My family of 5 (husband and three teenage children-15,17,19) along with my in-laws just returned from a week at the Barcelo Maya Caribe. We booked two Premium Club Junior Swim-Up Suites. Our overall experience was wonderful. It was a memorable experience for the whole family.... but I also feel like I need to give a completely honest review. I will try to touch on every aspect of the resort. If I forget something, don't hesitate to message me and ask.
Arrival: We arrived to our hotel around 5:00pm via private transfer through USA Transfers (highly recommend...they are wonderful). we were immediately greeted by the bellman and escorted to the Premium Club check-in. Fortunately, we were the only guest checking in at that time because they only have on staff member to check in guest and take care of any request from other Premium Club guest. Anyway, check in was relatively simple... however, about halfway through the process we were informed that our two rooms we requested were not next door to each other. Not that big of deal. Our rooms were a few doors down, but they said one of us could move rooms the following day. Then, we were told that they did not have any rooms with double beds like we booked. They only had King beds available. Great if you are traveling with your partner, not so great when you have three teenagers. Again, they told us...My family of 5 (husband and three teenage children-15,17,19) along with my in-laws just returned from a week at the Barcelo Maya Caribe. We booked two Premium Club Junior Swim-Up Suites. Our overall experience was wonderful. It was a memorable experience for the whole family.... but I also feel like I need to give a completely honest review. I will try to touch on every aspect of the resort. If I forget something, don't hesitate to message me and ask.
Arrival: We arrived to our hotel around 5:00pm via private transfer through USA Transfers (highly recommend...they are wonderful). we were immediately greeted by the bellman and escorted to the Premium Club check-in. Fortunately, we were the only guest checking in at that time because they only have on staff member to check in guest and take care of any request from other Premium Club guest. Anyway, check in was relatively simple... however, about halfway through the process we were informed that our two rooms we requested were not next door to each other. Not that big of deal. Our rooms were a few doors down, but they said one of us could move rooms the following day. Then, we were told that they did not have any rooms with double beds like we booked. They only had King beds available. Great if you are traveling with your partner, not so great when you have three teenagers. Again, they told us that they may have double beds the following night and we could move if we wished. We were told the rooms had two couches in each room that could be made up and they would even bring roll-away beds if the couches were not sufficient. Whatever, we were hungry and ready to explore. We figured we would deal with that after we had a chance to view our rooms. Next, we were asked if we would like to go ahead and book our a la carte meals or wait until tomorrow. I specifically asked if making reservations the following day would prevent us from getting the reservations we wanted. I was told No. and I was also told that premium guest received priority reservations at the restaurants. However, when I called the following morning to make reservations it was nearly impossible to get it to the restaurants we wanted. We only had one option in 6 days for the teppanyaki table, which was 6:00pm. Again, minor detail.... it worked out just fine. Was it ideal? No. but, again not enough to ruin a vacation. More on the meals later.....
Fast forward to the next day... We were told by premium club that they still did not have any double beds available but that they could get our rooms next to each. Fortunately, our kids were totally fine sleeping on the couches (they are pretty large...like the size of a twin bed and the maids fixed them up so nice for them). Since you can't get everything you want, we were pleased to get our rooms beside each other. In fact, the room next to us was cleaned and my in-laws were moved next to us before 11 am with zero effort on our part.
Rooms: As mentioned above, we booked a Junior Swim-up Suite in the premium club section. There are two buildings where the premium rooms are located. We were in the Sayil section, which is the best location in my option. We were in 5110, which was perfect. The only room that would have been better was 5111 (it was occupied). 5112 was the full Swim-up and right on the corner. All the rooms, even on higher floors, were nice. And of course, the higher up the room, the less obstructed view you have of the ocean. I love having the access to a pool, but if that is not important to you, then request a premium room on a higher floor. The views are great and they all have a jacuzzi with a privacy screen. Ok, so back to our room.... the restroom, shower, and vanity are right when you walk in your room. The showers are huge and marble with rain shower head and also a hand held sprayer. There is a small bench in the shower and a place for towels and to hang wet articles of clothing. The toilet does not have a lock on the glass door (just a heads up in case you are traveling with people you don't know well). There is no separate bath tub in this room. There is a Jacuzzi on the patio that has a privacy screen....you can till see out when it is down, but no one can see in. It is a nice feature. The rooms have decent closet space, shoe rack, and plenty of drawer space. The safe if located in the closet along with iron and ironing board. There is also a nice blow dryer for all you ladies trying to decide if you should take yours or not. The King size bed was super comfy. The bed felt wet sometimes due to the humidity and the floor could get very slick if you are bare foot. It is Mexico....it is warm and humid.... expect it. Like I said earlier, our room had two big couches facing each other and a coffee table in the middle. After the living space is the patio. There is a small dining table and chairs, and the jacuzzi all under a covered roof. Then there are two lounge chairs and a small table that are not covered. The swim-up has steps to enter and exit the water and has a built in lounger and table so you never have to leave the water. The rooms was gorgeous. Beyond our expectations. It was not exactly what we booked, but oh well. The kids and my in laws were in awe of the whole experience.
Premium Club: Do I recommend getting the upgrade? Definitely, but only for the better rooms and the 24 hour free room service. You also get some discounts at the bowling alley, mini golf, and surfrider...but its unlikely you will use all of those services if any. At other resorts we have stayed at, premium club has offered some serious benefits such as a premium club lounge (the website states that it has a club lounge, but its the same spot you check in at all the way at the front of hotel and the selection of food and beverage is very slim), towel service, private beach area, and priority at restaurants. Barcelo Caribe's Premium offered none of those, but the premium room section is gorgeous and so close to the beach. We could stand on our back porch and see everything going on and the pool and also see the ocean in the background. It was stunning. Premium can also help you arrange any excursions you are interested in. Otherwise, guest services can help you with that also.
Hotel Grounds: The hotel is immaculate, but it does not feel overwhelming. My husband and I enjoyed our morning walks along the beach and would walk all the way down the newest Barcelo property (Palace). It was an easy walk along the beach, but there are several paths that you can take from one resort to the next. Walking through the lush landscape is nice too. The hotel staff is literally working around the clock to take of the property. I cannot say enough about the beauty of the hotel grounds.. from the landscaping, to the fountains, to the architecture....lovely! Also, if you do not wish to walk between resorts, they offer a double-decker bus that picks up at every lobby and also at several points between the properties.
Beach: The beach in front of the Beach/Caribe section is by far the best stretch of beach. The staff hand rakes the sand every morning, leaving it free of seagrass. There are plenty of lounge chairs to go around. It's not necessary to stake your spot on the beach super early, but we always did because we were up by 6am so why not? We witness plenty of people getting out to the beach around 10 or 11 am that had no problem finding a nice spot along our stretch of beach. The water felt perfect. Not too cold and not too warm. Always felt refreshing after laying in the sun for a bit. The water in our section was mostly clear. My husband who is 6'2 could walk almost out to the buoy while still touching (approx 90 yards off shore). I didn't quite have that luxury, but being 5'6 I could still go out pretty far and touch. Right off our section of beach we snorkeled and saw some really neat sea life: tons of tropical fish (some giant fish), we saw plenty of sting rays (I actually stepped on one close to shore....thankfully no harm to me or the sting ray) and lots of interesting coral. They have equipment free to rent, but I suggest bringing your own and setting off for an adventure. As you head east from the Caribe section towards the Tropical/Colonial and Palace the beach gets progressively more rocky. Their is a section on front of tropical/colonial that is sandy and swimmable but there is lots of traffic in that area, as this is also where you can participate in all the water sports the resorts offer. Free sports include: snorkeling, kayaking, catamaran use, water tricycle, windsurfing, etc
You can also rent motorized water vehicles here for a fee and sign up for tours like diving or parasailing. Directly between Caribe and Tropical is a nice long pier. You can snorkel right off the pier with access to the water via ladder at the end of the pier. We saw tons of fish and several sting rays. My advice would be to do this in the morning (when its safe to swim of course) before it gets busy. It's not a huge area and with only one entrance and exit, it can get crowded. Also, take note of the weather and activity...when the waves are bigger and their is more activity on the water it can be be choppy and more taxing to snorkel. However, most of the time it was really calm and a perfect spot for families to snorkel together. Once you get past the tropical/colonial section I wouldn't recommend using this beach for swimming. If you bring aqua socks/shoes then it would be great for snorkeling, but not for just playing in the ocean. We packed several of the folding Papasan chairs (fit right in my carry on beach bag) and floated in front of our beach section pretty much all day.
Towels: Their process for towels is odd. I mean we have encountered this at other resorts, but it is a slightly annoying system. At check in, you get enough towel cards for your entire party. When you are need towels you have to go to the one and only towel hut and exchange your cards for towels. At the end of the day you can either turn your towels in and get your cards back or you can just swap your dirty towels out for fresh towels. I swapped dirty towels for fresh towels so I didn't have to stop at the towel hut every morning. It can get congested at the towel hut at peak times of the day, so avoid that if possible.
Staff: Most of the staff is very friendly and wants you to have the best experience possible. We encountered a few staff members in the Premium club lounge that were not very friendly or helpful, but thankfully we did not have to deal with them much. The bartenders are all great. They did their best to accommodate whatever drink I asked for. I brought my own large, insulated cup and they always filled it to the top with a smile! yay! Make sure to tip your bartenders. I would usually give them a dollar or two at a time, or I would give them a large tip at the beginning of the day. No need for pesos. You can use USD for everything. Our maid was wonderful and so sweet. She always left me extra towels to use at our swim-up pool....along with chocolate. I left her a few dollars tip every morning. I am sure she would have been equally as wonderful if I hadn't left a tip at all, but if it helped her to give us extra special attention then so be it. The staff at the Surfrider....OUTSTANDING. We will get to that next, but the ladies and gentlemen at the water park deserve a huge shout-out!
Waterpark/SURFRIDER: Probably the highlight of my teenage boys' vacation. They spent two days of the vacation on the surfrider. It is important to note that the fee for the surf lesson and the boogie board are separate. You can pay $20 for an all day pass to boogie board and use the rest of the park (waterslides and such) and then it is an additional $15 dollars to do a one hour surf lesson. Even when you buy the all day pass to boogie board, during the surf lessons (which they do like 3 or 4 times a day) if you didn't pay for the surf lesson you must set out while the surfing is going on. Also, just because you paid for one surf lesson, that does not give you access to the other surf lessons throughout the day. You can also buy an all week pass, which we did not know about until the last day, so we didn't benefit from that, but it would have totally been worth it had we known they would spent so much time there. As a premium member you do get a discount at the surfrider, but in order to use the discount you must make the charge to your room...you cannot pay with a credit card or with cash if you want the discount. If you are not entitled to the discount or you wish not to use it for whatever weird reason.... you can use a credit card for your payment. No cash payments whatsoever. The park is located at front of the Caribe section, just on the other side of the Mayan Mall. It opens at 9am and closes at 5. I strongly recommend getting there when they open to capitalize on your time. My boys did body boarding from 9-10 and then the surf lesson from 10-11 both times. It was far less crowded at that time of day. It picked up in the afternoon, but it was never too crowded. They never waited too long in line to go down again. My boys are 17 & 19 and in fantastic shape, but they were both a little hesitant to the surfing part, but the staff is incredible and really worked with them to get the hand of it. They had both my boys surfing in no time and then it was trick city for the rest of the time. The staff was so energetic and patient with the younger kids or the guest having trouble getting the hang of surfing. They took their time with each guest and encouraged everyone. My boys made fast friends with the workers and some other teenage boys. They were all fist bumping and joking with each other by the end of day one. I definitely would encourage guest to check the surfrider out. Make sure you wear a very secure swimsuit. The water pressure is intense. We witnessed several people losing parts of their suits (pretty entertaining for us, but embarrassing for them).
Food.....You must make reservations for all the a la carte restaurants. They will not take your party if you do not have reservations. They will work with an existing reservation as far as getting you in sooner or later than your original reservation, but will not let you just walk in. The buffets you can eat at anytime, as many times as you want!
Buffet: The Beach/Caribe section share a buffet and the Tropical/Colonial share a buffet and then the Palace has its own buffet. All the buffets are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I believe breakfast starts at 7am at each buffet, but you may want to double check that. Breakfast buffet has anything you could every want or imagine. Omelets made to order, french toast, waffles, eggs, meats, pastries, etc. Along with fresh juice and hand made cocktails to order. Lunch is much less of a production, but still a solid variety. We found that we never wanted to walk all the way to front for lunch, so we ate at the beach grills mostly. Dinner is about like breakfast, but probably more overwhelming. Each night is a different "theme". Check the sign outside the door for the theme of the night or call guest services or premium and they can give you that info. Keep in mind, the buffet at each section can differ from the others, so you can hop to another resort if you prefer their theme. However, though they advertise a certain theme, the food options cover about every type of cuisine possible. Is the food the best thing I have ever eaten? No. But, I would also say that its better than most buffet food and you would have to be a super picky eater to find something you enjoy at the buffet. All the waiters are super attentive and never leave your glass dry. They thoroughly appreciate the tips and always seemed genuinely excited to serve you.I recommend hopping over to one of the resorts to check out their buffet. It is nice to have a change of scenery and compare and contrast.
Captain Morgan's Beach Front Grill: The grill opens at 10:30 and has a scaled down version of breakfast items and then they have a nice offering of lunch selections. Fruits, salad, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta bar, other meat selections, and dessert. They have a cute bar that makes the best drinks in my opinion. I think they close at 4pm. The other resorts have their own version of a beach grill. We never ate at any of them, but they looked comparable to Captain Morgan's.
Capri (Italian): At the recommendation of a friend, We made reservations at Capri. It is located in the Tropical section. Our reservations were originally for 9pm, but we called ahead to see if we could come early and they said that would be no problem. We showed up about 45min before our scheduled time and waited 10-15 min. For a party of 7 and to arrive before scheduled....I thought that was pretty fast. You are offered a starter (soup or salad), pasta or pizza, main dish, and dessert. They immediately take your entire order. So know what you want for each course when the waiter takes your order. The meal was actually very nice. Even my teenagers all enjoyed their selections. My only complaint is their aggressive pushing to purchase non-house wine. In fact, they give you the wine menu and don't really offer you any other alcohol until after you have said no to purchasing wine a few times. When you set down to order just tell them what you want right off the bat, unless of course you want to purchase wine. Just know that you can still have whatever beverage you want. There is another Italian restaurant in the Mayan Mall, but a friend said it was just "ok". I cannot give a personal review, but I thought it looked very cute. Maybe she just picked the wrong entree.
Tokyo: This the Japanese restaurant in the Mayan Mall. We made reservations for 7:00pm for a teppanyaki table. We waited about 20min to be seated. Since the table holds 12 people, they wanted to combine our party with another. That was no problem. I have no doubt that if I would have told them we did not want to wait for another party to arrive, they would have seated us immediately. They had a nice bar in the entrance, so killing time was not an issue. This was by far our favorite meal. The food was outstanding and the show was impressive. Our chef was awesome. So personable and talented. Our food was cooked just like we ordered and our drinks were never empty. I definitely suggest trying this place out. They also have another Japanse restaurant in another section, so if for some reason you could not get in to Tokyo for the time you prefer, you could always book at Kyoto.
Strikers: This is the bowling alley/sports bar. It is located right on the other side of the Caribe lobby in the Mayan Mall. It is open 24 hours. They always have bar food available. It is also pretty much the only place to get food between 4-6:30pm (with the exception of room service). The food is actually pretty good too. I mean its mostly fried goodness, but its vacation so whatever. They have some fruit and salad options if you are lame (jk). If you have a sport you are following ,they have a nice little room with leather reclining seats and lots of big TV's. I read somewhere that bowling was free, but it is definitely NOT. It is like $10-15 per person. Maybe at non-peak hours they do not charge, but I do not know who would go to bowl at non-peak hours. But, if you are an avid bowler you should check it out in the middle of the afternoon maybe. This is also where the arcade is located and the mini golf (also an additional charge). These can all be charged to your room or by CC and for premium guest you can use your discount as long as you charge to your room. I will say that I was grateful for Strikers the morning we departed. We had to leave the hotel at 3am, so food options were scarce. The kids were able to run in Strikers and get some pastries for the road.
Room Service: For premium guest room service is 24 hours and free of charge. For non premium guest, see the room service menu for charges. Not at all impressed with the menu, but I was say the quality was on point. Room service was also relatively quick. I ordered my breakfast around 6:45 every morning and it was always there by 7:15. Breakfast was by far my favorite room service meal. They will bring you an entire pot of coffee, whole carafes of fresh juice, and a bottle (not glass) of champagne for mimosas. I loved to start my mornings on the terrace with coffee and mimosas. Also, if you order wine they just send you the whole bottle. Overall, the menu is limited, but its quick and the food you do get is pretty tasty.
Pools: The pools are beautiful. There are several pools at each resort. The main pool at the Caribe always has something going on. There is a swim up bar in the main pool that can also be accessed by foot near Captain Morgan's. The main pool can get pretty crowded in the middle of the afternoon, especially near the beach bar. However, if you go under the little bridge in the main pool, it is much less crowded and enjoyable. The main pool offerrs water aerobics and zumba if that interest you. If you want to get away from all the crowds go to one of the other pools. One pool has basketball goals and was more suited for families. The pools supposedly close at a certain time by we always saw people in the pool at night. I will say, having the swim-up suites was a major bonus. We were steps away from the main pool, but without the crowds.
Fitness Center: The fitness center is a good size and offers just about everything you need to get a good work out in. They offer some different classes during the day. The spa is also located in the same area. Both are just to right of the main pool. I do not know the hours of either. Some of our friends had massages at the spa and said they were outstanding. I did not want to waste any of my time at the gym of spa. I wanted to soak up with beach and ocean...so I ran the beach every day. You can go a good distance either direction from the resort, or run the ground of resort and get a nice little workout in. The added bonus to walking the resort is all the wildlife you see. We saw some mexican raccoons (Coati), lots of tropical birds, iguanas, and an area where they incubate sea turtle eggs (so cool).
Bars: There are several bars located throughout the property. Alcohol is extremely easy to find. There is a lobby bar that has a nice little section at the back with colorful tables over the water. We discussed Strikers, the Pool Bar, and Captain Morgan's already. Each restaurant has a bar at the entrance. There is also a bar connected to the theater, which opens before the nightly shows. The bartenders are all really friendly and try to give you exactly what you want. If you do not get what you want it is likely because the language barrier. Also, all the bartenders we encountered did not skimp on the alcohol. Every day the resort features a different specialty cocktails. Sometimes, I had no idea what I was getting, but that was part of the fun.
Nightly shows: The shows start in the theaters around 10pm. They usually have some music and/or singers around 9:30. We never had trouble getting seats for our entire party. The shows are hit or miss. The staff are actually pretty talented.....its just some of the themes are a litttle cheesy, but its something to do and we got a few laughs out of some of the shows. Check with guest services to find out what the theme of the show is each night.
You can also book a dolphin encounter at the resort. Between the resorts, they house about six dolphins.
There is a kids club, a teenagers only disco, and some other activities for kids and teens. we did not need any of those services, but they are there in case they apply to you.
Overall, it was a wonderful vacation. Lots of quality family time, while also offering everyone time to do what they wanted when they wanted. As with all vacations, not everything is going to go flawlessly, but as long as you keep an open mind and not focus on every negative detail..... you are sure to love this place as much as we did. We will definitely be back in the future.More
- Free Wifi
- Free Parking