Mexico Beaches: An Overview

Mexico remains the top vacation destination for Expert Family Travel and for good reason:  easy striking distance, many flight options, a wide variety of beachfront resorts, and a great bang for the buck. Here are the Mexico resorts areas we currently offer:

Riviera Maya

Located just south of Cancun along the Yucatan peninsula’s Caribbean coast.  This area is 112 miles of coast and includes Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, and Tulum.  Most resorts are all-inclusive, with a variety of family friendly, adults only, mega-sized, and boutique-sized for all budgets.


A barrier island in the shape of a “7″ this 14-mile resort area is on the Yucatan’s Caribbean coast.  Plenty of flights from major US airports daily.  Resorts are mostly all-inclusive.  While there are some wonderful family-friendly resorts in Cancun, the area is better known for the nightlife & shopping appealing to adults.

Finest Playa Mujeres Resort

Playa Mujeres & Isla Mujeres

“The Island of Women” and its associated mainland beach (to catch the ferry), this area is just north of Cancun Island.  Playa Mujeres has enjoyed recent development with new upscale to luxury all-inclusive resorts.  Isla Mujeres remains a sleepy getaway island with a few choice boutique-sized all-inclusives.


A Caribbean island just off Playa del Carmen, Cozumel is best known for exceptional diving.  The resorts here are smaller and more in the 3 to 4 star range.  Nonstop year-round flights from DFW, Houston, and Atlanta.

Puerto Vallarta

Shifting gears and heading to the Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta sits on beautiful Banderas Bay.  There are three distinct resort areas:  Puerto Vallarta city area, the stretch of beach called Riviera Nayarit, and the relatively new development of Punta Mita.  Resorts here are all-inclusive or European Plan, from boutique to large in size.  The resorts are an exceptional “bang for the buck” though air can sometimes be pricey.  Whale watching is a popular activity in the winter months, and the Sierra Madre Mountains offer fun activities such as zip lining.

Los Cabos

A beautiful destination on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, this is where the desert meets the sea.  The area was hit by a hurricane a year ago (Sep 14, 2014) but has recovered fully at this point.  Cabos has the roughest currents of the destinations listed here, so is not the best choice if you are looking for calm water at your resort but the scenery is gorgeous.  Great golfing and nightlife.


Ixtapa, Mexico


Located on the Pacific side, this is great if you are looking for a quiet escape, or just to try something different.  Most US departure cities will require a connecting flight.  My favorite accommodations in the area are small and romantic though there are some mid-size family friendly options as well.  Most resorts are not all-inclusive.

It’s Tahiti Time!


Ah, my favorite destination of all…Tahiti.  Officially known as French Polynesia, this broad collection of South Pacific islands is about 2 hours due south of Hawaii.  With pristine, calm lagoons, beautiful views, ideal weather, gentle people, and tropical flowers perfuming the air this destination embodies the perfect beach destination.


If this is your one and only trip to Tahiti, I would recommend a combination itinerary of Moorea and Bora Bora, staying about a week.  Plus, you will either fly on a red-eye to get to Papeete the next morning (continuing on to Moorea) or you’ll need to stay one night in Papeete upon arrival.  If you have more time than a week, or if this is your second trip to Tahiti (lucky YOU!), I would recommend visiting one of the lesser known islands on your multi-island itinerary, such as Taha’a or Tikehau.



Tahiti is best known as a honeymoon haven; certainly, an overwater bungalow on a crystalline lagoon is romantic.  But Tahiti is also ideally suited for scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts.  And several resorts are family friendly.  Promotions can take the sting out of the price-points for a family traveling to Tahiti, but it will always be more expensive than destinations such as Mexico or Hawaii.


There are two negatives for Tahiti as a destination:  distance and budget.  The flight from LAX is about 8 hours, but is in the same time zone as Hawaii and doesn’t require that you cross the International Date Line.  There’s just no way around it:  Tahiti is relatively expensive for a vacation, especially when considering the “must do” accommodation — an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora.  There are a few ways to reign in the costs, and we can certainly talk about your options if you’d like to put together a Tahiti trip. Traveling in November, April, and May are better price-wise and some short-stay air promotions can make a vacation here affordable when budget is key.


I do recommend booking Tahiti 7-9 months in advance because flights and resorts fill up. Last minute packages are best booked with a bit of flexibility in terms of dates and resorts or room categories.


Our packages take the guesswork out of a Tahiti trip, and will include your flights, accommodations, breakfasts, interisland flights and transportation to the resort.  We can add travel insurance, dinner plans, and day excursions to fit your needs as well.

Destination Spotlight: Cozumel

Just off the Riviera Maya coast line is the charming island of Cozumel.  Ever since Jacques Cousteau filmed from the coral reefs near Cozumel in 1961, this island has been best known for world class diving opportunities on the Playacar Reef which is part of the Meso-American reef system.  Most resorts have dive shops onsite, and many are PADI 5-star certified.  Diving is typically not included in your resort package, but prices are reasonable.  For those not certified, abbreviated resort dive courses are available as well as full certification and advanced diver courses.


Secrets Aura Cozumel (adults only)


If you aren’t looking to scuba dive, the snorkeling is great.  In other words, you don’t have to don an air tank and weight belt to be able to enjoy the beauty of the coral reefs.  Most resorts have snorkeling right off the beaches.  Or, sign up for a catamaran snorkel sail.  This is great for couples as well as families (with the kids being good swimmers).


The beaches here don’t have the wide sandy ribbon like you find in Cancun.  Resort beaches range between narrow sandy to downright rocky (with a few exceptions, like Secrets Aura Cozumel).  However, since the island’s resort side faces back to the mainland, the tide at your resort beach will be gentle.


Cozumel Palace Resort


My favorite resorts in Cozumel by “travel style” are:

  • Grand Occidental Cozumel – for families and small groups looking for a quiet beach getaway.  This is an easy going 4 star all-inclusive, and prices well (good “bang for the buck.”)
  • Iberostar Cozumel – the best pick for divers who are looking for 3 1/2 to 4 star accommodations.  The resort is very close to the reef, on the southern end of the island.  Diving is at additional cost.  The diveshop (Dressel Divers) is very well run
  • Cozumel Palace – for those divers who are looking a bit nicer accommodations, this resort has a great dive shop and is a 4 1/2 star all-inclusive.  There is no sandy beach here, but just steps that go into the water.  Snorkeling is excellen
  • Explorean Cozumel – this is a new adults-only resort that includes sports and activities.  This is a great choice for the couple or small friends group looking for a little soft adventure. The resort itself has a quiet, boutique feel to it.  Access to beach at sister property next door (Fiesta Americana Cozumel).
  • Secrets Aura Cozumel – for the adult couple looking for a romantic escape.  This is a small 4+ star all-inclusive resort with lots of charm.  Plus, the beach here is gorgeous.

Flights from the US to Cozumel operate year-round out of the following cities, with connections possible from your departure airport:

  • DFW Dallas
  • Houston
  • Miami
  • Atlanta
  • Charlotte
  • Denver

​​Additionally, there are seasonal (December – April) nonstop flights to Cozumel from Chicago and Minneapolis-St Paul.

Destination Spotlight: Fiji

Dreaming of a Polynesian escape for your next vacation getaway?  Beautiful Fiji Islands in the South Pacific total more than 300 islands in a tropical, white sand paradise.  Coral reef diving and snorkeling are exceptional. Over 1,000 species of fish swim the grottoes and lagoons, and colorful birds and tropical flowers are everywhere.


Typical itineraries are for 2 islands for a 7 to 9 day visit, or 3 islands for a 10-14 day vacation.  Or, for a shorter stay maybe 1 island and 5-7 nights at destination.  Allow two additional nights for travel. Properties offered by Expert Family Travel range from 3 star moderate to 5 star luxury, and include family-friendy or adults only, from small boutique properties on remote islands to mid-sized resorts in Nadi on the main island.



From the US, you ‘ll fly through Los Angeles. There are also flights from Honolulu to Nadi three times a week.  This makes for a fun Hawaii-Fiji combo, but is not as cost effective as flights through LA.  Flights to Fiji are about 10 hours from LAX airport.  If you have plenty of time (say, 3 or 4 weeks), consider combining a Fiji stay with a tour of New Zealand or Australia (being 3 and 4 hours away, respectively).


Featured Specials to Fiji


Koro Sun Resort Package – from $2353 per person
Savusavu Island

7 nights – Garden View Bure – air from LAX

Includes roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles to Nadi on Fiji Airways, roundtrip airfare from Nadi to Savusavu on Fiji Airways operated by Fiji Link, 7 nights accommodations at the Koro Sun Resort & Rainforest Spa in an Garden view Bure, all meals, airport transfers and meet & greet with shell lei.


Travel dates 10/4/2015 to 11/30/2015 based on availability**


Qamea Resort and Spa – from $3393 per person

Taveuni Island

Fiji’s #1 resort (Trip Advisor)

7 nights – Beachfront Bure – air from LAX

Includes roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles to Nadi on Fiji Airways, roundtrip airfare from Nadi to Taveuni on Fiji Airways operated by Fiji Link, 7 nights accommodations at Qamea Resort & Spa in a Beachfront Bure, welcome arrival drink, continental breakfast from buffet, afternoon tea, tea & French press plunger coffee and juices at breakfast, daily maid and turndown service, sea canoeing/kayaking, snorkel gear, 3 x weekly scheduled guided snorkel trips, once a week scheduled village tour, Wednesday night Kava Ceremony, Friday night Meke, Sunday church services, Sunday hosted wine tasting, Qamea sports water bottle with free refills of Pure Qamea purified drinking water, and nightly entertainment, meet & greet with shell lei and all applicable transfers.


Travel dates 9/6/2015 to 11/30/2015 based on availability**

Destination Spotlight: Aruba

Part of the ABC islands, you’ll find Aruba just off the coast of Venezuela.  The beaches here are soft, powdery white sand and crystal clear Caribbean waters.  The resort area along Palm Beach is especially pedestrian-friendly, with shops, restaurants, and casinos an easy stroll distance from your resort.  This is one of those destinations where you are fine without an all-inclusive resort, since restaurants are so close and the food quality standards are very high.

A car rental isn’t necessary and you can get around by either walking or taking a taxi.  I recommend an island tour while visiting so that you can see the other, more rugged side of the island — wow, such drastic difference from the calm, sandy side!


Palm Beach, Aruba 


This is a great destination for families as well as couples and adult friends traveling together.  And being outside the hurricane belt, it is a good destination for travel in late summer and fall, when the tropical storms kick up.  


Top resort picks
Radisson Aruba - the first resort built, and lovingly maintained with beautiful grounds and the best location.  For families and adults alike, you can’t go wrong with this 4+ star choice.

The Ritz Carlton Aruba - relatively new, and oh-so-gorgeous.  This is the first true 5 star resort on island.  The food, rooms, service, and ambiance have definite wow factor.  This is the last resort along Palm Beach, so the shops and reataurants nearby aren’t as close for walking.  An amazing destination wedding staff.

Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort - a small, adults only resort rated 4 star but with 5 star service and food.  Perfect for an anniversary or honeymoon couple, and I bet you’ll want to come back next year!  The owner has a real knack for understanding the client (and that goes a long way).

Riu Palace Antilles - a newly rennovated/rebranded property, this adults only all-inclusive is in a great location and a great choice for friend groups, weddings, and getaways.  The neighboring “all ages” Riu Palace Aruba has just closed for rennovations and will reopen mid July.

Divi Aruba All-Inclusive - located on Druif Beach is Divi Aruba, part of a 4 resort complex by Divi Resorts.  There’s a golf course here, and the beach is lovely.  Also, the property has been undergoing some recent rennovations and enhancements and while it’s rated a 3 1/2 star, I’d rate it closer to 4 stars.  Very family friendly, and great for couples as well.

Holiday Inn Resort Aruba - an exceptionally friendly staff. This is an older property that has undergone some major rennovations in some (but not all) areas, so expect overall 3 1/2 stars until everything has been updated.  Still, a great property for the price.  There is an all-inclusive option, but the “no meals” plan is always the best bang for the buck.

Surf and Turf: trip ideas when you are looking for more than just a beach

I hear it a lot:  clients wanting some beach time, but are afraid that an all-inclusive beach vacation is going to bore them to tears.  So here are some suggestions for your next vacation when you’d like to split your time between the beach (and resort pool) and stuff to do that doesn’t involve a bathing suit.  Here goes…

Closer to home

  • Costa Rica – jungle and soft adventure are awaiting you in Costa Rica!  You can opt to stay at a beachfront all-inclusive, and then just take day excursions to explore as much as you’d like.  Or, maybe a tour itinerary with a couple of beach days at the end to rest up before heading back to reality. The beaches here are not up to par with the Caribbean, but are still very pretty.​

  • Puerto Rico – it’s easy to get around by car in Puerto Rico, and there’s lots to do and see on your own.  El Yunque is a rain forest within easy striking distance from the resorts on the northeast side of the island.  Explore Old San Juan one day.  Play a round or two of golf.  Take up surfing or explore a cave.  There are no resorts here that are all-inclusive.
  • Hawaii – visiting Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island?  Include a car rental in your package, and explore on your own.  Maui has the most diverse activities of the three listed.  There’s plenty to do and see in a week’s stay.  If you plan on being on vacation for at least 8 nights, you might want to consider a 2 island vacation.  Or, visit Oahu, where a car isn’t necessary if you are staying in Waikiki.  Hike waterfalls, go shopping, enjoy the natural beauty and the culture, go ziplining or take a helicopter tour.  No shortage of things to do!

Crossing an ocean

  • Thailand – combine a Thailand cultural tour (Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle) with a few days at the end on one of their beautiful beaches (such as Phuket, Krabi, or Samui).

  • Vietnam – enjoy a Vietnam independent or escorted tour with a night or two of beach on your itinerary.  Have more time?  Combine Vietnam and Cambodia.
  • Greece & Her Islands – fly into Athens and then island hop…from one to three islands, depending on time and budget.  You’ll be busy exploring the rich history of the islands with a beachfront resort to enjoy a little down time too.
  • Australia – combine the ultimate dive destination, the Great Barrier Reef, with an independent or escorted tour of the country (or at least the major cities if you are short on time).
  • Tahiti – admittedly, Tahiti is pretty “water focused.”  But if you are not much of a dive or snorkel enthusiast, the best way to experience these beautiful islands are by Paul Gauguin Cruises.

  • Bali – beautiful beaches and exotic culture.  Allow time to explore the area on your own, or book an itinerary that includes some tours.  Or, combine Bali with Indonesia (or with Hong Kong).

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

The Family Friendly All-Inclusive

I sell many different destinations and lifestyles, but by far the most popular remains the family friendly all-inclusive resort in a tropical beach location.  And summer is the time when the majority of my family clients head to the beach.  So I thought I’d give a primer on all-inclusives this month.


Azul Sensatori, Riviera Maya

 All-inclusives are so-named because your stay includes meals, drinks, snacks, onsite activities and entertainment.  Depending on the resort, it may also include some offsite activities (such as golf or scuba) or tours, a kids’ club, and 24 hour room service.  And in the top-of-the-line resorts and categories you can find butler services.

There are family-friendly resorts where there are kids’ clubs, kiddie pools, and special activities and amenities just for kids.  Some resorts, such as Azul and Club Med even offer baby programs at select locations.
The great thing about a family friendly all-inclusive is that the resort is designed for everyone to enjoy their stay at the property.  That doesn’t mean you can’t go offsite to shop or take a tour (or two or three).  But it is nice to know that you can stay onsite and not be bored.

Beaches Turks & Caicos

 You’ll find family-friendly all-inclusives in some of the top beach destinations:

  • Playa del Carmen/Riviera Maya Mexico
  • Cancun’s Hotel Zone
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • Cabo, Mexico
  • Cozumel, Mexico
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  • Jamaica
  • Turks/Caicos
  • Costa Rica (Pacific Coast)
  • (Limited) Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, Ixtapa, Aruba

​Some of my favorite resort brands for families include Dreams, Beaches, Iberostar, Azul, Now, Palace, Hard Rock, and Paradisus.

Barcelo Bavaro Palace, Punta Cana

Hawaii and Tahiti do not offer any all-inclusive resorts (family friendly or otherwise).  Fiji does offer some resorts that include meals and select activities, but they are not true all-inclusives.  

Family friendly resorts are also great options for group gatherings or destination weddings where you anticipate some families attending. Many of the 4 and 5 star resorts have onsite wedding coordinators and Special Event planners for your party or event needs.

Resort quality can range from a more moderate 3 star to a luxury 5 star, and sizes from small boutique to some of the mega campus styles found in Punta Cana.  Most of my clients tend to want something in the middle:  4 star upscale, and mid to large in size.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Strong US Dollar Set to Boost Travel

If you have been putting off that trip to Europe, 2015 might be the year for you.  Right now the US dollar is the strongest it’s been against the euro in four years, and it is gaining on other foreign currencies as well.

In Europe you will save on hotel, tour, rail, and food costs due to the stronger dollar.   However, air pricing to Europe has not fallen with any significance, especially considering the lower fuel prices.  

To save even more, consider traveling just before high season, or late April through May.

This is also a great year to travel to Japan, since the dollar is gaining strength over the yen.

Ah, but Switzerland seems to be the exception (aren’t they always) as the Swiss Franc has been increasing in value lately.  So, in 2015 Switzerland is going to remain a wonderful — but pricey destination.

Low Airfares to Hawaii

Good news, Hawaii airfare has just dropped, especially for travel during the shoulder season (mid April to May).  Prices go up during the busy summer season, but still is pricing less in 2015 than it was in 2014.  I’m not sure how long this will last, but let me know if you might be interested in taking advantage of these lower rates.

What’s Hot:  Cambodia and Vietnam  

With developing tourism infrastructures and an increase in travel demand, Cambodia and Vietnam look to be this year’s up and coming destination combination.  River cruises, such as AmaWaterways’ 16 day “Vietnam, Cambodia & the Riches of the Mekong,” Sita’s escorted tour “Mystic Marvels of Indochina,” or G Adventures’ “Cambodia and Vietnam on a Shoestring” give options to cover all budgets and travel styles.  

Are you so “been there, done that” with Cambodia and Vietnam?  Then perhaps the lesser-travelled Laos and Myanmar are a better fit for you.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

What’s New for 2015

In the spirit of New Years, this month I’m going to highlight some a few resort openings across the Caribbean and Central America.

Baha Mar, Bahamas

This is a massive, $3.5 billion dollar resort development adding over 2000 luxury rooms to the Cable Beach area, and about to give The Atlantis a run for the money.  The development will include the 1000-room Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, the 707-room Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, and smaller hotels by Rosewood and SLS Lux.  The beach here will be fantastic.  Slated to open May 1 2015.

Sandals LaSource, Grenada

Opening about a year ago is Sandals’ newest property on the island of Grenada.  This 231-room couples-only all-inclusive resort is a haven for honeymooners and anniversary couples.  The greatest challenge is with air flights, but the good news is that Delta will be adding an Altanta – Grenada flight in upcoming months.

Secrets Playa Mujeres, Mexico (north of Cancun)

Grand opening in November, this adults only property sits just north of Cancun’s Hotel Zone in the-up-and-coming area of Playa Mujeres.  Luxury and all-inclusive with 424 elegantly appointed suites.  Nearby are two other new gems — Finest Playa Mujeres and Beloved Playa Mujeres.

Dreams Sugar Bay Resort, US Virgin Islands

This property reopened last month as an all-inclusive Dreams Resort.  Renovations have taken this property into the 4 star category.  Most importantly, US Virgin Islands now has a decent all-inclusive resort.  Be aware that this property sits on a rocky hill with elevator/step access to the beach.  A total of 294 rooms.

Moon Palace Jamaica Grande Resort, Jamaica

Scheduled to open in late Spring in Ocho Rios is the 700-suite Moon Palace Jamaica Grande Resort.  This is an extensive renovation of an existing resort Sunset Jamaica Grande.  Considering the quality of the Palace Resorts, this is an excellent choice for upscale families looking to enjoy Jamaica.  A very generous resort credit program will be in place here as well.

Dreams Las Mareas, Costa Rica

Located in the fast-growing Guanacaste area along Costa Rica’s Pacifc coast, this resort just opened November 1.  This is a 4 to 4 1/2 star, family friendly all-inclusive resort with 447 suites.  Looks gorgeous and I can’t wait to see it in person.  Fly into Liberia airport for a beach vacation, or combine with a more adventurous multi-stop itinerary.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Cabo Unstoppable

On the southern tip of the Baja peninsula lies the charming area of Cabo.  Here is where the mountains and dessert meet the Sea of Cortes and Pacific Ocean.  Cabo (which means cape) consists of two towns connected by the “Corridor” on a 25-mile paved highway. 

San Jose del Cabo is the sleepy sister with a quaint downtown area full of art gallery and jewelry shops.  

Cabo San Lucas has a vibrant nightlife and fun shops.

On September 14, Hurricane Odile ripped through Cabo, shutting down the airport for several days and causing major damage to many of the hotels and condos along the coast line.

I just visited Cabo last week and I’m happy to report that Cabo has bounced back quickly, and in time for high season which begins mid December.  The airport is functioning fully amid construction in certain areas.  By the end of December, over 10,000 hotel rooms will be open and available to receive guests.

My top hotel picks in Cabo are:

  • Secrets Puerto Los Cabos – a 500 room luxury adults only all-inclusive resort with exceptional spa and golf onsite. Opened a year ago.

  • Riu Palace Los Cabos – large (642 room) upscale all-inclusive for all ages.  Consistently my top selling resort for the area.
  • Dreams Los Cabos Suites – elegant, family-friendly all-inclusive with 213 suites and junior suites.  Set to reopen March 1, 2015.
  • Las Ventanas Al Paraiso – the ultimate in luxury in Cabo with only 71 suites.  The only AAA Five Diamond resort in Cabo, and considered one of the best resorts in the world.  Romantic, pampering.

My top activities in Cabo

  • For the energetic, zip lining at Wild Canyon.
  • Camelback riding
  • Glass bottom boat ride to the Arch.
  • Golf (there are some amazing courses here)
  • Deep sea fishing
  • Shopping & nightlife
  • Spa treatments
  • Whale watching during winter months

Cabo is a year-round destination, with warm balmy weather during winter and hot weather during summer.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

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