Going to try and keep this review short as I have a tendency to write novels on here;
Arrived at Cancun Airport and within the hour was through security, customs, and aboard an air conditioned bus bound for the resort. Sandos Caracol will likely be the first stop the bus will make if there are people bound for several resorts and it is about a 40min ride from the airport. Check in was fairly easy, and within 15 or 20 minutes was unpacking in my room.
The room; I signed up for the Sandos Club card before wondering what the upgrades are if any, and as I expected, the Sandos Club card is nothing except a way to solicit an e-mail address and mailing address. Upgrades will be given upon request if they have room, and they won't be if they don't have room. Simple as that. As far as any other benefits, there are none unless you pay a little extra to get a Sandos Select Club membership. As far as Select Club goes, some might want to go in for it, some might not, I believe all the benefits are; 24hr room service (limited to the snack bar), Access to the private beach club with drinks right on the beach instead of a 50-200 foot walk, a less-busy internet area in the beach club, and better times for a la carte restaurants. Some nice stuff actually, but I am cheap. You can try basic and then pay 20 buck a day for the services too if you like. That's my best advice. Hell, ever give them some bad noise at front desk and ask for a gold bracelet and they'll give it you if you just want the beach club.
So, anyhow, the rooms; there are 3 types in the resort; Standard queen rooms/king rooms, Deluxe King (includes jaccuzzi in room), and Junior Suite (with balcony jacuzzi). I found my room to be very nice and clean. There was no real view but kind of what I liked about the resort was that is was less a competition for ocean vistas and more just private buildings tucked away around a forested garden park. Only the third floor rooms clear the tree line (all buildings are 3 storey). Double sinks in the rooms, clean towels and linens daily, soaps shampoos as you use them up. Fair sized rooms with a somewhat fuzzy tv. Clean but firm bed. AC worked very well in my room. Large tiled shower stall, no bathtub. No smells I would say 5 star on the cleanliness in my room.
The Restuarants; Did not eat at any a la cartes, the buffets had very good hours and fair variety, good tasty food. Enough of a selection to please vegetarians to carnivores. Nothing special but it was perfectly fine. Snack bar is not horrible, but basic salsa, burgers, hotdogs, basic salads, ice cream machine. Enough to munch if something was closed.
The Excursions; Did not look good and did not book through the hotel. This is especially important if you plan to go to Chichen Itza (read my review of private tour of Chichen Itza with Carlos Diaz if you would like a cheap and great way to go). As for divers, the hotel shop was amateurish and seemingly more like buying tickets to a ride than a professional school of divers interested in showing a small group the wonders of the ocean reef and teaching you diving skills and technique to maximize your bottom time and comfort underwater. See my review of Mexico Blue Dream (the #1 rated excursion of ANY kind of excursion in this part of Mexico. Well priced, incredible service and professionalism, among the best dive shops I have ever experienced.
The Beach: Fair sized beach, with beach soccer and volleyball throughout the day. Animation crew is far too animated trying to steer you off to the next sport when you're just trying to relax or enjoy a little exercise. Lots of standard chairs and a bar within a minute or two. There is a constat strong surf to this side of the Mexican coast but there are some surf breakers out to calm the water a little, although the water is always cloudy. A few rocks too. Kids will love it, some adults will prefer the pool or Mamitas Beach in Playa.
The Resort: The theme of the resort is basically a resort set amongst a garden-like park or forest. It seemed cheesy at first but I actually enjoyed it quite a lot. You sacrifice an ocean view for nice cool shaded paths and bridges over nice lagoons and seeing quite a lot of tame animals mingling with you. Raccoon, peacocks, donkeys, turtles, birds and some more exotic mammals wander the grounds in a way that actually works quite nicely and they are not mealtime pests nor mistreated creatures (save for a couple of parrots that are actually clipped and trotted out for pics every day and night). 4 and a half star here, though the layout is a bit of a pain in the butt. Nice piano lounge, movie theatre, cheezy resort style shows, small disco and open air sports bar were very nice for what I spent on the trip and what I expected.
The Service: All the front desk and nearly all of the staff you would interact with spoke english and were fairly pleasant. They appeared polite and ready to help with and small routine requests (for instance I asked for a couple batteries for my remote control and the sent them up within 20 minutes, cut my foot coming out of a taxi and got a band-aid within 45 minutes (I know, but at least I got it right.) But in line it seemed they were less helpful to some other people. Heard all sorts of grief when other people in line were denied help with little things like a local telephone book, extra pillow/blanket, help repairing thier basic amenities such as plugged showerheads and poorly functioning ACs. I would say they are pleasant and polite but not always helpful. Again, I am trying to be fair, I never heard a major complaint in my time at the resort, and it was a very busy time of year. I would definitely expect they are much better after new years day.
Forgot to add; very nice small gym and spa and two tennis courts.
All in all, I would not recommend Playa del Carmen or Cancun or even Mexico for that matter to people personally. Although this has more to do with the fact that I enjoy actual culture and adventure tourism. PDC and Cancun are like the worst elements of Western Culture concentrated into a horrifying satire of what we truly have become. I have eaten far better and more authentic mexican food in Canada, and the whole area is basically a giant collection of souveneir booths (crap that you wouldn't buy in dollar stores selling for 10-20 times the price.) and airport style "boutiques" of more crap that was double or more the price you'd expect to find in Toronto or Los Angeles or any major city. Put it this way; I lived in Toronto for 27 years and could not afford to live in Playa del Carmen or Cancun's tourist areas.
I came to this region for three excellent reasons; to scuba dive in the Drift Diving Capitol of the World-- Cozumel Island which was very nice. To see Chichen Itza and the other ruins of the great Mayan civilization, which was awe inspiring and magnificent. And finally to dive the fresh-wates caves and tunnels of the sinkholes on the mainland called cenotes. Which was the greatest dive experience of my life so far. The rest of my trip; resort living, tourism, shopping, theme parks, are really not for me, but I've tried to give a good review of what to expect, not just my personal prejudices. It is very nice place and I would guess a great value for anyone who does not require 5 star quality. It is a very strong 4 star resort, perhaps even a four and a half.
Sorry for the novel.
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- Also Known As:
- Caracol Beach
- Sandos Caracol Eco Hotel
- Sandos Caracol Beach Resort Spa
- Sandos Select Club
- Sandos Caracol Mexico
- Hotel Sandos Caracol Eco
- Caracol Village Hotel Playa Del Carmen
- Sandos Caracol Beach & Spa Mayan Riviera
- Sandos Caracol Resort
- Sandos Caracol Riviera Maya