This was our first time at the Barcelo Maya Palace, so I read a lot of reviews here on TA before going. I was a bit apprehensive, given what I had read about bad food, long lines at check-in, etc. I saw none of that. In fact, except for a few minor nits (see below), this was one of the best all inclusives we have been to for families. Over the last several years, we have tended to go to the Iberostar resorts, lately settling on the Paraiso Maya as our go-to warm weather vacation place. But we wanted a change, and we had heard that this resort was similar. We where not disappointed.
First, a few things about our us. We are a family of four (two daughters, 11 years old). We look for a resort that has good food, good beach and pool, and good service. We are not looking for night life, nor for a lot of participatory activities on the beach. We scuba dive, so a good dive shop on the premises is a must. So i can't really comment on the quality of the shopping, or of the disco, since we did not really try these things.
The resort is made up of five hotels: the Palace, the Tropical - Colonial, and the Caribe - Beach. The hyphenated hotels, while separate, share facilities and are in the same class. The Palace is the most expensive and offers the most amenities, followed by the Tropical - Colonial, and then the Caribe - Beach. The Caribe seemed to be under construction while we where there. In addition, within each hotel class, you can also purchase the Club Premium Deluxe option, which gives you additional amenities (better room, unlimited reservations, no towel cards) within your hotel class. We where at the Palace, and we had the Club Premium Option.
In general, guests from one hotel can use the facilities at any of the lower rated hotels, but not vice-versa. So guests at the Tropical can go to the Caribe, but not to the Palace. Guests at the Palace can go anywhere they like. As others have mentioned, the place is big. However, let's not exaggerate: one night, we went to dinner at the Mexican restaurant at the Beach, and it was a 15 min walk along the beach from our room at the Palace. There is a shuttle tram that goes from hotel to hotel, but we never took it.
General Hotel Description
The lobby and restaurant complex is located right on the beach. The Club Premium had it's own check in area, and the whole process took about 10 minutes. Our room was in the Oaxaca building, close to the beach. The hotel is laid out around an enormous pool complex. In addition to the larger main pool, there is a sports pool (with lanes set up in the morning), a kids water park/pool, as well as an adults-only pool. You can go from your room to the lobby area under cover, so there is no need to bring raincoats in case of a rain shower. The beach is right off the pool. There are some areas with rocks, but other areas are all sand. I took water shoes but didn't use them. Snorkeling right off the beach is amazing. There where at least two turtles that swim right up to shore. Bring your mask and snorkel. You can borrow some there but they are in high demand.
I was very pleased with our room. We where on the third floor, with a balcony, chairs, and a drying rack, facing the pool. The room had one king bed, and two sofas made up as beds for our girls. This didn't leave a lot of places to sit that where not the bed, but we had the balcony. Furnishings where modern and clean. Bathroom was huge, with two sinks, a separate toilet area, and a tub and shower. Hot water was never a problem. There is a flat screen TV on the wall (it was mounted slightly crooked in our room), but honestly we barely turned it on. There is wireless internet in the room which is included with the Club Premium, otherwise you pay for it. I think there is also an internet center near the lobby, but I never needed it.
I read one review here that said the food was inedible. It is very difficult for me to see how that can be the case. Every meal at the sit-down restaurants was fantastic. We went to all three, Caribbean (seafood), Brazilian (steak and pasta), and French. All three where multi-course meals and the menu is varied enough that even though we went back to a couple of them several times, we never had the same thing twice. They also have two buffets, one with generic buffet food and another with more traditional Mexican dishes. We went to the Mexican one for dinner our first night and it was very good. The other one we used only for breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, they have a large variety of hot foods, as well as cereals, fruits, etc. Several egg stations will cook your eggs any way you want them. For lunch, they turn into pasta stations. We didn't try room service (also included with Club Premium, extra charge otherwise), so I can't comment. Finally, there is a lobby bar, as well as a small bar right outside the three sit down restaurants. I like drinking margaritas in the evening, and they where very good. They have Corona on tap. I read a review of someone complaining they didn't have "American" beer. That's right, they don't. If this is a deal breaker, there are lots of hotels in Florida that I'm sure will be a better fit. Then again, they probably server Mexican beer ;-)
Men do need long pants for the sit down restaurants, so don't forget to pack them.
As I said up front, we are primarily there for scuba diving, and the dive shop, run by Dressel Divers, is excellent. Four trips a day are available. You can rent equipment there, or bring your own. They also run several "discover scuba" courses, as well as a free dive in the pool twice a day.
One thing that I cannot recommend more highly is the whale shark excursion. It is not pleasant to wake up at 5AM while on vacation, but it was an incredible experience. They pick you up and drive to Punta Sam, just north of Cancun. There, you take a boat for about an hour and go to a spot in the Cozumel channel where these fish are migrating. We saw dozens of them, ranging in size from 10 to 30 ft. They swim along, and the captain pulls up beside them, and you jump in, two at a a time, along with a guide. You swim as fast as you can along with them. You are swimming within a couple of feet of them. After they pull away, or dive, the boat picks you up. You do this three times. After everyone has had a turn, you go to Isla Mujeres, where you have a ceviche lunch right on the boat, or in our case, standing in waist deep crystal clear water right off the island. The van brings you back to your hotel by around 4PM. Again, I cannot recommend this enough, if you're there during the summer months when the migration is happening.
Things that could be improved:
1. The pool area needs more shade. If you don't get up early, and want to sit near the pool, you will be in the sun. The palm trees aren't spaced close enough to provide any meaningful cover. On the plus side, there is plenty of shade on the beach, where the trees are numerous enough to provide good cover.
2. I realize that even in an all inclusive, some things will cost more, but food shouldn't be one of them. In particular, at the pool bar, there is a food menu, but it costs extra. Furthermore, with the Club Premium, it's unclear whether that was included or not.
3. The hotel could use a place on the pool/beach where people could pick up a snack without having to cover up for lunch. Doesn't have to be much, maybe some burgers, or tacos, or pizza. Some days, you don't want to go in. This would even be beneficial for the hotel since many people will just snack on this and not go in for lunch.
4. The adults-only pool has NO shade, other than the lounge cabanas which have to be reserved (and cost extra).
5. The bathrooms at the pool need to be cleaned more often during the day. This was the only service/maintenance issue I had during my whole entire trip. They start out spotless in the morning, but a bunch of wet people using them quickly makes them a mess.
6. The swim-up bar really needs a good scrubbing. In the afternoon, it can get, shall we say, a bit ripe in the smell department. I realize it's hard to keep clean, with all the food and drink and people spilling both, but other swim up bars don't have this problem.
This is a great place for families. It compares very nicely with the Iberostar Paraiso Maya. In fact, while the IPM has a more impressive physical plant (hard to beat a reproduction of the Chichen pyramid), I liked this resort better: newer rooms, better food, and better pool/beach layout. I would definitely recommend the Club Premium option. Getting unlimited reservations, having better rooms, and not having to deal with towel cards makes it more than worth it.
Oh, and don't forget to tip the staff. I took a stack of dollar and five dollar bills and used them at dinner, for the cleaning lady, etc. It's not required, but it's greatly appreciated.
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- Also Known As:
- Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe Hotel Puerto Aventuras
- Barcelo Puerto Aventuras
- Barcelo Hotel Puerto Aventuras
- Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe Riviera Maya/Puerto Aventuras, Mexico