TravelThe Big Secret: The Iberostar at Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

The Big Secret: The Iberostar at Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

The Big Secret: The Iberostar at Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Playa del Carmen is a Mexican fishing village one hour south of Cancun. In recent years it has become a small resort catering to tourists who like to be comfortable but not inundated with the commercial excesses of larger venues.

Signature Vacations offers all-inclusive packages direct from Ottawa, ranging from $1200 to $2400, for one to two weeks. (Prices vary depending on the time of year you go; it is not possible to be any more specific.) Over the past several years thousands of people from the National Capital area have visited this town and become attached to the warmth of its people and its quaint charm.

The packages include stays at resorts like the brand-new five-star Tucan Iberostar Playacar. The resort, built by a Spanish business consortium, is truly impressive. The entrance rises out of the jungle terrain and the visitor is met by two 12-foot statues of Mayan Indians, lush tropical plants and several fountains in the surrounding jungle. Marble and ceramic floors decorate the entranceway and dining areas, while 12- and 18-foot salmon-and-blue pillars are geometrically spaced to lend a classic architectural look.

Displayed throughout the resort are Mayan sculptures, local etchings and beautiful wood carvings. Visitors reach the dining room by crossing a footbridge over a small ravine. There are no walls in the dining and bar areas of the Iberostar, just the vast array of the natural terrain. Marble floors through the jungle lead to several pastel- coloured villas. Each is no higher than three stories and merges nicely with the landscape. Iberostar was designed to blend with the surrounding terrain rather than overwhelm it, and the grounds are spectacular.

The Iberostar is upscale, yet retains a casual atmosphere. The staff are from the local area, Europe and North America, so most visitors can be served in their own language. The food, served both buffet-style and with table service, is varied and excellent.

Iberostar is only a three-minute walk from a golf course, and a twenty-minute walk or a five-minute cab ride to the villa del Carmen. The village boasts miles of sandy, palm-lined beaches on the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean, dozens of varied restaurants, and an attitude that is distinctly low-key. The pedestrian walkway is lined with shops of local artisans' works: fine silver jewellery, delicately carved wood, embroidered linens, stone products, hammocks and a large selection of paintings and sculptures. Every day and evening the local teens play soccer on the beach in the main square, a popular stopping point for both tourists and locals.

A week-long stay at this quaint resort near this beautiful town convinced me that anyone who is looking for a place to visit should consider this one.

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