by Candyce H. Stapen
Two scarlet macaws greet guests in the lobby of the IBEROSTAR Tucan. Palm trees, statues of Mayan Gods and Mexican urns surround the perches. The soothing sounds of fountains mix with bird chirps are a lovely welcome.
Guests walk through what is referred to as the “jungle,” en route to the guestrooms, with a swath of palm trees, ferns and other tropical plants that lead from the dining areas to the pool. Be sure to admire the swans, the pink flamingoes and the toucans that live among the shady trees.
The relatively good-sized jungle is one of the IBEROSTAR Tucan’s defining characteristics — one it shares with its adjacent sister resort, Iberostar Quetzal . The two IBEROSTAR properties are part of Playacar, a large, gated, private community in the Riviera Maya’s Playa del Carmen. Playacar contains about a dozen, large, all-inclusive properties as well as smaller hotels, townhomes, timeshares and condominiums. Playacar has sandy beaches and easy access to the Playa del Carmen market, an open-air, pedestrian mall lined with boutiques, restaurants and cafes.
Although the IBEROSTAR Tucan and the IBEROSTAR Quetzal, have separate lobbies, the two resorts, each with 350 rooms on either side of the property, share pools, restaurants, beach facilities, children’s programs and theater entertainment.
In the IBEROSTAR pyramid of family properties, Tucan, as well as Quetzal, are at the base. The resorts, however, are solid choices, providing a good value, budget stretching vacation with tropical scenery, a children’s program and a wide, sandy beach.
Our Editor Loves
- Good value all-inclusive
- Long, sandy beach
- Jungle-like interior with flamingoes, monkeys, toucans
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Sports
- Free Wi-Fi
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Iberostar's rooms are a happy surprise when not knowing what to expect from a "value-oriented" property. The decor's bright colors and Mexican touches evoke a Yucatan ambience. Blue and white tiles form headboards, accenting the mustard hued walls. Beds are covered with spreads of yellow and Caribbean blue stripes, suggestive of the sea. Tucan's bedspreads and drapes have a motif of leaves. Most bathrooms come with showers, not tubs.
All rooms have a sofa that can double as a third bed. Although there's space for a crib or a cot, the room would be crowded. Rooms come with coffee makers and mini-fridges. Suites add sitting areas, bathrobes and beautiful ocean views. From a regular room, you're likely to gaze out at the gardens or another building.
by Monique D
What a wonderful week at the Iberostar Tucan! I’ve been to many resorts, but this was one of my favourites! The feel of the resort was very tropical, especially with the jungle area, natural terrain and wild animals. The beach was also the best I’ve seen, and it was about a 45 minute walk (slow walk) along the water to Playa de Carmen. The staff worked hard, but we never had to wait for service. I hate to single anyone out since everyone was so helpful, but Mateo served us at most breakfasts and some lunches, always with a lovely smile. Not one staff member ever walked by without a friendly smile or greeting. Food was great with gluten free options for those who need it, and there were a number of fitness programs available including CrossFit and boot camp, although we only attended yoga with Isis. The only negative incident during the week was witnessing a guest push one of the animacion staff into the pool with such force, that the guest ended up in the water as well. I hope the staff member has recovered from this unfortunate ordeal! I’ve already recommended this resort to family and friends, and I hope to return!
Had a great vacation the other week. Special shout out to divemasters Rob, Sathya, and Noeli, they were really quite professional and really knew their stuff. Michaela and Lorenzo were also very helpful. Isis and Jorge were excellent yoga instructors, I went most days that I was there. The landscaping was really quite incredible, lots of beautiful plants and wildlife. The staff in general were very attentive and dealt with any issues very promptly. The food was quite good as well. The beach was one of the most beautiful ones I've been on in Mexico. The sand was incredible and there was no issue with seaweed. Overall a wonderful week, didn't want to leave and hope to return!!
Pools and Beach
The large, free-form main pool draws families and kids. Thatched palapas (umbrella-like awnings) shade many of the lounge chairs. With the resort at about 70 percent of capacity, we find it easy to get a spot. However, with a full house it may be more difficult to obtain a lounge chair. Despite the fact that signs remind guests not to save seats, people do. When the resort is nearly full, it might be wise to get up early, grab a lounge chair and go back to sleep poolside. The wide stretch of soft sandy beach is inviting, and the sea is typically mild.
A minor quibble: your pool card allows you only one towel at a time, which when wet, you exchange for another.
For ages 4 to 12, the resort hosts Lucy's Club from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The colorful, roofed, one-room, open-air facility is surrounded by a yellow and blue picket fence. At the facility, kids whack pinatas, paint, create crafts and watch movies. Counselors take the children to splash in the one-foot deep kiddie pool, play on the tennis court and run relays on the beach. Like many programs that group young kids with older ones, this one seems best for kids ages 4 to 10.
Each day the Star Friends, the resort's recreation and entertainment staff, lead activities from water aerobics and yoga to volleyball and beach games. Older teens, (not easily embarrassed) might like participating. Otherwise, teens need to create their own fun times. You and your kids can also play tennis (court reservations required), Ping-Pong table and billiards.
Iberostar's unexpected delight, the "jungle" is a section of palm trees and other vegetation that separates the pool and beach end of the property from the dining areas and lobby. You can walk around this area, but most people don't. Admire the flamingoes in the pond, the white swans in a cenote converted to a waterfall, the toucans in a large enclosure, the peacocks preening in the undergrowth and the troop of monkeys that swing through the tree canopy. Many budget-oriented, large, all-inclusive resorts can be sprawls of concrete more reminiscent of shopping malls than resorts. We appreciate Iberostar's commitment to maintaining a lush, green landscape.
In the evening, the staff puts on a musical show. Forget about sitting on backless benches as at other resorts. The theater, a nicely laid out space with marble floors and bamboo chairs, is comfortable.
The 8 p.m. show targets families. In front at the edge of the dance floor is a semi-circle of children's chairs, a nice touch. After all, kids want to sit upfront and Iberostar invites them to do so. The show at 9:30 p.m. is geared to adults.
If you haven't visited Xcaret, then go. At the eco-adventure park, you can swim with dolphins or in a natural pool, as well as view flamingos, jaguars, turtles, tapirs and other local critters. Try to avoid visiting when cruise ships are in port as Xcaret becomes packed. That's why an evening visit might be best. The park hosts a demonstration of Pok-Ta-Pok, the ancient Mesoamerican ball game, with players adorned in traditional body paints and regalia. Following this, there's an entertaining folkloric show.
At Xplor, another eco-theme park, you glide along zip lines, drive an amphibious vehicle through mud and creeks (the driver must be at least 18), and swim or raft through an underground river. Lunch is included with your fee.
The good news at Iberostar Tucan, as at many all-inclusive resorts, is that you can eat almost all the time. The bad news is that the food is often just average. You won't starve. Along with big buffets three times daily, the resort offers five specialty restaurants. The number of specialty restaurants available for you to sample depends upon the number of nights you stay. With a seven-night reservation, you are guaranteed three specialty restaurants. When the resort is not busy, you can request to dine at more specialty restaurants than your reservations allow.
Typically, there's something that each family member likes. In addition, kids can eat hamburgers, hot dogs and nachos from the poolside carts from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and finish up with ice cream served at another cart.
We have learned to approach every all-inclusive buffet from budget-based to five-star splurge with a strategy. On the first go around, we place small samples of a few items on our plate to see which ones we like. Then we go back for more of whatever tastes best. Typically, the cooked-to-order entrees are the most flavorful. At one Mexican themed lunch at Tulum Restaurant, choices include paella (a bit too salty for our tastes), along with good mole shrimp as well as pork at the carving station plus pizza and myriad salads.
Bonsai, the most popular restaurant, offers Japanese tepenyaki cooking and sushi. Kids like the waiters' show of twirling knives and spatula flipping entrees.
Uxmal, called the "tropical" restaurant, serves seafood. An International buffet is served for lunch, and Continental breakfasts are offered here. A la carte dinners consist of meats, fruits and vegetables.
La Hacienda, another kid-favorite, serves Mexican fare. Reservations are a must, and the doors open at 6:30 p.m.
La Marimba Steak House
La Marimba is a steak house that serves a variety of grilled and barbecued meat dishes. Dinner starts at 6:30 p.m.
The Italian specialty restaurant, La Gondola, serves made to order fresh pasta. Our shrimp with tomato sauce is tasty. That night a trio of Mexican guitarists stroll La Gondola, singing standards. Normally, this makes us cringe, but these talented men are charming.
We always like a resort with room service. After all, you never know when a child wakes up from a nap cranky and hungry. Iberostar serves an assortment of sandwiches from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Since we arrived at the property tired and hungry, we ordered a crab wrap. It was a disappointing mix of heavy cream and tasteless crab. The buffets and restaurants serve better food.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Like many resorts, this one offers crafts for families to do together. For an extra charge, you and your kids can select a mug, bird figurine other pottery piece and paint it. For an extra fee, you can get a henna tattoo, popular with middle-school age girls. The tattoos eventually wash off.
Babysitting is available in your room for an extra fee.
At the onsite dive center, you can book outings to explore the rich reefs of the Riviera Maya. Dives cost extra.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is available.
The Art of Smart Timing
High season starts around mid-December and through mid-April. The low season runs from September to mid-December. Shoulder season is from mid-April through August.
Fly into the Cancun International Airport.
If you do not plan to rent a car, make sure you have booked your transportation from the airport to your resort ahead of time. That way you can avoid the gauntlet of vendors trying to get you to book transportation and outings.
For Mom and Dad
Aqua Bar, the separate swim up, adults-only pool bar, lures off-duty parents. Although small, this pool is encircled by trees, making it feel like an oasis. The gym, although relatively small, remains open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The spa has a steam room and offers massages.