We just got back at 2 am and I want to write this review while everything is fresh in my mind! Thanks so much to everyone who takes the time to write reviews and answer questions...it makes all the difference in a vacation and I love this site! Thanks JAMM!
Alright, we travelled from 4/8-4/14. First, I must say that this was our first time to Mexico with the whole family (boys ages 14,12,10 and 7), previously we have gone with couples and stayed in adults-only resorts, which admittedly probably skewed our first impressions. I thought the price was really good~$2800 for two rooms/2 adults 4 kids/ 6 nts. air separate. This really is a family resort and if my husband and I were going alone we wouldn't stay here. For one thing, we miss our kids too much when we see all the kids.
I think we have been really spoiled by the rooms in our previous stays because we were first placed in the Beach section, standard rooms (requested Riviera section) and I actually shed a few tears(alot actually) when we entered our rooms the first night. By the way, we did send several emails with room requests, but just got what we got when we arrived. So be prepared, especially if you stay when it is busy.
My husband said the rooms made him "homesick!" I know that some people have been happy with the Beach rooms, but we really hated them,honestly. Even though the baths have been redone, the rest of the room just seemed very old, very small and dated.
(I know the Royal Elite rooms in that section are probably great.)The elevator to the rooms was our first impression of that section and it was tiny,old and just yuck. The best part of this section was the partial ocean view, but the balconies were very small too. We had also requested adjoining rooms, and our rooms were about five rooms away from each other. In fairness, it was a busy time though, and I think that they have very few adjoining rooms, which I think they actually call "connecting", so be sure and request with that wording. I don't think they have any "connecting" rooms in the Riviera section, at least that's what I was told at the Front Desk.
Please bear with me as this place gets much better!!
So, without unpacking our bags, I rode with the bellboy right back up to the main check-in (Rivera Section) to see what we could do.
We booked with a travel agent through Funjet so I went right to the Lomas Travel guy (Luis) who is in charge of Funjet guests at the hotel. I was still in tears mind you! I really didn't think I was a room snob...we are from Iowa for Heaven Sakes, but we hated those rooms enough that I was asking about the possibility of changing resorts! Thank goodness the other resorts were all full, because this really does turn out great. Luis was awesome and even though nothing could be done that first night, it was 7 pm by now, he went to the front desk and requested room changes for the next day. We were tired, and bummed that first night, we ate at the Festival Buffet, and found a few tasty things, but didn't love it. The kids didn't find much they liked that night either.
We went to bed and awoke to a letter that we would be changing rooms and to please have bags ready to be picked up at 10. Our new rooms (in the 9000~New) section would be ready at 2. Things were looking up and we hit the beach and pool. The resort grounds were really beautiful and weather gorgeous and sunny the entire time. Loved seeing the occasional iguana and squirrel-badger type creature. I have read the name, but can't recall.
From the awesome breakfast that morning through the rest of our stay we found the
rest of the food really great!
And then at 2 we went to our new rooms and fell in love with Sandos! For our stay ,the Riviera section rooms made the whole difference in our vacation. The rooms were beautiful. They were sparkling clean,new, large, with whirpool tubs, gorgeous bathrooms with two sinks and large patios. We were on the ground level facing the Riviera section pool. (IMO the best rooms would be in the 9000 section, pool view,high floor.) Still not connecting, but next to each other. Some of the 8000 section rooms are right next to the cart path, which I would think could get annoying.
The vacation we had pictured had begun and here is our take...
Food: Ended up being really great! We liked the Riviera section buffet or Mexican rest. buffet for breakfast, Festival was nice too though. They all had about the same selection, just different atmosphere. The made to order omelettes, bacon, french toast, black beans, breads and fresh juices were some of our favorites. The bloody marys/caesars were really good too. (They have the best tasting butter I have ever had!) Oh yes, and the fresh fruits were wonderful.
For lunch, our favorite was the Mexican restaurant because of the ocean view-open air location. Loved the pico de gallo, guacamole and grilled chicken breast. The boys really liked the hamburgers which is surprising because we have great beef in Iowa. I tried one though, and they were really good. Their fries, mashed potatoes and red potatoes were really good too. We also liked eating lunch at the Riviera Blue (next to the 8000 section). I wouldn't even have found that place were it not for someone's TAdvisor review.
For dinner, we personally would not recommend the Oriental. That is one of the reservation-only places. It may be a personal preference thing, and there were a couple things we liked, but overall it was definitely the worst meal we had. No worries though, we went to the Italian buffet and ate after the Oriental.
Surprisingly, we really liked the Italian Buffet. Just pasta with choice of sauces, but the beef and tomato sauces were really tasty. They also had some great soups...cream of corn was really good. And of course the breads again were really good and the salads, although we were cautious with the salads as to avoid Montezuma's Revenge! We were all great by the way, which was a big concern with taking the kids. Festival buffet was nice too and wish we had tried the Mexican buffet for dinner, but ran out of time and room.HA
We also made reservations at El Gaucho (steakhouse) and really enjoyed it. The boys really liked the ribs and our t-bones were pretty tough, but tasty. Didn't expect a Midwest steak though. The sit down service and dressing up (long pants for the men/boys) was nice. (They do enforce that, as we saw one husband sent back to his room to change.) It wasn't fancy, but very pleasant. Our dessert there was something that I found ocassionally at the buffets too, a chocolate dessert with layers of something whipped and strawberry sauce. Delicious! Alot of the desserts at Sandos were really good.
I wish we would have tried the Brazilian instead of the Oriental, but someone told us that it was very hot in there and they didn't enjoy it. The French is supposed to be great too, but adults only.
Drinks: Terrific~the boys loved the mochaccinos at the sports bar and virgin straw/banana daiquiris. I thought that some of the staff would get so tired of making them different drinks, but they were so friendly. We never had bad service. The staff were great. I don't understand the comments about watered down drinks because you could always ask for a double if you wanted it. They had some topshelf liquor, but mostly medium to less expensive. You just had to request the namebrand or of course they just use the well brand. No complaints about drinks though. They had great drink menus for trying something new. We liked the Hawaiian Margs. and Banana Daiquiris/Dirty Monkeys.
Pools: The main pool (beach section) was kind of small for the amount of people at the resort, but again it was a busy time. You had to play the towel game by about 7-7:30, especially if like us, you needed six chairs. The pools were very nice though. We liked to go back to the Riviera section(9000) pool in the afternoon for a break from all the people and action. They also had a swim-up bar there and not at the main pool. One small thing though, even one of our boys noticed that the pools(water) could get really dirty. May be unavoidable with all the sand, blowing debris.
Rooms: Like I said, the Riviera section was great! We talked to someone who stayed in the Haciendas and enjoyed their location, rooms OK they said. The carts to Riviera section (7 min. walk) ran more frequently at night than during the day. The walk was nice though. As other people have stated, if you could move the Rivera section to beachfront it would be PERFECTO. Also, there are groups of people from?? who will ignore the lines for the golf carts and just walk right around the other side and get on! We couldn't believe it, but whatever. If you were in a hurry you just needed to be bold and jump right on in there.
To Do: We went to Selvatica in Puerto Moreles (booked through their website online) and loved it. It was zipling, riding a mountain bike, and swimming in a Cenote(fresh,clear water). Awesome! We even left the picture that we had purchased with our family holding parrots in the van and they are going to Fed-Ex it as well as my son's cap to us! The only downside was the hour drive in a herky jerky van both ways and my hubby got a little carsick.
Wouldn't recommend taking kids to the Fosse show at night~definitely inappropriate for kids under 16. The Disney show was nice, but the 14-year-old and husband snuck out early. The animacion team was pretty good~maybe not great~except for one gal with long brownish blond hair that was super friendly...wish I remembered her name. There were some spring breakers there, but not many, and only once did I want to give an obnoxious,drunk 18ish-year old a piece of my mind for being so lewd and bad-mouthed.
The kids enjoyed playing tennis (make reservations the day before), playing pool, playing in the waves. We also checked out their bikes and rode to 5th Avenue one morning. That was fun, and got a few good trinkets and tequila, headed back before it got too hot. Only about a 15 min. bike ride. We really liked this location. You're also only about an 8 min. walk to a little shopping plaza with Starbucks if you need a fix.lol
Beach: OK, now since we were never here before the erosion we thought it was great! We walked down in front of the Rius and Ibersostars and thought the Sandos beach was so much better. The loungers at the Riu were all pushed together and had no palapas. The Ibersostar beach had a big drop off (although we talked to one guy through the bushes the first night when were looking for a way out, and he loved it there!)
You had to reserve loungers early if you wanted to hang by the beach even though there were signs stating that you couldn't do this. It was very windy the whole time we were there, with only one yellow flag day and the rest red. So, you couldn't venture too far in to the water, just far enough to play in some waves. The sand whales didn't bother us in the least. Bring sand toys for the beach and rafts( for the Riviera pool). The main pool would be too crowded for floaties. You can leave them there for someone else to enjoy when you leave.
Sorry, this is turning into a smal novel, I just know how very much these reviews helped me, and hope to help someone else too.
All in All, we had an amazing family vacation, loved the Riviera rooms, staff,location, turqoise ocean, and food. We probably would not stay again as we like to try new places, but Sandos really won a place in our hearts.
Tips: There are a group of monkeys by the 9000 section rooms between Sandos and Ibero. You can usually see/hear them in the morning or late afternoon...really cool.
Also, if you're taking kids, get them an hour block for tennis and go to the jacuzzi tub by the spa, you can see them through the bushes and regroup with your spouse.
Paint a piece of pottery by the pool for a great souvenir. The woman who runs it will touch it up and glaze it and bring it back the next day. Around $17-$30 depending on what you choose to paint. Bring a wad of dollars for tipping...they really deserve it.
They have room service which is very fun for the kids...good club sandwiches.
Have fun in Mexico...it is beautiful and the people that live there are unbelievably friendly!
Tourism seems to be down as we encountered barely any lines at the airport this trip.
I'd be happy to help with any questions!
PS Sandos is building a new resort to the left when looking from the beach, that will open in 2011!
- 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