Length: 4 days. This was too short, in my opinion. We went into it knowing that we were just going to lay around the resort. We didn’t have any ambitious plans on hiking Mayan ruins or anything…but after a few days recharging on the beach, I wanted to get out and explore.
Where we stayed: The Royal Sands in the Hotel Zone. Mr. Zed’s parents bought a Royal Resorts timeshare 21 years ago, and have certainly gotten good use out of it. Nana Zed actually stayed for two weeks, and our 4 day stay spanned a weekend. The Sands was not able to keep Nana Zed in the same unit for both weeks, so on Saturday we moved from one unit to another. Some units at the Sands have been renovated. The first unit we stayed in had not, but the second one had. The renovation included new cabinets in the kitchen, new furniture, light fixtures, and décor throughout. The renovated unit definitely had a more modern feel.
We stayed in a two bedroom condo, which sleeps eight. The Little Zeds slept on Murphy beds in the living room, which they loved. The two bedroom units are actually lock-offs: one unit is a Master suite, living room, and full kitchen. There is a full size balcony which can be accessed from the Master or the living room, and has a table and six chairs, plus two additional chairs and ottomans. The lock off unit has a bedroom with two full beds, a bathroom, and a small kitchenette with a mini fridge, coffee maker, and toaster. Having both sides of the unit allowed us to all stay in one place without crowding each other.
The resort itself is a very nice middle-of-the-road property. While it is not a luxury resort, there are amenities like a spa and several pools, including a kids pool, an infinity edge pool, and a lap pool. The Royal Sands is right on the beach, and there are several palapas with lounge chairs for the use of resort guests. The beaches in Cancun are all public…it’s the access points that may be hard to find. One of the highlights of the trip, for me, was being able to spend some time with a college friends, Melissa, and her boyfriend Adam, who recently quit their jobs and are traveling wherever the wind takes them. They happened to be in Cancun at the same time as us, and we were able to spend a few hours together on the beach. You can learn more about their travels in The Horchata Diaries.
Where we ate: For breakfast, we sent the Zed men to the grocery store. They came home with fresh corn tortillas (still warm!), eggs, chorizo, manchego, and pico de gallo, and proceeded to make breakfast tacos that were out of this world. My son had three of them…I could only manage two and I was stuffed! I’m in trouble when that kid is a teenager. For lunches, we generally ate at the pool bar, which offered several different kinds of tacos, among other things. For dinner, the Royal Sands is a short walk from several great restaurants in the Hotel Zone. As you walk down the street, you’ll be approached by restaurant employees trying to lure you in to their establishment. They’ll sometimes have a coupon or free drink offer for you. Take them up on it. My best advice for these restaurants is to not judge a book by its cover.
- El Fish Fritanga: This restaurant was recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network. If you’re a fan of the show, you know the wild-haired host, Guy Fieri, finds hidden gems like this restaurant that may not look like much from the outside, but will wow you with flavorful dishes. From the street, El Fish Fritanga looks like your average dockside fish shack. But walk down the stairs to the seating area, and you’re greeted with a casual (read: tables and chairs in the sand) dining area, strung with light bulbs that add a fun ambience when the sun sets. Bonus for families with young children: there’s also a swingset the kids can play on while you wait for your food! If you go, be sure to try the pescadillas–the best way I can describe it is a spicy nurse shark empanada. Topped with some fresh pico, it was definitely a winner.
- Puerto Madero: We’ve been here on previous trips, and it never disappoints. This was, however, our first time bringing the kids. It is more of a date night restaurant than a family restaurant. Be forewarned, there’s no kids menu. We ordered the little Zeds the seafood pasta, and asked our server to split it. They each got a HUGE portion, and it was chock full of seafood: shrimp, bay scallops, calamari, clams, mussels. And then they ate off my plate. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here. If you’re feeling like stepping outside your comfort zone, order the grilled octopus (be prepared to share).
- La Destileria: Sit on their back patio and watch the sunset as you’re serenaded by mariachis. And order the guacamole. Get a double. You’re welcome. And if they ask if you want your margarita “vacation sized”….look out.
- Hacienda Sisal: Located right next to the Sands, this was a convenient choice for us. Coincidentally, it also has amazing food, and is great for families. If you only go for one meal, make sure it’s brunch. And come hungry. In addition to a buffet with a vast array of everything from fresh fruit to chilaquiles, there’s also a station where you can have huevos rancheros, coconut pancakes, and all kinds of other things made to order. And who can resist churros for breakfast?
Overall, it was a fantastic long weekend for us, long week for Pops Zed, and two weeks for Nana Zed (I want to be her when I grow up). Just long enough to recharge, come home for a couple weeks, and get ready for the next adventure!