When I was recently invited to visit the Hard Rock Hotel Cancun, I had one very big decision to make: to bring or ditch my family.
While it’s never easy to say goodbye to the hubs and kiddos, a vacation with girlfriends was long overdue. So, I ditched. After all, it was only for a few nights. And my fam already got to experience the Hard Rock in Punta Cana a couple of years ago.
Before I dig into this review, let’s talk about Cancun for a minute. In general, the weather in Mexico differs a bit from the rest of the Caribbean. Locals told us that although the Caribbean’s rainy season extends from May through November, Cancun’s truly rainy months are September and October. Sure, you’ll get a few crazy storms in July and August — lasting a few hours, they said — but apparently May and June are a great time to visit. The weather starts to clear up again at the beginning of November.
We visited the last week of March and the weather was PERFECT. Not a drop of rain, even at night. It was hot, sunny and nary a cloud in the sky for five straight days. I’d probably choose a January or April stay next time if we wanted a winter/spring vacation — only to avoid the elementary and high school spring breaks in February and the college spring breaks in March.
I should add that there were zero bugs. Zero! Not even sand flies. Not even mozzies at night. It was heaven.
Get comfortable…I have a lot to write in this section.
Hard Rock Cancun is in a great location in what’s known as “the hotel zone,” all set along a stunning stretch of beach boasting turquoise water and powder-white sand.
The resort is nice and compact but has everything you could possibly need. This is in stark contrast to the Hard Rock Punta Cana, which is enormous and often requires hopping in one of the roving golf carts to get from A to B. With 601 guest rooms, even at capacity the Cancun property didn’t feel crowded unless you were trying to find a set of four loungers by the pool. Plus it was easy to get everywhere quickly.
I can’t write enough about the service and staff at Hard Rock Cancun. Wow. My girlfriends — who have all travelled extensively — agreed that the service was top-notch and never faltered. From housekeeping to bartenders to servers to entertainment staff, we encountered five-star service day after day. We tipped for exceptional service but didn’t notice a dip in service at all if tips weren’t flowing.
Not gonna lie, I was nervous about the food. While the Hard Rock’s food in Punta Cana was good, it wasn’t five-star and I don’t count it in the top 10 when I think of all-inclusive resort food. The Hard Rock Hotel Cancun, on the other hand, is definitely in my top 10. Actually, if we take the buffet out of the equation (which is nothing special), it’s probably in my top three. Because the a la carte restaurants are THAT good. They’re like going to actual restaurants where you have expectations that supersede those you may have of an all-inclusive.
There are seven restaurants onsite. We made it only to Zen for breakfast, because it was so good we didn’t want to mess with a good thing. In fact, by day two I’d created my own breakfast concoction that began over in the Mexican food section with what I have to call a tostada because I don’t know what it’s actually called. The woman behind the grill starts by melting freshly grated cheese, topped with the meat of your choice — trust me, just go with the chorizo. Then she adds a tortilla and flips it over. Now, instead of letting her finish it off by folding it in half, ask her to keep it open-faced; add some sour cream, grilled onions and habanero salsa from the selections in front of the grill. Then make your way over to the omelette station and have it topped with a fresh fried egg. Pair with bacon (because BACON). This combo was breakfast heaven!
We ate lunch at Pizzetto one day, and we had dinner at Ipanema (Brazilian), The Market buffet, and Frida (Mexican). I was impressed with everything except the buffet, which is limited by all-inclusive standards.
Our favourite dinner was definitely at Frida, and having tried nearly everything on the menu between the four of us, I can tell you that it’s all really, really great food. I have to request a moment of silence for Frida’s house-made margaritas, which are mixed right at your table. So.Freaking.Good.
You’ll want to look for the Fresh Fix menu at select Hard Rock Cancun restaurants. A Mexican-born graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Chef Karla Hernandez, has worked with the Hard Rock chain in Mexico to create a healthier culinary experience that focuses on organic, locally sourced ingredients. I ordered a few items from the Fresh Fix menu while we dined at Frida and they were all excellent. The ceviche is beyond compare.
Apparently, there’s 24-hour room service. But we never used it because we were only in our rooms to shower and sleep.
When it comes to bars and lounges, the Hard Rock in Cancun has five of them, all featuring top-shelf liquor. This was another area where I was pretty skeptical, because our Hard Rock drinks experience in Punta Cana wasn’t great. Every drink was way too sugary and made without any legit skill. So, for research purposes, we ordered several different kinds of cocktails in every corner of the resort; they were excellent. In fact, compared to the other all-inclusives I’ve visited, this had one of the best pina coladas of all time. And killer mojitos. And yummy Dirty Monkeys. Even the house red wine was decent.
We had basic oceanfront rooms with two queen beds. Ocean-facing is nice, not only for the view but for the breeze. The mattresses are VERY comfortable and the pillows are quite good, too. The linens were fresh every day, and nice in which to sleep. Absolutely no complaints from any of the four of us about beds or bedding.
There’s a two-person jacuzzi tub in the room — ours did not get used, but it looked spacious. On the other side of the tub is a half privacy wall with two sinks and an area to freshen up. Behind that is a washroom with a shower that had some of the best water pressure ever.
My gym-nut girlfriend assures me the gym is really nice, and also came with some nice eye candy. We will just have to take her word for it, because I didn’t step foot in there once.
We found the housekeeping convenient. Only once did we return to our room and find them in there. Somehow, they managed to work around our comings and goings the rest of the trip. Everything was fresh and clean, with plenty of new towels each day. Evening turn-down service, complete with little Hershey bars was unnecessary but lovely.
If you’ve never been to a Hard Rock hotel, be prepared for super fun decor throughout. It is, obviously, mostly rock memorabilia — think outfits worn by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shakira, Madonna and Britney Spears, or Fergie’s shoes. It’s kind of like being in a rock ‘n roll hall of fame, actually. But beyond that, the curation of eclectic furniture (of the shimmering velvet variety) from one wall to the next is really cool.
The “public” washrooms at Hard Rock Cancun were incredibly clean. I don’t know what they use by way of cleaning products but they always smelled amazing and freshly cleaned.
The pool is huge and gorgeous. It’s an infinity pool that runs from one wing of the hotel to the other, overlooking the beach. There’s a swim-up bar at each end. As you walk out the main doors toward the pool, it’s important to know that the right-hand side of the pool is the quieter end. The left-hand side has louder music and this is where the entertainment committee plays games and tends to interact with guests. It’s a lot of fun, but it does go on all day.
If you upgrade to Rock Royalty, you’ll get a fancy VIP bracelet and it means you can access some quieter areas and pools. Head to the third floor with these wrist bands. Here, you’ll also find another bar and restaurant — as well as a Nespresso coffeemaker! (Love this coffee.) There are shady spots up here, even on windy days when the umbrellas aren’t hoisted.
Although it can be tough to find spots by the pool, it’s really easy to find loungers any time of day on the beach. Plus, there’s an even nicer breeze down there. And, hello, the ocean! Don’t try and sneak into a cabana — we tried. They’re for rent only. But those palapas are fair game.
If you’re dead set on being pool-side, Hard Rock staff will help you find available loungers, removing towels that are “holding” spots that have been there longer than 40 minutes. This isn’t great news for those who come to “reserve” loungers before heading off for a long breakfast. Chances are good that your spots will be occupied by someone else. But this is fantastic for those of us who get frustrated seeing loungers with a towel and water bottle on it, roasting under the sun (or, worse, hogging valuable shade) for hours and hours — seemingly claimed by no one.
Let’s talk about the Music Lab at Hard Rock Cancun. There are four opportunities a week to rock out like the star you are. We missed a few of them, but we were there in time to sign up for the weekly Jam Session. It’s for ages 12+ and despite the fact that I had to force my friends to do it with me, they all agreed in the end that it was a lot of fun. Here’s how it works:
- Sign up at the concierge — as a single person or a group
- Choose an instrument (whether you’ve played it before or not): drums, electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, vocals; I went with vocals, baby!
- Select your level (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
- Show up when and where you’re told
- Pick a song and spend an hour learning it; even if you’ve never picked up a guitar, you’ll know four chords by the end of the practise session!
- Take a break (and grab a drink)
- Perform in front of everyone at the party end of the pool, like this:
If that’s still not enough to quell your inner music goddess, there’s another hands-on music experience that sounded really neat called The Sound of Your Stay — delivery of Fender guitars for impromptu “jamming” in your room. As well as DJ equipment if the mood strikes! Both available at no cost at all participating Hard Rock Hotels.
It’s just FUN here. I would totally come back.
You need to know that Hard Rock Cancun sits on a public beach, so expect lots of peddlers each day. They aren’t intrusive, though, and you might find a good deal on sterling silver jewelry, straw beach bags and hair braids.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s darn near impossible to find loungers by the pool if you have a later breakfast.
Those two-person Jacuzzis I said were in our room? Well, they are RIGHT in your room beside the beds. Forget trying to have a bath if you’re there with a friend. Also, strangely, the Jacuzzi features side-by-side seats rather two facing each other on opposite sides.A rather odd choice for romance. Unless you’re super into holding hands while you bathe.
The night club was just OK — and that was pretty surprising, given the Hard Rock’s reputation. The DJ was amazing, but there just wasn’t much action in there the night we gave it a whirl.
The Hard Rock Hotel Cancun’s rooms were really well soundproofed overall, but I could hear our neighbour’s door open and close every night and morning. Quizzically, there was no noise from room to room once they were actually inside, and very minimal noise coming in from the hallway at any given time.