My fiancee and I had our wedding at the White Sands on January 8th, 2014. We had 42 guests with us (both friends and family). I will try to divide the review into sections as there is A LOT to talk about (so please read on!). Hope everyone finds my review helpful! I will be comparing this resort often to the Excellence in the Dominican as this is the only other all-inclusive resort I've been to. Sections will be as follows: Airport, welcome, rooms, food, restaurants (specifics), beach and pools, wedding, excursions.
-PLEASE read the wedding section if you are thinking of having your wedding here.
Generalized pros and cons
-Free wi-fi (if slow)
-Fantastic beach (requires water shoes or careful steps)
-Lots of food options (though quality varies)
-24/7 beach food available at two locations.
-Huge resort, so never felt crowded (but hard to find people and easy to get lost)
-Fun mini golf, archery, shuffleboard.
-Jonathan Cabezas (JJ) from alltournative ecoarcheological adventures group.
-Nidia as a wedding coordinator.
-Salt water pool is more quiet and has its own bar.
-Lots of little carts and the trains to help bring you back and forth between sections of the resort.
-Big gift card to the span if you go to the travel club meeting. High pressure sales environment so be ready. The people are nice and if you do buy the travel club package you'll get faster pickup by special vehicles and some other perks.
-Amazing pictures as the environment and weather were both absolutely amazing!
-Small swim-up bar at the main pool.
-A decent trip from the airport and from many excursions
-No room service whatsoever unless you're at royal suites.
-Room was tidied up and the bed was made, but I'm not sure if it was ever actually well and truly cleaned. Sometimes grass or dirt on bathroom floors tended to linger.
-Food quality (in my opinion) was only passable. Quantity should be cut down to provide better quality in general.
-MUST take care to choose the proper wedding location if you're having a wedding.
-You get raked over the coals for the wedding packages (price-wise), though I loved my wedding and (more importantly) my wife loved it.
-35USD fee to use the ATM at the resort, which is beyond highway-robbery.
-Lots of bridges so if you have knee issues or older members in your group, it may be more difficult to travel around.
-Pillows and bed are harder than you might be used to. (Was still so tired every night that I slept with no problems).
1): Make sure your baggage is easily differentiated so no one accidentally takes it and so you can grab it quickly. I saw a few people with the same luggage, so stickers, etc really help. We had our luggage accidentally taken before, and this is a headache you want to avoid.
2): Do not buy water at the airport if you can avoid it. It costed 4USD and they had water on our Air Transit bus for 2USD each (along with other beverages).
1) I would recommend one person stay with the luggage and a second person run to the counter to get signed in if you have a huge group. Lots of little things to deal with as soon as you get there.
2) I would encourage the resort to be more prepared to welcome guests in the future. At the Excellence in the Dominican, they were prepared with a choice of two drinks (one alcoholic, one non-alcoholic) as you approached. This made us feel welcome and special, whereas the reception here felt much more hands-off.
3) MAKE SURE you get a couple copies of the resort map. The humidity makes it wear pretty quickly and you'll need a few copies.
4) Book excursions immediately if you can. Once you get rolling, you'll be busy having fun and relaxing and may end up doing them at the last minute. More on excursions to come.
5) You should be given a welcome bag when you arrive from the travel club. You should have your own as well, obviously, but this was nice. A note to the resort: I asked for a second bag but was told I couldn't get one. The bags are cheap-looking but practical, and a guest should not need to beg for a second bag if one is requested. Considering the price paid, I found it nearly astounding that they couldn't accommodate this request.
-I'll just quickly note that I do not believe the Mayan suite is worth the extra cost unless you are on your honeymoon or you really, really want the privacy of having your own little building.
-We were in a Mayan suite at the White Sands resort. The room has a large bed, couch, table, tv (wasn't working when we arrived, but was fixed after a few requests to fix it), and balcony on the water (complete with a hammock and lounge chairs).
-Mayan shower was really cool, water pressure was fine, and water was warm.
-Fridge was well stocked with local beers, pop, and water bottles.
-Safe was included in the closet and worked well. Just don't forget to lock it!
-FREE WI-FI is an excellent tool (though I should note it is extremely slow).
-Closet is very small, as the ironing board and iron take up a lot of room. I recommend taking them out and depositing them somewhere else in the room.
-The closet door got stuck and we needed to figure out how to open it properly by lifting the one door to get it to move.
-Hangers do not easily come out of the closet and there may not be enough of them if you have brought a lot of clothes.
-Fridge was extremely small. If you bring home food from the beach as leftovers, you will struggle to find room for it.
-Shower in the Mayan suite did not have a shower head. It was basically a hose jutting from the wall with warm water and a beautiful shower setting. Being able to take showers outside was nice.
-Lights outside (in the shower area outside) turn off at 11pm, so if you want to take a shower after that it'll be somewhat dark. We asked twice to have the lights turned back on, and the one time they accommodated this request and the second time we were told it wasn't possible to turn the lights on, so be prepared for inconsistent service.
-No room service whatsoever unless you are staying at the Royal Suites. We paid a similar amount going to the Excellence in the Dominican, and had access to 24/7 room service. It might have taken a while to arrive at times, but this was a nice option. That said, you should never go hungry at this resort.
-I will firstly note that I do not enjoy seafood, so if you do enjoy seafood you'll need to extrapolate from what I write and other reviews to help you out. Sorry!
-Lots of options as there are a total of 14 restaurants between the two resort buildings.
-Each of the a la carte restaurants has a buffet style salad bar. (However, I'll note that this was not always stocked with everything noted on the menus, and I believe this is here to lessen the workload of the waiters and cook-staff more than for any sort of actual convenience or value).
-Buffet breakfasts are excellent, with plenty of fruit, fresh juices, pastries, meat, and other assorted goodies. Plenty of bacon, pancakes, French toast, hash browns, and all the usual things one would expect.
-24/7 beach food was excellent and was some of the best food at the resort. I recommend the chicken fajitas, though others in the group enjoyed the jalapeno poppers and quessadillas.
-Fresh crepes are incredible, but only available at dinner time at the buffets. If you are reading this review and you work at the resort, please get rid of one of the other random breakfast items and serve crepes.
-Though there are 14 restaurants, I did not find the quality at any of them to be truly outstanding considering the time needed to wait for your meal.
-Buffet options are extremely varied, but again I did not find the quality of any of the individual items to be truly outstanding.
-Mexican sauces were always available at the buffet, but none of them had much of a 'kick' to them and they were inconsistent in their spiciness.
-Each time I requested something extra (special habanero hot sauce) I felt like I was being a burden. I absolutely did not feel this way at the previous resort I'd stayed at. I'm sure this is due to the fact that the waiters are constantly rushing about and are serving too many tables or that the kitchens are too busy.
-You cannot take food to go as I tried asking a couple of times. This was rather shocking to me, as at the Excellence I had no problems with this. One time I was halfway through a meal of pad thai there and ordered another full plate to go and this was done with a smile.
-You can only book reservations a few times for the a la carte restaurants. Sometimes even with a reservation you had to wait for your seat and without one we heard of groups that had to wait upwards of 45 minutes.
-Long wait times for your food along with the unimpressive quality of the food meant that we often preferred just to go to the buffet. I should note that my fiancee preferred the food here in Mexico, though I strongly disagree.
-If you are trying to meet up with people, make sure to be very specific about which buffet and which section of the buffet you're meeting at or you'll end up eating alone.
Mare Nostrum (Mediterranean): Food here was fairly good. We had this for our rehearsal dinner and went back later during our stay. I enjoyed the soup and the pork with cheese on top. I forget the names of each.
La Adelita (Mexican): Hmm. What to say about the food here. When we went with a large group most enjoyed the food. If the chicken mole had been an option the night we went, I would have ordered that. However, my fiancee and I ordered a chef special beef dish, and when it came it was inedible. I literally could not cut the meat, and the small piece I tried was not good at all. It's likely a fluke, as most of the group said the food was good, but we went there once and I was not impressed in the least (whereas the single time we went for Mexican food in the Dominican, we found it delicious).
Portofino (Italian): We had this food for our wedding and it was excellent. Courses were served at a reasonable pace, and they did not interrupt speeches or anything of that nature. We went back a second time during our stay.
Rodizio (Brazilian): Food was ok. I only found the turkey wrapped in bacon to be truly excellent. if you've been to Copacabana in Niagara Falls (or elsewhere) you're going to be disappointed. I enjoyed my dinner here because of the company more than the food itself, though there is a good variety.
-Book the japanese Tepanyaki show very, very early if possible because it is always booked up quickly. My fiancee and I did not get to go, though we heard that it was enjoyable.
-Steakhouse + Ribs and more and other restaurants: Throughout the week we heard mixed reviews of many of the other restaurants. It seems like luck is a big factor, as we heard from a few people that the ribs and more was fantastic and that it was horrible and not worth going to from others. We heard mostly good things about the steak house, but some were ho-hum about it.
-Large beach with beautiful white sand and plenty of room to swim.One of the best parts of our stay here at the Grand Palladium.
-Plenty of beach chairs and shaded areas. We never had to fight to find one.
-Sand banks make it possible to swim out a good distance without the waves going above my head. Very enjoyable.
-Very rocky, so make sure to wear water shoes or tread very carefully.
-Be careful not to sprint into the water and try to run out. If you do, you'll end up stepping on a rock, or stepping into a deeper area and falling on your face. I can say this from experience.
-Plenty of pools, plenty of space around the pools with plenty of beach chairs and shaded areas.
-A few adult only pools which are more quiet and secluded where a group can go and relax. Can get noisy if you have a rowdy group (like our group).
-Pools never felt especially crowded, even at the Colonial where there are a lot more families and the kids area.
-Swim up bars.
-Volleyball nets set up and available.
-There is only one swim-up bar at the White Sands pool and because of the wide columns, access is not always easy or quick. Swim-up bar at the Excellence was much wider and easier to access.
-Nidia was an excelelnt wedding coordinator, who was extremely organized and always did her best to help us out.
-There are a few possible wedding locations to choose from. The pictures of the weddings on the beach or at the beach gazebo look beautiful. However, if you have your wedding on the beach there is the sand to deal with and people are often walking by, so you'll have plenty of people photo-bombing your wedding pictures.
-The beach gazebo looks beautiful, but you will NOT see that it is 30ft from the beach restaurant. A few times when weddings were happening people were gawking, trying to walk past, and clapping. People mean well, but you're not going to have a peaceful, secluded wedding here. It is also often VERY windy. Twice when a wedding was occurring the music was still playing from the nearby beach restaurant. I would recommend you ask them to turn the music off ahead of time and try to have a few people keeping people away from the main celebration.
-The gazebo by the church was our first choice after we'd seen the other locations in person. It is much more secluded. The landscape nearby is beautiful for pictures. It is near the Colonial, so you'll need to arrange transportation there. Note that we did NOT have our wedding here because of rain.
-The Spa: We had our wedding here (a last minute change). It was beautiful and handled the number of people well. It was a bit warm inside as there was no breeze, and as the groom I had to stare off to the left to avoid seeing my now-wife before she was coming down the aisle. Everyone else had nothing but good things to say. Since it is at the spa, there are fewer people here as there is an extra cost unless you're a member of the travel club.
-Beach bash was incredible (atmosphere-wise). We had to rent a dance floor and sound equipment for around 500$ to play our playlist from our ipod. The dance floor was quite wet at the start and so I heard nearly every person complain about how slippery it was, but no one had any falls and everyone got used to it.
-Bar at the beach bash was great as we had a wonderful bar staff who made all sorts of cool drinks and shots. The welcome drinks (called Carnival I believe) were great.
-Food at the beach bash was supposedly good, though I didn't get to try any. I would request your wedding coordinator to have the food served much later than it was for us, as it began nearly immediately after our arrival and since we'd just had dinner very few were hungry enough to try anything.
-Wedding cake had to be served at the beach bash as we were running way late. Thrice I asked for the wedding cake to be cut and put on plates for our guests to try, but the wedding coordinator who was there (NOT Nidia) said guests could cut it themselves and take what they wanted. I was pretty ticked off about this, but wanted to enjoy my night. For future reference, if the groom asks you three times to have something reasonable done, you should do it. I was not impressed.
-If you are going on an excursion with the ALLTOURNATIVE group, you absolutely MUST request that Jonathan Cabezas (also known as JJ) take you. His English was excellent, he has studied mesoamerican history, and he was absolutely hilarious. I can guarantee you that the bus ride will fly by with him as your guide.
-Ek Balam and the Cenote Maya were amazing. About 1h45min from our resort, but the time flew by with JJ. However, you DEFINITELY should request that you do Ek Balam first and the Cenote Maya 2nd. We did it in the opposite order and the water at the cenote was freezing and then the ruins were blisteringly hot (literally. More than a few people with mild sunburns left with blistered skin). Mayan food was delicious (avoid the whitish-green sauce if you don't like spicy food) and I learned a lot and got some great pictures.
-Segway tours was a fun diversion. You won't learn much, but it was definitely fun riding around on a segway. For 40$ish, you'll need to decide on whether a run little ride around on a segway is worth it considering the other options.
-We only heard good things about Xel Ha and Adventur, but my wife and I were not able to go on these excursions (somehow, even with 10 days, we ran out of time).
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Grand Palladium White Sand Resort & Spa is located on a spectacular, private Caribbean beach-front complex that boasts of 800 meters of white, fine sand and turquoise blue waters. Guests of the Grand Palladium White Sand are invited to use the facilities provided by the adjoining Grand Palladium Colonial Resort & Spa, the Grand Palladium Kantenah Resort & Spa, and the Grand Palladium Riviera Resort & Spa (excluding the Royal Suite facilities). ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Grand Palladium White Sand Resort And Spa
- Grand Palladium White Sand Hotel Akumal
- Palladium White Sands
- Grand Palladium White Sands Resort
- Grand Palladium White Sand Resort & Spa Riviera Maya/Akumal, Mexico