We just got back from a trip to Mexico where we stayed at this hotel. This a really big complex, five resorts in one.
As can be expected of all inclusives and the buffets they serve, the food was not authentic mexican food, but it was good food. They manage to provide variety while catering to a lot of differnent tastes. We did not eat at any of the formal restaurants, so I cannot review the food there. The drinks were excellent and not watered down at all.
As for the rooms, we stayed in their standard room. It was nothing special, just your standard hotel room: two beds, a couch and two chairs, a flat screen TV, a minibar, and an ensuite bathroom. The only negative thing I have to say about the room was that the water in the shower never seemed to run hot, it was always lukewarm. Don't know why that is though. Maybe they think lukewarm water is warm enough for a shower/bath down there. I would have loved to take a hot bath after a long day of snorkeling to relax my sore legs, but that was not to be. I have read other reviews that the beds were hard, but I did not find it so. Granted they are not as soft as most of the mattresses you find here in the US of A, but they are not bad either. Of course, I prefer and use an "extra firm" mattress at home, so maybe I am not a good judge of that :)
We snorkeled right off the pier, lots of fish hang around there - they know they get food there, so they have no moivation to go elsewhere. You can feed the fish there, they like bread, bananas and the fish food they sell for a dollar in the aqua shop. The water was choppy and the visibility was not all that great. The beach is good for both swimming and snorkeling, as it has both sandy stretches near the Caribe and Maya Beach hotels and rocky areas near the Palace. I did see a huge sting ray and a large Barracuda near the pier while snorkeling. Some of the guests also reported seeing turtles and schools of angelfish.
We took a guided snorkeling tour provided by the hotel dive shop (Dressel divers) where we spotted quite a few turtles. I felt that there wasn't much sea life around the reefs, they seemed dead to me. I was at Jamaica the previous year where the reefs were just teeming with sea creatures and the visiblity was great - upto fifty feet and porbably more. Based on my previous experience, the snorkeling was disappointing, but maybe I was expecting too much? Jamaica was "less developed" in a touristy manner - maybe that was why there was abundant sea life.
We also did the Chichen Itza trip and it was spectacular. I thank all the other reviewers here who said it is a must see. I did, and I agree - it is a must see. We booked our trip through Miguel who sells these tours near the reception desk at the Caribe hotel. He gave us the best price and the best advice on activities nearby. He is just fantastic - tell him what you are interested in and what your budget is like and he will try and accomodate your needs. We did not have much to spend, so we got a discount from him for the Chichen Itza tour and really great advice. He told us to take a taxi to the Yal Ku lagoon in Akumal and to go snorkeling there. It was worth it. He told us to take a collectivo instead of a taxi to Playa Del Carmen to save money and that is exactly what we did. It was a great experience. The other girls at the desk tried to charge us more - 45 dollars more for the Chichen Itza trip. So, make sure you talk to Miguel.
All in all, it was a good trip, and a good resort to stay in if it is your first time in Mexico. I will definitely recommend this place. It is value for money. On my next trip to Mexico, I will stay at a smaller place, maybe not quite right on the beach as I want to explore more of Mexico - do the Coba and tulum ruins, visit the Sian Kaan reserve and all that. I don't intend it to be a beach vacation next time, so a smaller place will do me fine. If it is a relaxing beach vacay I am looking for, I will stay at a smaller place which does not wreak such havoc on the ecosystem.
The Riviera Maya is certainly overdeveloped, and very touristy, and unfortunately, the big resorts have the best beaches, making them off limits for the locals. Of course they also exact a very heavy toll on the ecosystem, which is very apparent when you get into the water and see how sparse the reefs are. That is a price to be paid for all this development and it is being paid, over and over again. There are vast tracts of land being cleared of green cover so they can be sold as "luxury resort condos" or turned into golf courses on this stretch of the Riviera Maya. Why anyone would want to destroy forests and put in a golf course is beyond me. Heaven knows what the toll on the ecosystem will be beacuse of that.