Back story for context: Adam and I had planned out a beautiful trip to New Orleans for Labor Day Weekend complete with a stay at the gorgeous Ponchartrain Hotel, a full slate of foodie destinations, an airboat swamp tour, voodoo shenanigans, historic jazz clubs and, of course, lots of hopping around different shops and cocktail joints. But then Hurricane Ida hit and we had to change course a mere 48 hours before leaving on a trip. So we went to dinner, had some margaritas and sopas, and during our conversation around our meal we realized that we hadn’t been to the beach since our trip to Seaside, FL. And all of a sudden we just had to have a beach trip. But with such late notice, we knew we needed something entirely easy, easy to get to and without literally any planning outside of picking an all-inclusive.
Now, if you have followed along with our travels before, you know that we are not Cancun people. It’s truly not our scene. I’d rather go virtually anywhere else in Mexico and I’m especially adverse to the tourist trap spots like Cancun. We’d really prefer to spend time in, what we’ve come to consider truly a Heaven on Earth, Merida. But a trip anywhere would have required a lot more than 48 hours, so utility trumped preference in this case and we went to Cancun.
That being said, I would never sit down and write a Cancun travel guide. I once did a pretty cool snorkel of underwater statues that I would suggest, but I think the idea of a Cancun travel guide is mostly funny to most people…right? But what I can do is talk about the resort we chose. Even if you’re not looking into staying at this resort specifically, there are a lot of things to consider when traveling to Cancun and staying at an all-inclusive so perhaps some of the insight in this post can help you in some way if you plan on making your way to the tourista hot zone of the Yucatan Peninsula.
We chose Emporio off of an Orbitz list of about 56,000 other all-inclusive resorts in Cancun. We weren’t very discerning, we just chose one that looked like it had good beach access, okay amenities and slightly more elevated rooms. Like really, guys, we were shooting for something not-too-far-away from bottom of the barrel haha. In the end, we decided we would rank Emporio as a 3.2 or 3.5 on a scale of 5 stars. Although I think the rating on Orbitz was something around 4.5 (not sure why). I think this post would be better served split into two lists. Tips for Cancun in general and specific notes about Emporio itself.
Here are my best tips for Cancun in general:
If you’re wanting an all-inclusive option, make sure that you give a good look at the resort’s restaurants. Do they seem like good options? Is there enough variety since you’ll be there multiple days? Are any of them excluded from the all-inclusive package – this is really good to find out ahead of time so there are no surprises.
Look for different levels of drink packages. Some offer basic drinks for all-inclusive (we’ll get into that more in a minute) and some offer a higher tier with “premium” liquors and better drinks. Make sure you sign up for what you really want!
A lot of people may not know this, but that last bullet point is pretty important. A lot of resorts in Cancun actually water down their liquors and beers so that they can buy less quantity and therefore save more money. And meanwhile you’re left with gross drinks that don’t even give you a buzz so then you’re just bloated, sober and duped. And because they alter their liquors, there is a lot of room for error and “alcohol taint” then becomes an issue. Don’t believe me? Just remember these words when you go and trust the tequila and then wind up puking your guts up until 7 am the next morning until your stomach is finished expelling all of the poison you consumed. Yup.
Look for beach access!! Some resorts are too far off the beach to actually have a good access point and some resorts are actually on the lagoon side and not on the beach at all, so you’ll want to make double sure that you’re in the location you want.
The zone of resorts stretches on a pretty long time, so you’ll also want to make sure you’re mapping out how far the resort is from the airport. No one wants to get to their destination expecting to start vacation right away only to be disappointed because they now have to take a shuttle for an hour or longer to get to their resort. Try to look for one about 20 minutes away. Traffic can be horrible and you’ll spend a lot of time in a car.
Speaking of cars, you can book a shuttle or private car ahead of time but it winds up being such mass chaos at the airport that it’s actually way easier to just grab a taxi on the spot. And by the way, it always winds up being cheaper most of the time.
If you want to do excursions, there are a good amount of options: snorkeling, parasailing, jet skis (does that count as an excursion?), ATVs, zip-lining, dinner and show on a pirate ship (such a tourist move but I’ve done it and I didn’t hate it haha), etc. I would suggest booking online yourself ahead of time or using your concierge and not the people who walk around to resort pools or at the airport.
Info about Emporio Cancun:
Emporio is actually a huge resort and while the pool areas are nice and there are certain areas that feel pretty elevated, this resort literally doesn’t have a lobby and we thought that was the weirdest thing. When I go to a resort, I love walking into a nice, large, open, airy lobby that feels like “ahhh I’m on vacation”. But instead you take a dinky elevator up to a weird, hot, stuffy room where check-in took LITERALLY an hour…Not great.
There are several dining options and most of them we really liked except for what’s really supposed to be an all-day buffet that’s in the middle of all the many pool areas. It was honestly wretched. Like..we couldn’t even figure out what the food was. There was one item that looked suspiciously like a sloppy joe that just…wasn’t that and also everything had been sitting out for hours. Not a good vibe. But we soon learned that there was another GREAT buffet option overlooking the ocean (gorgeoussss) and three more dining options: an Italian restaurant, a Mexican restaurant and a game room/bar type vibe with small bites like chips and guac, sliders, hummus, etc. There was also poolside food service and room service. So all in all, despite that one really suspect buffet, we loved the other options!
I’ve only stayed at one other Cancun resort before, where most staff spoke English but a small detail about Emporio is that barely anyone there spoke English. I mean…you are in another country, but Americans typically expect people in Mexico to speak English haha so if that’s a thing that matters to you, just know that you won’t find it at Emporio.
If you’re concerned about the uptick of crimes against tourists in Cancun, Emporio would be a great place to stay. The guests there are mostly locals, in fact I’d say it was 10:1 so it’s not where a lot of Americans are vacationing (AKA not a target) AND they had private security guards literally everywhere at all times. We felt entirely safe.
The rooms were really impressive. They were pretty, clean, comfy bed, roomy and we could tell they didn’t skimp on the details!
We were really looking forward to having some spa time, and had seen upon arrival that there was an oceanside, open-air cabana for massages. But…what a let down. I’m certain that the people working there were not certified. It was literally not anything more than a verrrry oil rub down. No massage. Don’t fall for booking one.
Overall, it wouldn’t be our first choice on our next trip but it was by no means a mistake, especially for such a last minute and random choice!