“Book the trip,” my husband told me over the phone. It was the eve of my 40th birthday. I’d been moping about, though not because I was turning 40. There have been a lot of sad events this past year for friends of mine. Though it isn’t my sadness, I was affected by their tragedies. Between that and being envious of a friend’s 40th birthday trip to Belize, I was feeling blue.
I didn’t want to be blue on my birthday! I was excited to be turning 40.
This year, my husband has made a habit of booking surprise trips close to the departure date. He did this with our US trip this summer. I really like leaving so quickly after booking. While I love the anticipation, I also love being on the trips and the memories with which I’m left. My 40th birthday trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, was a trip so perfect that there weren’t any bad parts for my brain to “gloss over.” Other than some minor bickering every now and then, we were really happy and relaxed.
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The Royal Haciendas in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
We flew to Playa del Carmen, Mexico on the 2nd week of December. The first two weeks of December were cheaper than any weeks before and after for several months. If you are on a budget, look to visit during the off season. Even week to week, there can be big differences.
We chose to stay at the Royal Haciendas in Playa del Carmen, due to the price and good reviews. In fact, the worst review I could find implied that there was nothing to do after 7 pm. With kids, this sounded perfect. I’d be ready for bed anyway.
So, how was our experience?
PS – This is NOT a sponsored post. We paid for all expenses associated with this trip ourselves and received NO freebies/comps. All opinions are mine.
We arrived in Cancun on an early flight. We found our transportation and went straight to the resort. We’d hoped we would be able to check in early. Our room wasn’t ready yet, but they gave us our bracelets so we could have lunch. We opted for an outdoor table, overlooking the beach and ocean.
Our room still wasn’t ready after lunch, so we hung out in the lobby for an hour or two, checking periodically. Even though we had to wait a few hours, we still got into our room a little before the stated check-in time, so no complaints there!
We immediately changed and went swimming. The resort has two large pools, two lap pools, and two kid pools spread out over its grounds. Additionally, there are 4 smaller hot pools. Each of the larger pools has two, one for adults and one for families.
We walked around the resort a little before dinner. Our building, building D, was between the pools. Our building was in the perfect location. Each side was set up similarly, but not symmetrically. We found out the pool restaurants offer “snack” foods, like pizza, hamburgers, and shrimp tacos. I recommend checking out a menu because I didn’t ask for one until about mid-week.
The buffet theme for our first night was Mexican night! Of course, I was ecstatic because I cannot get enough Mexican food.
On our second day, we headed out to the beach right after our wonderful breakfast. On offer at breakfast: an omelette station, a smoothie station, and of course, American and Mexican breakfast foods. There were scrambled eggs, sausages, chilaquiles (tortilla chips in either a red or green sauce with cheese. Both are delicious and one of my favorite breakfast options), and more. There is also fruit and cereal.
We stayed on the beach all day. I quickly found out that we could order drinks and food to be delivered to us at the beach (or pool) and I felt like the most pampered individual ever. Not having to dry off and change clothes to head to the indoor buffet? Priceless!
I also noticed that this was one of the first times that celiac disease was taken pretty seriously. When I asked for shrimp tacos to be gluten free (they usually come breaded), they asked me about how sensitive I am to cross contamination. I had shrimp tacos almost every day. I recommend them over the gluten free fish tacos, just for your information.
The ocean water here was pretty calm, due to some rocky outcroppings that protected the beach. The water was also shallow and clear for several feet. It was perfect for younger kids. There were actually several little ones at the beach with their families.
It was on this day that I declared this the best vacation ever and everyone agreed.
Discovering the Kids Club
Of course, that didn’t last. Our third day started out with some bickering between family members. It came and went all day.
This is when we discovered the kids club. We happened to stop in just as they were started a craft and my 5 year old daughter wanted to stay. This was the beginning of a beautiful thing.
We finally convinced our 6 year old son to try it out and that was it, he was hooked. They did crafts, had outside activities, and also legos and an indoor play area adjacent to the craft area.
Our fourth day, it was a little chilly. The kids begged to go to the kids club and would’ve spent the entire day there, if we hadn’t strongly encouraged them to come outside and go swimming for a little while.
December in Riveria Maya can get Cold
It was even colder on our fifth day. There was just enough wind that I didn’t go swimming at all (plus, I was sunburnt). I considered relaxing in the hot tub, but I didn’t want to have to deal with being wet and cold in the wind. Our kids spent most of the day after their morning swim in the kids club. We checked on them periodically, but they didn’t want to leave.
The kids club opens at 9 am and they have several activities all day until 8 pm. I do believe they closed for lunch from 1-2 pm. They have crafts and outdoor activities (though kids who don’t want to participate in the outdoor activities can stay in the kids club room).
Each evening at 6 pm, they had a different activity and dinner for the kids. Our kids loved Superhero night, which was a scavenger hunt. I picked them up at 7:45 and they were both asleep before 8:30 pm, with the tv and lights still on.
Getting the kids to sleep was so easy that I totally forgot how difficult bedtime can be! For an entire week! What a glorious mental vacation, too.
The days continued…
The days continued in this relaxing fashion. My husband did suffer from a virus for two days (our kids were sick with something similar the week before we left), but he rallied and went swimming every day.
Our final full day was another fantastic day, too. We swam half the day with the kids, ate lunch poolside, and then the kids wanted to go to the kids club – they had made friends. I got them ready and took them to the club and then returned to the pool. My husband and I enjoyed a beverage together and floated around the pool. We had our final “date night” dinner together and again talked about how this had been our best vacation ever.
And my best birthday present ever.
The Royal Haciendas Review
I really enjoyed our week at The Royal Haciendas. The food was great. The service was fantastic. From the kids club workers to the waiters to other staff, everyone was friendly and kind. As the resort also has timeshares, I expected to be bothered with people selling timeshare stuff. The only time anyone was possibly trying to sell us something was when we were trying to check in. The man was offering to trade rooms with us because he was an owner blah, blah, blah. I assume he was a salesman.
The only thing that would have made the week more comfortable would be bigger beds. Our room had two full beds. We all slept relatively well, so this is a “would be nice” thing and not necessary. They did fit well in the room. I felt like we had a reasonable amount of space, especially for the amount of time we spent in the room.
The beach was everything I’d hoped for when booking. The main pool on our side was huge (and heated). The Royal Haciendas went beyond my expectations and none of us wanted to leave by the end of our week. I’m already ready to return!
On the Resort’s Nightlife and Other Activities
While I did not participate in any of the evening events, there were things to do each night, including karaoke. There was at least one bar open, too.
There were also daily exercise classes, like yoga and aquatic zumba. There was also a gym on the second floor near La Palapa (the buffet restaurant).
Pros of the Royal Haciendas
Again, I’m a huge fan of their kids club. All the staff there were bilingual (English and Spanish) and my kids enjoyed the activities. They were also allowed to play on their own if they didn’t want to participate. Each night had a theme night, too, and my kids wanted to participate each evening.
The kiddie pools are really, really shallow. They are great for small kids who can’t swim yet.
Part of the beach is protected by a rocky outcropping, making it really calm. Little and medium sized kids won’t get knocked over by waves. It’s also pretty shallow for several feet, giving plenty of room for kids to play in the ocean and the sand.
I didn’t attend any of the night time options, but it’s a pro that there are things for adults to do after 8 pm besides just going to the bar. There are also daytime activities for adults, such as aqua zumba and trivia.
The beach food and drink service at the Royal Haciendas was fantastic. This is the first time I’ve taken advantage of this service at an all-inclusive and it will not be the last. Not having to dry off and de-sand everyone before getting to eat is so awesome.
The food at the Royal Haciendas was really good and definitely better than when we stayed at an all inclusive in Ixtapa, Mexico.
They were aware of gluten “allergies” and took my celiac disease seriously.
Cons of the Royal Haciendas
I’m hard pressed to find any cons, as our stay was magical. And did I mention relaxing?
Since it’s partly a timeshare, you may end up getting caught up in a timeshare presentation. We didn’t, so I only mention this as a courtesy.
The beds were full size and felt a little small. However, it’s very minor. They were very comfortable and I didn’t lose any sleep.
This isn’t a flashy resort with a bunch of water slides or other water features for kids. For us, it wasn’t lacking anything.
Pros of All Inclusive
A lot of the pros of going to an all inclusive resort are obvious: the food is included and available 24 hours a day.
Another pro is the beach and poolside food and beverage service. Being able to order anything you want without having to clean the sand off your kids is fantastic. We didn’t have to listen to anyone crying about having to leave and go eat, even if they were hungry. We simply said, “food’s here,” and they would come out of the water or sand and eat. Without a meltdown!
The kids club activities were also a huge plus for us. Before taking this trip, I didn’t do any research on the activities that were offered for kids. I wasn’t sure if my kids would consider doing anything. It was a pleasant surprise that they ended up loving being in the kids club! They painted t-shirts, made pinatas, keychains, and pictures. They played with legos and bounced around in the area set aside for bouncing around. They loved the theme evenings and they had a lot of fun with the other kids.
I joked with my husband that we were having a “date night,” on our first dinner without kids. In fact, if it counts as a date night, it was our first since our oldest child was born.
Cons of All Inclusive
While I felt they did pretty well with gluten free options, those with allergies will have to be diligent. This can be a problem whether you are in an all-inclusive or not, of course.
If you stay on the resort, you aren’t really getting any picture of the culture of the country you are visiting.
The food might be aimed at tourists, so you won’t get as much authentic and amazing tastes that you’d find off resort. Though, I do find that the country’s popular options are typically available daily. Maybe it’s also a pro for picky eaters, that items like pizza and hamburgers were also usually available.
Activities in popular tourist destinations might be expensive.
Should I tip at an all inclusive resort?
Yes. You should tip as you would at a restaurant. I also recommend tipping the kids club attendants if your child(ren) use the service and the housekeeper(s).
I’m a fan of taking the vacation YOU want to have. I love visiting all inclusive resorts because it’s so easy. If we are hungry, we can go eat. There’s always something each person likes on the buffet, so I don’t have to hear complaining about the food. Resorts have pools and most are on the beach. They also have foot pools for rinsing the sand of your feet, as well as outdoor showers.
I also don’t have any problems with taking a vacation without an all inclusive option. We rented an Airbnb in Puerto Vallarta, cooking our breakfasts and lunches, and heading out to a restaurant for dinner. We did the same in Tulum, earlier this year. The freedom of renting a car made it easier to head to the grocery stores and to see some cool Mayan ruins. We did find that food is a lot more expensive in this part of Mexico (Yucatan).
If you are looking for a great family friendly resort in Playa del Carmen, the Royal Haciendas is a wonderful option. It ended up as close to being perfect for us as it could possibly be.
Have you visited the Royal Haciendas or another all inclusive resort? Do you like all inclusive resorts? What’s your favorite?