Free perks entice golfers to Mexico's Riviera Maya

Many Cancun-area golf resorts and courses offer complimentary transportation, food and drink and golf. Here's what you need to know.
Smylie Kaufman tees off on the 17th hole of El Camaleon during the OHL Mayakoba Classic.

Free golf.

All-inclusive food and drink on the course and in the clubhouse.

Complimentary transportation to and from the course.

Sound like the perfect golf vacation this winter? Then Mexico's Riviera Maya, including Cancun and Playa del Carmen, might be the place for you. The competition among the region's courses and resorts is so fierce that many of them will offer at least one (or more) of these perks to get you to stay and play.

The region's golf courses have been carved from ancient mangroves and dense jungles. Their flat terrain is reminiscent of Florida golf full of water hazards and bunkers. Some of the best tracks have been designed by Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Nick Price and others. The biggest name is obviously Mayakoba's El Camaleon course, a Norman design full of cenotes (sink holes) and ocean holes that hosts the PGA Tour's Mayakoba Golf Classic.

Here are a few golf and resort properties where you can enjoy some enticing extra benefits:

Free golf

The Finest Playa Mujeres, a family-friendly, all-inclusive resort just north of the hotel zone in Cancun, is offering overnight guests unlimited free rounds at Playa Mujeres, a Norman course I enjoyed a few years ago (see the photo gallery below). The deal, which must be booked online or through the resort call center, includes free transportation to and from the course, a golf cart for 1-2 people, unlimited range balls, a pack of tees and bottled water. Rental clubs are $45 per round. The offer expires Dec. 31, 2019.

Savvy shoppers can probably find other hotel packages that offer free golf, according to Tom Jaronski, the president of The Golf Connection, a Pennsylvania-based marketing/public relations company that hosts pro-ams in the Caribbean and Mexico. Just be aware that some come with inflated cart fees that might leave you feeling misled.

All-inclusive golf in Cancun and Riviera Maya

The largest golf resort in the region is Moon Palace Cancun, where a sprawling, all-inclusive playland of 3,000-plus rooms and 45 holes of very strong Jack Nicklaus golf are the draws. Golfers who stay three or more nights on a golf package at the Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun or the Moon Palace Cancun get unlimited rounds at the onsite 27-hole Moon Spa & Golf Club or the Riviera Cancun Golf Club, both Nicklaus designs.

I was a walk-in golfer the only time I played the Lakes-Dunes nines at the all-inclusive Moon Spa & Golf Club. I remember gorging on the nacho chips at the salsa bar in the clubhouse and drinking more beer than I normally would during a round. Just like an all-you-can-eat buffet, all-inclusive golf can lure you into binge eating and drinking, common blunders on a Mexican vacation.

Iberostar is also a huge player in the all-inclusive golf market with two different resort sites and one course at each: The Iberostar Cancun Golf Club in Cancun and Iberostar Playa Paraiso, a fun P.B. Dye design farther south. The entire Iberostar Playa Paraiso Resort complex is home to five hotels and more than 2,000 beds. Staying at the Grand Hotel, the most luxurious option, gets guests access to any restaurant, pool or bar on property. Guests staying at lower-tier hotels on property can't move up the food chain, so you get the best to yourself.

Greg Bond, the director of golf for the two Iberostar courses, indicated by email that even non-resort guests get the all-inclusive treatment at the courses and free transportation from "any hotel in Cancun, Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen."

Free transportation to Cancun-area golf courses

PGA Tour pros competing in the Mayakoba Golf Classic aren't the only ones enjoying courtesy rides to play golf. Since most tourists don't rent cars here, area courses have picked up the slack. It's the only way to guarantee golfers keep playing, especially at facilities outside of gated resort communities.

Speaking of secure resort communities, life doesn't get much better than inside the gates of Mayakoba. A foursome of luxury hotels, including Fairmont, Rosewood, Andaz and Bayan Tree, are built for pampering. Water taxis ferry guests out to dinner on six miles of freshwater canals that connect everything. I've only stayed at one of the hotels, but I tell everybody the suites at the Rosewood are some of my favorite accommodations anywhere.

It would take something special to get guests to leave Mayakoba. Free golf or food and drink somewhere else just might do the trick.

Have you played golf or vacationed in Riviera Maya? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below?

6 Min Read
January 6, 2015
Mexico's best golf destinations never freeze over in the winter and rarely get drenched with a lingering rainstorm. For those thinking about a vacation to Mexico, there are a half dozen premier golf destinations to consider, Jason Scott Deegan writes.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Free perks entice golfers to Mexico's Riviera Maya