My new favorite tropical vacation

I have officially traded in my view of a white, sandy beach for a snowy parking lot. I’m back in the office after a 4-day trip to the Iberostar Quetzal in the Riviera Maya, Mexico. It’s located just outside Playa del Carmen (actually about a 35-minute walk up the beach or 50 pesos for a cab ride) in an area called Playacar. If you are looking to vacation in that area here are my thoughts and pictures from my trip. In a nutshell, we loved it and I would recommend it to anyone!

Resort Grounds: The property was absolutely beautiful!  It is in a gated area called Playacar, which includes a lot of very nice beach homes, and the hotel is gated so it is a very safe place to visit and walk around. This hotel is basically 2 hotels in 1—the Iberostar Tucan and Iberostar Quetzal. They share the same pool area, restaurants, and beach but have 2 separate lobbies. The pool is huge with a ton of space to lay out. There is also a separate pool for water sports (volleyball, basketball, etc.) and a pool for the swim-up bar, which was outstanding.

In between the Quetzal and Tucan was a jungle…yes, a jungle, with different birds and howler monkeys. If you have never heard a Howler monkey make sure you Google before you go because the noise would scare you if you didn’t know those were monkeys. There are also spots for swans, flamingos, and peacocks; it was so beautiful and unique.

Restaurants: The Iberostar Quetzal is an all-inclusive resort, and if you have never done an all-inclusive vacation before you really should give it a try. All your food and drinks are covered in the price of your vacation. The food was excellent!  There are 2 buffet restaurants, a poolside snack hut, and 5 a la carte restaurants that require reservations.

We had breakfast and lunch at the buffets. The omelets were fantastic!  For dinner we ate at the steakhouse, the Mexican restaurant, and the Japanese restaurant. Our favorite was the El Bonsai (Japanese), it is a teppanyaki style restaurant with show cooking. The food was phenomenal and our chef was so much fun to watch. I managed to catch a shrimp in my mouth that he tossed up while cooking!

The Beach: The beach was our favorite part of the trip. As you might have heard the Cancun and Riviera Maya area went through a beach renovation project to restore their beaches and to make them larger. Well, this beach was HUGE! There were a ton of beach chairs (never had to fight or search for a beach chair) along with dozens of palapas. The Star Friends (Iberostar staff) do a wonderful job of setting up beach games if you want to play. They had volleyball tournaments, horseshoes and a lot of other games, we had so much fun out there. The sand was a gorgeous white color and so soft and it flowed beautifully into the aqua blue waters.

For the most part it was comfortable to walk in the water, a few rocks here and there but nothing to keep you from going in. They have a large roped off swimming area so you don’t feel crowded while in the water and if you want to actually get some swimming in you have plenty of room to do that as well. The resort also has kayaks, jet skis, and windsurfing you can do right off the resort. There is an extra charge for some of these activities.

Rooms: We stayed in a standard room, which was perfect for the 2 of us. We had a king-size bed, and plenty of storage for our clothes and suitcases. There was also some additional seating in the room and a balcony. The bathrooms were very nice and again very spacious. The beds were a little hard and I thought that was going to be an issue but I slept so well. You can also have them bring up a foam topper to make the bed soft. There are Jr. Suites available, which give you a bigger sitting area and those are oceanfront rooms.  We were in building 24, which is right in the middle of the property so it was easy to get around. The building numbers range from 28-20 and go down a line from the lobby (starting at 28) to the ocean (ending with building 20). Building 20 is the prime spot right on the beach with your room and balcony overlooking the beach and water. Those were beautiful but our room was perfect for us.

Staff: The staff here lived up to our expectations of an Iberostar Resort – very friendly and accommodating. My favorite people there were Carla at the front desk and the 2 guys at the beach bar (Mario and Victor…I think). Every night the resort put on a different show at 9:30pm. We’ve seen a lot of resort shows and these were among the best. Our favorite was their “Hollywood Night” where they performed skits to different movie soundtracks like: Chicago, Shrek, The Matrix, Dukes of Hazzard, Madagascar, and a lot more. The sets were excellent and it was so much fun to watch!

We absolutely loved the Iberostar Quetzal and would stay there again in a heartbeat. The location was amazing – only walking distance to Playa del Carmen for fun shopping and restaurants. It is about a 45-minute drive from the airport but TRAFICTOURS took care of getting that organized for us. We enjoyed everything about this resort and I would have no hesitations recommending this property. It is a great place for couples or families. Thank you Iberostar Quetzal, we will be back!


  1. Joey says

    I look forward to your articles, Sean. They give detailed info on the place you just were at. This sounds just like Heaven. I love how the chef was making shrimp, tossed one up, and it landed in your mouth. I’d trade this any day instead of our snowing winterland. We are in a blizzard now, so this place sounds so inviting! Loved it and thank you for sharing your experiences!!

  2. Tiffany M says

    I can see why you loved it. I am totally jealous. We have small kids so I will add this to my list for future travels. A perfect reason to take more pictures too.

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