We have just returned from 8 days at Iberostar Tucan. We have to daughters, 9 and 11.
My wife is in love with Hawaii and wants to go there for every tropical vacation. I have been trying to convince her to go to Mexico for over 20 years but she sees reports of drug violence in Mexico and has been afraid to go. After showing her that the US Dept. of State has never issued a traveler safety advisory for Quintana Roo, she reluctantly agreed to give it a try. We selected the Iberostar Tucan based on reviews and the "eco" aspect.
We booked online directly with the resort and selected the round-trip private airport transfer. We did not get off to a good start when there was nobody waiting for us at the Cancun airport. I started to get the "See, I told you so" look. After about 15 minutes, we found a host from Iberostar in the arrivals area and he had a private minivan for us within a matter of minutes. Apparently, there was a technical problem between the hotel and the transfer company because while we had a confirmation for the transfer from hotel, we never received a separate confirmation from the transfer company. Because of this, we did not have a return transfer either, but a taxi was no problem and Iberostar refunded our payment for the transfer service within days and without me having to file a claim. All-in-all, a small bump in road. The taxis are spotlessly clean and I will use them round trip next time.
The lobby of the hotel is beautiful -- open air with thousands of square feet of perfectly polished marble floors, parrots chattering, iguanas basking in the grass, and monkeys in the treetops. Check-in was quick and we were given wristbands that identified us as hotel guests and gave us access to all the resort's amenities. We were given a standard ground-floor room halfway between the lobby and the pool area. The resort is actually two in one -- the Quetzal and the Tucan, each with its own lobby and restaurants, sharing the pools, beach, and other facilities. The entire resort has an "eco" setting with cobblestone paths meandering through native jungle between buildings. Tzereques (rabbit/squirrel/deer thingies), peacocks, Guinea fowl, iguanas, koatis, and monkeys are everywhere. I heard or read that there are 16 indigenous species living on the resort grounds. This two-in-one concept gives the resort a feeling that it is smaller than it really is, which is a good thing. As a guest, you have full access to both halves of the resort.
The rooms are very nice and have great air-conditioning and ceiling fans. I was told that this is one of the older resorts in the area but the rooms were in great shape. They include a refrigerator with limited mini-bar (beer, soft drinks, water) and an electronic safe. We kept our passports and large cash in the safe but left small bills, iPads, computers, phones, etc. out and had no problem. The beds were firm but comfortable. The entertainment is near the lobby and runs until 11PM every night so if you go to bed early and want quiet, request a room closer to the beach/pool.
Security is excellent with two guarded gates to get into the property and an armed guard on the beach all day. In fact, I'm a seasoned global traveler with over 150 foreign stamps in my current passport and I felt more secure in Playa del Carmen than in many other places that I visit, including Paris, London, and almost any large city or tourist area in the US. There is a significant police presence in the Playa del Carmen town and according to the locals, there is a tremendous effort in the community to make it safe for tourism. Without the US tourists, the area would end up like Cuba -- a beautiful area with crumbling infrastructure and economic challenges. Instead, Playa del Carmen is amazingly clean with no litter or graffiti, no thugs or panhandlers, and no hoards of children selling gum. It is very touristy so avoid it if that is not your thing. We rode bikes from the resort into the town's main street/port and felt very safe the whole time. Even the traffic on the main hotel drag was considerate of bicycles.
Shopping in the Playa del Carmen tourist/port area (5th Street) was fun and typically Mexican, with lots of pottery, crafts, clothing, and gorgeous jewelry. Generally, haggling is the custom so don't spend more that 40-50% of the opening price. The restaurants here were fantastic and next time we will go to town for more meals.
Iberostar is based in Spain and only about 25% of the guests are from the US. Our kids enjoyed the "international" experience and we met lots of fun and interesting people from Germany, Russia, Canada, Spain, and Italy.
The food at the resort was good. The menu restaurants were very nice and we like the Japanese tepanyaki one the best. The buffets were good, with reasonable variety, but they are no match for the spectacular buffets I see in SE Asia. However, they are convenient and there is never a line. You will never go hungry. The service is excellent in both the menu restaurants and the buffets. Be sure make reservations for the menu restaurants at guest services kiosk in the lobby as soon as you arrive because they fill up fast. You are limited to three reservations at a time.
The staff is friendly and they all speak English quite well. They were very encouraging of, and entertained by, our attempts at Spanish.
The pool is gigantic, warm, and crystal clear. My kids lived in it. It is surrounded by lounge chairs and four palapas. All are first-come, first-served. You can find chairs as late as 10AM but the palapas are nabbed by 6:00AM by the early risers. We had a palapa for a lazy day and really enjoyed it. There are always plenty of beach lounge chairs and umbrellas any time of day. You are issued beach/pool towels on arrival, one per person, and have to keep track of them for your entire stay, but you can exchange them for clean dry towels at the pool as often as you like. This worked really well.
The beach is world-class with that incredible Caribbean white sand and turquoise water. Water temp was about 80° and air temps ranged from 68° to 80°. Hobie Cats, kayaks, and snorkeling gear is available all day though you need to reserve the Hobies and Kayaks at the dive center in the morning. I have a Hobie myself and the four at the Tucan are rough but serviceable and we had a blast on screaming reaches up and down the shoreline. Regarding the earlier comment by Monoson, all four Hobies were out much of the time; we had no trouble getting one. The dive center staff was fantastic; what a great group of kids from all over the world. They took a personal interest in each of us and provided outstanding service. My 11 year-old daughter got her PADI Scuba Diver certification and we went diving together at Cozumel. My 9 year-old daughter was too young for the full course but she took two sessions of the Bubble Maker course and loved every minute of it. She and my wife snorkeled in Cozumel and had a great time.
There are activities all day. My wife attended tennis lessons in the morning, then played singles and doubles with other guests afterward. One of the two tennis courts was pretty run down but I understand it is going to be overhauled this spring. We did water Zumba, ceramic crafts, played on the beach and in the warm surf. The magic show was really great; the others we saw were OK. It's not Las Vegas.
We did not visit the any of the ruins though I have been to them before (back when you could climb the temple at Chichen Itza). They are definitely worthwhile and we will get to them next time. We did do the nearby Dolphin Discovery and spent a hour swimming with dolphins. This is not cheap but is a great experience.
I would like to send a special thanks to the following Iberostar staff for their excellent service:
Mery at the front desk who helped us sort out our transfer problem with a smile.
Erika and Andre in the photo center who got some incredible professional photos of our kids.
Elena, Olaf, Willem, Dirigo, Jullien, and Charley at the dive shack for the patience and caring they showed my kids during scuba and the great dive/snorkel trip to Cozumel, especially my timid 9 year-old. They really went out of their way to look after us an make sure we had a great time.
Alex for the video of my youngest in Bubble Makers; what a treasure.
Jesus at the guest services kiosk for answering all our questions and helping us sort out the restaurant reservations.
The two gents at the ceramic painting activity. The are really artists and the pieces they help us make are really beautiful.
I would recommend this resort without hesitation to any family. If the buffets matched what I see at hotels in Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia, I would have given it five spots instead of four. We will definitely return, but we will eat more dinners in town.
Closer to the beach/pool for quite; closer to the lobby/restaurants for convenience.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.