- Carretera Chetumal – P. Juarez Km. 309, Playa Paraiso, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
- www.thegrandcollection.com/en/hotels/riviera-maya/iberostar-grand-hotel-paraiso ; golf.iberostar.com/en/playa-paraiso/golf-courses
- 888 923 2722
I can just picture it – somewhere beautiful to relax in the sun. Somewhere south of the border, down Mexico way. The Grand Hotel Paraíso will do just fine. This impressive resort is located on the Riveria Maya, on the Caribbean coastline of north-east Yucatán Peninsula. We’re talking gorgeous turquoise waters and tropical conditions in and out of the water. But before you grab a daiquiri and a hammock, you’ll want to play the championship golf course. It was designed by P.B. Dye, the youngest son of renowned American course architect Peter Dye. He has picked up some techniques from his father in terms of challenging golfers with smart layout and visual trickery. Greg Bond, the director of golf at the Iberostar Playa Paraíso Golf Club, sums up the challenges of the undulating course this way:
“Extreme vertical movement, treacherously sloping greens, beautiful hand-laid stone work with an authentic Mayan touch and perfect playing conditions,” Bond said. “P.B. Dye set out to create a golf course that is visually intimidating. Although many of the holes seem tighter than a bowling alley, the reality is there is more room than meets the eye.”
The course works its way through jungle vegetation. Some eye-catching stonework pays tribute to the ancient Mayan civilization as you work your ball down the fairways. At the end of the ninth hole, there’s even a replica El Castillo pyramid from the Chichén Itzá Mayan ruins (which are located about two hours’ drive inland). Extreme elevation changes, deep bunkers, blind shots and tight fairways keep things interesting on this golf course.
“What this fun P.B. Dye course lacks in gulf views it makes up for with huge undulations – in its fairways and its greens – and tons of visual variety,” Golf Digest’s Peter Finch wrote after touring the area. “It’s definitely worth buying a yardage book here because the course holds many mysteries for first-timers.”
I never like playing on an empty stomach. Fortunately, the package you book into at Iberostar means that you can have your fill of food and drinks before, during or after your round. US golf writer Bob Fagan rates this as the best ‘all-inclusive’ hotel and golf course combination he has experienced in his wide travels.
Iberostar Playa Paraíso has hosted the Big Break Mexico Golf Channel competition as well as the Canadian Tour events and the 2016 World Amateur Team Championships.
The challenges: Hit it straight, trust the yardage book and bring your best putting game on these sloping, tiered greens.
When to play: The course is open 365 days a year in the tropical conditions.
Yardage: 6704 yards, 6034 meters.
The 427-yard par-4 ninth is the signature hole. You’ll be hitting over a rock river bed off the tee, with a fairway bunker on the left and two on the right.
The pro says:
“This course challenges every part of your game, it is absolutely one of the best true tests of golf I’ve seen anywhere. You must be a complete player to play well here. Additionally, the course conditions compete with any facility in the US, Canada or Mexico.”
Greg Bond, Director of Golf
The resort experience:
Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso is a four-diamond, five-star, adults-only resort about 30 minutes’ drive south from Cancun International Airport. Ornate and elaborate, the hotel is built in a Neo-Renaissance style and features marble floors, large columns, interior gardens and a ceiling painting on the interior of a dome.
Being ‘all-inclusive’, guests can enjoy their food and drinks at the restaurants, the minibar, or use the 24-hour room service, as part of the package price. You can start to relax as soon as you arrive at the hotel and someone hands you a glass of champagne at check-in. When you’ve unpackaged, a concierge will hand you a towel, sun-screen and a newspaper to read poolside.
There are in fact three pools – one with sea water and an aqua-bar, a heated indoor pool and another with fine views. A white-sand beach is right out the front, where you can sit on a pool chair and doze off between swims. A butler service is also ready to shine your shoes back at the hotel. Resort activities are also included for the one price and there are dozens to help you burn off all calories.
Dine and wine:
Get ready to eat and eat well. There are four a la carte restaurants, a 5-star Bella Vista buffet, five bars and 24-hour room service, featuring a wide variety of meals and drinks. You can choose Venezia Italian Restaurant, teppanyaki Japanese at Haiku (catch the food on your plate after chef cooks it in front of you), authentic Mexican dishes at La Brisa and Toni’s Surf and Turf fare. Iberostar push their chefs to create new menus as seen by Chef On Tour, an initiative that showcases the creativity of the group’s Michelin-star chefs. I might put on some weight here.
The Grand Hotel Paraíso has 10 accommodation options all with concierge and butler service and a customizable mini-bar. It’s not a small development – this includes 300 Grand Suites overlooking the ocean or gardens, 10 secluded villas and two Presidential Suites. Even a basic suite comes with a balcony and views. Use the pillow menu to get the right fit for your king-size or queen-size bed. The marble bathrooms feature double-vanity sinks and a whirlpool bath. Satellite TV channels and a DVD player are also standard. You get a separate dining room, wrap-around terrace and a hammock with the Presidential Suite.
The activities, which are included in the package, take this resort to another level. There is a focus on fitness here – which works well after the buffet. The fitness center has yoga, TRX, tai chi, spinning sessions, kick boxing and aerobics. Outside you can enjoy archery, tennis, basketball, volleyball, beach volleyball and shooting. In the water, take a catamaran or kayak out for a spin, try snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea, get a taste of scuba diving in the pool, or play water polo. You’ll have to pay extra for the jet-skiing, sailing lessons, water skiing, para sailing, winding surfing and PADI diving school course, but I’m not sure you’ll have time for all of these.
After all that, you’ve earned a Thai massage at Spa Sensations, which has a sauna, Roman and Turkish baths, thalassotherapy (seawater) pools and a Mayan-style Temazcal (sweat lodge).