What you need to know before you go
We just returned home (March 11, 2013) from a week at the Barcelo Maya Beach Resort. Before we chose our resort, I did a lot of reading of reviews on here which helped with making my decision so I thought I’d return the favour and will attempt to give a comprehensive review for those considering visiting here.
We booked with Flight Centre and flew with Sunwing. Flight was great; Sunwing offers a lot more in-flight service than other Canadian airlines. Keep in mind if you are flying home, even after 8pm they will serve you dinner. The only negative about Sunwing was their rep at the resort, when I went to check on our pick up time he is very rude and just pointed to a print out on a board that was difficult to read as it was up high and behind plastic. But other than that, I would fly with them again.
We stayed in the Tulum building, on the third floor. Room was nice, king bed, couch, chairs and small table. Outside on our deck we had a plastic table and chairs. Bedding was nice, air conditioner easy to adjust to our comfort level. Things to note, you need your room key in the slot on the wall as soon as you enter in order to activate the lights and air-conditioning. I took a business card and was able to leave it in there so that when we went out we could have the air-con on to ensure a cool room when we returned. We took the stairs in hopes of burning off some of what we ate and drank.
Stocked daily with beer, sparkling water, still water, sprite, coke, diet coke, apple juice and peanuts. We fed the peanuts to the birds on our deck and got some great photos. We wanted more beer so I left a note ‘6 cervezas por favor’ with two $1 bills. From then on we had plenty of beer and every few days I’d leave a few bills.
Nice, functional, includes a hair dryer and shampoo and shower gel dispensers in the shower. I’d read this before so made sure I took conditioner with me. There is a plug in the bathroom, which I used for my hair straightener. They also provided, lotion, mending kit, shower cap, shoe shiner and a face scrubber.
So beautiful, lots of trees for shade. We’d go down each morning around 8 and easily found deckchairs to claim for the day. I’d read about people suggesting watershoes, and I’d have to say they are TOTALLY UNNECESSARY. You can walk out to waist deep without encountering any rocks and from there you can see rocks easily and avoid them. I did water aerobics in the ocean with the group one day and no one was wearing water shoes.
Nice, a bit cool, but very clean.
My advice, don’t try everything the first day! You will be sick of the food in days if you do this. Breakfast was very nice, lots of juices, fresh fruit, made to order eggs/omelets, etc. I got into a routine of having yogurt (not the little tubs but the plain stuff available near the cheeses), with some oats or granola, raisins and coconut. They also had these wonderful biscuits with what seemed to be cream cheese spread on top and a blob of strawberry jam. They also had a huge assortment of sweet baked goods. Lunch we had at the beach grill restaurant or back at the buffet. They had burgers, hot dogs, pastas, amazing pizza (always available at dinnertime too), pasta, quesadillas, and of course nacho chips with cheese sauce, fresh salsa and tasty guacamole (my favourite).
Dinner at the buffet had various theme nights but it basically was the same with a different roast, lamb, pork, beef. Most of the roasts seemed to be over cooked, but the pasta was always a good choice, or pizza, or some of the Mexican items. Salad selection was limited but there was plenty of fish dishes, potatoes, vegetarian items etc. Desserts were always ice cream, fruits, a selection of cakes and the traditional cookies.
We only ended up doing one a la carte restaurant although despite what I read we had no trouble booking three at decent times, we just didn’t end up going. We went to the seafood restaurant. It was quite good, we had the lobster with linguine. The dessert was amazing, we both chose the chocolate soufflé with ice cream. The soufflé was more of a cake with a pudding like centre but was very delicious.
We spent most of the day at the beach/pool so frequented the pool bar often. It was never overly busy, the key attraction for beer/soda drinkers is that you could pour your own without having to wait in line. I felt that the drinks were strong for my tastes so I’d always say ‘mango daiquiri on the rocks NOT strong’ and it seemed to help.
The daily beach entertainment seemed fun, I only did the aerobics and bingo once. Otherwise just watched the goings on. The nightly shows were okay, kind of what you would expect.
-We found the sports bar, in an odd location, but worth checking out if you want to play some games. They had air hockey, foosball, and pool tables. We played pool a few nights, the place was basically empty, the poor bartender seemed bored silly.
-We found the shopping center plaza mid way through the week. Got a great deal on a knockoff coach bag and longchamps knapsack.
-We skipped the orientation that the tour providers insist you attend. It was not necessary at all.
-People at breakfast generally wore their swimsuits, with cover-ups for the women and tshirts for the men. Lunch and Dinner the same. At the a la cartes you have to dress up a bit more, but still very casual.
-Take an insulated travel cup, saves on walking back for more drinks and keeps your drinks cold in the hot sun.
-Our shuttle back to the airport didn’t leave til 4 so we tried to pay for a late checkout ($60) but our room was already booked. We left our luggage at the front desk, packed our beach bag with toiletries and a change of clothes and were able to enjoy the day at the beach and then showered at the fitness facilities. They had hairdryers and towels, but alas no plug in for my hair straightener.
We did two. One through Mayan Adventures, which was a snorkeling day with lunch. We went to an inlet, an underground cenote and an open cenote. I think it was $86 per person. It was good, worthwhile and comparable price to others.
The second was the Coba Cultural tour through a company called alltournative tours. It was just over $100 each, and took us to the Coba ruins where we had about two hours. At that site we took the cycle taxi, and did the extended tour. It was $16 US and well worth it!!! Saves having to walk in the heat and then when you get to the ruins you are still feeling energetic enough to climb them and take photos, then you come down and your ride is waiting to take you back. After the ruins, we went to a traditional Mayan home and met a family in a very remote area, no electricity, no running water. Then it was on to a Mayan village, where we visited the bakery, a dry cenote, a small museum, had a traditional blessing, and lunch. I would recommend this trip, very interesting, and a real taste of Mayan culture. If you do the Coba tour, take some fruits from the buffet to give to the kids/people in the village.
We booked both trips through the Barcelo rep situated in the main lobby. I liked that she wasn’t trying to sell us anything but seemed genuinely interested in finding us tours that fit with what we wanted to experience.
I took $100 US in one dollar bills. I wanted to be sure that I would have enough for tipping often. I never felt that service was better or worse if you tipped or not, I felt that the bartenders were open to making you whatever you wanted and also would suggest things based on what you said you might like. As mentioned above we tipped the mini bar, it is a different person from the maids, so we also tipped the maid separately. We also tipped the tour guides on our excursions, and the various people we encountered along the way on our Coba cultural trip.