There’s a new flag flying on the sun-kissed white sand beaches of Cancun, Mexico. The former Gran Caribe Resort in the Hotel Zone is Panama Jack Resorts Cancun — and it’s brighter, fresher and more fun than ever. Read on for why this family-friendly all-inclusive resort in Cancun will be your new favorite.
This collaboration between Playa Hotels & Resorts and beachwear brand Panama Jack flipped the switch on the “old” Gran Caribe Resort located in the heart of Cancun’s Hotel Zone to its new “retro hip” brand with that laid-back all-inclusive vacation Mexico famously offers.
Although there are still some pieces remaining in its multimillion-dollar upgrade, like me, travelers will love the bright colors and friendly customer service.
Arrival to Panama Jack Resorts Cancun
Perhaps the best thing about booking your family vacation in Cancun is that it’s a short ride to your hotel (even when during those afternoon thunderstorms!).
Upon landing at the international airport and navigating the craziness of the arrival hall and the vying of time-share representatives, your selected transportation provider facilitates the madness and directs you to your van. For first-timers, this is likely the most confusing, but be patient and wind your way through the lines and (after the initial blast of humidity), you’ll start relaxing and be on your way to your Cancun resort — usually within 30-45 minutes.
A Panama Jack Welcome
The moment I step into a lobby of a Mexico resort hotel, I always take in a deep breath of the ocean-fresh air — and relax. And in this case, I realized that I had stayed at its predecessor, the Gran Caribe, yet Panama Jack’s lobby was cleaner, brighter, with wood accents and my favorite color combinations of blue, white and gray.
The front desk was redesigned with vintage suitcases and really fun travel-themed pieces.
Surprisingly my flight had arrived 30 minutes early (just after 12 noon), and while my check-in was smooth in the VIP area of the hotel (4th floor), unfortunately, my room wasn’t quite ready. I left my bags in the VIP area and decided to explore the resort on my own.
Jack’s Landing – The Lobby Bar
But the first stop…return to the main floor, step up to the elevated Jack’s Landing, the lobby bar, another full renovation with a nod to the relaxed Panama Jack style. Again, the colors are enticingly nautical, and more favorites are the scripted quotes located throughout the resort, courtesy of Panama Jack himself.
The lobby bar is always my favorite place to hang out and people watch. This is also where the resort hosts karaoke, live music, and entertainment.
Accommodations at Panama Jack Resorts Cancun
Although you may not spend much time in your room with the white sand beaches beckoning your family, a wide range of accommodations is a necessity. Whether traveling as a couple, with your family or multi-generational family, Panama Jack Resorts Cancun offers a variety of 458 suites that fits your needs and budget
Contemporary with that retro-hip design, Panama Jack Resorts Cancun offers comfortable and beautiful accommodations. Choose from standard rooms with a king or double room to family junior suites with (322-387 square feet), or upgrade to master one-bedroom suites (645 sq.ft) to the Presidential Suite at 1,366 square feet. No matter which you choose, included in your accommodations are private balconies, free WiFi (throughout the resort), flat screen TV, fully stocked refrigerators, turndown service and more.
My room was a simple standard with one king bed, a couple steps down into a sitting area, and a balcony overlooking the pool and just beyond the ocean.
For those who need to stay connected, free WiFi is also available in your room. While I did not have any issues with connections, a few of the other travelers I encountered did mention some problems with the WiFi. TIP: I did discover that the area near the lobby coffee shop offered the strongest WiFi signal.
Camp Jack – Kids’ Club
On the opposite side, the lobby bar opens to the lagoon side of the resort, a family pool, and Camp Jack’s pirate ship, splash area and slides for kids. Included in your resort package, enroll your kids in Camp Jack with adventures for kids ranging from water sports to arts and crafts.
In addition to the fun pirate ship, this area includes a medieval castle, Mini Golf, a waterpark and even a teen program (called #Hashtag) for ages 13-17. For an additional charge, Red Cross certified babysitters are available for ages 4-12.
Dining and Bar Options
Ultimately, Panama Jack Resorts Cancun will offer 13 gourmet eateries and fun bars. During my mid-May visit, three of the restaurants were undergoing renovations and not open: Viaggio Italian Cuisine, Ventanas International Cuisine, and Casa de Rosa Mexican Cuisine.
But there were still plenty of options for dining including At Sunset, the rooftop Classic American & European Cuisine restaurant, with views of the lagoon. open for breakfast and dinner.
One of their new dining digs was Deck 74, a casual buffet-style restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, located off the main pool and near the beach. This was my go-to for breakfast as I loved sitting out on the terrace, sipping my coffee, reading a book, and enjoying the beach view and breeze.
And who doesn’t love thatched roof bars strategically located steps from the pool? Their new Amigo’s Bar provides shade from the often-scorching afternoon heat — and friendly bartenders who shake up a refreshing margarita. And of course, I already mentioned the lobby bar, Jack’s Landing.
For breakfast, be sure to stop at Panama Jack Coffee Company — great coffee for sure, but the best is the freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Listen for the bell to signal that a new batch is ready!
More Vacation Fun at Panama Jack Resorts Cancun
Panama Jack’s “service from the heart” theme also encourages the staff to think outside of the box with programming including flash-mob dances, poolside tiki parties, cooking classes, and even a catch-of-the-day fishing workshop.
During my visit, I witnessed a flash-mob dance and a mime artist wandering the hotel lobby photo-bombing guests. Totally fun!
No Mexico resorts are complete unless it offers relaxing spa treatments. Aura Spa featuring traditional spa treatments, natural therapies and salon services, plus those beachfront massages!
Rates and booking
Hotel rates will vary with season and there are always special offers, so make sure you check the hotel website. You can compare rates and also book through a wide array of OTAs like Hotels.com, Expedia and others.
Photos courtesy: Panama Jack Resorts Cancun and Diana Rowe / Traveling InHeels.
Accommodations provided courtesy of Panama Jack Resorts Cancun for the purpose of a review; opinions expressed are my own.