Rick and I have family and friends that love getting married in Mexico! We were just there in February for a family wedding and as soon as the invitations arrived, we knew we were going.
The all-inclusive resort my family member picked was the Playacar Palace in the Riviera Maya. The hilarious thing was as soon as we got to our room and looked out at the view we realized we had seen the hotel before. Three years before when we took a cruise to Cozumel and did a day trip to Tulum. The hotel was right next to the ferry station.
But that’s also to say that the hotel does have a great location, especially if you want to leave the resort and check out the town.
We booked five nights at the hotel so we could get plenty of resort credits for our time at the spa and so we’d have plenty of time to relax before and after the wedding as this one was going to be a party!
If you’re curious about a stay at Playacar Palace, keep reading to see what we thought of our experience.
A review of the Riviera Maya’s Playacar Palace
Our room was fantastic! Though, I will say we were suckers as we bought into the spiel about upgrading our room but I have no regrets about doing so. Instead of being on the first floor with a partial ocean view and potentially two beds pushed together, we got a fourth floor room with a view of the pool and ocean, plus a large balcony, and a King-sized bed.
The bed was very cozy and made for a good night’s sleep and the sheets and comforter were thick enough to keep us warm under the AC but still breathable so we were comfortable all through the night. The only thing that could have been better was a few more options for pillows as it was either a pillow that was too firm or one as thin as a pancake.
Our room also featured a two-person jetted tub which we made full use of! It was a nice way to unwind from all our relaxing during the day!
Our room did come with a stocked mini bar that had a bottle of wine, different hard liquors, and a fridge with waters, Cokes and Diet Cokes, juices, and beers. They also had a few snacks on-hand, like chips and gummy bears in case midnight room service didn’t have what you were craving. We also had a coffee machine with several coffee choices.
Our bathroom was decent though I wish we had maybe a touch more counter space but the gigantic shower made up for it.
The room includes a safe and two hotel robes to use during our time there.
The amenities at this all-inclusive resort were great. This resort is smaller, which on the one hand is nice as it’s easy to figure out where everything is right away and we could easily get to a 7 o’clock dinner reservation if we left our room at 6:57.
The property does sit on a beach, but it’s not a particularly large stretch of beach but it works. You won’t find more than a handful of loungers on the beach but if you get up early enough you can probably snag a set.
Plus, the weekend we were there a ton of seaweed was coming in on the waves and the beach looked like it was just covered in grass for the first few days we were there. Finally some of it was cleared away and Rick and I took a nice walk down the beach which was quite enjoyable.
The resort offers daily and nightly entertainment, the daily option at the pool and the nightly across the resort. On our second night there we went to see the magic show in the salon and though I tried to get my sister up on stage, I was instead the victim. The show was fun and entertaining – especially the magician’s work with lasers.
Another night we watched a sand art show which was really impressive! The artist used sand to create stunning images and it was choreographed to music. It was really neat to see and I’m glad we ended up going to the show.
We were sad we were going to miss the breakdancing competition on the night we were already on our way home.
The resort does have a gym and from what my sister said it was good. I packed gym clothes but felt I got enough exercise climbing the stairs to our room and taking part in all the activities at the pool (see below).
The pool does have a lot of activity throughout the day with a variety of exercise classes, volleyball, pool bingo and Mexico trivia, and I think there was even blackjack played at one time.
The pool is staffed so you’ll have servers popping by your seat taking food and beverage orders but you can always take a dip in the pool and order from the pool bar too.
The hotel does offer a shuttle service between the airport and the hotel, but it does come with a fee. It was $49 per person but that includes round-trip, so we felt okay paying that. I think our trip to the hotel from the Cancun airport was about an hour as we hit some traffic and slowdowns, but going back to Cancun it only took 40 minutes.
They also offered excursions that had we had one more night at the hotel we may have booked one to Chichen Itza and a cenote but with the wedding and family functions and just wanting to spend time reading and relaxing it didn’t fit our schedule. They did look good though!
The Awe Spa was awesome. We booked the Golden Anti-stress package and we did not fully understand what we were in for!
We thought it would be just an 80-minute couples massage but it was so much more. It started with time for a soak in the Jacuzzi or sit in the steam room, which I did, then I met Rick in the relaxation room before we were called back to our room. We started with a foot scrub and soak before sitting in the sauna.
This is where we first had a problem. And it was not the spa’s fault. We didn’t read all the fine print in our email confirmation that said we needed to have a swimsuit for certain parts of our treatment. They gave us what we later read in the email as “disposable underwear” to enter the sauna. It all worked out in the end but it was a bit embarrassing – but it seems we are not the first to not bring swimsuits to a spa appointment.
After sitting in the sauna for 10 minutes we showered and then entered the two-person Jacuzzi for a soak where they had some fresh fruit and nuts set out for us, as well as poured us some rose wine. It was very nice and we had a private laugh about our situation. After the soak we showered once more and then it was onto the tables for our 80-minute massages which were wonderful! My therapist really worked out my knots and loosened up my calves from all the exercise in the pool the day before.
All in, even with our poor reading comprehension, it was a fabulous spa experience and I’d happily book that exact same service again…and again.
Restaurants & bars
As an all-inclusive resort all the drinks and food (with a few exceptions) was included in our stay.
The hotel has two bars, one in the lobby and one at the pool (both an in-water portion and out-of-water portion). We never had to wait super long for our drink orders and you could practically ask for any kind of cocktail and they’d make it. I don’t even want to tally up how many mudslides I ended up ordering, though I am proud to say I got some of my family and friends hooked on them.
The restaurants were good though Rick and I said we think the quality we get when we stay at Sandals is better. But that’s not to say anything we had we wouldn’t ever want to eat again.
The Italian restaurant was sadly not our favorite. The wine was really great and the servers were friendly but the quality of our main dishes was just okay. My risotto wasn’t as soft as I was expecting it to be and the seafood was alright.
Cafe Del Mar
This is the buffet restaurant and we really enjoyed breakfast and lunch here. Dinner was fine, I mean the desserts were sweet and indulgent, but breakfast is where the buffet really shines, at least according to me.
For breakfast you could find pastries, a selection of cold cuts and cheeses, scrambled eggs, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, divorced eggs, french toast, waffles, pancakes, cereals and oatmeal, fresh fruit, and they had cooks on hand if you wanted something made to order.
Lunch and dinner was similar with a lineup of salads, veggies, fruit, meats and cheeses, pastas and rice-based dishes, empanadas, seafood, chicken, beef, and breads. And of course, fantastic desserts.
Pizza Del Mar
The pool bar also had a pizza oven and one afternoon Rick and I ordered pizzas for lunch. He got a classic (read: meat lovers), and I got a margherita. They were good, though Rick’s was supposed to have pepperoni on it and it came with cut up hot dogs…. but my sister and brother-in-law ordered a pizza from room service that had regular pepperoni on it so who knows what happened. All in, I thought the pizzas were good and the right size for an individual pizza.
The Asian restaurant is kind of split, you can opt for the hibachi side of the restaurant or a regular sit-down dinner experience. We ended up doing the hibachi-style on our last night there and it was wonderful! We had realized we’d never done that together in all our years together so it was quite fun.
Mario, our chef, was a delight and truly seems to love what he does. He cooked us up a fantastic meal of mixed meats, shrimp, chicken, and steak, veggies, and fried rice that was accompanied by miso soup and a sushi roll to start. Dessert was a real treat as it was a piece of French toast essentially with cinnamon apples and matcha ice cream.
There was also a coffee shop/bakery near the lobby that served up coffees, which was great to have an iced latte when sitting under the hot sun! They also offered truffles, macarons (get the pistachio!), crepes, cookies, ice cream, and the most delicious red velvet cake. I made sure we got back there on our last night for another slice or two of that!
Speaking of dining, we opted to do in-room breakfast two mornings. We did the order ahead and you pick from a 30-minute delivery window. Both times they were right at room on the dot. One morning we asked for an 8-8:30 delivery and someone was knocking on our door at 7:59. The in-room breakfast menu is a bit limited compared to the buffet but we loved everything we had.
We also had late night snacks on Friday after a welcome cocktail reception for the bride and groom. I got the steak and shrimp quesadilla and Rick got the chicken sandwich, and both were just what we wanted.
Housekeeping was great and made our room sparkling clean every time they came by, as well as gave us fresh towels for our jetted tub.
The mini bar staff was great too and took care to quickly restock anything we’d drank during our visit.
To make the service you get at the hotel even better, you should get the app as the Palace Resorts phone app is quite fantastic! You can order 24/7 room service, request your mini bar to be restocked, look up menus for the restaurants and make reservations, and look up info about the resort. We could even request spa appointments before our stay through it and fill out our paperwork beforehand.
I highly recommend downloading the app if you plan on staying at one of the resorts.
One other thing to note is that you don’t get a room key card. You wear a bracelet during your stay that grants you access to the room and everything. At first, it took some getting used to and not freaking out about getting it wet but then it felt weird when they cut it off after we checked out.
Overall, it was a wonderful vacation and fabulous place to stay when exploring the Riviera Maya! They also did an amazing job with my family member’s wedding and it was well-coordinated, beautifully put together, and the DJ knew what he was doing with his music selection to get everyone to dance.
Honestly, the only frustrating thing was how often we were asked to listen to a presentation or put down money on our next trip. Right after checking in, they had to sanitize our room and someone tried talking about how we should become a member and that we should attend a talk the next day over breakfast to learn more. We were able to say we’d need to think about it but then we were waiting for our shuttle to leave someone else cornered us.
At first he was friendly and kept trying to overcome our objections even when we politely told him no. We already have three more trips planned for 2023 and said we’d maxed out our vacation budget. He responded with, Oh, but this is to help you save money!
Really, dude? Or then he would tell us we just need to put a down payment and then we can gift our reservation or transfer it to someone else. It just felt really pushy and my sister said they were the same with her. If they could tone that down a notch it would be nice.
Since we were there for a wedding, we did get a discounted room rate so our total was $1,835 for our five nights (not including our transportation add-on).
We did upgrade our room for an additional $75 per night for a bigger balcony, a full ocean view, and better perks with a honeymoon room.
Have you stayed at a Palace Resorts hotel before? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!