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14 Aug, Sunday
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Montreal Families

Mexican resorts that cater to families

The press release landed in my inbox at the beginning of October. It was from a public relations company announcing a brand new family-friendly resort in Mexico near Playa del Carmen that was going to open in November. Azul Fives was touted as a high-end gourmet all-inclusive, with mostly all-suite accommodations, a kids’ club, spa… it all sounded very promising.

In the past, my husband and I have gone to resorts where the food has been less than mediocre and the kids’ clubs were housed in tiny, dark buildings that felt like the program for young ones was an afterthought. We had high hopes that our shy, yet social 5-year-old son Max would have a chance to play with other kids his age for a few hours a day while we enjoyed some downtime.

Upon arrival (a 35-minute drive from Cancun airport), we were seated at a desk for check-in and offered a glass of sparkling wine and a cool face cloth to freshen up. Max was offered chocolate milk and given a brochure with photos of numerous toys that he could borrow for the duration of his stay. I was pleasantly surprised by this concept of a “toy-lending” library and was also told that the resort has complimentary cribs, changing tables, bouncy chairs, strollers (jogging ones too), monitors, bottle warmers and even Gerber baby food!
We stayed in a 1,250 square feet one-bedroom suite with a full kitchen, dining room, living area and Jacuzzi tub. The ceiling to floor sliding doors opened up to a beautiful winding pool that meandered throughout the whole resort. The grounds were manicured to perfection and the pools impeccably maintained.

The kids’ club was housed in a building divided into four sun-filled rooms: a gym, arts & crafts, a TV room with video games as well as a room filled with toys for babies and toddlers. There was also an outdoor play structure, picnic tables and a pool that was only a couple of feet deep so even young kids could cool down under the supervision of the staff.

On the first day, Max spent a couple of hours at the kids’ club and had a great time. He had a tennis lesson (with a pro, not animators from the kids’ club), went swimming, did a half-hour gym class and had some free time to play with the various Fisher Price toys.
Every morning, the animators post a list of free hourly activities for the day, which may include arts & crafts, making a piñata, a talent show, beach soccer, salsa dance lessons, mini-bingo, science experiments, building sandcastles and more. Open from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (it also offers movie nights and pyjama parties) you can drop off your children and pick them up as you please for just an hour or two or the whole day. It is geared for kids up to the age of 12.

As for the adults, the resort has a fabulous spa with high ceilings and amazing service. Before my massage, I was pampered by a female employee who prepped the sauna for me, ran my shower and served me tea and fruit! Attached to the spa is an indoor, air-conditioned gym and a smoothie bar where you can choose from approximately 30 different healthy concoctions.

The food at this resort was good but at most times there were only two restaurants open so I found the selection somewhat limited (but I am a bit picky when it comes to food). If you prefer doing your own cooking, Azul Fives also offers a European plan, where you can choose not to be part of the all-inclusive option that includes meals.

So were there any downsides to this resort? The beds were quite hard and the beach directly in front of the resort is very rocky. Also, the beach is approximately a five-minute walk from the rooms but they have staff driving around in large golf carts so you can hitch a lift or call the front desk and ask them to send someone to drive you. I love walking so it never bothered me and most times we took a golf cart as this was one of the highlights for Max. But if you truly want to be directly on the beach, you may want to check out one of two other family resorts owned by this company, Azul Beach and Azul Sensatori (both located about 15 minutes from Cancun airport).

Azul Beach
Opened in 2005, this laid back but luxurious beach front resort is undergoing major renovations that will be finished this summer. The first phase was completed in December, which included a complete overhaul of its kids’ club (now similar to the one at Azul Fives). This resort is really geared to younger kids and also offers a toy-lending library to keep your children amused. Families can also enjoy a picnic on the beach without doing any work or planning. Just choose the food you want and the hotel staff will bring it to the beach for you. My husband would have loved this resort as it is the only one of the three properties that offers lobster in the all-inclusive package. It also offers gluten-free choices in all of its restaurants. The one complaint about this resort in the past has been the small size of its rooms so make sure to book accommodation in the renovated section.

Azul Sensatori
Opened two years ago, the 438-suite beachfront Azul Sensatori is huge and has a multitude of activities for kids of all ages as well as adults. There is even an adult-only section for those looking get away from the hustle and bustle. This resort is a great option if you have teenagers – it has a teen club with a state-of-the-art gaming room, billiards, air hockey, Playstation 3, NEOS, XBOX, Wii and a teen corner (a non-alcoholic bar with disco). There are a variety of daily activities that include kite flying, beach contests and teen theme parties, DJ mixing clinic where your teen can mix their own CD and take it home.

Is it safe to go to Mexico?
Because of a travel warning by Canadian Foreign Affairs, some people do not want to holiday in Mexico. We were comfortable because we knew the majority of the violence occurs at the northern border region, which is far from the resorts around Cancun. Also, we had no intention of leaving the resort and got direct, return transportation to and from the airport. In fact, because of the recent media attention about violence in Mexico, low rates are on offer at most resorts. For example, the three Azul properties are now offering a 30 to 40 per cent discount. For more information, contact your travel agent or go to www.karismahotels.com.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Advisory
Canadians travelling to Mexico should exercise a high degree of caution due to a deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country. While most major tourist areas have not been affected by the extreme levels of violence witnessed in the northern border region, it is highly advisable to travel to Mexico by air.

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