Trip Review: All-Inclusive Resort in Cancun

A photo of the beach along the Hotel Zone in Cancun, Mexico

We’ve just returned from our first “real” vacation of the year, a four-day trip down to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico. It was a fantastic little getaway, and once again, the out-of-pocket cost of our trip was almost entirely FREE, thanks to our use of points and miles strategies.

We got our free flights, direct on Southwest from Austin to Cancun, as I’ve previously described in this post. Then, using points we earned from the sign-up bonus of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, we booked our resort via the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

Booking via the portal was a great option for us, as you can can choose from nearly any property you can find on sites like Expedia or Travelocity; this meant we weren’t locked in to a particular hotel brand or chain. And in Mexico, when you look beyond the main American hotel brands, you open up an additional option: all-inclusives!

Beach and skies in our all-inclusive resort in Cancun

The hubby with our beachfront resort’s mascot.

We had just under 60,000 points left in our Ultimate Rewards account, and thanks to the enhanced redemption rate you get as a Sapphire Reserve cardholder (with each point valued at 1.5 cents per point, as opposed the 1.25 cent rate with the Sapphire Preferred or a flat 1 cent with other Chase cards) that was enough to book 3 nights at the GR Caribe All-Inclusive by Solaris in a Deluxe Oceanview room (plus free premium wifi as part of the package).

Our Ultimate Rewards receipt for our all inclusive resort in Cancun

We were just about $40 shy of covering the total cost — not bad for a little Caribbean getaway!

And the resort turned out to be a good choice for us. While the GR Caribe itself is fairly small, it’s connected to the much larger sister property, the Royal Solaris Cancun, and guests receive full privileges at each resort. That means we got access to a total of nine restaurants, four bars, multiple pools and hot tubs, a marina full of non-motorized activities, and plenty more that was all included in the price of our stay.

A courtyard at our all-inclusive resort in Cancun.

The courtyard just outside our room was comfortable and airy.

The exterior at our all inclusive resort in Cancun.

The light on the adobe walls at night was particularly beautiful.

Our room at the all inclusive resort in Cancun

Our Deluxe Oceanview Room featured a breakfast nook area and traditional accents.

A gift from the housekeeping staff at our all inclusive resort in Cancun

A rose and towel animal from the housecleaning staff.

I liked the GR Caribe in particular for its traditional Mexican adobe-style architecture. Our room, a Deluxe beachfront room on the ground floor, was spacious, nicely decorated and clean. Our only complaint is that, despite making our reservation for a King bed, we received two Queens. In the end, this wasn’t a big deal, but sleeping in separate beds did put a bit of a damper on the romance element.

Still, we made the best of it, and there was plenty to do. We visited the ocean, swam in each pool at least once, tried all myriad of frozen alcoholic concoctions, and even took the bus into Downtown Cancun to visit the large traditional Mexican market, Mercado 28, for some sightseeing and souvenir shopping.

The beachfront at our all inclusive resort in Cancun

We enjoyed morning walks and afternoon swims on the well-kept beach (despite the red flag warning; we’re both very good swimmers.)

The pool at night in our all inclusive resort in Cancun

One of the many pools at night.

golf course at our all inclusive resort in Cancun

We also took advantage of the on-site mini golf course featuring Mayan-style sculptures.

As with many all-inclusives, however, there are a few a trade offs for not having to open your wallet from the moment you arrive. The restaurants were all pretty sub-standard in our opinion; even the fancy ones that required a reservation were pretty bad. We actually thought the best food came from the pool-side snack bars and the buffet; most days I ended up just loading up on chips, fresh salsas, and guacamole.

Additionally, you have to skillfully avoid the timeshare sellers. We knew to expect the sales pitches, and after a few tries, they recognized we were a lost cause and stopped bothering us. (As it turns out, telling them that the vast majority of your vacations are free because of points and miles is a pretty good deterrent — they had no counter to the fact that their “vacation club membership” wasn’t free.)

But overall, we really enjoyed our trip, and the fact that I resisted my normal urge to schedule every-minute of every-day made sure we had plenty of time to just relax. If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Mexico, now’s definitely a great time; the exchange rate is hugely in favor of Americans at the moment with the US Dollar equaling roughly 20 Mexican pesos. And besides, who wouldn’t want to take a picture like this?

Couple photo at our all inclusive resort in Cancun

Those are some relaxed faces right there! That one’ll make the Christmas card for sure.

Whitney

  • Whaaaaat. This sounds amazing. And it looks so beautiful! We don’t qualify for the sapphire rewards because we have a million cards open. But, that price is not bad either way! And, we finally finished up our companion pass, I’m pretty sure!

    • There were actually a good number of families there…we didn’t visit it but apparently they have a Noah’s Ark themed splash pad area for toddlers, and a full children’s activities program w/ craft-making type stuff too. So you guys could take Jett sometime!

      Re: the Companion Pass – we’re still waiting for our 2017/2018 points to post as well. I hate the waiting game, but it’s totally worth it in the end!