I had just parked myself at the poolside bar, a winter coat slung over the back of my chair. Through the bar I could see guests enjoying themselves in the pool. Assorted chatter floated around me.
Within a couple minutes I was enjoying my first drink of the vacation. A pina colada, of course. Then I felt drips on my back. Yes, a light rain had begun.
This was Mexico, after all. The Yucatan Peninsula, to be precise. Rain is fairly common. There I was, barely 30 minutes into my seven-day vacation, and water was dripping on my back.
But I didn’t care. I was on vacation.
Visiting Dreams Puerto Aventuras in November 2019
I can’t claim to be an expert on all-inclusives. This trip was my seventh in 20 years, and only the third in the Yucatan Peninsula. And while the basic concept of an all-inclusive resort rankles some, they are a great option for others. My stay at Dreams Puerto Aventuras Resort & Spa delivered what I needed: a week of relaxing vacation.
One of the first impressions upon arrival is the size of the complex. It occupies a noticeably smaller footprint. If you don’t like staying at a mega resort, this will be pleasing to your eyes.
Despite its size, Dreams Puerto Aventuras boasts six restaurants and four bars. Its amenities include a spa, fitness center and salon. Nightly shows are held in the spacious theater.
I took good advantage of the fitness center, walking off the calories on the treadmill two times a day. The center has several cardio machines and a decent free weight set up.
A high-rise, the resort has two wings, each with seven floors. Talking with a bartender, I learned the complex contains 305 sleeping rooms. Some 400 people are employed throughout the grounds.
Its layout is rather compact, making for a relatively short walk to most any point on the grounds. Most amenities are on the ocean side, with a pool, restaurant, and dolphin pond on the inland side.
Another noticeable trait is the small beach. This part of Mexico was affected by the meteor that hit off the coast some 65 million years ago. The resulting explosion deposited lava along the coast. Property owners like Dreams have to manipulate the terrain to create a sandy beach. Even so, guests will find ample room for swimming, and can relax in the shade provided by the many tiki huts nearby.
This image was taken at the Barracuda Bar, which is associated with the Mexican restaurant, El Patio. Located at the southern end of the Dreams property, this view overlooks a part of the beach left mostly in its natural state. Lava rock is visible just beyond the bar.
The unusual shoreline offers one side benefit. With little chance of strangers ambling onto the property, there’s no need for wristbands. I don’t mind wearing them, but I know some vacationers prefer to do without. (Private property just north of Dreams further stymies stragglers.)
Slipping into a daily routine
My mornings started with a breakfast at the World Cafe, the buffet restaurant. After a glass of juice and plate of fresh fruit, I’d grab some french toast or pancakes. Breakfast is generally a lighter meal for me, and that was no different on this vacation.
Much of the day was spent poolside. I’m not too keen on saltwater, so all my swimming took place in the pools. Mornings are best for swimming in the main pool. To avoid the crowd, try to get in the water before about 10:00. Organized activities start around 11:00 and run for about two hours.
The other pool, set aside for adults, is smaller but was less crowded during my stay. I was able to get in some laps any time I visited.
I tried nearly every restaurant. Enjoyed a fine meal at El Patio (Mexican), Porta fino (Italian), Goban (Japanese), and Seaside Grill (American fare). Even the buffet meals were good. Sadly, the seafood restaurant, Oceana, never opened during the week. All the seating is outdoors, and because it rained nearly every afternoon, the restaurant was closed every day.
The one really nice day we had, Friday, was out, too. The resort booked an evening show at the nearby pool, and set up a buffet-style meal at the Oceana. Too bad, as I was looking forward to sampling their seafood menu.
Some folks criticize all-inclusive resorts for supposedly being monotonous and the same. Or that they discourage travelers from leaving the grounds and immersing in the local culture.
But the main purpose of a vacation is to escape the demands and pressures of daily work life. To spend a week or more with no heady decisions to make. Where you can experience that blissful feeling of being totaling insulated from the real world. What I call the Cocoon Effect.
That’s one purpose of a vacation, of course. Especially at an all-inclusive resort. Everything is included, which means few decisions on your part (if you wish). Visitors can always book an excursion. Dozens are available from Dreams Puerto Aventuras. I took advantage of a half-day snorkeling trip on Wednesday. Otherwise, I was content to hang out at the property.
Rain a bit of a drawback
We dodged rain most afternoons. That’s pretty common in this part of the world. Plus, November puts you at the tail end of Mexico’s rainy season.
I encountered rain during previous visits to the Yucatan Peninsula. The big difference during this trip was the duration and, in one case, intensity. Typically rain will last for about 15 minutes, then clear up. During this vacation we had rains that lasted an hour or more. Tuesday afternoon saw a thunderstorm and an absolute deluge. A torrential downpour. Thankfully it hit late enough in the afternoon, 5:20 local time. Most folks were inside getting ready for the evening.
But the storm cleared the pools in a hurry.
Evening entertainment at the theater featured a good mix of talent. Included were a master bullwhip artist/roper, an illusionist, and a yo-yo champion (coincidentally, a native of Madison, Wis., my hometown growing up).
Musical selections included a tribute to the Jersey Boys show, which in this case was three guys (not four) singing the old hits. The music was recorded, but the vocals were very good, especially the harmonizing. An Elvis impersonator entertained one evening, with a Beatles cover band offering many of their hits another night.
Easily the most impressive performance was the fire show. Held Friday night at the adult pool, performers thrilled the audience with a combination of acrobatics and dancing while twirling fire-tipped batons. Everyone — including me — was mesmerized for the entire show.
It might be a regular feature at the Dreams Puerto Aventuras. If so, be sure to catch it. An internet search for “fire show Cancun” brings up numerous videos of past performances.
Encountered a few minor glitches
Few vacations are entirely error free. We shouldn’t expect perfection in an imperfect world. I encountered a few issues during my week, all involving the room.
The latch to the patio door was stuck. I had a heck of a time unlocking the door, so I rarely ventured onto the balcony.
Showers were uncomfortably cool. A concierge suggested I run the hot water for several minutes. I did one time, but it didn’t help. Not wanting to waste water, I dealt with the water temperature.
A temperamental safe kept forgetting my password. Roughly every two days I had to get security in there to reset the program. The final incident occurred literally the last time I needed to open the safe. It was the second Saturday and I was preparing to leave.
But those were minor issues. (And shared with management in a survey.) The room was clean and contemporary. I slept very well in the king-sized bed.
Overall I enjoyed my stay at Dreams Puerto Aventuras Resort & Spa. I missed the long, sandy beach that is so common in the Caribbean. But the property itself and its staff made for a pleasant stay. I came home refreshed — and looking forward to my next vacation.
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New Berlin, Wisconsin