New resorts, somewhat like new cars, have a different feel than those that have a few tourist seasons under their belts. Everything is neat, clean, and pristine, yet lacking that certain lived-in feeling. The staff is on their toes and fresh out of training but miss the little things, like pointing a sleepy-eyed wanderer in the direction of the nearest coffee bar at 7 a.m. For the past three days, I was at a conference in the freshly minted Paradisus Resort in the Grand Coral resort enclave just north of Playa Del Carmen. It had a soft opening November 15, and the road into the lush, humongous compound is still under construction, passing through a neighborhood of concrete block housing before arriving at the marble gates of the resort. Paradisus is split into two sides: kid-friendly La Esmerelda and adults-only La Perla. No small amount of confusion comes from the fact that the layout, even some of the restaurant names, are nearly identical on both sides. Thankfully, La Esmerelda and La Perla’s 906 suites, 16 restaurants, 12 bars, and numerous wrap-around pools and cabanas come with plenty of "You Are Here" maps. You can hardly walk through this all-inclusive resort without tripping over a swanky padded lounge chair. If you do, chances are you’ll have a waiter standing over you offering margaritas or cervezas before you can get up. At times during my stay, it seemed like the hotel had more staff than guests. When not stuck in conference rooms, my days at Paradisus consisted of reading by the pool in one of the palapa-style cabanas or walking along the turquoise-blue oceanfront just steps from the Gabi nightclub. For all the Mexican hospitality (and it comes in thick here), the place was still too new to really have a soul, and the food left this chili aficionado wanting—with hot dogs, burgers, and other gringo food more common than traditional Mexican fare. Still, though, I couldn’t help applauding the architects and interior decorators for creating such a nouveau riche feel, and luxury travelers looking for a spot to relax for a few days in Caribbean Mexico will be well-served by Paradisus long after that new resort feel melts away.
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