It’s our last day in the Riviera Maya! Started off early and headed into Playa del Carmen to drive through the Playacar community. Here you’ll find the majority of condo and villa rentals for the area, most of which are NOT on the beach but will generally have some kind of affinity with the nearby golf clubs or beach club offering beach services. You’ll also find many shops, restaurants and the Hotel Zone with a wide range of 3-4* all inclusive resorts in addition to two upscale properties – The RIU Palace and the Royal Hideaway.
Then we drove through Playa del Carmen to the Paradisus La Perla & Esmeralda.
I have one word for this resort: GORGEOUS. A true 5* resort experience. The Esmeralda side is for families and La Perla for adults-only. For families looking for an upscale resort that is moderately sized (approx. 500 rooms), this would be an excellent choice. La Perla is adults-only and absolutely perfect for a honeymoon or destination wedding. The beach here is small (narrow) because of it’s location on the coast but the pool areas here are really lovely. The hotels have a crisp and contemporary vibe. This is a picture of the standard rooms which are super spacious and just beautiful. At La Perla, I would suggest one of the swim-out rooms on the lower levels which feel quite private as they are not connected to the main pool. There are many restaurant choices (one of which has a surcharge) and plenty of children’s activities and connecting rooms for those staying at Esmeralda. I would not hesitate to stay at this resort nor recommend it to my clients. I have some stunning photos that I’ll have to organize into a slideshow and insert into this post later.
In the afternoon we drove south to visit the ruins at Tulum. Wow. This area has changed a lot since I was here last. The small food court that had a few local handicraft shops has bloomed to include a Starbucks, Subway, Quizno’s and a few other restaurants with AC! Parking is about $5 (50 pesos) and from there it’s a 10-15 min walk to the park entrance or you can take the “train” (trolley pulled by a tractor) for $2 round trip (totally worth it). Entrance to the park is 64 pesos (about $6) each and a guide service is available if you wish for an additional cost. I’ve been to Tulum before as well as nearby Coba and Chichen Itza which are popular ruin sites and Tulum really is so beautiful and unique. It is the only Mayan ruin site right on the ocean. The views are simply amazing and worth a visit. There is a lot of walking over rocky terrain so good walking shoes are recommended.
My next stop was at the Barcelo Resort Complex. This massive area is actually 5 resorts – the Barcelo Maya Beach, Maya Caribe, Maya Colonial, Maya Tropical and Maya Palace Deluxe
This is another example of “5*” resorts that are actually 3*. Maya Beach, Caribe, Colonial and Tropical are all quite standard and I would say a solid 3*. The rooms are very basic and no matter which resort you select there is a ton of walking involved to get from A to B. The Barcelo Maya Beach has the best stretch of sandy beach and will soon be adding an adult-only pool. The Barcelo Maya Caribe has just added a new mall area that includes more shopping choices and an indoor bowling alley. The Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe is undergoing soft-renovations (paint, carpet, bedding etc.) and would be a good 4* . Guests at this resort do have access to the other resorts if you wish (but not the other way around). My main issue is just how big this property is and how far away the rooms are from the beach and pool areas. If you want to be closer to the action or are traveling with small children I’d strongly suggest booking a Club room which come with upgraded amenities and are the best located rooms on the property. One big plus I think is the wide stretch of beach frontage. There is a path and it takes about 30min to walk from one end to the other. So this is a great option for those that like to take those long beach walks each day.
The last stop today was at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya. Another WOW property. This used to be the Aventura Spa Palace which Hard Rock took over and completely remodeled a few years ago. There are two sections to this resort – Heaven – which is adults only and – Hacienda – which is for families. The resort lay outs are the same on both sides with the exception of the spa and nightclub being on the Heaven side. This place is just funky cool. Fantastic music and Hard Rock memorabilia throughout the property, many dining options most of which are ala carte and fantastic live entertainment each evening. They also draw in well known artists for concerts throughout the year (additional cost) that would be fantastic to tie in with your vacation. In fact when I arrived they were breaking down the event area because we had just missed the 1st annual Jazz Festival for this area. Because of this properties location, they do not have a sandy beach but a small cove protected by a seawall. This is actually a great feature especially if you have small children as you won’t have to worry about waves or undertow at all. They’ve also been able to avoid the worst of the seaweed problem this summer.
I found it interesting that my contact said the # 1 complaint from guests is that they didn’t know there wasn’t a beach!! This could definitely be a disappointment if you were expecting a long sandy beach. Kind of a big deal if you ask me. [Ahem, yet another reason you should be booking your travel with someone who has been there first hand or at a minimum has done thorough research beforehand. ]
I almost felt like I was not quite cool enough for this resort but could be if I stayed here lol. Just a very cool, fun vibe. Great for groups, families, singles and couples. Perfect if you’re not ocean swimmers and prefer the pools anyway. Taxi’s are readily available if you want to head into Playa del Carmen about 20min away and the airport is about 50min.
So to recap:
Good 3* hotels:
Occidental Grand Xcaret
Barcelo Maya, Caribe, Tropical or Colonial
Good 4* hotels:
Ocean Coral & Turquesa (modest 4*)
Hotel Marina El Cid
Barcelo Maya Palace (4.5* once reno is complete)
Moon Palace (4.5*)
True 5* experience:
Paradisus La Perla or Esmeralda
Hard Rock Riviera Maya
Of course I only scratched the surface and this list doesn’t include the many resorts that I’ve seen or stayed at on previous visits. If you’re considering a trip to the Riviera Maya, contact me. I’m happy to discuss your plans with you and recommend a resort that will best fit your needs!
Whew, I think I need a vacation from my vacation…