This was our first trip somewhere "exotic" together, and the Grand Bahia Principe Tulum (here on referred to as BCP) was exactly what we were looking for.I apologize for it being so long, but I don't want to leave anything out! towards the bottom are the tips, if you prefer to skip our "experience" stuff, although there are a few tips mixed in there. I will start with being picked up at the airport. we booked through Westjet, so we had an arranged ride, and WestJet set up a very useful and personalized website with a suggested travel list and some tips. the very first tip was that our bus and the coordinators would be outside the airport, and to not engage the "coordinators" inside the airport. now I haven't been to Mexico before, so when the said there would be people in the airport offering us a ride to the hotel, I did not expect the swarm of hawkers that greeted us as soon as we walked out of the customs and baggage claim area. Honestly, it was hugely intimidating. but if you already have arranged transport, don't even look at the hawkers, they are intimidating and they know what flight you came on, so it may seem like they might be your transport, but they are not. but as soon as you walk outside there are people gathered around signs indicating the travel company, so we looked for the Westjet/bestday sign and they had a checklist with our names on it. That bus took us to the resort. So I had read complaints about the bus ride taking so long, and its true, it was long as they had 3 resorts to take people to, but Ricardo (our coordinator) was quite entertaining and there was beer for sale, so it didn't seem so bad.
When we arrived at the resort, it was dark out but warm. the Lobby is pretty open air and very nicely decorated. since this is where internet is available, there are lots of comfy chairs scattered around the central carved column. the front desk had no line, (there were only a few of us on the bus) and they started the paperwork immediately and gave us excellent marguritas as a welcome cocktail. then the guy gave us a map and marked important spots on it for us. then a porter took us and our bags to the room in a golfcart. we were on the ground floor, so not really much for a view, but we were facing the ocean, so we could catch a glimpse of it, and beach. the room was large with tiled floors and a clean rustic sort of feel. there was a flat screen TV and a minibar. the bathroom was a little small, but more than passable. the buffet was still open, and we hadnt had anything other than airplane food and pastacios, so we went to the buffet. now at that time of night (probably quarter to ten) they are gearing up to shut the buffet down, so while there were still tons of options, it was well.. it was buffet food. but the drinks were good and the service fine. then we went down to the beach with pina coladas and hung out on loungers under palapas, which are everywhere on the beach, and watched the stars. a good first night.
the next day we could actually admire the grounds, which are very well kept, and in fact there is constant maintenance being done on the grounds the whole time we were there. Birds are all over the place, and the gardens were nice, with flowers and coconut trees. The buffet was really good for breakfast, lots of choices and everything seemed pretty fresh for a buffet. Lots of fresh fruit as well as an omlette station and pretty much any typical breakfast food you can think of. Servers happily bring you coffee, but be quick if you dont want milk in it, because they pour it automatically. the worst part of breakfast was that they didnt come around nearly frequently enough for refilling my coffee (I'm a coffee junkie). the Buffet overall was very good, and when we went to the Akumel bufet for dinner, there was a mariachi band going around the room, which was pretty fun.
The beaches were clean and from BCP Tulum you can walk along the beach to BCP Akumel, which seemed much more crowded than the Tulum beach, but also much less windy. and really, if you get past the crowded section of beach, there is a little quiet spot where there are tons of fish in the swimming area. A note about swimming areas, while there aren't designated areas persay, there are places that they have placed barriers to make swimming safer. the whole time we were there, red danger flags were up due to high wave activity, but if you stayed in the areas that had breaks you were fine to swim. we wore sandals in the water because there is old reef rocks along close to shore that would certainly cut up your feet, but it was great swimming if you just had footwear. definitely take snorkel gear with you. we bought goggles in the lobby store and just held our breath to look at the fish, but it would definitely be worth the purchase of snorkel gear.
Make sure you make reservations for A LaCarte dinners early. we had a hard time getting decent times for dinners at the restaurants we wanted, but wound up with good choices. we went to Tequila on Tulum, Dolce Vita on Akumel, and Mikado on Coba. all were excellent and served a different "welcome" cocktail as soon as you sat down. I loved the A La Carte restaurants, with thier formality, the pull out my chair and put the napkin in my lap. It was fun and made us feel pretty rich. the food at each restaurant was delicious, and beautifully presented. we were a tad bit disappointed with Tequila, which was Mexican, but didnt seem like true mexican food, but rather the same "mexican" we get here. not to say it wasnt good, just not as authentic as we hoped. Mikado was awesome, we got to sit at a grill which is super hot, I got a little sweaty sitting for dinner, but worth it to watch the chef and his tricks. the servers there were super attentive, more so than any other restaurant.
Each night the resort had a play on, which was really cool. we only went to 3 of them, the first was an hour long musical rendition of Avatar. I know, its hard to wrap your mind around, but the performers were excellent, certainly not broadway, but excellent, it was highly entertaining with amazing stunts and good choreography. the second was a Micheal Jackson tribute, which was way better than we thought it would be. the young man that portrayed MJ was awesome, and had almost every move down pat. the third was the mexican Fiesta at the Hacienda, and it was amazing. we loved every second of it. huge cudos to the entertainment team. Also on the entertainment team, there always seemed to be something going on around the pools during the day, and while we didnt partake, it looked like those that did had a lot of fun.
The Hacienda. its kind of a little shopping district in the resort. very nicely laid out, but make sure you go inside the hacienda as well, don't just go to the carts outside. most things inside the hacienda are a little cheaper, but a bit more commercialized. there are a lot more option for most things inside the hacienda though. and make sure you barter with them, they dont really expect you to just pay the price they set on things, and are not offended when you offer them less. Here they are not very aggressive, not like when you go to other districts like Playa del Carmen, where you are propositioned constantly and aggressively in a lot of cases. And don't believe them when they start in about profit. if you go below thier acceptable profit line, they simply won't sell it. and you have to be prepared to walk away. especially in Playa del Carmen, once you start to walk away they will generally give you the price you were willing to pay. even when that price is half of what they started at.
About Playa del Carmen. it is nice, and it was fun to wlak up and down fith avenue and do some shopping, but if we had known there was easy access to the ferry to Cozumel, we would have done that instead. Seriously, just walk straight down to the beach and its to the right. and its quite frequent.
If you choose to go off resort without booking a tour, you can. a cart will take you to the bridge then you walk out of the resort. waiting there are cabs. if you were planning on taking the bus, and want to stick to that, say no, gracias and keep walking. the bus stop is just to the right, up the road a little, and costs about 3 USD each way. if you do want to take a cab, they will ask where you are going and give you a price. again, don't be afraid to barter and make sure you have settled on a price before you get in the cab. We were offered 50 dollars USD to go one way to Playa del Carmen, and wound up with him waiting at a parkade for 3 hours and a round trip for 50 USD. Moral of the story: BARTER!!
Tipping. this is a hard one. when we got there, we ran through our tipping budget very quickly at first, because we tipped everyone we came into contact with. if you can afford that, certainly most of them deserve it. But we found that the service didnt change much whether we tipped or not, but certainly most of them hugely appreciated it. room service was a good one to tip, we got a different towel art each day (not sure if that was for the tip or not, but housekeeping works really hard and deserves a dollar a day, at least.) at first we tipped the fridge guy, by leaving a dollar in the fridge, as one review I read said they got extras for tipping. but we didnt get any extras and so we only tipped a couple times throughout the week. drink mixers- thats your discretion. certainly they work hard, and we tipped the guy we went to regularily for drinks, at first every time we got a drink, but eventually we toned that down to a couple dollars a day. the service didnt change when we scaled back. buffet servers we only tipped when they were exceptional. one breakfast server we had was amazing, and was quite embarrassed when we tipped him, but we did anyway. If a golf cart driver stopped and picked us up when we were walking somewhere, we usually tipped him, but if it was one of the regular lobby to lobby drivers, we didnt usually.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Facilities and services 3 pools (including 2 with Jacuzzi for relaxation) 1 Jacuzzi Large sun terrace with loungers and sun umbrellas BAHIA SPA (additional charge) Sports facilities: gym, 5 tennis courts, bicycles Motorised sports (additional charge) Water activity and scuba diving centre Entertainment amphitheatres WiFi access in the lobby (24h per day free of charge) and in rooms additional charge) 1 buffet restaurant 3 a la carte restaurants 6 Bars Snack-Bar Wedding gazebo Dolphinarium (additional charge) Riviera Maya Golf Club: 18 long holes and 9 executive holes with lakes, natural wells and Mayan forest Hacienda Dona Isabel: karaoke bars, shows, live music and disco. Rooms 978 rooms including 4 types: Superior, Superior Junior Suite, Superior Club Hacienda and Club Hacienda Junior Suite. The Junior Suites are larger than the Superior rooms. Room facilities: King size bed (Superior Junior Suites) or 2 full size beds Sitting area (Superior Junior Suites) Fully-equipped bathroom: shower, wash basin, magnifying mirror and hair dryer Hydromassage bath tub (Superior Junior Suites) Bathroom amenities Balcony or terrace Air conditioning Ceiling fan Telephone Radio alarm clock Flat screen satellite TV Mini-bar (included) Coffee-making facilities Safe (additional charge) Ironing set WiFi (additional charge) Club Hacienda rooms (See page 18, Club Golden, Club Hacienda) Children Bahia Scouts Children can enjoy a range of specially-tailored facilities: Children's pool Mini Club with activities for children aged 4 to 12 Evening Mini Disco Bahia Scouts Water Park Other services On-site miniature railway providing access to all facilities 24 hour medical service (additional charge) Pharmacy (additional charge) Personalised diet option for celiacs and diabetics Cash point Specialised service for organising weddings, events and anniversaries Casino ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Bahia Principe Tulum
- Tulum Bahia Principe
- Gran Bahia Tulum
- Gran Bahia Principe Tulum Akumal
- Gran Bahia Principe Hotel
- Gran Bahia Principe Riviera Maya
- Gran Principe Tulum
- Gran Bahia Principe Mayan Riviera Resort
- Gran Bahia Principe Mexico
- Grand Bahia Principe Tulum Riviera Maya/Akumal, Mexico