Sunday, November 22, 2015

Blue Diamond - Boutique All Inclusive Resort, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Blue Diamond is a small, luxury, all-inclusive resort on a lush, tropical property. The rooms overlook a river, a cenote or the ocean. 

The property sits on a protected are a mangroves so it is very spread out. Golf carts are available to take you from place to place or you can use a bike during your stay. From the lobby to the beach, it’s about a 15 minute walk. 

The vibe is very quiet and zen.  Because the landscape is natural, you’ll see leaves on the ground as fall approaches. The dense vegetation does mean there are mosquitoes. Rooms come with insect repellent. 

Rooms do not have bathtubs. The patios have an unheated plunge pool.
WIFI is only in the rooms. Room service has a separate charge. 

The resort offers three a la carte restaurants. 

No buffet. No reservations are needed. A concierge at the beach and pool will bring you food and drink. The beach is very narrow so this would not be a good choice if you are looking for wide, white sandy beaches. It's a little rocky with some seaweed.

Pool overlooking the beach

 The resort is very quiet so nighttime activities are limited to live music with dinner or in the Cigar Lounge. 

A Chef’s Table experience is available for an additional charge. 

The pool and beach have day beds and cabanas available first come, first serve. The Spa is open to any guest and includes Jacuzzi, a steam room for women, and a sauna and steam room for men.   
Inside the Spa

The spa has a beautiful couples treatment room with in-suite treatment beds for both massage and wet treatments like wraps or scrubs. 

Overall, this is quiet, luxury resort in the jungle. The perfect place for a honeymoon or anniversary trip for travelers who would rather be in a natural setting with no distractions. 

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda is a value all-inclusive resort 5 minutes from Playa del Carmen and about 30 minutes south of the Cancun airport.  The resort is open to all ages.  The resort is large with approximately 1,000 rooms in low rise buildings spread across the property. 

Golf cart shuttles are available to get from the back part of the property to the main pool and ocean. The resort has nice natural landscaping. This means that you will likely encounter some animals including a coati mundi- a raccoon-type Mexican animal. I think they are creepy. Guests seemed to like having them around.

The resort features two large pools. The pool in the area closest to the garden view rooms is the quiet pool. The main pool is closer to the beach and features activities during the day. 

The pool area does not get a lot of shade until the afternoon.  No Swim Up bar. No water slides. No bar service at the pool. There’s a bar on either side of the pool so you can easily find a drink.  One fun thing in the pool is a set of spin bikes so you can get your exercise right in the pool.

You can find shade on the beach. The Beach is very eroded so a line of bushes separates the lounge chairs from the ocean. 

You can walk along the beach a long way past two other resorts. 

The resort features two buffets and six a la carte restaurants. 

Reservations are required and have to be made same day.  The easiest way to do is to check in with the concierge in your building on your way to breakfast in the morning. A snack bar is available 24 hours a day. 

I found the buffet to be managed well.

 The food was good and appropriate temperature. It was set up in a way to help minimize lines. Several of the restaurants have separate sections for adults only. Special diets can be accommodated with advanced notice. 

The bars carry well-known  brands like Captain Morgan, Absolut and Bombay Sapphire.

A supervised kids’ club is available for ages 4 -11 between the hours of 10 am - 5 pm. A teens’ club was under construction when I visited in October 2015. Babysitting is available to an extra fee. 

Evening activities include a show in the theater.

 An on site spa offers several different treatments including the Temaxcal - a sweat-lodge type treatment. 

The Sp has a great open air wet areas with a waterfall in the pool plus a lazy river surrounding the wet areas with different treatments you can walk through. 

The day pass to the wet areas was $30 per person when I visited in October 2015 or it’s included with a spa treatment.  It also has one of those pools that creates a current - a swimming treadmill. 

The entry level rooms are typical of a value resort. 

They had a slight damp smell that comes from not running the air conditioning all the time int eh high humidity. You can request a king bed or two double beds. Assignments are based on availability. Beer, water, and soda are available in the room and included. Room Service has a $12 charge for delivery.  WiFI is included for one device is only available in the room. Additional devices can be added for an additional charge.

None of the rooms have ocean views.  The ocean front designation means the rooms are closer to the ocean. Emerald club is the preferred club at this resort. It offer better locations and some additional amenities like a special area on the beach.  

I recommend the swim up suites. These are at a terrific price point for that type of suite.
Grand Esmeralda is a time share properties so some of the areas are for members only. You should be prepared to be approached. 

Overall, I was impressed with this value resort. Before visiting, I was worried about what type of service and accommodations would be available at that price point. I think this is a great fit if you have the right expectations. I could see a great girlfriend getaway here with a side-by-side swim up suites. It would be a great option for a family with kids under 11 looking for a warm all-inclusive with a great pool. 

I love planning all-inclusive vacations. Click here to request my Top 10 Considerations when choosing an all-inclusive resort for free.  

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