Moon Palace Review

Moon Palace Pools
The beautiful pool area of the Sunrise.

This year, North American TBEX was graciously hosted by Moon Palace Resorts on their Sunrise property. While the location is outside of Cancun proper, you can easily see the Hotel Zone from their beach. Kim has already written about her most memorable experience at the Sunrise Palace regarding her finger. Her accident was hardly the highlight of our trip, but it also wasn’t our WHOLE trip. So, I figured I would give Moon Palace an overview for anyone interested in visiting Cancun and trying to figure out where to stay.

First Impression

Arriving at Sunrise Palace was pretty similar to arriving at the one other All-Inclusive we’ve been to. You get out of the car, they offer to help you with your bags (we didn’t have much, so we just held on to ours – which was a bigger deal than it should have been, but no harm, no foul) and you’re passed a cool, wet towel. The towel was nice as it was pretty humid when we arrived. The property itself makes a good impression with its ENORMOUS lobby. In the lobby is check-in (duh) and several other guest assistant desks, but the highlight is a nice bar where live music was being played as we arrived.

Here’s where things hit a bit of a bump – actually check-in was a bit of a nightmare. When we visited Sandals’ La Toc resort in St. Lucia, check-in did take a few minute, but I don’t recall it being terrible (aside from the overbearing orientation on your first full day on the resort, but that’s another story). I’m sure it was only 10-15 minutes to get checked in, but that is a pretty long time especially when you have several guests arriving all at once. I don’t run a hotel and I get that there is a lot of information that you want to convey to me before you turn me loose, but when I’ve spent the whole day traveling to get to the resort, just let me go to my room. Whatever you tell me is unlikely to fully stick anyhow.

I’d like to be clear here – the staff is not the problem. The people working the front desk were very nice and were working as quickly as possible to answer questions and get guests on their way – they just have a lot of stuff to go over. Here’s your bracelet, your key card, your packet of information. Here’s information on all of our restaurants, bars, pools, etc. The amount of stuff for them to go over is ridiculous – can I maybe have the option of the abridged version with the understanding that I will explore and I’ll give you a call if I get a little lost?

The Rooms

When we did eventually make our way to the room, I definitely was not let down. The room was gorgeous. Every balcony has a hammock, which can be a bit tough to get in and out of, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. There was a great in-room bath, an enormous shower and a well-stocked minibar (included of course). There were plenty of lights to give the room a homey feel at night and ours was on a nice side of the building so that during the day it was flooded with beautiful natural light.

Overall the room was great, but there was one problem. Trying to sort out those nice lights was like trying to walk through a maze blindfolded. Oh hey, there is a switch over there. Let’s try that one – nope, it doesn’t appear to do anything. How about this one? Oh – that turns on our balcony light. Here’s another – ah, the entryway light. Are you sure that first switch didn’t do anything? Oh, now it turns on the main lights in the room. Seriously – I’m not sure what was going on, but it seemed like the functionality of all of the switches changed based on which other switches were on. We’re not talking about a switch at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom – this was full-on lighting chaos!

The Staff

The staff of the Sunrise was very nice. Most of them seemed to genuinely enjoy their jobs. The night of our arrival, we discovered that the in-room safe would not close properly due to a slight misalignment of the lock. We called the front desk and I swear the maintenance guy was there in 5 minutes. It was after 10 PM local time when we arrived and got situated, so I fully expected to be told to wait until the next day as the malfunction was hardly an emergency – I just wanted them to be aware of it. He showed up and had the lock fixed in no time. Awesome.

Also, special shout-out to the wonderful cleaning lady I bumped into when I was walking around the property taking pictures who gave me the biggest, most honest and happy, “Have a beautiful day!” I’ve ever heard. Ma’am – I hope you have that good of a day every day.

The only real problem that we had with the staff was when Kim slipped on the unmarked wet floor in the lobby. It’s 3:30 in the morning, Kim has fallen and banged up her knee pretty good and her finger hurts like crazy. The cleaning people responsible for the wet floor 20 feet away just ignored her slip. The front desk lady did her best to gauge how serious the injury was and elected to call security to see if maybe they had something to give Kim and to try to get an incident report filled out. Security shows up as soon as our ride to the airport starts shouting for us to go.

In the end, we gave up trying to pass everything through the front desk lady who spoke passable English and our own barely passable Spanish. Instead, we left to go out to the van to make sure we didn’t get left behind and miss our flight. Security seemed a bit aggravated that Kim had the gall to slip on an unmarked wet floor (when floors across the lobby were marked wet) instead of concerned (sorry to inconvenience you) and the language issues weren’t helping any of us. In all honesty, it was probably best that we just bailed to go to the airport – we would’ve been there forever getting nothing constructive done. Kim got good medical attention as soon as we got home (though the trip back was a bit rough).

The All-Included

Now we get into the real meat of an all-inclusive: How’s all the stuff that’s included!? Well… it’s okay.

The bars are great and we enjoyed spending a couple of evenings at the lobby bar. The bartenders are friendly and were patient as we explained Kim’s cocktails to them, which they produced reasonably well from our less than ideal descriptions. (I drink simpler stuff that’s a bit harder to mess up).

The restaurants are where things get a little less awesome. The restaurants themselves are fine, but the food can be a bit hit-or-miss. We only really had a chance to check out the buffet and the food was certainly mediocre. It’s pretty standard buffet fare, with the occasional bit of Mexican flair thrown in. Pizza, various veggies, rices and pastas combined with meats and cheeses make up the bulk of your options. Most of it was good. My real issue was the distinct lack of really good, really authentic Mexican food. Kim and I LOVE Mexican food and it was a little sad to be in Mexico and not have easy access to great Mexican cuisine.

Food-wise, the highlight was a little coffee and snack bar off the main lobby. Here, you could get your hands on all sorts of sandwiches, chocolates cookies, ice creams and popsicles. If you do find yourself at the Sunrise, definitely check out the popcicles at this spot. The pineapple one was very good.

The Amenities

Sunrise’s property is quite beautiful. The pool area is sprawling and overall very nice. We managed to hop in for a short dip despite a downpour on our only free day. It was a bit chilly, but that’s exactly what you’d want when the weather gets humid.

Also, the pool area features the FlowRider, a surf simulator. While we didn’t give this one a go, there is a pool bar right next to it, so we sipped a drink while we watched people get on the board and promptly wipe out. If I had to guess, it is more fun to watch those bolstered by the false confidence all those included drinks offer than it is to actually try it out. Speaking to another TBEX attendee, it was quite a bit of fun, but he was pretty sore the next morning.

That brings us to the beach. Kim talked about releasing baby sea turtles on the beach which was super fun. Aside from that though, this beach leaves a bit to be desired. The sand is nice, but there was quite a bit of debris that washed up on the shore when we visited. For the most part, this would not be a beach you’d run right out on in hopes of walking in the waves or wading out a bit further. The water is a bit murky, but overall, it wasn’t really anything to write home about. If you’re up for a game of beach volleyball though, they do have a few courts set up and the furniture for sunbathing is nice.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Sunrise was nice. The property and staff are great, but it’s not without it’s flaws. We only visited for a few days and I would rate it as an okay resort, but it was not what I would call a “must stay.” There’s nothing terrible about the place – just some minor nitpicks. If you can get a good price and you’re a big fan of all-inclusive vacations, give it a shot.

What to know if you go

Like many locations in more tropical climates, mosquitoes can be a real hassle. Keep your bug spray handy.

Also, when you are booking a trip back to the airport – forget the shuttle services. They’ll want to pick you up ungodly early and feed you a line about how it takes an hour to get to the airport and various other problems could lead to a long ride. It takes ten minutes. Especially if you are on a morning flight. We were at our gate by 4:30 in the morning for an 8:30 flight. Just get a cab and show up when you think you should get there for your flight.


Moon Palace Resorts: Sunrise

Carretera Cancun-Chetumal Km. 36.5 Tamul 77500 Cancún, QROO, Mexico

Moon Palace Resorts: Sunrise

Carretera Cancun-Chetumal Km. 36.5 Tamul 77500 Cancún, QROO, Mexico

A Musical History of México: Xcaret

Xcaret Mayan
Many actors dressed as Mayan natives greeted us as we made our way into Xcaret Park.

Kim and I recently attended TBEX, a conference for travel bloggers, which was graciously hosted by the Cancun CVB. A number of other organizations sponsored the event, including Moon Palace Resorts (Kim and I will put our review up of the resort soon) and an organization known as Xcaret (that’s sh-car-et), which hosted the opening night event for the conference.

Xcaret Park is actually only one attraction that operates under the banner of Experiencias Xcaret, an organization of various parks focused on promoting tourism that is conscious of Mexico’s rich history, starting all the way back with the Mayans. A brief look over each of their parks shows a wide variety of activities meant to appeal to everyone from adventurers to history and cultural aficionados. On opening night, we visited Xcaret Park to take in the “Xcaret México Espectacular.”

At first, I wasn’t really sure what to expect as we boarded the bus for the hour-long bus ride from the Moon Palace to Xcaret Park. When we arrived, we were herded towards… well, something. Having only done a cursory glance at Xcaret’s website, I wasn’t sure where we were headed. All I knew was that we were apparently walking through some trails that were in varying states of paved that passed some stables, galleries, gift shops and mock Mayan architecture. Overall, the evening started off a bit slow and a bit confusing. As part of a conference of people, we were part of an enormous group being led through some kind of park that was pretty populated. I would not call this a criticism because we were certainly experiencing the park in a fairly uncommon fashion. They were trying to get us to the main attraction and sat down for the dinner show we were about to experience. It was just a bit tough to keep track of where we were headed while taking in the sites of the park. Couple this with actors dressed in really fantastic Mayan garb as we approached the arena we’d be dining in posing for photo ops, it was a little frustrating to try and keep track of where we were being directed to while also trying to snap pictures and enjoy the park.

Until we were shown to our seats…

It’s like a Mayan Disney Land!

Finally we walked into an arena that was clearly built to be reminiscent of ancient Mayan temples. We were sat down front as a large group and food began rolling out almost immediately. Soon after everyone in the crowd was sat in this large arena, the lights went down and the fun began.

Those of you who have been to attractions in the US like Medieval Times may have a sort of frame of reference for what Xcaret Park puts on at night. Guests are sat all around a large central stage and fed while they take in a show. Here’s the thing though – I love medieval history and I’ve been to Medieval Times, but Xcaret’s Mayan/Mexican two hour extravaganza blows that out of the water. Featuring music, dancing, cultural pieces and a great show of athleticism, over 300 actors take the stage during the coarse of the show.

Highlights of the show include pok-ta-pok – an ancient Mayan sport where a ball must be hit through a stone hoop using only one’s hips (rules varied by Mayan subculture), pelota purépecha – a sport similar to field hockey, but with FIRE, invented by the Purépecha people, a scene depicting the conquistadors sweeping in on the precolonial peoples of Mexico and a dancing horse.

In addition to the spectacle taking place before you, Xcaret serves up some pretty good traditional food. My personal favorites included a beverage that I unfortunately cannot track a name down for, but it was basically water infused with some form of melon and possibly other flavors as well as a soup made from smoked oaxaca cheese. A variety of small starters were also passed out, none of which I can track down a name (or even ingredients) for at the top of the meal that were good, too. I never saw a menu, I was just given food and I tried everything. Don’t get me wrong – this is not a 5-star amazing food experience, but I enjoyed the meal and the real focus is the show.

I now wish that we had a bit of time to explore the park for ourselves. While these types of attractions can easily veer into the cheap and inauthentic, I found the “Xcaret México Espectacular” to be entertaining and culturally rich. If I had one complaint, it would be that the show does feel a bit too long. I don’t mean to sound culturally insensitive – it was clear to me that someone put a ton of effort into this show to make it a great experience as well as educational and they did so with great success. I also know that each scene has a purpose and is important to Mexican history and asking someone to cut even 15 minutes out of the show would be a huge task. It’s not so much that the show gets boring – I think the main problem is that the most engaging and immediately entertaining content of the show is front-loaded. The earliest parts of the show contain both the the hip ball sport (pok-ta-pok) and the field hockey with fire (pelota purépecha). While the regional Mexican music and dance at the end of the show is entertaining, there’s nothing as cool as watching guys whack a fireball up and down the arena. I touched on the importance of the structure of an experience in regards to tension or intensity overtime in my entry on my top 5 disney rides. The show at Xcaret suffers a little bit from this pacing issue.

That’s only a minor criticism though. If you are looking for something cool to do while in Cancun, I’d recommend the “Xcaret México Espectacular.” If Xcaret’s other attractions are as good as that show, then I am sure that their other parks would also be a lot of fun to check out.

Note: I apologize for the low quality pictures and video. We left our main cameras at the resort because we were not entirely sure what to expect. In the future, we will be taking those cameras with us!

What to know if you go

The “Xcaret México Espectacular” takes place in an open-air arena – you should probably bring bug spray as mosquitos are definitely in the area. The show is hosted in the Gran Tlachco Theater at Xcaret Park. If you just want to do the show, admission for dinner is $45 USD. You can also book online here to save 2 bucks.


Xcaret Park

Ruta 101, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Xcaret Park

Ruta 101, Quintana Roo, Mexico
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