18.11.2012 - 25.11.2012
The Grand Palladium Riviera Maya is between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, about an hour south of the Cancún airport. The architects had an eco-friendly mindset, as they tried to build around the mangroves and other aspects of the environment. Because of this, you will see local wildlife throughout the resort...
which my daughter loved seeing.
The resort consists of 4 hotels (not counting a group of suites that have some of their own facilities). We stayed at the White Sands. There are 2 lobby complexes with shopping and food and a main pool behind them; in other words, 2 hotels share a lobby complex. Guests are able to use the facilities in both complexes no matter where they are staying.
Pictures are better than words to describe it.
The beach is rocky in some places, but gets better as you head north. I recommend swimming with swim shoes/sandals/etc., especially if you're on the south end of the beach.
Both main pools are generously sized, with lots of beach chairs. There are small kiddie pools by the main pools, but the main pools themselves have some very shallow areas that work well for kids. The water was cold enough that you really noticed it at first, but it felt nice once you were used to it.
We had a 1 bedroom suite, with a bed in the bedroom and a couch in the living area that converted to a full-size bed. It was very spacious, and we were really happy with it. The only improvement we would suggest is to upgrade the quality of the sheets, as ours were scratchy and pilled. The pillows weren't the best quality either, but we did not take advantage of the pillow menu, which had other offerings for an additional fee.
Lots of resorts only have kid club offerings for children 4 and up. One of the reasons this property caught our eye was that they had a mini-kids' club for ages 1 to 3. My daughter spent a couple of hours there nearly every day of the trip. At 3.5, she was getting a bit old for some of the mini-club offerings. There are strict regulations about keeping kids in the club that corresponds to their age, so playing with the 4-8 year-olds was not an option unless my husband or I were there to supervise. We did that on occasion, and it was fine. I understand the need to follow rules, but the result is that the fit isn't always the best for kids at the far ends of each age group. Although they did have a small jumpy-jump and other physical activities in the room especially for the mini-club, the kids there never went to play outside. I never saw them doing crafts either, even though it was listed on their schedule of activities. Even though I was bummed about that, my daughter wasn't. Every day she would ask to go to the kid's club, and getting her to leave for lunch or beach time took some effort, so I think she had a good time there.
I had read other travelers' reviews of the resort, including their opinions about food, which varied widely. Part of this is, of course, because of people's different tastes, but I think another part of it is that the quality of items can vary even in the same buffet. I saw this in my family, where how much we enjoyed certain meals depended on exactly what we ate. In general, I felt that the majority of the food was decent: not awesome enough for me to write a glowing recommendation, but not bad, either.
At the buffets, the Mexican items and the fish were among the best, which makes sense given our location.
Breakfast (served at the buffets only) was the best meal of the day. I especially liked the freshly blended juices.
For lunch, we preferred the buffets to the beach bar. The latter is more convenient because you can get a plate of food and bring it back to your beach chair, but the variety is not nearly as good.
For dinner, we tried to mix it up by visiting the buffets as well as the sit-down places. Only two sit-down places take reservations, with the rest taking guests first-come, first-serve. We really liked this system because there was no mad rush in the morning to make reservations. We also never had to wait more than 10-15 minutes for a table. The buffet dinners had a different theme each night of the week, so if you went to the buffet more than one night, you didn't eat exactly the same thing.
With the exception of the Teppanyaki and Brazilian barbecue restaurants, where kids are served as adults, the sit-down places we visited had the same kid's menu. It had many choices that you might find on a kid's menu at a US restaurant (spaghetti and meatballs, mini-pizza, etc.). My daughter was happy with what she had.
Food worth trying:
Pollo con chile verde (at breakfast),
Tacos al pastor (Mexican restaurant. This is typical Mexican bar food. I don't know why they don't have it at the snack bars.)
Pasta carbonara (Italian restaurant Portofino)
Arroz con leche at breakfast (It's not the dessert at breakfast, but literally just rice and milk.)
Our rank order of sit-down restaurants: Mexican and Brazilian tied for first, Japanese, Italian
Bathroom: our room had a large shower and a separate jetted tub. The showerhead is on a handle that detaches, so the shower was a good place to give my daughter a quick rinse. Although we used the bathtub most nights, the ledge was pretty high. My daughter couldn't just climb in like she does at home, so she had to be lifted in and out of the tub. This is not the easiest thing when your child weighs over 40 lbs.
Blow dryer: yes
Elevators: not sure, because there are several buildings, which are all fairly spread out along the property. Our room was in a building with three floors, and I don't remember seeing one there.
Highchairs: although we didn't use any, we saw them at the restaurants.
Internet: free wifi in the lobbies, available in your room at an extra charge. We used the lobby wifi only. It was fine, though I think the signal was better in the White Sands and Riviera lobbies than the others. Sometimes you could also get the lobby signal at the restaurants on that side of the resort, though that was hit or miss.
Nearest playground: The Kid Club has one.
Refrigerator: yes. It is stocked as a mini-bar, but you could move some drinks out/around to make room for snacks.
Strollers: we didn't travel with one, but I did want to mention that we saw several families with them, and they seemed to be doing fine. The best main pool for families on wheels is the one on the Cantenah/Colonial side, because you need to cross a bridge with stairs to go over the lagoon that surrounds the pool on the White Sands/Riviera side. For families who didn't pack their stroller but wish they had, the kid club checks out plastic kid cars with tall handles so that adults can push their little ones along.
Recommend for families with young kids: definitely. The resort is welcoming to young kids and offers them activities and gear like highchairs.
Recommend for people without kids: definitely. Even though the resort is kid-friendly, I never got the impression that it was only for families with kids. Childless travelers will also find activities and food to their liking.