We stayed at the resort with a group of friends to celebrate milestone birthdays. I was told the resort was more expensive than “Adventura Cove Palace” due to its close location to Fifth Avenue shopping area. It is also close to Banco Santander ATM (on Av Benito Juarez, between 20 and 25 Av Sur). With Bank of America ATM, I can withdraw MXM (Mexican Peso) with no fee. The exchange rate is the best, USD1 = MXM 14.09 (November 24, 2011). Bus station is 5-minute walk from the resort. The closest Starbucks is at Paseo del Carmen, only 3-minute away on foot. Airport transfer from cancun-cab.com was good and on time. It costs USD45 per person round trip. However, according to the taxi fares displayed at Playacar Palace, it costs only MXM 520 (about USD 37) for one way airport transfer. This rate is per car, not per person. The resort architecture is minimalist (like the name says, the design is simple and minimal). It is not as grand as I thought after reading other reviews. If you want a luxurious resort with manicured garden and elegant landscaping, go to Westin Resort in Bali (see my previous review of Westin Resort in Nusa Dua, Bali).
There are two a-la-carte restaurants: Italian “La Terraza” and Asian “Mo Mo No Hana”, and one buffet “Café del Mar”. We dined at the Italian and Asian restaurants. The menu choices are fancy but the food is so-so. I think only the fried lomien is not bad. Similar to the grand buffet in Las Vegas, Café del Mar has more than 50 buffet items to choose for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Before you travel, lose some lbs. first, so you won’t feel guilty at the buffet. Ask the waiter to “mix” Mayan coffee in front of your table. Mayan coffee is a mix of liquor, vanilla ice cream, coffee and flame. It is best to share this 500+ calories dessert. Ask for Styrofoam boxes and fill them with food – for picnic, eat by the pool or even take it to the airport for in-flight meal (since most airlines do not provide complimentary meal).
Our room rate was $318 per night and we received $1,500 resort credit with 5 night stay in the Deluxe room. When we checked in, they could not upgrade our room. They said the room upgrade was based on availability. On the third day, I asked again about the room upgrade. The key here is PERSISTANCE. Finally, they let us upgrade to Suite on the ground floor using the resort credit ($140 upgrade fee per night). Later I was told by the room service that the suite has actually been empty since we checked in. Of course, suite is much better than deluxe. It has separate living room, two TVs, two fridges, liquor dispensers in 3 cabinets. You can host a private party at the extra-large veranda that can easily fit 8 guests or more.
I recommend taking Chichen Itza tour using the resort credit. It is a long trip, but worth every penny. If you want to buy souvenirs, do not buy from the shop that the tour agent brings you. For the best price, buy from the vendors at Chichen Itza. There are numerous (800+) vendors around Chichen Itza selling mostly the same stuff. Practice your haggling skill with them. It is always a good idea to carry MXM (Mexican Peso). As a general rule, if the price is in USD, you should pay in USD, not MXM. In my experience, the vendor offered the product in USD, but when I was about to pay, they converted the price to MXM with poor exchange rate (worse than big banks). Do your math.
Before the trip, I did some research about the full day tour to Tulum organized by Palace resort. This tour is accompanied with lunch and snorkel in Xel-Há. As I found out, they omitted Xel-Há for cost-cutting reason. So, basically you spend couple hours in Tulum, then they drop to at Adventura Cove Palace for lunch and 2 hour afternoon free-and-easy. If I have known that the itinerary was changed, I would not take the tour.
One way to cash out the resort credit quickly is to have a lobster dinner. Don’t faint - the price is $159 per person. Our group had the lobster dinner together accompanied by $195 champagne. Here is menu: Seahourse - juicy clam scallops served with tuna fish tartar on a delicious puff pastry (entrée), Real Cream Soup – a delightful combination of asparagus cream soup and crunchy masago fish eggs in lime vinaigrette (soup), Sunset – an exquisite Angus Beef fillet perfumed with Port and garnished with lobster tail served in beuree meunier au Cointreau and Napoleon style vegetables (main course), Chocolate Delicacy – a fine combination of soft chocolate and strawberry mousse in a crunchy basquet flavored with sambucca (dessert). Without doubt, the dinner was excellent, but is it worth $159? So far, the best dinner in my life was at Al Iwan restaurant, Burj Al Arab, Dubai, UAE (see my previous review of Burj al Arab in Dubai, UAE). If I rate it 10, then the lobster dinner at Playacar Palace is 6. Ironically, the lobster dinner costs 50% more (food at Burj al Arab was about $100, drinks extra).
Location is the main reason that we stay at Playa del Carmen Palace. It is close to shopping area, ATM and the ferry to Cozumel. All-inclusive experience at Palace resort is superb, especially if you like to drink (liquor dispenser is available in the room). Restaurant and bar staff is very nice and friendly but front desk staff is reluctant to upgrade the room, unless you are persistent. The idea that I stay in Playa del Carmen and I can enjoy the amenities in other Palace resorts, e.g.: Cozumel Palace, is delightful. At home, before you arrive at the hotel, think carefully what you are going to do with the resort credits. Certain tours are not scheduled every day, so plan ahead. For the best value of your stay, you need to simply utilize the entire resort credit. Our resort credits were used up for tour, spa, lobster dinner, photo, and room upgrade.
Duty Fee Shop, Cancun airport
Several liquors at the duty free shop are cheaper than Pennsylvania. Prices are in USD. Beware that if you pay with Amex, the price is converted to MXM. Don’t forget the foreign transaction fees charged by the credit card companies. But I think it is still cheaper to buy. Liquor-filled chocolates are overpriced.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Playacar Palace, a trendy beachfront resort located steps away from Playa del Carmen's famous 5th Avenue and the Cozumel Ferry Dock. Our all-inclusive, luxury resort features 201 appointed rooms, 3 restaurants and 4 bars. This resort is considered the perfect spot to relax during the day and enjoy the nightlife and charms of "Playa" at night. Playacar Palace is perfect for families, couples, and group getaways. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Playacar Palace Hotel Playa Del Carmen
- Playacar Palace Mexico
- Playacar Palace Resort
- Playacar Palace Riviera Maya/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico