Our family stayed at the Barcelo Maya Colonial in Riviera Maya, Mexico, in May 2013, and had a wonderful time! The Barcelo Maya, made up of five side-by-side resorts, is nothing short of spectacular. It has just about everything you could ask for in an all-inclusive beach resort. Oh, it might not be perfect, but consider:
- One of the best long stretches of beach you will find anyplace. The water is turquoise clear, with a mix of waves on some days and much quieter, smoother waters on others. The sand is soft and gentle on the feet, both on the beach and in the water (but watch out for the rocks: more on that later).
- There is quality snorkeling at two locations along the Barcelo beach: 1. under and alongside the pier where you will find thick schools of fish hiding from the sun and waiting for food from tourists. There is a float here for you to rest on while fish gather around you, or you can wander off a short distance in the shallow water along a small reef to see some more types of fish. If you swim under the pier, you will likely see dozens or hundreds of fish grouped there, but be very careful not to bump your head on the cement pier. 2. Near the Barcelo Palace, where you will see a larger variety of fish and possibly a sea turtle or two.
- Five large beautiful and clean pools, with several swim-up bars at the five Barcelo resorts (you can use any of the five resorts but cannot eat or drink at the Palace unless you are registered there).
- Absolutely amazing architecture and landscaping. Be sure to take long walks throughout the complex; you will keep discovering new beauty. Near the end of our stay we discovered the mini-golf course that is carved out of the rainforest.
- Interesting wildlife from the iguanas, particularly at the end of the Palace resort walkway, to turtles in the ponds at the mini-golf course, to colorful native birds.
- You can hang out at the Tropical activity pool, listen to the music there and participate in activities, or relax at the much quieter Colonial pool. Both are large pools with swim-up bars.
- If you have little ones (we did not on this trip), the resort has a small but very cool waterpark for kids, with waterslides and activities.
- There is a small shopping center right on the premises.
OK, yes, I said it is not perfect. The bartenders do cater to the tippers at the expense of the people who fail to show them the money for every drink. There are underwater rocks in some areas of the beach that can cause damage to your toes or feet if you are not careful (I saw one visitor wheeled away in a wheelchair after jamming his toe), but once you get the lay of the land and are careful the beach is fantastic. (You can swim near the Caribe and Beach resorts if you’re looking for an area with fewer rocks.) As at any all-inclusive resort I have stayed at, you will encounter many friendly staff but some who are not so much. We did encounter some minor problems, such as the shampoo dispenser not working, but really that sort of thing is just going to happen. The buffet food was very good, but not great. We were happy with it; just don’t have extremely high expectations. The best food we had was at the Japanese restaurant. The evening shows were also very good, but not great. It was nice to have a choice between two theaters, one at the Tropical/Colonial and another at the Beach/Caribe complex. There is a disco called Jaguar, and I would not recommend it unless you are OK with having your eardrums blown out. It would be nice if the resort had a nightclub for the middle-aged crowd.
Tips: If you are OK with walking up and down stairs, I recommend getting a third floor room. We started out on the first floor of the Guanajauto building, and it was very musty (although the other two rooms our group had on the first floor were fine). I didn’t think it would bother me (after all, we are in Mexico), but it was so musty in our room that it did bother me so we requested and were given a third-floor room, which was much better. Be sure to snorkel near the Palace, but don’t go too far out (definitely not past the buoys), and again watch out for the underwater rocks. You can swim near the Caribe and Beach resorts if you’re looking for an area with fewer rocks. Be sure to book a night at the Japanese restaurant.
This was the fifth all-inclusive resort I have stayed at, and it was by far the best. Having a huge complex of five resorts to enjoy – with incredible landscaping throughout – made it stand out. Add to that five great pools and a long stretch of fantastic beach, and I would highly recommend this resort!
(I also shared this review on Tripadvisor. Go here to read more about the Barcelo Colonial.)