Lote Hotelero No. 6, Desarollo Playacar, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico
The pioneer in luxury all–inclusive resorts, Royal Hideaway Playacar puts a formal gloss on package tourism. Its convenient location near Playa del Carmen means you might also want to nip into town for a few meals or drinks.
Set inside a sprawling gated community of condos, hotels, and a golf course, Occidental Resorts' Royal Hideaway has all the trappings of old–school luxury, beginning in the lobby, which is all stratospheric ceilings, gleaming marble floors, chandeliers, and oil paintings. Valets introduce guests to the reception staff, and service continues in this formal vein, with everyone greeted as "Mister" or "Miss," and even some white gloves sported by the bellhops.
Rooms are clustered in two– and three–story villas (each with its own concierge) painted butter yellow and trimmed in white Caribbean–style gables. Paths meander over ponds and past small swimming pools, but the overall feeling is one of formality and planning—essential given the resort's relatively small lot. A smart layout allows a fair amount of room among the buildings, but the beach width comes and goes depending on how recently a hurricane has hit. As of 2015 there was once again plenty of lounging space on cushioned chairs and in beach beds with willowing curtains.
Those looking for a party atmosphere, loads of organized activities, or a place for their children to hang out are not a good fit for this esteemed resort. No children under 13 are allowed and activities are the country club type: golf, tennis, cooking classes, and bike rentals for a leisurely ride around the Playacar gated community or the close by Playa del Carmen. There are six swimming pools on site though and a spa on site for those who want to add more pampering onto their stay.
Standard rooms—184 of the 200 available—are comfortable, if not absolutely cavernous, and the whirlpool bathtubs don't accommodate two. But they are attractive, with pillowy beds, colonial–look ceiling fans, and dark, heavy furniture.By contrast, the bilevel junior suites offer more room than most couples will know what to do with—a pullout bed can be used for children 13 or older—with two bathrooms, two terraces, a dining or sitting room, and a wet bar. The upstairs bedroom and bathroom are very similar in layout to the standard rooms. The most luxurious options are the two presidential suites and villas occupying either two or three floors.
All rooms have complimentary beer and soda minibars, nice Bvlgari toiletries, separate shower stalls, Bose sound systems with iPod docks, and large closets with silk–trimmed bathrobes. All have a widescreen LCD TV.
Royal Hideaway Playacar touts the quality of its cuisine, and it is leagues better than typical all–inclusives—though it is still no match at all for what's served at smaller, European–plan hotels and it is working hard to keep up with the impressive Grand Velas restaurants. The showcase restaurant is ultra–modern Las Ventanas, where the chef turns out a modified version of trendy Spanish cuisine cuisine (foie gras ice cream, flavored foams, and the like). A new chef’s table there is certainly innovative; for the right price a group can discuss preferences with the chef then see everything being prepared for them on the other side of a wall of glass, while webcams and a microphone let them in on the action.
The more mainstream dining options—a dimly lit, super–Baroque Italian restaurant, a sleek Asian option, and a poolside Caribbean/Mexican grill—are more successful. Unfortunately, "all–inclusive" does not include premium wine, which can be very expensive in Mexico due to import duties, and the house choices are seldom memorable. There’s also a dinner theater and bar food service and it’s notable that none of its meals are buffet offerings except breakfast.
A third of the guests at this established AAA 5–diamond resort are repeat visitors. Many travelers will never consider an all–inclusive package, no matter the perks that come with it. But for those who will, Royal Hideaway Playacar remains one of the best options on this side of Mexico—even if its vision of luxury feels a bit frozen in time.
Web Address: www.royalhideaway.com
Total Number of Rooms: 200
Published rates: $345 to $2,200 per person, all–inclusive with taxes and gratuities
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.