You can get lost at the Iberostar Paraiso resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Not lost in paradise — actual I’m-turned-around, this-place-is-enormous, please-help-me lost. Though when you’re trying to orient yourself against a backdrop of lounge chairs under thatched umbrellas on a soft-sand beach, “paradise” applies too.
The sprawling, all-inclusive resort is divided into a series of separate, distinct properties, plus a shopping center with a town square area, complete with a carousel and a 32,000-square-foot spa.
A resort map is a necessity.
The most upscale section is the Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso , part of the brand’s adults-only Grand Collection, with 120 oceanfront suites, 45 junior suites and 135 “standard junior” suites.
If you’re a Grand guest splurging on an oceanfront booking, you’ll walk down hushed corridors to your suite, where, just past the bedroom, your living room leads out to a private balcony almost on the sand.
Dial up your assigned butler on the hotel phone for help in selecting from the pillow menu, or to request a scented bath drawn in the Jacuzzi tub.
This will all make you feel very fancy, though it’s not the most luxurious hotel you can stay at — it’s too big for that. But vacationers looking for an even more exclusive, decadent experience typically don’t chose an all-inclusive.
You can easily get your money’s worth at the Grand by waking up to room service breakfast before heading to the salt-water infinity pool with swim-up bar (or the heated indoor/outdoor pool, or the smaller Tranquility pool) and eating and drinking the day away, until it’s time to open a bottle of wine as you dress for dinner.
Among the restaurants: a buffet with almost too many options, a white-tablecloth Italian eatery, a steakhouse and a lively hibachi spot.
As one guest commented, eyeing the ever-present array of pastries and sandwiches near the lobby bar, “If you go hungry here, you have a tapeworm.”
The only things you might wind up paying extra for is if you request a particular bottle of wine or liquor. Otherwise, food and drink, entertainment, activities, non-motorized water sports, tips and taxes are included.
Guests at the Grand can use the restaurants, entertainment venues, pools and other facilities of the other sections of the resort, but not the other way around. ("You can only go down, not up," a marketing rep explained during a property tour.)
So if you want to float along the lazy river or play in the wave pool at Iberostar Paraiso Maya, go right ahead. Like the Grand, the Maya fronts the coastline — but doesn’t share the Grand’s stretch of beach.
When guests tire of lying by the ocean or pool, there are yoga, tai chi and spinning classes, tennis and basketball courts, snorkeling and diving lessons, diving and kayaking excursions, a golf course, live music and dance performances, and more to choose from.
There’s also, of course, a spa just for Grand guests. Opt for the Maya Expressions Massage, which starts with an incense-based take on a Mayan purification ritual — a little cheesy when no one involved is Mayan, but isn’t that part of what being a tourist is all about?
Tip: Honeymooning couples can book one of 10 secluded villas, each with a private pool.
Getting there: The Iberostar Paraiso resort is on Playa Paraiso in Mexico's Rivera Maya, about 30 miles from the Cancun International Airport.