We’re in the darkest days of winter, just after the holidays, and spring break is not too far away, which means that, for many, a warm-weather escape is in order. If you’re looking to skip lengthy trip planning, consider an all-inclusive resort. These oft-maligned destinations have made a resurgence with better amenities and even better food. So, grab your bikini —and a few of these dynamic travel gear items — and head south, just below Playa Del Carmen, to the recently opened Hotel Xcaret Mexico.
The All-Fun Inclusive Program
Sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea and the Riviera Maya jungle, with views of Cozumel in the distance, Hotel Xcaret Mexico makes vacationing easy—whether you’re looking to leave the property and visit all of the Experiencias Xcaret Parks and Tours or you just want to toe-poke the ocean and soak up Vitamin Sea. The All-Fun Inclusive program includes admission to the nearby family of resorts that includes waterparks and zip lines. The best part? Roundtrip transportation is included.
Gear Pro-Tip: Check out KAST Fitness Wear, colorful authentic Brazilian capris and leggings—they pack small; can be worn in the ocean, pool, or at the gym; and provide sun protection.
The first things you’ll notice when you arrive at the hotel are the nods to Mexican traditions, art, and culture. Everything in the rooms – from the pair of wooden chairs to the pink plush pillows to the hand-painted blue tiles – is from Mexico. The resort’s eco-friendly sustainable design has already earned the property certification by EarthCheck, a certification and advisory organization, for its Planning and Design.
Explore private coves and caves. Walk sand-covered paths through rainforest paths and bridges that are strung over snaking canals, connecting the lush jungle to the shoreline. The entire resort blends the breezy outdoors into every interior space.
Gear Pro-Tip: Quite possibly the best travel packs are Osprey — at the airport, roll its carry-on wheeled travel packs, like the ultralight Ozone Convertible, and wear it as a backpack to traverse the sand.
Room to Move
The smartest design move was to make the resort appealing to both families and adults traveling without children. Adults traveling alone should opt for the Casa Feugo area, which includes a rooftop pool, bar, and you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it views of the Riviera Maya. Families will feel comfortable at Casa Viento or Casa Tierra, near the kids’ and teens’ club, a family restaurant, and an Octopus pool with slides. If spa treatments are your thing (how can they not be?), then book a room at Casa Agua, for access to Muluk Spa—the hydrotherapy circuit and a traditional Mayan massage are included.
Gear Pro-Tip: Don’t leave home without some lightweight, polarized shades like Sunski’s flexible frames.
Noshes and Nibbles
With 10 restaurants and even more bars, there are more than enough choices to keep you satiated and entertained during your stay. The colorful La Trajinera, located near the main pool, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ignore your mother and after eating go straight into the pool for a cocktail at the swim-up bar. Mexican Steak House is the place for, you guessed it, steak. This traditional cantina-style restaurant is also home to live music, original cocktails, and a plethora of tequila and mezcal. The casual El Mercado is a wonderful place for a hearty breakfast — the fig butter is a must. Chibali is a kids’ paradise with loads of delectable grab-and-go items for little fingers: mozzarella sticks, pizza, mini sandwiches, and sweets galore. Other restaurants include: Teatro Del Rio, Xin-Gao—the sushi here is incredible, Las Playas, and Las Cuevas.
The standout, however, is HA’, serving contemporary Mexican gastronomy. Water flows throughout the restaurant, including a large water vortex in the center. Leave with a belly full of signature dishes created by the photogenic chef Carlos Gaytan, the very first Mexican Michelin-starred chef.
Gaytan, a former “Top Chef” cheftestant, began his career in Chicago, working his way up the chain from pantry cook to line cook to Chef Garde Manger to Chef de Cuisine to restaurant owner. Mexique on Chicago Avenue opened in Chicago in 2008. The American Culinary Federation awarded Gaytan Chef of the Year in 2011, among his other honors. At HA’, you’ll be served house-made bread during the middle of the meal, when it complements the dish, rather than at the beginning when it can spoil your appetite. Make a reservation here, you won’t regret the decision.
Gear Pro-Tip: Keep your credit cards safe anti-theft gear maker PacSafe’s RFIDsafe TEC passport wallets, purses, and backpacks. The Transit Travel Hoodie has pockets for your passport, boarding passes, wallet, phone and other tech, making it a carry-on in a jacket.