When culture, heritage and regional tradition provide the focus of travel, can all-inclusive resorts known for their generous flow of entertainment satisfy the visitor? Cultural Heritage TravelingMom says with intention it is quite possible.
Maybe it doesn’t matter that Cancun, Mexico, is just down the road and the island named Isla Mujeres is a ferry ride above the tip of the Riviera Maya peninsula because the all-inclusive resort named Finest Playa Mujeres engages all the senses all by itself—toddlers, tweens, teens and all the generations.
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“Family-friendly” smacks of inconsistency if free booze and endless food is the meaning of all-inclusive resorts. This one’s different.
While spirits flow freely in 10 restaurants and 16 bars at Finest Playa Mujeres, the swish of stroller wheels and giggles of families encountering pirates and mimes and characters reflecting Caribbean history dominated more.
Finest operates within a group of Mexico resorts of equally self-confident names: Excellence and Beloved, with a new one opening soon in the Dominican Republic.
Some are adult-only but Finest Playa Mujeres embraces the kids.
No high-rise condo style casting shadows on the beach here. Rooms are in buildings nestled throughout the property, inviting walking more than elevators because the stairways are wide and bright with daylight. Elevator option always handy.
Finding your way is easy because hotel buildings are well numbered with clear signs, and colorful but simple maps like mini billboards appear throughout the grounds.
Everything is a suite: 450 total.
Should you choose ground level or upper floor suites?
Swim-up is a charming option with many ground-level rooms and suites, connecting to a labyrinth of lazy winding rivers. Doors also provided! Hammocks, lounging beds and personal pools also come with many ground-level rooms.
While hedges suggest privacy, people seemed on display to me in those settings.
Go up a floor or two and privacy is real. My room opened several ways to a spacious balcony from which the view was long and broad.
I could open the sliding glass wall and walk right out. Or I could slip from my room discretely into the big-enough-for-two jetted hot tub.
Options there also include soaking, returning to the room or moving from the waters to a curtained lounging bed overlooking the balcony and the resort grounds. Modest with curtains; titillating because of the notion.
This feature is just as alluring for romance as it is for fun with the kids.
Family suites are available with two bedrooms, king beds and twins.
Here’s a tip if you enjoy top-floor balcony life in your birthday suit; the terraces on the Sky Bar offer a direct look right into balconies hidden from view anywhere else.
Imagine is the name of the kids’ clubs, with separate sets of activities for ages three to six, seven to 11 and 12 – 15.
Parents need to stay with toddlers for play in the water park, which features Riviera Maya-themed slides and jets including a replica of Chichen Itza. Travelers interested in the true Mayan ruins can arrange a day trip to the original.
Teen activities include water polo, bike tours, archery, beach soccer and Olympic-style games while tweens engage in sand castle building, water balloon battles, marshmallow pyramid designing and art projects.
Babysitters are available for hire.
Ten restaurants provide more than dining options; I recommend strolling through them with intention to notice the design, vastly different one from the other.
Could be a version of playing I Spy with the kids for several purposes: one just the fun of it and another a subtle way to teach them (and maybe yourself!) to notice artistry and design even in the midst of abundant pleasures.
There’s even a food truck on a plaza near the performance theater, serving, of course, Mexican tacos.
Discovering culture through culinary always strikes me as a good idea and the big group of 20 the night I ate Asian included babies in high chairs, young school-age children and some tweens.
Turned out, in addition to trying new tastes, this was a grandparent/grandkids party while the middle generation dined in the adults-only, special dress code French restaurant named Le Petit Plaiser.
The grandparents were college chums who vacation with their kids and now the next generation at least once every year. Finest Playa Mujeres was working very well for them, they said, when I interrupted a course with chopsticks to ask.
The Market Kitchen offers culinary explorations for the kids and worldly adults. I met my first Pata Negra there,. That means black foot pig in Spanish and the leg from which my server cut the tenderest tiny slices is on display on an imposing frame.
Four years this meat rests in salt, with 4,000 years of ancestors eating only nuts on farms in Spain.
Learn a little Spanish there too ordering montaditos, which means to be on top, sort of like bruschetta.
If the kids need pizza one meal, get a window seat for the ocean view and the breeze; open-air here, no wall unless storms or glare need blocking.
Seventeen individual water treatments precede massages and facials at all Excellence Group spas, guided by a personal valet. No additional charge.
The tradition, purpose and precision of these experiences deserve a separate story.
Children are welcomed at the Finest spa too where the mani/pedi and hairstyle salon is kid-sized and equipped with toys and books to match their ages.
Kids get massages too and I was a bit skeptical, believing in unplugged children playing outdoors. However, here’s what the spa staff said they observe:
“Children are suffering with tense necks and shoulders just as we see in adults. Massage can help.”
Couples massage interest you but you’ve chosen a vacation together with the whole family? This spa has a three-massage-table room!
Beaches and Pools
The 702-foot long beach is owned by the government, not the resort. Do not expect lifeguards.
Ten pools and 13 outdoor Jacuzzis offer enough settings to match age-specific styles and children expend water-park energy in the special features pool behind the Imagine Kids Club.
Excellence Group is a Spanish company, believing art matters in resort experiences. Do a little research to learn the backstories of any sculpture, painting or artist because the works are on site to please, not so much to educate. No signage.
The towering red word LOVE lured me to want to know more. You can’t miss it arriving from the airport, a 25-minute drive.
Seems sculptor Pep Llambias likes expressing words not as language, but to evoke thinking of emotions. Others showing up in his works—but not boldly here like the red love in the sky—are amor, impotencia and passio.
Do you have all-inclusive experiences or attitudes for family-friendly travel? Here’s what Unplugged TravelingMom Gina Verseci does when she’s near Playa Mujeres.