I just returned (last night) from a scouting trip for my upcoming wedding. We narrowed it to two choices: the Azul in Puerto Morelios & Playacar Palace (don't confuse with the RIU Palaces- I have stayed there and they are fabulous).
We met the customer relations man "Mr. W" at the Playacar Palace. He was not at all charming, explaining the hotel didn't need our business and the 30 rooms we would need next November were of little importance. "We have all the business we need", in perfect English accompanied by a smug grin. We walked with him next to view an over populated pool area. There is no beach or beach access at the hotel. Guests sit behind a large seawall made of cement & glass and look at the waves crashing below. We then ventured by the buffet which was a sea of peolpe and a shabby layout. I would say that it reminded us of a cheesy Vegas buffet.
If you want grandios, super food, and great staff in Playacar head to the RIU Palace/s.
If you want a low-key, intimate experience coupled with great service, food, and top shelf alcohol, (and No Buffets) head to The Azul Beach Hotel. We will be married there and are excited.