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Viva the All-Inclusive! We packed our bags and headed south to Playa del Carmen, Mexico on the Yucatán Peninsula to soak up some sunshine and make a case for the often neglected all-inclusive resort. We arrived on the lush property of the SANDOS CARACOL ECO RESORT with an open mind, and ready for all the organized fun that may be thrown our way.

Speaking for the jet-set, ‘grammin’ travelers—many people feel trapped at all-inclusive resorts, but Sandos Caracol is a getaway into the local culture of Playa del Carmen and beyond. We chose from a laundry list of over 40 cultural and eco activities to show you that all-inclusives don’t have to be a total bummer, but instead offer a truly customized vacation. Sandos Caracol has something for every type of traveller. From traditional cooking classes to birdwatching to exploring cenotes, this all-inclusive gem offers all the fun you’re willing to try!

 


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What makes Sandos Caracol different from the rest is its commitment to land preservation, which goes hand in hand with Mayan philosophies honoring nature. Walking through the property you see dense jungles, mangrove forests and picturesque cenotes. You might also stumble upon their sanctuary of 44 rescue animals—including 20 deer, 4 macaws and a half dozen rabbits—and countless wild animals roaming the grounds. The resort is constantly in pursuit of new and innovative ways to preserve local resources, whether it’s nature, the environment or the local community. Sandos Caracol brings harmony to the natural wonders it shares its property with.

Over the proverbial wall, we embraced our southern neighbors’ vibrant culture to learn a newfound respect for our mother earth. We took away a new perspective on the all-inclusive resort, reminding us that sometimes just showing up with an open mind can be the best type of getaway. So go ahead and get a little cheesy at an all-inclusive—you might surprise yourself.

Follow us through the sandy beaches and lush greens as we drink, dance and adventure in the heart and soul of Playa del Carmen. >>

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Corn, also known as maize, is a staple in Mexican cuisine. Its use beckons all the way back to ancient Mayan times where prayers were cast to Aluxes—supernatural beings—to protect their corn fields and help crops grow. And a modern take on tortillas incorporates natural coloring and flavors to turn them into a vibrant fiesta. Forget your grocery store fare, at Sandos, green tortillas are made from nopales, prepared pads of prickly-pear cactus, and beets give tortillas a perfectly unexpected red hue.  Try all varieties—you won’t be disappointed.

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We pay tribute to this special grain with a tortilla tutorial the old school Mayan way—complete with grinding the corn by hand and putting in a little elbow grease to make these tortillas the perfect companion to Sandos Caracol’s favorite taco recipe: Tzic of Wacash. 

While the recipe calls for specific measurements, we loved learning the Mexican tradition of cooking by taste. Basically: if you like the taste of something, use more of it. In a large bowl mix cooked and shredded beef with chopped radish, cucumber, tomato and a 1/2 red onion. Add the juice of one orange and lemon, a bunch of cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. Leave in the fridge, stirring occasionally until the mixture is cold. Serve the chilled mixture atop fresh tortillas. 

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A bottomless bar is a glorious perk of many all-inclusive resorts. But instead of the cliche coladas and daiquiris, we’re mixing up a drink that’s as vibrant and flavorful as the Mexican culture. Embellished with kiwis, pineapple, watermelon and more, this edible rainbow gives you a taste of the tropics with a relaxing buzz. Bring a little bit of the Yucatan Peninsula home with this boozy drink that gives fruit cocktail a whole new meaning.

If you’re in the mood for a boozy kind of getaway, Sandos Caracol boasts a cocktail menu using fresh, local fruits and ingredients with a Mayan twist. You can even drink different cocktails inspired by the Mayan elements of life—earth, wind, corn, water, sun and fire. We’ll cheers to that!
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Did you know the direct translation of burrito in Spanish is little donkey? The Burrito Loco—click above!—cocktail consists of tequila, mezcal, lime juice, orange juice, grapefruit soda and chamoy placed within a donkey head fruit sculpture. Wacky, weird and fun—yes! And that’s kind of what an all-inclusive is all about. It’s a reminder that sometimes just showing up with an open mind can be the best type of getaway.

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We couldn’t help but feel totally adventurous among the natural habitat, so we enlisted the help of Alltournative Ecoarcheological Adventures to gives us the best tour of the jungle we could find. This Jungle Maya excursion focuses on activities that honor the four elements of life—earth, water, fire and air—to create a connection with the Maya culture and gods. Our earth element included a rambunctious ride through the jungle, leading us to repel down into a cenote to snorkel and get in touch with the water element. We were lead through a traditional Maya purification ceremony and blessing with fire, and we flew through the air over the jungle foliage via exhilarating zipline.

Experience fun with a purpose with other great Alltournative tours that highlight the culture of Mexico. From a two hour drive to the awe-inspiring pyramid and ruins of Chichen Itza, a world-famous Mayan ruin that dates back to 600 AD or explore the ancient sites—and stunningly azure beaches!—of Tulum.

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Sandos Caracol even brings their sustainable philosophy to life through art—and souvenirs! Their promise to work alongside the Mayan community to celebrate traditions and support their towns is how José Luis de la Cruz Hernández gets to share his art with the world. José is a wood and stone carving artist on site at Sandos Caracol, chipping away to create beautiful Mayan stories to adorn the resort. And if you’re lucky, you may be able to score an original piece to take home as a momento of your time south of the border. José explains that each piece he creates has a part of himself in it, creating a cyclical harmony that truly embodies the Mayan culture.

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From ceramics to embroidery, handmade crafts are beautiful tangibles that support and represent the history of Mexico. You won’t want to miss Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue, aka La Quinta, for three miles of shoppable goods and cultural treasures to find the perfect souvenir. While the strip is laden with modern businesses—explore side streets and the less flashy boutiques for true gems and friendly personalities.

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Arts and crafts are a valued piece of identity in Mexican culture and history. Many of these utilitarian goods tell a story that can only be told through that traditional medium. Mexican textiles are known for their vivacious tones and bold horizontals. The bright colors undoubtedly pay homage to the sun-laden lands of Mexico and illustrate the feeling of joy. The most popular and most traditional colors woven with are pink—Mexican pink to be exact!—and purple.
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Buffet no more at this all-inclusive! You can see and feel the commitment to nature all around you at Sandos Caracol. And you can even taste it. While there are plenty of menu options for every palette, we fell in love with one in particular. Salvia provides oceanfront views with food rooted in sustainability for healthy eats without the sneeze guard. Chef Carlos Carrion Garcia—affectionately known as Chef Charly—of Salvia, the only vegetarian restaurant on the property, takes us shopping at a local market in Playa del Carmen to procure the region’s finest harvest. His favorite? Guaya. Once a butcher, Chef Charly explains plant-based cuisine is all about balance, spiritual healing and inner peace—and maybe a bit of plant whispering, too.

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After learning about the damage that eating meat can cause to your health and the environment, Chef Charly decided to bring his extensive experience with a healthy vegan twist to the masses. Charly’s Vegan Tacos in Tulum celebrates traditional Mexican recipes and vegan techniques to create a unique style bursting with flavor and aromas. Charly explains his vegan tacos are for both the foodie and nature lover. A perfect fit for Sandos Caracol guests.

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To celebrate the history and heritage of the region, Sandos Caracol Eco Experience Resort created the Xcalacoco Experience, which allows guests to learn about Mayan and Mexican culture with different interactive activities each day. We visited the Xcalacoco Experience to take part in an immersive experience honoring the nature around us and paying respect to our earth. After a quick spiritual cleanse, we suited up in traditional attire for some ancient Mayan dancing channeling the spirit of the jaguar.

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SANDOS CARACOL ECO RESORT & SPA
RIVERIA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN MEXICO

Sandos.com or call 888.774.0040 for more information
Plus! Follow Sandos Caracol on instagram @SandosCaracol

This story sponsored by Sandos Caracol