We stayed for one week during Thanksgiving holiday. Returned Nov 27. My wife, daughter and I stayed at the the Maya Palace Deluxe. Overall, the hotel is gorgeous. The architecture and grounds are immaculate. The service is great. The staff there are very hard working and really seem to go our their way to make sure your needs are met. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. I'm not a big fan of buffets, but there were a lot of choices for the breakfast and lunch buffets. Especially good is the sea food and Mexican food.
We ate at two of the three main restaurants at the Maya Palace - the sea food one (Caribe) and the French one (Brasserie). The Caribe we thought was far better. Very fresh and well prepared on the two nites we at there. My wife and I ate at an Italian restaurant called Capri at another hotel on the Barcelo property and it too was pretty good.
The one thing that bothered me about the dinners is the wine. Don't expect anything better than marginal wine. When I asked a waiter to show me the house wine, he showed me a Chilean cabernet and Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Both were somewhat drinkable and I guess the strategy is for you to upgrade and pay for one of the wines on their list. But these are overpriced, even by restaurant standards. The two American wines are Kendall Jackson (red and white). KJ makes good wines, but I recall the prices ridiculously high.
The beach is well maintained and there was never a problem finding a chair. The beach itself is kind of rocky, as others have noted.
The place is generally good for kids. There are many activities for kids and the pool is huge.
So you can't go wrong at this hotel. We had the ocean view room, but it was on the first floor. Still it was convenient to be near the beach. You can also order room service at no additional charge if you're in the "premium" plan. I didn't find the beds a problem. They were comfy and the bathroom was big & well stocked.
You should remember to take some small bills for tipping from time to time. (USD for those coming from the USA). The workers at this hotel all seem to be on 6-day a week shifts and like I said, they were super friendly. So it seemed only right to leave a few bucks after they've tended to you (when I'm not sure they really have to, other than serve you water and bring place settings).
In my view, the Barcelo is very nice. It's pricey but overall worth it. Just improve the house wine and I'd return!