This March, our family tried something different for our annual Mexico trip. Now before you start thinking eco-huts on stilts in the jungle, let me make a few things clear. Trial and error has showed us that what our family likes and wants in a vacation are:

  • Beautiful, diggable, sandy beach
  • Snorkeling or surfing, but with a mostly sandy bottom so kids feet don’t get hurt
  • All-inclusive food – my kids are way too picky to ever order in a restaurant; they need to see what they’re getting and won’t eat it if they don’t like the taste, texture or smell
  • Wheat-free food options, mostly fresh (not packaged, frozen) food
  • Simple but CLEAN rooms and bathrooms
  • Good energy, relaxing, not loud music and social conveners yelling at you through loudspeakers all day
  • A good Kids Club is a definite plus
  • Less than 300 rooms; this means the resort is small enough that the kids can roam free and play on their own with friends they make, because the staff all get to know them they never go more than a few minutes without seeing someone they know. So they feel safe and they get to experience free play (like we did as kids!) without their parents watching their every move.

So before, we’ve tended to go for the 5-star resorts, thinking: you pay more, you get more. We were also concerned with food safety (we’ll skip the Montezuma’s revenge thank you very much). However, we’ve learned that if you take your probiotics with you, this is not really an issue. We take Natren probiotics in powder form – this is important if you do start vomiting or having diarrhea because the capsules will not do much good in those situations, as the transit time is too fast.

So this year, we took a punt, I followed my gut and booked a small, local resort away from any large towns and about an hour and a half south of Cancun (we’ve been going to the Mayan Riviera for 20 years). My parents flew in from Phoenix and my brother flew in from New York and guess what? We ALL loved it and we’re all booked to go back next year!

The resort is Akumal Beach Resort and it is owned and run by a local Mexican man (not Spanish or Italians as is usually the case in Mexico). But at any rate, things are definitely run differently than at most resorts, problems are fixed quickly and the staff are friendly and real.

The food – if you want fresh, local, non-processed food – is excellent. I spoke to the food manager and he told me that they try not to use any preservatives and they try to get whatever they can locally. This means your veggie options will often include things like cactus leaves, chayote and jicama. I met about 4 people at the resort who were either Celiac or gluten-free and everyone loved the food and found plenty to eat. They would also try to catch the fish locally. So you’d walk in for dinner and there would be a 4 foot long fish caught that day, sliced open along the side and the cook would be cutting filets out and slapping them on the grill.

The other noteworthy thing was they made their guacamole with real avocado! I know it seems amazing that a local food, in the land of plenty (of avocados) is made from a packaged mix at 5-star resorts, but there you have it. Many of the resorts really do use a mix and then just c