Last year, @sjems5 and I decided to do a real beach vacay for our annual girls’ trip due to having a set, limited time and needing to stick to a particular budget.
We ended up at the Royal Hideaway Playacar in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and while I’ve written about the overall experience as my first time at an all-inclusive resort, I wanted to do a review post specifically about the resort.
I go into more detail about the room and resort, food and drinks, pool and beach, and more below, but in case you’re short on time, here’s the TLDR version…
Bottom line review of Royal Hideaway Playacar:
- The service and rooms were great.
- Loved the pool and beach, though the pool chair cushions had a moldy/musty smell when wet, and the pool ran out of towels for several hours one day.
- The food and drinks were fine, though I found the food options a bit limiting (but I’m a food nut, so I think that will always be an issue for me with cruises/resorts).
- I got three full days of sun, stunning turquoise water, pools, Dirty Monkey cocktails, and reading my Kindle literally all day. So that’s basically heaven.
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Room and resort
Overall, the resort was lovely. When you drive in, this beautiful area greets you, and then you’re ushered into a large, cool waiting area with luxurious-looking decor to get checked in.
Our room was very clean and quite big, and the bathroom area really increased the square footage. We also had a nice balcony that we didn’t really use much but would be lovely for morning room service. To be honest, we didn’t spend a ton of time in the room, though usually climbed into our beds and watched a movie before crashing at night (and one time got room service and watched a movie).
The pool area was gorgeous, and hands-down my favorite part of the grounds.
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There were two pools right next to each other, slightly terraced, with an okay view of the ocean (though the palm trees tended to get in the way of the view). The chairs right along the edge of the pool were always at a premium, though I learned to throw my stuff down early in the morning so I’d have a chair all day. But there were chairs further back available so you could usually find a place to sit regardless.
The “in-between” grounds (basically the walk from our room to the pool) was kind of meh…not bad, but a little tired looking in the landscaping. We saw that in some of the reviews we read beforehand and it seemed to really bother people. In the grand scheme of things it didn’t bother me too much, but just noting in case it’s important to others.
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Pool & beach
One of the biggest considerations for the two of us in choosing a resort was that it had to have an amazing beach (for her) and an awesome pool area (for me). That’s surprisingly difficult to find, and that is one box that I can say with certainty that the Royal Hideaway ticked.
Let’s be honest, this was the reason we were here. I mean, what do you even say to this???
The beach was super clean and well-kept, and the water was the most beautiful, clear greens and turquoises. It was all sand, not any issues with rocks when you got into the water (like we’d read about at some resorts).
There was tons of space on the beach, from rows and rows of chairs near the resort to this wide expanse of open beach closer to the water. The beach chairs weren’t in demand quite the same as pool chairs, so you could always go down there if no pool chairs were available.
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The ocean sunrises at the resort were completely stunning…it takes a lot to drag me and @sjems5 out of bed at 6:00am on vacation, but this view was totally worth it.
Now in all honesty, while I loooooove the beach, when it comes to where I actually spend my time I’m a pool girl through and through.
The chairs around the pool were prime real estate, and I usually tried to get down to the pool early and reserve a chair to get the sun angle I wanted. The bar was just a few steps to the side, so easy access, and waiters would roam during the afternoon to take drink orders as well.
We got an early start on our last morning as well, so I got some alone time at the pool with my Kindle.
Food & drinks
The food and drinks were fine, though not earthshattering. That was about my expectation, so didn’t cause me any major issues. I just balk at not having tons of options and I prefer having authentic local food.
There were a few restaurants available at night, but really only two during the day—the main downstairs bar/restaurant by the pool, and an upstairs one (Spices) that was quieter and a little nicer.
We grabbed a drink and some tacos at the main restaurant upon arrival and often had breakfast down there, but it wasn’t my favorite place to spend time.
But for breakfast it was a pretty nice view! Breakfast was a buffet at this restaurant and I am *not* a buffet girl. I’m also not a big breakfast person so I rarely had a lot. Give me all the coffee.
Upstairs (a restaurant called Spices) you could eat inside or enjoy the view on the patio, which I did for lunch a couple times. The food was okay…salmon cakes pretty good, tacos just okay, and vegetable ceviche super confusing. The tres leches cake was darn good though. Also, those waffles above were quite good.
We had dinner one night at Palazzo and another at Spices, and both were fine. Those two were luck of the draw, as we were assigned to them. I wish we’d had a chance to try the Thai restaurant.
Overall the service was really nice. Our waiters were pleasant and attentive in the restaurants, and around the pool area as well. Special shoutout to the bartender at the pool who, when I asked for a glass of rosé to sit and watch the sunset, gave me an entire new bottle…
To tip or not to tip: I brought like $75 in ones with me for tipping (now *that* will get you some interesting looks at the bank teller…) but @sjems5 told me it wasn’t a tipping resort when I got there. So I mostly didn’t tip, though did give the waiter constantly hustling around at the pool getting me Dirty Monkeys a tip now and then.
I’m not really sure where this belongs, but definitely falls under “poor planning”. One day we had a fairly abrupt and hard rain, and many people left their towels on the chairs as they ran for cover. So not only were the pool chair cushions all soaked, but the towels were too. This was probably 11am, and they didn’t get any pool towels for the rest of the day! I have no idea what happened, but I can’t imagine it takes that long to wash and dry a few loads of towels…
So, there are my thoughts on the Royal Hideaway Playacar after spending a few days there. I’d love to know if there’s anything that I didn’t cover or if you’ve been and think I missed something—hit me up in the comments!
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