Alex and I decided we wanted to take our first parents only trip away from our son after he turned one. We wanted to do something completely and utterly relaxing where we didn’t have any schedule and could do whatever we wanted. We agreed on an island/beach vacation, so after looking at a few options, we decided on Mexico! We stayed in the Riviera Maya which is about halfway between Cancun and Tulum. After looking at countless resort options, we decided on the Grand Palladium Resort and Spa.
In this post, I’ll share the highlights of the resort with you. We highly recommend this resort if you’re looking for an all-inclusive in the area and if you’ve already booked a trip, here are some suggestions for your stay! Below I’ve included a map of the property.
We originally booked the Kantenah area of the resort but were moved to the Colonial area when we checked in. We were given the Romance Villa Suite (a honeymoon suite)! The unexpected change ended up being wonderful. The rooms in the Colonial area are much closer to the restaurants and pool, but our building still felt hidden in the lush greenery. Colonial is a slightly longer walk to the best part of the beach, but it’s an enjoyable walk. Our room was spacious, the resort property is huge, and there are countless amenities available.
When we arrived to our room, we were greeted with a large display of fruit as well as champagne throughout our stay. Our minibar was constantly stocked – we primarily drank the water and beer. We did have to call a couple of times to have it restocked, but we’d call on our way to the pool or gym and it was usually restocked by the time we returned. There is A/C in every room and Wi-Fi throughout the resort so you can always stay cool and connected.
One of my favorite perks about the room was the large bathtub and the outdoor shower. I don’t think I took a single indoor shower because the outdoor one was so lovely. The walls are high, so you don’t have to worry about privacy from your neighbors. We also had a hammock on our front porch, which was a nice place to lay and read in the afternoon.
The closest pool to this part of the resort is the Colonial pool. Although definitely the most popular, it is so large that it never felt overly crowded. It is also the pool where the typical resort activities are happening and staff walk around to take photos. There is a swim-up bar, stand for ping-pong and other equipment rentals, and a children’s splash area.
One of our favorite pools at the resort was the Secret Pool. It’s an adults only pool hidden in the middle of the property. It’s quiet and secluded by the trees and has umbrellas and its own private bar. It is a small pool and it seemed that people started staking out spots early, but it wasn’t a problem to get a lounge chair. The White Sands pool is another of the resort’s main pools, but this one was less crowded and quieter than Colonial. It seemed that most guests at the resort were staying in either Kantenah or Colonial so the entire White Sand area felt empty. If you’re a TRS member (we are not), you will also have access to the beautiful Helios Infinity Pool at the edge of the property overlooking the ocean.
One of the reasons to stay at either Kantenah or Colonial is that the beach in that part of the resort is the largest and most beautiful on the property. The beach gets much smaller and rockier around White Sands. There are plenty of beach chairs available; some are in direct sun while others are shaded by palm trees. There are a handful of beach beds available, but the few that were not reserved for TRS guests were claimed very early. The bar is at the edge of the beach which makes for a longer walk if you want to get something, but it’s a nice way to stretch your legs.
The water was clear and beautiful and we had the best time relaxing on the beach. I read a lot of reviews where guests complained about the sargassum (seaweed) on the beach. This is something the entire Caribbean has been dealing with and I think the hotel does a good job cleaning it up as much as they can. It’s important to realize that sargassum is naturally occurring and shouldn’t keep you from going to the beach or this region.
When comparing resorts in the area, one of the reasons Grand Palladium stood out to us was because of the wildlife and nature found on the property. On the property, you’ll find a flamingo reserve, crocodile and reptile enclosure, and an orchid garden. We had most of theses places to ourselves at the resort. You’ll also find wildlife like agouti, coatis, and iguanas roaming the property.
Another unique feature of the property is the opportunity to take a pontoon boat ride around the property from the White Sands lobby. It’s a short ride around the lagoon to admire the natural beauty of the resort and see some of the private rental properties.
The resort also has an onsite open-air chapel which is available for use and also holds Sunday services.
Another perk we enjoyed throughout our stay were the fitness facilities at Zentropia Palladium Spa and Wellness. The gym is large with bright open windows and has most of the equipment you might need. We also participated in one of the guided runs, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I was expecting the guide to run at our pace and give us a tour along the way. Instead, he ran at a pace that was much faster than ours and didn’t speak to us at all, even seeming not very interested in my questions. If I would have known it wouldn’t be the running tour I imagined, we would have just gone for a run on our own around the property (and we did later in our stay!).
We also tried an aquacycling class at the White Sands pool during our visit. Aquacycling is basically a spinning class in the pool. While it may not have been the hardest workout I’ve ever done, it was lots of fun and we laughed at some of the cheesy aerobic moves that involved splashing each other. I would definitely do it again!
The resort offers plenty of sporting options. There are 6 tennis courts, mini golf, an archery and shooting range, badminton, shuffleboard, beach volleyball, and more. We tried to go to a shooting class at one point, but misunderstood the schedule. We thought you could show up anytime within the hour of the class, but learned you need to be there at the start. You can also borrow kayaks and paddleboards from the beach – they are both free, but first-come, first-serve.
The entertainment at the resort was enjoyable, but not especially impressive. We went to a couple of shows to see the dancers and singers, but usually didn’t stay for the whole performance. However, we appreciated the live music throughout the property! Most of the reviews about the property said you cannot miss the Chic Cabaret restaurant and show. We also met some people during our stay that said it was a great experience with a delicious dinner. We decided not to go so I can’t recommend it personally, but wanted to include it in this post since so many others do.
The restaurants at Grand Palladium were fantastic! Throughout our stay, we had dinner at Chang Thai (Thai), La Adelita (Mexican), Sumptuori (Japanese hibachi), Poseidon (seafood), and Bahia e Brasa (Brazilian steakhouse) on the property. We enjoyed all of the meals, but Bahia e Brasa may have been our favorite. Waiters bring you all kinds of meats while you can get salad, vegetables, and bread from the constantly replenished buffet. At the end, you can ask for more of your favorite meats. We also frequented the two buffets near our room, La Hacienda and El Gran Azul, and the beach restaurant, Las Olas, during our stay for breakfast and lunch. The beach restaurant was not our favorite – it was ok if you ordered food, but the buffet options seemed like they’d been sitting out too long. Overall, the food was fantastic and we were really impressed with the variety of choices. We didn’t even get to all of the restaurants during our stay!
As far as excursions, the only time we left the resort was to see the Tulum ruins. Our trip was only 4 nights and mostly, we wanted to relax with drinks by the pool or on the beach. However, Tulum is only about 30 minutes away from the resort and definitely worth visiting. I enjoy seeing ruins of ancient civilizations and find it fascinating to see how the royal elite lived. This former trading and religious center was most important between the 11th and 16th centuries and was protected by the steep ocean cliffs.
The ruins are open from 8 am to 5 pm daily and are very popular with tourists, so it’s a good idea to go at the beginning or end of the day to avoid the tours and cruise passengers. Tickets to enter cost 70 pesos ($3.50 USD) – you can pay via credit card at the kiosks or wait in line to pay with cash. I would recommend wearing sunscreen and bringing a hat as it is very sunny and there isn’t much shade at the ruins. There is also a beach where you can swim, so make sure to wear your swimsuit if you want to do that.
One last thing about Mexico generally – there is still a Zika warning, but through my research, I found that there haven’t been recent cases in the area where we were traveling. I did get a few mosquito bites but had a Zika test when we returned and did not have it. Just make sure to do your own research before you book any travel if this is something that may be a concern to you.
Lastly, if you visit Grand Palladium, or the Riviera Maya generally, wake up early for at least one sunrise during your stay. They are spectacular! We woke up on our last day before heading to the airport and it was the perfect way to end our trip.
Thanks for reading! If you’ve ever been to Grand Palladium or the Riviera Maya, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.