Our Last Minute Trip to Mexico
Have you ever planned an International trip with less than 3 days notice? Well, neither have we – until recently! Sharing how we randomly ended up in sunny Riviera Maya, Mexico this month.
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I am a PLANNER. I plan as much as possible. I hate feeling caught off guard, and even when I am, I’ve probably already anticipated it and have a backup plan or two in place. SO, when Hurricane Michael shit all over my months-long planning for Ryan’s birthday trip, I needed to figure something out. I cancelled all of our flights, hotels, dinner reservations, etc. and literally had NOTHING for the time we had planned to be away. But, I love a good challenge. And I’ll pretty much do anything to travel :)
Within a few hours I scored a deal to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, arranged transportation, and told Ryan to pack his bags. This birthday celebration was still happening! I’m glad I have a husband that can handle my form of crazy and is up for an adventure with me.
I try to get as much done as I can with work and life ahead of a trip so I can try to unwind a little (although my brain never really shuts off), so I spent the next 48 hours hustling to get work done, laundry finished, tip money withdrawn, puppy sitter instructions printed, and more. All the travel essentials got packed (books, supplements, magnesium, all-natural toothpaste, beachy outfits, etc), and soon we were jetting off to Mexico! You can shop my travel items and some outfits at the end of this post if you’re interested.
We got assigned to a row with extra leg room on our flight down there (the row directly behind business class), so it was immediately a good start to the trip. I loved stretching my legs out – it made such a difference in comfort! When we arrived in Cancun, immigration, customs, and transportation went smoothly, and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves at our resort - the Catalonia Privilege Maroma. We hadn’t heard of or stayed here before, but it had pretty decent reviews when booking and let’s remember, this was a last minute decision!
They were making improvements to the front entrance of the resort when we arrived, so we had to walk a bit from the drop off area to the lobby, but it wasn’t a big deal at all. Because we upgraded to the Privilege experience (which isn’t as snobby as it sounds – it was $80 TOTAL and you’ll see what I mean...), we had a concierge bring us to a private check-in office with a welcome margarita. This margarita was fantastic and I was excited that we were going to have great drinks during our trip! The resort representative explained that as part of our package we would be staying in an updated room, with 24-hour room service, access to an additional, exclusive restaurant on the property, a separate beach area, and birthday amenities. SWEET!
We had to wait a few minutes for our room to be ready, so we decided to grab a snack near the pool area and explore the resort. The majority of the property felt very “lush” and tropical, with more open areas near the pool, restaurants, and the beach. There were lots of Coatis (raccoon like animals) that were walking around, but they were pretty cute, friendly, and entertaining to watch. We also saw cats, colorful birds, and other small, pig-like animals that I can’t remember the name of. The main lobby, tequila bar, buffet restaurant, and theater were grouped near each other, with the shops, gym, pool, additional restaurants, and beach towards the other end of the property. All of the rooms were in between!
Soon we were assigned a room and headed up to check it out. It was very clean, and they did a great job of keeping it stocked throughout our stay, but it wasn’t as updated as they made it sound. The bathroom area was updated with new tile and fixtures, but the rest of the room just got a quick coat of white paint and the furniture and décor were slightly worn. You don’t spend a ton of time in your room on a beach trip, though, so the fact that it was clean and comfortable for our stay was what mattered.
Now, I don’t normally post things on my blog that I can’t recommend, because I’m just not in the business of bitching about stuff and giving bad reviews. However, there were some parts of the resort that I didn’t like, so I’ll share some tidbits and you can make a decision for yourself! We had a great trip together regardless (the company is the most important part), but it is always good to hear details about a spot before you book, so hopefully this helps!
Unlike other resorts we’ve stayed at, you’re only allowed to go to ONE restaurant per night. They even make you carry around a piece of paper the size of a 3x5 card they initial and punch at each restaurant to track this. Maybe this is a thing, but I thought it was weird based our other resort experiences.
The restaurant that we were promised as part of our exclusive Privilege benefits was closed and undergoing renovations when we arrived for dinner our first night, so it was disappointing that they presented this as an option. We asked a staff member and they said another restaurant (Tapas) was assigned as the Privilege restaurant for the time being, so we ventured over there. The meal was terrible and we ended up going to the buffet afterwards.
Speaking of the buffet, it was REALLY good! They had a huge selection of fresh fruit, veggies, juices, baked goods, cooked to order eggs, meat, and fish, side dishes, etc. They had all different types of cuisine available throughout the entire day, so we stopped here for a lot of our meals or a quick, healthy snack.
The Italian restaurant and the Steakhouse were pretty good. The Mexican restaurant sucked, and we didn’t try the Japanese restaurant. You are strongly encouraged to only choose 3 items from the restaurant menus when ordering, which made us feel like we were being pretty restricted since resort portions are fairly small and tapas-like. Spoiler alert – I ordered more than 3 items because I was hungry and they could deal.
DO NOT get the tacos from the Mexican food truck by the pool. They are the most disgusting things I’ve ever encountered. The pork looked like chunks of soggy tofu and the steak tacos were 90% fat cubes. Their version of a hot dog at another food truck looked really terrible, too. They had a fresh juice and smoothie bar by the beach that was decent, but it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever tasted. They also had a little coffee shop you could enjoy, but since I’m not a coffee drinker, I can’t attest to that. It looked cozy though!
Remember how I told you that first margarita was SO good? It really was! But, they must have just used the top shelf liquor to hook you, because every drink after that was a struggle. I got a different tasting and looking margarita every time I ordered, and when I tried to request a specific tequila, they seemed to pretend that they didn’t have it (even though I could see it) or that they couldn’t understand me (and I know enough Spanish to order a drink). I finally gave up and found a decent Tempranillo that I drank the rest of the time.
It’s also important to remember to drink plenty of water during your trip, but that could prove to be a challenge also. Call me picky, but I prefer bottled water – regardless if I am at home in the Chicago suburbs or in Mexico. Lucky for us, our Privilege option allowed us bottled water stocked in our room or the ability to pick it up in the Privilege office. However, we couldn’t score bottled water anywhere else on the resort (aka at any of the bars or restaurants), and if you didn’t have the Privlege designation, tap water it is! Again, maybe this is a thing, but not our experience at other resorts. I would have gladly paid $80 extra bucks towards the “Privilege” benefits just for bottled water throughout our stay.
HOW WE SPENT OUR TIME
I’m someone who loves to work out on vacation, so I made sure they had a fitness center before booking! It had two ellipticals, two treadmills, an upright bike, and a variety of strength equipment (bench, dumbbells, stability ball, dip station, etc.). It wasn’t a huge space, but it was perfectly fine for the amount of use it seemed to get. I worked out each morning we were there and it was a great way to start our relaxing day!
After the gym we snagged a quick shower, and then parked ourselves at the pool (and a bit of beach) for the rest of the day. The pool area was pretty big, and we never had to wait around for a lounge chair. You had to exchange towel cards for towels (and you would be fined $30 USD each if you lost them) which was just another thing that seemed a little unnecessary, but it was fine. This wasn’t an adults-only resort, so there were a lot of little tykes running around splashing and screaming (which isn’t exactly my jam), but we found a quieter side of the pool near the juice hut and some hammocks that we liked and stayed here most of the time. It was so relaxing swaying in a hammock in the afternoon listening to the ocean! There was also a bar and a set of bathrooms near this spot, so it worked out well.
The beach was pretty and swim-able, but we didn’t hang out here a ton. There was a designated side of the beach for the Privilege guests, but it wasn’t any different than the other side, and there was only one waiter trying to cover the entire Privilege area. So, it was faster just to go get your own drink.
We caught a couple of their theater performances during our stay, but most of them were pretty awkward. It was still fun to see what they were up to, though! They had a “night club” that opened at 11pm, and the bar near it stayed open 24 hours, but us old folks headed to our room around 10:30pm every night so I can’t speak for what that was all about.
To be honest, I’ll probably never visit this resort or this line of hotels again. BUT, we really did have a good time together on this impromptu adventure! Any chance you get to dig your toes in the sand, have date nights every night, and sleep in next to your special someone is worth it. Plus, how many people get to say they woke up in Mexico on their birthday?!
Our travel continues in November, so stay tuned to see what we have planned! Thanks for following along on our random adventure!