Quick Jump Links:
Flying out of San Luis Obispo, California, and traveling to Cancun, Mexico required our family to hop on two plane rides. Since our kids are much bigger now, luckily we no longer need to carry a stroller, car seats and diaper bags. I'll never forget how hard it was to fly with a baby and toddler! However, traveling with elementary kids still requires planning and organizing over a series of days for me.
- My Restaurant Reviews that I visited at Moon Palace Cancun
- My Playroom (Kid's Play Area) Reviews at Moon Palace Cancun
- Pictures of Our Governor Suite at Moon Palace Cancun
Packing for Cancun, Mexico
For trips that are at least 3 nights, I usually start packing at least a few days ahead so that I can figure out what we're missing. Our stay at the Moon Place The Grand in Cancun was for 5 nights. After pairing the kids' clothes by day, I often find that we are usually short on undies for long trips (since we usually don't have a washer and dryer handy on our vacations). My kids just grow so fast so I've had to toss some in the trash periodically! Fortunately, I can always go to our closest Ross Store to buy an affordable pack of undies. One thing I'll probably never run out of anymore are swim goggles! For the last 3 vacations that we went on, I had forgotten to pack goggles for the kids so I had to go buy them at our past destinations. My kids are very particular about wearing swim goggles at the pool. Now, it is on the top of the list to pack because I don't want to collect anymore kid's swim goggles! They are becoming better swimmers with every vacation because we don't have a pool at home so they really try to maximize their pool time at resorts trips; and their swim goggles always give that boost of confidence they need for hours at the pool.
Additionally, I realized we needed to shop for another particular item. We had ruined a couple of our travel pillows on our last trip to Virginia so we also had to go on a last minute errand run for two more travel pillows. It's been a game changer for us when needing sleep on the plane! So, we also went to the Ross Store to get a travel pillow. They had one left in the luggage section and it was $6.99. Because we needed two, we decided to shop at Big 5 Sporting Goods and got another one for $14.99 (it was the least expensive that they had at that store when we went). I always try to go to Ross first because it's been the most affordable and I can usually find at least one travel pillow there.
Flying to Cancun from California
If you live in LA, you can easily get a direct flight to Cancun, Mexico. I'm pretty envious of that as it makes it less of a hassle because you get to avoid layovers and for international travel, it is especially helpful for coming back to America from out of the country. (Scroll down for the rush experience we had coming back to U.S.A.) We've driven a few hours before to get to a major airport to fly out, but this time, the price difference with gas and time didn't make sense to us. When flying out of SBP (San Luis Obispo Airport Code) for SLO (San Luis Obispo County) residents, the quickest route to Cancun, Mexico was to plane hop from SBP to LAX (Los Angeles Airport Code) or DEN (Denver, Colorado Airport Code). Then, plane hop from there to Cancun. For this trip, we flew out at 5AM at the San Luis Obispo Airport to Denver. We checked in our two suitcases for about $70 total and then had planned to just carry on the smaller two bags on the plane. After checking in our bags at United Airlines, we walked through the TSA line and found our terminal. It's a really small airport here in San Luis Obispo, California, so it didn't take long. At our terminal, the United Airlines staff announced that they would let anyone check in their carry on bags for free because of the full flight. So, my husband wheeled our carry on bags to that podium and the employee tagged them for checking in. That was the last time that we saw those carry on bags until we arrived in Cancun, Mexico.
We loved that they allowed us to check in our 2 smaller bags for free. Additonally, I appreciate how small and easy our SBP (SLO) airport is. Therefore, we were able to check 4 bags for the price of checking in two suitcases. It doesn't always work out this way but when it does, I'm so grateful. My husband had his backpack with him and I had my purse on the plane. We were both able to fit and stowed our backpack and purse under the seats in front of us on both flights so our family didn't need to use the overhead cabinet for storage. The plane ride in the air from SBP (San Luis Obispo) to DEN (Denver) was about 2.5 hours long and my kids slept during that time. It was still so early in the morning and it helped make it a calm ride for all of us!
Once we landed at our layover in Denver, we had to take the shuttle/tram from Terminal B to Terminal A to get on the Cancun flight for our connecting flight. Our layover at Denver was about 1.5 hours long and that was enough time for us to get to our next plane ride without having to rush through the large Denver airport. However, when we were returning from our Cancun trip at the end, this 1.5 hour layover was not as relaxing. (Scroll down to read about the rush experience at the airport when we were coming back.) The air time from Denver, Colorado to Cancun, Mexico was about 4.5 hours long and both of my kids slept through most of that flight too. They didn't get the usual amount of sleep the previous night because of our early flight and that made it a more chill flight again. The flight attendants were really great about giving us complimentary snacks and drinks during this 4.5 hour flight. Once we landed, we had to go through the immigration check line as a tourist in Mexico and then got our bags at baggage claim to head out of the airport. The Cancun Airport was a really busy airport during the first week of January when we traveled! If you've never traveled to Cancun Airport before, you might want to get ready for a culture shock because I was shocked!
Intimidating Cancun Airport & the Search for our Airport Shuttle to the Moon Palace Resort
The tour companies at the Cancun Airport were very aggressive and sly about trying to perceive as helping us navigate through the airport and get to our resort, even though they were just trying to get us to book one of their tours or taxis. I was overwhelmed by all the hollering that we got from them as we were leaving the airport. My husband had booked a transportation shuttle that was complimentary through Moon Palace The Grand Resort by filling out a form weeks ahead, but we were still perplexed as to where to meet with them at the airport because our resort said to look for someone who's wearing a white shirt and khaki pants. However, a few scattered individuals were wearing that type of al fit that day. My family and I had to go all the way to the end and outside the entrance of the airport to find the shuttles and there were dozens of different companies parked there. That was such an intimidating experience, but fortunately after passing a lot of aggressive salespeople, we found our shuttle and they found our name on their list that was already printed on their clipboard. The ride from the airport to our resort at Moon Palace The Grand was only about 15 minutes away. Once we got to the Moon Palace The Grand Resort, I was able to finally relax.
Check In Process at Moon Palace The Grand
When we got off of the airport shuttle with all of our suitcases, we were immediately greeted by the bellhop personnel that was standing in front on Moon Palace The Grand. He gave me a carnation flower (because I'm a lady) and tagged our bags and told us he would have them in our rooms and that we could go ahead and check in at the lobby. That was especially helpful because lugging suitcases while waiting in line would not be fun. There were 2 other families waiting to check in in front of us and by the time we got to the lobby, it was already around 4:30PM. Check in time was 4PM. It was perfect timing because most likely, that meant we wouldn't have to wait for our rooms to be ready. After about 15 minutes, it was our turn. It turned out that they had overbooked for our room type. We selected the standard room type when we had planned our vacation. So, they offered us a free voucher for a future 5 night stay within 1 year at Moon Palace The Grand if we would stay at Moon Palace Sunrise, their sister property, instead. He said we would still get complimentary access to all of the three resorts, a perk that resort guests get for staying at The Grand (shortened from Moon Palace The Grand). My husband debated and asked me what I thought. I said I wanted to stay at The Grand because I just have a good feeling that the alternative solution would be better and we have no more free vacation days for 2024 since we already made plans for our vacations for pretty much the rest of the year already. So, in unity, we told him that we wanted to stay there at The Grand. So, he said he'd upgrade us then to a Governor's Suite but it only has 1 king bed and that the resort would bring in two rollaway beds for the kids. We told him that that was fine with us and he put on our wristbands, which also doubles as our key to the room. Well, the Governor Suite (full official name is Grand Governor Suite) was amazing! It's bigger than our house! I live in a SLO County, so that is not surprising. It made me so happy when we stepped into our room! See a video tour from my stay at the Grand Governor Suite below.
I kept my carnation flower that the bell hopper gave me earlier and put it in a glass with water when I got to our room. It survived throughout the entire 5 nights there.
The Governor Suite had a large hot tub, balcony, dining room, living room and walk in closet! It also had 1.5 bathrooms and that half bathroom was nice to have for the kids when someone else was using the main bathroom. I felt like this Governor Suite was big enough to host a party!
Pools at the Moon Palace Cancun Resorts
Because we were staying at the Moon Palace The Grand, we could dine and enjoy all the entertainment at the Moon Palace Sunrise and Moon Place Nizuc for free as it was complimentary as The Grand guests. From my understanding, it does not work the same when it is vice-versa. If you're staying at Moon Palace Sunrise or Moon Palace Nizuc, you would have to pay an extra fee to enjoy the complimentary food and drinks at The Grand. We took advantage of the complimentary access and visited all three Moon Palace Resorts in Cancun, including: The Grand (where we stayed at), Sunrise (their very first Cancun resort) and Nizuc. Of all the pools at the 3 resorts, we liked the Los Tacos pool at The Grand the best! It was a nice size for our family.
My kids don't use floaties to swim anymore because they are much better swimmers now. However, I am the occasional lifeguard when they need a little help and the size of the pool was perfect for me to manage that. They also served amazing tacos and drinks there. Everything was complimentary, of course. Service was also very attentive and I never had to line up at the bar or restaurant to order anything. The server came by where I was lounging at regularly to check on me. It was fantastic! Having a nice lunch, pool and easy watch on the kids were the best winning combo for this mama.
Other pools that we visited at The Grand included the Waterpark, the Caribeno pool (heated pool) that's located next to Building 85 and El Caribeno restaurant, and the Sports & Athletic pool (not heated pool). We didn't hang out at the pool at Nizuc during our vacation stay in Cancun this time, but we did spend a long afternoon swimming in the pool at Sunrise and really loved the layout of this main pool at Moon Palace Sunrise because it was central to everything there and located right in between the busy lobby and beach.
We also made sure we went to the waterpark! We spent a couple of hours at the waterpark at Moon Palace The Grand and it was definitely fun for everyone. It had a lazy river, kid's water play structures and waterslides. The bonus is it's located right next to their Playroom, which had arcade games, bumper cars, mini golf and more.
Restaurants that We Visited at Moon Palace Cancun Resorts
Even though we stayed 5 nights at The Grand, we took the Lobby to Lobby Bus to Sunrise and Nizuc for the last couple of days for more entertainment and food. We weren't able to visit all of the restaurants because we didn't have enough time but, here's a list of restaurants that we got to try at Moon Palace The Grand, Moon Place Sunrise, and Moon Palace Nizuc.
- Tapas Y Vino at The Grand - Tapas Y Vino was a great place to eat to tide us over before the buffet opened for dinner as they were opened a couple of hours before the dinner buffet did at The Grand. The Crostinis were delicious and it was attentive service.
- El Caribeno at The Grand - This restaurant served a la carte for lunch and dinner, but for breakfast, it was a buffet. It was the closest restaurant to building #87, where our suite was located so it's very convenient for us to dine here! We didn't have to get on a golf cart to get here like we do to get to the lobby. Best of all, it was delicious! A bonus is they let you make your own mimosas at the buffet bar here for breakfast. The main buffet in the lobby at The Grand didn't even have this option for breakfast like El Caribeno does.
- Habibi at The Grand - We saw a gentleman rave about this place on YouTube and knew we had to include it in our itinerary. It definitely felt very fancy inside at Habibi. The pita bread was fresh and delicious. I ordered the octopus dish as my main entree and thought it was well executed. Service did take a little longer than the other restaurants because they made everything really fresh to order. I asked for a glass of champagne and the server automatically refilled my glass without me asking when I finished my first glass, which is a star is my book. I felt very healthy coming out of this of this restaurant as there were a lot of healthy options. I enjoyed my lunch at Habibi very much.
- Circus at The Grand - The Circus Restaurant required a reservation and the times get taken quickly so once you check-in, I recommend making a reservation on the app for this place as soon as possible after you've checked in. This restaurant was definitely a wonderful option for the kids. The service was very casual and the popcorn show that they gave every table was really neat. I commend their efforts! See our video of the popcorn steam show for our table.
They have a very kid-friendly menu. Their entrance was so exciting to walk through. I really felt like I was going to a circus, except there were no performances while we were there. This place was definitely not fine dining when it comes to their food, but it's so fun and worth it for the kids. You order your entrees a la carte but the dessert was a buffet that included candy apples!
- Jade at The Grand - Jade, an Asian fusion restaurant, offered many different things. They had sushi, noodles, soups, waygu beef (extra charge), seafood dishes and wonderful desserts. Sadly, while we were there, service was awfully slow and cold. They were so busy! However, some of their dishes were very good! I liked the seafood soup, tempura shrimp and mochi dessert! My husband's waygu beef was definitely worth the extra money!
- Tavola at The Grand - We dined at Tavola, an Italian restaurant at Moon Palace The Grand, for a late lunch. The service was lackluster for me. Maybe because it was towards the end of the server's shift and he was exhausted by the time we got sat. I was also confused about why they said they didn't have calamari as the appetizer. They told me they ran out of calamari so the calamari appetizer was not available but when I ordered my seafood fettuccine as my entree, I saw a couple of squid rings (calamari) in it. Anyway, I really enjoyed my seafood fettuccine, which had shrimp, fish, calamari, and clams, but wished I could've had better service. My husband ordered the Tavola pizza and didn't like how the toppings tasted together. One of my kids liked the cheese pizza that he ordered so his meal worked out for him, and he's usually the pickiest eater among us!
- Room Service from The Grand - We ordered from room service 3 times while we were staying at Moon Palace The Grand. Twice were for breakfast and once was for a late dinner. The breakfasts were very good. For one morning, I order chilaquiles and a kiwi bowl and for the other morning, I ordered an egg and mushroom omelette. My husband also liked his steak and eggs and two eggs breakfast. However, when my husband ordered the pepperoni pizza for dinner, he didn't like it at all. Obviously, he didn't have very good luck with his pizza orders on this trip.
- The Grand Buffet at The Grand - The buffet in the lobby of The Grand served really delicious food and every day was a different theme. We ate at the buffet three times during our 5 night stay. We ate there on our first day for dinner, another day for lunch and one last time for our last morning at Moon Palace for breakfast. They had so many dishes every day. It was unbelievable!
- Momo at Sunrise - Momo at Moon Palace Sunrise didn't require a reservation but had a confusing entrance. The Momo Teppanyaki, located next door to Momo, required a reservation and had a separate entrance. It was probably a very common mistake but we arrived at the Momo Teppanyaki entrance first because it had such an inviting entrance. Then, they redirected us to the door next to them to wait for Momo to open. Once inside of Momo, it was very dim and my husband almost tripped but caught his footing so didn't fall but, be careful walking inside of there. The decor was very pretty, much prettier than Jade at Moon Palace The Grand! I ordered sushi and some dim sum. My kids ordered rice, gyozas, noodles and fried wontons. I ate what they didn't finished as well and was very full that night! My husband ordered waygu for an extra charge here as well. I love that Momo presented him with 4 different cuts to pick from, which Jade didn't do! Overall, the food was okay. I didn't like their shu mai or sushi that much. I felt that the dim sum and sushi places that I've dined at in California executed all of this better! However, the service at Momo was excellent, compared to Jade. I really enjoyed my experience here even if there were a few items I didn't like to eat all that much.
- Bugambilias at Sunrise - Bugambilias was the buffet restaurant at Moon Palace Sunrise that we enjoyed dinner at for one of the nights. The place was very open and inviting. It's located right behind the lobby bar and easy to find. The food lay out was interesting and reminded me of a small maze. I loved how the dessert section had a lot of ice cream to pick from. A bonus was, we had the ocean and pool views from the windows here. Service was very nice and relaxed.
- Arrecifes at Nizuc - Arrecifes is a Brazilian steakhouse at Moon Palace Nizuc and it is what you typically expect in a Brazilian steakhouse. Someone comes around and presents the meat on a big shish kabob stick and cut them for you. The appetizers, sides and desserts were on the buffet line. You flip the green sign at your table when you still want meat and flip it on the other side when you're done with the meat so that they won't come around at the table anymore. This place was a bit overwhelming for my kids. It was loud and our table for four was just not big enough to fit our plates, especially if we also had salad and bread plates as well. However, the paella from the buffet was excellent! It was probably my most favorite thing to eat during our 5 night stay at Moon Palace. The service at Arrecifes was also wonderful and warm.
Adult-Only Bars that We Visited
We took advantage of the amazing and well-supervised childcare at The Playroom at Moon Palace Sunrise (scroll down to read more about our thoughts about the 3 different Playrooms) for our kids and used a couple of hours of their services (also complimentary) to check out the adults-only bars at the Moon Palace Cancun Resorts. Here were the ones we visited.
- Sky Bar - The Sky Bar was located at Moon Palace Sunrise on the second floor. The lobby bar of Moon Palace Sunrise was so busy in the evenings that taking a bit of effort to go up the escalator to get to Sky Bar was an alternative option, if you don't have kids in tow. The escalator was located right next to the lobby bar and the Sky Bar from the escalator ride up would directly be located on your left once you got off the elevator. If you look up from the lobby, you could actually see the Sky Bar so it's pretty close to the entrance. Sky Bar was a James Bond themed bar and their cocktail glasses were interestingly slanted! They had two pool tables and a lot of comfortable seats. The service was great here! It was so much more relaxing than sitting in the lobby bar of Moon Palace Sunrise.
- The Pub - The Pub at Moon Palace Nizuc was pretty cool! It's a British pub with the UK flag decorated around the area. It was pretty quiet when we came in so if you're looking for a bar that is quieter or has a dive type feel, this place is for you. There were only 2 other couples there and by the time we left, there was only one couple left. I really appreciated the extra smoky garnish that my server added to my cocktail.
- The Library - The Library at Moon Palace The Grand was a stand out among this list of adult-only bars! It was a speakeasy bar and the door was a library bookshelf that you'd have to open at the right side to find another bookshelf door to enter the bar! It was so neat and memorable! The drinks were unique and the vibe was 1920s. It was uber romantic! See my video of my experience below.
I'm glad we ventured out of The Grand and explored Sunrise and Nizuc towards the end of our stay because Sunrise and Nizuc had a couple of interesting restaurants and each had their own Playroom for the kids. Among all of the Playrooms (area for kids), Sunrise's Playroom was my kids' favorite out of all three resorts! Continue to read more below to see why.
Playrooms at Moon Palace Cancun
Surprisingly, we didn't like the Playroom at The Grand the best, although the kids really enjoyed the bumper cars there. It really all depends on what kind of things your kid likes but there were 3 Playrooms to choose from as The Grand guests. They named all three of the kid's clubs at Moon Palace Cancun the same name: Playroom, even though the vibes and offerings are all different between the three.
The Playroom at Moon Palace Sunrise was specifically for ages 4 - 12 years old and they were well-supervised with planned activities and specific rooms like the Xbox game consoles, craft area, arcade area and more. Kids under 4 years old were allowed at the Playroom but only if they are accompanied by their parents or guardians. The Playroom at Sunrise reminded me of the kid's clubs on the Carnival Cruise and Royal Caribbean Cruises that we went on, except my kids got be together. The cruises often separate the kids into smaller groups by age ranges. Read about our 3 Day Baja California Carnival Cruise Vacation or our Royal Caribbean Cruise to Catalina and Mexico.
We used the Sunrise's Playroom services for a couple of hours for the last two days of our trip because we didn't discover their awesome services until venturing out of The Grand. Like I mentioned earlier in the blog, access to Moon Palace Sunrise and Moon Palace Nizuc were included if you're staying at Moon Palace The Grand. That was the biggest perk for staying at The Grand.
The Playroom at Moon Palace Nizuc also had supervised childcare but it was for ages between 4 - 10 years old and had less activities in the room. However, they also had supervised childcare with a fun itinerary for the kids. I think if your kids are on the younger side, this would be more suitable for them. We decided not to use the Playroom Nizuc's services because it was smaller in size and did not have an Xbox game console that my kids really liked. Like Moon Palace Sunrise, kids under 4 years old were allowed in the Playroom only if they are accompanied with their parents or guardians.
The Playroom at The Grand was the biggest of all and multi-leveled, but kids ages 8 and up (including teens) do not get tight supervision. Kids who are ages 7 and under had to be accompanied by an adult so we accompanied my kids the whole time because one of my sons was 7 years old.
I didn't mind this because I had a great time playing with them and was able to play on the big Pac Man console at the arcade. I really loved watching my kids have fun there and playing with all the free arcade games at The Grand's Playroom! I think the reason why they didn't have the same supervision and well trained staff like the Playroom at Sunrise had was because this Playroom also allowed teens to come play without supervision and teens don't need to be babysat.
My younger son and I also played at their indoor glow-in-the-dark mini golf room so it was a fun way to have one-on-one mother and son bonding time with him at this particular Playroom.
To iterate, my kids liked going to the Playroom at Sunrise the best as they prefer organized play and all the fun activities that they had there. My kids currently get intimidated by bigger kids so the narrowed age group that the Playroom Sunrise cared for worked very well for our family while my kids are still on the younger side as elementary kids.
Rush with Shorter Layover from Cancun to Denver Stop And U.S. Customs and Border Examination to Get Back to U.S.
I had such a wonderful vacation and the staff at Moon Palace made everything so easy that shifting back to the close of our vacation seemed so abrupt. Plus, traveling internationally is not as easy as domestic. The last time I few out of the country was before having kids so it's been a long time! I was not expecting to be so stressed out coming home during our layover. Our layover at Denver was 1.5 hours long, which worked out just fine when we were traveling to Mexico but not so much for coming back to America. I had forgotten that the process required an extra step and that we had to claim our bags during the layover and then checked them in again before going through the TSA line in the U.S. to get on our last plane. On top of that, our plane was delayed by 15 minutes and we sat in the second to last row on the plane so we're almost dead last getting off the plane.
Once we got off of the first plane, we had a lot of things to take care of before hopping on the last plane. The kids needed to use the restroom after our 4.5 hour flight from Cancun to Denver and were hungry so after getting off of the plane, we rushed to the restroom, walked a long way to find our bags at baggage claim, checked them in again, went through a few lines to get processed, hopped on the tram to get from terminal A to terminal B (where our plane to San Luis Obispo flew out of), bought some hot dogs and skedaddled to B12 where they announced that Group 3 (our group) was ready to board. We had made it! I guess even if we had arrived 5 minutes later, we would still be okay but I was herding my kids like cattle almost the entire time because their little legs didn't want to move fast. So, be wary of the extra step with baggage and try not to overly stress like I did.
Hope to Return to Moon Palace in Cancun
Our family had one of the best vacations we've ever had during our stay at Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico. Our stay included food, drinks, entertainment and had some interesting elements like riding on golf carts everywhere to get to places within the resorts and watching the Glow Motion Show. It was really all inclusive and I really like not having to worry about bringing my wallet. That is true inclusivity and a grand vacation. We had such a great time that I hope to return again one day to eat at the restaurants that we missed and enjoy all the other shows that we didn't have time for. This vacation was not sponsored in any way and we paid for our airplane and resort stay ourselves. See a couple of quick videos of our vacation highlights at Moon Palace in Cancun below.
Suggested Things to Have for Airplane and Vacation
- Kid's sunscreen (pack in checked in bags only and not in carry on, if you are buying the regular size because TSA will toss it if it's in your carry on bag)
- Fun luggage tags for the kids to get them excited for the trip
- Swim goggles for kids
- More than 1 swimsuit for each person (so that while one is still wet and needs drying, you still have one that is still dry for comfort while walking from the room to the pool)
- Unopened snacks in their original package for kids for the plane like goldfish crackers or biscuits
- Travel neck pillows for sleeping on the plane
In : Mexico
Tags: cancun family vacation cancun family review moon place grand for family mexico vacation