When my girlfriend Audrey invited me as her guest after winning a radio contest for an all-inclusive all-expenses-paid trip for two to the lavish El Dorado Royale resort on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, I felt like I’d won the jackpot. Condé Nast Traveller has named it one of the top 100 hotels in the world — a designation it’s earned thanks to its mile-long smooth-as-silk sandy beach, extensive gourmet offerings, beautifully manicured grounds, impeccable service (the staff-to-guest ratio during our visit was almost 1:1), and thoughtful touches such as hammocks slung on the spacious balconies outside your room.
What’s more, this is a resort truly committed to green initiatives, ranging from a sea turtle conservation program to construction of the world’s longest artificial reef designed to protect marine life. All this meant we could feel even better about settling into the lap of luxury, or, more specifically, settling into the beachside Bali king-size beds — complete with neck pillows and canopied thatched roofs — where we spent several hours reading each afternoon, occasionally looking up from our novels to gaze beyond our pedicured toes into the deep blue Caribbean framed by waving emerald palms.
El Dorado Royale, a 30-minute drive from the Cancun International Airport, is heavily populated by couples — lots of newlyweds (there were six weddings the week we were there) and long-marrieds celebrating significant anniversaries. But the guests included gal pals like us seeking sunshine and downtime, where the biggest decision was which of the 15 restaurants to dine at that evening and just how early in the day it was appropriate to dog paddle up to the swim-up bar for our first cocktail (we agreed 12 noon was perfectly respectable).
If you travel here with a girlfriend, make sure it’s one from your inner circle as there’s nothing but a glass wall separating the spacious suites from the in-room Jacuzzi tubs — so privacy is somewhat limited. Luckily that isn’t an issue for Audrey and me — we’ve known each other almost 15 years, ever since our daughters went to kindergarten together. What’s a little nudity between friends next to the naked worry of raising teenage daughters?
Five Reasons Why We Think The El Dorado Royale Might Be the Perfect Girlfriend Getaway Resort
The Mayan Riveria is home to some 200 resorts and it can be tough to pick the perfect hotel. Here are 5 reasons we feel will convince you that the El Dorado Royale is the perfect Riviera Maya getaway spot:
1. You want the royal treatment: If nothing less than 5-star will do, you won’t be disappointed here. El Dorado Royale is one of eight properties managed by the luxury resort chain, Karisma, and has an AAA Four Diamond rating. The adults-only resort has six swimming pools surrounded by comfy loungers and four-poster beds with billowing linen curtains that summon from the beachside like luxurious sultans’ tents.
2. Good eats are essential: The resort is known for its “Gourmet Inclusive Experience.” Instead of bursting-at-the-seams buffets, you’ll sample from inspired a la carte menus with sensible portions at more than a dozen restaurants and nine premium bars — order perfectly prepared pasta from d’Italia, seafood from Jo Jo’s Caribbean Seaside Grill, sushi at Kampai, spicy tacos at Rincon Mexicano, sizzling steak from the Santa Fe Grille and cocktails at the Bellini Bar. One of the most unique gastronomical features is the Fuentes Culinary Theatre, where a five-course meal is served combined with an outdoor cooking show under the big top of a 90-foot-high, thatched roof. Watch visiting chefs from around the world work their magic in the open kitchen and projected on a big screen TV.
3. You’re craving a serene setting: Wake to the sound of birdsong, stroll under towering coconut trees, past lushly blooming gardens and admire the impressive two-foot long iguanas you’ll inevitably come across (don’t worry, they’re usually still as statues and are just as harmless). This is a peaceful all-inclusive resort without the early-morning mad dash to claim deck chairs or a party-hard vibe. Nightly entertainment, ranging from karaoke to trapeze artists and Michael Jackson impersonators ends promptly at 11 p.m.
4. You care about conscious tourism: Want to go green even when on vacation? El Dorado Royale is a pioneer in the country’s ecotourism sector. Its sustainability commitment includes the development of the largest man-made reef in Latin America, which is helping to prevent shore erosion and provide a new habitat for thousands of marine species. It also has an on-site 100,000 sq. ft. hydroponic greenhouse, which supplies the resort with fresh organic produce. And it’s working to protect the nesting sea turtle population on its shores with an extensive waterfront monitoring system.
5. You want permission to do a whole lot of nothing: Sure, you can arrange for adventurous excursions ranging from swimming in caves to rappelling through a jungle and riding camels, but, for us, none of these matched the enchantment of lying in a plush bed at the edge of the ocean, staring at water so blue it hurts your eyes and being caressed by ocean breezes that had the same intoxicating effect as a couple of mid-afternoon strawberry daiquiris. There are a host of free on-site activities and we did take advantage of a few of them, including yoga on the pier, tequila tastings, a Spanish lesson and a class on the fine art of folding towel swans. But mostly we were content to relax, read, nap and greet everyone we met with an enthusiastic “hola!”