Playacar Palace, a member of the Palace Resorts chain, is just a five minute stroll from Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue and adjacent to the Cozumel ferry and Señor Frogs restaurant. It’s a beautiful, pristine-looking resort with only 201 guest rooms, so it has a cozy, boutique feel.
Modern and minimalist in design, the resort’s entrance and lobby lacks the “wow” factor that many other luxury resorts have in this area, but it does offer a soothing start to one’s vacation with its blending of natural flora (check out the trees growing up through the ceiling) with individualized check-in attention at the multiple small reception area tables. There aren’t too many chairs and sofas at check-in, but a lobby bar is close by with ample, comfortable seating.
Stepping out from the lobby there is a breathtaking view of the pool, beach, and turquoise Caribbean Sea beyond. The pool area itself is rather small and consists of two pool sections separated by a cement strip just large enough for a row of loungers. The pool nearest the main building holds the swim-up bar at one end and the shallow children’s section at the other, while the pool area closest to the ocean holds just enough water to get one’s feet and ankles wet (ask to have the Ping-Pong table set up here). There is some natural shade in addition to shade umbrellas.
The highlight of the resort is the beach–a wide expanse of white, powdery sand with a gradual ocean entry undisturbed by rocks or large amounts of sea grass. Ocean swimming is possible and there is a designated roped-off section for those who want to spend time in the water. Beach loungers include the VIP/Concierge section (padded double loungers) and standard loungers for the remainder of resort guests. There are shade umbrellas in both sections, but no shade palapas, natural shade, or Bali beds.
After a long day spent outdoors at the pool or on the beach, guests can take a soak in their double Jacuzzi which is a standard in-room amenity at all Palace resorts. Liquor dispensers, a mini-bar, digital safe, 24-hr. room service, and complimentary WiFi are all additional amenities also included at all Palace resorts. Unique guest room features at Playacar Palace are the nightstands which are lit from within the tabletop surface–table lamps are not placed here which frees up more space for personal items. It is important to note that not all guest rooms have a full balcony or terrace, so be sure to request this amenity when booking if this is important to your vacation experience.
Playacar Palace underwent a rather extensive renovation in 2012 adding its own spa and fitness center, teppanyaki show tables to its Asian restaurant, a poolside pizza brick oven, and new Sand Suite terraces which have direct beach access. As part of its master renovation plan, the resort tossed around the idea of creating swim-up suites on the south end of the resort. That part of the renovation never materialized, nor did the completion of all Sand Suite terraces (some Sand Suites only have a ledge with some cushions). The most recent addition is a new small restaurant, Frida Kahlo by Alquimia, which is a dining experience combining music, images, and light to enhance the artfully plated, innovative cuisine. There is room for only 10 guests once per evening, and resort credits can be used.
Guests of Playacar Palace are free to visit Beach Palace, Cozumel Palace, Isla Mujeres Palace, Moon Palace, and Sun Palace. Those who wish to visit le Blanc must purchase a day pass. Guests are responsible for their own transportation to/from these locations.
Palace Resorts is continuing to offer resort credits from USD $500 to $1,500, depending on length of stay. These credits can be applied towards tours, golfing at Moon Palace, spa treatments, special dinners such as the “Senses” dinner in the Zen Garden, and certain items bought at the resort’s stores. Credits can no longer be used for room upgrades; unused credits can now be saved and applied towards the next Palace Resort vacation or “gifted” to friends/family for their future Palace Resort vacation. Resort credit usage is subject to 16% tax of the item’s purchase price, so this means using resort credits typically amounts to an out-of-pocket expense.
Type of Resort: Family-friendly
Pro: “Stay at one play at six”, beach, walking distance to Playa del Carmen’s 5th Ave., free WiFi, no dinner reservations needed
Con: Small pools, no on-site theater, only two a la cartes
Best Suited For: Couples, destination weddings, families with children ages 4-8.
No. of Rooms: 201
Room Amenities: King or two dbl beds, A/C, in-room dbl Jacuzzi, table and two chairs, liquor dispensers and welcome bottle of red wine, mini-bar, in-room safe, flat screen TV, two telephones with complimentary long-distance calls to the USA or Canada, alarm clock, coffee maker, iron/ironing board, robe and slippers, hair dryer, CHI hair straightener, shower, toiletries, 24-hr. room service, and complimentary WiFi. Here is a brief rundown of guest room categories:
- Deluxe Resort View: King or two dbl beds, balcony.
- Superior Deluxe Partial Ocean View: King or two dbl beds. Only some rooms have balconies, others have floor-to-ceiling windows.
- Superior Deluxe Ocean View: King or two dbl beds. Only some rooms have balconies, others have floor-to-ceiling windows.
- Honeymoon Suite: Separate bedroom area with king bed, bureau or entertainment center, flat screen TV, closet, and easy access to dbl Jacuzzi, living room with sofa, armchair, coffee table, table and two chairs, bureau or entertainment center with flat screen TV, easy access to dbl Jacuzzi, balcony with table and chairs–some balconies also have two full loungers. Oceanfront view.
- Concierge Level: King bed, balcony with table and two chairs. Ocean view. Concierge Level rooms also have the following amenities: exclusive concierge service, special room service menu with select restaurant items, upgraded liquor dispensers, upgraded toiletries, espresso coffee makers, CD/DVD player, iPod dock, aromatherapy, pillow menu, nightly petit fours, designated beach section with padded dbl loungers, two 25-min. back massages at the spa or beach location.
- Sand Suite: King or two dbl beds, private check-in/out, iPod dock. These rooms are on the ground floor with easy beach access. Some rooms have a small terrace with a table and two chairs along with an exterior ledge with cushions, while other rooms in this category only have the exterior ledge and not the terrace. These rooms are on the north side of the property and are situated close to one of the wedding venues–this may be an ideal room category for bridal parties with nearby ceremonies.
- Governor Suite: Two separate bedrooms, one with a king bed and the other with two dbl beds. Each bedroom has a dbl Jacuzzi along with bureau, flat screen TV, its own mini-bar, liquor dispensers, coffee maker, digital safe, iPod dock, and full bathroom. The master bedroom also has a large walk-in closet. The two bedrooms share a living room/dining room area with a sofa, armchair, entertainment center with flat screen TV, coffee table, table and two chairs, dining room table and four chairs, and breakfast bar with three chairs. There is a shared balcony with a table and two chairs along with two full loungers. This room category also includes all the amenities included in Concierge Level suites. Ocean view.
Physically Challenged Rooms: Available
Resort Amenities: Two pool areas (main pool with swim-up bar and children’s shallow area, beachfront shallow section), spa, beauty salon, fitness center, nearby tennis courts, Zen Garden with hammocks, Kid’s Club (ages 4-12), pool and beach wait service, business center, concierge, tour desk, gift shop, car rental, and ATM. Stand-up paddle boarding was recently added as a water sports amenity.
Restaurants/Bars: There is one buffet restaurant (Café Del Mar) which serves a luncheon Mexican buffet, and two a la cartes including Italian (Terraza), and Pan Asian (Mo-Mo-No-Ha-Na–teppanyaki show tables and sushi bar included). Dinner reservations are not required with the exception of the teppanyaki show tables. There are several restaurant “extras” including Mayan coffee and select dessert tableside shows at Terraza. A new restaurant recently opened (Frida Kahlo by Alquimia) which serves innovative and artfully dished cuisine–it is a feast for the senses with its use of light, music, and images for only 10 guests per evening. Reservations are required here and resort credits can be used. Snacks and Thai hors d’oeuvres are served at several bar locations, while pizzas are available poolside; tea and cookies are served around 4 p.m. on the second floor staging area. Bars include the Luna Lounge (includes several televisions and a Ping-Pong table), Cielo lobby bar, and the swim-up/poolside bar.
Entertainment: Live evening shows and entertainment at various locations around the resort since there is no on-site theater, karaoke at the Luna Lounge. Playa del Carmen is only a five min. walk away, while Señor Frogs is just next door.