After looking at the date this morning, I realize I’m a little behind with this post. Trust me, I have a good reason. For the past few days we’ve had the opportunity to spend time with our Winnipeg friends Dave and Vanessa and their lovely little daughter Isabel. They decided they needed a getaway vacation and as luck would have it, they chose our little corner of the globe.
They were staying at a nice little all inclusive hotel named Gran Bahia Principe.
When I say little, I mean only in comparison to a city. The place is huge! It’s actually several hotels all strung together. They named each of the larger hotels after the local towns so there’s the Akumal, Tulum and Coba hotels.
As you drive in off the highway you have the Hacienda which is like their own personal shopping district. Across the highway (they even built their own overpass) they’re in the process of developing a huge condo complex with access to all the facilities in the hotels. There’s also a few smaller hotels (Akumal Premier, etc.) that cater to the very high end clients. The complex is just past the town of Akumal on the way south to Tulum in case you’re thinking of ever staying there.
We had been hoping to do an all inclusive day pass to one the hotels in the area since we got here. The draw of gorgeous oversized swimming pools, dozens of restaurants, being waited on hand and foot, and of course the unlimited alcoholic and fruity concoctions just sounded nice to us. The thought of not having to cook, clean or do any of the daily menial activities definitely helped cement our decision.
Though we’re currently living in a very resorty town, the truth of the matter is that we’re staying in a condo just outside the beach zone and, for the most part, life isn’t that much different than the majority of Canada right now. Just substitute white snow with white sand, change the -30 temperature with +30, swap slippery black ice with clear blue swimming pools and then never go to work. Oh yeah, also replace winter parkas with bikinis and bermuda shorts and give everyone a nice golden tan. There, that just about describes what it’s like to live here. Almost.
Anyway, they were in town for a week and so we booked one night at the Gran Bahia Principe Akumal. We took off in the late morning (via collectivo) and arrived way too early for our 3 PM check in time. Basically you can check into the hotel anytime but you can’t access your room until later. Once you leave your bags with the bellboy and they put your bracelet on, you’re completely free to use any of the facilities at any of the hotels in the complex.
Seeing that it was almost four billion degrees out (the humidity makes up the difference) we quickly met up with our friends and headed to the monster swimming pool at our hotel. Dave had been there for a few days already and had a pretty solid grasp of the place. There are trolleys that go from hotel to hotel and others that will actually go down the little paved paths to your rooms. There are literally thousands of rooms and hundreds of buildings across the complex and the whole place can get rather confusing quite quickly.
Since the day before had been overcast and a little rainy, it seemed everyone and their iguana (there were tons of them everywhere) were by the pool. Since it was pushing noon by this time we didn’t have much luck with finding any available lounge chairs and decided to hit the second pool instead. It was almost as big and almost as full however the line for the pool bar was shorter. That was good enough for us.
After quickly testing a random selection of local drinks we stumbled into the pool. The best part about the smaller pool was that it was right next to the 24/7 snack bar and we got to enjoy a nice late lunch close to our stuff.
The kids were starting to get a little tired just after 4 so Micki and I decided to go check in and maybe let Jordan have a nap. It turns out that our room was actually just a stones throw away from where we were lounging by the pool. Of course, we had to walk a ways to get to the main entrance and grab our bag before realizing this. The bellboy helped out by giving us a lift right to our room and even carried the 80 pound bag up the stairs to our second floor room. It was practically new and if I was allowed to take a chainsaw to a few of the trees I would have had a great view over the ocean.
This brings me to the only negative thing I had to say about the place. The rooms were very musty smelling. We’ve encountered it dozens of times in our travels to warm tropical countries. Usually though, the strongest odors were reserved for ground floor rooms or places where we only spent a few dollars for the night (literally a few dollars). Ground floor rooms are always the worst and if we can arrange it we always get a second or third floor room. Besides for the smell the higher you go the less chance of bugs (mosquito’s and ants) and the less chance of getting broken into. The trade off is more stairs to climb though so, for some people, that can be a deal breaker in itself.
Anyway, the room itself wasn’t that bad. Neither the bed nor the furniture had overly absorbed the smell. The majority of the mustiness was coming out of the AC. We quickly shut it off and opened the patio doors. It helped tremendously but they did a severe disservice to themselves by not having any airflow. Unless you leave the front door open there’s nowhere for the air to go. With the breeze coming off the ocean it should have taken only minutes to change all the air in the place but there it took over an hour.
To be completely honest, Micki and I both had a hard time sleeping that night even though we had a very full day of sun and water. I literally had to put a fresh towel down over the pillow so I didn’t gag on the smell. I have no idea who designed it that way but I foresee major problems down the road unless they address the issue better. I read one reviewer on trip Advisor who said that they literally tried out 6 rooms (and please remember that this place is huge so it takes a while just to get back to the front desk) before finding one that was acceptable.
In any case, Micki and the kids were a little tuckered out and they all fell asleep quickly regardless of the smell. I was a little bored so I opted for a few more drinks by the pool with Dave and Vanessa. We parted ways an hour later and both headed to our own places. After washing up we headed out for supper. We had decided to meet up at the Tulum hotel since they hadn’t tried out the buffet there yet. The buffet was huge and it was separated in four or fives areas where you get different style foods. From what I can remember they had Mexican, Italian, French and Oriental. There might have been more but I had been drinking rum enhanced fruit and ice derivations in the hot sun all afternoon and some of my faculties had already shut down for the night.
The meal was pretty good and any time I can have unlimited sweets and ice cream after a meal you know I won’t complain. We walked around the place for a bit before heading to the entertainment show at Tulum. It was more of an audience participation event (definitely more geared to adults as well) than a show so after a few chuckles we headed to the Akumal hotel to watch the show there. The one at Akumal was definitely more of a spectacle and they were doing a tribute to Latin dance and music. It wasn’t bad (though a little on the loud side) but it was well after 10 and the kids were getting tired so we called it a night well before it was done.
We checked out early the next day (knowing that we were allowed full use of the facilities until we left the hotel grounds). We had decided to spend the day at the Tulum hotel and didn’t want to have to rush back to make sure we made the noon checkout time. Dave and Vanessa had been hanging out by the ocean for a few hours by the time we met up with them. We had enjoyed a late breakfast and were eager to enjoy another fun day of sunshine and camaraderie.
We met them on the beach (strangely enough there were tons of lounge chairs available that day) but the water was rough due to higher than normal winds. That pretty much put a kibosh on Dave and my hopes for a quick snorkeling excursion so we all decided to spend the day at the main pool. As you can guess it was huge.
As a quick side note, though the beaches are quite nice at the Gran Bahia Principe resort, the ocean isn’t the best. The waves are huge and there are breakers (giant slabs of cement that look like beached whales) everywhere to keep the waves from crashing on shore. They work well but the ground is rocky in the water and not deep enough to make swimming really enjoyable. There are a few places that are nicer (especially for the kids) but on the whole the water is more or less eye candy there. Of course, with the dozen of pools on the complex, finding a nice place to swim is only ever a few hundred feet in any direction.
On that note and to end this ridiculously oversized post, we all had a great day by the pool. I should have used more sunscreen (don’t ask) and we should have taken more pictures but our little excursion into how the other half live (for a week or two every winter at least) was a hit. The kids enjoyed themselves tremendously, Micki and I got to catch up with dear friends and spend time with their little princessa. We also got to eat a few good meals and the fruit smoothies alone almost made the trip worthwhile.
Even better that that, it also did one thing we hadn’t expected, it made us want to venture out and sample more of the things this little paradise called the Yucatan Peninsula has to offer. We had thought that it would fulfill our wanderlust for a few weeks but in truth we’re already planning to get away from the condo for another few days next week. We haven’t decided if we should head north to find things to do in Cancun or fun family things to do in Isla Mujeres or south to Tulum and the ruins, or maybe even things to do in Playa del Carmen, Mexico but either way I’m sure it will involve sunshine, gorgeous beaches, wet adventures and another long post.