Catalonia Royal Tulum, an adults-only resort situated on lovely Xpu-Ha beach south of Playa del Carmen, is approximately an hours’ drive south of the Cancun airport. The property sits in the midst of lush vegetation, mangrove forests, and cenotes (fresh water limestone sinkholes) with easy access to the main road and public transportation (colectivos). Catalonia resorts specifically target the European travel market, so expect many European guests. In fact, several members of the entertainment staff are dedicated to making sure Italian guests get the most for their vacation euro; all guests can join in their activities, just ask.
The resort’s construction and décor harmoniously blends in with its natural environment. The open air circular lobby is located under a soaring, thatched palapa roof with hand painted vines and toucans surrounding the domed ceiling edge. Supporting pillars show off carved vines giving the impression that mangrove trunks are rising up from underneath the lobby floor–this echoes the exterior main pathway which has cut-outs to allow smaller trees to grow from under the limestone and wood footpath. Large painted murals, wrought iron chandeliers, and wall of multi-paned windows lead guests out of the lobby onto the main walkway. The winding, quarter mile trek takes guests through the mangrove forest, over several footbridges, past six guest room buildings hidden within the lush foliage, and over cenotes out to the pool; the pathway from lobby to beach takes around five to seven minutes to traverse.
While the pool is very close to the beach, vegetation and the surrounding buildings block most ocean views. The freeform pool is large in size with a central fountain, built-in Jacuzzi, various depths, and several sections devoted to water sports and activities; poolside palapas and palm trees provide shade, while padded loungers can be scarce when the resort is at full capacity. There is an additional “pool” section on the north side called “Pure” relaxation area which offers Bali beds, several shaded hammocks, cushioned sofas, and loungers. The small “pool” is actually more like a Jacuzzi, but the Pure area in general is a great place to relax or nap.
The star of the resort is the beach–some claim it to be better than even Maroma beach with its soft textured sand and turquoise colored sea. The beach has a wide expanse of sand perfect for daily walks, volleyball games, or simply tanning on resort loungers which are tucked away underneath palm trees or palapas which line the beach (beach loungers are rather close together, but guests are allowed to pull them closer to the waters’ edge). Ropes outline swimmable areas, while just outside the ropes lies a reef with good snorkeling opportunities. The resort loans out masks and fins for a specified amount of time, so it’s best to bring one’s own (kayaks are also checked-out for a limited amount of time). Large beachfront Jacuzzis are located on the resort’s south end; these Jacuzzis are typically busiest in the evenings when the pools are closed or after dinner. They aren’t the warmest in temperature, but they are a great way to socialize or wind down the day. Don’t forget to get a smoothie at MaaLoo, the beachfront juice bar with swings for seats.
When guests tear themselves away from the beautiful beach or large pool they will find their accommodations only offer views of the surrounding jungle. The Superior room category décor is warm and soothing with light colored walls and bedspreads, walnut colored furniture, tile inlaid floors, large balconies, and marble showers (no tubs). Upgraded Jr. Suites and Honeymoon rooms offer canopied king beds with sheer drapery panels and several additional pieces of furniture; flat screen TV’s are larger in Privileged rooms while showers have a rainforest showerhead. Guests staying in rooms on the ground floor can expect to see coatis on their terrace; given the sheer number of them at the resort, feeding them is not a good idea since they can become overzealous in their begging behaviors.
Catalonia added a dinner theater to the resort grounds in 2016 which they named Rauxa Tulum, or the Rauxa Restaurant and Show. The event is held every night but Monday and includes dinner and a show which is a mix of cabaret, vaudeville, with a bit of “naughtiness” added to the mixture (think sexual themes without sexual acts). Following the show, guests can stay and dance for a couple of hours; the event is an extra charge and is open to adults staying outside the resort as well.
Catalonia Royal Tulum does a fantastic job in balancing great guest amenities with respect for the environment. However, it lacks a “wow” factor and may disappoint guests looking for glitz and glamour. This is a solid four star property and offers all the comforts of home with an excellent beach backdrop giving guests an opportunity to relax, rejuvenate, and meet others from different cultures.
Type of Resort: Adults-only
Pro: Stellar beach, complimentary WiFi, many dining opportunities, beachfront Jacuzzis
Con: Rooms have no ocean view, dinner theater is an extra charge, no swim-up bar
Best Suited For: Adventurous travelers who don’t mind mixing with other cultures, couples who don’t mind not socializing much while on vacation, and definitely for beach lovers.
No. of Rooms: 288
Room Amenities: King or two queen beds, balcony/terrace, A/C, mini-bar, digital safe, flat screen TV, ceiling fan, coffee maker, telephone, robe and slippers, iron/ironing board, pillow menu, hair dryer, shower only, complimentary WiFi, and 24-hr. room service. Here is a brief summary of guest room categories:
- Superior: King or two queen beds, armchair, desk and chair.
- early check-in/late check-out
- digital safe with in-safe charger
- larger flat screen TV
- iPod dock
- rainforest showerhead
- separate beach area with wait service
- access to beachfront Bloved Lounge and Restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- 10% off spa services
- free access to wet spa areas once p/person p/stay
- in-room beach towels
(Privileged Room Categories)
- Privileged Deluxe: King or two queen beds, armchair, sofa, coffee table, Privileged amenities. Located in guest room buildings closest to the beach.
- Privileged Jr. Suite: Canopy king bed, separate sitting area with small sofa, armchair, and coffee table, desk and chair, fruit basket, tropical fruit and tequila, complimentary one day Bali bed use, Privileged amenities.
- Privileged Honeymoon: Canopy king bed, table and two chairs, desk and chair, welcome bottle of sparkling wine and fruit with chocolates, one in-room continental breakfast with flower, private candlelit dinner, 30-min. couples’ massage, one complimentary photo, free t-shirt, turndown service with flower petals (once), complimentary one day Bali bed use, Privileged amenities.
- NOTE: There are no elevators in these three-story guest room buildings. Also, Villa Sol and Villa Palma are closer to the lobby, while Villa Agua and Villa Arena are closer to the beach.
Physically Challenged Rooms: Available
Resort Amenities: Pool (no swim-up bar), four Jacuzzis, spa, beauty salon, fitness center, non-motorized water sports, “Pure” relaxation area by the pool with Bali beds, disco, theater, dinner theater ($), pool and beach wait service, internet corner ($), gift shop, swim shop, concierge, tour desk, car rental, medical services, laundry, currency exchange, and ATM.
Pool Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Restaurants/Bars: This resort offers two buffets (La Selva, and La Palapa–no A/C), and five a la cartes including Mexican (Centenario), Italian (Toscana), Spanish (Terrace Tapas and Lounge Bar located by the cenote), Asian (Tao-Cat–no teppanyaki or A/C), and steakhouse (Royal Grill–no A/C). The poolside Tequila Bar also serves a continental breakfast. Only upgraded Privileged guests have access to the beachfront Bloved (no A/C) for all meals and drinks. There is also a poolside deli-pizzeria as well as a beach BBQ and weekly paella. No reservations are required for the a la cartes, nor is there a limit on how many times guests can dine in them. There are four bars for all guests–lobby, poolside, disco, and a beach juice bar (the popular MaaLoo with its swing seats), while upgraded Privileged guests have access to the bar at Bloved. There is no swim-up bar.
Entertainment: Evening poolside performances, live music in the lobby and throughout the grounds, Rauxa dinner theater ($).
Photo Set: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjHdLSXi