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Reviewed 11 June 2006

I am always curious to read others' thoughts on tripadvisor, and have relied on the site heavily myself when planning a trip, so I wanted to check out the good and bad about the Royal Hideaway Playacar for myself. I am a very picky traveler and I honestly can't think of anything bad about this place. It exceeded my expectations and I would love to return.

Location: This is a good 45-minute shuttle ride from the airport without traffic, south of Cancun, provided your shuttle or taxi makes absolutely no other stops along the way. The Royal Hideaway is about a 20-minute ferry ride from Cozumel, but we didn't go there.

Beaches: Regarding the lack of pool lounge chair availability (padded chairs with some umbrellas): I read about this in other reviews: Honestly, what's the big deal? The main pool with disappearing edge (closer to the beach) can't be more than 100' x 40' and had maybe 40 chairs at best. There is a second pool behind the main pool (further from the ocean), with other chairs, and there are also more private, smaller, pools and hot tubs with padded chairs around the property. Yes, people seemed to reserve the lounge chairs at the main pool well in advance, but there were plenty of beach lawn chairs and even covered cabana-style umbrellas to put over the beach chairs on the sand by the ocean. It seemed more of a beach experience being down on the beach as opposed to lying around a pool listening to other people talk and laugh in the pool. They provide drink service at all the pools and down on the sand. It's also nice because they let you borrow as many beach towels as you want, even without showing a room key.

Layout: The Royal Hideaway is laid out with a main lobby area closest to the street with three restaurants adjacent to the lobby: Azia (Asian), Las Ventanas (contemporary), and Palazzo (Italian). There is a business center with 4 high-speed Internet computers, spa and bar on the first level. Guest rooms are divided into private villas with about 24 rooms in each. Each villa has it's own private concierge that is there from 8-5 each day. I believe each villa is designated entirely as smoking or non-smoking. I didn't see many people smoking at the resort. Each room has it's own balcony/patio with it's own lawn furniture. There are other pools around the property, with the main 2 pools and snack bar/restaurant/activities center right on the beach.

Rooms: Amazing! The rooms look exactly like the photos on expedia and other web sites! Comfortable beds, jetted tubs in each room, in-room safe, etc. There is maid service twice daily (including turn-down service at night). There is a free beverage mini-bar refrigerator in each room that is replenished each day (included in room rate). I think it is beer, sodas, bottled water, etc. No snacks, but there is the 24-hour limited room service menu available at no extra cost.

Food: Great food! Please make your dinner reservations for the week with your private concierge as soon as you check in and get settled into your room, or the best times will be booked and you'll find yourself eating dinner at 6 p.m. or 10 p.m. There are five restaurants here and also a 24-hour room service limited menu available.

What I don't think can be stressed enough is that the restaurants in the evening are pretty much BUSINESS CASUAL attire. No swimsuits, tanks, shorts, etc. They won't let you in if you look like you just got out of the pool. You will have to eat room service for dinner, or go shopping for clothes.

Of the five restaurants, Azia (Asian, dinner only) seemed to be most popular with our group, but my husband and I didn't eat there. It was referred to as "Benihana-style."

The Grill Restaurant is dinner only but it also doubles as the Snack Bar during the day. We ate there our first night and it was good. Of course, it was just what you think--grilled steaks and seafood!

Las Ventanas (contemporary, breakfast a la carte, I think, and dinner only) is supposed to be their signature restaurant and is Michelin rated. We ate dinner there. It had a very elegant New York feel and the food was great. The dinner began with a bread selection and a display of flavored salts. My husband had the lamb and I had the sea bass.

My favorite was probably Palazzo (Italian, dinner only). The osso bucco was divine. My husband had the clam chowder, and even though I hate clam chowder, I loved Palazzo's version.

The Snack Bar is available by the pool for lunch and early afternoon meals. It is a sit-down lunch, but you can wear your swim suit. Burgers, chips and guacamole, a Mediterranean salad, etc. Their version of the club sandwich was quite different than what I was accustomed to--it had egg salad on it.

Spices--This is the breakfast buffet. They also have lunch and dinner by reservation, but we didn't eat there then. I could eat at Spices every morning for a month! There is a huge selection of items--too many to list here, but many with an authentic Mexican feel and also a made-to-order omelet station. There are gorgeous 20' windows that overlook the ocean throughout the restaurant--it's a great view from any vantage point.

Atmosphere: I put the average age at 42. I didn't see anyone that really appeared to be under the age of 21, unless it was a couple of honeymooners. The Royal Hideaway is very laid back and low-key. There are 200 rooms, so that means a total of what, 400 people? They said they were 90% occupied when we were there, and it didn't feel crowded at all. I didn't have to see people all the time and the room was quiet and I didn't experience any waits or delays in service. This is a very peaceful, romantic, reflective place. All the other guests we met were very nice. Another unofficial guest is "Lawrence," the resident Iguana that sits by a hole in the ground, just south of the lobby. You can't miss him. You will probably meet him as you walk to your room.

Service: Perfect! Everyone is trained to greet you personally--even the landscapers! The staff seemed genuinely happy to be there. I know they say tipping is included, but I did tip when I felt service went "above and beyond," which it often did. Remember, these people are paid in pesos. There is no pressure to tip, but I think it is an appreciated gesture. I wish I had brought more $1 U.S. bills with me. The front desk can make change for American dollars or pesos, but they were almost out of $1 U.S. bills one morning. $1 pesos are coins, by the way.

Language: I read some of the previous reviews about a "language barrier." I didn't really encounter this, except with the bus boys for room service. Everyone at least tries hard to communicate. Most of the staff speaks perfect English. I think perhaps some of the other guests don't like the Spanish accent and consider that a barrier to communication. All I can say is that you are in a foreign country so brush up on some phrases. Learn to say "salad dressing on the side" if that is what you really want.

Security: There are lots of guards here. They seem to be on the beach all night (not that we were!). I don't think they have the guards because of security issues--but it sure felt nice knowing they are there. I don't think they carry guns or anything.

Insider Tip: There is a small shopping center across the street, to the south side of the facility, which is not even a 5-minute walk from the gates of Royal Hideaway. There is a drug store, clothing stores, crafts, etc. They also have an ATM, which the hotel didn't have. So if you feel the need to go shopping or exploring in downtown Playa Del Carmen--I could have done all my shopping across the street at about the same price in about a quarter of the time it took me to get downtown and back. I also thought there were some unsafe looking streets downtown when we got lost.

Overall, this was as close to a perfect hotel experience I could have hoped for.

  • Stayed: June 2006, travelled on business
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
34  Thank Travelthru
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Guest_Experience_RH, Gerente at Royal Hideaway Playacar, responded to this reviewResponded 19 January 2017

Dear Valued Guest,

It has been a pleasure to read such a positive review in regards to our resort.
It is our job to make you feel more than royalty here at the Royal Hideaway.

You will always be welcome here, as your home from home.

I will be sure to show my team your kind words, which I am sure they will be encouraged by.

Kind Regards.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 June 2006

This was my first "todo inclusivo" experience and it was a great one. I was coming from two blissful weeks in Tulum when we decided to try the Royal Hideaway. We had a wonderful, top notch experience for a night and (wrongly) decided the next day to check out to go north up the coast for some more sightseeing and adventuring. Checked in to a nightmare 4 star hotel north of Playa. At 7:30 am the next morning we checked out and rushed back to the Occidental for another few days of enjoyment. Antonio checked us back in with cool towels and bubbly wine and got us a fantastic room right down near the pool with a big Caribbean view from the porch (muchas gracias Antonio!). Our room was as nice as the Four Seasons in Vegas - great linens, great shower, great housekeeping. My experience with 24hr. room service was excellent, those guys were really hustling. The restaurants were great, had nothing but great meals. The bartenders at the pool bar do a great job. The pool/beach scene was nice - very relaxing, no megaphones for group activity time (hate that). You do have to get up early to snag a chair by the pool but you're on vacation, what else do you have to worry about? They have an air conditioned computer room with a half dozen computers ready to go at all times for any email or biz concerns. Enjoyed tea time on the main balcony overlooking the grounds. The Hideaway has done an incredible job at making the property look incredible after getting smacked by Wilma. 5 stars all the way. A great value for the going rate. These guys do all inclusive right - if you're going this direction throw down and stay at the Hideaway, you'll be glad you did. Great job to all at the Royal Hideaway!

  • Stayed: May 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
10  Thank JayColorado
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Guest_Experience_RH, Gerente at Royal Hideaway Playacar, responded to this reviewResponded 19 January 2017

Dear Valued Guest,

It has been a pleasure to read such a positive review in regards to our resort.
It is our job to make you feel more than royalty here at the Royal Hideaway.

You will always be welcome here, as your home from home.

I will be sure to show my team your kind words, which I am sure they will be encouraged by.

Kind Regards.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 June 2006

Royal Hideaway
My Husband and I went to the RH for the last 6 nights of our 10 night honeymoon and we are so glad we did – we loved every minute we spent at this wonderful resort.

Check In – They are strict at the RH and they have very tight security that makes it near impossible for an outside to get onto the resort grounds. We were staying at a resort a few doors away and we decided to go check out the RH and we weren’t allowed as the security guy turned us away. Once we arrived, we were glad; it was so nice to be part of a smaller, mellow resort. Once we got to the hotel, check in was a breeze. They gave us a mini-tour of the grounds, introduced us to our concierge, and told us our room would be ready in 20 minutes (we checked in 3 hours early!).

Room – We were in room 2528. The room was wonderful – the top floor of a 2 floor villa, which meant we had the wonderful vaulted ceilings and only had to climb one set of stairs to get to the room. The villa is centrally located and the room is gorgeous. Giant bed (high quality bedding), large room, even nicer bathroom and everything was spotless. We got new towel sculptures daily.

Pool – We are pool people. We enjoy sitting by a pool and reading the day away. This resort has one of the best pools, albeit it quite small. The infinity pool overlooks the beach and gets the ocean breeze. There is no doubt that the pool is the social center of the resort. And because of this, either my husband or I would get out of bed at 5:15 AM each morning to reserve a chair. By 5:40 every single chair was taken. There is no doubt, it is ridiculous, but have encounter the same thing at almost every nice resort I have been to – it is the nature of the beast. I did notice chairs that were left for long periods of time and I find that irresponsible. Once you are in your chair – life is perfect. We sat there from the minute we got up to the minute we went to go get ready for dinner. It was also where we got to meet our resort friends and our best memories from our honeymoon were just reading a book at the pool. Note – we did actually see a fight ensue over a chair – in order to avoid this, the resort should look into adding more chairs.

Beach – We spent the first day at the beach (we checked in and the chairs were all gone) and it was nice but VERY hot. The breeze passes over the beach and the heat is much more intense.

Food – Breakfast was good, not great; Spices had fresh fruit, pancakes, and an omelet bar but the menu didn’t change. They did have great coffee. We ate lunch at the snack bar and enjoyed it the first 4 days. Then we heard about the fact that you could eat lunch at Spices and we were so upset we missed such great food. Lunch at Spices was our best meal of the trip. They have very authentic Mexican (local spices and seasonings) and every single item we had there was so good. We ate at every restaurant except the Italian and our favorite was Aiza (because of the Hibachi grill – try the rib eye there!) and Ventanas (we like gourmet dining) for the tasting menu. The two disappointments were the Sunday night show – the food was not good and the grouper fish was undercooked (we noticed that a lot of people got up early and left) and we did not like The Grill because it was so hot (the lack of air conditioning was a killer) and our food was not cooked properly. All in all, the food was way beyond any AI food. It was excellent and we were excited for every single meal.

Guests – Hands down, what made our vacation so special were the great people we met. There were a lot of honeymooners and even more couples on return trips to the RH. We even met a couple on their 7th return trip.

Activities – We heard from the resort staff that the RH does not want to do any activity that will lessen the peaceful feeling at the resort. Therefore, the activities are all away from the pool and in order to find them, you need to seek them out. The activities staff (great team – work so hard) will come around and ask you to participate because they do not want to turn into a Club Med-ish resort (where you HAVE to participate in everything). I only joined in three of them (cooking lesson, Spanish lesson and towel sculpting lesson) and they were a fun break in the day.

Entertainment – First, it is important to remember that 70% of the staff to the RH is new. That being said, they worked their rears off to plan events. Some nights they worked (we enjoyed casino night and song trivia) and sometimes they were a bust. We did hear a lot of complains about the Allegria Patio Bar…it wasn’t that great (service was slow) and we suspect that the majority of bug bites were from sitting outside at the bar.

All in all, we think the Royal Hideaway is the gem of Mexican resorts. When we first looked into our honeymoon, we were looking at the Caribbean, Bahamas, Tahiti, etc but we could not have been more pleased with our decision. We are already looking forward to our return trip.

  • Stayed: May 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
14  Thank Vacationer13362
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Guest_Experience_RH, Gerente at Royal Hideaway Playacar, responded to this reviewResponded 19 January 2017

Dear Valued Guest,

It has been a pleasure to read such a positive review in regards to our resort.
It is our job to make you feel more than royalty here at the Royal Hideaway.

You will always be welcome here, as your home from home.

I will be sure to show my team your kind words, which I am sure they will be encouraged by.

Kind Regards.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 June 2006

My husband and I have just returned from five nights at Royal Hideaway. I’m not sure under which rating system this would qualify as a five star resort. While it had some fine features, and was certainly more pleasant than the family oriented all-inclusives, there’s nothing particularly unique or luxurious about Royal Hideaway.

Accommodations
Overall, the hotel property is lovely and any residual damage from the hurricane is minimal. There was maintenance and construction going on while we were there but the work was in no way obtrusive. The rooms were nicely appointed (though a bit overcrowded with furniture) and very clean. Air-conditioning was abundant and noisy. Though we were fortunate to be in a building close to the beach with a room facing the courtyard, those in rooms situated towards the neighboring resorts had to contend with crowd noise and loud music well into the night.

The Pool Chair Drama
As others have reported, the morning tragicomedy surrounding pool chairs is laughable and yet also intensely frustrating. Guests really do get up at 5 am to reserve the coveted “Beach Beds” and prime chair locations. This wouldn’t be a problem if they then actually used these spots. I witnessed one man reserve eight chairs at 6 am though, as the day progressed, only two of these were ever occupied. Reserving a chair (by leaving books and other personal items there) does not stop the umbrella poachers however. Around 8 am, while the early risers are having breakfast (their chairs and pool floats safely secured), the second wave comes in to claim chairs and “steal” others’ umbrellas. This ridiculous back and forth continues throughout the morning. The resort has a policy against reserving chairs but it is not enforced by the staff. Being forced to get up early to ensure a place to sit is not my idea of luxury.

Dining
As has been mentioned, dinner reservations are difficult. Our “concierge” (in name only, as she was of little service) told us we could only get in to any of the five restaurants at 6 or 9 pm. With a little cajoling on our parts we were eventually able to negotiate a better schedule.

We had no complaints about the service in any of the restaurants though did find Ventanas and Azia were exceptional in this regard. Overall, Azia was our favorite meal and we were sorry to dine there only once. Ventanas was also good though not extraordinary. Food presentation there is lovely (I overheard one guest dismiss it as “too frou frou”) but not all the dishes were successful. There were significant highs and lows to the tasting menu which, oddly, does not change from night to night. The Grill was by far our worst meal. The menu here is in the style of a steak and fish house but the overcooked swordfish I had was a disaster. Spices was fine for dinner but became our first choice for lunch as the snack bar offers only subpar bar food. We were not able to try Palazzo. Breakfast, offered buffet style at Spices or a la carte at Ventanas, failed to impress and after the first few days we skipped it altogether.

Activities
Other than resort scuba lessons, the daily activities—Spanish lessons, water aerobics, towel folding lessons, etc.—did not appear to be well-attended. My husband, an experienced certified scuba diver, found the diving excursions difficult to schedule but ultimately worth the effort. In the evenings, the Allegria bar featured live music, silly trivia and couples contests, or Karaoke. When it rained, the resort’s extensive DVD library came in handy.

Overall, I’d give RH a grade of B.

  • Stayed: June 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
25  Thank trvlrlvr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Guest_Experience_RH, Gerente at Royal Hideaway Playacar, responded to this reviewResponded 19 January 2017

Dear Valued Guest,

It has been a pleasure to read such a positive review in regards to our resort.
It is our job to make you feel more than royalty here at the Royal Hideaway.

You will always be welcome here, as your home from home.

I will be sure to show my team your kind words, which I am sure they will be encouraged by.

Kind Regards.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 June 2006

this is our second visit to RH so our expectations were high. I made dinner reservation at Palazzo in advance to celebrate my husband's birthday. From the moment we entered the front gate, every staff member-the bellman, the registration clerk, the concierge, even the pool bar manager knew him by name and knew it was his birthday, AMAZING!!!!!! Our room was decorated with balloons and a birthday banner. These people know about customer service. We were genuinely impressed.

The new infinity pool is beautiful as was the beach area. We loved the sunning beds! Getting up early just to stake out your lounge chairs by the pool is a drag but there were plenty of spots on the beach.

The resort property appeared to have completely recovered from the hurricane, and is as beautiful and lush as we remembered. The entire resort is tranquil and serene. This is a place for romance and relaxation. If you want a lot of activities or partying, go elsewhere!

I personally enjoyed a shady spot to read a book and a tall cool drink whenever I want one.

Food is awesome! I love Las Vantenas. Completely redone, the place is gorgeous and the food is on par with any top rated restaurants anywhere. Reservations can be tough but book in advance if possible. We also enjoyed Palazzo and Azia for dinner and Spice for lunch, you can't beat the ocean view.

In my view, the service is what sets RH apart. The staff was uniformly friendly, courteous and helpful. Eventhough tipping is not expected, we did because we appreciated their service.

Wine is the only gripe! As good as the food, the house wine is barely drinkable, and the prices for the premium are highly inflated.

With a couple fo minor gripes, we love our trip, and we plan on returning next year

  • Stayed: May 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
11  Thank ShirleyBar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Guest_Experience_RH, Gerente at Royal Hideaway Playacar, responded to this reviewResponded 19 January 2017

Dear Valued Guest,

It has been a pleasure to read such a positive review in regards to our resort.
It is our job to make you feel more than royalty here at the Royal Hideaway.

You will always be welcome here, as your home from home.

I will be sure to show my team your kind words, which I am sure they will be encouraged by.

Kind Regards.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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