Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

Ixtapa, Mexico:

April, 2008




Setting the Stage

We are experienced Club Med travelers, having paid about 20 visits to 7 different villages over the past 20 years, but never a "Family village". We had an opportunity to visit a recently renovated village and find out just what is different about the family villages, so we thought it would be interesting to check out Ixtapa.

The main entry to the village


Getting there and back

From Atlanta, Continental and Continental Express offered the best fare and a very reasonable schedule, leaving Atlanta at about 9:00 AM, connecting through Houston and getting into Ixtapa at 2:00. Since we were traveling on "off-days" (Monday and Sunday) Club Med provided a taxi for us each direction so that made it quick and easy. Baggage retrieval and customs clearance in Ixtapa were quick and we were at the village by about 3:00. The return flight, again through Houston got us into Atlanta about 10:30 PM.

Around the Village

The Club Med Ixtapa Pacific village has just undergone a massive renovation and the facilities are really very nice. To be sure, there are a few rough edges, but we happened to visit during the official Grand (Re)opening week and there was still some final finishing going on. Club Med has been focused on moving "up-scale" over the past several years and the Ixtapa Village reflects this change. Don't expect a fancy Hyatt or Hilton type resort; it's not that kind of "up-scale". The lobby is not all marble and mahogany and the bars are not dark quiet retreats, rather the entire village has a very lively atmosphere: everything is very nice but not pretentious or stuffy. You would not feel uncomfortable or out-of-place anywhere in the village wearing a swimsuit and t-shirt. The "up-scale" strategy is not universally endorsed by many long-time Club Med fans: while we welcome some changes, others are a bit more troubling. More about that later.

Some of the well landscaped grounds.


The grounds are relatively extensive with a fairly long (about 1/2 mile) beach all to itself. The beach has a very gradual slope and does not get deep quickly, perfect for children. But the beach sand is a medium-dark gray, not the brilliant white sand of the typical Caribbean island beach. The beach faces the Pacific Ocean but is protected by some reefs and the Ixtapa Island about a mile offshore, so the waves on the beach are relatively small and benign.

A view of the beach as seen from the sailing area.


Along with the normal central facilities (reception, dining, bars, theater, boutique, etc) there are about 300 guest rooms, circus facilities, tennis courts, archery range, miniature golf course, rollerblade track, several pools, kids facilities, separate restaurants, and there is still enough open space so you never feel crowded. Besides the main pool (two pools, really) that is mainly for kids and families, there is also a very quiet adults-only pool (although there is no bar service close by, so it is not very popular). Everything is well maintained and very clean, including the public areas and guest rooms.


The main pool area early in the morning, before it gets busy.


The Rooms

The renovated rooms are very nice with updated fixtures such as the "rain" shower head and flat panel TVs (although with relatively few English language stations). They are well maintained and kept clean by the staff. On our arrival the maid had formed a cute little 'rabbit' from a bath towel and it was sitting on our bed.

Our room after we arrived.


The room towels are some of the largest and fluffiest I have ever seen. The normal complimentary containers of soap, shampoo, bath gel, and skin lotion were provided and refreshed every day. There were also two large (liter) bottles of water which were also refreshed every day. A mini-fridge and a coffee maker (with supplies) were in the room, but we never even made any coffee there. The drapes over the windows are very effective so you can shut out the sun and sleep as late as you like. There are different types of rooms and we had one of the smaller ones but families would typically get a nice large two room unit and some have balconies across the back. The only fault in our room was that there was no mirror within 6 feet of a power outlet which made drying your hair (with the provided hair dryer) a little challenging. We had a king bed (actually two double beds pushed together with a 'bridge") and was very comfortable. There was also a little LED reading light with individual switches on each side of the bed, making it nice for anyone who wanted to read while the spouse sleeps. Each room has a safe and sufficient closet and shelf space. While the room is very nice, most people spend very little time there so some of the amenities are somewhat wasted.

Exterior view of our building, Iguana.


The GO Team

If you have never been to a Club Med resort, you first need to understand the GO concept. GOs, Genteel (or Gracious) Organizers, are the mostly young staff who are the heart of the village. They organize most activities, provide lessons, and assist guests (GMs or Gracious Members) with anything they want. They are universally friendly, outgoing and helpful. The GOs that run the "mini-club" and some of the other kids activities must also be some of the most patient people on earth. GOs are not the "staff" or the "employees", they are your friends and companions for your visit. GOs are moved from village to village so if you visit other villages in the future, you are likely to see some of the same ones again. This time we were lucky and were able to meet up with several good GO friends, like Andrew and Brian, as well as make many new friends, like Jo, Kyle, Johnny, Peter, Kathleen and many others. Besides the GOs, much of the atmosphere of the village is set or determined by the "Chef de Village" (Chief of the Village) or CDV. The CDV is the "boss". The CDV can have a major impact on the spirit in a village and some GMs will go to villages largely based on who the CDV is (either going to or avoiding villages with specific CDVs). Jean-Marc was a very good CDV, mainly because he had assembled a very good (outstanding) GO team. Certainly (re)opening a village is a major undertaking requiring a lot of work but also providing excellent experience for those who wish to advance within the Club Med organization.

GOs and a few GMs doing "Crazy Signs"


During the celebration week there were several Club Med "dignitaries" such as the CEO (Henri Giscard D'Estaing), the head of Club Med North America, CDVs from other villages and other executives. I'm sure the presence of all the "dignitaries" probably caused more work and stress for all the local staff, but they seemed to hold up well. The day before we left a large group (120+) of Travel Agents arrived at the village and they kept Jean-Marc and the other staff busy. In general, although we saw the CDV around the village quite often, he was usually busy and we didn't have a chance to really talk with him as we usually like to do. Last year at the Columbus Isle village we had sort of "adopted" one GO, Andrew (or perhaps, he adopted us?). So we were glad to see him again this trip and I'm happy to report he is still performing as an "excellent GO", which is exactly how I referred to him when Henri Giscard D'Estaing stopped by our table one evening for a few moments. Andrew and the other GOs turned what could have been a relatively boring stay into a fun and interesting 6 days. Thanks Andrew (and Brian, Jo, Kathleen, Peter, Johnny, Kyle and all the others)!

Food and Dining


The "salad bar" part of the main restaurant


Club Med, being a French company, is generally known for providing good food and plenty of it. The main restaurant was very good, both for its' facilities (spacious, light and airy, comfortable) and the food. We did feel the food in the main restaurant was "toned down" a little from other villages, probably to make it more in keeping with the tastes of all the children there. It was very good, but just not quite the variety at each meal that we've had at other villages. There was more than usual pizza and pasta dishes and not as many highly spiced dishes. The fresh fruit was excellent, however, with very good mangos, papaya, pineapple, and even fresh guavas. The bread selection was wonderful, as usual, and most of the desserts were good, but the cheese filling in the cheesecakes was strangely flat. At breakfast they had made-to-order omelets and also made-to-order huevos rancheros, but no big serving trays of prepared eggs. So if you want scrambled or fried eggs, you had to get in line and wait to have it prepared. I did like the cooked bananas in syrup and cooked pineapple chunks in syrup on top of crepes.


Some of the desserts at dinner, and a Dolphin ice sculpture overlooking the lobsters.


The meal the evening of the official grand reopening was definitely outstanding, with lobster, Beef Wellington, and other specials, but I suspect that at least some of it was there because of the reopening celebration (but we enjoyed it anyway!). Several other nights they had sushi (mostly California rolls) and even caviar. There was obviously plenty of very good food, but we just felt that there was less of a selection for adults in order to provide a reasonable selection for kids. After all, it is a "family" village!

We visited both annex restaurants (reservation only) and they were generally exceptional. Whereas the main restaurant is buffet style (with wine and drinks provided by waiters), the annex restaurants were full table service and the servers were very attentive, although with the occasional rough edge typical of a recently opened facility. One evening we ordered coffee after the meal and it never arrived, so we just adjourned to the main bar and had our coffee there.

Luna Azul

The Luna Azul offers what they called a 'fusion' menu. Based on the menu and what we had, I'd translate that to mean that they offer some fairly 'standard' favorites, but with significant changes or enhancements to make them a bit better or different. We invited Andrew and Kathleen to join us and we all had very good meals: salads/soups, main course, and deserts were all tasty and well prepared.

Susan, Andrew, and Kathleen at Luna Azul.


Miramar's

The Miramar is billed as an "Argentina Steak House" and, as expected, focuses on beef dishes, although it does offer several others. The menu and the dishes here were more "conventional" but still very good. Jo and Peter joined us at the Miramar and I believe we all enjoyed the meal.


Peter, Jo, me, and Susan at Miramar.


If you get the opportunity, go to both annex restaurants. If you only have time for one, I'd recommend the Luna Azul. You make reservations in person at the registration desk starting at noon for dinner the following day, so plan ahead. The various restaurants and snack bars run a staggered schedule, so there is always something available to eat and drink from about 7 AM to well after midnight. Table wine is offered at both lunch and dinner and higher quality wines were available at additiional cost.

Activities

We generally go to Club Med villages to sail, windsurf and snorkel, but these activities were somewhat limited at Ixtapa. The wind did not come up enough to sail until mid afternoon, and then it was relatively light. The village has about 6 Hobie Waves (easy to sail 14' catamarans) one 16' boat that was essentially a large Wave with a jib and one standard Hobie 16. We normally took the Hobie 16 if it was available (it usually was). The sailing area was a little restricted because of the rocks and reef about mile offshore, but was sufficient to have fun. We didn't participate in the regatta as we figured that it would be more exciting for some kids or family to win that.


Sailboats up on the beach at the sailing shack.


We also got some exercise by paddling some kayaks around several times. Again, the area was a bit restricted (they did not want us paddling out to Ixtapa island, which really would have been an easy paddle) but we poked around some rocky areas at the ends of the beach. Another activity was archery. We stopped by the range three or four times to practice some. All the equipment was new and in good shape. The strongest bow was a 30 lb pull which is a little light for me, but reasonable. In a very informal little practice session our last morning, I gave Andrew a good run, but he still beat me for the high score. (Hey, I hadn't practiced since Columbus Isle last September!!) We also walk a lot, so we took a couple of walks that others may be interested in. If you go out the entrance to the village and turn left you go past two other resorts, then over a very small creek/inlet (with live crocodiles) and get to the Playa Linda area. This is a public beach area with lots of little shops and restaurants. You can take a water taxi to Ixtapa Island from here ($3.50 round trip) or just walk along the beach. If you walk south you walk by the Meila resort (only about mile before you get to some rocks that stop you). If you walk north you can go a little over a mile and then get to a point which seems to be the primary surfing beach along here. The village also offers a nice gym which we used once. There are several cardio machines and a reasonable selection of weight training equipment for such a facility. They also have a complete spa which has a beautiful view overlooking the ocean but we didn't get around to checking that out. As part of the spa they offer massages in tents down by the beach.

Excursions

We did two Club Med organized excursions: the snorkel tour to Ixtapa Island and the "Prehispanic tour". Unfortunately, I think the excursion office needs some reorganizing and improvement of their offerings. They don't really provide enough information to the GMs about the excursions or what the GMs should bring. I won't go into details, but we felt the snorkeling tour was poorly organized and not enough information was provided. For example, we were told by the Excursion GO that there would be a Club Med representative on the island to help us. Well, as we got off the water taxi the "captain" said to look for the representative "by the green umbrella". Well, there were three sections of green umbrellas. We got it worked out, but it should not have been that difficult. As for the actual snorkeling, we could tell there were lots of fish, but the water was too cloudy to see very much. You might want to get a "visibility report" before booking a snorkeling trip.


A view of the snorkeling area on Ixtapa Island.


The Prehispanic tour is billed as an "al a carte" tour, meaning that they have some basic things they do, then you determine where to go from there. This worked reasonably well, although we did not end up seeing anything to do with the "prehispanic" period, but mostly how people live there today. It would have helped if the Excursion office had provided a list of possible things to do (a "menu" for the "al a carte" tour) so we would have some idea of the possibilities before getting into the van with the guide/driver. That said, Paco (the guide/driver) was very interesting and knowledgeable and we enjoyed the tour.


One stop on the prehispanic tour included a family baking different breads using a oven fired by coconut husks.


For Families !!

But, Club Med Ixtapa Pacific is really about families and kids. Couples and singles just don't go there very much because almost everything is geared for the kids. I was amazed at the effort and facilities that were dedicated to families/kids.


Some of the facilities for the kids.. there were lots more.


The kids were broken up into 4 or 5 groups by age and, with the help and guidance of the GOs, they participated in many different activities, from just playing in a little wading pool, to learning to do tricks on the "flying trapeze". Many of the children rehearsed for and participated in several of the nightly shows, with children as young as 4 years old taking part in the circus show and obviously loving every minute of it.


A bunch of kids participated in the Circus show and loved it.


We would frequently pass groups of children going from one activity to another, with the GOs leading them in a song or a chant. The children could eat several meals with the GOs, and they were entertained at least 12 hours a day. What is really amazing is that this was all done with no "video games" or other passive "sit down and watch the computer/TV" kinds of entertainment, these kids were active all day. I'm sure they slept well at night. Our two boys are grown and gone, but if we had a family now, I couldn't think of a better place to go for a true family vacation. Even for the adults and non-family GMs, there are nighttime activities and partying. There were two "beach parties" and several events around the main bar (such as a loud and festive "Brazilian party") to keep almost everyone entertained.

A view of the Bazilian Beach Party from above.


Entertainment

The week we were at Ixapa was somewhat special since they were having the Grand Reopening celebration. There were extra events, special bands ("Milkshake" for the kids), and extra entertainment. In some cases they had multiple "shows" per night and the night of the official reopening there were several shows, a Mexican dance group, and even a fireworks display (which got interesting when the trash from the spent "shells" started falling on the crowd gathered around the pool).


I'm not sure what a "Can-Can" number has to do with the Jungle theme, but it was lively.


The GO shows were above average, including the "Jungle" show and the East Indian Shaadi show but I think the crowd favorite was the "1980s Music factory". It wasn't just the show "on stage" but all the things happening on the sides, including "groupie" sections and some of the spectators getting into the act.


Some of the action in the "Music Factory" show. Both kids and adults loved the show.


They brought Daniel and Nadine (of "Turkoise fame") in for most of the week and they performed quite a few times. There were two different "beach parties" that were well attended and the Brazilian party moved up to the main bar and was going strong (and loud) well into the night.

General Comments

Although the Ixtapa village is not the kind of village we normally go to, the great GOs and all the activities made it fun and we had a good time. of course, we are now looking forward to our trip to the Turkoise village in September.

Contact me via mike@hammocktree.us

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Club Med Entrance Sign

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