LOCATION - The resort was located about an hour from the airport in the small, gated community of Puerto Aventuras. I thought the location was adorable. You are within a short walking distance (or bike ride) of the marina where you can shop, eat, charter a fishing trip, and most exciting, watch the dolphins play. Puerto Aventuras is one of the hotspots for swimming with the dolphins. But if you do not have the money to spend it is free to watch them play and they come right up to you and show off—it is amazing! The Catalonia Riviera Maya is also located in this complex.
The resort is also very close to Playa Del Carmen (about 15 minutes Taxi ride). Playa Del Carmen is, in my opinion, much more unique than Cancun. They have the Carlos and Charles, but they also have a ton of local bars with bands playing and lots of authentic little stores with local art and hand crafts. The prices do tend to be kind of high though.
*** FYI, Playacar is another little gated community with lots of restaurants, bars, and shopping. Some of the resorts in this complex are the Riu Playacar, Gala, and the Allegro- all located about 50 minutes from the airport***
APPLE TRANSFER / CHECK-IN PROCESS - When we got to the airport, we only brought carry-ons, so we
moved quickly to exit the airport. When we got to the Apple reps they said it would be 20 minutes till they got enough people to take us. About a minute later, a gentleman said they would be able to go ahead and give us a private transfer so that our vacation could start right away! Awesome service! Not sure if they knew I was a TA or what! The driver spoke very broken English but was so cute! He talked about everything we passed. Which by the way the Mayan Palace looks like it is going to be amazing—still under construction. When we drove through Playa Del Carmen, he took us on a small tour of the city and showed us the best places to shop and eat.
We arrived on property at 10:45am. We were greeted with smiles, champagne, and cookies! We checked in and were sent directly to our room. There are about 7 floors and three elevators (one of which worked on and off while we were there). But we needed the exercise anyway. Not everyone felt that way!
ROOM - The rooms were spacious. The one we got actually had a kitchen with a microwave, stovetop, cabinets, fridge, and dining table. The fridge was stocked with soda, water, and beer. We were free to take as we pleased and they would re-stock about 3 times a day. The rooms were damp on the forth floor, but were kept clean. The bathrooms were not that great. They were quite small and the toilet was always running.
Occasionally an awful smell would leak in, and we heard from others that sewage was a problem in their room. Overall, the rooms were not so bad. The staff would come multiple times throughout the day to be sure that the room was picked up and re-stocked which made it nice.
GROUNDS - The resort is pretty large and I thought the grounds to be kept very nice. You rarely saw any trash, or dishes laying around. The staff was always busy making sure things were in order.
BEACH - The beach was very large. Much of it was man made as it the property was surrounded by reef. The main beach is not though. The sand is a bit rougher that what you see in Cancun, but it is still very nice, white sand. Also, since it is so large, you never have to fight for a lounger, and you can usually even find a nice hammock available.
POOL - There are two pools on property, each with a swim up bar. One pool is an adult-only pool, which was nice and quiet—in fact kind of boring. They never played any music on this side, and the sun did not shine much, as it was shaded by the hotel building. This pool was surrounded by the marina. The other pool, surrounded by the beach, was the place to be. Lots of activities take place on this side of the property. This is also where they play music and where you can eat! Both pools are not very large, but this pool also was attached to a very large- 50 persons or so- hot tub. Both pools were kept very clean.
BARS / DRINKS - We never ran into a bad bartender. All were very nice and loved to make jokes. The drinks were always good, and many people were happy as they could get their favorite domestic beer—Budweiser. My favorite is Corona, and that was free-flowing everywhere! Our favorite bar was the one located just on the beach by the secluded rock pool. The bar is surrounded by large coral rocks that cause the waves to break and splash up behind you. Jose was the bartender at this bar that kept us happy. He made a special drink called the Tropical Storm, that Jason liked. But careful not to drink too many, or you may end up doing Tai Chi on the beach with people you do not even know!
RESTAURANTS - The restaurants were good. Breakfast was my favorite! The fruit was amazing! The best restaurant was the Italian, although the French-style al-a-carte was not open. This restaurant burnt to the ground about a month ago and they are working to completely re-construct it. We also ate at the Seafood restaurant that set us up at a romantic spot on the marina—very beautiful! The steakhouse was so-so, but the waiter was so silly, and cute, that it made all the difference.
SHOWS - We only experienced two shows, a local Mexican band and a Mayan ritual. Both were very enjoyable. Also each night they set up for a movie on the beach. They actually set up a large screen- about 10’ x 12’, and show a new movie. It was very fun to do this, and children really enjoyed it.
ACTIVITIES - There were lots of activities going on daily, from beach volleyball, to Spanish lessons, to dance lessons, and so on. There are also a variety of water activities including a water trampoline and rock climbing wall in the water, snorkeling, kayaking, sail boats, scuba, and parasailing.
STAFF - Overall, the staff is what made this property so enjoyable. Everyone was very friendly, and they always wanted to be sure you were happy. This can make or break a vacation in my opinion, and in this case the staff made it a very special vacation.
Overall hotel rating 5 star