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Viva Mexico

Luxury all-inclusive resorts take the financial guesswork out of vacation planning and bring Mexico’s stunning beaches and history within reach.
By Pam Grout

Mexico is known for its stunning beaches, ancient ruins, bustling markets and wild jungle landscapes, but for many travelers, it also provides freedom from that perennial question, “What will this do to my bottom line?”


In Title: Club Med started the all-inclusive vacation idea in 1950. Now the company has 80 resorts in 25 countries, including Club Med Cancún Yucatan on the east coast of Mexico.

Above: This isn’t your typical dinner buffet. All-inclusive resorts understand their guests come to expect fine dining and more properties, including the luxury RIU resorts, are answering the call with outstanding cuisine. Forget the diet and dig in. RIU Resorts photo

Below: A glorious day is capped off at Club Med Cancún Yucatan with a beautiful sunset. The resort, one of 80 around the world, welcomes families with programs for children from infant to teens. Club Med photo

club med

If you’re vacationing at a Mexican all-inclusive resort, you pay one straightforward price (usually before you ever get on the airplane) and everything (and we do mean everything) is included. With a resort bracelet strapped around your wrist, you’re entitled to three exquisite meals per day, all the cocktails you can drink, plus free activities such as windsurfing, snorkeling and boating, yoga, and more. In many cases, your own masseuse, sommelier and personal butler are included.

There are no worries about tipping (it’s included) or what to do with the kids while you’re scuba diving the neon coral reefs (kids programs are part of the package). In fact, your only concern is deciding at which of the many gourmet restaurants to make reservations for that night.

Despite what you may have heard about all-inclusive buffets, more resorts recognize the importance of fresh ingredients, local cuisine and award-winning chefs. It’s hard to find an all-inclusive that doesn’t offer an impressive choice of restaurants ranging from high-end Italian at Viva Wyndham’s Il Palco to sushi and tempura at RIU Palace Pacifico Kyoto Japanese.

Thanks to an influx of luxury hoteliers, a handful of family-run boutique resorts and several European players who have been pampering guests for decades, the bar on Mexico’s all-inclusive market has been raised with resorts constantly trying to outdo each other in amenities, service and food.

Here are a few suggestions to get you on a gorgeous Mexican beach this summer.

Living it up at Club Med

Any article about all-inclusives would be remiss without mentioning Club Med that was started in 1950 by Belgian water polo champ Gerard Blitz when he built a village of army tents on a pristine beach in Mallorca. The company that started the egalitarian concept of paying one simple price now has 80 resorts–called villages–in 25 countries, including two recently refurbished family villages in Mexico. Long gone are army tents, conga lines and plastic beads. A recent $530 million expansion resulted in bigger rooms, flat screen TVs and half-day excursions off the property.

Club Med Cancún Yucatan, featuring private airport car service and pâté de foie gras on the room service menu, has two sun-kissed beaches on the east coast of Mexico, and Ixtapa Pacific, across the country, has specialty family suites, a baby gym and teenage spa services.

Three letters, loads of luxury

Three simple letters–RIU–stand for affordable luxury. In Mexico, this family-owned resort chain that also sprang to life in Mallorca has 15 luxury resorts including the RIU Palace Pacifico that was voted Mexico’s best new resort in 2009 by 26,000 travel agents.

RIU Palace Pacifico, located in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, is a AAA four Diamond resort with five themed restaurants, a spa, nightly entertainment and, of course, RIU’s trademark palatial accommodations. Other resorts in Mexico are in Playa del Carmen, Los Cabos, Cancún, Mazatlan and Riviera Maya.

The company, which prides itself in finding the world’s best beaches, has 100 hotels in 17 countries.

I’ve got a secret

With three resorts near Cancún, Secrets Resorts and Spas, a chain of luxury all-inclusives, goes so far as to throw in free green fees at Playa Paraiso, a course designed by Pete Dye. Secrets Capri Riviera Cancún is a AAA four Diamond resort.

This adults-only chain also offers 24-hour concierge and room service, a full-service spa, four-poster beds and Italian marble bathrooms. If there’s a wedding in your future, let Secrets’ wedding planners take care of the grunt work. You bring the dress. They’ll take care of the rest.

Viva Wyndham

Woody Allen said 80 percent of success is showing up. At Viva Wyndham, with two resorts within walking or biking distance of Playa del Carmen, guests who simply show up are rewarded with cozy accommodations, a wide choice of restaurant options (eight between the two resorts) and an activity schedule that starts in the morning with yoga stretching and doesn’t end until the 10 p.m. show that features everything from Broadway tunes to theme parties.

The AAA two Diamond Viva Wyndham Maya is a 480-room resort; its sister, the 270-room AAA three Diamond Viva Wyndham Azeteca, offers a more intimate experience, but also has access to Maya’s dining, entertainment and activity offerings. Both resorts are close to Mayan ruins.

So whether you’re looking for a personal stimulus package or a few days of economic certainty, snag a seaside cabana at one of these Mexico all-inclusives that offer ease of planning, rock star amenities and no sticker shock at check out.

Pam Grout is a contributor from Lawrence, Kan.

Safe travel tips for Mexico

The U.S. State Department issued a Mexico travel warning on March 14 due to increased drug-cartel related homicides in the resort city of Acapulco. AAA anticipates that destinations in Mexico are going to be popular for spring and summer travelers, given their affordability and proximity. Mexico-bound travelers should consider the following in order to enjoy a seamless vacation:

  • Consult a travel agent when planning your trip.
  • Take group or escorted tours with established companies, like AAA vendor Pleasant Holidays.
  • Frequent tourist areas, like Cancun.
  • Make copies of important documents and store them separate from the originals.

During your stay:

  • Stay with your party at all times and avoid sharing your travel itinerary with people you meet on vacation.
  • Do not hail a taxi yourself. If you need a taxi, ask someone from your hotel or a restaurant to summon an authorized taxi for you.
  • If you plan on renting recreational vehicles, such as jet skis and ATVs, use caution. These may be uninsured, underinsured or not covered by your personal insurance. Read the rental contract carefully.

For more information on tour options to Mexico, call AAA Travel, (888) 366-4222. Information on document requirements and prohibited or restricted items is on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at

May/Jun 2010 Issue


Effective last June, all air travelers 16 years and older are required to have a passport to re-enter the United States from Mexico. Children under age 16 can use an original U.S. birth certificate. Passport photos are available at your nearest full-service AAA Travel office. The cost is $5 plus tax for AAA Basic members; the first set is free for AAA Plus members, and $5 plus tax for the second set.

AAA Travel can book your Mexico all-inclusive resort vacation. Contact your travel professional or call (888) 366-4222. List of offices to serve you.

Order free information about AAA Travel packages through the Reader Service Card found online at

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