We are back from a truly wonderful vacation and still trying to snap out of the feeling that it’s all over. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect going into this trip, as I had never done an all-inclusive resort, but looking back, it was probably one of the best vacations we’ve ever done.
As promised, I’ve put together a full review and recap of our experience so please enjoy!
When we initially decided that we would do an all-inclusive stay, I began to look at a few different locations in Mexico. Out of all of the reviews that I read, I heard that Rivera Maya was top of the line. There were literally hundreds of resorts to choose from and after remembering that Courtney had been not too long ago, I decided to check out her posts and email her about the Valentin Imperial. It looked like everything we were looking for and more, and after going through Cheap Caribbean, the price was extremely reasonable.
I have to add in a quick side note here about Cheap Caribbean. If you are thinking of booking a trip to the Caribbean, I can’t speak highly enough about this site. Not only was it completely seamless, the prices were by far the best compared to other travel sites and we even scored a bunch of free upgrades. They set up everything from out airfare to all of our travel accommodations to the resort. They made everything extremely simple and stress free.
The Valentin Imperial is located only 25 minutes from the Cancun airport and is one of the newer resorts. Karla Laurenzana, Customer Service Manager, was so kind to offer to meet with me when we arrived to go over a few highlights of the facility and answer any of my questions. I had reached out to Karla a few weeks ago to let her know of our upcoming stay and to ask if she would mind me writing a full review. She was nothing but accommodating, as was the entire staff.
As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with cold towels and glasses of champagne while we waited to check in.
Once we received our room keys, we grabbed our first (of many) drinks at the lobby bar. FYI- I developed a deep love for frozen mojitios on this trip. Drinks in hand, we set off to explore the beautiful grounds.
At check-in, we were told our room had been upgraded to the Silver Suite, which was one step up from the basic suites. This room was incredible and honestly the best hotel room I’ve ever stayed in. It came equipped with our own Jacuzzi tub, balcony, and flat screen TV. The rooms were cleaned twice a day and always stocked with fresh towels, bathrobes, slippers and an itinerary for the following day.
One aspect of Mexican resorts that I had read was to make sure you find one that is known for having a good beach. The beach here couldn’t have been better. The sand was pure white, fully equipped with chairs and umbrellas, and crystal clear water. The wait staff walked the line all day to take and refill our drink orders so we were always relaxed and happy.
Toly and I got into the routine of hitting the beach after breakfast for a few hours, grabbing lunch and then headed to the pool for the rest of the day. As relaxing as the beach was, the pool is where all of the fun took place. A full swim up bar, hot tub, pool games, music, and tons of people is what made our afternoons so enjoyable. We ended up meeting a great group of couples around our age at the pool and made instant friends. Every day, we would find a good spot to centralize, grab some drinks and party it up until they closed down the bar. It’s probably a good thing the bar at the pool closed at 5:30pm or else I’m sure we would have missed a few dinners.
My expectations were neutral going into the trip on the food. I had heard really good things about the meals and resorts and also some not so good things. The Valentin impressively contained 9 different restaurant choices. For breakfast and lunch, there were 2 buffets, one in the main dining area and another located near the beach. We had lunch a few times at the beach buffet but found that the main lunch and breakfast buffet, Le Marche was much better and had a ton more options. For breakfast, there was an omelet station, make-your-own crêpe bar, oatmeal with tons of healthy and delicious toppings, yogurt and fruit bar, mountains of decedent pastries, waffles, pancakes, and a ton of Mexican inspired morning meals.
For lunch, I usually loaded up with big refreshing salads and vegetables and took advantage of the fresh made to order seafood grill. Honestly, it was some of the best seafood I’ve ever had.
Dinner was always something different. The Valentin has a no reservations policy which means everything operates on a first-come-first serve basis. Every night we had a small wait but nothing more than 30 minutes.
Our first night, we tried the French restaurant, L’Alsace. This was probably my least favorite of all our meals but I was told after the fact that the seafood is not the best here. It’s known for its beef and duck, which is probably why my salmon was extremely overcooked.
The second night, we tried Italian with Il Olivo. Truthfully, I never get too excited over Italian but my dishes were outstanding. I started with a salmon carpaccio, creamy zucchini soup and ordered the vegetarian lasagna for my main entrée. Absolutely delicious! The tiramisu was also some of the best I’ve had.
By far, our favorite dining experience on the entire trip was the hibachi at Ginger. We were seated at a large table with a group of people who we all became quite fond of after a few sake shots. Your meal begins with a sushi appetizer that was quite tasty. I had the salmon hibachi which came with stir-fried vegetables and fried rice. I’ve had hibachi many times but this was truly the best Japanese I’ve ever eaten.
One night, the resort put together an authentic Mexican buffet that was truly a delight. It was a great way to get a taste of so many genuine Mexican dishes such as empanadas, tamales and churros drizzled in melted dark chocolate. During dinner, we were entertained with a Mariachi band and salsa dancing.
There was also an Indonesian restaurant which was quite delicious. These Thai inspired dishes were unique and incredibly flavorful. I ordered the salmon which came over vegetables and a Thai cinnamon sauce.
The two restaurants we did not try were Tierra, a steakhouse, and Mar and seafood restaurant but we did hear good things about each.
Toly and I hadn’t booked any excursions beforehand and decided we would wait until we arrived to decided if we would venture off of the resort. We met with a concierge and went over the list of excursions the hotel offered before deciding on the Mayan Extreme Adventure which included a tour of Tulum and the Mayan Ruins, zip lining and repelling in the jungle and snorkeling in the ancient caves.
For the price, this was an excellent outing. The resort made everything extremely easy, scheduled our transportation to pick us up and drop us off, and included a full lunch. We were very happy with our choice and felt as though we got to see and do so much in one day.
The only other jaunt we had was an impromptu trip to Playa De Carmen. Even though the resort had put together scheduled tours and shuttles, we decided to make our own agenda with a few friends and split a cab into the city for a few hours. Playa is definitely quite touristy, filled with street vendors and hagglers but a fun time. The best part of the day was finding a little outdoor bar, grabbing some Coronas and downing a few fish tacos.
Our entire trip was spectacular and exceeded my every expectation. We ended up meeting some fantastic people who I know we’ll stay in touch with and hope to plan another vacation with soon.
I would definitely do an all-inclusvie again and although it would be nice to check out some of the other resorts, I think the Valentin raised the bar high so I’m almost afraid to be let down by another one that doesn’t compare.
As hard as it was to come back, I’m ready to get myself back on track this week. I took the last two days to recover (and detox) so I’m looking forward to adding some routine back into my life.
A BIG thank you to all of the wonderful ladies who took over my blog last week. If you didn’t get a chance to check them out, make sure do you do because the giveaways are all ending tomorrow! There are some fantastic recipes, insights, and prizes up for grabs.
Hope you all had a fantastic week!