An important note before you dive in: this review of The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun is the result of two trips — one in 2017 and one in 2019. I’ve updated the water park and restaurant information pretty significantly and made adjustments in other areas where we saw differences based on our second stay. I think you’ll see in The Grand at Moon Palace review that follows that it remains the best family resort in Cancun that we’ve visited.
We were already heading to Cancun for a destination wedding a couple of years ago when we first booked The Grand Moon Palace Cancun, but at the time the water park was still under construction. So it was a pleasure to accept an invitation to check out its latest iteration within the mega-property that is Moon Palace. The Grand at Moon Palace is the jewel in the crown of this three-resort complex, and deservedly so.
If you’re looking for kid-friendly resorts in Cancun, this one should definitely be on your short list.
The Grand at Moon Palace review
Grab yourself a glass of wine or a cup-o-Joe and get ready to dig in, because I’m about to cover A LOT of information. This is certainly one of the best all-inclusive resorts in Cancun for families but is it right for your family? Let me tell you about the rooms, restaurants, waterpark, kids’ club, pools, beach and ocean before you decide for yourself. Then I’ll finish with pricing and a bit more info about the sister resorts.
The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun: accommodations
Major improvement since our first visit: In my original review, I wondered why the kids’ bracelets were equipped with door-opening technology but the adults needed to carry keys. Well, this has been remedied! It was so, so great to each get bracelets at check-in that could open the door to our room. Great job, Palace Resorts!
The rooms at the resort are spacious and have great verandas with huge lounge beds. There’s a two-person Jacuzzi in each room in what amounts to a sort-of “sunken” living room.
The bathrooms are well-equipped — including not just hair blowers but also flat irons — and feature showers that were big enough for all four of us to get into at the same time — no small feat considering my kids are pretty big now and we can no longer do this in the big shower we had custom-built for our home. I like the CHI toiletries that are provided (even if they’re replaced later in your stay with the resort’s spa products instead).
Mattresses, pillows and linens are all fresh and crisp and comfortable and I didn’t even have to ask for extra pillows like I often do. You can also make free calls from your room to numbers within Mexico, Canada and the USA. I called my parents in Canada from the bathroom (don’t judge) and the connection was super clear.
Basic rooms have two double beds or a king. But there are far more double rooms than king rooms, so getting a king when we arrived to accommodate Big B (6’6″ is no joke when it comes to beds) took some patience.
And here’s the part I still don’t understand: these rooms are pretty big. There’s enough space for two queens and I’m sure my family is not alone when it comes to size. As our kids get bigger, even they don’t fit well together in a double bed. My husband and I absolutely don’t. With two queens, we could likely even survive without a rollaway.
During our first stay (in room block 88), we had two doubles with a rollaway and we played a lot of musical beds. With that footprint, the rollaway could only go in one spot, and it blocked our access to the many dresser drawers — meaning that our clothes lived in suitcases or surfaces for the duration of our stay.
For our second visit (in room block 93), I asked for a king room and brought Big B to the check-in counter with me so they could assess his sheer size. Gratefully, they found one available. We had two rollaways brought in — neither of which blocked anything — and all was right in the world. Everyone had enough space, even if the extra beds ate up a lot of the room.
I wrote it the first time around and I’m writing it again: if budget allows, spring for a family suite. It’s a king room connected to a double, and there are extra kid-friendly amenities. PLUS A DOOR BETWEEN YOU THAT YOU CAN CLOSE WHEN THE KIDS GO TO SLEEP!
The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun: restaurants
Major improvement since our first visit: The kids’ menus! Wow. HUGE changes that I was so happy to see during our second stay. The first time around, every single a la carte restaurant in the resort had the same kids’ menu with the same four dishes on it — the typical chicken fingers and cheese pizza. Mostly accompanied by French fries. It was an effort to give them variety outside the buffet and to locate vegetables on an a la carte menu back then. Now, The Grand Moon Palace Cancun has individual kids’ menus for each of its a la cartes, in the style of the restaurant’s cuisine. With veggies! Another phenomenal improvement in just two years.
Since I’m a foodie, I have to spend a whole whack of time now swooning about The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun’s food. It is in the top three for Best Restaurants at an All Inclusive (with Grand Velas Riviera Maya and Club Med Punta Cana). Let me start with my top picks and work my way down:
After two trips, this is still our favourite restaurant of the lot, featuring Lebanese food. A meal so good we agreed it would have been worth $300 to go downtown Toronto to enjoy. In fact, we felt this way about most of the a la carte restaurants, which is saying a lot when you’re a food snob at an all-inclusive resort.
There was live music and belly dancers throughout our meal, which added to the overall authenticity and certainly amped up the entertainment value for my kids. Authenticity continues with the menu, which you read from right to left (who knew that was a Lebanese thing?!). We asked for recommendations from our server and she didn’t disappoint.
First, they keep bringing you freshly made pita/naan, which is warm and heavenly. From the Cold Mezze section, we had the labne with kalamata olives and this was so good that we kept it at the table throughout our entire dinner to use with several dishes; hummus; and baba ganoush with awarma (lamb). All were just excellent. From the Hot Mezze, we went with fried kibbeh, falafel and makanek, with the falafel being the standout among three very solid dishes. Our mains included the mixed grill, which I’d recommend for carnivores who want to try a bit of everything, and the samak bi tahine — or the catch of the day served over a creamed tahini. You really need to love tahini if you order this, because there’s not much else happening with the fish (mine was a mahi mahi, cooked as fish should be, I might add).
We had a variety of desserts, which were all very good and included exquisitely made baklava. But the showstopper was the Turkish coffee, which you can order sweetened and arrives in a ready-to-pour golden pitcher with a matching golden mug. The server lovingly pours every drop slowly before your eyes. But the presentation itself isn’t even the most impressive part — because the coffee is so freaking good that we then went back every night after dinners elsewhere to get Turkish coffee to go.
I’m so glad we made it here for lunch one day during our first stay at The Grand, because I dreamt of the burrata salad for another two years and made a point of scheduling our Tavola lunch during our most recent visit.
Do not miss out on this Italian pizza and pasta! Complete with a wood-fired clay pizza oven, Tavola’s menu has just about everything you’d expect from an Italian restaurant and executes each one with excellence.
If you’re trying to decide between the caprese or burrata salad, make no mistake: the burrata will bring you to your knees. The cheese is beyond perfection and is surrounded by incredible fire-roasted tomatoes and atop a lovely pesto. I bow down to the whole dish, and I ordered a second one just to ensure quality control. And then I ordered it again a couple of weeks ago, and wouldn’t share with anyone at our table. I was so worried it wasn’t going to live up to the hype in my memory, but it did.
We tried three pizzas — the margherita, pepperoni and diavola. The kids loved the first two — though they first had to get past the melted mozzarella blobs that are typical of fancier pizza joints, instead of the grated cheese typical of a chain — and Big B and I devoured the third. It will long live in my memory that pizza. We also tried the spaghetti Bolognese and the truffle risotto entree, which we all thought were very good.
You’ll need reservations for this new upscale Mexican a la carte restaurant, and this is probably a good time to mention that Palace Resorts has an excellent app (iOS and Android) that you should download before you arrive. You just plug in your reservation number and it will help you manage your time while you’re on vacation. Browse activities and plug them into your virtual calendar, scroll through restaurants and make note of dress codes, menus and — yes — make your own reservations.
This restaurant wasn’t open during our last visit as far as I’m aware. But I’m so glad we had the opportunity to dine there — every single thing we put in our mouths was better than the last. Flavours collided and creativity soared at Cielito Lindo!
This is a Peruvian a la carte restaurant and it even has a Peruvian chef, so you know the food is authentic. And you’ll also need a reservation. (I suggest you think through where you want to eat based on what’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and ensure you make all of your reservations the day you arrive.)
We’d only made it to Cusco the first time for lunch, which is a buffet. It was definitely worth nabbing a dinner reservation, although the overall service was quite slow — taking much longer between courses than many of the other a la cartes.
Cusco’s dishes were colourful and boldly flavourful, with hints of local and international fusion.
The Grand Buffet
The Grand at Moon Palace does, of course, have a few buffets. We went every morning for breakfast at the main buffet (The Grand Buffet) and both the selection and presentation were wonderful. There was no shortage of options no matter what kind of breakfast you wanted to have. There was even a kids’ area that was lower to the ground and made it easy for my kids to help themselves. You could have a Bavarian-style morning with meats, fish and cheese; a Mexican morning with local dishes; a healthy morning with egg-white omelettes, fresh green juices or versions of eggs Benny on sprouted grain bread.
There was a DIY yogurt station with various yogurt flavours and toppings, like toasted coconut. There was a bread counter with a toaster, flanked by a selection of infused honeys, homemade Nutella and other delicious jams and spreads. And then there were the croissants. I need a moment of silence for the croissants.
…more silence, please…
OK, that seems like a respectable amount of time to pay homage to some of the most divine croissants I’ve had anywhere on this earth — including Paris. A French pastry chef must have come in and taught someone how a croissant ought to be made: perfectly flaky, bursting with buttery goodness and a heart centre so moist it brings a tear to my eye. We learned quickly to grab a plate of these beauties as soon as we walked into the buffet each morning — because once they’re gone, they’re gone. And that, friends, is a sad, sad moment.
I also must compliment the dessert chef, because the desserts at every lunch and dinner where we visited a buffet-style spot were awesome. They were inventive (like deconstructed tiramisu) and presented with so much pretty:
A quick shout-out to Caribeño, which isn’t listed as an a la carte but is open for breakfast and lunch as a buffet and dinner as an a la carte. It was a small but satisfying breakfast (I prefer The Grand Buffet, though) and quite good for both lunch and dinner.
The real standout here was lunch, with its made-to-order taco stand on the patio. OMG — these tacos! They are a must, must, must when you’re at The Grand at Moon Palace. They were one of the most memorable things we ate during our first stay and I was so sad we couldn’t make it back there during our more recent vacay.
The sign reads “contemporary Asian cuisine,” and it’s not wrong. This is the perfect example of fusion done right, taking core cooking principles and classic menu items from traditional Asian culture and blending it with modern flair and what is clearly a team of passionate chefs. And I’m so glad I went hungry.
From the list of cold starters, we chose the seared scallops, seared wagyu and spicy tuna. Each one better than the last, setting up BIG expectations for the rest of our meal at Jade. Our hot starters included pork belly dumplings, barbecued pork belly and a steamed pork bun — which was one of the best I’ve had anywhere, including those from dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong. Big B tried the spicy seafood soup and it was fine but clearly the outlier in what was otherwise a 10-out-of-10 dinner. The octopus skewers were lovely and tender.
From the specialties section, we went with the sea bass in sweet miso, smoked duck with figs, teriyaki pork ribs and the lamb in herb sauce. My faves here are a toss-up between the sea bass and smoked duck with the pork ribs coming close behind.
Oh, and then we ordered a second round of the dumplings because they were so stellar.
This is another restaurant for which you need a reservation. Guests told me this was pretty easy to do during our first visit — before there was an app for that — and we had the same experience. Now, I’d definitely just bypass humans and use the app for all reservations!
Everything arrives in cast-iron dishes, giving it that hardcore steakhouse feel. The decor — and this is true of every restaurant — is authentic to its theme and looks like a high-end restaurant you’d find in any major city.
We started with delicious short-rib tacos and calamari that had a lovely breading. Then we moved on to a beautiful cut of beef called “picanha” (pronounced “pee-CAHN-ya”) and it was cooked to medium-rare perfection. Lamb chops? Gorgeous. Really nicely marinated and prepared, though the serving is very small so don’t make this your only entree unless you’ve got the appetite of an eight year old. Our favourite sides were the truffled corn (just wow) and the au gratin potatoes. I really liked the roasted carrots and wild mushrooms, too.
The charred octopus was nice but not as “crispy” as the menu states. I didn’t love the braised short rib as much as I wanted to, nor the black pepper crust bacon which seemed more like a hunk of ham. Overall, don’t be TOO sad if you don’t manage to get a reservation for the steakhouse.
The adults-only restaurant is French and looks incredibly high-end, but frankly fell pretty flat from beginning to end. While the service and bread basket (and the OMG-butter) were excellent, most of our apps, mains and desserts just didn’t measure up. I can’t even remember what we ate without going through photos if that tells you anything.
I don’t think the menu is the problem here. The menu sounds fantastic. But the execution is, well, not fantastic. And that’s a shame because the environment and vibe has so much promise. The good news is that you have a bunch of other truly great restaurants from which to choose at The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun.
That’s the end of The Grand’s restaurants…I think we finally made it to all of them!
One place I do want to add (and its placement here is by no means to suggest I didn’t think highly of it — it’s separate from the restaurants!) is the Boulangerie and coffee shop. Aside from being decorated with the prettiest furniture, there is no shortage of specialty coffees or sweet treats here.
We frequently enjoyed grabbing a coffee or mocha here with a slice of the delectable S’mores cake, some macarons and truffles — both done as beautifully as you’d find in a proper French pastry shop.
This seems like a good time as any to mention the resort’s wine list. When I think about all of the house wines that have been available on the included wine lists at all of the resorts we’ve visited, I’d say this one is tops. Or at least tied for first place with Beaches or Grand Velas. There is a LOT of variety available for those who like whites and reds, with at least five to seven different varietals available for each — and YOU GET THE WHOLE BOTTLE for your table. There was also one included bubbly and a rose.
Not being white drinkers, we made our way through the reds list (with the French Cabernet Sauvignon and the Petit Syrah being our faves), and we also tried the sparking wine (very dry with no sweetness, so not my personal taste) and the rose, which is also not my thing on the whole…though the server at Jade suggested making my glass into a spritzer and that was tastier.
Don’t see anything on the free wine list and feel a bit spendy? You can upgrade your wine anytime — there are several options, including some really lovely favourites of mine (like Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon).
While we’re on the topic of food and beverages, it’s worth mentioning that the cocktails at all of the bars are made fresh and not from the garbage that comes out of pre-mixed slushy machines. This is the way it should be at a resort billed as five stars, but you’d be amazed at how many places have the slush. Making cocktails from scratch means you can adjust the sweetness to your liking. Are the cocktails artisan-crafted every time? No. But the back bar is huge and if you can’t find something to suck back, I doubt you’re trying hard enough.
Also new since our last visit is The Library. It looks like a regular library wall from the outside, but opens up into a Speakeasy! We peeked inside while it was empty during the day and Big B went one night for some drinks after a late dinner and said it was super cool.
The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun: water park & kids’ zones
There are so many kid zones that it doesn’t matter how old your kids are, there will be something fun for them. Babies and toddlers will need to be accompanied by parents everywhere since the kids’ club doesn’t allow you to leave children under age 4. But there are some great play spaces for them, so be sure to go to the Playroom, located within the water park, and head up to the second floor.
Let me run through the main kid spaces at the Grand at Moon Palace:
Major improvement since our first visit: well, heck — it’s OPEN and that’s pretty major!
It tops just about every water park we’ve seen at any all inclusive. There are big and fast waterslides, and some slightly slower waterslides, a wave pool, lazy river, snack kiosks, a gift shop where you can find the floaty of your dreams, a full bar and poolside drinks service.
And a HUUUUUUGE FlowRider:
A big chunk of the old water park had already been replaced by this visit, but what’s there is excellent and we had so much fun zooming down the slides:
There’s also a little-kid play area with really small waterslides and fun water features, but that was under construction during our second visit (with the American builders onsite finishing up midway through our visit and mentioning it should be open in January 2020). I have no idea if it will still look like the photos below. The best part is that the water park is fully enclosed and older kids can go between the Playroom and the water park with ease.
The Playroom is the kids’ club and located within the water park. It’s two floors of fun! There’s even a snack bar inside where kids can get fresh fruit, chicken nuggets, popcorn, juice and water. Kids who are 4 to 7 must be signed in and out by a parent, but you get a mobile phone so if your kid wants out before you return, they just call you. The downside is that these kids are limited to indoor-only activities and can’t go to the main floor without a parent present.
Kids 8+ get a wrist band that allows them to come and go as they please and use either floor of the Playroom without parental supervision. This was GOLD! Big B and I plopped ourselves down in a lounger out near the wave pool and the kids did their thing.
There is so, so, so much to do in the Playroom!
There’s a big, two-level obstacle course like you’d see at a pricey play place, mini golf, bumper cars, air hockey, an arcade, a mid-air trekking course (your kids actually get into climbing harnesses), a neat area with science-flavoured activities, and a mirror maze (which we all loved). The second floor area for little ones is cotton-candy-coloured decadence with lots of padding and a number of rides and stations that will keep them busy for hours.
Despite the many resorts to which we’ve been that have kids’ clubs, my kids never seem to like them. Either there’s not enough to do or they don’t like the staff. This is the first time EVER that I’ve had both kids in a kids’ club long enough to lie down on a sun bed, have a couple of drinks and read. IT WAS BLISS. They both agreed it was by far the best kids’ club they’ve been to yet.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Wired Teen Lounge
Designed for 13 to 17 year olds, you can still go in if you’re not yet 13 but your parents have to go with you. The advantage of the Teen Lounge is the location — it’s in the main building with all of the restaurants. So this was more convenient for some post-dinner play than heading back to the Playroom.
There’s a big air hockey table and loads of arcade games. There’s a bigger snack bar here than in the Playroom with more sweet treats, including ice cream. And there’s even a dance floor that’s touch-sensitive.
Plus, SO MUCH GAMING. The K Man was in his element!
You can tell that someone actually put some serious thought into what should go in each area based on the ages of the kids it’s designed to entertain.
There’s also a bowling alley at The Grand — and it’s pretty gorgeous, but it’s not included. You need to use your resort credit and pay the 16% tax (which works out to about $8/hour for bowling, FYI).
The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun: pools, beach & ocean
First up: pools. There are so many pools at The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun that I couldn’t even count them all, and most are equipped with not one but two swim-up bars. Several even have these king-sized floating beds, which are phenomenal.
Some pools are warmer than others, and I like that there were varying temps because not everyone likes to swim in 88-degree bath water like I do. Some people actually seem to enjoy getting into a “refreshing” pool. Hear that, weirdos? There’s something for you, too. 😉
There’s great music playing at each pool and some have volleyball nets. Some are infinity. Others have full tables and stools built in. All are beautiful and tropical perfection.
Unique Day Club
I don’t know if this existed the last time we went, but I made my way to the Unique Day Club — an adults-only pool club — one afternoon to see what it was all about. And, boy, if we didn’t have our kids with us, this is where we’d spend our pool time! The party is here, people. And it is good.
Loud music (there was an actual DJ at the pool the afternoon I was there), lots of dancing, free-flowing drinks, swings and no kids or teens in sight.
I can’t really show you pics of the shenanigans, like the bridal party line dancing in bikinis on the edge of the pool, so here’s a nice one of the private cabanas (with TVs, no less!):
Major improvement since our first visit: The Riviera Cancun is not on the nicest or most developed stretch of beach. And we didn’t spend much time at the beach during our last visit because The Grand Moon Palace hadn’t really done much with it. Fast forward two years and you’ll now find a volleyball net, lots of stunning hammocks and some nice cabanas set up.
Overall, I don’t like the ocean in this part of Cancun because it seems to be where all the sea grass and these weird pine needles end up. If you MUST be in the ocean all day, you might want to re-think your decision to stay here and move up to the Cancun Hotel Zone instead.
Don’t get me wrong: The Grand at Moon Palace makes up for it BIG TIME with outstanding pools and best-in-class food, so that works for me. Food trumps ocean in my books, but I’d still rather be in the ocean than a pool. That said, if it was on a beach like Grace Bay or Negril’s 7-mile beauty, this resort would probably cost a family of four $12-15k a week. So you can’t have it all.
The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun: extra info
The free WiFi is good and strong just about everywhere in the resort. There were very few periods when we had to re-connect and I didn’t notice any dead spots this time. The kids could watch Netflix before bed, and I was able to upload videos to Instagram and Twitter consistently and Big B went on his nightly Reddit rampage without fail.
The Grand at Moon Palace has an excellent gym! It’s bright and big, and there are cool towels and plenty of water. And there are about three rooms within the facility, with everything from cardio machines to circuit training to free weights.
I can’t close out the review of The Grand at Moon Palace without praising the interior design team. All your hard work does NOT go unnoticed. At every turn, I gasped at the decor. It represents the ultimate in luxurious design choices. I can’t even guess at how many millions of dollars’ worth of marble is in this place. Every restaurant, every bathroom, every common area — you name it — it’s stunning. Even the lobby bathrooms don’t disappoint:
The lobby was decorated for the holidays during our second visit and it was so beautiful and tasteful:
Let’s get real honest for a minute about the shows you usually see at all inclusives: mediocre. Well, I only made it to one performance in the Grand Theatre (which in and of itself is impressive), and it was pretty stellar! Great sound, incredible costumes, wonderful performers — it was big budget stuff! I loved the Day of the Dead show, even if it scared my kids and they went back to the room with Big B. (Because sugar skulls that are inanimate aren’t as intimidating as ones staring at you from the front row…)
I’m going to end with the staff, who deserve more than just a paragraph. Because they were outstanding. Daniela from the activity team stands out; she was always happy and trying to get people to play games or do activities around the pool. We tried a water spinning class with her, which was a pretty solid workout, a balloon-catching game, trivia games and more. It wasn’t uncommon to see her entertaining a group of kids pool-side.
But it didn’t stop with Daniela; from the golf-cart drivers to housekeeping to restaurant servers, the attitude was always one of trying to please. Every time we expressed our gratitude, the response was “It’s a pleasure.” If they weren’t happy to be working at The Grand at Moon Palace, they all hid it well…staff seemed genuinely happy.
The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun: cost
The price for the “Grand Moon Palace” as many people call it is obviously going to vary based on several factors: time of year, kids’ ages, room type, flights, etc.
When I first checked online back in 2017 for a week (Dec. 2-9) at The Grand at Moon Palace for a family of four with kids who are 7 and 9, it came up at $6,541.44 including all taxes and fees, with flights; this is only a few hundred more than what we had just paid to go to the Royalton Riviera Cancun for a week in November — which is arguably not as desirable as December — nor does it have all of the amenities that The Grand does. Given the choice at that price point, I would go back to The Grand, without question.
While we were there, someone responded to an Instagram Story of mine asking if I thought they should book The Grand during the holidays — at a cost of $13k for their family of four. One of the parents is a teacher so that was the only time they could go. And while I would personally NOT go during the holidays to avoid that kind of sticker shock, if you’re in a similar situation, this is what you’re looking at. They booked it, by the way! (And I don’t suspect they’ll have any regrets.)
Moon Palace: the complex
I mentioned earlier that as a guest of The Grand at Moon Palace, you’re part of a resort-within-a-resort. There are two sister resorts: Nizuc and Sunrise. They’re attached, but separate, and you have unlimited access to both. This is best done by any of the free shuttles leaving the lobbies every 10 to 15 minutes, but you can also catch a ride with a golf-cart driver if you ask nicely.
Speaking of which, these golf carts are everywhere, all the time. They can be available on demand most times, too, though at peak periods like dinner, expect to wait or just walk to your destination. Nothing within The Grand resort is so far that you can’t make it there on foot…but you do get used to being delivered from one spot to the next by golf cart.
We only visited Sunrise, and it was specifically to spend time on the FlowRider — a simulated wave machine on which you can surf or body board — because the bigger FlowRider in The Grand’s new waterpark hadn’t opened. And it was easily the biggest Flowrider I’d seen to date (until our second visit, that is.) So.much.fun: