Mexico: Staying There

June 24, 2020

Paul Kay


Mexico abounds with all-inclusive resorts. These are a great way to rest and relax. Here our review of three that we've experienced in Riviera Maya.

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort

The Grand Hyatt is known for its terrific service. The Playa del Carmen location proves that reputation well deserved. We regularly ate at the Grand Club for breakfast and enjoyed evening cocktails there, too. We must compliment Rodrigo, Uriel and Elizabeth. They went out of their way to provide friendly and professional service. Many others contributed to our exceptional experience at a well-run property. 

Pool, Grand Hyatt, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Our room included a king-size bed and a sitting room with a large TV. Everything in the suite is high tech: the drapes operate by remote and the lights dim and are controlled from your bedside.

Room, Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Our bathroom had double sinks and a separate shower and tub. The large balcony with a couch and table overlooked the pool area and beach. Pools at the Grand Hyatt abound, with a large adult pool along with many others. Most of the pools provide lounge chairs, some allowing you to sit in the water.

We experienced true luxury at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen and its beautiful property, comfortable rooms and great service. We will visit again!

Sunset Fishermen Beach Resort

Sunset Fishermen lies approximately one mile south of Playa del Carmen. Guests can easily walk to town either along the beach or on the paved road. The resort originally was built in 2001. Sunset purchased it in 2004 and made extensive renovations. Originally built as condos, there are still some owners on the property. Sunset Fishermen advertises the condos.

Beachfront Panorama, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

We visited Sunset Fishermen because of our relationship to the Sunset organization; we maintain time at Hacienda Tres Rios, another Sunset property. Sunset maintains several properties in and around Cancun, too.

Bar in Lobby, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Sunset Fishermen recently added a lobby, a main restaurant and many other improvements. We first visited several years ago because of the magnificent beach. The color of the sea here is a magical blue that changes before your eyes. Sunset sweeps the sand daily to maintain its bright white color. If you like relaxing on a beach with a dazzling sea view, Sunset Fishermen is the place. The property also provides a view of Cozumel, and you can watch the ferries and cruise ships moving to and from the island.

Paul in Room, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Sunset made a substantial investment in the property. And they sent one of their Hacienda Tres Rios executives to run daily operations. Sammy personifies hotelier. Nothing escapes his vision. He pick up palm fronds, empty glasses, misplaced towels or whatever is needed to keep his property clean. He offers personalized service and instructs his staff to do the same. You experience his influence in every staff and guess interaction. Sammy reminds me of Anthony Melchiorri from Hotel Impossible. Anthony stresses that everything is important to a hotel’s general manager and he or she must make sure that the staff culture is all about service and hospitality. Sammy does this to perfection. Staff members Zindysabel, Alberto and Pillar perfectly express Sammy’s philosophy of exceptional hospitality.

Sunset also upgraded the propertied dining experience. They incorporated favorite dishes from Hacienda Tres Rios. And they improved the presentation and quality of the food. Sunset’s Chef Oscar created more delicious dishes. Because Sunset Fishermen is much smaller than Hacienda Tres Rios, the menu is smaller. But the selections suit the smaller, cozier Fishermen and most important, taste outstanding!

Pool, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The smaller pool also matches with the cozier atmosphere. But Sunset Fishermen still offers a swim-up bar where they’ll make you whatever you want—or comes up with something to suit your personal tastes. The service is always friendly and cheerful.

Special Tacos, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Madeline and Paul at Dinner, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Fillet, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Sunset Fishermen offers two restaurants and room service. La Terraza serves a breakfast buffet and dinner. The buffet provides many tasty options, including eggs or quesadillas prepared exactly to your fancy. Cooks also prepare fresh chilaquiles every day. And if you don’t see something that looks good, ask for it. Chances are they have it or will find a way to get it for you.

Paul in Room, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Bed, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Sofa, Room, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Bathroom, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The rooms at Sunset Fishermen provide relaxing comfort. Our room had three terraces overlooking the ocean with chairs so we could enjoy the sea in privacy. You can surf the web on their fast, reliable Wi-Fi.

Lounge Chairs on the Beach, Sunset Fishermen, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Overall, Sunset Fishermen provides a great Mexico all-inclusive experience. Comfortable rooms, a fun pool, lots of beautiful sandy beach, privacy and intimacy. The service and the food make the property enjoyable, but the view and beach make it spectacular.

Hacienda Tres Rios Resort, Spa & Nature Park

We’ve spent a lot of time at Hacienda Tres Rios. We love it!

Twins and Staff, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Lobby Fountain and Mariachi, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

This all-inclusive resort works well for singles, couples and families. But the best part of this resort? It includes a 300-acre nature park and is environmentally responsible! You get the best of rest and relaxation combined with outdoor activities and an ecologically friendly site in the middle of a mangrove forest along the beautiful Mexican Caribbean.

Aerial View Looking Northeast, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Aerial View Looking East, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

If you’re staying as a one-time guest, HTR will offer you a sales presentation for their fractional ownership opportunities. (Fractional ownership is similar to time-shares, but you have more flexibility and are not limited to one or two time periods.) If you’re not interested, you can skip it. In our case, we decided to invest years ago and have even upgraded our ownership level. The sales presentation is friendly, professional and informative—never high pressure. Reyna served as our sales advisor and was terrific. She regularly communicated with us after our presentation and checked on us almost every day to see how we were doing and whether she could arrange anything for us.

View From Balcony, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

But you don’t have to attend a sales presentation or invest in the property. We recommend HTR for anyone who wants an all-inclusive beach resort experience with the unique aspect of the nature park.

Paul, Club Hacienda, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

HTR offers a Club Hacienda option, which upgrades your experience and includes reserved beach beds, reservations for any meal at any of the resort’s restaurants, upgraded spirits and beverages and more. We opted for the Club Hacienda experience and have never regretted it.

View of Beach From Balcony, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

We’ve been to lots of resorts in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. While many terrific resorts offer their own takes on the Mayan Riviera, we love Hacienda Tres Rios for its more relaxed atmosphere.

River and Fountain, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The resort began life as an ecotourism park. And HTR heavily invests in its local ecology. They take fastidious care of the grounds and are attempting to be energy self-sufficient with solar power. The resort offers as many organic dining options as possible. They even grow many of their own fruits, vegetables and honey. And HTR brews their own beer! Each of its rooms are stocked with eco-friendly body wash, shampoo and conditioner.

Food

All the restaurants offer many excellent choices. We also enjoy seeing the same tremendous servers year after year. We saw many servers from years past and we enjoy seeing them every day. I would like to recognize a few of them including Miguel and Luis (dinner at Hacienda Grill). They would be excellent waiters in any high-class USA restaurant. They understand service and they are always on the move – looking to improve your experience. They anticipate service before you’ve even requested it. They notice your habits and keep track of them. I wish this level of service was available at some of the restaurants we frequent in the USA.

Enrique and Paul, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

For breakfast or lunch, Enrique, Luis, Renaldo, Valentina, Marco, Ismael, Raphael and Netali ably served us. They’re excellent! Enrique and Renaldo frequently said, “Let me know what you want in the kitchen, and I’ll get it for you.” For example, if they ran out of green chilaquiles, our server told the chefs, and they made more for us. They anticipated our needs before we knew them! This type of service becomes more valuable the longer you stay. Service is very important, particularly when the buffet does not have exactly what we’re looking for. Enrique and Renaldo always delivered exemplary service and got us what we wanted. Enrique even made my birthday extra special!

The cooks make amazing food. We’re constantly impressed how they can make a dish in slightly different ways so long-term guests still enjoy the dishes without feeling bored. Brenda prepared our quesadillas. She made the tortillas fresh every day. She prepared the dough, flattened it in a press, and then cooked it on a flat-top grill. Then she used magic (at least that’s what it seemed like!) to turn whatever ingredients we wanted into delicious quesadillas. You can’t get fresher than that!

Beautiful Buffet, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Tres Rios also make a concerted effort to have variety in their foods, particularly during breakfast, lunch and dinner at the buffet restaurant. The chefs are always trying something new so that the guests don’t get bored. At the other restaurants, there is a regular menu that changes seasonally.

Room Service, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Of course, you also can order room service. We ask for things from several different restaurants, and our dishes were prepared and delivered to our room quickly and with the same quality as sitting in the restaurants.

Breakfast, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Dinner, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

For the breakfast buffet, you’re greeted by Karen, Carolina, or Fernanda. We call them the Breakfast Ladies. Their job is to verify your meal plan and seat you at a table. They’re so pleasant. By the second day, they knew our names and preferences. We also loved Montserat, Omar and Karen, all who regularly greeted and served us with terrific smiles at Hacienda Grill and the other restaurants.

Chef's Table, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

 Love the Chef's Table!

Chef Pouring Soup, Chef's Table, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

 Chef pouring soup

Salad, Chef's Table, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

 Another visit to the Chef's Table...

Appetizer, Chef's Table, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

 Appetizer

Dessert, Chef's Table, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

 Dessert

Dinner, Chef's Table, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

 ...another great meal

Spend a little more for the chef’s table experience. Its six courses are worth it! Gilberto served us with the regular Tres Rios aplomb and attention to detail. He asks you if you have any food allergies or your dining likes and dislikes. The chefs work their usual magic and present a six-course meal that looks beautiful and tastes amazing. Gilberto served us wine and kept our glasses full. Seating is limited, so ask about a reservation when you arrive.

Rooms

Room, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Room Beds, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Room Sofa and Dining, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Room TV, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Bathroom, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Hacienda Tres Rios offers large rooms. We’ve had a one-bedroom room that was bigger than a three-bedroom apartment in the United States. The TVs are huge and show several U.S. channels from Miami. The fast and reliable internet keeps you connected to home and allows for streaming of your favorite shows using your Roku or Fire TV adapters.

Towel Sculpture Dog, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Towel Sculpture Girl, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Towel Sculpture Swan Couple, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Towel Sculpture Swan, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Towel Sculpture Rabbit, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Towel Sculpture Elephant, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The housekeeping staff is amazing. We were lucky to have Martin and Noraelia look after us. They take excellent care of the rooms. And they regularly entertained us with their towel sculptures. I don’t know where they hone their skills, but they left us all sorts of animals—nearly every night!

Gift From Reyna Card Front, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Gift From Reyna Covered Wagon, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Gift From Reyna Card Back, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Gift From Reyna Candies, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

When we told Panfilo, the housekeeping supervisor, how much we loved Noraelia, he took a group picture of us to remember us for our next visit. The staff makes you feel right at home with their heartfelt warmth, friendly personalities and by going the extra mile every day. Noraelia even gave us a gift that included a souvenir from her hometown and some Ricola lozenges for Madeline, who had a cough.

Butler Service

Since we joined Club Hacienda, we enjoyed the butler service. Butlers take care of all Club Hacienda guests. Two butlers are usually on duty at any time. But sometimes three or four are helping guest. Sara served as our head butler. Sara was great; we always saw her with a smile.

Clarisa, Club Hacienda, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Carlos and Clarisa served as our primary butlers. Both were terrific every day, and we grew close to them. They even walked out to our beach bed and asked what they could do to make our day special. Clarisa anticipated our needs, asked about things we might have forgotten and ensured we always had dinner reservations. She also stocked our room with our favorite wines. Santiago also provided excellent service, always asking how he could improve our stay.

It’s rare when servers and butlers anticipate your needs and accommodate them without you having to ask. We’re not high-maintenance luxury aficionados. But we really appreciated this kind of high-level service. It allowed us to truly relax and rejuvenate.

Welcome Gifts, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Welcome Gifts Mugs, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Again, butler service comes only with Club Hacienda. If you want to be pampered, inquire about the program with a salesperson. We loved working with our salesperson, Reyna. But we’ve met many salespeople, and all were courteous and informative without being high-pressure. Reyna consistently asked how we were liking our stay and what they could do to improve it. Reyna even gave us several gifts to welcome us each time we visited.

Beach

Everything about Hacienda Tres Rios’ property is terrific with one notable exception: the beach.

Because of past hurricanes that devastated many of the Playa del Carmen resorts, the beach here has brownish water. Many visitors think it’s an oil slick or seaweed. Actually, it’s mangrove leaves from the forest surrounding the property making the brown color. The hurricanes and their storm surges removed thousands of pounds of sand, damaging the mangroves and increasing the leaves in the sea.

Beach Repair, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Workers Repair Beach, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Hacienda Tres Rios is working to improve its beaches. You’ll see workers daily improving the coastline. Since Hacienda Tres Rios is an eco resort, they’ve been working with the Mexican government on a program to reclaim the beaches. It combines dredging and adding more sand. It supposed to be complete in two years. But in Mexico, nothing happens quickly.

Beach Bed, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
View From Beach Bed, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

This is just one negative compared to hundreds of positives. We regularly reserve beach beds and still enjoy the beach. And blue water is just a few steps down the beach where the three rivers (tres rios) that feed the sea. You can still kayak or snorkel these river waters. The resort is working to fix the brown water beach, but it’s a cooperative effort with the government. Hacienda Tres Rios wants to operate legally and to restore the local ecology to the highest quality.

Activities

You can do a lot at Hacienda Tres Rios. That might be simply staying and relaxing at the resort.

Madeline and Paul Sailing, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Or it might be using the on-site facilities and activities, including snorkeling, cenote discovery, kayaking, catamaran sailing and informative nature walks and Segway tours through the nature park.

Dolphin Swim With Paul, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Dolphin Swin With Madeline, Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Or it might be booking a trip for Xel-Ha, Xcaret, Chichen Itza, Tulum, dolphin swims and other off-site activities. Over our many stays, we’ve done a little of all of these things. Of course, we love the Hacienda Tres Rios the most. We love the people, we love the pampering and we love the tranquility.


Read More

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