I'm a hotel guy through and through (specifically Hyatt, though in my childhood years, it was whatever the family could afford), so you may be surprised to learn that I recently spent a week in a timeshare. There is a catch--- this timeshare is owned by a friend of my family, and she was there with us while we stayed, making this stay free for me. On top of that, because of my resistance to travel to Playa Del Carmen and stay in a timeshare, my SO offered to pay for my airfare. Done deal. So aside from F&B and local transportation/activities, this was a free trip to Mexico.
I don't need any more free trips.
From one standpoint, the Grand Mayan Riviera Maya looks like an expansive resort with lush foliage, relaxing pools, local nature (Iguana's abound), and great restaurant options. It has gigantic rooms with plunge pools, full kitchens, jetted tubs, rainfall showers, and HBO. Located north of the city and right on the beach, the pitch to stay here really sounds ideal.
But that's all it ever pulls off: sounds ideal.
The reality is much different. Being north of the city means you pay a ton extra getting anywhere. Scuba diving, local nature parks (Xcaret, Rio Secreto, Xplor), shopping... all will be at LEAST 20 dollars each way. Throw in a bunch of activities to your vacation, you've now spent an extra $200+ just on taxis.
The pools, though massive and with swim-up bars, all lack appeal. They are waist deep for adults, and way too warm for the summer sun. No waterslides, no waterfalls. A volleyball net is the most entertainment you'll find in one of these pools. (Though a pool with a lazy river should be completed in the next few months). You can cool off if your room has a plunge pool, but don't expect to get any swimming done in those.
The resort is truly expansive... so much so that a shuttle is necessary for a good portion of guests. A shuttle from your room to the pool, from your room to the lobby, from your room to the restaurant, from your room to the shuttle exchange to your friends room. Waiting for the shuttles while the sun beat down upon me or while the mosquitos tore at my skin was as unpleasant as it gets. Twice in an evening I spent 20+ minutes just waiting for the shuttle to arrive. (ultimately I ended up walking).
Next are the restaurants. During my stay, I had the chance to eat at four of the resort's restaurants. None of them were truly overpriced, but you can easily find better food in town for cheaper (cheaper aside from the Taxi fares, of course). I was not impressed by any of the meals I had--- from French toast to burgers to tacos and enchiladas. None made me sick or tasted bad, but none made me want to return. Speaking of restaurants: every single one of them closes at 11 P.M or earlier. OK, so my go-to hotel, the Grand Hyatt in Kauai, closes their restaurants at 10... but come midnight I can still order cocktails from room service. No cocktails available with the Grand Mayan's room service.
So the pools are too warm and take too long to get to, the restaurants are mediocre, it's too expensive to go into town... okay, time to return to the room and watch HBO..... in Spanish.
The reality is nobody should expect television to be in English at a Mexican resort (though some of the channels were in English), yet when all other options were exhausted, it would have been nice to come back to the room and watch a movie.
I will say the one thing I enjoyed at this resort: the wildlife. A Coati, Racoon, Bat, Lizards, Iguanas, Crocodiles, Oriole's, and more all share the grounds of this gigantic resort.
I can't compare this resort to the Grand Hyatt down the road, so maybe this is a good place to be by Playa Del Carmen standards, but I can say with certainty I have no need to return here.
I look forward to returning to the Grand Hyatt Kauai in September all the more now.
Despite my distaste for the resort, I had an enjoyable time with my girlfriend down in Playa, and put together a video featuring the resort and all the wildlife it had to offer (the entire video up until the boat is filmed on the resort grounds, room featured is from the Grand Luxxe).