After way too much research on places to stay in preparation for our trip to Playa del Carmen, we couldn't decide on one place so we decided to split up the week and stay the first three nights at an all-inclusive (the Iberostar Quetzal, you can also read my review there), and the remainder of the week at El Taj Oceanfront, one of the buildings in the Condo Hotels complex.
First, let me say we had a wonderful stay at the El Taj and would definitely return. The staff was great and couldn't have been more and accommodating. Erick Perez in particular was very helpful in helping us sort through some minor issues during our stay.
The condos are beautiful, as you can see on their website, and the ability to select your room in advance is great. I think you would be hard pressed to find much nicer rooms anywhere in the area and having the ability to cook some meals in can really save you some money. The location is about as good as it gets as well, right in the heart of town, within a block of all the action on 5th Avenue. The pool is very nice, but small and there are only a few chairs around it -- if you are a pool person this might not be your place.
They have an unbelievable wifi/phone package that includes wifi in your room and UNLIMITED local and INTERNATIONAL calling for a very reasonable flat rate. Someone on a working vacation could save a lot of money by staying here. This came in extremely handy when our flight home was cancelled due to hurricane Sandy and we had to literally spend hours on hold with the airline and make several calls back to the U.S.
Also, when you check in you get a condohotels discount card, which gives you 10-15% off at certain restaurants. I had researched places to eat and when I saw the list recognized that it contained several of the most highly regarded restaurants in the area. It was an unexpected surprise to be given discounts at places we had planned to eat anyway.
All that said, there are two negatives that would be significant enough to some people that they need to be noted.
The first is the beach. As others have noted and is evident in the photos, there are always 20-30 fishing boats docked directly in front of the El Taj Oceanfront and neighboring properties. As a result, it is not a great place to swim, although the water is great and it is certainly possible to swim between the boats, and some people do, but it also is a little rocky underwater in spots in this area. In addition, the beach is relatively narrow at this location so it is not even optimal for laying out on towels as passersby will be walking very close to you. None of this is to say you can't enjoy the beach here - staying at condo hotels gives you use of the Indigo Beach Club, which has lounges and umbrellas, as well as food and drink service available directly in front of the El Taj Oceanfront so it is not a bad place to lay on a chair in the sun with a drink. We were looking for more of a "traditional" beach experience, however, so we walked north up the beach about 10-15 minutes, just past the pier, and laid on our towels each day near Mamitas Beach Club. Absolutely gorgeous beach and you could rent chairs/beds/umbrellas there pretty cheap if you wanted. We didn't mind the walk at all -- it was a great way to start and end the day -- but if you have children in tow or if you will want to shuttle back and forth from the beach to the room a lot, this might not be the best setup for you.
The second negative is the noise at night. It is the price to be paid for staying in the heart of the Playa del Carmen "party" district but it is important that people be prepared for it. Loud dance music with booming bass echoes throughout the neighborhood until 5am every night. We spent 4 nights in unit 354, which is on the north side of the El Taj Oceanfront and, although we could hear it, it didn't bother us much and we slept soundly. The noisy clubs seemed to be on the south side of the building, however, so it may have been worse there. That was also after long days of laying in the hot sun and cocktails in the evenings though so we were very tired. When we had to extend our stay due to the hurricane we transferred to a condo at Villas Sacbe for two additional nights. We were warned that the noise would be worse there but we went anyway as we were already over budget and the condo there was half the price of our unit in El Taj. The first night didn't seem too bad but we didn't party on our last night as we had to fly the next morning and the noise was definitely worse and did keep us awake at times. Overall it wasn't a big deal to us, but, depending on your tolerance and the kind of vacation you seek, the noise could potentially ruin your experience. My recommendation to anyone who wants to avoid this would be to call or e-mail condohotels before booking, tell them you want to stay there but have read reviews and are concerned about the noise and ask them to suggest units/buildings where this is less likely to be a problem. Believe me, they know this is an issue with some of their properties, they know where the noisier areas are, and they would much rather book you into a unit you will be happy with from the beginning than have you displeased and wanting to move after you arrive. I would also encourage you to be open to any of the condohotels properties -- they are all within a block or two of each other and the beach but some are farther from the clubs. Because of the less than ideal beach situation I described above, being in the El Taj Oceanfront building right on the beach, while nice, really becomes less of a perk than it might otherwise be so you don't lose much by being a block away.
Nitpicks: $25 for a lost towel or towel card (our previous resort was $10). Rather than being paranoid about keeping track of them them during our stay, we locked the towel cards in the safe and bought some cheap towels at Wal-Mart to use.
1. We took the advice of another reviewer and tried Las Quesadillas, right next to the El Taj oceanfront. Glad we did -- not the least bit fancy but great authentic Mexican food and CHEAP -- 17 pesos for a quesadilla! We had breakfast and lunch there some days, never paid more than 100 pesos for a solid meal for two.
2. Again taking the advice of another reviewer who said you get the best deal on trips at Wal-Mart, we took the short walk up there and got full day Chichen Itza tours for $45 USD, half of what was being charged elsewhere.
Warning: This has nothing to do with the El Taj but be very careful using ATMs in Playa Del Carmen. A month after we returned, someone in Mexico began making withdrawals from my checking account and stole several thousand dollars before it was discovered. My card never left my possession so somebody must have put a scanner on one of the machines to get my card number and then somehow got my PIN, either with a video camera or someone eavesdropping nearby. Make sure you cover your hand when entering your PIN. Fortunately we didn't lose any money because VISA guarantees it and reimbursed us.
Bottom line: this is a great place to stay and we would come back, it would be an absolute blast to return with a group sometime and rent one of the large units.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- El Taj Condo Hotel consists of 57 spacious condos situated on 2 separate properties in front of the beach. El Taj oceanfront is directly on the beach and El Taj Beachside is across the street. Guests get to use all the on site amenities including our exclusive beach club. We offer 2 incredible heated pools. The relaxing heated pool on Beachside property is an exotic black mosaic infinity pool with an extra large Jacuzzi while the oceanfront heated pool sits right on the beach in front of our exclusive beach club. We're located in the most liveliest area of Playa that offers the convenience of having the best restaurants, nightlife and shopping within one block from your vacation home.Each Condominium offers expansive floor plans and superb finishes. The Beachside condos have private terraces that are surrounded by exotic plants, Lilly ponds and all face the pool and cascading waterfalls. All the penthouse units in El Taj Beachside feature ocean views from the private roof decks. All the oceanfront units have views of the ocean.Each condo comes with fully equipped kitchens and the finest details including flat screen TVs in all the rooms. We provide the same services usually associated with some of the finest hotels. Our designers traveled the globe to Indonesia trying to recreate an environment reminiscent to Bali. . ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- El Taj Oceanfront And Beachside Condo Hotel
- El Taj Oceanfront & Beachside Condos Hotel Riviera Maya/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico