Choosing Mayan Riviera Hotel


There are so many beautiful resorts along the Mayan Riviera, which one do you pick? The following overview will give you a general idea of what the “resort scene” is like and possibly offer a solution for you.


It would appear that there are three resorts vying for the number one position. They are:
[Taking into consideration: value, beach, food service, grounds, swimming pools, staff, entertainment, location etc…]

  • Palladium
  • Barcelo Maya Riviera
  • Bahia Tulum/Akumal

PalladiumPersonal preference would dictate which one of these is best for you and you would of course have to stay at all three resorts to make a personal decision.

All three of these resorts are magnificent. Each one is making a conscious effort to compete; thus you find an ever-changing increase in the quality of service and food. These resorts are the kind of places where you can stay for a week and never leave the grounds!

You cannot go wrong booking any one of these three hotels. The food is great at all three, the beaches are okay, the grounds are beautiful and the swimming pools are unbelievable. Service is comparable at all three and prices are competitive.

All three resorts are good for families, couples and singles.


The Iberostar Paraiso del Mar and Iberostar Paraiso Lindo are comparable to the Palladium/Barcelo/Bahia but located closer to Cancun.

Iberostar Tucan is another mega hotel but located in Playacar. This gives you quick access to Playa del Carmen.

Riu Palace is gigantic offering visitors access to ALL RUI hotel restaurants and amenities. It is also close to Playa del Carmen and Xcaret.

Aventura Spa Palace is also nice but there is not a natural beach, they have a man-made lagoon with sand, palms, lounge chairs and shade huts. Many people prefer the lagoon to oceanfront because you can always swim in the lagoon. There is a natural beach within a 10 min walk of the resort and full exchange priviledges with sister resort Xpu-Ha.

ASP is a No-Children hotel.

Secrets Capri and Ceiba consistently receive good reviews for their high caliber of services. The Ceiba is located in Puerto Morelos and is very laid back [no entertainment or nightlife]. The Capri is a short walk to Playa del Carmen and is better suited to those looking to party.


There are a few hotels on the Riviera that are “adult only” while some hotels offer adult only “sections”.

An adult only section generally means a room block with its own small swimming pool, maybe a jacuzzi and a bar/snack bar. Of course there are children at the restaurants, beach and other pools.

The following is a list of “adult only” hotels:

  • Aventura Spa Palace
  • Blue Bay GetaWay
  • Desire Resort
  • El Dorado Royale
  • El Dorado Seaside Suites
  • Hidden Beach Resort
  • Royal HideAway (13 & over)
  • Secrets Capri Resort & Spa
  • Secrets Excellence Riviera


The Copacabana and Barcelo Maya are considered by most people to have the best beaches with the Copacabana winning out slightly. Most would consider Barcelo a nicer hotel with better food but the Copacabana is still a great place to stay.

The argument could be made that the best AI for a beach AND snorkeling is one of the AIs at Akumal Bay. The thing is that the hotels are not as fantastic here as say Barcelo or the Palladium but the quality of the beaches and snorkeling here is far superior.


El Dorado SpaThe Akumal Beach Resort is also a choice location because you can snorkel Akumal Bay, which is an excellent place to snorkel. There is also Half Moon Bay and Ya Kul Lagoon close by. The food is okay here and it is a fun resort during high-season and relaxing during low.

The El Dorado Spa [now called: El Dorado Seaside Suites] has a great snorkel beach. There is lots of coral there and no boat action to bother you. The hotel is okay. It’s an adult only resort. The food is so-so, service good, grounds okay, pool -small and beaches are more suited to snorkelers than swimmers although you can safely swim here, we strongly recommend beach shoes when entering the water.


Without a shadow of a doubt the most popular all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen is the Gran Porto Real. There are of course numerous all-inclusives in Playa and lots and lots of inexpensive hotels and hostels within walking distance of the beach.

The Gran Porto Real is located at the north end of the strip where things start to get quiet. It is positioned close to numerous amenities like the bus station and supermarket. The actual hotel runs from 5th Avenue right to the beach. The beach right out in front of the Real was recently washed away however there are miles of beach in both directions so this is simply a minor inconvenience. The food is okay here; nothing special but the hotel is a lot of fun. The poolside Animation staff at this resort is probably one of the best in the Caribbean.


The most popular resort/hotel in Playacar is the RUI conglomerate and Royal Hideaway.

Another option would be to try the Iberostar Tucan/Quetzal if you like Iberostars.

The Quetzal is similar to the Paraiso, but smaller. Many feel the food is a little better at the Paraiso. Everything else is about the same: rooms, service, drinks.

The thing that most people prefer with the Quetzal vs. Paraiso is the location. The beach is much nicer, and it is great being so close to Playa del Carmen. You can walk, or take a taxi and be in Playa in a very short amount of time. No waiting for shuttles!

Either way, you can’t go wrong with any Iberostar.


There is the RUI Playacar, Palace, Yucatan and Tequila.

RUI Palace is the flagship hotel/resort. Booking here gives you access to all RUI restaurants and amenities.

Riu Playacar is the smallest of the RIUs but the same high standards. It is a compact resort so everything is easy to get to and it is a little more casual than the other RIUs.

The Riu Playacar and Riu Yucatan are both on the same beach. While the Yucatan is livelier and larger, the beach can also get crowed as the guests from the Riu Tequila use the beach as well.
The only advantage the Playacar has over the Tequila is that it’s closer to the beach, but the Tequila has a better pool, as well as an on-site disco and lobby bar.

If you like more action and more people, the Yucatan might be better for you. If you like something more laid back and a bit more intimate you might like the Playacar better. The food is the same at both resorts.

You have to wear long pants to the buffet at the RIU for dinner, and only at the “reservation only restaurants” can you wear shorts.

Also in Playacar are the Viva Maya and its sister Azteka, which are more laid back and not as fancy as the RIUs. They are smaller but well kept resorts.

The Gala is located at the end of the stretch of hotels affording it more privacy as it only has a hotel on one side. It is comparable to Viva Maya.