Tucked away on Mexico’s idyllic Caribbean coast, the Grand Bahia Principe Coba resort is perfect for active family holidays. Especially if you have a rampant toddler who loves the sea!
White sand beaches, crystal-clear Caribbean waters, relentless sunshine, amazing food, dozens of swimming pools, non-stop cocktails and even its own kids’ water park – Grand Bahia Principe Coba is the only place I’ve ever been on holiday that I honestly couldn’t pick a single fault with.
We used to hate the thought of all-inclusive package holidays, but since we first came to the Riviera Maya in 2011 we’ve been desperate to come back. The whole Grand Bahia Principe complex is so big you could spend weeks here without getting round the whole place, swimming in every pool, eating in every restaurant, drinking in every bar, or doing all of the awesome activities that are laid on for guests.
Our little boy Sonny turned 20 months old the day we flew from Manchester to Mexico, and as well as surprising us by how much he seemed to enjoy the 10-hour flight, he surprised us even more with how much he threw himself into the entire holiday. Whether it was flying down water slides, running through waves, meeting the local wildlife, dancing to live music, riding golf carts around the resort, demolishing platefuls of fresh pasta or just playing with his bucket and spade on the beach, the little champ had the time of his life. We never had to worry about what to feed him next, or what activity to do with him next, because it was all right on our doorstep.
Hitting the beach
We’ve taken Sonny to a few grim English beaches, and I dipped him in the Mediterranean in Turkey when he was six months old, but this was his first proper beach holiday. I was worried he might be intimidated by the waves and scale of the whole thing, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. After taking a few visits to the beach to properly get his confidence up, he was soon charging around in the surf and throwing himself into the shallow waters. A proper little water baby!
The hotel have installed some wave breakers around 20 metres out from the main stretch of beach, which create a calm little lagoon for people who aren’t totally confident in the sea. It’s absolutely perfect for kids who are just getting used to the water, with colourful tropical fish swimming around their feet in the shallows.
Children’s water park
This has to be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in a hotel. A full-on water park created just for kids, with its own waterfalls, slides, rickety bridges and pools for little explorers to charge around in. The water is shallow so parents can stand on the edge and let their children enjoy it by themselves, and even though Sonny was one of the youngest kids there he was running around like he owned the place by the end of the holiday.
He wasn’t quite confident enough (and neither were we) to be getting on the big slides by himself but with his Konfidence swim jacket on the only thing we had to worry about was him getting trampled by bigger kids. He was a bit intimidated by the whole thing when we first got there, but after a couple of days he was absolutely bossing it.
Jet skis, paddle boards, tennis courts, bike hire, beach volleyball, water polo, football, kids’ clubs, live music, family shows, Mariachi bands: if you wanted to do something different every single hour of the day at Gran Bahia Principe Coba then you wouldn’t struggle.
The animation teams are full of energy and brilliant fun if you’re into that kind of thing, but if you want to avoid it altogether then head for one of the quiet pools for secluded stretches of beach that you can have all to yourself. So if you’re an all-action family or just a bunch of chilled-out sunbathers, Grand Bahia Principe Coba has you covered.
Food and drink
My God. I’ve never eaten so much good food or drunk so much good booze in my life. The Grand Bahia Principe resort is made of three main hotels – Coba, Tulum, Akumal and Sian Ka’an – and between them they have enough buffets, snack bars and à la carte restaurants for you to eat in a different place on every night of your holiday.
We stayed for 2 weeks and never had a bad meal. The choices of cuisine are endless – from traditional Mexican to themed nights with food from all around the world. We ate at a Japanese show table, ploughed through more then 10 different cuts of meat at a Brazilian Rodizio, devoured Peruvian fillet steaks and fresh lobster – and they’re just the meals I can remember. There are 24-hour snack bars serving burgers, nachos, pizzas, hot dogs and kebabs and, of course, you don’t need to carry any cash to pay for any of it.
Then there’s the booze. I could talk about this all day, but all you really need to know is you can whatever you want, and as much of it as you want, all day long. Beer, wine, champagne, spirits, cocktails, tequila – it’s relentless. And totally awesome!
With so much going on at the all-inclusive resort it’s easy to never get outside and see anything of the surrounding area, but there’s so much to see and do on the Riviera Maya that you’re spoilt for choices for day trips. There are big theme parks like Xcaret, Xel-Ha and Xplor, which provide hundreds of amazing activities from cenote diving and snorkelling to Mexican fiestas and jungle zip wires. But they’re expensive!
We took day trips to the famous Mayan ruins at Tulum, spent a day at the spectacular Tulum beach (see main image) and enjoyed a guided trip around the freshwater cenotes at Casa Tortuga. These trips were all within 20 minutes drive of Grand Bahia Principe Coba on the local ‘Colectivo’ bus service, and the most expensive was the cenotes at £13. If you stay away from the massive tourist hot spots and go off to do your own thing, there are some amazing hidden gems for day trips on the Riviera Maya.
Outdoor Dad Verdict: Grand Bahia Principe Coba
Quite simply, the best holiday I’ve ever been on. The hotel and resort is flawless, the weather is amazing, the scenery is spectacular, the food and drink is outrageous and there’s no limit to the activities and fun you can have as a family. I just wish we’d booked a one-way ticket.