This was our first time traveling outside the US, and as a single mom with two teens wanted to book an all-inclusive to alleviate some headaches. My travel agent highly recommended the Palace Resorts and Beach Palace in particular...it is not as large a property as the other Palace Resorts in Cancun so we didn't feel like one of the faceless masses or get lost, yet it was large enough that there was a variety of things to do and places to eat.
Room: We were on the 11th floor, lagoon side, at the very end of the hallway, so our balcony actually wrapped around the end of the building a bit for a small slice of an ocean view. At first I was disappointed we were not on the ocean side (prior to the trip, we had requested one if available but given this was a holiday week, none came available), but aside from some exhaust noise from the neighboring hotel the room was very quiet and the sunset views over the lagoon were beautiful. For the price differential between ocean side and lagoon side, unless your heart is set on an ocean view the lagoon side is just as nice. The room was very clean but the jacuzzi in the room, while a fun novelty, takes up alot of space and makes the room feel much smaller. Bathroom was small, but walk-in shower was roomy. We didn't like the fact that the wash basins were outside the bathroom and separated from the rest of the room only by two separate floor to ceiling mirrors...a bit more privacy would have been nice as an early riser could easily wake others washing face, brushing teeth, etc.
Restaurants: There are 4 to choose from, Asian, Italian, a steakhouse and Mexican buffet. Asian and Italian are labeled "formal" but that merely means long pants required (jeans are OK). The Mexican buffet was the fastest and most convenient choice, and the food wasn't bad. Pretty typical buffet style items, but better selection that I had anticipated given included in the all-inclusive package. We ate at the Italian place one night and were incredibly disappointed in the service and the food quality...one of the few negatives about our trip. Didn't make it to the other restaurants, but heard others commenting on the Asian being very good.
Activities: I really liked that several tours were included as part of the package. We did the Chichen Itza tour and Isla Mujeres through the hotel, tried to sign up for the ZipLine but all spaces were filled for the duration of our trip....if you want to do that tour, schedule quickly as there are limited spaces and much demand. Chichen Itza was amazing, but very crowded the day we went. It was quickly apparent that the place they stop at on the way to Chichen Itza for "authorized shopping by Mayan artists" (and then again on the return trip for lunch) is merely an extension of the Palace Resort group. Prices are ridiculous, and I admittedly overpaid for three small obsidian statues. Plus they will tell you that the vendors at Chichen Itza are selling fake items and selling illegally... don't buy this line. You could negotiate with the vendors at Chichen Itza for the same items at a fraction of the price. Also, this tour makes for a very long day...be sure to have a hearty breakfast because "lunch" may not be until 3 PM or later. Still worth the investment of a full day - a truly amazing place.
On the other hand, the Isla Mujeres tour was not worth the investment of a full day, with the exception of the boat ride over and especially back. The guys on the boat were really entertaining and the return trip was a hoot with tequila shots for anyone willing to open their mouth! On the way over to the island, they try to sell you tours for when you arrive, either a boat tour of the island, snorkeling, or scuba diving. We hung out at the Palace resort rather than paying for one of these tours and it was OK, but the beach was not that big. The second part of they day they take you to the north end of the island for shopping in the commercial district. Again, it felt like this was set up exclusively as a tourist trap and the prices were not that great. Other than the return boat ride, I wouldn't spend a precious vacation day doing this again.
Before we went, we had scheduled the dolphin encounter at Wet N Wild through our travel agent rather than taking a chance of this being filled up when we arrived. Palace Resorts owns Wet N Wild, so admission and food (such that it is) is included in your all-inclusive Palace package, although the dolphin encounter itself cost extra. There were only a few rides at Wet N Wild, and it does not come close to comparing with US water parks. The dolphin encounter, however, was fantastic with alot of interaction with the dolphins, including a tummy ride! Just like about everywhere, they will try to sell you a photo package which is extremely pricey although I was able to negotiate a slightly better deal. My kids and I truly enjoyed this experience.
I also scheduled one of the "jungle tours" through the American Express representative rather than the hotel. I had heard this was alot of fun, and it definitely was. You drive a boat (and yes it goes pretty fast) through the mangroves and into the open water where you spend about an hour snorkeling, then your guide randomly leads you back to the marina. Again, it was very crowded in the snorkeling area(which pretty much everything was given the holiday week) but well worth it.
Services: When you arrive at the resort they will try to talk you into attending their Palace Resort membership presentation. I understand they are required to push this, but after the first time saying no, I didn't appreciate their calling my room a couple of additional times trying to talk me into it. If you have a few more days in Cancun, it might be worth attending just to get the Spa or Tour credit (it supposedly lasts about 90 minutes and they take you to one of the other Palace Resorts to attend), but since we only had 5 or so days there, it wasn't worth the time trade-off to me. Aside from this annoyance, the staff was generally excellent and truly interested in wanting to make your vacation and Palace stay an enjoyable experience. We received prompt response to any request, from room service to additional towel requests to following up on wake up calls to be sure we had indeed woken up.
The city bus system is easy, abundant, and seemed relatively safe. I always told the driver as soon as we got on the bus where our destination was and they generally called it out so we knew when to get off. We never took a taxi, but I heard, and the Palace staff re-inforced the importance of negotiating a fare before you get in the taxi. If you take the city bus to Wet N Wild, just be aware that only about 10% of the buses go that far, and you need to look for a sign in their window indicating such, so plan accordingly.
By the time we arrived, the beach replenishment effort seemed complete at least as far as the eye could see in either direction. Very expansive (and pretty clean) beach in front of the hotel, in addition to the nice main infinity pool and two rooftop pools geared towards adults. Very energetic Palace staff coordinated a variety of poolside activities throughout the day and there was nightly entertainment.
The most annoying aspect of the trip was that just about everyone was looking for a tip, from the guy who took your luggage 100 ft from the airport to the shuttle to every tour guide or bus driver. I understand and respect that tourism is about the only economic driver for this area, but the expectation for a tip for anything got old really quickly, although the requests were always made respectfully.
Our Spanish was meager at best, but it wasn't a problem since this resort area seems predominantly geared towards Americans and the dollar. Most everything was dually quoted in pesos and dollars. Be careful, though, when you convert because the conversion rate varies greatly depending up where you do it.
Overall, the trip was marvelous, and a great chance to make some family memories. The few negatives were relatively minor and did not diminish the adundance of positive experiences we had. I would not hesitate for a moment recommending Beach Palace to family or friends, and I would without hesitation stay there again in the future.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- If you are seeking a sensational family vacation resort look no further. A beautiful stretch of white sand, premier location in the heart of Cancun's hotel zone close to La Isla shopping and entertainment options, and the modern facilities of Beach Palace create the perfect combination for an unforgettable escape. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Beach Palace Cancun
- Beach Palace Hotel Cancun
- Beach Palace Resort