When I first visited Cancun, I was 24 years old and quite the adventurer. Unfortunately, the place seemed to have insufferable stuff that didn’t appeal to me: big hotels, commercial spaces, expensive (but not excellent) restaurants and pounding ightclubs. So this winter, when I received the invitation to visit El Dorado Royale to celebrate a new partnership between Canada Beef and Air Canada Vacations called the Canada Beef Culinary Series at Karisma Hotels & Resorts, I had low expectations. I was, however, thrilled to be travelling to the Mexican resort last winter.
When I arrived, the airport was bustling and efficient. I jumped in a cab and eventually rolled up to the gorgeous gated resort. It was the opposite experience of my previous trip—here you could appreciate the real beauty of Mexico. “ El Dorado Royale is in a category all its own called Gourmet Inclusive," says Rafael Feliz, project leader for Premier Worldwide Marketing. "It took five years to get the word out that this place was different. There are no messy buffets; food is made-to-order and is excellent, safe and fresh.” El Dorado Royale covers close to two kilometres of pristine beaches and jungle. Although the resort was at 100 percent capacity the week I was there, it didn't feel crowded and I never had to stand in a line. It was also quiet—during the mornings I could hear exotic birdsong and at night, silence, outside of a few tinkles of laughter from resort goers. Everything I needed was delivered to my door or my table within minutes (including margaritas). Given my earlier Mexico experience, I had questions: Can I brush my teeth with tap water? Can I eat the fresh fruit brought to my room? Can I safely walk around alone at night, or go for an early run on the beach? Is the minibar really free? The answer to every question was yes. El Dorado Royale is an adult-only resort; there are no kids splashing in the pools or parents yelling. Instead, there are lovers, newlyweds and business people likely on incentive trips. Golf carts silently glide along the meandering resort pathways past cabins, suites, pools, cabanas, bars and restaurants. Each morning a cleaning crew swarms the beach to keep it immaculate, and yoga and fitness classes are offered. Most resort goers here are healthy and active.
Close to the resort's on-site hydroponic greenhouses and a spring-fed swimming hole is a cave called a cenote. One of the coolest places I've ever seen, the natural formation is the perfect spot for a destination wedding or traditional Mayan meal.
El Dorado's spa is best enjoyed in the heat of the afternoon. The water therapies are complimentary for guests, whether you have a treatment booked or not. (Had I realized this earlier, I would have hustled to the full body massage pool the second I arrived.) The pool’s amenities include a pounding jet stream at neck level, a hip and lower-back water massage, and a full body jet. Holding on to rails and letting the jets blast warm salt water over me, I mused that life, like the power of the water pummelling me, can get rough as the decades pass. But, if you lean in, breathe deeply and learn how to hold on through the good and the bad, it can also be pretty rewarding. Learn about upcoming dates in the Canada Beef Culinary Series at Karisma Hotels & Resorts.