Matador Life associate editor Candice Walsh argues in defense of the all-inclusive.

IN JANUARY, I was invited on my first press trip to Cancun, Mexico, with Royal Holiday. I showed up at the Cancun Caribe Park Royal Grand, exhausted from over 10 hours of flying, just in time to enjoy a margarita on the rooftop deck of Ekinox. The bar with its cabanas would soon become my favourite hangout…the cute bartender helped.

After nearly a year of collecting pennies for groceries, discovering the custard and chocolate concoction awaiting me in my sea-blue, massive room was like finding the Holy Grail. I pulled back my curtains the next morning to the brightest ocean I had ever seen.

A room with a view. Photo by author.

On resort

Chill – Lounge by the pool. Take a dip in the ocean. Soak in the hot tub. Learn a dance. Build a sandcastle. Grind with Mexicans.

Do spa – I was treated to a full spa experience, including a steam room and sauna session, where I thought I might pass out on the hot tiles after the toxins sweated out of my body. Then I had a massage from a guy wearing a turban. My skin smelled like cocoa butter for hours, and my muscles felt elastic.

Tip well, and wink when doing so.

Enjoy all-inclusive everything – Buffets, dessert tables, fruit smoothies, a la cartes. Eat the shit out of that resort. Screw nutrition.

The highlight of my trip was the calzone made to look like the Mexican flag at El Mirador restaurant. Italian, go figure.

Drink – We tried xtabentun, a liqueur made only in the Yucatan from anise seed and fermented honey, as well as Mexican beers like Bohemia, Victoria, and Pacifico.

From Ekinox, the rooftop bar. Photo by author.

At the Lobby Cassis bar, we invented the Julio Loco with mango and chocolate. I made the decision to become a drink photographer. My dreams haven’t yet transpired.

The downside is coming back to the real world where you pay $6/cocktail.

Off resort

Avoid that Cancun (if you want) – The town doesn’t have to be one big party.

The only time I witnessed insane shenanigans was on my last night out at Carlos’n Charlie’s, a bar where an aggressive waitress poured me shots of tequila while blowing a whistle and tweaking my nipples, a clown ambled from table to table making balloon animals, and young girls danced on the bar.

Hit markets – Once you get away from La Isla, where resorts dominate, food can become an exploration. My group and I wandered into Mercado 28 and paused at a food joint for pabil, salbutes, and panuchos. I hardly know what any of those things are, but they were delicious.

Isla Mujeres. Photo by author.

Explore – Your resort is set up to plan nice little packaged excursions for you. Sometimes putting your fate in someone else’s hands is where it’s at.

There was snorkelling in the coral reef and boating through the mangroves. I also took a trip to Isla Mujeres, where I strolled along a white-stoned ocean walkway, made friends at a turtle farm, and ate ice-cream at Punta Sur, with its ancient Mayan Temple to Goddess Ixchel sitting among art nouveau sculptures meant to embody the “Yucatan spirit.”