DETAILED REVIEW - Last Week of August with Two Young Kids
My wife and I have been to many different Countries for resorts in the past, but never Mexico, and never with our two children (6 and 4 years old). We chose Gran Caribe based on good reviews, good looking options for the kids, super close to the airport, and an almost Kids-stay-free pricing. We chose end of August (Aug 25 - Sep 1) for two reasons: lower cost, and to give the kids an end of summer vacation trip before school starts again here in Canada. I couldn't be more thrilled by the choice we made to stay here. We booked through Air Canada Vacations, and it was a very smooth and easy process.Our flight landed in Cancun, Mexico around 9am, and I was quite impressed by the airport there. The customs process was fast and easy, and our luggage came relatively quickly as well. Getting out the exit of the airport to find our resort shuttle, we passed by a lot of people who offer to carry out your luggage and help you find your shuttle, but they do it for the tips, and once you exit, there are plenty of people you can flag down to help you find where your shuttle is located.We arrived at the resort close to 11am I think, and were immediately greeted by the most cheerful and welcoming doorman/baggage assistant. I wish I was better with names, because he deserves mentioning, but I'm not so all I can say is his welcoming nature made an immediate impression that set the tone for the week. He took our luggage, gave us a ticket for them, and kept them safe for us all morning/early afternoon until our room was ready. As we left our bags and entered the lobby, we were then immediately greeted by a super friendly girl who sort of works for the resort - there are employees there who work for the Diamond Club, and yes, their goal is to sell you on time-share type deals, but they almost make that seem secondary until you're fully settled in. She guided us to the front desk to help us check in, and got welcome drinks for us and the kids. After a quick check-in at the front desk, no line ups at all when we arrived, she guided us up to the sixth floor where we had a private check-in as part of staying in one of the master suites. It's quite a bit extra above paying for their regular type suites, but SO WORTH IT! The private check-in is located in the private lounge on the sixth floor, which has comfy chairs, snacks, and premium booze available for the sixth floor and other VIP guests. Our room wasn't ready yet, but the girl gave us our bracelets, some towel cards, and informed us to come back around 2pm to get our room. We met up with our baggage guy, and he let us get some swim clothes out of our bags, and we went over to the spa area to get changed in their bigger bathroom/change rooms. From there we jumped right into our resort vacation! We went to the kids pool first to check it out, and ended up really loving it over there. I had expected to not spend that much time at the kids pool, thinking it would be small and crowded, but it was actually quite calm. It's right beside the kid's water slides as well, so it's easy to go between those attractions with the kids and still be close to your chairs, and the bar and restaurant there. We ended up making a trip to the kids pool once every day since the kids enjoyed it so much. I should say something about the chairs around the resort... I've never been to a resort, except maybe eleven years ago in Panama, where it's been SO easy to find free chairs! Everywhere I go now, people wake up at insane hours to get the best seats in the house, usually leaving limited to no loungers unless you play the claim your seats game as well. Here was completely different. We never claimed chairs early except for the very last day, and that was only because we wanted a specific spot that day. Instead, we simply went where we wanted, and every time there would be so many free spots available, and many times some great shaded spots. The main pool not so much, but the kids pool and the beach especially, always offered some pretty prime spots.We spent almost every day at all three swimming spots, with the beach being my absolute favorite. We arrived right after Tropical Storm Harvey has passed through (before it turned into Hurricane Harvey and battered Houston and surrounding areas), and as a result the waves for the first three days were AMAZING!!! They red flag the beach, but always had one spot that was yellow flagged with a life guard on hand. The waves were so strong and big those three days, and it was the most fun at any resort I've had. I wish I'd brought a boogie board! They had some on the resort, but everything in the store there was insanely expensive. Don't buy anything there, go off resort to La Isla Shopping Village instead, I'll mention that later. If good old Matias K, the tripadvisor reply guy actually wanted to put some advice into action, instead of glossing over people's criticisms, I'd highly recommend them enforcing a massive price drop there - you'd see sales go through the roof! Anyways, not important, but probably the only irksome thing I'll have in this review, lol. The main pool is bigger in person than it looks in the pictures, and contrary to all the negative reviews about the pool water, we found it to be incredibly clean each and every day late into the evening. We went on a few post-sunset swims with the kids (which I highly recommend!) and the water was still clear even then. From our sixth floor balcony over the pool, we could see every morning a small army of staff out cleaning the pool and the pool area, doing a heck of a job. They deserve so much credit for keeping the resort in such top condition! There's no swim up bar, but honestly, I think those are way over-rated, and here they have poolside waiter service, with the bar just a few feet away from the pool in case you need a drink and can't wait for the waiter.The drinks! Oh man, the drinks. The best of any resort I've been to, by far. All these people who complain about them being watered down must be raging alcoholics. Watch the bartenders, they pour tons of booze into the drinks. Just because you don't taste it, doesn't mean it isn't there. And also, why would you want to get stone cold drunk after two or three drinks? If you really need that sting of booze in your drink, then get a drink and order a shot of your favorite spirit to go with it. Problem solved. Stop complaining about watered down drinks when the solution is so in your face simple. Rant over. Their mojitos are legendary, the banana sexy was one of my favorites, the superior cerveza and the dos equis were my go-to beers, and the tequilas available in the sixth floor lounge were great. I would really like to see them step up the premium liquor game though in that sixth floor lounge, so Matias here's another thing to add to your to-do list, more important than the whole lower store prices thing. Please, get some truly premium liquors up there. I would classify the ones there as simply mid-range. Get some of the higher end Don Julios, some triple distilled Corralejo, some of the great Guatemalan sipping rums, and some of the classic single malt scotches. Heck even some XO cognac. You charge enough for the VIP rooms, so this shouldn't be asking too much. I also would like to see better food in the lounge more consistently. Small things, not deal breakers, but it would definitely be appreciated big time.The room was to-die for, in great shape, and easily accommodated the two kids and my wife and I. The sofa turned into one bed, and they wheeled in a nice extra bed so that my kids were taken care of, turning the living room portion essentially into the kids bedroom. They slept so great there, having been tuckered out from the sun and fun each day, and my wife and I were able to spend some nights on the balcony with drinks, and some nights in the room, with more drinks. We were even so tired from our days with the kids that we ended up turning in early most nights anyways. The beauty of this resort is that everything gets rather quiet and peaceful in the evenings, which I WAY prefer. Even without kids, I like peaceful evenings at resorts with less fuss and entertainment. Last note about the room: when we arrived, we were supposed to have four bottles of booze in our room, but there was only one. So that was a small disappointment, but was easily fixed the next day after I put in a request with our VIP lounge check-in person.The food? Wow. Oh man. Just, so good. People who complain are either Vegans, or super picky. First time in Mexico, and I've always heard people compare resort food in other countries to that of Mexican resorts, and now we totally understand why. The food is varied, and so tasty! We ate in the buffet most nights simply because our kids are tornadoes of activity and couldn't sit still for long in the a la carte restaurants. The Albatross for dinner was always enjoyable though, but do watch out for the waiters trying to upsell you special beers and bottled wines. They're crazy expensive, and just not worth it. If you're VIP, you can get some of the nice wines in the VIP lounge later anyways. We also ate at Maria's for dinner - get the steak... omg get the steak - and at the sunset grill, where all their food is fantastic, and you get a great view of the sunset over the lagoon. We went for dinner most nights around 6pm and NEVER had a line or a problem getting a seat. We would see people lined up around 8pm, so clearly it's all about timing I suppose. Breakfasts were best at Gaviotas restaurant by far, and it's open-air with some fans, so in the mornings it's simply beautiful. We would typically eat around 8am, and again, no lines at the different food stations. The omelette with chorizo sausage was one of my breakfast staples. The fruit was generally quite ripe and tasty each morning, and the mimosas are decent. An upgrade in the bubbly department would be nice though, give the mimosas more flavor. Lunches were best at the Sunset Grill, with a killer shrimp ceviche, amazing pizzas, and great burgers. Scored some paella by the main poolside one day, they made it in a massive pot and it was oh sooooo good! The kids club located there is pretty lame, to be honest. They do provide programming, and you can leave your kids there after 11am, but the program is pretty loose, and my kids are wanderers - the staff didn't inspire me with confidence that they would be able to keep a proper care of my kids either. Honestly, unless I knew that there was one dedicated staff person to care for my two kids only, (and not having to pay extra for it as babysitting services) then I'm not sure I'd ever feel totally safe leaving my kiddos. It's a family vacation for us anyways, so we didn't plan to use the services there from the outset, but we checked it out regardless and yeah, we weren't inspired.Hmmmm, what else... oh, hot. Quite hot this time of year. The first three days were amazing, because it was crazy windy from Harvey having passed through (I assume), which made the heat seem non-existent. The last half of the week was quite tough to bear at times, even in the shade, and we ended up having little siestas in our perfectly air conditioned room those days during the early to mid afternoon. The pools heat up a lot too without that wind, so you don't get much relief unless you dip in the still pretty warm Caribbean Sea. The last day was the first that got cloudy and a bit rainy (the rest of the week was pure sunshine practically), so we went off the resort for the first time to visit La Isla Shopping Village, and the Interactive Aquarium there. The shopping was fantastic there! Good restaurants to choose from as well. The aquarium was amazing! We got basic entrance, nothing fancy, and could watch all the people swimming with the dolphins and the dolphins doing tricks and jumps. Was really special. We got souvenirs there, and spent about five hours in total before hopping on the city bus to get back to our resort. Don't get booze there though, wait for the duty free at the Cancun airport, which is on par with any great airport duty free zones you've ever seen.Check-out was early our last day, around 7am, but was super quick and painless. Our trusty and cheerful doorman was there again to see us off, and provided a nice bookend to our Gran Caribe experience. A long review, I know, but I appreciate detailed reviews, so this one goes out to those like me!OH! P.S. Construction around the resort. Yes. It's happening, and yes it's noisy, but no, it will ruin your vacation unless you let it. Construction is mainly in the lobby, in the first floor suites, and by the main pool restaurant Gaviotas. The smell of paint and varathane gets pungent throughout the day, but clears up overnight. It honestly rarely bothered us, and I mean, they're trying to improve the resort and there's never a good time for that to happen unfortunately. I think the resort had a drop in attendance as a result of the room closures, which may skew how easy and relaxing our trip was, I'm not sure.