Imagine an easy vacation at a first class all-inclusive with impressive dining options, friendly service and kids' activities, in nearby Mexico.
The Barcelo Mayan Riviera is a complex of four intermingled resorts on a broad expanse of Riviera Maya beach, 75 kilometers south of the Cancun airport. The whole place is wonderfully suited for families, especially those with older children who can be given freedom to roam this sprawling new property. All ages are welcome, however, with children younger than 2-years staying free of charge, and ages 2-12 paying only 50% of adult rates.
Our choice, the Barcelo Maya Colonial Beach – a Barcelo “premium” resort – occupies the upper end of the mid-level tier of resorts, meaning it does not pretend to be the Four Seasons but is clearly a qualitative step above typical all-inclusive properties in the Caribbean. All of the 1,972 rooms at the four properties are quite comfortable and larger than at most resorts, with marble baths, balconies and European styling.
In addition to a white sand beach that survived Hurricane Wilma with little damage (the boat dock is being rebuilt), numerous pools meander through the property like lagoons, with fountains, bridges, swim-up bars and nearby rows of shaded hammocks. Small ones can play on oversized bugs and waterslides in their own pool. (Wilma actually picked up the huge plastic dragonfly and deposited it… somewhere. The big dragonfly apparently flew.)
There’s a ton of activities from pick-up games of beach volleyball to mini-golf, tennis, snorkeling, renting wave runners, trying sailing or joining organized dives. Kids can play billiards and ping pong outdoors next to a Mini-Club that has daily organized activities for 4 to12-year-olds. (Check before reserving if the Mini-Club is running group activities during your stay – it was not while I was there in January.) The best option may just be letting responsible kids chart their own course by giving them license to wander – I guarantee they’ll end up consuming hordes of ice cream and Slushies.
Usually our family favors small properties to avoid crowds and noise, but Barcelo uses its size to great advantage. Guests can choose to participate in a myriad of organized or individual activities or head off by themselves and usually find a quiet place to rest and relax.
And rather than offering only a few dining choices, guests have a choice of scores of restaurants, snack bars and bars, serving steak, seafood, Asian, Italian, Mexican and more. And while not all of the food hits the high water mark, the quality and variety clearly are a step above many other all-inclusive places (in particular the seafood buffet). Note that two of the resorts are priced about 15% higher than their neighbors because of the larger room size and other amenities, therefore, families who dine around may have to pay some “up-charges” at various restaurants.
In two huge amphitheaters available to all the guests at the four adjoining resorts, Barcelo stages evening musical reviews that can be quite entertaining, depending on your taste in music. Barcelo also offers two of our least favorite activities at oceanfront resorts: karaoke in the amphitheater and noisy poolside games of Trivial Pursuit.
Barcelo’s Mayan Riviera resort complex – the Colonial as well as the Maya Beach, Maya Tropical Beach and the Maya Caribe – pampers guests with a large variety of high quality offerings.
The rebranding of the Breezes Punta Cana resort into the Barcelo’s first Dominican Republic property, Barcelo Punta Cana, occurred in November 2006. We hear the Spanish company’s resorts will continue expanding around the world – good news for us wandering families.
Resort Report Card
|Name:||Barcelo Mayan Riviera Resorts|
|Seasonal Rates:||$$ – $$$|
|Choice of Activities:||A|
|Quality of Amenities:||A-|
|Bonus:||Other than babysitting, pretty much everything is included in the all-inclusive rates.|
|Note:||Ask for a room away from the amphitheaters for a bit more peace and quiet.|
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