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RM Whirlwind Site Visit Report

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Grand Palladium -

The guest services rep that took us on the tour was really nice. This seemed promising for service if you stay there.

The resort was massive - you had to take a tram to get between areas.

The Riviera area seemed the nicest, and the lagoon front casitas looked cute. The Riviera ocean view room views were pretty, but far from the ocean, with natural brush that is not so pretty in between the building and the beach (in the view).

The ocean seemed nicer than the beaches at resorts I saw further north, but the beach was completely covered with beach chairs and super crowded.

The area where the beach gazebo was looked pretty for a wedding if you want a gazebo wedding. It seemed a bit more private than the rest of the beach.

The design was more Caribbean/Mexican in feel which feels warmer in energy which is a good thing (in my opinion) BUT it was just really too busy and too much going on design wise for my preference. Again - I will stress this is MY preference and other people might love it. It just wasn't really my style and I wanted a place a little simpler and more elegant.

I remember from emails that there are no ocean/beach front restaurant reception options, which may also be an issue for people. I was just looking at the site for guest lodging purposes, and not for the wedding itself.

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Al Cielo -

I love Al Cielo. This is where I want to get married.

It has the feel of being so different from all the weddings I've been to and it feels like ME!

Unfortunately, thus far, I haven't figured out where I could have my guests stay that is within a reasonable van-drive.

And there is concern about what parents will do with their toddlers/babies (such as my sister and 2 of my bridesmaids who have kids under 3) if I have a wedding off property. I suppose I could start the wedding on the earlier side and hire a babysitter to hang out in the provided room for the bride.

AND I may have to give up my wedding date there b/c my future brother-in-law's girlfriend just found out she's pregnant and due 5 days before. DRAMA!

The place is rustic elegant - very simple and beachy. It is a bit on the small side for my size wedding but we could squeeze. Rain will be tough for the ceremony b/c there is no backup, but the beach front restaurant palapa is a rain or shine reception spot.

The WC is SO nice and she seemed willing to work with me on whatever I wanted for the wedding and reception.

The table was decorated with flower petals for our tasting, which was a nice touch, and the food was beautifully presented. The food was tasty - maybe not at the level of food in CA, but definitely very good - and wine was good too.

There were a few buildings within the distant view on the beach, but not that many, and they were pretty anyhow. The beach curved in a large cove, which was nice. The ocean was wavy but pretty. It felt like a secluded area.

So in theory, I'd like to get married here, but I don't know if it is going to be a reality.


Esencia - Next to Al Cielo is Esencia which is an upscale expensive 30 room hotel. It was pretty from the outside. The two pools were small - around the size of the smallest of the 3 pools at Azul Beach. If this place were cheaper I'd consider having my guests stay there (if they could all fit?) since it is right next to Al Cielo, but it is too pricey and in my opinion maybe a bit overpriced.

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Ana y Jose Beach Club -

I would be just as happy having my wedding here as at Al Cielo. Once again, rustic elegance.

This place is a bit more upscale, in that there were beach beds that are lit from underneath at night, and the bar in the beach palapa is bigger and is very nice looking.

The beach palapa itself is bigger, so it is probably more appropriate for my wedding size.

The palapa floor is sand, which makes for an interesting wedding reception.

The ocean was even wavier here in Tulum than at Xpu Ha beach (where Al Cielo was), but it was a similar color and pretty. There are pretty palm trees here and you can get married with the palm tree framing the ceremony very beautifully.

There is a lot of room and options on the property for where to put a dance floor, where to have cocktails, etc.

The bride room which is also where babies can rest with a babysitter is really upscale and gorgeous (much nicer than Ana y Jose hotel rooms, although it is just tucked in back upstairs behind the palapa).

The bathrooms are bigger and nicer than Al Cielo's, and are very pretty. They even have a changing table.


One big negative is that we rushed down there instead of stopping at other places along the way b/c we had a 4pm appointment and when we got there we found out the WC didn't show up and that she was in Cancun. Um - no email, no phone call, nothing. I felt that this did not bode well. However, the manager was really nice and showed us everything.

The other negative is that it is really far from everything and I didn't find any suitable lodging for people in Tulum either - although I loved it and it would be fun with a smaller group, I don't think I could ask some of my relatives to stay in those rustic accommodations down there. The nicer places seemed overpriced, and none of them provided enough lodging for all my guests. If I had a lot fewer guests I'd go for it but with btwn 70-100 expected I don't think it is a good idea for me...although it is tempting b/c it is so unique down there!!! Off the beaten path. Why is my family so bighuh.gif

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Lodging in Tulum -


Ana y Jose hotel - If I had just a small wedding group I might consider this place. The rooms felt nice enough to bring my guests to, and the beach area and restaurant looked nice too. However, it was very small, the pool was 1/3 of the size of Azul Beach's pool, the rooms were kind of right on top of each other, and nothing was included - not even the coffee or bottled water in the rooms, and thus I thought it was kind of over priced. I think they priced it up b/c it offers one of the best options in Tulum (with maybe Azulik and Mezzanine being the other, slightly nicer options which I wish I saw). The ocean was pretty but very rough and wavy. I don't know - I was conflicted b/c I wanted to like it more than I did and b/c it did offer a TOTALLY different feel than the rest of the places I looked at and would definitely be an adventure and memorable vacation for my guests. Another minus for me was the lack of gym (if it were to rain or be too hot to run on the beach). Oh well...


Zamas - Most of the rooms weren't on the same side of the road as the beach and it was a place you might stay at if you were roughing it in college or something.


Cabanas Copal - The manager guy who showed us around is very hot, which is probably how I got sucked in :). The setting is also gorgeous. But the place is clothing optional and the little cabana room huts looked tiny (only saw from outside). The eating area was cute but didn't have a view of the beach. They do offer weddings here, if anyone wants an upscale camping on the beach experience. Guests seemed sophisticated.

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Dreams Tulum -

We stopped here after sundown on our way back from Tulum and I really wish I had seen it during the day. Unfortunately I was tired and stressed and cranky and couldn't make up my mind if I wanted to spend our last night at Dreams or not. The front desk guy let us walk around on our own to check the place out.

The drive into the resort is very pretty. The lobby is indoors (unlike all the other resorts I saw) and kind of fancy city hotel / palatial in feel. The steps down to the rest of the resort from the lobby offers a pretty overview. The resort is laid out lengthwise perpendicular to the beach, rather than horizontal (it seemed). The design seemed sparse between to rows of rooms - some pathways and fountains and little vegetation.

The pool area near the beach was beautiful and perfect.

The area where a Mexican wedding set-up was being prepared was in a courtyard next to a parking lot.

I did smell the cenote as I walked past it, and it was stinky, but only in its direct vicinity.

The beach seemed big and I imagined it would be pretty during the day. Sadly, I couldn't see the water but I did hear waves.

The whole place was very quiet for 6pm. Maybe people were eating in restaurants I didn't see? I only saw one restaurant. It felt empty and there was something about the place that was missing some energy and warmth of design that I would want in a place and thus, following my instincts I made the rash decision to leave.

Now I'm kicking myself b/c maybe it would have been a good lodging option near Al Cielo or Ana y Jose Beach Club (b/c Dreams only allows buffet dinners on the beach and I want a sit down, so I was looking at it as a lodging option). I mean, everyone on this forum loves the place, so maybe during the day I would have to? Oh well...

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Catalonia Royal Tulum - Stopped here for a quick tour b/c it is on the same beach as Al Cielo. It was pretty empty as far as I can tell - just a few people in the restaurant near the pool. The room was ok, the pool was ok, the beach looked very nice. The place just wasn't for me and wasn't as upscale and up-to-date compared with all the other resorts we looked at. And again, I was very tired at this point. I can try to remember more details if anyone is actually interested. Oh and I forgot - they just got new nicer wicker style pool lounges - we saw one with the tags still on it. Maybe if they redo the rooms and lobby this place could be nicer - it is a smaller resort, which is hard to find.

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Hotel Akumal Caribe -

It is known for a great restaurant - Lol Ha, and a great beach. We stopped by at night just to see and the rooms were very reasonably priced, but the king bed was very short and my FI family has some very tall family members. The room was simple and beachy in feel, with Mexican/Caribe influence in tile work. It was their only available room and it was next to the restaurant generator, which was really loud, so we left. Also, although the place was beachy and small and cute, it wasn't upscale enough to please mother, who has a lot of relatives that will be coming, so that influenced our decision to leave. Unfortunately, we did not see the Akumal Bay Beach, which is supposedly really nice, as it was night. Also note there were little markets in walking distance from the hotel.

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Barcelo Maya Tropical -

We stayed here b/c we knew my cousin's family was there and it seemed like a good a place at any to stop at this point, considering it was 9pm on our last night and I was suffering from low sugar levels or something. The rate we got was more than what we paid at Paradisus, so that might influence my opinion of the place a bit.

Room - Our first room smelled like bathroom so we had to go back to the front desk to request another room. Meanwhile, I was about to faint, so we went to the buffet where we ran into my cousin. That made our decision to stop worth it!

Food - personally, I did not like the buffet food. I had a hard time finding food to eat (I eat fish but no shellfish and am otherwise vegetarian and I tend to eat on the healthy side). What I did find wasn't very good. The same was true in the morning. The food didn't have much taste, there were no vegetables to be found, and breakfast just wasn't very good. This is my view point, based on my tastebuds as well as comparison to Paradisus, Sirenis, and Al Cielo. However, my cousin raved about the buffet, so to each their own. I just want to emphasize that taste is personal as evident from my cousin and everyone he was traveling with loving the buffet. But it would be hard for me to be happy with food I don't like all week.

Room 2 - The second room we got smelled like air freshener, which although not great, was an improvement. The room was fine, not great design, but big enough. The shower had great water pressure. We got slippers but no robes (got both at the other resorts). The balcony furniture was plastic. There was a really really loud machine noise that kept me up half the night, but I felt like I couldn't ask to move the room again at that point, for one night. The bed was soft, unlike the other hotels, but actually I slept better the previous nights on the harder beds.

Room Service - IS NOT INCLUDED (unlike the other hotels).

Grounds - The place is huge but it wasn't that far to walk to the beach, gym, or nearest buffet restaurant once you figured out your way around. The design was nice enough, not my style really, and a little too Disney for me, but I think other people thought it was beautiful. Nice covered open walkways through landscaped grounds and the room buildings had fountains where the walkways came through.

Pools - Huge, with covered bridges, water slides, and the like.

Gym - Was in an open air palapa. The fans kept me cool but it was November. Not sure what it would be like in summer. It was actually full, unlike the other resorts gyms I went to.

BEACH - Barcelo's beach is what everyone raves about on tripadvisor and I have to agree with them. Unlike all the other beaches I saw on my trip (and please note, I didn't not see Dreams or Hotel Akumal Caribe beach b/c it was night), the water here was clear and what I would expect from the Caribbean. The colors were a beautiful range of blues and blue-greens and with some (dead?) coral and rocks in the water giving it character. Some areas had waves but not all, and you could still basically see through the waves to see where you were stepping to try to avoid the rocks. Water shoes are advisable though. The sand was nice, but not as nice as at Paradisus (which was poweder white), and the beach was big. The beach did not have any palapas on it, which is a frequent complaint and definitely a strike against it but I guess Barcelo gets away with no palapas and bad food because the ocean is the best in Riviera Maya? Plenty of BEAUTIFUL beach spots for a wedding!!!

Guests - There were more guests here than at any of the other resorts and they were friendly and all seemed happy.

Other notes -

We walked to the end to see Xpu Ha Palace which is in dire need of repairs and lacks a beach entirely, which is too bad b/c the style of the rooms - upscale cabanas on stilts, would be something I'd love to offer my guests - something different and beachy but not too rustic.

We also peeked at the new Barcelo Maya Palace and the design there seemed a bit more tasteful and elegant than the Tropical, but similar in feel. The pool looked pretty with poolside beds. The furniture on the balconies were wicker instead of plastic. The part nearest to the beach has some weird design with domes - maybe attempting to be Moorish? The beach is similar to the rest of Barcelo's beach, which is nice. I think they are planning on offering beach service at the new resort, which is also nice.

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