Over all – we LOVED this luxury all inclusive resort. Our three night vacation proved to be the most relaxing one we have ever taken. Monday morning back at work we both feel refreshed and recharged.
We did however hit the resort on a 100% capacity weekend. We visited Thursday – Sunday. I think the negatives we experienced were related more to the other guests, not the resort amenities or staff. The overall facility is beautiful. Staff is very attentive. The ocean is bright turquoise blue with rolling waves and a white sand beach.
Most of the guests were in the 30-40-50 age group. Most were couples. There were several groups of about 10-20 guests. The groups were not necessarily rowdy but they were noticeable, especially at the bars and restaurants. Most of the guests we talked to (and I would guess 75% of the resort) were from the north east area.
Laura was our concierge and was truly a pleasure. She always greeted us by name when we came into the villa. Provided accurate information about hotel reservations and things to do on the resort. She was able to stock our mini-fridge to our request. Generally we felt like she was there looking out for us.
Very cordial. We were offered scented cloths and champagne. After the business of credit cards etc we were offered to be escorted to the snack bar for lunch. One thing I particularly noticed is that rather than telling us our room was not ready at 12:30. We were told check in is at 3:00 pm and our room would be ready 1 1/2 hours early at 1:30. This is the start of the “glass is half full” rather than “half empty” that made us so pleased with the service at RH.
Servers & House keeping:
Were all professional prompt and respectful. They ranged from efficient to over the top caring. Raul was our server twice in the Spices Restaurant and he truly made the experience a pleasure.
Where to start. Royal Hideaway is an epicurean experience. Their menus are ambitious and in most cases very successful. We are serious foodies and appreciated the care, presentation and complication of the menu. Someone who prefers more simple cuisine might find the menus difficult. We were a party of 4 and was able to have a taste of a variety of dishes by sharing with my friends.
Overall the food was beautifully presented and exceeded any expectations. Attention to small detail was the hallmark of service at RH.
Snack Bar (11:00 am -6:00 pm)
The menu reads like a nice beach bar, salads, wings, Mexican fare like taquitos and quesadillas, burgers, sandwiches, soups and light desserts. The presentation sets this way above what is commonly found at a beach bar. Chips, Pico de gallo and guacamole are served as a starter to all guests.
Shrimp Cocktail. Served in a stemmed martini glass with spicy red pepper around the rim and a large shrimp and lime garnish. The shrimp was chunked and lightly covered in a lime-cilantro- cocktail sauce mix. Excellent quality shrimp with a clean sea flavor.
Taquitos with shredded chicken and Oaxaca cheese. The chicken was prepared on a wood smoke grill and then shredded. Fresh made tortillas gave this an earthy but light flavor. Served with fresh Pico de gallo and fabulous fresh guacamole.
Bar Favorite: Centario Margarita on the Rocks and Strawberry daiquiri
Club Sandwich: Just right if you need something soothing
Things we don’t recommend:
Calamari (too soft) Cheese sticks (frozen food style ordinary) Cuban Sandwich (Served on a big baguette not Cuban bread, not pressed and heated.) Pizza (not bad, not good)
All room service appetizers were excellent, same as at the snack bar food. We ordered:
Chips – Guacamole – Pico
Chicken Quesadilla w/guacamole
Continental Breakfast – Room service provided a lovely formal service of coffee, tea, fruit plate and small basket of baked goods. Fresh squeezed juices.
Las Ventanas by Sergi Arola (6:00 pm – 10:30 pm)
We loved this restaurant. It was sleek and contemporary. The bar is a white marble with lights behind it that make the whole thing glow. White tables, white chairs, white lounge chairs near the bar. Live (but not lively) piano music for entertainment. Mahogany louvers separate the dining room and the lounge. Premium wines stacked in ceiling high racks are protected in glass rooms that forms a wall that separates the main dining area from a private room for 8.
Service began with bread sticks and a choice of 3 dips: Chipotle butter, pesto cream or tomato bruschetta sauce.
We ordered the house red wind and were served Citra Valpolicella. A drinkable wine, something I would put in the surprisingly good for under $6 a bottle collection at my local wine shop. The wine was served in tall stemware. We were offered a choice of sparkling for still water which was interestingly enough poured into the Riedel stemless wine tumblers.
One of the signature items at this restaurant is “seasoned” salts served in square bowls set into a long mahogany tray. Black Olive salt was our favorite followed by Pink pepper salt, Juniper salt and Fines herb salt. We recently discovered a very flavorful smokes salt at the reading terminal market and thought the salt thing at RH was very clever.
They have a curio table that all the salt trays are stored in between uses. We saw our cute salt tray come out of that table and go right back in after we used it. We were wondering why the salt did not appear to be thrown away after being served to guests especially since the server directed us to use our fingers to sprinkle the salt on our food. Sort of seemed like reserving a basket of uneaten rolls to the next table. This small concern wouldn’t stop us from enjoying these salts on our next visit.
Speaking of rolls they were adorable. Served by a waiter from a silver tray. Each roll was slightly larger than a silver dollar. Onion, baguette, bacon, assiago cheese and other flavors.
There were a lot of complicated choices on the menu. All of them sounded wonderful and we opted to try the Tasting Menu:
Potato Emulsion with Foie Gras and a truffle Essence
Tempura Fried Asparagus with Romescu Sauce
Crab Soup with Mascarpone Ice Cream
Turbot and Portobello Mushroom Toast with a soft alioli sauce au gratin
Veal Tenderloin with apples and fines herb butter
Chocolate soufflé Coulant in the idea of a black forest
The table unanimously thought that there were two high points to the tasking menu. The Potato emulsion was out of this world. Just a taste served in a tall shot glass. It was creamy, garlicky and the earth taste of the truffle was enhanced by the richness of the foie. We all wanted more.
The Veal Tenderloin was also incredible. The flavors were paired perfectly. The veal was cooked to perfection.
Some of us loved the asparagus tempura and others thought that tempura treatment in the fryer zapped the asparagus of all flavor.
The Crab soup was also a split decision. The presentation was lovely with the crab “cake” in the center of the bowl and cool cream soup poured over the top at the table side. I personally loved this dish because of the clear forward taste of fresh sea. Others thought it was strong and didn’t like the cold presentation.
Turbot and Portobello mushroom was the least impressive of the courses. It was perfectly cooked, but the fish was set on a very crunchy toast which seemed to clash with the creamy au gratin style fish. This was also served next to a “fish bone sauce” which was rich and pungent not a good combination for those who do not enjoy “fishy” tasting fish.
Desert was a yummy chocolate “lava” style mini cupcake with a soft warm center. It was served with an ice wine which was the perfect balance for this desert.
Breakfast at Las Ventanas (7:00 am – 11:00 am)
A classical European style formal breakfast. The restaurant has a cool hush feeling to it. The chairs are covered with a burgundy slip cover. The louvers are dark mahogany and the tables white. The table is set with beautiful white on white floral pattern china. Silver coffee/tea service, tall stemware for water and juices.
Pastries and toast (with the crusts removed) are served on a 3 level tea server.
The offerings are in the full American breakfast style fare. Fresh tropical fruites, yogurt, musli mix. Omelets, eggs to order, waffles, French toast and eggs Benedict.
The breakfast was served at a relaxed pace. We read up on the resorts activities and the New York Times fax. Sipped coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice.
We both ordered Eggs Benedict. They ask how well we would like them done, we ordered one soft and one medium and were please that they were served correctly.
Eggs were exactly as you would expect. Buttery English muffin, thin ham, eggs topped with a hollandaise and broiled just long enough to crisp and gently brown the tops.
Spices Breakfast Buffet (7:00 am – 10:30 am)
I had both the best breakfast and worst breakfast of my trip here.
Same offerings, different times of day and different cooks.
Breakfast at 7:00 shortly after the restaurant opened was splendid. I had fruit with yogurt and then a chorizo omelet with white cheese. It was light fluffy with just the right zip from the chorizo.
On another morning breakfast at 9:00 was crowded. The offerings on the buffet were picked over and disorderly and I felt elbowed out of the way by impatient guests. The omelet cook was cooking on high heat and had all 4 burners cranking. He was using too much oil to prevent sticking. Consequently the outside of the omelet was cooked to a crisp brown. Because the heat was too high the inside did not cook before the omelet started to burn. He was pressing the omelet forcefully with a spatula to get the uncooked egg to run out the side the same way a short order cook presses a burger on a grill to get the grease out. The same chorizo omelet with white cheese was a burnt greasy mess that I politely declined. The cook offered to start over, but the glares from impatient guests made me to decide to just skip it.
Spices –A’la carte (12:30 pm – 2:30 pm)
Lunch at Spices was all the better because of the outstanding service by Raul.
Offerings were what you would expect from a stylish Mexican restaurant. Creative salads, soups, Mexican specialties, deserts.
I had a mixed seafood ceviche and a bowl of lime shrimp soup with a smoked red pepper flavor. Both were fantastic.
Spices Mexican and Caribbean Specialties - (7:00 – 10:30 pm)
The house white was a blanc de blanc from the Spanish winery Rene Barbier. Crisp and fruity. Another great wine for under $6 a bottle at home.
We sat in the room near the bar and found the blender noise to be distracting. But we choose those seats because they were far from the end where they were varnishing wood beams. The lesser of the 2 evils.
Again the menu was complicated.
Diners at our table started with
Shrimp Salad with mango chili piquin and coconut milk foam. We rated this too neutral to bland and flavorless. The Cold shredded beef salad with pico de gallo vinaigrette was flavorful. The smoked grilled meat was a nice contrast to the crisp romaine lettuce and tangy dressing.
Two soups were offered; Cream of Spanish pumpkin with shrimps and spinach served with olive oil gelee and Azteca Soup. We recommend both because of the balance of complexe flavors. The pumpkin was rich and creamy. Fans of pumpkin soup in the Caribbean will appreciate this offering. The Azteca was spicy in a tomato chicken broth.
We sampled two appetizers:
Crab meat enchilada with a three chili sauce – eahhhh. Not what most of the table expected.
Roasted poblano pepper filled with an almond/beef mix – a perfect blend of savory and spicy.
My entree was a filet minion wrapped in banana leave with macha sauce and diced sautéed peppers. It was a very tender cut cooked to perfection. The flavors blended nicely. I would recommend the filet.
Other Main courses were;
Red snapper with coated chayote and cream of squash blossom.
Marinated sea bass with Achiote, pineapple sauce, fried tortilla and chopped cilantro
Fresh shrimp in a red pumpkin seed sauce with a bean custard cheese and garlic cilantro oil.
Chicken in Mole sauce with rice and Oaxaca Cheese
Pork loin with cactus leaves in a tepache sauce, grilled cheese and sweet potato puree.
Palazzo Italian Regional Cuisine (6:00 – 10:30 pm)
This day we had really wanted to linger at the pool rather than get dressed for a 7:00 pm reservation. We even tried to find a way to get something with out having to sit thru a formal diner. The choices on the room service menu didn’t quite offer what we wanted so we dove in to another 2 ½ hour meal.
Palazzo is a lovely dining room with marble surfaces, flowers and columns. The glass wear on the table has a lovely etched floral pattern. The food was very good or average. The biggest problem was the lack of servers. It felt like 2 guys were taking care of the entire dining room. Wait between courses was 20-30 minutes. We would have enjoyed this meal more if it had come at a speedier pace.
We passed on the Beef Carpaccio that had a “raw eat at your own risk” warning.
Several of us chose the Foie Gras Crème Brule with Arugula salad and a pear puree, marsala wine reduction. This dish was served too cool. We think the flavor would have been more developed at room temperature.
The best appetizer was the warm puffed pastry stuffed with Portobello mushroom, mozzarella cheese, caramelized onion and watercress. Crisp puff and filled with creamy yummy filings.
The Classic caprese Salad would have been great if it wasn’t for the flavorless hot house tomatoes.
One of us had the cream of mushroom soup which was amazing. The bowl was presented with 1 shrimp and the thick earthy mushroom soup was ladled over the top. The goodness of this soup was a pleasant surprise.
Tortelloni stuffed with prawns in a fresh basil tomato sauce might have been served without actually cooking the fresh pasta.
Other pasta offerings included; vegetable lasagna with leek béchamel sauce, Penne Pasta in four cheese sauce, green fettuccine with a Truffle and Mushroom sauce, spaghetti aioli with shrimp and mushroom, Wild mushroom and cheese risotto.
I ordered the pork saltimbocca. The flavor was quite tasty. Not exactly the same saltimbocca you get in the Italian neighborhoods of Philadelphia but still good.
Other Main Courses were: Fresh Halibut loin with asparagus risotto, eggplant caviar and prosciutto powder, swordfish with olives, capers and anchovies over fennel potato, chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella cheese and spinach in a thyme sauce.
POOL CHAIRS, BEACH CHAIRS AND BEACH BEDS (CABANAS):
RH has beautiful wooden lounge chairs around the pools. They are topped with thick canvas covered cushions and pillows. When we arrived on Thursday afternoon every chair around the pools was “claimed” as taken, indicated by a magazine or book placed in the center of the chair. Some guests also claimed ownership of a yellow pool float by rolling it up and placing it under the front of their chair. We were at first amused and then later annoyed by this because most of the claimed chairs and rafts were rarely used by their owners. In fact it appeared that only the lonely book occupied many of the chairs each day.
Same held true with the beach beds. They were marked as claimed by a magazine. One bed we watched had no people occupying it all day.
We were tired from travel on Thursday and were asleep quite early. I awoke at 5:30 a.m. the next morning and walked to the beach to enjoy the sunrise. To my AMAZEMENT most of the pool chairs and all of the beach beds were claimed by books and magazines. We postulated that guests put the books out just after diner, shortly before going to bed.
We are frequent guests at Grand Lido Resorts and Couples Resorts in Jamaica where we have never encountered guests who were so aggressive about chairs and turf.
Friday afternoon we were feeling put out by the lack of chairs when low and behold a couple got out of their bed and said they were checking out. We felt like we had hit gold. And I will tell you that the beach bed really was THE best spot to enjoy the sun and breeze. Ours was located next to the snack bar directly facing the ocean. We set up camp, got a drink, laid down to relax and enjoy this luxury. Fred summed it up the best; the steady breeze, crash of the waves, mix of smooth jazz from the speakers, flutter of white curtains and soft canvas futon was like getting hit with a Rhino Dart. We were sound asleep within a half hour and completely enjoyed our afternoon in the cabana.
Saturday morning we took the cue from the other resort guests and woke up before dawn to claim 4 pool front chairs with umbrellas. Apparently we made the mistake of sitting in a location where a group of about 15 had been the day before. They nosily clammered around us all day and set up drinks and rafts right in front and in the space in between our chairs.
We met some nice folks from Texas who had been to RH on 4 other vacations. They said that the competition for chairs and the aggressive guests were unusual for this resort and that on previous visits there were plenty of chairs by the pool even at 10 in the morning.
The beach was full of chairs. And there were usually some open in the 4th or 5th row back from the ocean. They were lined up close together as they would be on a cruise ship. There were shade cabanas, towel service and plastic tables available on the beach.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Award winning luxury all inlcusive resort set along the beautiful beaches of Playa del Carmen Mexico. Ideal setting in a serene environment for complete rest and relaxation. Adults only. Member of The Leading Hotels of the World. 2008 winner of the coveted AAA 5 Diamond Award. 11 villas with private concierge are spread throughout the property's immaculate grounds. Six gourmet restaurants serve delicasies in menu-style dining. A full service spa offers the ultimate in papmering and body treatments. Personalzied service and attention to detail set this resort a world apart. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Royal Hideaway Playacar And Occidental Resorts
- Royal Hideaway Playacar & Occidental Hotel Playa Del Carmen
- Royal Hideaway Playa Del Carmen
- Royal Hideaway Mexico
- Occidental Royal Hideaway
- Royal Hideaway Playacar Riviera Maya/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico