Gluten free caribbean vacation: El Dorado Royale, Mexico

Saturday, March 26, 2011

So recently, after painstakingly searching through website after website, trying desperately to find the perfect place, we booked our spot at El Dorado Royale in the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. To find our ideal place, we had the following search criteria:

1) Right timeframe (when we could get care for the kids)
2) Price range
3) Preferably adults only
4) At least 4 star
5) Able to accommodate all my food issues to a "reasonable" extent.

Lo and behold, the stars aligned and we found El Dorado Royale- one of a chain of resorts- that best fit all our of COURSE we booked. :)

Having recently had a terrible buffet experience where I received as a take-home present, my first official "accidental glutening", I was hesitant and expected to be stuck eating raw food bars, fruit and salad all week. However, Mr. Pick it Up and I have been together for 10 years and we figured it was time for celebration, so I was totally prepared to suck it up.

1) Travel : We had a 3 hour delay due to the charter having some kind of problem and them having to re-route one from another airport. Not the end of the world. They served a hot meal that hubby was able to eat, and gave us all free wine and headsets. Good enough. :) The transfer from the airport was quick and we made it to the hotel in no time (we had to stop to drop someone else, but it would have been a 25 minute drive if we hadn't).

2) Check in and bellhop service: Beautiful. It was 12:00am local time and we were greeted with champagne. I could have kissed that poor man. I may have seen him recoil slightly at the blonde 6' tall woman lunging for his tray.
Here's the lobby:
And from out back of the lobby the next morning...
3) Room: The room was super clean, had a lovely, comfortable bed, and an amazing view.
There was a jacuzzi tub in the corner overlooking the breathtaking ocean view. Everything was super clean, shower was super powerful with never-ending hot water.
Here's the view in the morning from our "ocean front" room (worth the small amount for the upgrade). You could select the regular room, the ocean view, ocean front, swim up rooms with a "moat" behind them that led to the pool, or the "casitas" section, which to me, wasn't worth it...unless you're the kind of person who would prefer to spend lots of time in your room.

4) Climate: It was hot the whole time we were there. There were two small rainshowers, but it was usually 27-28 Celsius with humidity on top of that. Here's the thing though: the wind is crazy. You never feel the stifling heat (which is a RELIEF), and at night when it's 23-25 degrees, it can be pretty chilly near the water. Ladies- bring your long flowy pants, and long-sleeved shirts (or slinky dresses and lots of shawls). 

You're wondering about the food, aren't you?? I'm regaling you with details from the whole patient, people!! ;)

5) Facilities: Fitness buffs- this is the place for you. Work out in a top quality gym, hire a personal trainer if you're really motivated, run along the beach, borrow a bike and tour around the complex, swim laps in one of the bazillion pools, do yoga at 7am to greet the sun, "agua aerobics", water polo, volleyball (pool or beach) and more. Don't worry though- there were plenty of non-fit people who spent their days reading in the shade, and taking naps on these:
No. I'm not kidding. Gigantic beds all around the resort- by the pools and on the sandy beach- were readily available for everyone. And yes, some people do "claim" their chairs or beds, but for the most part, there are always lots around. 

There are bars everywhere (swim up and regular) and several pools- two larger ones and several smaller ones- all over the resort. 
This is the pool/bar where we spent most of our time with a LOVELY couple we met from eastern Canada (yeah, you know who you are...we adore you but I fear for my liver if you lived closer ;)
The beach isn't great for swimming. There are large sandbags in the water (look like beached whales) to break the crazy waves, but while we were there, it still looked CRAZY wavy. I'm not really a beach person though so I wasn't bothered.

6) Entertainment: Okay, there were nightly shows, some of them "kitschy" but all of them fun. There were also activities (sports and other) by the staff each day. They were kind of repetitive with one "special event" each day. Most days you'd get all the sports mentioned above and then a "name that tune" game, and a few others.

7) Clientele: This is not a resort for 21 year old kids going on spring break. It's really not going to be what you're after. Most folks were probably in the 30-50 range, but there were plenty of seniors too. About half of them were super fit, half of them not, and for country of origin, I'd estimate 30% American, 30% Canadian, 10% British, and the remainder mixed. 

8) Spa: We had a couples' massage up here. 'Nuff said. 

8) FOOD...okay, here it is: 5 star dining ALL...THE...TIME. From the 24 hour room service, to the 6 a la carte restaurants, I think 5 snack type places, etc. it was RIDICULOUS. You know when you eat somewhere fancy and they plate everything so beautifully? Try every meal like that for a week. Except maybe breakfast where you could eat buffet (now, I say buffet, but there wasn't a sloppy, fried, half-cold pan of ANYTHING to be found). Here's the kicker: with the exception of one incident I had involving a stray penne noodle that found its way into my dish (Jojos - the caribbean snack bar- was the site of that crime) every waiter knew exactly what gluten was, what dish it was in, and when they weren't 100% sure, they created special dishes for me just to be safe. Now, just in case you don't know, I'm not a diagnosed Celiac, but I do have the gene and I have isolated gluten as a major illness-inducer for me. The only time I felt ill was after I found that pasta on my plate, and I didn't swallow it (spat it out actually once I realized) so I was minimally ill - though definitely affected. My husband was ill however, after eating beef carpaccio twice (ps- don't eat raw beef in Mexico...just don't do it) at the Italian restaurant. 
At home, I can barely go to a restaurant and get a gluten free equivalent to anything. Our city sucks for specialty restaurants so I just can't get it- all I can eat is food that is naturally gluten free (veg/fruit/meat/fish/rice) but never bread, etc. Well, I was given gluten free buns to start, I had gluten free pasta, and GLUTEN FREE CHOCOLATE CAKE. I never EVER have dessert anywhere because I eat neither dairy nor gluten. There just isn't anything else available! What an absolute dream. There was definitely milk in the chocolate frosting, but likely pretty minimal as I did quite well on it. :) Quite well indeed. YUM. Oscar our waiter was also the nicest, most knowledgeable waiter I've ever had- he knew exactly what ingredients were in each dish. How often does that happen!??! AMAZING. He was so eager to please us. What a great guy. 
There was even a smoothie bar where I could get a rockin' green smoothie every morning. No, you didn't hear that incorrectly.

So, all of this to say: DO IT. Book it. Try booking on a Thursday for a cheaper vacation, and go get a few new bikinis. ;)

PS- I'm SO inspired by this place that I started running when I got back. I'm two days in...shins are killing me. I hope I can keep it up and maintain it like my friend Aly at Proud to be a fit mom and the lovely Angela at who posted my vegan, gluten free samosa recipe last week. THANKS AGAIN!!!



Alyson said...

I love that you mentioned the room was SUPER CLEAN twice ) I bet Trav. loved it.
shin pain....shorter strides so your feet are under you more..and quicker...your left for should touch down about 30-40 times in 30 seconds.
love you!!

Nancy said...

Wow - sounds like this could be somewhere we go back to??
Glad you had such a good time, looks like a beautiful place.
I swore we would never go back to Mexico but I guess we will have to re-think that now. :)
Good for you to start running. Stick with it, its awesome. I used to hate it but have loved it for years now. There is something to be said for the "runners high" - keep up the good work.
Love ya sis!

Emma White said...

Thank you so, so much for this review! You have just chosen my holiday for me. I have been coeliac for 10 years and am always 'poisoned on holidays', so am so excited to find a destination I can safely go to. Bless you for writing this review and making my day!
Emma xx

Kirsten said...

Well Miss Emma. Boy you've made MY day!! It was SO hard to choose a place, and I'm really glad that you've found the review helpful. You will have SUCH a good time. Ask for Oscar at the Italian restaurant and tell him a gluten-free tall blonde lady he had waited on sent you. :) I'm SO JEALOUS!!! I'd go back tomorrow...

Missy said...

I am so grateful for this review! I am getting married in October, and we wanted to go somewhere warm and relaxing and luxurious...but finding a place with gluten-free food is so hard! I am a diagnosed celiac, and you basically made our choice for us with this review! Thank you so much!!! I'm glad you had a great time.

Kirsten said...

Missy- I'm thrilled for you. There are INSANELY beautiful areas you can choose from to get married- even a lovely chapel if that's your thing. Very very nice. :)
So glad this was helpful. You will undoubtedly have a good time.

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