Bienvenidos a Cancún
From the moment you land in Cancun, it just feels like “vacation”. The aircraft door opens and you immediately feel the humidity on your skin, the smell of coconut in the air, and the positive vibrations of people on vacation! From international arrivals, exit through customs and immigration, and walk straight out of the airport (past the tour sales and time share desks) and into the beautiful tropical air. One of the first things you see is the Margaritaville Bar. If you already have your hotel transportation set up (which i highly recommend doing) keep going past the bar and the beer cart lady (oh, Mexico), and head to your pre arranged pick up location. The parking spots are numbered, and your transportation company will be waiting for you in the pre designated location. If you cant find the company, just ask around, people are extremely kind and more than happy to help. If you haven’t booked transport ahead of time, i would recommend getting a certified Taxi, or setting up transport with “Supersuttle” in the arrivals lobby. We booked our hotel-airport transit 24 hours before our trip via Staff Travel Voyage for a great price, and received a private SUV to take us to and from our hotel.
Óleo Cancún Playa
My husband and I have been to Cancun about 7 times in the past 10 years. We love it. We love Cancun and the Rivera Maya so much we actually got married at one of the resorts here. While there are hundreds of resorts that can meet a variety of needs and desires, this trip, our Resort of choice was the beautiful, all inclusive boutique hotel “Óleo Cancun Playa”. Since this trip was impromptu and quite short for us, we wanted something close to the airport so we didn’t have an hour or more drive to and from our hotel. The Óleo is the perfect spot, on the south end of the Cancun peninsula, a quick 20 min from the CUN airport. We were at our hotel, champagne in hand, ocean views as far as the eye could see within 45 min of our flight touching the ground. If that isn’t Mexico Magic, I don’t know what is.
The light and airy reception area resembles a gigantic white seashell, with glass walls offering sweeping views of the turquoise Caribbean Sea. This hotel was designed purposefully, to create an ambiance of relaxation and highlight the natural beauty of the azure water and white sand beaches that Cancun is so famous for.
Upon arriving at the Óleo Cancun Playa, we were immediately swept away into a relaxing paradise. This 4.5 Star All inclusive boutique resort focuses on minimalist luxury and an unforgettably relaxing experience. The Óleo concluded a complete renovation in 2018, and looks and feels like a brand new resort.
The 168 guest rooms at the Óleo Cancun Playa provide for unique and unbeatable personalized service. The decor is chic and minimalist, creating a relaxing and luxurious environment. Spectacular Caribbean ocean views and sunsets of the Nichupte Lagoon are just one of the many perks of this hotel.
There are two primary categories of service at the Óleo. The first is the “Óleo Artist Service” where guest are pampered with amenities of exceptional quality. This offers guests five categories of rooms from a Standard double or King room all the way up to the Junior Suite.
All rooms have all the standard amenities one would expect of a 4.5 star resort, such as air conditioning, irons, hair dryers, in room safe, usb charging ports, HD TV and radio. However, there are a few extra amenities we were delighted to discover. You can pair your phone to the TV to watch apple TV, stream movies from Netflix, or even listen to your favorite playlist through the rooms entertainment system. To me, its small details like this that say a lot about a resorts focus on exceptional service.
The second category is the Premium INSPIRA Suites Services. There are four room categories from the Inspira Superior Ocean View Suite all the way up to the Master Suite. All of the Inspira rooms come with exclusive privileges such as an exclusive beach section with a sunblock and tanning oil menu, unlimited regular Starbucks coffee in the lobby Starbucks, on the go meals to take with you on excursions, and even special amenities for your pets.
Check in at Óleo Cancun Playa is unlike anything Ive ever experienced. At most hotels, check in is composed of long lines in reception, lugging you bags around awkwardly, and waiting forever to get your room. Not at Óleo. When your car pulls up, the smiling bellman kindly takes your bags to your own personal sitting area in the lobby and offers you a beverage of your choice. With our luggage nicely handled and a drink in hand, we relaxed and enjoyed the view as the staff came to us and brought us the check in paperwork, grounds map, and explained all of the amenities the hotel had to offer. On first glance, the highlights were the swim up bar, stunning spa, and acclaimed Japanese restaurant. We were quickly whisked off to our room with the assistance of the bellman, as he showed us to our 180 degree ocean view junior suite and gave us a quick run down of the evening activities.
All inclusive technology has come a long way in the past 15 years since I first started coming to all inclusive resorts. Gone are the days of clunky plastic wrist bands and trying to find spot to stash your room key when you go for a swim. Óleo uses a sleek and comfortable, nude colored nylon wrist band with a small rectangular “charm” attached that acts as your room key. It’s a simple, worry free system that enhances the “relaxation” experience the hotel is so keen at providing. It’s a small detail, but a wonderful touch.
The rooms at Oleo are divided between three towers. We were in the tower that is the farthest south. When we got to our room, I was so surprised and delighted to see balloons decorating the walls, a beautiful birthday desert and a bottle of champagne with a “happy birthday” note from the hotel. In the time it took us to check in, they had understood it was my birthday and arranged this beautiful and thoughtful surprise for me. In addition, because we booked our room though Staff Travel Voyage (an awesome website with incredible resort discounts for airline and travel industry employees), we received one room class upgrade that put us in the 180 degree ocean and lagoon view junior suite. We had a small picture window facing the beach, and a large balcony with a sweeping 180 degree view stretching from the sunset over the lagoon to the length of the Cancun peninsula. White sand, turquoise water, and rolling waves as far as the eye could see.
After catching the golden sunset over the lagoon from our balcony, we headed straight down to the beach, to check out the wave situation. As a Southern California native, I love nothing more than spending a day swimming in warm, crystal clear ocean water. Cancun and Riviera Maya hotels and resorts can be hit or miss for swimmable beaches.
We’ve stayed in gorgeous resorts with beautiful beaches that had shallow water lined with razor sharp coral or super strong rip tides and undertows that left the ocean unswimmable. I was happy to see that even though the majority of the beach was “red flagged” for rip tides, there were two “yellow flag” zones in front of the Óleo were you were free to swim under the watchful eyes of the lifeguard. While my husband and I love body surfing and playing in the waves, I know that many people are uncomfortable in white water. It was nice to see people of all ages, of all swim skill levels able to enjoy the warm Caribbean Sea and the beautiful beach.
There are two primary relaxation areas on Oleo’s beach. An area straight in front of the hotel with white lounge chairs and shade canopies, and an area just to the left with brown lounge chairs for the “Inspira”guests. The hotels free wifi connection is also available on the beach.
If you don’t happen to find a chair you like, the soft, white sand also offers plenty of space to relax on your towel. We spent most of our time on the sand, moving to the chairs just for a few hours for a change of scenery and some shade. I have to take a second and talk about the Cancun sand!!! It’s absolutely spectacular!!! The sand here is primarily composed of minute pieces of broken sea shells which gives the beach a pinkish white color. The sand is clean and soft, and absolutely wonderful to exfoliate your skin and roll around in. I might be so obsessed with it because I live in LA where our sand is mixed with limestone and rock that leaves a dirty sort of “dust” on your skin when you leave the beach. The sand in Cancun, is pure, clean, soft seashell perfection! Just be warned that it is actually illegal to take sand and seashells out of Mexico, so enjoy the sand while you’re there, and leave it on the beach.
This might have been our favorite spot at the resort. Slide into the crystal clear, blue water and swim up to the fully stocked bar. Top shelf and name brand alcohols available on request. We loved making up fun cocktails with Don Julio, Mescal, or Campari as we were chatting with the bartenders. The house beer on tap is XX Dos Equis lager or amber, and the house champagne is delicious! Hang out at at the pool deck and swim or walk up to the bar all day from 10:00 to 20:00. It’s the perfect location to socialize and meet new people, or participate in fun activities run by the staff like poolside bingo and pool volleyball. If you prefer to pass your days on the beach, rest assured that there is a designated server that will happily bring your drinks down to the sand.
After a warm, rejuvenating, dip in the salty sea, we would head back up to the pool for a cocktail at the swim up bar. Our bartender Guillermo was always happy to explain what they had available and give us specialty cocktail recommendations. We also gave him a few of our favorite drink recipes to try out, and he was happy to indulge us. While the pool at the Óleo Cancun Playa isn’t huge, it i s the perfect size for the petite boutique resort. Even at the busiest time of the afternoon we never felt over crowded. And in the evening, when we went for a night time swim, the water was a perfect 82 degrees. There is also a nice Jacuzzi on the pool deck, with seats and bubbles, kept at a slightly warmer temperature.
If you’re looking for a more private experience with a HOT jacuzzi, warm and cold plunge pools, and an infinity pool with breathtaking views, I recommend you visit the spa. Access to the spa facilities, showers, sauna, steam room, and water treatment pools is included with any spa treatment. Spa treatments are an extra charge and range in price from $32 to $190 with many special services available for kids as well. To book these service contact the spa directly. While we didn’t have time for a massage on this trip, we did opt to pay the $15 per person for 80 min access to the private spa pools and facilities. This was WELL worth it, and we will definitely do it again on our next stay.
The spa infinity pool feels like a private paradise. It is tucked into an ocean view terrace, one level above the regular pool deck. It is the perfect atmosphere for deep relaxation. There are zero gravity chairs near the pool under the shade and sun, as well as a few classic beach lounge chairs on the grassy knoll in front of the pool, offering an unobstructed ocean view. While the main pool is ambient temperature, the spa also features four smaller pools ranging in temperature from about 104 degrees Fahrenheit to a cool 62 degrees. As is Mayan tradition, you are encouraged to go from hot to cold, completely submerging yourself in the varying temperatures. Not only is this great for circulation, it helps decrease inflammation and promote collagen production keeping your skin young, healthy and glowing. The facilities also include a steam room, sauna, hot and cold showers all on the pool deck, so you can share the experience with your significant other. In addition, when it’s time to get ready for dinner or head to the airport, there are separate male and female locker rooms with showers, lockers, and dressing areas allowing you the perfect area to prepare for your evening flight if you’ve already checked out of your room.
Checkout is at noon, but if your flight leaves later in the day, the front desk is happy to stow your bags for you while you continue to enjoy the resort facilities. They also offer 30 min in a “courtesy suite” that you can pre book (based on availability) to shower and change before your flight. In leu of the courtesy suite, we preferred to utilize the spa facilities, and enjoyed getting ready in the peaceful and pampering environment.
Let’s talk about FOOD!!! All inclusive resorts can go two ways; Delicious or disappointing. We ate and drank at every restaurant and bar at Oleo and were impressed by every single one. On top of the outstanding quality, there are food and drinks available 24 hours a day at the Óleo.
The Azul restaurant offers international cuisine in a casual buffet setting. The buffet is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It offers both indoor and outdoor seating, all with beautiful ocean views. We loved the breakfast here. Made to order eggs and omelets, fresh pressed juices (I’m crazy about the green juice), fresh tropical fruit and breads. All of this served alongside bacon and sausage, smoked fish and veggies, fresh made churros and cinnamon sugar tostadas, as well as classic Mexican dishes like chilaquiles, taquitos, and plantains. The options are abundant, there are plenty of healthy choices if you have dietary restrictions. All the food is carefully crafted with fresh ingredients with specialty items changing daily. The Mexican coffee is DELICIOUS, and don’t forget to try the Bloody Mary and mimosa bar complete with all the fixings!!
The buffet is also open for lunch and dinner, and the options are just as delicious and diverse. Each day there were four fresh grilled proteins from land and sea to choose from a-la-carte, grilled for you at the moment by the chefs. There were always fresh fruits and vegetables, Mexican classics, and then various international dishes that would shift daily. There are attentive servers in the restaurant always ready to clear your plates and offer you a beverage.
El Botanero is the casual pool side lunch area open from 11:30 to 17:30. I wish we had a casual, fun restaurant like this where I live! Sweeping ocean views, handcrafted drinks, friendly and fast service, and delicious freshly prepared snacks and lunch. The poolside grill offers service while your lounging at the beach or pool, or under the shaded tables on the pool deck overlooking the sparkling ocean. What’s better than fresh fish tacos you ask? Fresh fish tacos with a view!!! At this restaurant you order off the chalkboard menu listing the days fresh offerings.
While lunch classics like tacos, nachos, hamburgers and hot dogs, are always on the menu, the other items rotate between a selection freshly made, impressive options. Our favorites were the fresh ceviche of shrimp and white fish, the fish tacos and the classic burger. The food was simple and delicious, the service on point, and the drinks flowed freely from the pool bar. I already miss this causal, oceanfront dining experience.
Al Mar is the Óleo’s Mediterranean fusion restaurant and one of the two “reservations required” restaurants. The dress code here is formal casual, basically just no flip flops allowed. Al Mar has a fresh menu with local and seasonal ingredients that frequently rotates. While using classic Mediterranean flavors, mixed with modern Mexican flare, the menu was contemporary, unexpected, and delicious.
We loved the Ahi tuna bruschetta, beef carpaccio, and toasted almond and beet salad with fresh romaine for starters. The main courses blew us away as well; flavorful black risotto with fresh seafood, seared salmon with roasted broccoli and beet purée, and decadent braised short ribs with roasted vegetables were all artfully prepared and flavorful. To finish off your dinner, be sure to ask for the flaming Mayan coffee. This desert in a glass is a production skillfully put on by your waiter table side. The caramelized sugar rimmed glass is filled with flaming Mayan liquor, Kahlua, coffee and fresh whipped cream as your server cascades the flaming liquid between the glasses.
Hakka is the other reservation only restaurant. They do three seatings every night. At 18:00, 20:00, and 22:00. Be sure to make a reservation at this restaurant as soon as you check in to ensure you can partake in this esteemed Japanese gastronomic experience while you’re at the Óleo. This exclusive seven course meal prepared by chef Antonio Chavez Encizo marries fresh local ingredients with high end imported Japanese products. This is not just a dinner, it is truly an experience.
Of the seven courses, you have various options within courses to hand tailor the meal to your tastes. The spicy tuna and coriander rolls along with the seared tuna tataki, and curried fish were the highlights of our meal. If you want to splurge for a high end wine with your dinner, ask for the specialty wine list. While all the food and house wines are included with your stay at the Óleo, you have the option of “upgrading” your dining experience and purchasing premium imported wines both by the glass or by the bottle. We chose a delicious, white Bordeaux that went perfectly with the savory seafood dishes we chose as part of our dinner. The views from the restaurant are beautiful, and there is an outdoor terrace available when the weather permits. Open only for dinner, the dress code at Hakka is formal casual.
For a pre dinner drink, or evening night cap, be sure to check out the Lobby Bar. Open every day from 11:00 to 1:00, this bar has it all. If you’re looking for the more high end drinks, you’ll find them here. Enjoy an Absolute Martini, St Remy cognac, or Don Julio on the rocks at this lively bar that offers nightly entertainment from DJs and karaoke to live bands.
STARBUCKS AND GIFT SHOP
If you’re dying for a Frappuccino or vanilla latte, there is a Starbucks in the Lobby. While specialty Starbucks beverages are not included, there is a certain all inclusive menu for the “Inspira Suite” guests.
If you’re looking for some cute souvenirs to bring home or sundries for your stay, you’ll find them at the lobby gift shop. While there are plenty of hats, jewelry, cigars and sunglasses sold by the vendors on the beach, the gift shop offers more refined as well as beautifully hand crafted items.
MINI BAR AND ROOM SERVICE
Exhausted from the sun and looking to order in? Óleo has 24 hour room service available, and the menu is right on your TV. Absolutely perfect for a lazy evening in, a relaxed breakfast on your balcony, or a midnight snack! You will also find bottles of water, coffee, and a complimentary mini bar in your room stocked with beer and soda.
There is a Ping Pong table, and tennis court on property, with beautiful lagoon views, open daily from 9:00-18:00.
The nice sized gym offers all basic cardio and weight equipment with TV’s and ocean views. The gym is open daily from 6:00-22:00.
If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to capture that gorgeous tan, the “Once and Only” Photography service are available by appointment through the front desk from 9:00-17:00 every day.
There are complimentary daily activities for adults and children as well as art projects and an evening pool side craft market.
The activities team located poolside also offers booking for various activities. While non motorized water sports are included at the adjacent Aqua World Marina, you can also book thrilling motorized activities for an extra charge. From jet skies, to parasailing and snorkel tours, you can ask questions and book with the poolside activities team. We looking into parasailing, and found that the best price, as well as the highest safety rating came through booking directly with the activities team at Óleo.
I was a bit surprised to get a lot of “danger” warnings on social media when I posted about going to Cancun for a few days. I don’t like feeling unsafe and generally avoid going to high risk places. When I looked into the “danger” factor in Cancun, I found that increased rate of murders and crime on the Yucatan Peninsula, and really all over Mexico, were a result of increased gang activity. These crimes did not involve tourists relaxing at their resorts or doing excursions. To me, that meant it was no cause for concern and we felt completely safe while there. If you’re worried about it, just stay at your resort, do only certified excursions purchased from your hotel or a reputable travel company, and don’t go off the beaten path. I really don’t think it’s anything to worry about, so relax and have fun.
The Óleo Cancun Playa was absolutely wonderful. The simple lines, the incredible views, the sparkling pool… it was a dream. With all the things we loved about this location, the thing we loved the most was the staff. Everyone here goes out of their way to offer superior customer service. Compared to the mega resorts, the Óleo’s boutique vibe offers a personalized VIP touch, and an escape from massive crowds.
All in all I would HIGHLY recommend the Óleo Cancun Playa to my friends and family and would come back in a heartbeat. I think couples, families, or friend groups celebrating a special occasion and looking to spend quality time together would adore this place. It’s not over run by rowdy spring breakers, and while there are families with young children, they were mostly young families that seemed to be enjoying spending quality time together. You can interact and be social, making new friends and participating in activities, or you can keep to yourself and have some quiet time enjoying the company of the person you came with.
For my husband and I this was a perfect spot to celebrate my birthday, warm up on the gorgeous beach, enjoy each other’s company, and have a relaxing three day escape from our daily life. The next time I’m looking for a tropical, relaxing escape that’s a quick direct flight from most major international airports… I will definitely be back!
****This blog post is being featured on the Staff Travel Voyage website!!! To check out my featured blog posts, along with those of other flight attendants, go to https://stafftravel.voyage/fareviews . To book hotels through their website you must be able to prove you are an Airline or travel industry employee.***
Author: Kimberly Atkins
Editor: Natalie Atkins