids” kind of day. It’s your choice – chill mode or fun mode – they offer them both whenever you so desire. And yes – Sandos Playacar also has an Aquapark thanks to the popularity of the one at Caracol – which many people booked just because of that fact. Not wanting to take away from that water park they made a smaller water park here. Kathy advised that this one is more for children between the ages of three or four to maybe 11 or 12 – making this a pretty cool feature for the kiddos as it is their own area just for them. Here they have their own pool, their own water park and even a restaurant that caters to them for lunch or just an afternoon snack.
- Restaurants: Among the places to grab a bite here are Cupcake Café, Chayita, Festival Grand Buffet and Festival Grand Buffet Kids Corner. So, on this particular property once again there are fabulous options for everyone’s pallet. If you’ve got a sweet tooth there’s the Cupcake Cafe – which by the way is not just cupcakes but also has hundreds of options for coffee lovers – including hot coffee, iced coffee, expresso, Frappuccino, cappuccino and more! Kathy also stated that one of her personal favorites is Chayita which features amazing Mexican food – noting that she knows where all best tacos are in the country and when you eat them here it’s more like you’re in the heart of a city in Mexico than in an all-inclusive resort!
- Sandos Finisterra: Located on the Pacific side I have to tell you guys this property is going to blow you away! It’s literally just amazing overall. Now in Cabo there are very few beaches that are swimmable, but this property definitely makes up for it in terms of everything else that they have to offer. Cabo really is a different vibe from Cancun and Riviera Maya and as with the Playacar property this hotel is all about location, location, location! Here you are literally minutes from the town of Cabo San Lucas. So once again – the best of both worlds – you can go from relaxing by the pool to walking outside of the property and exploring the town that is filled with artsy cafes, bars, restaurants and shops. No taxi needed! And if you want to go deep sea fishing or whale watching (during whale watching season) the marina is literally steps away too. And as I mentioned most of the beaches are not swimmable – as even though they appear very calm there’s a strong undercurrent. But no worries! There are three oceanfront pools at the resort looking over the gorgeous beach and there is a swimmable beach about ten to 15 minutes away. So, you have the beach vibe all around you – which is good for those who want the beach vibe but don’t necessarily want to swim in the ocean.
- Accommodations: So, guys the last time I was in Cabo I was able to just to open up my door and I could hear the ocean up crashing up against the rocks and it was just incredibly calming. It was like having my own sound machine but straight from mother nature. And I really am so passionate about this because I feel like everybody should have an experience like this – where you literally open the doors and can feel the rejuvenation starting, the recharging of your batteries – I just can’t speak on the Wellness part enough of what the ocean does for our mind body and spirit. So, the Junior Suite Ocean View can give you this experience and just imagine this is the properties leading room category! The rooms are so very spacious and in addition to the sound and smells of the ocean during whale watching season the whales pass very close to the hotel and you can see from your room – for free! And Kathy agreed with me that there is nothing like the sound of the ocean especially in the evening – and she shared that when she’s heading to sleep, she opens the balcony doors, turns off the air conditioner and falls asleep that peaceful sound. I think I may just try that next time!
The hotel also offers Finisterra Casitas Deluxe or Finisterra Casitas Suites which are a great opportunity for those of you who want extra room. These also give you brilliant views of the marina – which are just as fabulous as having an ocean view. In fact, Kathy also told us about a time she was assigned a marina view room and was a little disappointed that she didn’t get an ocean view room. However – she soon realized that at night the marina in Cabo San Lucas is an amazing view with its own personality. There are multitudes of multi-million-dollar yachts parked for the evening as well as the bright colors of purples and blues and more – and she ended up thrilled that she got this view! And another bonus – the casitas are situated so you almost never see who your neighbor is – so again if you like little bit more privacy – this is the way to go. And of course – a definite plus for the social distancing aspect.
- Activities: During the day you can hang by one of the pools, take in the beach views and head into town for some shopping. In the evening, the nightlife comes alive with three bars to frequent – Stones Club, Whale Watchers Bar and Rocca Lounge. This particular property has a lot of nightlife where you can keep the party going into the wee hours of the night. Fun Fact: Stones Club is so named because Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones got married in Finisterra – so they named the nightclub after him. Plus, the Whale Watchers Bar is the number one whale watching bar and is simply breathtaking. And the lobby bar – the Rocca Lounge – is one of the most unique lobby bars that you will ever see per Kathy – as it almost feels like you are in your own corner of the world while there. It’s cool and refreshing too so a great place to head when you want to get out of the sun for a bit.
Personally, one of the things that I love about Cabo is the Arch of Cabo San Lucas – which is a distinctive rock formation at the southern tip of the town. And honestly just to be able to see both the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean is super great too. You can opt to take a sunset dinner cruise that leaves right out of the oh so close by marina or hang out there with a drink during the day and watch those adorably funny sea lions – that often seem to realize they are on camera and act accordingly!
- Restaurants: Some of Finisterra’s dining options include Agave, Emiliano’s Osteria, Don Diego, Pizzeria and Tortuga Beach – again all just really fine dining adventures without feeling the stuffiness of fine dining. And of course, there’s an option for everybody even within each individual restaurant. And even if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian – what the heck – try it as you have the option to do so – for free! The food there and the service of all the team members is absolutely amazing and don’t be surprised to find a pop-up pizza shop or a hot dog guy walking around the property either!
Safety: Per Kathy, Cancun is one of the first destinations to be certified by the World Health Organization and are not only doing what they require – but going over and above to ensure you are going to have a great time and you’re going to be safe. They are certainly not taking your health or your safety lightly.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing the CDC recommends unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to Mexico.
There you have it – four more fabulous resorts to consider when planning your Mexico adventure. One of the great things about Sandos Hotels and Resorts is they are budget friendly and offer some great pricing options for all-inclusives! So, you heard Kathy – let me know what kind of beach vibe you want so that we can figure out the best property for you and get to planning your 2021 getaway to sun in the fun!
For more details on the fabulous Sandos Hotels and Resorts, their price points, and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
*NOTE: Starting April 1st all international visitors over age 15 to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum, will have to pay a new tourism tax of 224 pesos.