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Barcelo Colonial/ MR Review (Coba, Xel-ha, Tulum)

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#1 nscaper

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    Posted 29 April 2008 - 07:38 AM

    This is a review I wrote my TA when we returned back. We went to Barcelo Maya Colonial for one week in Feb. There were 6 of us. 4 young (20's) and 2 older (60's).

    Barcelo Resort

    The beach was wonderful, really large and just a few rocky areas in front of the colonial/tropical beach. I read online that the beach in front of caribe/beach resort area was better but when we walked down it didn't look as nice. The beach in front of the palace is non-existent but they kinda share theirs with the tropical too (the tropical portion kinda straddles the 2 beaches)

    The resort was VERY large. Not just the whole complex but even just the Colonial section. We didn't mind it, but Justin's parents are older and they didn't like the walking at all! They thought the resort was fantastic and beautiful but too big for them.
    Everything was VERY clean all the time (i.e. the common areas).

    Prestige Class

    As for having prestige class, there didn't seem to be that much extra. Got premium liquor for free (i.e. malibu rum instead of just regular rum, and good tequilas), a fruit basket in your room (small and you could get fruit at the buffet, but still welcome) and a small bottle of Tequila, and beach towels in your room as well as slippers and a robe and some little bottles of lotions and stuff. Nothing excpetional. Not sure if i would go with "Prestige Class" again if I had the choice or if there was an extra charge for it.


    Food was good and always lots. But it was alot blander for a 4.5-5* resort than I expected. I only have (Arenas Doradas) Cuba to compare but it certainly wasn't THAT much better. More choice but not tastier. I was a little disappointed in that. Fruit in Cuba was ALOT better.
    Although, he also told us we could use all the Palace amenities except for Al-la-carte restaurants (he didn't say all Food places), so we went to the buffet one night at the Palace and the manager came over and talked to us and said we didn't have access to that staying at the Colonial, and that if we wanted to come back, it would be $15/pp. but he let us off with a smile :) The palace food was so much better. I had grilled lobster and shrimp and there was steak and so much more. I definitely ate $15+ worth of lobster and shrimp. :)


    Pools were massive and warm. Although it was hard to find beach chairs around the pools late morning/lunchtime. And even the beach too. People tend to claim them with their towels and then leave. it was quite annoying. The activity pool was always hard to get chairs. You can buy floaties there (tubes and loungers). however, we were told they were only $3-4 at the Colonial Activity Center by the activity pool, but they were sold out when we went. We went to the Palace activity center (where you exchange towels and get sunscreen and stuff - kinda like a giftshop) and they were $11 each. we got ripped off completely but they were worth it to float around for hours. We went back to the Colonial giftshop/towel exchange place and they had a compressor to blow them up for you. Make sure you get the adult ones. There are child ones too.

    Sand on the beach was nice. In and out of water. In the water there were some rocky spots but because the water is usually so clear you can USUALLY see where not to step. We only went in the water at the Colonial Beach and we didn't have water shoes. Once you found a sweet spot it was good!

    At the pier, there is good snorkeling. The marina is right there too, where you can rent jet-skis (@$65/pp for 30 mins) and lifejackets ($5), snorkeling equipment ($20 deposit), go para-sailing (@$65/pp or $100ish for 2 people).


    Internet was $3 for 15 mins and gets charged to your room. We used it quite a few times and it was a fast connection even though the Air Transat guy said it was slow.

    There ARE elevators in the buildings (at least in the Colonial). They are 3 floors.


    We did one planned excursion - we completely recommend the Coba 2 tour through "Altournative" Tours. We went to a mayan village, canoed across a lake, zip lined through the jungle and walked through the jungle (seen Monkeys and ate fruit) and then had lunch in the Village and then went to the Coba Ruins. Take money (air transat only told us to take money for tipping your guide) for photos. while in the Mayan Village portion of the tour, a guy comes around and takes photos of you zip-lining, walking through the jungle. The pictures are taken with a dSLR so they are high quality but the guy could definitely be a better photographer. At the end you can buy a CD with 8 pictures for $39AMN or all the pictures he took for $49AMN. We bought the one with all pictures because there were 4 of us and we split it and just burned it when we got home. It wouldn't have been worth it otherwise. The pics weren't THAT good. however, the Air Transat reps didn't tell us to take money so they made a special exception for us and let us pay when we got back to the resort. It was quite annoying. There are also little places set up where you can buy local crafts at both villages and we had no money for that. With Altournative tours, they work directly with local peoples and in the case of the Coba 1& 2 tours (Coba 1 isn't as adventure-ish, better for older people for example), a portion of the tours goes back to the Mayan communities. They work directly with the Mayan to help preserve their culture. The locals cook your lunch, help you with the rappelling into the Cenote, take the pictures, do your jungle tour etc and in return the Altournative tours gives them funds, makes sure all their children go to school etc. At the end of the Mayan village tour, people from our group brought school supplies, tooth brushes, deodorant, toys etc and gave it to the tour guide to give out to the children. I will never not do this, now that I know. They were so appreciative and happy.

    We also did Tulum and Xel-ha. On our own instead of buying the excursion. We were all young and able bodied, so we took the Collectivo ($2 AMN, or 20 pesos) to Tulum EARLY in morning (8:30am) and paid the admission to Tulum ($4-$5 I think) and then walked around. There were only about 40-50 people there. It was very easy to get pictures without people in them and it wasn't too hot. We spent about 2 hours there (Max) and then left and as we were walking back to the road there were literally, 100's of people coming in off tour buses. We really beat the rush. (we do regret not hiring the tour guide though). Then we paid for the entrance to Xel-ha at the bottom of Tulum where there was an official Xel-ha station set up for 10% off ($67.50 instead of $75) and skipped any lines at xel-ha AND got a discount. Then we took the Collectivo again to Xel-ha. Walked up from the road and went in without any problems.
    They require biodegradable sunscreen. If you take your own and it's not suitable they give you small sample size ones that more than do you for the whole day. I've heard if you don't take any and rely on getting it there they make you pay for it (@$15/bottle so I've heard). You get towels, lockers and food is inclusive as well. Just have $20 on you to pay a deposit on snorkelling equipment. Life jackets are mandatory for everything too. The best fish are at the bottom towards the ocean. We snorkeled the whole river and it took 2 hours. Knowing what I know now I would have taken the tubes halfway at least and spent more energy snorkeling around the end. We did the mayan Cave activity too and wandered the property. The food there was good too - a buffet, a-la carte styles, a bar etc., lots of options.

    Then at the end of the day (it's open to 6 but we left at 5ish as did alot of other people), we just took the Collectivo back for another $2AMN. So our whole day cost us about $80AMN when the "planned excursion is $140" and we got to do things on our own time.

    We took the Collectivo everywhere and we never once felt unsafe. Tourists use it alot. Honestly, we never waited for more than 4 or 5 mins for the Collectivo to come. (They are white mini-vans that hold about 10 people or so). just tell them where you want to go and they let you off there.

    As for picking the day flight over the night flight, I wouldn't do it again unless I HAD to. It took us 3 hours from the point of getting off the plane to getting to the resort, when it should have taken an hour. The traffic in the afternoon coming though the little towns and especially Playa del Carmen was way too much (and we only stopped at 3 other resorts maybe) and made the trip that much longer. At least at night you don't have to put up with that wait. And on the way back, if you are with Air Transat, and over your weight on luggage - they WILL make you pay. People flying with us had to pay anywhere from $30-$150 for their overweight luggage. There was a scale in our room so we just weighed them before we left and were fine. We just piled more into our carry-ons.
    We bought Tequila in Playa del Carmen and were worried that it would be cheaper in the airport and it wasn't (In Cuba the cigars were MUCH cheaper in the airport than buying them on our Havana tour. we got ripped off there we felt.)


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    #2 Princess402

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      Posted 29 April 2008 - 12:16 PM

      Wow thanks so much for such a great review and pictures!

      #3 katrina


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        Posted 29 April 2008 - 05:40 PM

        great info on excursions- thanks!

        #4 Jen_S

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          Posted 05 May 2008 - 03:55 AM

          Thanks for the review!
          Our Honeymoon In Ireland!!

          #5 starchild



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            Posted 05 May 2008 - 04:07 AM

            Very informative - thanks for sharing!

            #6 morenaindc

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              Posted 06 May 2008 - 10:21 PM

              cant wait to go on my site visit in June!

              #7 iceapple

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                Posted 02 March 2009 - 04:49 AM

                Thank you for the tips!!!!

                #8 ACDCDCAC

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                Posted 12 March 2009 - 08:23 AM

                great info about the excursions, thanks!!

                #9 beachhappy

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                  Posted 14 March 2009 - 02:41 PM

                  Great info! Thanks. I am heading there in July. Can you tell us more about your trip to Playa del Carmen? Did you book that through the resort?

                  #10 Royal_lady10

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                    Posted 14 March 2009 - 07:12 PM

                    Great review on the activities.. didn't know that we had to have special sunscreen.. thanks for the tip..

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