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“Happy kids = good family vacation!”

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Sandos Playacar Beach Resort
Ranked #57 of 217 Hotels in Playa del Carmen
Reviewed August 8, 2004

We have just this afternoon returned from a 7 day stay at the Gala, so I thought I'd share our experiences. We have two children, boy 8, girl 6, who thoroughly enjoyed their stay and did NOT want to leave! The Kids Club was good - they post their daily activities on a board out front and the children preferred to pick and choose what activities they wanted to join in. We just went down and registered them at 10 am each day and had the freedom to drop them/pick them up whenever it suited (they do "close" the front door between 1 and 3pm when they settle the kids for lunch and a move/nap/quiet time). Some of the activites for the older kids (8 - 12yrs) were wicked - archery, windsurfing, beach baseball etc. I cannot speak more highly of the Land Sports/Entertainment crew. These are the hardest working, talented people I've ever encountered at these types of resorts. They are out there participating in the heat, sand and humidity from 8am and ALWAYS had a smile and a mile of patience for everyone they came across (even the most tenacious of youngsters!!) Add to that the hours of rehearsal every day for their evening shows which didn't finish til around 10:30 pm....... My kids adored the nightly shows, especially watching their "fave" Land Sports person costume up and strut their stuff! The beach was clean and beautiful, and being the first resort into the Playacar area has its advantages - you are not "boxed in" at all on the beach as there is nothing but free space to one side of you. The beach is spacious and the lounges plentiful, but you do need to get in early to "reserve" your spot for the day, especially if you want to be under one of the little huts! There always seemed to be lounges available by the pool whenever I needed one, so had no dramas there. There is also a pool reserved strictly for adults - and everyone obeyed this doctrine! It provided a nice, child free (and splash free!) zone for those wanting less disturbance! Being a fitness nut, I was out running every morning at 6:30 am before hitting the gym. The round trip into PDC would be roughly 6 k's on flat and paved footpaths - pretty easy going. The gym was small, but had all the bits and pieces I needed to get in a good workout. There were two treadmills (which looked almost new) for those who prefer running inside, and about 10 Reebok "spinning" cycles. Aqua aerobics at midday in the main pool is more for fun than fitness, but I had a blast mingling with others and having a good laugh with the staff. They "enjoyed" the fact that, being an Australian, I had absolutely NO IDEA what they were saying in any of their four spoken languages, LOL!!! Step/low impact classes are also available daily, as are Spinning classes. There is a constant hum of activity on the beach volleyball courts and the beach soccer field - all good fun if you want it! The Water Sports area seemed a little disorganised at times with bits of equipment coming and going and no reservation system in place which meant lots of time wasted waiting around. Guests did not respect the time allotments for equipment and the staff didn't do much to follow things up! The highlight of our water borne experience was when our catamaran flipped then sunk quite a ways offshore! Frightened the heck out of our two kids to be honest, but we can all laugh about it now. Turns out that fitting the "plugs" to the hulls had been overlooked that morning ....... lol! Got a free ride on the jetski as part of the "rescue mission"!

Restaurants/Buffets and bars were all pretty good and quite clean. The service was reliable. Plenty of healthy stuff if you want it - nice fresh fruits, smoothies, yoghurts etc. for breakfast, as well as all the usual breakfast fare. Had to eat at lunchtimes in the Festival buffet - no so much healthy stuff in the Oo La La by the pool BUT there is great stuff for those that want it - hamburgers, pizzas, paellas, hot dogs, fries etc.etc. You are only allowed to make one reservation per day for any of the three a la carte restaurants and we didn't have too many problems with this system. There is truth in comments from other reviewers about reservations being difficult to come by then the restaurant being half empty! Must be a reason for it ..... The dinners in the Festival Buffet were of fairly good quality and followed a theme every night. There were always reasonably reliable "staples" for the kids wherever you ate. Most importantly, nobody became unwell due to food borne issues, a pleasant change from our past trips to Bali!!! The wines were OK, the bar service was fine. We didn't bother with tipping waiters/bar staff etc. being as that we were always more than happy to lift off the lounge for a two minute walk to the nearest bar every now and again - just to stretch! Plus, with two youngsters constantly in the water, one can't really hit the alcoholic stuff too early in the day! Some people took their own insulated cups - brilliant idea and I would recommend people do that. Not only do they hold more than the plastic cups offered, but most importantly, they are lidded and would provide some respite from the pesky, persistent and ever present BEES!!!! Can't tell you how many drinks my kids dropped because they were getting swarmed walking back to the chairs!!! Hubby even managed a sting to the finger!

We stayed in the Hacienda section and, yes, it is a little bit of a walk but nothing like the "15 minutes" to the beach that some people have mentioned - these people either crawled down there or stopped off for a few quiet ones in the bar and lost track of all time, lol!! Anyhow, after all that eating, why not walk some??? If you really couldn't manage the walk for whatever reason, they would happily give you a ride in a golf cart. The room was always clean and everything was in good working order. The suites have their own plunge pool and sunlounges etc., and for those who like peace and quiet, it would be perfect. We left the room by 8 am each day and returned around 6 - - the room mattered little to us. We enjoyed good weather and after a day in the sun, followed by a big dinner, drinks and sitting sweating through the evening show, we were happy to hit the hay - can't offer any comment at all about sports bars or nightclubs post 10:30pm!

In summary, if you're after the true 5-star experience with all the la-de-da trimmings, head to a Four Seasons or like property. If you're like us, where happy and settled kids equal a reasonable parental 'rest', then the Gala should work just fine!

20  Thank KarenCoco
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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6,784 - 6,790 of 13,658 reviews

A TripAdvisor Member
San Antonio, Texas
Reviewed August 6, 2004

My husband and I spent 4 days at the Gala in June 2004. Admittedly, I wanted to stay at the Iberostar since I had heard so much about it. Thank goodness that did not work out! We had a great 4 days at the Gala. Everyone seems to admit, the beach is beautiful, but what rarely seems to be said is that the Gala has the best beach on that strip. It is wider and not nearly as crowded. Also, it is the last resort on the strip so past it is nothing but open beach and quiet walking if you want it. Not true elsewhere. My husband and I walked one day up the beach and could not believe how crowded it was at all the other resorts. The food was quite good. We stayed at one of the hacienda's and it was very quiet and clean.

We are not novice travelers - my husband travels all over the world on business and we have vacationed in many places in the caribbean and in Mexico. We will definitely go back to the Gala - next year we are taking our kids because they seemed to have such a great kids program. Anyone can find something to grip about (and honestly we can be kind of grippy ourselves), but overall we were very pleased.

3  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 2, 2004

My husband, myself and two boys (10&7) just returned from seven nights at the gala. After much research and trying to book the Iberostar next door (more on that later) which has been booked solid for quite some time we settled on the Gala resort. We had a good time but quite frankly we felt we were settling most of the time. You get that feeling immediately as you pass all of the other hotels on the way into Playacar. The Gala is ok but not impressive. That goes for the grounds, the rooms, the food and the service. I give them an "A" for trying but it does fall short. Let me preface this by saying that I typically like to stay at top of the line places so I was very disappointed the first day and the look on my husbands face upon checking in was a real killer. We decided to make the best of it and this is when things started to get better.

The good: clean grounds, beautiful blue water, decent drinks, requests for more towels (every day I had to call for more), fix the thermostat, reprogram the safe were quick. the boys had fun learning to shoot pool, got to try archery which they love, afternoon games of water polo, lots of hammocks, the mexican restaurant where we had a delicious dinner, the fact that none of us got sick!

The bad: bare bones rooms, slippery tile floors with no mats, calls every day for more towels, room that was either freezing or so damp that your clothes were wet if you left your room with the air off, one bottled water per day period, buffet food that was just ok( it is a real treat to eat in the restaurants after so much of the same buffet food), grounds that were pretty but not spectacular. I felt sorry for the people in the hacienda section, they look like apartment buildings out near the fence and main driveway and so far from the main pool and beach.

I would like to say that as a family we enjoyed our day at Xel-ha and our morning on the ATV tour through the jungle. The tour operator in the lobby beats the prices of Apple and American Express and they do a good job. We never had to wait and we always had a small car to travel in so we were not picking up hoards of people.

Now for the Iberostar- we did walk through that property to check it out. The jungle, the monkeys, roosters, peacocks, flamingos and restaurants surrounded by fountains and koi ponds were beautiful. This was probably what I had been looking for but the Gala met the kids expectations just fine and this was a family vacation after all.

The verdict- my husband and I will not return, the boys are talking about coming here with their own kids one day! They had a great time and I had a ball watching them have so much fun.

4  Thank ranchomom
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 27, 2004

Just returned from the Gala, Let me first say I was a bit skeptical as this was my first time in Mexico & by reading some previous reviews from others who stayed.
First and foremost this place was CLEAN at that is very important to me! At any hour day or night you would see staff cleaning outside. The Beach is CLEAN and the water is Crystal clear, calm and beautiful the best on the that stretch of beach is size and things to do and NOT CROWDED it is right next door to the Iberostar Tucan their beach is crowded in comparison they have smaller beach and 300 more rooms! they have no activities beachwith no volleyball on beach not enough room just lounges and a few papayas? (straw umbrellas). Gala in comparison to Iberostar is smaller Iberostar has huge Pools but I go for the Ocean I can swim in a pool anywhere, but in my opinion as I did walk through the Iberostar Tucan you may have a 20-30 min walk to the beach in 90 humid degrees that is not for me, especially if you have little ones. The Gala has a haceinda section which is about 10 min to beach. Unless you request hacienda you will be close to beach 2 min walk and right on top of the pool they pool was never overcrowded there are 3 at Gala.
The Food was Good not gourmet but it was good something for everyone without a doubt kids & adults, Breakfast was the best (at least the most american as in tasting to me).
This is all inclusive but TIPS will go a long way here bring lots of singles and you will be pampered BIG TIME! while you dont have to Tip and they are not expected they really work hard for you in 90-100 degrees with always a smile I felt they deserved it and your beach waiter will come as soon as your drink is empty ;).
The Room was very nice clean and the beds are a bit hard but I have a bad back so it was great for me (hehe) not my husband..but with so much to do you have no problem going to sleep you are exhausted.
Room Service is good My Kids say the BLT's are the best they used room service ALOT, they were 14,14,17,18, They had the best time there are plenty of kids of all ages 1 thru 18 yrs old and the staff invites teens to do stuff with them also they are very friendly and helpful.
Dont be shocked by topless women cause you will see a few im sure, alot of europeans.
Telephoning US is expensive and Gala charges you $10 per call on top of what you pay for call, I bought a $20 Phone card in Gift Shop she told me 30 mins i would get I got 8 mins and they are only good in the hotel lobby? The Gift shop is a Rip-Off big time. We went to the Playacar Plaza just down the road and bought Calling cards for $10 US dollars for 31 mins to US it is the best deal and only a 15 min walk or 5 min Bike ride there or $4.00 Taxi and you can always get a taxi there. In my opinion the GALA ROYAL CLUB is a waste of $ you really get nothing just a small area on beach roped off and they will reserve a chair & towel for you. My husband just got up early 6:30am to reserve a straw umbrella just through a few towels on some chairs and thats "reserved".
We did the dolphin swim in Peurto Adventura I would suggest going elsewhere it is a man made area and the water is well..kinda gross and you have to snorkel/swim in it..try Isle Mujeous or the other place you can chose from 3 locations its great but the other locations are farther but better.
Snorkeling is Fantastic a must do they have free at Gala but not much to see we paid $49.00 pp and went to the reef Porta Morelos with a guide it was GREAT worth the $ we seen barracudas/stingrays the reef is awesome with tons of different fish swimming with you cant wait to get my pictures back (buy an underwater camera before you go as they want alot more in Mexico).
As far as underage drinking there if you can see the bar they will serve you a drink, so if you dont want your teens drinking you have to keep a sharp eye as it is available to them.
Nightlife, they have 1 disco thats opens at 11:00 my kids liked it, but for a crazier time and more variety I suggest you take a $4.00 cab ride 10mins to 5th Ave and there is Senor Frogs, carlos & charlies, and the Blue Parrot all great and more Clubs to dance and party (even a gay bar Playa69 if you are so inclined) The Gala has it all and what they dont have is only a 20 min walk or 4.00 cab ride away it will not disappoint you! My one complaint was the maids they would show up and all different times but never at least at my room before 4pm and sometimes you wanted to shower and you dont have clean towels so we would call and within minutes they would bring them, so not a big deal not enough not to go back, we will be going back. We booked through Apple and flew USA 3000 they were ontime there and back nice planes I was a little concerned as I never heard of them (apple owns them) but not worries smooth flight and nice equipment. If you have any questions please email me and I will be happy to answer I tried to cover everything....... Iknow I was a bit scared before I went and some reviews are bad? that i cant understand it really was the BEST vacation!

11  Thank aprilnj
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 25, 2004

My husband and I and my daughter, age 12, and my aunt and uncle stayed at the Gala from July 20th-25th. The weather was absolutely gorgeous except for an occasional 5 minute shower a few times. The beach is amazingly beautiful and the water is crystal clear.
We booked our trip through Apple Vacations. When arriving in Cancun and looking for your apple rep. , look outside, as they are not allowed inside the building. One of the clerks behind the counter before exiting the building must have heard one of us say we were staying at the Gala. He shouted Gala, and naturally we went over to his counter, thinking he would direct us to our transportation. Instead he was offering us tours at 80% less than we would pay at our resorts. Of course there is always a catch. He wasted our precious time. Don't fall for this and look outside for the people in the flowered shirts.
Upon arrival at the Gala, our room was ready, but my aunts was not. They gave her a room number and towel cards and told her to come back in a half hour. We all changed and went to the beach. Two hours later we went back in to see about her room only to find out someone else was in it. After getting this settled, she ended up getting a different room, located at the hacienda section, which turned out to be a very nice room! Although we wanted to closer together, (we were in the towers) we were both happy with our locations and it really is not that far from the beach from the haciendas. They even offer golf cart rides if you want them, which my aunt and uncle rather enjoyed the short walk.
The food is rather what I had expected, not exceptional, but we could always find something to satisfy ourselves. My husband thought the food was awesome. Getting reservations for the ala cart restraunts is rather frustrating. You are only allowed to make one reservation per day. We wanted to try the Italian so our first day (Tues) we requested a reservation for that one. The first available would be Sat. nite at 9:30. We took it just so that we would have a chance to eat there. Two days later, we were finally able to get into the Mexican on Sat. nite. Both were very good, and a nice welcome to dine in air conditioned after a few days of heat! This hotel really needs to do something to insure that everyone gets a chance to try these restraunts. We did eat at the Mediterean one evening as well. If you eat there, know exactly what you are ordering if you aren't sure. I ordered a seafood dish and in it found what appeard to be a lizard. I was told that it was octopus, which I am not particularly fond of anyways, so my suggestion is to ask if you are not sure. Also remember, you are not at home, and it will not taste like home.....LOL
The drinks were plentiful and we drank plenty of pina coladas with none of us getting sick from neither the food nor the drinks. We only wished that we could have gotten more coronas for our mini fridge but were told that two bottles a day was the limit. Room service would bring beer in plastic cups if you wanted more.
Take plenty of small bills to tip the waiters, bell boys, maids etc. You will not get extra special service by doing this because these people work especially hard even without tipping, but they very well deserve it. If tipping your maid, I suggest that you put it under a pillow. One day we put it atop the pillow, the tip was taken and our room was never touched that day. Every day after that, tip went under pillow and room got cleaned. Beware that the maid shows up at any given time, sometimes twice in one day. If you have more than two people in your room, you may have difficulty getting more than two washcloths. They use two to make a special design and leave it on your sink, but then they forget about the 3rd or 4th person in the room.
We did awaken to a rather odd experience one nite. At about 12:45 am we heard what sounded like an m-80 thrown into our room, only to see sparks and a bit of fire thrust out of our air conditioning unit. After smelling wires burning and making sure none of us had a heart attack due to the rude awakening I dialed the front desk. Someone was there in less than two minutes. After he-hawing around for about two hours we were finally offered a room about ten away to sleep in till morning. We were told to leave all our clothing and lock our valuables in the safe and that whatever exploded would be fixed in the morning. I did not like this suggestion to leave all our things, but no one bothered anything even though when we awoke in the morning and went back down, the door was left open with no one inside and still no power. At that point I called the front desk and asked to move my things into the room they told us to sleep in and was able to do that. I feel we should have been compt for that inconveinance, but we were not. They worked on that for most of the day and checked the wiring in each room of that block of rooms. They never did get back to us and tell us exactly what happened.
As far as the entertainment goes, you will see a nitely show at 9:30 each evening which consists of singing or dancing. If they had anything going on after that we never knew because they didn't post anything anywhere, nor did you get a paper in your room listing any nitely activities. There is a sports bar, with no music and a disco that only opens at 11:00. We stepped in there one evening just to check it out, there might have been 10 other people there.
The reviews I have read regarding racing to the beach at the crack of dawn to reserve your spot with shade by placing towels, shoes, books, etc. are true. I think this is a shame because most of those reserved spots are left empty for most of the day with no one to inforce the 30 minute rule that you will read on the sign upon entering the beach.
I would recommend this resort to families with small children, as there were plenty of them here, but for myself I believe that I would like to try another resort in the same area next time. Something that offers a little bit of nite life. If you are looking for activity after 11:00, this is not the resort for you.

7  Thank sisda1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
Seabrook, TX
Reviewed July 21, 2004

Our vacation at the Gala was not as enjoyable as the times we have spent at other resorts in Mexico. We had no problem checking in at the front desk, but our room had a non-functioning mini bar and there was no bottled water in the bathroom. It took several calls to the front desk to resolve these issues. Our room was neat and clean, although not what you are used to in the United States. You have to lower your standards a bit to be happy. We also had a problem with our shower--the cold water faucet quit working. This was fixed within an hour. The rooms are old and there will be some maintenence problems every now and then. The air conditioner worked great. Bring an alarm clock, as they are not provided. The food was average at the buffet and good at the restaurants. Please heed the warnings about making reservations at the restaurants--they fill up fast, but the restaurants were always half empty. The beach was nice and the ocean was perfect. Bar service was fair. Some employees were friendly, some were not. Most spoke English fairly well. We would not return to this resort, but would recommend it to families with small children. There are many activities for children and the pool was full of them.

  • Stayed: July 2004
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
Reviewed July 20, 2004

What can I say I thought everything was great, the family enjoyed themselves and this was my parents first time anywhere in the islands and they were amazed with everything. I thought the food was good not exallent but very good. I didn't have any complaint with the kids (ages 5, 10 , 12)
my little one went to the kids club and enjoyed it .
Beds were comfortable . Maid service was great.
we had problem at the begining cause my parents room wasn't near us we were in the haiciends suits and they upgreated them there. Not much of a walk at all. your on vacation so you walk a little big deal.
well it was great and we all enjoyed ourselves and would recommend it to anyone. Great family place.

Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Sandos Playacar Beach Resort

Address: Paseo Xaman-Ha | Manzana 1, Lote 1 Fracc.Playacar, Playa del Carmen 77710, Mexico
Phone Number:
Location: Mexico > Yucatan Peninsula > Quintana Roo > Riviera Maya > Playa del Carmen
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#25 Family Hotel in Playa del Carmen
#31 Top resorts Hotel in Playa del Carmen
#39 Luxury Hotel in Playa del Carmen
#40 Spa Hotel in Playa del Carmen
#42 On the Beach Hotel in Playa del Carmen
#53 Romantic Hotel in Playa del Carmen
Price Range: $236 - $488 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — Sandos Playacar Beach Resort 4*
Number of rooms: 819
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Sandos Playacar Beach Resort & Spa is an all-Inclusive hotel in Playa del Carmen with both family and adult sections. We are ideally located on a magnificent white sandy beach in the gated community of Playacar, within walking distance to downtown Playa and Fifth Avenue. Sandos Playacar Beach Resort & Spa is located only forty-five minutes from the Cancun International Airport, and the pier serving ferries to Cozumel is a short distance from our property.Playacar is a private, master-planned community situated on the southern edge of downtown Playa del Carmen. Guests at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort & Spa enjoy this exclusive community’s impressive infrastructure, including an 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Von Hagge, the Xaman-Ha Aviary, pristine biking paths, and Mayan ruins, accessible to the public for hiking.Riviera Maya is a protected region where many remaining artifacts from the fascinating Mayan civilization can be found. Surrounded by Mayan archeological zones, such as those at Tulum, Coba, and Chicen-Itza, this Playa del Carmen hotel successfully preserves a strong sense of Mayan culture onsite, adding an authentic feel and flavor to the vacation experience in Playacar. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Sandos Playacar Beach Hotel
Hotel Sandos Playacar Beach
Beach Playacar Resort Sandos
Sandos Playacar Resort
Sandos Playa Del Carmen
Gala Resort Playacar
Sandos Gala Playacar
Sandos Playacar Mexico
Sandos Resort
Playacar Sandos

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