Have you ever been on such an unforgettable vacation that once it comes to an end all you do is day dream about going back? That happened to us in the summer of 2011 and for three long years all we did was talk about how much we wanted to go back. The place… the Riviera Maya, Mexico and the hotel… the Barceló Maya Colonial. Fortunately, we had the chance to go back this past summer and it was just as wonderful and magical as it was three years ago.
We decided to take our vacation in the middle of summer because that’s when it’s easier for all of us to take off from work and from school. The bad part about that is that the Riviera Maya in the month of July is extremely hot and humid, but that’s what the pools and beach are for, right? So, if you’re not a big fan of humidity, like I am, try not to walk outdoors for more than five minutes or simply visit during a different time of year.
Three years ago we paid a shuttle service to take us to and from the airport. We used USA Transfers and had absolutely no problem with their service, in fact, we highly recommend them. This year, however, we decided to rent a car just so we could have more flexibility of where and when we wanted to go places. We rented our car through Cancun Rent A Car and had a very pleasant experience with them as well. The only two issues we had were that one, our car was a lot smaller than what they had advertised and two, that the guy handing out the area maps tried to sell us a timeshare visit at one of the hotels which is a tactic they use all over the place no matter where you go. But no big deal, we simply said we were not interested and moved on.
The hotel is about an hour away from Cancun International Airport and we were lucky that there were no major accidents on the road which made for a very pleasant drive. When we arrived the bellman told us we were registered at the Barceló Maya Beach hotel (we weren’t) and then we had to spend about an hour with the receptionist trying to straighten everything out. As compensation for their error we were awarded with Club Premium privileges which included rooms close to the pools, free WiFi, room service, among other perks. Yay! Our rooms were perfect, with fantastic A/C, mini fridges stocked with water, sodas, beer and even peanuts, great beds and a balcony to either sit outside and enjoy the view or sweat profusely, as it was always my case.
One of my favorite things at this hotel is their buffets since we always find something great to eat. My sister and my mom always went the healthy route and ate all kinds of fruits like tiny mangoes, dragon fruit, and papaya for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Me, not so much. I’m on vacation and I’m going to eat everything I see that I usually don’t eat at home. Breakfast basically consisted of refried beans, scrambled eggs, tamales, hash browns, churros, pineapple juice and Mexican hot chocolate, which was awesome!!! Of course, I was never able to eat everything that was on my plate but I always got to try a little bit of everything. Lunch was usually either a grilled burger with a side of scallop ceviche, a side salad so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about eating that other stuff and my beloved postrecitos (small pastries and cakes). And dinner was always my favorite since they have theme nights, like Mexican, Spanish and seafood. That’s when I would go nuts and get shrimp cooked in all kinds of different ways, fish, steak, tamales, tacos, pasta, and of course, again, my favorite postrecitos.
|Delicious food at the Barceló Maya buffets|
Since we were staying for seven nights we were given the choice of eating dinner at four of their restaurants. We chose the Italian, steakhouse and Japanese restaurants because we had been to their seafood restaurant three years ago and didn’t like it, at all. Well, this time we managed to go to the Japanese restaurant and weren’t able to go to the others but based on our previous experience, the steakhouse restaurant is pretty good. The Japanese was also pretty amazing during our first visit because we got to sit by the hibachi grill and had a great time. This year was a different story and it was extremely disappointing. Our reservation was for 8 P.M. and we weren’t seated to our table until 8:30 P.M.. Then, the waitress, who was a total sweetheart, tried to sell us some local wine they had and we declined since I’m not a big fan of drinking red wine in 90ºF (32ºC) humid weather, and that’s when she became one of the rudest waitresses I have ever had. The appetizers didn’t arrive until 9 P.M. and we didn’t get to eat until almost 9:30 P.M., plus, the food was not very good at all. Why we stayed there for so long instead of going to the buffet for dinner so I could have my postrecitos is beyond me. But we did stay and totally regretted it.
The pools were amaaaaaaazing! We live in Colorado where we have warm weather from May to September and are used to swimming in very icy, cold water everywhere we go. Here, the pools were warm, crystal clear and just amazing to swim in. We took several pool toys and goggles with us and had a blast playing in the water from 9 A.M. until 6 P.M. everyday during our stay.
|Barceló Maya Pools|
And then, they have their amazing beach, which I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s simply spectacular. The beach itself has plenty of recliners and palm trees for shade and they always have someone making sure it’s clean. The water is the most gorgeous blue color you will ever see, plus, it’s super warm to swim in. But the best part is that they have a fantastic reef where you can snorkel and see all kinds of fish, sea urchins, sting rays and even sea turtles! Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any sea turtles swimming but we were able to see the turtle release they held during our stay, which is the reason why we didn’t go to the Italian restaurant that night. We did swim and fed lots of playful, colored fish and on our first day we almost stepped on a baby sting ray that was playing in the shallow part of the beach.
|Barceló Maya Beach|
The shows at night were also wonderful, we were able to see their Mexican show which featured different Mexican dances and songs. We also saw the circus show and the children’s show which had several songs and dances from different Disney and Pixar movies like Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, and Toy Story. I do have to say that the theaters are outdoors, so you have to get there early to get seats right under their ceiling fans or you will literally melt. Trust me, I almost did the one night I sat away from these wonderful fans.
The other things we did was visit the Xcaret park which was fun for the most part. Swimming in the underground rivers was the best. We also visited Xel-Ha for the second time and had a lot more fun than during our first visit. We did the Sea Trek® activity which was incredible because we got to go underwater and swim with lots and lots of fish and sting rays. We also did some zip lining, cliff jumping and lots and lots of swimming. Plus, their buffet food is crazy good. The last thing we did was visit Playa del Carmen one morning to buy some souvenirs and I just simply did not enjoy it. Three years ago we went at night for dinner and I just couldn’t deal with the heat and the vendors yelling at you on 5th Avenue to go into their stores. This time was worse because the sun was intolerable and the vendors just wouldn’t take no for an answer. I know that a lot of people love the craziness of that city, but it is just not for me.
|Curious things happening on Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue|
|Souvenirs at several stores on Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue|
So, that was our fantastic vacation. I know this blog post is way too long but believe it or not, I wish I had the time to write more about it. We had an amazing time and my family and I are already day dreaming on when we will go back again.