Following our recent roundup of resorts in Mexico’s Riviera Maya offering free Covid testing and, in the event you test positive, low to no-cost quarantine accommodations, we decided to check one out for ourselves. And what better way than checking in to The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun? A sprawling beachfront retreat located just 45 minutes from our current home of Playa Del Carmen.
Our mission? To go behind the scenes and give you an insider’s look at what vacationing at all-inclusive resort in Mexico’s Riviera Maya during the Covid pandemic is really like. And while (without needing to board a plane post-stay) neither of us had to take a pre-departure Covid test nor had the risk of getting “stuck” in quarantine at the resort, we nonetheless took a peek at the on-site Covid testing lab itself, plus have the scoop on the property’s dedicated quarantine rooms.
Here, your insider’s guide on what staying at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico right NOW is really like, from Covid safety protocols and (free) pre-departure testing to what’s it like at the pools and are buffets still a thing? Plus, your full rundown on the rooms, restaurants, beach and let’s not forget – poolside (& otherwise) cocktails.
Travel is complicated right now. While there are many factors that will result in your decision of whether or not to travel, this decision is ultimately your responsibility. Travel rules, restrictions and entry/exit requirements are subject to change frequently. Please check with both your home country’s official advisories as well as those of your destination country prior to traveling for up-to-date information.
BUT FIRST: WHAT, AND WHERE, IS THE GRAND AT MOON PALACE CANCUN?
Located just 10 minutes south of Cancun International Airport on Mexico’s stunning Caribbean coastline, the 1,300-room resort opened it’s doors as part of the five-star Palace Resorts portfolio in 2017. Palace Resorts is a luxury hotel group counting 10 properties in total – 8 along Mexico’s Riviera Maya, 1 on Mexico’s Pacific coastline (Los Cabos) and 1 in Jamaica.
Whopping room count aside (that all come with private jacuzzis), The Grand further boasts 15+ restaurants & bars, 24-hour room service, 9 outdoor swimming pools (2 are adults-only), a beautiful Beach Club, on-site Water Park (complete with water slides, a lazy river and a kid-friendly wave pool), 6-lane Bowling Alley, Nightclub, sprawling Fitness Center, Business Center and more. The property is fam-friendly as well, offering a dedicated kid’s Playroom and teen-focused WIRED Game Lounge – not to mention kids and teens age 17 & under generously stay FREE. Rounding out #thepalacelife at The Grand? A 76,875 square foot Awe-Spa® featuring 60+ spa suites, a hydrotherapy circuit, plunge pools, saunas, steam rooms and more.
In the event you manage to find some spare time on your hands, it’s worth noting that guests of The Grand also have access to all facilities at the two adjacent Moon Palace Cancun resorts (Sunrise and Nizuc) – although not the other way around.
Rooms are currently starting at around $600.00+ USD per night at double occupancy, and HOT TIP. Right now (as of Feb ’21) The Grand is offering your 5th night free! For the best offers & rates we always recommend avoiding 3rd parties and booking directly through the resort.
AND – TRAVEL INSURANCE
Whenever, and wherever, you might be traveling, travel insurance is always a good idea. We personally love SafetyWing for their transparent, easy to understand and thorough coverage starting at just $40.00 USD/month. Their two-tier coverage offers medical benefits in the event of an accident or illness while abroad, in addition to travel benefits such as compensation for delayed trips and lost luggage. Plus, all new SafetyWing policies automatically include COVID-19 coverage. Please note testing for COVID-19 is not covered unless deemed medically necessary by a physician. This means pre-flight tests do not count, nor do antibody tests. Find out everything you need to know about SafetyWing travel insurance, here!
Our recent mid-week arrival was seamless and efficient! We were first greeted by a friendly, masked and gloved baggage handler who promptly gathered, and disinfected, our luggage. We were given a disinfecting hand towel to sanitize our hands, then made our way into the (beautiful!) lobby. You’ll step on a disinfecting mat before heading to the check-in line, where guests are encouraged to wear masks and social distance. The check-in line moved quickly, and the process itself went smooth and seamless at the front desk – outfitted with an acrylic protective barrier safely distancing guests and staff members. Here we received our wristband which also acts as your room key.
Once you enter the lobby you can also connect to the resort’s free wifi, which we found to be quite fast and easily sufficient for sending emails and even uploading/downloading on-the-go. The wifi works in the lobby, in your room and everywhere else throughout the property.
HOT TIP: You’ll definitely want to download the “Palace Resorts” app on your phone. You can do this before checking-in, once you’ve made your reservation. It’s super easy to use and will be an immense help during your stay. You can use the app to explore the resort via an interactive map, view restaurant menus and make reservations, order (24-hour) room service, book spa appointments and more.
THE INDOOR EXPERIENCE
It should be noted that wearing of face masks by guests while in indoor common spaces is not required, but strongly encouraged. In our experience, we saw at least 75% of guests wearing masks while indoors at any given time. There is an exception here that while entering some of the restaurants, wearing of face masks is mandatory. Staff members of course are fully masked at all times, either with a regular face mask or a face mask + face shield.
When will you be indoors? Any time you’re in the main building primarily, which houses the lobby, most of the restaurants and bars, the bowling alley, WIRED game lounge, shops, business center and more. Most likely you’ll be spending quite a bit of time here.
Throughout this building you’ll find a number of LCD screens reminding guests of Covid safety suggestions, in addition to prominently displayed hand sanitizing stations. Elevators are limited to a maximum capacity of 2 persons (or a family/small group).
Overall resort capacity is currently limited to 50%. Even as the resort got busier heading into the weekend, we never felt it overcrowded or encountered any issues with social distancing. It was indeed noticeably quieter earlier in the week. If you’re looking to experience the fewest crowds possible, consider a mid-week stay.
The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun offers 4 room types: Grand Deluxe Garden View, Grand Swim-up Suite, Grand Family Deluxe and Grand Presidential Suite. We stayed in the Grand Deluxe Garden View, the least expensive and technically most “basic” option – but let us tell you. There is NOTHING basic about this room! It’s spacious, beautiful and sparkling clean, including an in-room, double whirlpool jacuzzi tub (a signature amenity offered in all rooms throughout all Palace resorts).
Another signature amenity in every room? An individually sealed Antiviral Prevention Kit, complete with antibacterial gel, face masks and disinfecting wipes.
Not to mention that all rooms come with an insanely comfortable bed (your choice of king or 2 doubles), spacious private balcony, desk space for working-on-the-go, waffle knit robes, slippers, double sinks in the bathroom, hair dryer, flat iron, espresso machine and a pretty epic mini bar. Among other thoughtful amenities!
Rooms are cleaned daily, by housekeeping staff who protect both themselves and you by wearing a face mask, face shield and latex gloves when entering your room. If you prefer not to have in-room housekeeping, you can simply press the “Do Not Disturb” button right next to the door.
Following each guest’s stay rooms are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with enhanced sanitization measures, sealed with a safety adhesive that’s only broken when the next guest enters the room.
HOT ROOM TIP: You might be tempted to go for the Swim-up Suite which, while beautiful and totally worth it, are only offered on the ground floor. If you prefer a higher floor, go for the Deluxe Garden View and request a 3rd or 4th floor room. We lucked out with a 4th floor room (the highest offered) boasting beautiful views of the surrounding jungle and property. You can try your luck even further by requesting a room in one of the buildings closest to the ocean as well (like ours, building #87) where you might be able to catch a glimpse of the ocean from the balcony. This is all assuming you’re not splurging on the Family Deluxe room or Presidential Suite, of course!
Room requests such as higher floors or specific buildings are subject to availability and not guaranteed.
RESTAURANTS & FOOD
Food at all-inclusives is notoriously hit or miss, but luckily for us – and you on your future trip! – cuisine at The Grand is consistently a hit. There was indeed the rare miss, but just about everything we ate was overwhelmingly on point. Given our past, non-stellar experiences with all-inclusive food at other resorts (that shall remain nameless), we were seriously impressed.
While entering any given restaurant, wearing of face masks is encouraged and you’ll be given hand sanitizer. At some restaurants, face masks are mandatory to enter. Upon entering you’ll also have the option of scanning the menu onto your phone. TIP: Menus for all restaurants are also available right on your Palace Resorts app. Physical menus are available as well if preferred, which are disinfected after each use.
Let’s start with one topic a lot of people are asking right now – are buffets still a thing? The sprawling Grand Buffet as well as the buffet at El Caribeño are both indeed open, for breakfast only, where the wearing of face masks is required both to enter as well as to move about the buffet areas. You have the option of serving yourself DIY style, with enhanced safety measures such as food coverings and frequent sanitization of serving utensils, or you can opt to order a la carte through your server.
Another option for breakfast is our pick – room service! Is there anything more satisfying while you’re on vacation? We ordered in every morning and were happy campers each time. The room service menu is extensive for breakfast, super easy to order through the Palace Resorts app and never took longer than 30 minutes to arrive. Hot food arrived hot (fried chicken & waffles FTW) and we appreciated that all dishes, including beverages, were individually sealed with plastic coverings. Room service is offered 24 hours, something to keep in mind for those late-night cravings. 😉
Also 24 hours? Boulangerie, the French-inspired coffee shop and bakery where we may or may not have ended every night with a box of macaroons (and truffles, and bon-bons) to-go.
Lunch options vary greatly from indoor restaurants in the main building to al fresco dining to casual poolside bites. We personally preferred nibbling either poolside or at the beach, and frequented Unique Day Club, Los Tacos (still dreaming about the steak tacos) and the Beach Club.
For dinner, you’ll primarily be heading to indoor spots in the main building, although there are two poolside restaurants that stay open for dinner as well. Of these one of them – El Caribeño – offers both indoor and outdoor tables. In the main building, we personally tried and recommend Jade (contemporary Asian fusion), Tavola (holy pizza goals!), JC Steakhouse (self-explanatory) and our fave meal at the resort: middle eastern cuisine at Habibi.
For a pre-dinner drink & bite we also highly recommend heading over to the (often overlooked, in our opinion) Tapas & Vino. Located in the main building, we never found this spot to be very busy and were always wondering why. Tapas & Vino opens at 4pm and offers just that: an extensive selection of delicious tapas, vino and cocktails. The perfect place for a pre-dinner apertif and cheese (and/or charcuterie) plate.
BARS & BOOZE
If we were impressed by the food at The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun, we were equally impressed by the cocktails – and bartenders! The most important people at the resort, if you ask us. All bartenders at The Grand are fully masked at all times, working hard behind the bar shaking up some serious concoctions. Not to mention coconuts.
All of the restaurants serve an extensive selection of cocktails, wine and beer. There is a further wine list you can choose from at an additional charge, but we found the list of included wines to be excellent on its own. Depending on which restaurant you dine at you’ll also fine some interesting, regional libations such as xtabentún at Cielito Lindo y Querido, arak at Habibi, and limoncello at Tavola.
Restaurants aside, you’ll also want to imbibe poolside (I mean naturally) as well as at the beachfront Coco Bar, where you’ll find masked bartenders creating some seriously tropical concoctions all served in a freshly cut coconut. For real though, are you really on vacation until you’re drinking out of a coconut? We think not.
For a pre-dinner apertif, head to the lively Lobby Bar where you might catch live music or, as previously mentioned, our fave: Tapas & Vino. Wine aside, expect excellent cocktails here as well.
For a post-dinner nightcap (or three)? You absolutely want to check out the “hidden” Library Speakeasy, discreetly located behind a bookcase in the main building. Prohibition vibes await as jazz music – sometimes live – wafts through the elegantly designed room. Cocktails here are on another level, which I personally experienced with my (literal) smoking Mezcal Negroni.
Ready for more? Night owls can party into the wee hours at the adults-only Unique Night Club, open until 3am.
We would be remiss not to mention that in addition to all of the libations one can consume at the restaurants and bars throughout the resort, you also have a generous selection of tequila, rum, whiskey and vodka all at your disposal right in your in-room mini bar. Cheers and salud!
The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun boasts 9 outdoor swimming pools, 2 of which are adults only. With so much room for guests to spread out, plus the resort’s current capacity limitations, it should come as no surprise that we never found any of the pools to be too crowded.
All of the pools are beautiful, spacious and immaculately clean. Some are chilled out, some lively and some with activities like water volleyball, or even the kid-friendly wave pool in the on-site Water Park. Depending on the vibe you’re going for and whether you’re traveling with or without kids, will of course determine where you land. Wherever you decide to go for a dip (or just hang poolside) you’ll find staff fully masked at all times, from the servers to bartenders to cleaning personnel. Impressively, we even witnessed such personnel spraying down loungers and daybeds with a disinfectant solution throughout the day.
A mix of poolside loungers, daybeds and/or private, covered cabanas await depending on which pool you visit. For those looking to social distance the daybeds and cabanas are possibly your best choice, as these are self-contained and already spaced out. For a truly private experience consider reserving one of the spacious cabanas at Unique Day Club. More like private living rooms, these come outfitted with a large table, plenty of seating (hammock included!), power outlets and even a flat-screen TV.
Individual pool loungers for the most part were also well spaced out, although we did see rows of non-spaced loungers at some of the pools. This said, even among said rows we found guests to be careful and aware of social distancing. Especially with resort capacity limitations in place, we never experienced firsthand nor saw any issues with overcrowding, or the inability to social distance, at any of the pools.
Make your way beachfront at The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun and you’ll find a beautiful strip of white sand stretching endlessly on both sides. The beach itself is stunning. Wide, private and sparkling clean, spotted with breezy palm trees and featuring a chic, serviced Beach Club. Plus, the aforementioned Coco Bar.
The ocean here is calm and easily swimmable (lifeguards stand watch during the day), although it is worth nothing that the color of the water itself is not the bright, sparkling turquoise you can see elsewhere in Cancun. It’s essentially the only “critique” we could possibly give to The Grand, although it’s certainly not a critique on anything the property could prevent or change on their own. The color of the ocean varies all throughout Cancun and the Riviera Maya, and they just happen to be located on a stretch that doesn’t have that postcard-perfect color.
This said, treat yourself to some beach time mid-day when the sun is out, and the water will indeed sparkle! Catching sunrise here is also a dream, as are pre-dinner sunset walks. For those looking to clock some miles while on-the-go, this is a great beach for running as well.
You’ll find a range of seating options offered at the Beach Club, from covered daybeds and individual loungers (flanked by plenty of umbrellas for shade-seekers) to cushioned couches and swinging hammocks. With so many options and generally few crowds at the beach, we found it easy to maintain distance.
CHECKING-OUT: COVID TESTING & QUARANTINE ACCOMMODATIONS
One more thing to love about The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun? The property offers guests free, on-site, pre-departure Covid testing so you can easily and seamlessly stay compliant with current CDC regulations. The Grand offers rapid (antigen) testing completely free to guests returning to the United States who are staying a minimum of 3 nights, up too 2 tests per room. Additional tests are available for purchase at $19.00 USD per test.
PCR tests are also available on-site to any guest requesting, at an additional charge of $150.00 USD per test.
Upon check-in you’ll simply schedule your test with the Concierge Desk. The on-site testing lab is conveniently located right in the middle of the resort, where they only accept 1 room (or group) at a time. This means no line, no wait and absolutely no crowds! The whole experience takes minimal time out of your day and results are delivered via email in just 30 minutes.
What happens if I test positive?
In the rare event you test positive for Covid at The Grand, the property will give you one of their Garden View rooms in a dedicated building completely free, for up to 14 days, while you quarantine. Only the affected person(s) may have access to this room. If for example you’re traveling with a partner and you both test positive, you will both quarantine together in this room. If however you test positive and your partner tests negative, this person will not have the option of quarantining with you. He or she can either travel and return home ahead of you, or opt to extend their stay on-property. The latter will come at a cost, but at a generously discounted one from the current web-listed prices.
Not to be confused with a free, extended vacation, you will in fact be confined to your room. You will not be allowed to leave the room during your 14-day quarantine, although you will have access to your room’s spacious balcony (thankfully!). You won’t have in-room cleaning service, but housekeeping will come by daily to pick up/drop off anything you may need at your door.
In addition to wifi and TV you will have access to the resort’s full room service menu, plus menus from all on-property restaurants. Meals will be delivered to your door. This one should be a given but in case you’re wondering – nope, no alcohol folks. 24-hour, on-site medical assistance is available as well while you quarantine.
Resort travel is arguably among the safest travel options available right now. We ourselves love and typically prefer immersive travel, with the opportunity to experience, interact with and funnel tourism dollars directly into local cultures. However it can’t be denied that contained resorts like The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun offer an incredible, immaculate and absolutely worth it vacation experience with strict Covid safety polices in place. Policies that allow you to catch up on some serious R&R, have a blast and keep the spread of Covid low-risk not only to yourself, but resort staff and thus – the local communities surrounding the resort. Your tourism dollars are still funneling into the local economy as well, although we would encourage you to make an even bigger impact but remembering to (generously!) tip the hardworking staff.
If you’re looking to take a vacation right now, we can attest that Palace Resorts takes Covid safety seriously. You can check out a full rundown of their Covid safety measures through the video below, and find out more about The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun, here!
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P.S. Our stay at The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun was held in collaboration with the resort, although all opinions, insights and and recommendations written throughout this piece remain independently ours.
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