This was a family vacation (mom/dad, 15 yo, 13 yo, 9 yo). Short version is a good, relaxing vacation was had by all. Beautiful, sandy beaches, clean pools and rooms, comfortable beds, nice staff. We felt safe and secure letting our children wander the grounds and stay in their room at night. The food was mediocre at best and we couldn't get a reservation for all 5 of us at any of the restaurants and we were there for 5 nights.
We have decided that we are not aggressive enough for all-inclusive resorts. We want info on food choices/locations, activities, and shows handed to us at the front desk upon arrival so we can review them at our leisure. We felt that in the Barcelo you had to aggressively seek out information on activities and entertainment. There seemed to be more entertainment (DJ, music, games) at the Maya Beach pool and beach as opposed to the Caribe. The buffet at the Colonial was better than the buffets at the Caribe or Maya Beach.
Long Version: The ride from the airport is a bit long but worth it. The beach is sandy all the way out. We heard from friends that the beaches closer to Cancun were rocky. The water is very clean/clear, warm and calm.
There is a security gate at the entrance to all resorts where every car has to stop and give details on where they are going and how many people they are taking in/out.
Check-in should have been smoother: 1 of our rooms wasn't ready due to a late check out so we went to eat and came back and it still wasn't ready. We told them to bring our bags to the room that was ready so we could change and get to the beach. We had to find it ourselves and wait for the bags. Later we had to make a point of going back to the lobby and requesting the key to our 2nd room.
At check in, they give you a quick overview of your food choices, hand you 3 cards and tell you they are for making restaurant reservations thru the concierge and then they try to sell you a food upgrade. We chose not to do the upgrade and waited until the next evening to seek out the concierge to find out about restaurants -- big mistake! Were we blacklisted bec we didn't upgrade? We could not get a reservation at any of the restaurants on any night for the 5 of us! My husband and I finally took a reservation for 2 on the last night at the Mexican place. It was only ok. But there were tons of empty tables!!! And we heard there were lots of empty tables at the other restaurants every night too. Note: The steak restaurant is only open Mon, Tues, Wed so is very hard to get into.
Buffets were very plain. There could have been a few choices that kicked it up a notch and a a few average spiced dishes plus the kid friendly food. They say the buffets are all the same but we found that the Colonial buffet was better than the Maya Beach and Caribe -- You have access to all of them so go to the higher end resorts and the food improves. They should stagger their menu so you have more choices per night but if it is Seafood Night in one, it is Seafood Night in all which was a pain for us because our kids don't eat Seafood. The only other real choice was a marinated chicken breast which they didn't like so they had pizza and fries (again!). In our family, the adults are foodies and the youngest is a very picky eater but none of us were happy with the food. I understand that all-inclusive buffets have to cater to the general public but they took the middle road on flavor. And just because there's a lot of it, doesn't make it good.
For cleanliness, you can't take food out of the restaurants/buffets - so you have to "get dressed" and sit down to have a snack. We understand why but it was a pain when one of the kids wanted to grab fries or a burger and didn't want to go alone.
We had 2 rooms. We had requested adjoining or adjacent but they were across the hall from each other. Nice, comfortable & clean. It was a bit of a walk from the lobby/buffet to our rooms but a very short walk to the pool and beach. The grounds are beautiful and well kept. Lots of paths to wander -- it took us a day to get our bearings and find the shorter routes (mostly because everything looks the same). Beware: hallways create an echo so you hear a lot of noise during the night. We were there during Spring Break so every night around 3, we got woken up by crowds of yelling teens returning to their rooms.
Water Activities: The beach/water trikes were free for 1/2 hour. They are harder than you think but were fun to try. You can borrow snorkeling equipment for 1 hour a day free (with deposit) and go out off the peir to see lots of fish. It was a bit rough there. I think snorkeling should be a more passive, relaxing activity. If you kept the equipment for longer, it was only $6 per hour/per person. You can buy the equipment in the gift shop. I didn't price it but found other items (balls, goggles) were inexpensive.
Entertainment/shows: Every night there was a show in each resorts' theater. If you miss a show in your theater, you may be able to catch it the next night at one of the other theaters. The "circus" was acrobatics that the whole family can enjoy. "On Da Radio" didn't sound appealling but was a musical variety show of songs you hear on the radio with choreographed dancers. The theaters are loungy with wait staff/table service. We found out later that some theaters have entertainment for kids earlier in the evening but never got definitive info on time, locations, descriptions.
Kid spa: We had to make an appointment to get 3 braids put in my daughter's hair when it looked like there was a woman there doing nothing. They were $3 each and she got to choose any color beads she wanted -- 3 per braid. I believe it was $35 for a half head of braids. A kids' manicure was around $25 and a kids' pedi was around $35 -- outrageous! There is an adult spa also that looked nice but we didn't use it.
Off-resort tours/excursions: We booked the Tulum/Xel-Ha tour for 1 day at $160 per person including all transportation, guide at Tulum and all you can eat meals/drinks -- alcoholic and non at Xel-Ha. Tulum is hot but beautiful and interesting. 1/2 a day is enough time unless you are a history buff or are going to use the beach there. Xel-Ha is a beautiful, fun day but we wish we had the full day instead of just the half. There's so much to do and it is such a huge place. There is a lot of walking there. There are a lot of activities you can pay extra for (dolphin swim, manatee swim, snuba, etc...) but I don't know how you would find the time to squeeze them in.
We went to Playa del Carmen one evening. Since there are 5 of us, we had to take a van as opposed to a taxi (car). It cost approx $85 round trip. The hotel called the driver and later he met us at a predetermined location and time for our return trip. He gave some great advice. It was fun to walk around, browse in shops, take photos with exotic animals (approx $5) and have drinks at tables on the street. The vendors/shop owners tried to get you to buy things from them but weren't overly aggressive/annoying. Prices were good but they expect you to haggle. We had dinner at La Parilla,a Mexican steak house -- well worth going to and inexpensive (around $90 plus tip for family of 5 with Margaritas and steaks). We had delicious food, there are roaming Mariachi players, they take a souvenier photo of you with sombreros but you don't feel obligated to buy it. (We did, you can haggle.)
Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen are beautiful places worth seeing. Overall, we enjoyed our family vacation.
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- Also Known As:
- Barcelo Maya Caribe Hotel Puerto Aventuras
- Barcelo Puerto Aventuras
- Barcelo Hotel Puerto Aventuras
- Barcelo Maya Caribe Beach
- Barcelo Maya Caribe Riviera Maya/Puerto Aventuras, Mexico