A country’s cuisine is a portal into its culture. At all-inclusive resorts, that portal is often obscured by dining options that aim to provide international travelers with globally inspired provisions rather than an authentic taste of the resort’s home country. In Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where all-inclusive resorts are plentiful, Hotel Xcaret Arte is an exception.
A 900-room, adults-only all-inclusive resort, Hotel Xcaret Arte opened in July 2021 and is owned and managed by Grupo Xcaret, a 100-percent Mexican company that’s committed to promoting sustainable tourism and celebrating Mexican culture. Since opening, Hotel Xcaret Arte has captivated guests (and their taste buds) with its unique take on the all-inclusive concept — with 10 signature restaurants helmed by Mexican chefs, a couple of whom have received Michelin stars for their talents, the gastronomic experience at Hotel Xcaret Arte is one of the resort’s major draws.
When you book an all-inclusive vacation, you might think that you can just walk into any restaurant at any time. At many all-inclusives, that’s true of the buffets but not of non-inclusive specialty restaurants that require reservations. When it comes to the culinary scene at Hotel Xcaret Arte, maximizing your experience requires a little extra leg work, whether deciding where to dine or securing reservations. But it’s well worth the planning and effort.
Here are a few tips and tricks to ensure that you get a true taste of what the Hotel Xcaret Arte restaurants have to offer.
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Research Hotel Xcaret Arte’s restaurants in advance
Maximizing the dining experience at Hotel Xcaret Arte begins with browsing all of the menus on the hotel’s website before you go. With 10 signature restaurants — Xaak, Encanta, Chino Poblano, Cantina VI.AI.PY., Kibi-Kibi, Mercado de San Juan, Cayuco, Tah-Xido, Arenal, and Apapachoa — representing flavors from across Mexico, Mexican fusion, and global cuisines, it’s helpful to have an idea of what you’re most interested in sampling before you get there.
While the menus may not be the most up-to-date, as they change seasonally and periodically based on what’s available locally, they’ll give you a feel for the flavors you’ll be nibbling on at each spot. After deciding which restaurants look good to you, consider watching YouTube videos and searching Instagram for those restaurants specifically. There are a handful of travel creators who have done a great job giving an overview of the dining options on-site to help you narrow down which ones you want to experience the most.
Prioritize the Hotel Xcaret Arte restaurants you want to try based on the length of your stay
Many guests stay at Hotel Xcaret Arte for anywhere from a long weekend to five nights. With that stay length, you’ll want to prioritize which restaurants you request reservations for.
According to the resort staff, the hardest restaurants to get reservations at are Encanta and Chino Poblano — rightfully so, because the pre-fixe tasting menus will truly blow you away.
If you’re struggling to decide which Hotel Xcaret Arte restaurants to prioritize, here are a couple of additional tips to consider: Skip the teppanyaki grill at the Japanese restaurant, Tah-Xido, and go for the a la carte menu that features an edible bonsai tree made from chocolate and green tea sponge cake. Go to Arenal for lunch rather than dinner. While you can get a tomahawk steak at dinner at Arenal, which is part of the reason for its popularity, the dish was supremely fatty, the sides were just average, and overall, it wasn’t worth the wait. But lunch offers many fresh and delicious options.
Plus, if you really want to make the most of your time, head to the buffet before or after another meal reservation. No judgment here – it’s all-inclusive, so make the most of it!
Make your reservations early
Once you’ve narrowed down which signature restaurants you want to try, make your reservations as early as possible. This isn’t clear when you book your stay, but it’s highly recommended that you book restaurants in advance, as spots aren’t guaranteed. Reservations open up at least a few weeks prior to your visit, so email the resort concierge and ask them to reserve what you would like before you go. They’ll return with a personalized itinerary with your reservation times that will also be printed for you upon arrival.
Don’t skip the buffet
There are two buffets at Hotel Xcaret Arte, and while the breakfast buffet at Cayuco is fine, it’s Mercado de San Juan that goes the extra mile to immerse you in Mexican culture and cuisine.
A farmer selling fresh cheese from a cart, colorful swings adorned with sugary pan de muerto (sweet yeast bread), the aroma of fresh corn wafting off the tortillas atop the grill, and bright rows of papel picado (perforated paper) hanging overhead. While this scene felt like standing in the heart of a mercado in Mexico City, I was actually standing in the heart of the Mercado de San Juan buffet.
You won’t find a piece of cold pizza or soggy French fries in sight. Instead, you can enjoy cochinita pibil (Yucatán-style barbecued pork) slow-roasted inside a banana leaf. Start your day sipping on a magical 50-50 blend of café de la olla (Mexican spiced coffee) and Mexican hot chocolate, served out of customary clay pots. Or try a huarache piled high with meat, beans, and cheese atop a thick, oblong tortilla made with love by the incredible chefs cooking made-to-order indulgences. The number of options is seemingly endless.
Attend Hotel Xcaret Arte’s special events
When you arrive at Hotel Xcaret Arte, you are greeted with a cold aromatic towel and an icy popsicle — the Mexican hot chocolate popsicle is a perfect marriage of sweet and spicy, and the lemon basil popsicle is the epitome of a refreshing treat. As you’re checked in, a gracious butler who can answer all of your questions accompanies you until you reach your room. Take advantage of this time and ask what special events may be happening during the week.
For example, for the Academy Awards, the property put on a luxe event where each restaurant had a stand with a favorite dish. There were limitless tasting plates, from tuna tartare tostadas with caviar and 14k gold shavings to Oaxacan-inspired tamales drizzled with rich mole negro. This is one of the only ways that the average guest can try dishes from Kibi-Kibi, an exclusive on-site restaurant that only certain guests can access, and Xaak, an add-on tasting dinner that isn’t included and costs $250+ per person.
Book a Casa de las Artistas room for exclusive experiences
So, you may be asking, “How do I get into Kibi-Kibi, then?”
There’s a secret to getting a bit extra in terms of culinary experience at Hotel Xcaret Arte that’s not overtly shared: Book a room in the Casa de las Artistas building. When you book via the Hotel Xcaret Arte website, you can see which building the room you’re booking is in.
The oceanfront Casa de las Artistas building, while more expensive, has a private rooftop pool (while all the others are open to all guests), exclusive access to Yucatan-Lebanese fusion eats at Kibi-Kibi, and the sole ability to cross property lines and book spots on the property’s adjacent family side, Hotel Xcaret Mexico, which features a Brazilian steakhouse in a cave, Las Cuevas.
Go beyond the Hotel Xcaret Arte restaurants
One thing to keep in mind is that the foodie fun at Hotel Xcaret Arte goes beyond the restaurants.
Each casa, or building, on site has a pool, eatery, or bar on its rooftop. When you arrive in the morning to snag your chair, your pool butler will tell you to sit back, relax, and ask for anything you need. A tasty go-to beverage is the pina colada, topped with toasted coconut shavings and garnished with a slice of pineapple — plus, my personal favorites, an off-menu spicy passion fruit margarita or the Xcaret signature cocktail featuring vodka, lemongrass, lime juice, and cucumber puree, topped with sparkling water. Pair these with octopus tacos or ribeye nachos. No artificial flavors, fake queso, or added sweeteners to be found.
Throughout the day, you can meander around the property and find snack options like fresh fruit stands and ice cream carts. After the sun goes down, the speakeasy El Deseo opens its doors. It’s expertly hidden among the prep kitchen and employee parking garage, so you may have to ask for a hint when you’re searching for it. Once you’re pointed in the right direction, follow the red blinking lights that illuminate the pathway between Casa del Diseño and Casa de la Música, show the bouncer your bracelet, and dance the night away to live bachata or salsa.
You’ll likely be hungry after, and luckily, you have a few options. There’s a street taco stand that sets up right outside the speakeasy after 10 PM, and you can also head back to your room and order the complimentary room service — or perhaps both, depending on how many of the smooth, smoky mezcal cocktails you sipped on while on the dance floor.
Plus, each night, you’ll come back to a sweet treat on your pillow, held in a handmade woven basket that you can take home with you.
Always be willing to try new plates
The last piece of advice for travelers looking to take advantage of the impressive number of dining options at Hotel Xcaret Arte is to be willing to go outside your comfort zone and try new things.
For plant-based food, visit Apapachoa, which loosely translates to, “I hug you from the soul.” The rooftop restaurant has featured plates including meat-free chilaquiles, fresh juices, and a delicious cashew yogurt with blue spirulina and fresh berries served inside a coconut shell.
If you’re feeling gutsy, visit Cantina VI.AI.PY to try tostadas that are served with Oaxacan favorites, including grasshoppers, chicatana ants, and agave grubs. They’re really salty and a perfect addition to a plate for extra crunch.
Ultimately, what all the restaurants on the property have in common is a goal to feature fresh, local plates that celebrate Mexican cuisine and culture. This is one of the things that makes staying at Hotel Xcaret Arte a special experience — one that you won’t find at just any all-inclusive in Mexico, or anywhere else for that matter.