Last month, my husband and I enjoyed a glorious week ALONE in Mexico! We had a truly wonderful gluten-free food adventure at our resort, Vidanta, in Riviera Maya which is the area between Cancun and Play del Carmen. Brian’s parents own a timeshare at Vidanta and we were able to use one of their weeks at the Grand Bliss portion of the resort. This was our third time staying at this location (we have also stayed twice at the same resort in Nuevo Vallarta), but the first time since my Celiac diagnosis. Vidanta is NOT an all-inclusive resort so we had to pay separately for all of the food that we had on the property.
First…it’s -13 degrees in Minneapolis today so let’s go back to that beautiful warm sunshine for a moment…
OK, on to my review. 😉 Of course I did some food research in preparation for our vacation. Some reviews said that allergies were well taken care of on the property, but I couldn’t find much related to gluten-free. So I decided to email the resort concierge and ask myself. Their response wasn’t extremely detailed but they assured me that they would be able to help accommodate me with gluten-free food at all of their restaurants. Good enough for me!
One of the best things about Vidanta is that our room had a full kitchen! Wal-Mart in Playa del Carmen is a great place to grab some groceries for the week. We were so surprised that we couldn’t even find any corn tortillas there! Apparently, they often use a combination of corn and wheat flour in their tortillas. So we ended up buying tostadas that were clearly labeled as gluten-free and used those for breakfast or snacks in our room. We later found out that our resort also didn’t have plain corn tortillas at all of their restaurants.
As any traveling Celiac does, I also packed my suitcase full of goodies like granola bars, pretzels, shelf-stable cheese, dried fruit, beef jerky, etc. Oh, and brownies.
Here is a breakdown of the restaurants we frequented during our week at Vidanta…WARNING: Lots of yummy 100% gluten-free food photos ahead!
Balche/Frida’s: Located the Mayan Palace pool – hamburgers, snack foods, and drinks during the day and they turn it into a Mexican cantina at night with tacos, enchiladas, live music, etc. This is one of the restaurants where you can get safe corn tortillas!
Chirinquito: Located next to the Beach Club – known for their paella.
Tramonto: This is the resort’s Italian steak house located above Jade Boutique. Gluten-free penne can be subbed out for just about any of the pasta dishes. They also have delicious house made baguettes that you would never ever know are gluten-free.
Havana Moon: On the beach at the Mayan Palace pool – fusion of Caribbean and Mexican flavors. Not a ton of options here, basically a meat entree with rice and veggies on the side. Good mojitos!
Cafe del Lago: The main restaurant/buffet. There is a gluten-free station at breakfast/lunch. They host special dinner shows a few nights a week.
Room Service: Some of the best food we had was from Room Service! They fried my sweet potatoes separately so they weren’t cross-contaminated!
There are a few other restaurants, Gong, Blue Fish, and Nectar that we didn’t visit so I can’t comment on those.
One of my absolute highlights of the trip was meeting an amazing woman named Becky on the beach one day. We had spent all day asking our server about gluten-free food and as we were getting ready to be done for the day Becky and her husband, Bob, came down to the beach. They were talking with our same server and she told them to come talk to us because we knew a lot about gluten-free. Becky came over to chat and says she has Celiac Disease and is from Minneapolis! How crazy is that??!! We talked with them for a couple hours, exchanged phone numbers, and had dinner together at Tramonto on our last night. It was so much fun!
Here is a photo with our new friends, Becky and Bob!
I ate A LOT of guacamole, tortilla chips, ceviche, and tequila for the week. It was perfect! There were only a few things that I was so desperately wanting to eat: empanadas at Cafe del Lago (made with corn/flour tortillas), french fries, and a cold beer with a lime in it!! Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any gluten-free beer anywhere.
My main tips for traveling to Vidanta with Celiac Disease/gluten-intolerance:
- Trust that each restaurant has some options for you. The waiters are all well-trained and most everyone is there to make sure you’re taken care of!
- Buy a few bags of your own tortilla chips and take them with you everywhere you go. It was good to have those for ceviche or guacamole. Balche/Frida’s is the only place that cam make you safe corn chips. Every other place used a corn/flour combination tortilla. The restaurants have pre-packaged corn crackers they can give you if you don’t have your own chips, but they are pretty bland and flavorless.
- I didn’t know that I could get a hamburger at the pool until our last day! So if you really want something, just ask. The worst that can happen is they say no. The best is that you get a burger!
- I was very pleasantly surprised to see that Jade Boutique had gluten-free pastas and sauces, chips, ice cream, deli meat and cheese, fruits and vegetables, juices, wine, tequila, etc. No breads, but they did have Schar cookies and Enjoy Life Plentils chips so that was cool to see. Jade will have most of the staples you’ll need for your time there.
- Neither one of us is fluent in Spanish, but we quickly learned how to read labels. Besides the glaringly obvious words we typically look for we also looked for the word “trigo” which is Spanish for gluten. Nearly everyone we talked to understood “gluten-free” so we didn’t need to learn any secret code words!
In my opinion, Vidanta is an excellent resort for accommodating gluten-free foodies! We already have a week booked for 2018!
My family has a timeshare here and I was worried after my celiac diagnosis I would have a tough time returning, although I knew having a kitchen in the room would help immensely.
I am so excited to hear you have had a good experience and I can look forward to returning to my favorite restaurants there once again! Thanks to you and those in the comment section for sharing their tips!
Kari @ The Savory Celiac
Oh that’s so fun!! It has been a while now since I’ve been there but I hope to return again soon. I am glad all of these tips will be helpful for you!
Thank you for ifo.
My husband and I are on our 2nd week here😷, my husband has Celiac and I’m along for the ride!
First, with the ongoing pandemic they are just getting up and running. Some of restaurants are closed( such as Frieda’s).
Second- consider costs for shopping in Playa- We always go to Wal-Mart or Mega to stick up (although Wal-Mart has more options). We’ve been shopping twice in town ( cost of taxi about $20. For 2- there is a shuttle as way you can take that is cheaper, but limited runs). Count all of that into the costs of your provisions. I always but a already cooked chix, goes a long way. Haven’t noticed any gluten in seasonings.
As said bring some of essentials with you. I did bring GF tortillas with me from the states, easy to oack, they’re flat😊
I always bring packages of ready to eat tuna in vacuum packed and flat😑 I put all these in the checked bags.
We usually eat breakfast in room then a snack sometimes we eat out at night.
Kari @ The Savory Celiac
Hi Sharon! Thanks for sharing all of your tips! I hope that you had a great vacation – much needed I’m sure!
How much did you guys roughly spend of food and drinks there? Trying to budget out a trip there
Kari @ The Savory Celiac
Hi Rylie!! Please accept my apologies for not getting back to you sooner! So, the last time we were there was in November 2018. We spent probably about $1000-$1200. That was outside of the lodging and transportation fees. This included a trip to Walmart in Playa del Carmen for essentials (and alcohol so we could bring our own drinks to the beach). We did however typically purchase pool drinks/snacks and we ate out at restaurants or ordered room service at least once a day. We typically would just eat breakfast in our room. Let me know if you have any more questions!
Thank you so much!! You know how it goes…we are booked to leave on vacation and then I panic, “what am I going to eat there??” You have put my racing 4:30 a.m. mind to rest!! And now I can pack what I need 🙂
Kari @ Minneceliac
You are welcome!!! We actually went again this past November and everything was just about the same food-wise. You’ll have a great time. Everyone was knowledgable and just want to do whatever they can to make you happy! Enjoy the sunshine and relaxation!!