Just returned from the Mayan Riviera and a 14 day family vacation at the Grand Palladium White Sands Resort & Spa. People were kind enough to respond to my questions and enquiries in the forums as we searched for a great place to stay for a family vacation. This reviewed is based on 6 adults (me, wife and three adult kids (21,20 &17). This is an honest review based on my own experience and hopefully I can pass on some insight into what you could expect from your stay at the Grand Palladium White Sands (GPWS) Resort in the Mayan Riviera.
Transportation/Arrival: I must say that this was probably the first vacation where the entire transportation from flight to resort went almost flawless. Flew down on Air Transat into Cancun and was met immediately at the airport by AT people who wisked us immediately onto a very nice luxury bus that had air conditioning. After about an hour and a half (included stops at the Barcelo Resort and Grand Bahia Principe to drop people off) we arrived at the GPWS lobby and were met by a wonderful women who introduced us to the resort and had us checked into our rooms within 30 minutes. All-in-all, I was somewhat surprised at how well eveything had gone so far.
Rooms: After discussing the GPWS in the Trip Advisor forums and the great feedback from other visitors to the resort, we had made a request to be in building 57 and on the second floor. Surprise, surprise, we got exactly what we wanted and were placed in rooms 5715 and 5717 (three people in each room) on the second floor. The rooms were well air-conditioned and were everything we had expected. We weren't expecting to spend a lot of time in the room but when we were in them, they were on a level with any other hotel I had ever stayed at. Mini-fridge was restocked every day with beer and pop as well as bottled water. We did have to keep on the staff to ensure we got our water as it becomes a necessity to your health down there. Tip: Stayed hydrated at all times or it will wear you down!! Tempatures for the two weeks ranged from high 80's to low/mid 90's and was hot as early as 9am when we headed to the buffet for breakfast. Each room had two twin beds with a couch that pulls out to a bed. You will need to upgrade if you are expecting to have a private bedroom. We had looked at upgrading and were told it would be US$69/night. We opted to sending our youngest camping in the other room a couple of nights if you catch my drift ;)
Resort: As everyone will tell you and as you probably already know, this is a very, very big resort with four (4) different complexes. There is the Kantenah, Colonial, White Sands and Riviera sections with each having its own lobby for check-in. Not to worry though as there is a train that comes by each lobby every 10 minutes or so. The staff were very helpful and would offer to give us a lift on the GP golfcarts when ever they passed us.
I did hear some people complaining about having to walk so far and for the most part it looked to be people who probably have never spent a day in their life excercising. We went for walks every night and quickly got a lay of the land within a day or so. It may seem overwhelming at first but take a deep breath, seek out a drink, relax and then explore. Tip: Upon arrival and after settling into your room, take a long walk around, study the trail maps and find everything you can as soon as possible. This may not be the resort for you if you have small children as there are fairly high bridges that you have to navigate to the pool areas and well as boardwalks that link the four sections.
Food: I can't say enough about the food at GP and the all-inclusive. We first started having breakfast and lunch at the buffet at GP Riviera but soon found ourselves wandering the extra distance to the Colonial buffet as it seemed to have a better selection, better service and the food seemed to be a little fresher. The first week was great as there wasn't a lot of people at the White Sands and there was lots of room at the pool to get a lounge chair and we never encountered a line-up at any of the restaurants/buffets. However, that changed after about day 9 when it became somewhat crowded everywhere and especially with young teenagers (girls). Line-ups at the restaurants and the pool lounge chairs were filled early and quickly. In saying that, we still managed to enjoy our last few days and put up with the slower response time in our endevours throughout the GP facilities.
We did manage to go out to the al la cartes on four different evenings (ribs & more, portifino, eldorado and the japanese place). Food was great but I just couldn't justify going every single night for a big meal even though we could make up to 5 reservations a week as part of our package through Air Transat.
Pool/Beaches: The pools are very nice at GP and if you are so inclined you can seek out the salt water pool down by the ocean. There you'll find better lounge chairs (although not as many) as well as some lounging beds with shade covers. We spent a fair amount of time at the swim up bar at the GPWS and met lots of people from around the world and for the better part most were a pleasure to chat with. The only complaint I had was that for some time there was only one bartender to service the never-ending thirst of resort guests seeking to maximize their all-inclusive value through free drinks. At times it was very frustrating trying to get a drink and I was left with no other choice but to go bake on a lounge chair for a little longer. We learned quickly to upgrade our drink cup from the standard 6oz plastic beverage container to a mega 24oz big gulp container we found in Playa Del Carmen. The beaches are spectacular and make long walks with your loved one seem just a little more romantic. It is here that you'll find more lounge chairs as well as some good snack bars. Be sure to bring a camera during the evenings and get a shot of the racoons begging for handouts. You can also get lots of shots of the many, many iguanas that seem to be everywhere throughout the resort.
Excursions: With four adult kids, it was a task trying to decide where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. We booked all our off-sight trips through Air Transat as they seemed to be somewhat cheaper than most if not all other options. Our first trip was to Tulum to see the Mayan ruins. I guess for me is that when you see two or three Mayan ruins throughout Mexico that they seem to look the same. It was hot and muggy and all I wanted to do was get back on the air-conditioned bus. Our second trip was to "Xel-Ha" (pronounced "Shell-Ha") which I would recommend to any family. Upon arrival we immediately booked the underwater walk with the diving helmuts to what we thought would be a zoo of undersea wilderness. Unfortunately it was a walk into a milky mix of freshwater and saltwater blur with a few fish and one ray that looked well past its prime. However, in saying that it got better. We next grabbed some snorkeling gear and immediately jumped into the bay whereby we were met by lots of marine life including a friendly barracuda (if there is such a thing) who seemed content just to float around with all the snorkelers. Spent about two hours in the bay and then happily took on the buffet (all-inclusive with ticket). Our third trip was to the "Xplor" adventure park. This is a must for anyone and is a complete day of fun and adventure on the ziplines and the underground caves where you can swim through freshwater caverns. I can honestly say that after I finished completing the 14 zipline towers (7 on each side) I was ready for a nap or a stiff drink or maybe both. I give Xplor a 5 star rating and is well worth the $85 price tag even if it is just for the experience of hanging out on the ziplines (very cool).
Finally, it was off to Puerto Adverturas where we went deep sea fishing for four hours and managed to snag two nice sized sailfish. If you're into fishing, you'll enjoy dropping a line for some big game fishing that is catch and release.
Pros:After returning home on May 17th, the concensus with everyone was that it was probably the best trip we had ever been on as well as the best resort. Yes, GP may have the odd hiccup, but when you think about the amount of people making demands on the resort for food, beverages, entertainment, assistance, medical help and everything else, they get a five star rating from me. The food/accomodations were first class, we were treated very well and most importantly, we had fun!
Cons: If there was one major complaint it would be with the smokers. Being a family that are non-smokers, we couldn't enjoy sitting in the lobbies because all the smokers hang out there including the cigar puffers. Unfortunately, that is the only place you can hook into the wi-fi for internet access on your notebook. The smokers also hang out at the swim up bar which made for some discomfort and having to move to the very end of the bar or move further into the pool. This may be the only reason that we wouldn't return and might seek out another resort that is non-smoking or has a designated smoking area. (please take notice GP).
- 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