This was our first visit to the Riviera Maya, and our first stay at an all-inclusive (AI) resort. My sister and brother-in-law had visited the Riviera and their trip report made this a must-do for us. This report is aimed at providing some basic info on the Iberostar Tucan and a little of the surrounding area to other folks looking at the Riviera and at an all inclusive (AI) for their first time.
We had never considered an AI because we want to experience the cultures and peoples first-hand, and we normally stay at a hotel that provides a good base from which to explore the different areas of the region. Many of the reviews we’ve read on AI’s across the Caribbean made these resorts sound more like a “compound”, as these particular reviewers never ventured out of the complex to experience the real culture or the people. They tended to limit themselves to the resort and immediate shopping areas. We learned from our stay at the Tucan that is not necessarily the case - just depends on the traveler’s inclinations. Of course there are times when you just want to get away and lime (or whatever the term is where you’re at) and not do anything but melt the stresses away on the beach. So I can see where folks would stay at the resort for that reason. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to visit many of the areas we wanted to during our short stay due to the iffy weather, but we did enjoy the Tucan immensely and some of the Riviera. More detailed information is available on this site from all of the people who have been to the Riviera several times – Indeed, this site contains a wealth of information from these experienced travelers!
Cancun, nice little airport, do make a point to bypass all of the people offering their services as these are primarily timeshare offers. Meet our transfer team and drive south to Playa, dropping other folks off at the Secrets Capri (nice) and the Iberostar Maya/Lindo/DelMar complex (large). Arrive Iberostar Tucan within the hour – 85 degrees vs. 20 at home – Great start!
December 9 for a short six nights - quick getaway. We are immediately taken aback by the majestic and magical open-air quality of this resort. The jungle setting is what sets the Tucan apart from most of the other hotels and resorts we’ve experienced, and this resort is truly beautiful and unique. The grounds are very well maintained, as are the pools and all public areas. What a beautiful and magical place!
Guest services go out of their way to provide help in a variety of ways. Indeed - the entire Iberostar staff is to be commended for the quality of service they extend to the guests. This is a 5 ***** resort in our opinion - what a wonderful experience! The excellent reviews we’ve digested here were accurate. The reviews of less-satisfied guests we can only attribute to bad luck or people looking for a different experience.
Alas - overcast and rainy day, and this will continue for several days, unfortunately.
OCEANFRONT ROOM -
We head for our oceanfront room in bldg 10, room 1012. I chose this suite to be close to the beach, and because the resort appeared to be full I didn’t know where a standard room would land us. There are nice areas along the edge of the property, but there are also rooms located adjacent to the kids playground or the disco – decided to play it safe for our first visit and it was a good choice. Room 1012 is the highest-numbered room on the ground floor, and is at the northernmost end of bldg. 10. The Uxmal and outdoor palapa grills are just to the left of the patio. This is an excellent location for the beach, bars, and pool. We would have preferred a 3rd floor room for more privacy and perhaps a better ocean view, but these are apparently provided to repeat guests or luckier guests. At least the resort was full upon arrival and you are not allowed to reserve a particular room prior to arrival. But the view from the ground floor was great, just feet from the beginning of the beach. The beach volleyball court is in front of the center of bldg 10, and wedding ceremonies are performed at the southern end of bldg 10. Probably a bit quieter on the southern end, but we enjoyed our room location immensely, well worth the extra money for this spot. The Quetzal side looked identical. Through Liberty Travel the price for a standard room was $233/night, oceanfront $300 – definitely worth the small difference if the suite is available.
The room was very comfortable and extremely clean, with excellent service daily. We were greeted with nice flowers and a fruit basket, and more flowers arrived mid-week - nice touch! The mini-fridge was stocked every other day with soft drinks (Coke, Sprite, orange), as well as Superior beer and bottled water. You may be ale to request a particular beer but we hardly used it and never asked. There is also a gallon of purified bottled water for use with the coffee maker, etc. If you want any extra items such as extra beer just leave a note – not a problem. The fridge is not very cold but ice is available. We left tips on some days during the week and at checkout. No difference in service without a tip.
The bathroom has ample room. The vanity is not in a separate room as in some hotels, but not a problem as there is room. The shower is very roomy. Water pressure was somewhat low – my wife has very long hair and it was a bit of a chore for her. But if you use slightly cooler water temps you have a little more pressure. The bed is firm, but not at all uncomfortable – we slept very well. TV offers a few channels of English if you want to doze off to a movie. Balcony provides a great view of the beautiful beach, but it does get crowded as the palapas and lounge chairs extend in front of the building.
And yes - some folks do “reserve” palapas on the beach and at the pool and don’t actually use them until later. I witnessed several people doing this in front of our room everyday and had to laugh at them. But when I see a family coming to the beach and encountering a sea of towel and t-shirt laden palapas that are not being used and there is not a lounge available I wish that the resort would post attendants here to dissuade guests from reserving these. This is very rude, and it’s really not fair to people who do go to breakfast and then down to the beach. But enough of that – this happens everywhere…
The beach is wonderful, water was warm and free of seaweed. We compare it to several other beaches that we love (Doctors Cave & 7 Mile - Jamaica, Koki - St Thomas, CGB – Tortola, Orient – St Martin, Cozumel, Barbados, Anguilla, etc) and it is very nice. Very clean, fairly soft sand (not quite powdered-sugar like Barbados, Anegada or Anguilla but close enough), and the water has beautiful colors in sunlight. There is a 2-foot “drop off” or ledge as you approach the water (before the waters edge) in this area, this proved to be a hindrance to older folks but with help they could overcome it. This ledge worsened during the week because of very large swells in the ocean one day that generated very large waves that day. Typically the water was very calm in the morning, however, and gradually the waves built-up as the afternoon progressed. But other than the one day with the swell the water was very calm and nice for wading or swimming. We didn’t have the opportunity to snorkel, but from other reviews there are many excellent areas in which to do that.
The food was excellent and choices were varied. The buffet in the Tucan was very good with such a variety of offerings it would be very hard to go home hungry! The few not so good reviews we read on this buffet are hard for us to understand, and I am very picky with food. The steamship was excellent. My wife tried more of the local dishes than I and she really liked many of them. The beach side palapas were good for lunch by the beach, choices were good (various meats and salads, open-air grill served burgers and dogs).
The specialty restaurants were a nice experience. We had two guaranteed for our six-night stay, and we reserved two others as well. The Japanese restaurant was very good and was a unique experience for me. The Italian restaurant was good, although we were not as impressed here. The Steak House was amazing – My wife and I both ordered the filet (2 for me, actually), and these were excellent steaks! I was very impressed with the quality and the presentation, and the waiter was the best we experienced. I would highly recommend the steak house if you enjoy a quality steak.
Another gentleman had a problem with his steak and refused to allow the gracious waiter to prepare him another choice. The waiter was very accommodating and sincere but the diner was very rude and left once his friends had enjoyed and finished their dinner. I know everyone cannot always have an excellent experience as things do happen. But in this case I wish the diner had been a little more forgiving and had accepted the waiters offer to remedy the problem. The diner offended the waiter, but we and others dining that evening expressed to the waiter how impressed we were with his service. I only wish we could receive this quality of service at 4 and 5 * restaurants in the States!
The Tucan is a first-class resort with first-class service. The Tucan reception and rooms border the southern edge of the property, and the Quetzal reception and rooms border the northern edge. The jungle, restaurants and pools separate the Tucan and Quetzal accommodations. The jungle setting in the center of the resort is really quite beautiful, and walking the paths through the jungle affords close-up views of peacocks, swans, iguanas, turtles, flamingos and other wildlife including the rodent critters we haven’t learned the name of yet. A walk through the jungle at night is really quite breathtaking with the lighting.
The main pool is very large and winds between the Tucan and Quetzal. There is a separate swim-up bar with tables but we didn’t get a chance to try that pool. The pools were also cold (December) as they are not heated.
My wife had a massage by the pool, nice but a bit noisy. Would have preferred the beach early in the morning. The spa services are also offered in the spa near reception for a more peaceful experience. The lobby, buffet restaurants, palapas, bars, and pools are all very clean and well maintained. This resort receives high accolades and repeat guests for a reason. We met several new friends at the Tucan, including Phyl & Stewart from England, and Mark and Violet from the U.S. The variety of cultures here makes for very interesting conversations.
STAR FRIENDS –
The Star Friends perform several functions – they mingle with the guests and organize activities such as volleyball and aerobics, and they also work with the kids and involve them in many activities. The entertainment provided in the evening was very good. The kids perform with the Star Friends around 8 PM, and the adult show (Star Friends perform) is at 9:30 PM. (the kids are involved in a variety of activities during the day and perform in the early show in the evening). This must be a great benefit to the parents. The staff works very hard to provide a variety of entertainment. Some of the acts can be a little corny, but can be very funny. But overall we enjoyed the entertainment. I’ll get that song out of my head some time…”H e y, H e y, Baby, I wanna know, will you be my girl…”
Drinks in the La Plaza bar (auditorium) are extremely good – whatever you want (almost) and plenty of it. No top shelf liquor, at least in the vodka and liqueur categories, but the average varieties like Smirnoff’s are available here. The Lobby bar Tikal has a fair variety of drinks as well, a little more limited. The palapa bars have even more limited drinks with draught beer, Miami Vices and basic well drinks.
We did try the tequila slammers with friends, too easy to drink! I tipped $1 - $2 regularly, appreciated by the bartenders. The service is well worth any tip.
OFF RESORT –
We enjoyed Playa, 5th Ave is very similar to downtown San Miguel in Cozumel. Karen’s was fun, Blue Parrot was probably much more lively later at night (we stopped here in the afternoon), several good bars and restaurants in this area. La Parilla was recommended by my sister and brother-in-law and was a great spot to chill and enjoy several Coronas. Nearby LaCasa Del Agua also looked like a nice spot, but we met up with some other folks in the bar across the street with the swings and chilled there – great bartender, fun place to lime!
One thing that threw us – we were looking forward to a “real” Mexican taco – for us a taco is made with ground beef rather than steak (or chicken) – no one had this and we were shocked! I guess our version of the taco is Americanized…
We were disappointed with Senor Frog’s and Carlos & Charlie’s – not at all like the ones we’ve visited on other islands. These are at the Cozumel ferry pier and are worth a visit for a drink and a bite to eat as you cruise 5th Ave, just realize they are not up to par with the other locations. And you will be hawked all along 5th Ave, just part of the experience, like MoBay and San Miguel.
Because of the iffy weather we didn’t take the excursions we had hoped to, but we toured Tulum which was worth the time. We had an excellent guide through the Iberostar Tour group. You can also access the Apple and Liberty tour desks at the hotel as well. The Iberostar tours are varied and I’m sure the cat day sail would be great in better weather. We ferried to Cozumel, we had been here before and we enjoy the island. Great beaches and snorkeling on Cozumel if you decide to spend a day there…
We will definitely return to the Tucan when looking for this type of getaway. We’ve taken cruises in the past and have stayed on several Caribbean islands. But this stay at the Tucan was a nice alternative to a cruise, and the guests are treated very well. The service here is first-class, and the entire staff is wonderful. We highly recommend the Tucan to anyone – singles, young or old couples or families with children – the setting is perfect for anyone and the beach really is nice. However adult couples looking for a very quiet and secluded respite (such as a quiet and private honeymoon) would do better to look at a Secrets Capri or another adults-only resort, as the Iberostars do cater to families and there are really no “secluded” spots on the resort grounds or the beach. For those looking at a wedding at the Tucan these are done nicely. There were 2 weddings during our stay there. I know that we would have been bored at a secluded adults-only type of resort from the many reviews I’ve read, as we are not honeymooners and we like to meet other folks from other parts of the world and we do enjoy activities. Just depends on what you’re after… When we want a beach and are looking for solitude on a quiet stretch of sand we will go to BVI (Tortola or Anegada) or Anguilla – and I’m sure there are many small hotels along the Riviera that offer this seclusion. This kind of getaway is not really an option at most AI’s.
The Iberostar is a great bonus for families with the Star Friends providing activities for the kids. And as a couple we were never “bothered” by kids at all during our stay, and we were able to enjoy the company of others here and that’s part of the theme I think. The Lindo/Maya/Del Mar complex did not look nearly as inviting as the Tucan to us once we saw the Tucan, but the fact that all of the restaurants at the Lindo/Maya are air-conditioned and there are more varied dining options will appeal to others as a more cosmopolitan option.
Our only 2 regrets– the weather didn’t cooperate, and my wife didn’t see a monkey! But the Tucan is a slice of paradise for those seeking a getaway that offers excellent service, a wonderful beach, many dining options, and a variety of people to meet.
Enjoy, and please share your next experience to the Riviera Maya!!!