We are a couple with a 2 year old toddler who traveled to attend a wedding at the nearby Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. We decided not to stay at the HRH because Trip Advisor reviews by other families. Furthermore, after many trips with our boy we've learned we must have a one bedroom suite for the three of us which was not available at the HRH. (He gets a quiet dark room to sleep in and mom & dad get some private time together before bed.) In the end even though it was inconvenient for us to attend the wedding and we didn’t get to spend as much time with our extended family as we wanted to, we are very happy we stayed at the Barcelo property.
First if you're like me and looking for a spot you might be wondering. What is the difference between the Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe, Maya Tropical, Maya Colonial, Maya Caribe, Maya Beach? I'm not sure but I know they are all side by side can you can pretty much access the other's facilities with few exceptions namely the Palace Deluxe a la carte restaurants. And as I understand if you can't you can always pay a little extra for access. Also, be aware it's an hour car ride from the Cancun airport to the Riviera Maya.
The check-in lobby was large and nicely lit, unfortunately the breezeway was very dark when we arrived due to two non-functioning light fixtures. Our luggage was delivered to us in a timely manner. Unfortunately the crib we requested was not in the room when we arrived, but delivered promptly after a call. Once it arrived, we quickly realized our 36 inch tall son would barely fit in it so he ended up sleeping in our bed most of the stay. The broken bulbs frustratingly took 2 days and multiple calls to different people to resolve. That was my only major disappointment with the Barcelo.
Our room (Suite Ocean Front Club Premium) in the Veracruz building was large and exactly as pictured, a living area and bedroom separated by a solid door. Be aware even thought it says ocean front, it does not have an ocean view. The suite is a 1.5 bath unit with the half bath in the living area, away from the bedroom where we could brush our teeth or use the restroom to not risk waking up our little one. The master bathroom is large with a tub that easily fit myself and my two year old, toilet stall and separate shower stall. I did note that the door to the master toilet only opens about 2 feet wide so if that’s an issue there is the standard 3 foot doorway to the toilet in the living area. I’ve read other reviews that the mattress was hard. We found our king size bed to be on the firm, but still comfortable side.
The living space is large and comfortable. We used the comfortable dinette set often to enjoy room service which was nice for occasions when we couldn’t eat until after our little one went to sleep.
There are separate thermostats in the bedroom and living area each and in the heat of summer we were able to keep our suite at 23C (73F) throughout the day.
Coming from the SF bay area, we consider ourselves foodies. The buffet was pretty good, better than what I've had at places like Hometown Buffet. The a la carte restaurants were darn good as well. As other reviewers have said, make your dinner reservations the moment you arrive. The reservations desk is open until 10pm or 11pm near the check-in counter. With our two dinner options, we decided on the steakhouse and Japanese. The rack of lamb entree at the Sante Fe is a full rack. The skill of the teppanyaki chefs at Kyoto was better than the shows you'll see in the US at Benihana. They did amazing things with the spatulas from juggling eggs to tossing small bites of food into the mouths of diners with 90% accuracy. The Surf and Turf at Kyoto is really that... lobster tail and steak unlike the steak and shrimp my parents had at the nearby Hard Rock. The hot food was well prepared, however quality of the sashimi and sushi rolls was acceptable but not great.
With the suite, room service was free although as you might expect the menu is limited. That said, the quality of the room service food made it understandable. The chicken noodle soup and flank steak are great, shrimp cocktail was huge and tasty (unlike some tasteless shrimp I’ve experienced at a local Vietnamese place lately) although mixed with avocados and served in a pineapple shell wasn't quite what quite what we expected. They stock the refrigerators very well with water and drinks. That said we had two full mini fridges, one in the bedroom and one in the living space, really convenient in our situation.
The Barcelo property has five dolphins on site which you can experience up close for between $100-$200. After reading one other reviewer’s comments about the dolphins swimming area being small, I decided to check it out for myself. I can see where she is coming from, however it didn't seem any smaller than the dolphin experience location my wife and I experienced ~10 years ago in the Florida Keys. I’m not a veterinarian by any means, but they look to be in relatively good condition and after a busy day it’s would seem best they get left alone after 5pm.
As the Barcelo Maya is a large property (seriously, there is a free shuttle between all properties), the beach is expansive and offers a few choices. There’s the expansive sandy beach, a rocky area, and where the pier meets the shore there are tide pools. My little boy saw his first Hermit crab there. For the romantically inclined you can have a beautiful dinner for two on the beach with Christmas lights along the pathway to your table.
We spent most of our time at the large kiddie area right next to the adult pool with the swim up bar. The pool is well designed as a wading pool surrounding a variety of water slides. Most were too fast for our two year old and arguably his clumsy parents who bruised their knees going down the slide. The five year olds around didn’t seem to have a problem. But there are two gentle slides in the shape of a frog and butterfly which would be fine for him if only he had the courage.
In retrospect, I wish I made time to join the water aerobics class which happens at noon.
Facilities & Safety
As I mentioned before when we booked our stay back in February 2014, we were concerned with the safety of the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya based on other Trip Advisor reviews. I should mention during the half day I was at the HRH I didn’t notice any safety concerns for a toddler, but from our brief stay seeing the pool, beach and my parent’s room, it is more suitable for young teens to adults. At the Barcelo Colonial, we felt very safe letting our son walk a little further from us. The walls along the breezeways & balcony still tower over his 36” frame. The stairs have handrails. The only place we kept him a little closer to us was near the buffet and a la carte restaurants where the walkways are straddled by what I’d guess to be 18” deep pools for the fountains.
After scraping her knee at the waterslide, my wife requested some first aid from the front desk one evening. Since the medic wasn’t immediately available he offered to have the medic go to our room. Sure enough she showed up within 20 minutes and applied basic first aid to clean and bandage the wound.
I'm very glad I heeded the advice of my friends and the concierge, by not taking my two year old to Chichen Itza. At Tulum, my little one was sweating heavily and downed an entire bottle of cold Gatorade. All this despite being lucky he had a relatively cool for that time of year according to our tour guide.
Our friend with a toddler of the same age raved about another family resort closer to Cancun so we might try that next time. But if you’re a young family looking for a resort near Puerto Adventuras, I would highly suggest considering the Barcelo resort.