There are typically three reasons people go on vacation: they want to experience a climate different from their usual (at least for the time being), they want to eat without counting calories (guilt comes later, of course), and they want to leave work behind (ahhh, no stress).
That's what I did at the Riu Emerald Bay, an all-inclusive resort that met all of my expectations.
Here's what I discovered...
When one travels outside of their comfort zone -- usually to a foreign territory -- you can't help but feel a little suspicious. Upon our arrival to the Mazatlan International Airport, I was greeted by gorgeous weather and friendly faces. Weirdness came a little later when finding a taxi became a recruitment session to lease a timeshare. Luckily, I was not a prime candidate.
Once we nabbed a taxi without an agenda, it took about 30 minutes -- with a little bit of traffic -- to get to Riu Emerald Bay. At check-in, I was given cool, fruity beverages, as well as a plastic bracelet to wear at all times to indicate I was a guest. Okay, so the bracelet was a little reminiscent of those pesky things you'd wear around your wrist at under-21 dance clubs, but I was too mesmerized by the hotel's beautiful lobby and great scenery to react.
Although typical dining options are offered at the resort's Mexican restaurant and steakhouse whereby you order from a selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts, Riu Emerald Bay thrives on being plentiful. By that, I mean endless selections in a buffet style.
Unlike the all-you-can-eat restaurants you sadly might be familiar with -- quantity over quality, spooky salad bars, unidentifiable dishes -- the buffet options at Riu Emerald Bay exhibit some finesse and sophistication. Yes, there's a wide variety, and sure, some dishes might be too exotic to recognize, but quality was made a priority (and luckily, everything is labeled).
For breakfast, stations await you where you can order anything from poached eggs to a custom omelette -- feel free to add some delicious salsa at your leisure. Lunch provides scrumptious specialties like paella and empanadas. And, carving stations that serve proteins like lamb, duck and ribeye sprout up at dinnertime. There are also chefs available on demand should you want steak, pork loin or pasta made to order (just to name a few).
Of course, the menu doesn't just end there. The options were vast and the food was quite tasty, that by day three of my weeklong trip, I was wishing I brought sneakers and exercise clothes to make use of the resort's modest gym, or at the very least, do some cardio on the beach.