Mayan Riviera, Akumal Beach Resort Review

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★★★★☆
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  • Value For Money

Scubalifelover's review of Mayan Riviera, Akumal Beach Resort

★★★★★

“The old saying, first impression is the lasting...”

Written on: 13/06/2004 by Scubalifelover (1 review written)

Good Points
Felt like a big happy family...very warm & friendly, wonderful staff. Tasty food. Easy access to all facilities. Very clean.

Bad Points
Not a fancy place - gardens are pretty basic - no fancy statues, etc here.

General Comments
The old saying, first impression is the lasting impression holds very true! As quickly as I could get off the bus, the bellman had retrieved my baggage and brought them up the ramp to reception. Immediately the Guest Relations person offered me a welcome cocktail and oversaw my check in. The reception area is open air with thatch roof and star shaped chandeliers that twinkle magically. The reception area has lovely teak wood floor - I was to later learn that wood flooring is extremely rare in Mexico - and is said to be a sign of wealth. They have nice clusters of couches and arm chairs so it is a nice place to relax or await the tour departures. Self Serve coffee and tea are available 24hours a day at a counter just off from the main desk. Total check in was less than 5 minutes and they were apologetic that my key would be "just a minute". I thought it strange at this hour that the key would not be available, only to be told they had just gone to my room to leave a "light meal" and cold bottled water. Indeed a very nice gesture given we had only had the "Box Lunch" on the flight. I had paid for the "Superior Ocean" and was given room 640. Building 600 & 700 are the newer buildings and are both considered superior. It did seem that Thompson Travel from the UK booked only the superior section while Cdn Operators had both superior and standard available. Rumour has it that 700 (at the end of the Resort) lies beside the sewage system and some people seemed concerned if there would be a smell, but never actually had this confirmed. Building 600 is closest to the Buffet, Reception, Tour Rep Area, and Gift Shop. Note: there are no elevators in Building 600 - so second and third floor are reached by stairs - but the bellman brings the luggage up so no issue really. My room was nice, although not fancy. It had a King-size bed (nice & firm), a wall mounted counter/desk area, and large closet space with shelves at one end in lieu of a dresser. Small key operated safe was on these shelves. There was also an iron & ironing board. The walls are painted stucco and the floors are ceramic. Beside each bedside are light switches for all room lights (great idea). The TV is ceiling mounted with remote control. There is both AC and ceiling fan as well as a deck with screen door (which overlooked the ocean). The closet and bathroom vanity are in a separate alcove and very spacious and well lit. There is a hair dryer above the vanity which worked really well. Fresh towels, bar soaps and shampoos are left daily. NOTE For Packing: No Face cloths are available. Off of the alcove are the toilet and shower (each in a separate "room") and both done with ceramic tiles. The shower is similar to the Water Pic Massaging shower head and can be wall mounted or hand held) LOTS of hot water - no issues with pressure at any time of the day! There is also a clothes line mounted in the shower area to dry bathing suits, etc. The deck was a decent size and had 2 Resin Chairs (with pads) and a small side table. A decorative light makes it nice for sitting out at night. CAUTION: Do not hang clothes over the deck railing to dry them - numerous folks had items blow away in the wind - half of my bathing suit is still blowing somewhere in the ocean! Room was cleaned daily - always tidy and done whenever I put the "please clean sign" on the door. Be careful if you enter the room immediately after the maid or if you are wet from swimming - the ceramic tiles are not the typical non slip ones we have at home - I found out the hard way when my feet flew out from under me and I crash landed on the floor.

Unlike most Caribbean resorts, the ABR is built parallel to the ocean on a long stretch of beach. As such, nothing is very far from the ocean. The grounds are fine, but admittedly this was probably the least picturesque resort I have visited in the Caribbean. There were a few flowering bushes, green grass, and palm trees, but the pool and other general areas were admittedly pretty plain. (again witness to it's age) Everything is however kept exceptionally clean - and daily I witnessed walls being painted, teak handrails being polished, etc. Staff are constantly empting ashtrays & garbage bins as well as collecting empty plastic glasses, so tidiness is always paramount. If you are looking for the "awes" of fancy sculptures and gardens, you will be disappointed. Clean it is - fancy it is not. Their "theatre" is quite professional. Housed in a separate building, it has a proper stage and theatrical lighting and employs a set designer so the backdrops are nicely done. There is an onsite Dive Shop. The main buffet at this resort was indeed a pleasant surprise. I am typically a fussy eater and always find that the second week of a vacation becomes a problem and I resort to little more than crackers & fries. Of the 40 meals I had at the resort, there were only 2 lunches where I ate only fruits and 1 dinner where I was not fussy on the selection! Particularly noteworthy were the variety and presentation of the food. Each day was a theme in the Buffet and the food prepared in that manner. The food was beautifully decorated - including carved watermelons, pastry swans, etc. Absolutely NO CONCERN with the quality of the buffet selection here..tasty chicken & pork, wonderful fruits and the best breakfast pancakes in the world! Plates are cleared very quick (on odd occasion, just a bit too fast as we had not set our cutlery down!)The only a la carte I visited was the Italian. While the food was very tasty, the portion was very small (needed to return to the Buffet after) and the service was terrible. We were rushed through the ordering and food was served before we could finish our salads (we were at first seating). The main course was a piece of meat only - no potatoes or anything. After the main course it was like we became invisible - our plates sat for 15 minutes and we had to ask for coffee & dessert 3 times. After that we stuck to the Buffet. The snack bar offers tasty homemade pizza, hamburgers, fries and nachos during the day. It is also the hidden location of the soft serve ice cream machine! Drinking was not the focus of my trip as I was there primarily for Scuba Diving. However I did find the "Sex on The Beach" cocktails addictive. The Swing Bar (it has rope swings instead of chairs) at the far end of the resort was grossly underused and if you wanted a private place for an afternoon drink, you often had it all to yourself. Most people collected in the "Piano Bar" beside the buffet. Here 3 times a night there was live music & singing. Definitely request an Elton John song - he does it justice! While the animation staff will circulate on the beach to announce the activities, they do not harass and understand if you'd rather just lay in the sun. They are a great group of 20-30 year olds who will quickly do whatever they can to make your trip a success. They often join you for meals in the Buffet area, so you get a chance to know them firsthand. Given it is a smaller resort, they know your name and quickly address you by first name. I had the fortune to celebrate my birthday at the resort and celebrated with a watermelon and pi ata supplied by a special staff member. I had no concern in recommending this resort based on the staff. I had extremely positive dealings with the Animation staff, the front desk and especially the waiters in the buffet area. All were very friendly and attentive to my needs. Earlier reviews indicated they did not like the colour coding of bracelets for "primary language". I found this extremely helpful as both the staff and other guests knew with whom they could converse and in which language. Past rumoured problems with poor service to "Non Italian" guests was unfounded. Incidentally - Canadians were in the minority during the 2 weeks I was here. Probably the largest group was from the UK, then Italy followed by France. Of those Canadians present, most were from Western Canada.There is an abundance of activities for those that want an active vacation. Most are centered by the pool or the beach area immediately beside the pool. Organized daily activities include aqua fitness (twice a day), deck stretching, beach volleyball, dart and ping pong tournaments, Spanish lessons, and 3 different dance lessons. They also offer archery and tennis instruction (closed Wednesday) and organize competitions for each. There are also sea kayaks, bocce and shuffleboard available. NOTE: Snorkeling equipment is NOT included and cost $5 a day - you may want to purchase at home if you intend to snorkel a lot. Each day immediately before lunch they have a 10 minute "crazy game" which is always fun (egg toss, kayak carry, tequila relay, etc). To close out the day they have a guessing contest (Hint there are 241 rooms in the resort!) They give prizes for the daily games and competitions each night after dinner (t-shirts, tequila and Mexican handicrafts) Nightly entertainment consisted of Piano Bar Singers, and the Animation Show. The shows did seem to improve over the 2 weeks. They have recently reorganized and I suspect with the new staff it has taken a bit of time to get all the Animation team up to speed. Personally a little too many comedy skits and you should be CAUTIONED much adult content that some may find offensive. NOTE When you meet Alma (who leads the Animation Team), ask if the "Life" Or "Colours in The Night" shows are scheduled during your stay - theses are both fantastic and MUST SEE. Most of the evening shows were presented in English. In a word - perfect location to see lots of things. A 10-minute beach walk brings you to the shops in Akumal. Nice "Turtle Bakery" for cake & refreshments stop in town. Also 2 general type stores with pharmacy section & ATM. Internet Cafe open 7am-7pm (they will burn CD from digital cams). From resort reception, a 5-minute walk down the driveway returns you to the highway which runs along the coast. About every 5-10 minutes the "Collectivo" vans come along & pick up passengers. They travel between Play de Carmen and Tulum and provide an economical alternative to the Tours. Most of the attractions in the Mayan can be accessed by these mini vans. You simply flag one down, hop on and tell the driver where you want off - no set stops so he will drop you wherever you wish. Pay when you get off. They are air conditioned, and completely safe - the driver even helped us on & off. The fair from ABR to Playa del Carmen (Shopping) is 15 pesos, and Tulum (Ruins) was 10 pesos. The "Collectivo" also services Port Adventuras (Dolphins) and Xcaret (Water Park). For those especially keen shoppers, best prices are in the 27th Market in Cancun - accessible by Collectivo to Playa del Carmen and then Bus to Cancun. There are also good prices at the Mexican Superstore on 5th Avenue in Playa (or across from Convention Centre in Cancun). T-shirts in Akumal are about $15USD; 3 for $25 in Playa and 5 for $20 in Cancun! HINT: Ask hotel staff for fairs before you get on Collectivo - they seem to misquote a lot to tourists - so we just got in the habit of having exact fair ready and just pay & get off. Many UK visitors were told only use Tours or Taxis but I traveled the Collectivo daily for 2 weeks without any problems - so I suspect their Rep may be trying to bump tour bookings. The beach was fine but definitely not comparable to Cuba. Sand had a high shell content and while not as powdery, it did stay cooler underfoot than Cuban sand. Topless sunbathers were both poolside and on the beach, with no defined area. There is only one area (in front of the beach volleyball court) where the shore is coral & rock free, for entry into the ocean. Coral & rock fragments as well as turtle grass is widespread so a pair of water shoes would be wise. NOTE: I never saw them for sale locally so bring them from home. The beach is cleaned regularly, so no seaweed along the shore. Lots of lounge chairs. Shade huts go early in the morning (7am). My biggest surprise was the amount of waves given this is a Bay. 10 mins down the beach and closer to Akumal (Town) the water is like glass but here it is always wavy. Always a green flag, but it did get powerful and I saw a few people get knocked when trying to climb over the rocks, etc. This location is more a Snorkler's/Diver's Paradise than a swimmer's. The reef comes very close to the shore and fish are in abundance even as shallow as a foot of water. If you are looking for the Turtles, find the Venta Dive Boat and then swim straight out. Saw them in the shallows several times each week about 9am. Snorkeling equipment is rented from the onsite Dive Shop (beside the pool) for $5 per day. There are two dive shops serving the area - Akumal Dive Shop (10 mins up the beach in the Town) and Venta Diving (onsite). The Akumal Dive Shop is very busy, and it seemed their groups were pretty large for dive trips. If you are looking for any equipment they seemed well stocked, although prices were high compared to Toronto. They have a nice selection of Dive T-Shirts, Shorts, etc and sell the waterproof pocket size fish identification books for $10USD. This was also the only place I could locate souvenir stickers for my tanks. Prior to booking any dives, I observed the scuba demos in the pool at the resort as well as a resort course so I could see and hear the "On Site" instructors in action. I decided to book my Advanced Open Water course with the on site dive shop, "Venta Diving". All of the Venta Staff were very friendly and I was immediately supplied with the course book and knowledge reviews. My diving was scheduled as I wished and I was not simply put where/when it was convenient for them. This was particularly appreciated as I had made some non diving friends which whom I was going on outings. The cost for the 5 dive advanced course was $225USD with the Ceynotes an additional $25 charge. Very small groups on all dives - groups were never bigger than three divers (plus instructor), and twice it was only the Instructor and I. Dives were not cancelled due to lack of registration (which is common in Caribbean in off season). I was particularly impressed with "Luca" as he patiently got me over the memory of a "bad" deep dive at another location. Visibility on all dives was great and an abundance of marine life awaited on all dives. Undoubtedly the highlight sites were "Lobster" which was packed with coral, sea fans, and many different fish (including lots of Angels and Parrots), and The Deep Dive - where at 74ft we saw the grandfather turtle! The icing on the cake with "Venta" was their Padi on-line registration upon completion of the course - what a wonderful service to process the picture and registration electronically! I left the resort with my course (and picture) registered with Padi and a temporary copy of my Advanced card in hand. Now that is service even better than Canada! Although I had my own equipment, I was impressed by the caliber of the rental gear. They had the Mares line - including full and short wet suits, BCDs, etc. I had a problem with my reg and Luca was able to fix it for me. I would have no hesitation recommending the professionals associated with Venta Diving - if you get down there, find time to blow some bubbles with Luca.All in all, a wonderful introduction to Mexico. I was pleasantly surprised by this resort and in hindsight, found my initial concerns totally unwarranted. Relative to the prices of other Mayan resorts, I think Akumal Beach Resort provides good value for the money, provided you are not seeking fancy pools or grounds. It has a warm & friendly atmosphere which in itself played a large factor in the success of this trip. When asked if I would return, I hesitate - yes, I enjoyed the resort and yes, the diving was good - however as a single traveler, the single supplement in Mexico coupled with the higher taxes, make it approximately $500 more for a comparable two week period in Cuba. So while I am glad to have made the trip, I would have to give the $500 serious consideration before rebooking.

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