Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

GREAT WINTER ESCAPE PRIZE OPTION #1: Barcelo Maya Colonial Beach Resort

Get pampered like never before in Mexico

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You've reached paradise as soon as you check in at the beautiful Barcelo Maya Colonial Beach Resort on Mexico's Riviera Maya.

Surrounded by lush greenery, fragrant flowers and situated on a powdery, white sand beach, the resort is a popular choice with vacationers looking for elegant accommodation and superior service.

Located 25 kilometres south of Playa del Carmen and 75 kilometres from Cancun, this Mexican colonial-style resort is situated on 500,000 square metres of beachfront property and shares facilities with the Barcelo Maya Caribe Resort, the Barcelo Maya Beach Resort, the Barcelo Maya Tropical Beach Resort and the Barcelo Maya Palace.

Guests at the Colonial can use all of the facilities of the other resorts, except the Palace.

"Basically you stay at one hotel and can play at the other three," says Corwin Kostenchuk, general manager of Winnipeg's Ixtapa Travel.

"You can get a lot of exercise if you walk the entire complex ... or you can take the golf-cart train that transports guests around the resort. But the food is so good here, with a choice of four à la carte and two buffet restaurants, that you'll need to walk just to burn off those extra calories."

The resort features seafood, Asian, Italian and steakhouse à la carte restaurants (reservations required) as well as two buffets. The buffets aren't boring, with special food stations featuring fresh pasta, seafood, specialty meats, Mexican dishes and more.

You can also burn off calories by joining in the many activities offered during the day, including beach volleyball, kayaking, tennis, mini-golf, aqua cycles, aquatic exercise and dance lessons.

For the truly committed, there's a gym with weight and aerobic machines. For the less-committed, there's a pool table and a swim-up bar. The beach area is perfect for snorkelling or simply strolling.

The Great Winter Escape Contest winner will stay in a Prestige Class deluxe room with balcony or terrace, complete with a king-size or two double beds, hairdryer, alarm clock, coffee-maker, mini-bar, iron and sofa. As part of the Prestige program with Transat Holidays, guests also receive concierge service, a guarantee of four à la carte restaurant reservations, separate check-in, beach towels and bathrobe in your room, VIP room amenities (soaps and lotions), turn-down service, fruit platter upon arrival, plus a welcome gift.

"The Barcelo Maya complex is the perfect example of a full, all-inclusive resort. You can leave your wallet and worries at home," Kostenchuk says.

But not leaving the complex would mean missing out on the many sites and activities offered along the Riviera Maya. The area was once called the Cancun-Tulum Corridor, but was renamed in 1999 to Riviera Maya and now stretches from Puerto Morales, north of Playa del Carmen, to Felipe Carrillo Puerto, just south of Tulum.

The area continues to grow and is still the most popular winter-resort destination for Manitoba travellers.

Transat Holidays offers a number of tours that can be purchased from their representatives at the resort. One unforgettable tour is to the ruins of Chichen Itza, once the capital of the Mayan empire and one of the most important ceremonial and religious centres in the Americas. Built in 600 A.D., this well-preserved site has been designated one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Other tours include driving through the jungle on your own ATV and swimming in the crystal clear waters of a cenote (fresh-water cave). You may also want to try a full-day snorkelling tour to explore the underwater sea life of the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest coral reef in the world.

On your own, you can head into Playa del Carmen for a day of shopping or catch the ferry to the island of Cozumel. Surrounded by turquoise water, Cozumel is a scuba diver's paradise.

So, whether you want lots of activity or prefer to simply sit and soak up the sun, Barcelo Maya Colonial Beach in Riviera Maya is the perfect choice for that Great Winter Escape.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2011 E5

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