I'm a parent who travels regularly with two kids. This was not one of our best vacations.
Sandos Playacar is in a 5-star setting with 4-star service, 3-star rooms and 1-star food. I hope this review can help you prepare based on your own priorities.
Knowing we'd arrive late, I emailed ahead about my room preference so we wouldn't be stuck with the last room available. That didn't work. I had requested a beach view but got a "pool view" which looked into the back of a restaurant. Changing rooms left us stranded with NO room from 10am to 4pm our first day. It was a wasted, frustrating day. Front desk staff was not sympathetic or helpful.
We stayed in a standard beach room, wanting to be near everything. Facing the pool was a bit noisy at all hours. The pool view from the 1000 building is generally better than the 2000 bldg. Our room was outdated and basic but clean. Spacious enough for the three of us. Housekeeping was efficient, and room fridge was stocked daily. Beds are rock-hard. If you prefer a firm mattress, you might like it. But if you're a delicate flower like me, request extra padding right away. It took me a few days before I could communicate that to housekeeping and I finally slept through the night.
Huge disappointment. I got very very ill two days, and my son one day. So that does influence my whole perception of the dining. Two of us are vegetarians, and that was quite difficult. Even the "salad" section had meat in almost everything. The main buffet was always crowded, and food was just OK. The Italian buffet next door is open for dinner and does not require reservations. We found less quantity but better quality there, and service more attentive. 24-hour room service was great.
Restaurants: We were able to arrange our reservations before we arrived, so that made things easier. We tried Asiana, Mexican and Mediterranean. The restaurants have nice atmosphere. The setting and wonderful service make for a much more relaxing meal than the buffet. But good luck with the food. Asiana offered a vegetable curry, and we were warned it was spicy. But it was so spicy it was inedible. At the Mexican restaurant, the vegetable burrito was soggy fajita peppers, onions and mushrooms wrapped in a tortilla. The "berry tart" was a dry dense muffin. Mediterranean looked most promising. The menu said "ask server about vegetarian options." I did, only to be told there weren't any. Tried the tuna, which was dry and overcooked. At least one of us was terribly ill each day following a restaurant meal. That can really ruin a vacation.
Other food options: We were excited about Bagel Beach, but it was closed every evening we tried to go there. During the day, they have hamburger patties and hotdogs under warmers. All the smoothies we tried were too sweet for us, with my sons saying they tasted like "marshmallows." The one place I know used fresh fruit was the "Health Bar" on the beach, but it's only open in the morning. The Cupcake Cafe is a wonderful place to relax, and the kids liked their short daily WiFi fix there. But the cupcakes are heavy and not very flavorful. They should consider hiring a Starbucks barrista to teach some basic drink-making. A latte was made with cold milk, not steamed, and instead of a shot of espresso, they used a packet of instant nescafe. Best food we found were the crepes and ice-cream at Bambola Bar. Grown-up drinks everywhere were weak and always too sweet, but best bartender I found was Edwin on the beach. You might want to stick to beer.
Kids were looking forward to meeting new friends, but there didn't seem to be much opportunity. The Kids Club might be great for the younger ones, but my 10-year-old son is not into facepainting and fashion shows. The teen club is a dark, loud video arcade, not really a place to hang out or have any conversation. Plus, on the rainy day, it was open to all ages and filled with adults. I didn't feel entirely comfortable leaving my kids alone, so I missed out on the spa day I'd hoped for. The activities schedule was hit-and-miss. It said beach soccer at 3:00, so my boys showed up. There was a soccer ball, but no announcement or effort to gather a group. Best place to hang out was Bambola Bar, where we could all play ping-pong, foosball or billiards. And, next to Bambola, we had a lot of fun playing mini-golf! There was also volleyball on the beach, with games going all day. Evening shows were quite good. We especially enjoyed the game show nights: Minute to Win it, and Sandos Deal.
Service was generally top-notch, especially in the restaurants. It's true that maintenance and housekeeping don't speak much English - but, hello, you're in Mexico! It's a good reminder that we were in another country. Entertainment staff was friendly and enthusiastic. The guy who hosts the evening shows, Joaquin(?) is amazing. I swear he must be cloned, because he seems to be everywhere- aerobics in the pool, Kinect boxing in the teen club - always with a smile. Front desk was not great. When I left a swimsuit on a tour bus, the company delivered it back to the hotel. When I went to pick it up, staff insisted nothing had been left for me. Basically suggesting that I -- or the tour group -- was lying. Went back and forth, until someone else finally reached below the counter to find a bag with my name and room number on it.
The resort is beautiful, with its jungle and beach setting. It is very spread out, but I don't understand all the criticism about the walking distance. Unless you're really unfit or dealing with the very young or old, it's not a problem. We made the trek several times - to meet tour groups at main lobby, to dine at Asiana, dropped off by a cab in front. We actually enjoyed the walk, even in the rain. The landscaping is beautiful, with informative signs about the plants and animals. We loved seeing iguanas, coatis and howler monkeys on the property. The main pool is always full of people.
I picked this resort mostly based on reviews of the beach and it did not disappoint. It's awesome! Soft white sand and crystal blue water. Since it's the last hotel on the beach, there's room to wander too. The water was very calm most days, but there were waves on others. Unfortunately too rough to kayak on the day we wanted to, so the boys used the free boogie boards instead. We never had a problem finding chairs anytime of day. And hammocks were available too.
All in all, Sandos has potential for perfection. The location can't be beat, and most staff is friendly and efficient. But the food and kids programs could be so much better.
PS: My original review was censored for "hearsay." I've removed a brief mention of another family's experience so my review can be posted. I had originally attached several beautiful photos, but won't go to the trouble again. I wonder how many less-than-stellar reviews are challenged and removed.
- Also Known As:
- Sandos Playacar
- Sandos Playacar Beach Resort
- Sandos Playacar Beach Hotel
- Sandos Playacar Beach
- Hotel Sandos Playacar Beach
- Beach Playacar Resort Sandos
- Sandos Playacar Resort
- Sandos Playa Del Carmen
- Sandos Playacar Beach Resort & Spa Riviera Maya/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Sandos Playacar Beach Resort & Spa is an all-Inclusive hotel in Playa del Carmen with both family and adult sections. We are ideally located on a magnificent white sandy beach in the gated community of Playacar, within walking distance to downtown Playa and Fifth Avenue. Sandos Playacar Beach Resort & Spa is located only forty-five minutes from the Cancun International Airport, and the pier serving ferries to Cozumel is a short distance from our property.Playacar is a private, master-planned community situated on the southern edge of downtown Playa del Carmen. Guests at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort & Spa enjoy this exclusive community’s impressive infrastructure, including an 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Von Hagge, the Xaman-Ha Aviary, pristine biking paths, and Mayan ruins, accessible to the public for hiking.Riviera Maya is a protected region where many remaining artifacts from the fascinating Mayan civilization can be found. Surrounded by Mayan archeological zones, such as those at Tulum, Coba, and Chicen-Itza, this Playa del Carmen hotel successfully preserves a strong sense of Mayan culture onsite, adding an authentic feel and flavor to the vacation experience in Playacar. ... more less
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