Updated: Jul 14, 2022
Occidental at Xcaret is an all-inclusive resort located in the heart of the Riviera Maya. We had never been to Mexico before and couldn't wait to visit. I was drawn to this resort first because it was all-inclusive. I know there are mixed feelings about all-inclusive deals, but I wanted a totally carefree experience for our first trip to Mexico. I figured we'd get a feel for how we enjoyed (or didn't enjoy) the country and venture out on another visit. Second, the setting was perfect for us. It is located in a jungle-like setting, with a river running through the hotel, monkeys that come to visit your balcony, multiple pools, restaurants, and bars, a beach, and walking distance to the famous Xcaret Park.
Occidental at Xcaret had thousands of four and five-star reviews on Google and TripAdvisor. Our go-to's for vacation bookings are booking.com, Kayak, Expedia, Priceline, or Travelocity. I'm a bargain shopper always so check them all and find the best deal for you. For this trip, we booked through CheapCaribbean.com and I figured for the very reasonable price and the positive feedback, it seemed like a perfect fit for the Mexico vacation we dreamed of.
What We Liked:
We loved so many things about our stay at Occidental Xcaret. The resort is beautiful. The staff was extremely friendly and accommodating. The drinks are poured STRONG (be careful!). There was a lot of entertainment throughout each day. There was always a game going on at one of the pools or a show to watch or participate in during the evening hours. We loved being able to have some fun with the other guests and staff. We even won a couple's challenge and the prize was tequila and a cute swimsuit coverup!
Our favorite part of our visit was the day we spent at Xcaret Park. Even though this is NOT INCLUDED in the price of the resort, being able to walk back and forth from our hotel to the park was a huge bonus. We didn't have to find transportation, we could leave the park and go back to the resort for meals that were already paid for in the all-inclusive plan instead of paying for meals (which were pricey) at Xcaret Park. For this reason alone, I'd give this resort some serious consideration. You'll love Xcaret!
I have to include my review of the park because it was such an extraordinary visit! We spent an entire day at the park and were totally exhausted by the end of the day. There is so much to see from exotic birds, to jaguars, to underground rivers, to a viewing tower, to butterfly gardens, to traditional Mexican shows. You won't want to miss visiting this park. We paid for our tickets through our resort ticket counter and the tickets were $100 each for adults. It was pricey but as the only paid excursion we did during our stay in Mexico, I figured we'd be sad to miss out if we didn't go explore. Wear your walking shoes, bring a backpack with a water bottle, sunscreen, a camera, and water shoes if you plan to swim the rivers. We chose to swim all three rivers. Flippers and a life jacket are provided at the entrances of the rivers and you'll definitely want to use both! We were so exhausted after the amount of swimming it takes to get to the end!
There are options to interact with marine life in one area of the parks. There is a pool where you can swim with the nurse sharks, there is an area to swim with dolphins, there are baby sea turtle exhibits... there are so so many things to see and experience and enjoy here. Just go! You won't regret it.
Back to the resort. The beach was lovely, although small. We went to visit Occidental Xcaret during the first week of January so the water was a little cold for me. The beach sand is clean and white. There are tons of chairs, beach bed swings, and palm trees to find shade. There is a beach bar with the same wonderfully strong drinks as the rest of the resort. The actual swimming area is more like a cove. It's small and circular. There are fish and the water is clear enough that you can see straight to the bottom. There is a place to rent snorkel equipment too if you'd like. Occasionally, there would be a water yoga or exercise class that you can feel free to participate in. I didn't; I chose to lay and drink instead of stand and exercise :) but that choice is totally up to you!
What we didn't like...
It seems like there was fierce competition for the existing resorts and the new resorts in Playa del Carmen. I had always heard that if you are approached in the airport in Cancun, don't look up and just keep walking. Well.... take that advice because we did not. We were stopped by a nice gentleman that offered us free liquor, free snorkeling tickets, and discounted tickets for Xcaret Park if we agreed to check out his resort. He then went into a sales pitch about the newly built resort he was employed with. I interrupted him and said, "This sounds like you're promoting timeshares" to which he replied, "no no no no!!! This isn't a timeshare at all! Just come look at our resort and you'll see." Mistake. We agreed for him to pick us up at Xcaret one morning and transport us to his resort to check it out. Upon arrival, we were ushered into a 2 HOUR LONG sales pitch about buying into a travel brand and they asked for a $100,000 investment at the end of this presentation. It was outrageous! We did turn down this offer (of course...) and then got to go snorkeling for free so it wasn't a total lost cause but, don't be like us. Say no at the airport and go on your merry way.
The next thing we didn't like was the constant selling of excursions at the resort. Staff would call our room and ask us to schedule an appointment with the lobby office. We declined multiple times. We eventually went because they said if we didn't, we wouldn't have transportation to the airport upon check out. When we got to our scheduled appointment, we were accosted with brochures and deals and excursions that were strongly pushed. We didn't want any of this. We just wanted an all-inclusive relaxing vacation where we barely left the resort. We wanted peace and quiet. There was even a desk at the entrance to our room building with staff around the clock that would approach you with requests to book activities or to attend a timeshare meeting for the Occidental Xcaret. The selling didn't ruin our vacation but wow was it over the top.
The last thing that wasn't great about our stay at the Occidental Xcaret was the food. The drinks were fantastic. The food... not so much. The coffee was probably the worst coffee I've ever had in my life. The breakfast buffet was bad enough that I ended up eating only fruit by the end of the week. There was a steak house that we actually left after a few bites of our meal. The only restaurant on the resort that I actually enjoyed the food in was the sushi restaurant. It was quite delicious. If you go not expecting much of the food and avoid the salesmen, I'd say you'll have an unforgettable time.
So all in all, with the good and the bad, would I go back to the Occidental Xcaret? Absolutely! We learned a lot during our first stay in Mexico. We learned what to do, what not to do, what to expect. The culture and environment in Playa del Carmen had me enchanted immediately. I LOVED Mexico. Loved loved loved Mexico. I can't wait to go back. I will likely book a different resort next time because I like to visit new places every time we travel, however, I would still recommend booking a stay at Xcaret. I hope you have a chance to explore this beautiful resort and enjoy!