We were just at the Grand Palladium Colonial during March Break 2013. We selected the older suites to be central (Villa 19 was where we were) and it was an excellent choice. The rooms were perfectly fine and we never walked more than 10 minutes to get to any pool, restaurant, etc in any direction.. In fact we only went on their "funny train" once. This was our 4th trip to the area and its the largest resort we have ever stayed at, which is a bit intimiating at first. We vacation throughout the Carribean so have a good idea of what works and what doesn't work and value for money.
What I liked about the place was the huge great beach, somewhat of a good reef but it was very choppy when we were there, a la carte restaurants/with first come first serve for the most part that were very good by resort standards, staff were very friendly and effective, and the abundance of nature all around. The birds, iquanas, funny mexcican racoons etc, were everywhere. I hate lining up to get chits for restaurants so this resort, nailed it perfectly!
Plus location. If you are a snorkelling buff, Akumal bay is a 10 minute cab drive away. We paid $20 each way plus tip and went twice. It is by far one of the best and most popular places to snorkle we have been to. It's up there with Turks and Caicos and i thought better than St. Lucia, but clearly a notch down from the Hawaiian islands. We once stayed at the Akumal Beach Resort right on the Akumal Bay, 7-8 years ago and Akumal was sleepy. Now its on the list for the eco-tour people. On our first day there, I counted 200 hundred snorklers in one area -- I kid you not. But that's okay because those 200 people saw between 10- 20 turtles plus the reef fish. Further out I saw a beautiful manta ray with wide wings - it was fantastic.. Here's my advice about Akumal beach: 1) bring your own gear or rent at the dive shot; 2) where a safety vest to inflate if tired for visibilitiy; 3) bring a water proof camera but tape the door shut with black electrical tape (i've gone through many cameras so take my advice here), be in a cab at 8.30, be in the water at 9 am, be out by 10 am and back at the pool by 1030. Do not, I repeat, go on an organized tour that stretchs it into a day trip. The boat from the resort at $40 each is a good alternative if you don't want to go by taxi. The main part of the bay is where most of the turtles are and as you swim south you hit the reef, etc. You need to have a plan for your valuables. Leave someone to guard, rent a locker at the dive shop or take it with you. The picture attached is of me swimming down. Curiously, my daughter took the picture and she was down 10-15 feet or so to capture the angle. Do not touch the turtles or bother them. My wife gave these two idiots heck who were trying to ride one! Lastly, remember that people drown in the bay. There is a lifeguard on a kyak but you need flippers and an inflatable vest. Just blow it up a bit and you will float. The risk is getting a cramp, panicking and drowning.
The other really good excursion is Telum which is more like 45 mins south by cab. I don't know the cost from the Paladium. if you go, do not go on a tour unless you enjoy standing in heat for hours and been taken to places to get your money, and use up a whole day. You paid good money to get to the Palladium, so why waste time elsewhere? Here's my advice: arrange a taxi and structure your departure so you arrive at about 7.45 AM. Gates open at 8 Am so you get to see the ruins without hoards of people in your pictures. An hour or so is enough time (skip the guide unless you are a history buff) and then hit one of the best beaches in the whole world right at the ruin. The Mexican tourist people use THAT beach in their promos all the time. I There is not WC or change rooms there so you need to be innovative with a towel. It's a grand experience. Bring drinks with you. I've been 3 times over the years and enjoyed it a lot.
Back to the hotel, the Colonial pool is great but was bit cold. The buffet for breakfast was really good but busy after 8 AM. My only complaint was the coffee. It was truck stop coffee. The beach bar (24hrs) makes a nice coffee. The machines in the lobby were terrible. I just had my one beach coffee a day and that was it. The Japanese and Asian a la cartes were good. In fact all were good. At the a la cartes, the idea is you wait for you turn, if busy the host gives you a beeper, have a drink, and then once you get a table you have a salad bar before the a la carte kicks in. They have a revolving adult night plan so check first if you have kids. Also, the paperwork to describe the restaurants at the resort is very poor, so if you can print it out in advance it would help.
There were lots of handicrafts for sale in the evenings at the hotel which was nice. The shows were so-so but who cares. I found it easy to get drinks always, tips help but the staff were respectful about it (unlike Cuba where tips make a huge difference in service levels).
If you are prone to bugs, bring bug juice and walk back to your room on the road not the paths (less bugs). Watch the raised walkways and some of the boards look like they are about to give way. Try to hitchhike a ride on a golf cart.
What else, lots of tennis and other activities.
Also, the outdoor pool provides a great vantage of the coast. It is quiet and the first ones there in the morning get the "outdoor beds".
Free wifi in the lobby which worked fine. If coffee was served before 10 Am in the lobby, the experience would have been complete for me.
Also, if you are in a large group, think about rechargeable walkie talkies. it's a big place so you won't randomly find them if lost, and walkies are way cheaper then cell phones and less valuable. $50 at Walmart gets you 2. A lot of people have them there (plus staff) so you need to find a less popular channel. We swear by them.
Bottom line, is its a perfectly fine place, just figure out whether location of room is more important to you than quality of room. I would definitely go back. It's not perfect, but what is in life? I'd say of all the 15-20 different resorts I've been to its much closer to the top than the bottom.
Enjoy whereever you go - you're lucky to be able to get away!