Royal Hideaway Playacar Review: COVID Travel

I’ve been to over a dozen all-inclusive hotels across Mexico and the Caribbean and, for the most part, have had amazing experiences. Last year, we stayed at the beautiful Secrets in Cap Cana in the DR. This year, we decided to travel to Mexico and stay at the Royal Hideaway Playacar, traveling with another couple. I always like to share my experiences (positive and negative). All of my reviews are always honest and true. I’ll warn you and say this experience was lackluster and problematic and not like the experiences I’ve had in the past. Keep reading below if you are interested in my Royal Hideaway Playacar Review.

Property

The Royal Hideaway Playacar is a smaller 200 room, all-inclusive, beachfront adults-only hotel about an hour from the Cancun Airport. The property features six swimming pools, six specialty restaurants, a gym, and tennis/ basketball courts. Since this is a smaller property, everything is close together. Walking from the lobby to the beach is about 5 minutes. The grounds are clean and well maintained, with little rivers of pool flowing throughout the property. The lobby and hotel itself have an almost Mediterranean vibe. That said, if you are looking for a modern, brand-new hotel, this is not it. Royal Hideaway is an older hotel, and in all honesty, it shows. During our stay, the capacity felt like they were around 40%. We were even told that some of the villas were not operating; therefore, we couldn’t receive an upgraded room.

Rooms

We booked a standard king room, hoping that we would be able to upgrade to a different room upon check-in. We typically do this as we’ve found it is cheaper to upgrade at the hotel, but upon arrival, we were told they wouldn’t have upgrade rooms available for at least a day or two. We ended up being too lazy to move and kept our room in villa 28, on the second floor. My honest first impression when getting into the room was that it was very dated. Our room was on the smaller side, but it did have vaulted ceilings since we were on the top floor. Some of the disappointing features (in no particular order): the bed wasn’t anything special or even super comfortable. The mini-fridge was warm. The bathroom was awful; our toilet leaked on one of our first nights. The windows were like a jail cell. The air conditioning in our room barely changed temperatures, and it was constantly warm and sticky. I’m pretty sure that the air conditioning didn’t even make it to the bathroom, as it was so hot we would have to make sure to keep the door closed to keep the warm air in. However, we knew when we booked the hotel that it was an older property, but we heard amazing things about the beach and food, so we decided to give it a shot despite the poor first impression of the room. 


On our first full day on the property, things kept getting worse. The couple that we were traveling with decided to go back to their room around 10 am and entered to find a man fixing the ceiling in their shower. When I say fixing, I mean ceiling parts on the floor, dust, and shards of drywall all over their belongings. The repairman didn’t even MOVE their stuff. Fragments of drywall were found in my friends’ razor, even her hairbrush, and toothbrush, which were further away. The hotels’ response to our friends finding their room in this situation was offering to move them to another room, which at this point was a bit too late as all of their belongings were already dirty. Again, while we didn’t come to sit in the room or frankly spend much time in the room, this did not leave a good taste in our mouths. By the end of our first day, we were ready to change hotels…like call our travel agent…bags packed ready. The only problem was we couldn’t find a hotel with immediate availability, so we stayed.

Food

As I mentioned, the hotel has six specialty restaurants: the grill, Mediterranean, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, and sushi, which were all fantastic and the highlight of our stay. The service and the food at the restaurants were excellent. This was probably the best experience we had with dinners at any all-inclusive that we have been to over the years, (besides the leaky ceiling in one of the restaurants).

While dinners were great, the hotel needs to make some serious updates foodwise with breakfast and lunch. During the day, the grill was converted into a breakfast buffet and a lunch spot and then functioned as a casual restaurant at night. The Mexican also was open for breakfast and lunch, but restaurant-style instead of buffet style. We tried breakfast here once, and it took 2 hours, so we stayed with the buffet. Lunch and breakfast options were limited. I’m not sure if it was due to COVID or what, but by day 3, we had already tried most things on the menu and craved something different.

All of the dinner restaurants are by reservation only. On our first day, we arrived around 6 pm; after traveling most of the day, we were hungry and exhausted. Upon check-in, the front desk told us that our options to eat were room service or wait until our 830 reservation (that they made) at the Mexican restaurant. They could not accommodate our group as a table of 4, so we had reservations at 830 and our friends at 930. After at least an hour of conversations, they called in a favor for us and sat us at 730 as a table of 4 at the Mexican restaurant. This situation was extremely frustrating considering that there were four tables of 2 people each when we walked in. I’m assuming the place is short-staffed. We decided on our next day to make reservations for the entire rest of the week to ensure we could eat at a normal time and be accommodated as a group of 4. After complaining and spending another hour with our concierge, he was able to fix a few things and accommodate us for the rest of the week, but again not without a battle.

Lastly, the hotel also lacked an area for snacks. There wasn’t a place to grab dessert, little sandwiches, or snacks. Most all-inclusive properties have a café like this in some capacity, but Royal Hideaway did not.

Service

Service is one of those areas I kept asking myself if we expect too much or if service was really this terrible. I don’t want to make this review super negative, but service is another thing this hotel needs to work through. Dinner service always took at least 2 hours. As I mentioned above, breakfast restaurant-style, took 2 hours. Forget asking for something; it won’t come. We experienced the best service at the dinner specialty restaurants, but still lots of work to do. They are either short-staffed or have many new employees and can’t keep up. Outside of restaurant service, there were several times water bottles weren’t available at all, not in our room or at the beach/pool areas. Clean beach towels were impossible to find some days, even if we went early in the morning or mid-day. Beach service seemed like it was non-existent until halfway through our trip.

Our friends ordered new towels to their room one night, and after 3 hours and 3 phone calls to the front desk, they finally received towels, but they were filthy. Frankly, no one seemed to care besides our concierge, who was great but was limited with what he could do, as some things were out of his hands. The front desk promised several things but never came through unless our concierge would get involved.

Beach

The beach area at the Royal Hideaway Playacar was beautiful. Plenty of loungers with umbrellas and access to the premium day beds. The sands stretched far, and the water was warm. This side of Mexico typically has waves, but it wasn’t anything half as bad as what I’ve experienced in Cancun. It was swimmable. There were a few smaller rocks on the shore, but overall the water was clean and beautiful. A few days into the trip, my husband and one of our friends both got stung by a jellyfish, which in my 30 plus years swimming in the ocean and traveling to the Caribbean/Mexico has never happened.

Overall, the beach was perfect, we didn’t have to wake up early to reserve chairs, and there was never a problem getting a good spot, which is the opposite of what I heard for the pools.

The hotel offered scuba diving, snorkeling, canoes, and catamaran access.

Pool

We didn’t use the pool as we are beach people, but the two main pools near the ocean looked great. There was an interesting area below the infinity pool with a private area for loungers and three little hot tub-looking pools. The loungers at the pool were very nice, but not many were available. We heard from other guests that the pool loungers were typically full by 5/6 AM, which is insane.

There were two other smaller pools hidden between the villas and the ocean that stayed fairly empty. Super nice area, but I wish one of the pools was a hot tub. That would have been a perfect area to unwind after the beach before going to the room for the night.

COVID Response

In the last year, we have traveled internationally twice, the DR and to the Bahamas. Both hotels we stayed at offered free COVID testing. At Royal Hideaway, they offered both rapid and PCR tests, but for an additional fee. The rapid test was only $18, and the results were quick, but the PCR was $75 or $90. Keep this in mind, as it adds to an already overpriced hotel.

This hotel also did the bare minimum for COVID protection. All employees were always masked, but they took no special precautions at buffets besides taking our temperatures 1, maybe 2 days of the entire seven days we were there.

If you are worried about COVID, this is not the hotel for you. Both Secrets and Baha Mar had better responses to the pandemic than I saw here. Secrets even sanitized our suitcases upon check-in.

Overall

Overall, I would rate this hotel a 3 out of 5. Our group experienced lots of issues, but what’s funny is we ran into several guests that have been to this hotel 3+ times and keep coming back. When I asked them what keeps them returning, they all said food, beach, and service. While I can agree on the food and beach, our experience with service was not the same.

If the hotel can take the needed time to update the property and train the employees properly, they would hit it out of the park. They can be a 5-star hotel, but I’m afraid our experience drops them to a 3 in our book. At this time, we would not return!

Let me know if you have any questions!

All outfit details can be found here!

 

 

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