Luxury awaits on Mexico's Riviera Maya
A visit to the El Dorado Royale and El Dorado Royale Casitas may give you a sense of feeling, well, royal.
The all inclusive, adults-only resort on Mexico's Riviera Maya has more than a dozen swimming pools plus 10 bars and restaurants with a focus on gourmet food.
To ensure you make the most out of your time there, here are a few things to know:
-- One of the first things visitors may notice when strolling along the beach or boulevard are the large round boulders out in the water. The El Dorado is in the process of creating its own reef. They expect coral to grow naturally around the rocks, and become the largest man-made reef in Latin America at 2.5-km-long. In addition to preventing shore erosion, scuba divers and snorkellers will be able to explore the coral reef right from the resort.
-- With its focus on gourmet food, resort restaurants use fresh fruits and vegetables grown in a 6,500-sq.-metre greenhouse on the property. About 40% of what is grown is donated to the local community.
About halfway along the beach, you'll see some stones built up around an oval area of water and a red flag. This is a natural saltwater pool right on the edge of beach. It's not very deep, but the stones along the wall make great seats for sunbathing, reading or keeping your cocktail in place while you go for a dip.
BRING YOUR WALKING SHOES
-- With the beach stretching 2.5 km, there is plenty of ground to cover. A shuttle (or little golf carts) pick up guests and drop them off throughout the resort. These sometimes take awhile to arrive but you can ask the concierge to check on shuttle times.
-- If you're a runner, tie up your shoes and take part in the 5k run that happens every Friday morning. The "I'm Running in Paradise" run throughout the property is a fundraising event for a local animal shelter. To participate, a $20 US donation is required. Runners receive a T-shirt and the satisfaction of not only getting some exercise between cocktails and all you can eat food, but doing something nice for the local community -- a win, win.
While the El Dorado Royale's 478 suites and 205 casitas -- which means small house in English -- are adults only and accommodate two guests, Generations Maya on the same property is made for families and groups (think family reunions or bachelor and bachelorette parties).
Its infinity pool is a sight to see, and the kids' club has its own pool. The 148 oceanfront suites have balconies with Jacuzzis or swim-out infinity pools -- even on the upper floors.
Tip: The Chef Market at Generations Maya has a great breakfast selection and is open to guests of all three properties, which are all part of the Karisma Hotels and Resorts group.
-- For couples looking to up the romance or exclusivity factor even more, the El Dorado Moroma has just opened its palafitos -- or overwater bungalows -- a first for Lation America. A portion of the floor inside each bungalow is glass for a fish-eye's view of activity in the water below.
VISIT LE CHIQUE
The restaurants at El Dorado Royale offer delicious cuisine but if you're willing to venture out for a unique dining experience, Le Chique will not disappoint.
Located at El Dorado's sister resort, Hotel Azul Sensatori, Chef Jonathan Gomez Luna brings "Mexican avant-garde" dining to life. The menu can range from 16 to 24 dishes made from local ingredients and based on traditional Mexican cuisine, but with unexpected twists.
The chef himself comes out of the kitchen to prepare some dishes at the dining table. These could be creatively presented on a book or a regular plate. Diners should go with an open mind and empty belly as each dish is paired with a unique wine or cocktail.
There is an extra charge for dining at Le Chique. Reservations are required, and special requests can be made when booking. Azul Sensatori is about a 15 minute drive from El Dorado Royale.
WHERE'S THE BEEF, EH?
Mexico's Riviera Maya may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about digging into a delicious plate of Canadian beef. But at El Dorado Royale that's exactly what you get.
Until the end of the year, the resort is holding a Canadian Culinary Beef Series. The second week of every month, Canadian beef is showcased to visitors by the people who know the product best -- Canadian chefs. When I visited earlier this year, Coulson Armstrong -- chef de cuisine of Toronto's Canoe restaurant -- was on hand, bringing his personal take on beef recipes using local ingredients.
"Being five generations Canadian ... I love cooking Canadian food and I think it's something Canada needs to be put on the map for Armstrong said. "Being recognized as an international cuisine ... We're pushing the boundaries and cooking amazing food."
In collaboration with the resort's head Chef Luis Sagrero, the week included several foodie events including a cooking demonstration, and a burgers and wine pairing. El Dorado also has a partnership with Jackson Family Wines, and an expert from the winery was on hand to pair each dish with the best vino.
During a gala dinner, Chef Armstrong and his team cooked in front of guests, and served the freshly made dishes as they went along.
"More than anything, it's a community," said Chef Sagrero of the visiting Canadian chefs.
It was also a learning experience, Sagrero said.
"We went out to the green house and saw what we had. A lot of the things that we couldn't get we just substituted with local ingredients we have in season."
Sagrero said his favourite dish from the gala dinner was the Canadian Short Rib Ravioli, adding that the pasta was made from scratch and took three hours.
"The Mexican mole with the Italian ravioli was just a mixture of different cultures and different techniques," Sagrero said.
For Armstrong, his ravioli was tops along with the Charred Canadian Tri Tip with crispy Yucca and Jalapeno Aioli, and The Foreigner Burger -- his take on a Big Mac, secret sauce and all.
"I wanted to come down here and cook what is native to this land," Armstrong said. "Stuff I don't get to play around with much is the avocado, for sure, the Mexican limes, pineapple, cactus was big. It's really amazing, you see a difference in produce."
NEED TO KNOW
-- Meals and most events are included in an all inclusive stay at El Dorado Royale, but there is an extra charge for some of the Canadian Culinary Beef series events.
-- For information on Karisma properties on the Riviera Maya, see Karismahotels.com.