We stayed at Moana Lodge on the final leg of our honeymoon. The hotel is situated a 5-10 minute drive along a very bumpy road (like all the roads in the area - 4x4 a must) from the main crossroads in Playa Carmen where there are shops, a pharmacy, ATMs, restaurants etc.
The beach opposite the hotel is nice for watching the sunset, but is not good for a paddle - it's very rocky and the surf will slam the stones into your ankles (as I found out to my cost). There's also a pack of dogs that roam around there, so not good if you're don't like dogs much!
Playa Carmen is sandy and if you're willing to drive a bit further Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa are stunning strips of palm-fringed sand with big surf where we did both bodyboarding and surfing (watch out for the rip currents though - super strong!). Montezuma's beautiful and calm swimming beach is 35-minutes' drive away.
As for the hotel itself, most of the buildings are nestled in the trees, apart from the restaurant and suites, which have amazing views out to sea. Due to the junior suite's cost, we started our stay in a semi-detached double room - we were pleased to see a bottle of Champagne had been put out for us - before moving up to the suite for the last two nights.
In general, the hotel is very nice, but we just felt it lacked a few of the details that make a place great. For instance, the rooms were nice and clean, but we weren't overly impressed with the lack of bin bags in the bathrooms, given that you can't flush toilet paper in Mal Pais, and things like hairdryers and flannels were missing. The indoor shower in the junior suite also didn't work, but luckily there was a nice private outdoor shower which made up for it.
The hanging beds by the pool are really relaxing and the water itself is nice and cool (Mal Pais is scorching hot day and night - you will need your A/C on!), although its a pretty small so no swimming.
The restaurant was nice, but be warned that in the 'green' season there's a good chance it will be closed apart from during breakfast. The breakfast itself is a la carte, which was a bit disappointing as we'd got used to buffet spreads elsewhere. Also one morning it took 35 minutes to get some pancakes, which we think is because they have so few staff in the off season that they all seem to do multiple jobs - chef/waitress one minute, cleaner the next.
But the main disappointment for us was the distinct lack of a warm Tico welcome that we'd experienced everywhere else in Costa Rica. One of the waitresses mumbled so quietly you could barely hear her and the other members of staff including the female owner were polite but not friendly, even when we were both really struggling with a stomach bug - don't expect any small talk.
This could/should have been a five-star review.
The views from the suites are fantastic
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.