Although I travel to the Riviera Maya back in July 2008, I though I would write this review to help those out there that may find this helpful.
As said in all of my reviews, I am a 22 year old single male. When I go on vacations it is to get away from everyday life and to relax, be pampered and enjoy the local sites and culture. For this trip I went with my best friend, as this was sort of a birthday gift to myself as well as a new start as I had just come out of a 3 year relationship. This was a fresh start for me and really helped me to move on.
I planned my trip to the Barcelo Maya Palace for the 05Jul08 departure from Toronto Pearson International with Transat Holidays. It was an early afternoon flight from Toronto to Cancun. My travel companion and I drove from Ottawa to Toronto the night before and stayed with her family for the night so we would be able to get the airport on time with ease.
Our flight was with Air Transat. Check in was very smooth and quick. We had the opportunity to do a little bit of duty free shopping before boarding our flight to Cancun.
As of June 2008, Air Transat had reconfigured there aircraft seating to allow passengers an additional 2 inches of leg room. This was a comfortable flight, the service was attentive and the food was better than I had remembered. I was able to get my hands on some free beverage coupons prior to departure so I was able to have a champagne lunch.
Upon arrival into Cancun, there was a bit of a line at the customs and immigration, it took some time, however, every time I’ve been to this airport there always seems to be a bit of a line. Luggage arrived at the carousel in a prompt timing. One thing to mention *VERY IMPORTANT* on the walk from the luggage pick up to the exit doors of the airport where you are to pick up your luggage, there will be individuals dressed up like some of the major tour operator representatives. If these individuals do not have the tour operator logo on there shirts or are not holding your tour operators logo on a sign…they are not tour operator representatives. These are people who are out to sell you excursion packages, time shares, and other crap that you do not need. They have been known to cause some individuals a lot of grief on their vacations and also some serious financial loss. These people can be very aggressive, manipulative and cause you to miss your scheduled transfer to the resort. This could be a problem because then you must find your own way to the resort, which means more money out of your pocket. All I can say is be careful! And keep walking until you get out the exit doors. It is out here that you will find the Tour Operator representatives.
The day after guests arrive at destination there is usually an orientation given by the Destination Representative from the tour operator you have traveled with. I highly recommend going to this as they will provide you with some very useful information on the area itself, things to do and not to do, places to visit and not to visit as well and information of excursions that are available.
The bus transfer from the Cancun Airport to the Barcelo Maya Complex is anywhere between 1hour 15min and 1hour 45mins. It all depends on how many other resorts passengers are dropped off at on the way.
Palace Resort and Accommodations
I had been to this resort complex 6 months prior to my planned vacation on a Familiarization Trip. I loved the Barcelo Maya Colonial so much that I wanted to come back to this resort complex again. Upon arrival at the lobby of the Barcelo Maya Palace, we were escorted to the check in counter. The lobby is stunning, marble floors and has a very open and spacious concept. Check in was seamless. The lead in category at this resort is a Junior Suite, however they do have suites available as well. There is also and opportunity to upgrade to their Premium service which gets you a room with an Oceanview and premium brand beverages. The rest of the rooms at this resort are Gardenview. There are very nice as they are more quiet then the ocean view rooms. The rooms offer 2 double beds or 1 king bed in the room. The junior suites were a great size, very spacious and luxurious. There was a separate seating area with 2 sofas and a large balcony or terrace. The back rooms have a double vanity with 2 bowl like sinks, toilet, bathtube with shower and than a separate rain fall shower beside the bath tube (yes you heard me correctly…there are 2 showers. The room has dark mahogany like furnishings.
This resort have a very large pool area with a swim up bar. Possibly the largest pool I have ever seen. There are plenty of loungers available by the pool area as well as the ceramic lounger built in the pools. Swim up bar is available in the main pool area. There is plenty or shade available for those who do not like being in the sun all day. There is also a separate pool area specifically for adults. There are day beds available at this adult’s only section. There is a bar dedicated to this area as well, however it was not a swim up bar. A little tip, it you tip the bartender really well at the beginning of the day, he will continually bring you drink.
The beach at this complex is possibly one of the nicest beaches in the Riviera Maya. It is a 2 km stretch of beach which is great for walking. There is a board walk that runs down the beach for the entire complex. This goes from the Barcelo Maya Palace right down to the Barcelo Maya Beach Resort. To be very honest, the beach right in front of the Palace is rather coarse and there is coral in the water. To avoid having your feet look like raw hamburger, take a 30 second stroll down the beach to the Tropical and Colonial section right next door. The beach here is great with powder white sand. You may use the bar and restaurant facilities at all the resorts around the complex.
Food and Restaurants
The Barcelo Maya Palace has 6 Restaurants for it’s resort guests. There are 2 different buffet restaurants. The Hacienda Buffet which is open for breakfast and dinner. There is also the Mirador Buffet which is only open for dinner. The Coral Grill is open for lunch only. There are 3 different a la carte restaurant available exclusively for the guests in the Palace Section. The French restaurant which I found to be very good. They had a good variety of traditional French items on the menu. Many of these item include fish and shellfish, however they do have many other options as well. The Caribbean restaurant was our favorite. Fresh seafood and fish prepared to order. They did have other options on the menu as well that cater to people who are not into seafood. My travel companion had the filet mignon. It was superb. The Brazilian is the last of the exclusive a la carte restaurants to the Palace guests. This restaurant was just ok. They serve up different cuts of meat with potatoes and rice. Some very interesting meat selections. You will have the opportunity to try Donkey, Iguana Sausage (tastes like chicken), Blood sausage, Beef and Pork. It’s unfortunate that all the meat seemed to be marinated in the same marinade. As these are exclusive to Palace guests, patrons from the other resorts on the complex must pay to use them. There are 6 other restaurants available to you from around the complex. There is the Mexican restaurant at the Barcelo Beach. The food here was good. Traditional Mexican food. The Spanish restaurant is between the Colonial and the Caribe sections serving up Spanish flare. There is Bali Hai at the Colonial and Tropical sections serving Asian Fusion cuisine. This restaurant is always booked so book your reservation early if you plan to get into this one. There is also a Steakhouse, Seafood and Italian restaurants available for reservations. With the Prestige Class Inclusions from Transat Holidays, when staying at the Palace you will receive 5 guaranteed reservations at the a la carte. You may book these upon your arrival with the concierge in the Lobby. There are many other eatery options available to your from around the complex. There are the buffet restaurants at each the resort sections available to you as well. This provides a better variety as the resorts do not necessary serve up the same menu. We would rotate between the buffet at the Palace and the buffet at the Colonial. For lunch as the Coral Grill can be repetitive, we would take a quick Stroll down the beach to Captain Morgans. They serve up fresh to order burgers, chicken, and fish dishes as well as plenty of Margaritas.
Spa and Fitness
The Palace does have it’s own spa available to guests providing a wide variety of treatment options. There are also massage beds available on the beach. The fitness center and hot tub are located between the Colonial and the Caribe section. There is only one hot tub on the complex and it is hidden in the fitness area. This is a very busy place especially before and after dinner. The hot tub has a capacity of 8 to 10 people.
This resort complex is made up of 5 different sections. Starting with the Barcelo Maya Beach Resort. This is the oldest resort in the complex. Although there have been refurbishments done to this property, it has a more traditional Mexican feel to as in the décor and surroundings. The accommodation are on the more basic side offering standard room accommodations. The Barcelo Maya Caribe is the next section over. Again more of a traditional Mexican feel and standard accommodations. The Barcelo Maya Colonial and Tropical are next in line. They offer a higher standard of accommodation. Lead in room category is Deluxe Room, which are spacious and well appointed with large bathrooms and very private balconies. As the resorts in this entire complex are built back from the beach, most of the rooms are gardenview. Junior suites are available. These rooms are ocean/pool view. To this the newest addition is the Palace Resort which is at the North end of the complex.
There are daily activity programs available around the complex during the day. The water sports center is location on the beach by the Colonial section. Non motorized sports are included in your package. There are 2 kids waterparks available on the complex. One at the colonial and one at the Palace. Barcy’s Kids club is also available for parents that fancy some alone time (or wives that are looking to drop their husbands off before going to the spa). In the evening, there are a variety or choices for evening entertainment. There are 3 theatres around the complex offering different shows at each on a nightly basis. Some of them are very good and others are not. The lobby bar is a nice classy place to sit down and have a drink and good conversation. /you have the option of being outside or indoors with air conditioning.
The Riviera Maya has an abundance of different excursions to offer it’s guests. You there are so many to choose from that you could come back 10 years in a row and do something different every time. During our stay we had the opportunity to meet with our destination representative. He was very informative on the different products that were available to us and arranged everything for us as well. We decided on doing the Coba Mayan Village with All Tour Native. This is an excellent tour company as the guide are very knowledgeable about the history and surrounding area. This was a full day tour. It was approx $124.00US per person and well worth the expense. They pick you up at the hotel and bring you to there head quarters located in the town of Tulum, you will be able to enjoy a good cup of coffee. For our tour we did the Coba ruins first thing in the morning, as it was July and very hot we were happy that it happened in this order. You arrive at the entrance of the Coba park and have an orientation with an archeologist about what some of the structure and building in the area are and what they were used for. After this briefing, you will have the opportunity to climb the tallest Mayan Ruin in the area. However, before you get to the ruin there is a 2 kms distance to get to the actual ruin. You have the option of walking the distance, renting a bike for $3US or renting a “Mayan Limousine” which is a bike with a seat at the front of it, there is a driver so there is no work required. If are are looking to climb up the ruin, the mayan limo is the way to go as you may be tired afterwards. The Mayan Limousine is approx $11US. After this you will have a short ride to one of the areas Cenotes (underground freshwater caves). You will have the opportunity to have a quick swim. The water is cool but really refreshing as you will be hot from the Coba climb. From here you will go to a traditional mayan village and have a traditional mayan lunch. After lunch you will do a zip line and repelling down a cliff. There is also time for a little bit of shopping for Mayan hand crafts. After this you head back to the resort.
The other excursion we did was to Xel-ha. This is kind of like an Eco-Park. It’s all inclusive so your meals and beverages are included. You have a chance to do some snorkeling and other activities such as snuba diving and swimming with Dolphins (additional $$$). The cost was approx $115.00 per person for the full day. This was ok, but once you have been, there’s no real reason to go back unless you really liked it. We going to Xel-ha they will try to hit you up for everything they have to offer at an additions cost. (ie. Biodegradable Sunscreen). I bought some biodegradeable sunscreen here in Canada and apparently it wasn’t good enough. So they made me buy theirs at $15.00 for a small tube.
Playa Del Carmen
I highly recommend going into Playa Del Carmen at least once during your stay. There is an opportunity for some great shopping and good bargains on Jewelry and handcraft items. This make for a really inexpensive night out and a great way to spend an evening. From the entrance of the complex you can catch the collective into Playa Del Carmen. It’s $2.00US per person and drops you off a block away from Fifth Avenue. This runs until approx 11pm. Taxis are also available however they do cost more.
When traveling to Mexico in general the easiest thing to do is to convert your Canadian Dollars into US Dollars. You can also convert into Mexican Pesos. I personally just find it easier to bring US currency and it is widely accepted everywhere. In regards to travelers cheques, I get this question a lot. It is best to avoid travelers cheques as they can be hard to cash and there is usually a processing fee to cash them.
The Cancun airport is a mecca for duty free items. They have all the international brands for cigarettes and alcohol available to you and usually always have some really good promotions (2 bottles of Absolut Vodka for $22.00US).
Gay and Lesbian Travel
Mexico has always been a hot spot for Gay and Lesbian travelers alike. Although, just like anywhere you have to be cautious, the general attitude toward Gay and Lesbian individuals is quite positive. When it comes to acts of homophobia, it isn’t usually the residence of Mexico that have an issue, it’s usually some of the guests staying in Mexico. Just be cautious and have a great time. Most importantly…be yourself!
Should anyone have any questions about the area or resorts, I would be more than happy to answer them for you. I am very familiar with this area and other resorts in the area as well.
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- Also Known As:
- Barcelo Puerto Aventuras
- Barcelo Hotel Maya Beach
- Barcelo Maya Palace
- Barcelo Maya Mexico
- Barcelo Maya Resort
- Catalonia Rivera Maya
- Maya Beach Resort
- Barcelo Beach Maya Mayan Resort Riviera
- Barcelo Maya Beach Resort Cancun
- Hotel Barcelo Maya Beach Riviera Maya, Mexico - Puerto Aventuras