How this next level all-inclusive won our hearts and our loyalty
When you hear “all-inclusive” do you cringe a little? Maybe think of watered down drinks, run down facilities, cliché activities and mediocre, mass produced buffet slop? Yeah, I did too. But that didn’t stop me from visiting them occasionally. As the planner and money manger in our home, vacationing on a cruise or at an all-inclusive provides an extra layer of freedom and relaxation for me. When I’m not whipping out a credit or room card for every purchase!
My husband, Joel, and I are avid travel deal hunters (blog on that coming soon) and are always on the lookout for the best bang for our buck. We were considering a little getaway for my birthday last year (in July), when he stumbled upon Unico through Southwest Vacations. As a brand new hotel (they had just opened in March) they were offering crazy good deals (like 35% off), and we were intrigued. After checking out their website and a few of the very first reviews, we kept glancing at our potential cost for four nights and thinking…um….is this too good to be true?!
Spoiler alert: IT WAS EVEN BETTER.
In fact, we loved it SO much that we couldn’t wait to go back. We love to adventure and NEVER thought we would want to spend vacation days going BACK somewhere we had already experienced, especially to an all-inclusive in Mexico. But Unico has proved us wrong.
We just returned (as in late yesterday) from a week-long stay with two other couples celebrating a 40th birthday. And guess what? We are already thinking of when our next trip could be!
So what makes Unico so special? Why am I calling it “next-level” and does their website boast “a new category of all inclusive?” It’s built to break down your pre-conceptions of what that kind of hotel and vacation mean, and from our perspective, they are doing just that.
What We Love:
This is one of the HUGE differentials and something I was a little hesitant about at first. “All-inclusive” means food and drink, but what about all other fun stuff? At Unico, that’s included, too. And not just one or two in each category, but a whole lot of awesome. The only asterisk is that you DO pay a 20% service charge, BUT you are not expected (or even encouraged) to leave additional gratuity, so the service charge acts as your tip and makes these inclusions affordable and even more heavenly.
Yes, select spa and salon treatments are included through Unico’s Esencia Wellness program and it’s not just a massage or two, it’s an experience in relaxation. They recommend you arrive an hour before your appointment for hydrotherapy, where you are given your locker, robe and spa slippers and guided through a complete spa ritual: shower, sauna (with cucumbers and a cool towel placed over your eyes), cool pressure shower, steam room, ice exfoliating, hot tub massage, cold dip pool and finally, seated in a heated lounge chair with a warm aromatherapy neck wrap and offered tea and fruit or cookies while you wait for you therapist. Yes, it is THAT blissful.
You can look at the complete spa menu here, inclusions noted. This trip, I enjoyed the Relaxing Couples Massage, Inhibit Facial, Esencia Signature Four Hand Massage, and the Shaaman Wrap – all amazing and all for a total service charge of what ONE service might cost if not included!
Yes, day trips to the ruins and the islands, evening dinner cruises and a variety of off site adventures are included! We didn’t experience this on our last trip, but did book two included excursions this time around and were wowed once again.
We chose to make some dolphin friends with the Couples Dream swim package and got a solid hour of focused time in the water – just the two of us, and our two new friends with the trainer leading us through a ton of activities. For $40 a person. SERIOUSLY AMAZING!
A few days later, we enjoyed the Xtreme Mayan Jungle tour, complete with 7 zip lines over the jungle canopy, a quick rappel lesson, snorkeling in a gorgeous closed cenote and tasty local lunch for $19.80 each. I MEAN COME ON!
Yes, even this is included! The guys checked this out for a round and were enthralled with the jungle course. They take you over to the Hard Rock for a challenging 18 holes in the Mexican wilderness, where carts, food and booze are all still included.
One of my other favorites about Unico is their interactive, service and planning app. I recommend downloading before you arrive (although high speed wi-fi is also included). From the app you can: submit pre-arrival requests, view the property map, check out the activities schedule, look through dining options and make reservations, order room service or poolside service (food and drinks), set your Do Not Disturb or Wake Up Call, request housekeeping, order from the Pillow Menu, book spa treatments…. And more. Ya’ll, it’s genius.
I love the décor and aesthetic of the entire property, as it’s meant to include nods to Mexican culture and craftsmanship while providing comfort and luxury. There was clearly a ton of thought put into the design, with overlapping blackout curtains, a sliding privacy screen for the bathroom (so you can look at the ocean while you put on your make up if desired), velvety bedding, customized mini bar and snack selections, and an in room mixology program. With the exception of swim out rooms, each room is outfitted with a two person Jacuzzi tub on the balcony and everything you need to make that easy (bath salts, a book stand, red wine, wine glasses, robes, slippers)….and of course, the ability to request your tub be filled at a certain time from the app.
Food & Drink
HOLY YUM. The thought that has been put into their food and drink program is next level, and more reminiscent of your favorite luxury dining experience than a bland pool buffet. They offer several dining options for each meal, all prepared beautifully, and ranging from Italian and Mexican to fresh sushi and steaks. It’s the little extras that make me look forward to every meal – the digestive cart after the pasta course at Mi Carisa, the choose your own margarita cart and flaming Mayan coffee at Cueva Siete, the Ice Cream Truck dessert at the 2087 Grille, the flakiest chocolate croissant I’ve had outside of France to go with the craft coffee at Inez Café, the most incredible poolside tacos and wood-fired pizzas… oh and did I mention the 24/7 room service?
Also, the bars are not stocked with well, no-name brands. They are pouring the good stuff, the brands you love and have always wanted to try. They have a curated mixology program and each bar offers a creative list of cocktails to taste.
Is just what you would expect – not just great, but exceptional. Everyone we experienced offered not only fabulous service, but genuinely seemed pleased to be helping us, so we asked about it. Several staff shared that they love working at Unico because they are treated and paid better than they have ever been. Let me tell you, it shows.
Gerardo, who greeted us no less than 1 minute after we snagged a coveted pool daybed, made sure all six of us had everything we could possibly need to eat and drink for multiple days. He ensured our palomas never got less than half empty, that our water bucket always had fresh ice and that our favorite bartender always made us the best piña coladas. He’s the man.
Another fun distinction with Unico service is a designated local host, who serves as a personal concierge for a small number of rooms. I’m convinced that Diana (our local host) is a wizard, as she found us in restaurants, poolside and even on a beach walk to assist with dining reservations, luggage pick up, birthday celebration décor… anything we needed, she made sure we got it.
For me, this is part of what makes Unico just right for us. We love to be social and always end up making friends on trips, but we also love to steal away for some quiet relaxing and romance. I like a pool party, but want to sleep at night. Unico has created a culture that allows you to do both, and strives to offer unique experiences, instead of a foam party. We enjoyed hydro-Pilates, floating yoga, mixology courses, salsa dancing lessons, cooking classes, live shows and even astrology!
What You Should Know:
Although I’m sure it’s fabulous most of the year, I would highly recommend visiting between June and the first week in September for a few reasons. 1) Unico offers a Summer Superbia program featuring celebrity DJ’s, chefs and performances along with high-end tastings (think Dom Pérignon). 2) Whale sharks are migrating through the waters nearby and you can swim with them during this time period! We met these massive creatures during our stay last year and it was a bucket list experience. 3) Sea turtles are laying their eggs on the beaches RIGHT in front of the hotel! You can walk down after dinner and see these gorgeous ladies up close and personal and learn about the hotel funded hatching programs. Such a cool treat!
Although we always look for the best deal, we’ve found booking direct through the Unico website is usually the best. We got to take advantage of a complimentary room upgrade that took us from Ocean View to Ocean Front and (as you can see from my photos) we loved it!
The app makes this easy, but I do recommend you get a loose game plan and book a few things ahead accordingly.
Submit to book your Excursions here, and an agent will respond with a ton more information than you can get from the website and it’s super helpful for making decisions: all price and service fee details, trip durations, days offered and pick up times. Once you get those nailed down, use the app the secure restaurant reservations and book spa treatments. Although the restaurants do leave space for walk-ins and the spa holds some time slots, booking in advance means you can get the ideal times and dates you want for the meals and treatments you want!
What They Need Some Work On:
As much as I love this resort, I would be doing you (and them) a disservice to not mention where they could use some improvement. Although minimal, these are pieces that can affect your vacation experience.
I’ve tried to give you my tips in the section above, based on things I didn’t know. Or only learned about the second time around, and thought, “why didn’t someone tell me?!” Particularly when it comes to booking excursions, reach out through their website as soon as you can. Use the responding agent and the info they share to make your initial decisions. Also, that agent can offer you a few spa specials that fall under inclusions only for that month. You MUST book through them and not the app to take advantage of those specials under inclusion.
As I’ve mentioned, I’m a planner. I get super excited about things and will orchestrate my whole day around them. If they don’t happen, I’m pretty bummed. I’m working on being more flexible in real life, but I didn’t expect to deal with that at Unico. We showed up bright and early poolside one morning for hydro-pilates and the instructor never showed. Fortunately, I did get to catch a class later in the week). I booked a spa treatment around boozy paletas poolside, and could never find them. This is the one area where I really want Unico to get their act together!
…and that’s it for complaints.
Okay, so much information, I know! And there is still tons more I could tell you about. If you have any specific questions, shoot me an email or let me now in the comments below. And by all means, if you want to meet me up in Mexico, I’ll see you at Unico!
Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. I did reach out to their social media coordinator to see if they wanted me to cover anything specific in my review. I was pretty bummed to not hear back! That said, this is my truly unbiased view.