Sandos Playacar Beach Experience Resort is the last resort on the southern edge of the gated, developed area of Playacar and a good 35-min. walk to the popular resort town of Playa del Carmen. Since dense jungle lies immediately south and west of the property, the resort is regularly visited by howler monkeys, iguanas, coatis, and agouti (if you want to possibly see howler monkeys, check out the large tree in front of the spa in the afternoons). It is a larger vacation destination with 824 guest rooms and shuttle service available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sandos Playacar has something for every vacationer–ocean view rooms, adults-only spaces, upgraded services and amenities, as well as multiple entertainment options including outdoor movies, live shows held on a newly completed stage, to live beach bands. Although large, the property is not as massive as other Riviera Maya mega-resorts–guests can walk from the furthest buildings to the beach in approximately 10 min. if they follow the provided white line painted in the middle of the walkway.
The resort is divided into four sections: the beach section, Royal Elite Haciendas, the Riviera Family section, and the Select Club Adults-Only section in the back of the property. Although room renovations are greatly needed in the older beach section, Superior Oceanfront rooms try to compensate for this by giving the best of both worlds–ocean view rooms with access to adults-only Select Club amenities. Any vacationer may book a Royal Elite Hacienda room with its private villa pool and adjacent Jacuzzi (there are 16 newly renovated villas with eight suites apiece), but Royal Elite perks are saved for timeshare owners. Larger families will rejoice to discover that both the Royal Elite Haciendas and Riviera Family sections can accommodate families of five, while the Select Club buildings surround its own private pool with the only swim-up bar on the property.
Adults aren’t the only guests who enjoy special amenities and facilities at Sandos Playacar. There is a Baby Club (ages 2-3 with parental supervision), a Kid’s Club with a playground and its own small pool (ages 4-12), and a teen program with its own dedicated teen space, including a disco with its own soda bar and separate games room with video games, arcade games, foosball and pool tables (ages13-17). Activities that everyone can enjoy include tennis, mini-golf, sand and pool volleyball, beach Zumba, motorized and non-motorized water sports, bicycle riding, kitchen tours, and various poolside activities run by the activities team.
Although there are a total of four pools (five if one counts the Kid’s Club pool), two of these are reserved for upgraded guests. The newly built beachfront pool with its many Bali beds is a special perk for timeshare owners, while the pool at the opposite end of the resort is for guests who have access to Select Club amenities (those staying in Select Club rooms, guests staying in Superior Oceanfront beach section rooms, or non-timeshare owners staying in Royal Elite Haciendas). The main pool is located close to the beach, while families staying in the Riviera Family section can enjoy their own segmented pool with its own snack bar. All sundecks include loungers and shade palapas while natural shade is minimal. There are a few Bali beds in the Select Club section–look for a reserved sign prior to settling in for the day. All guests are also allowed to use the complimentary hydrotherapy circuit at the spa which includes a small pool with built-in hydromassage loungers and Jacuzzi sections.
The long, wide beach is the highlight of this destination with its soft white sand and tantalizing shades of blue in the Caribbean Sea. Long beach walks can be had in either direction–north towards the Cozumel ferry and Playa del Carmen, and south with miles of mostly uninhabited coastline. The resort’s ocean entry is smooth and gradual with no need for water shoes; however, those who wander south to try and snorkel by the submerged concrete pilings should take some along just in case. Select Club guests and timeshare owners each have their own designated beach space, while loungers and shade palapas are available to all guests. Those sitting closer to the grounds area will enjoy natural shade which is common on the beaches in this part of the Riviera Maya. There is a water sports hut/dive shop, beach bar, and for those interested in more extreme sports, the adjacent kiteboarding school offers lessons and certification in the waters just off Sandos Playacar’s beach.
Repeat guests know that Sandos Playacar works hard to improve the resort’s offerings. The latest additions include a new Mexican restaurant for those with late night munchies (Chayita Mexican Grill), and a new open-air stage complete with a large screen, improved lighting and sound, and nearby bar. The Gran Plaza is located by the Meeting Point palapa and replaces the shows typically held in the theater.
Guests wanting to visit other Sandos properties are free to spend the day at Sandos Caracol which is located north of Playa del Carmen. Transportation, however, is not included.
Type of Resort: Family-friendly
Pro: Beach, lots of activities, free WiFi, no dining reservations needed for most restaurants, adjacent kiteboarding school
Con: Guest room renovations needed, no A/C in several restaurants
Best Suited For: Families with children ages 4-10, kiteboarders
No. of Rooms: 824
Room Amenities: King or two dbl beds, A/C, balcony/terrace, mini-bar, in-room safe, TV, telephone, ceiling fan, coffee maker, alarm clock radio, iron/ironing board, hair dryer (bring your own if you want an updated hair dryer), shower, toiletries, 24-hr. room service, and complimentary WiFi throughout the resort (some guest room blocks have better WiFi reception than others–ask upon check-in). Here is a brief rundown of guest room categories:
- Standard: King or two dbl beds. Garden or pool view.
- Superior Oceanfront: King bed with above amenities and Select Club amenities (see below). Ocean view.
- Oceanfront one and two-bedroom suites are reserved for timeshare owners.
(Royal Elite Haciendas): All Hacienda guest rooms have access to a private pool and Jacuzzi which has been designated for each villa section. That means eight suites in each villa would be using the same pool, Jacuzzi, and sundeck space.
- Hacienda Jr. Suite: King or two dbl beds, sunken sitting area with sofa bed, coffee table, two armchairs, desk and chair, iPod dock, robe and slippers, and Select Club amenities for non-timeshare owners. Garden view.
- Hacienda One-Bedroom Suite: King bed in separate bedroom, bathroom Jacuzzi, living room with sofa bed, two armchairs, coffee table, desk and chair, dining table and four chairs, iPod dock, robe and slippers, and Select Club amenities for non-timeshare owners. Garden or pool view.
(Riviera Family Section)
- Riviera Jr. Suite: King or two dbl beds, sitting area with sofa bed, two armchairs, coffee table, desk and chair, bathroom Jacuzzi. Jungle, garden, or pool view.
(Adults-Only Select Club Amenities, age 18+)
- private check-in/out
- exclusive concierge
- access to a private lounge with premium alcohol, hors d’oeuvres, complimentary computer use, flat screen TV
- access to an additional Premium Bar by the teen disco
- large private swimming pool with swim-up bar and adjacent Jacuzzi
- separate beach section
- full buffet breakfast held in one of the a la carte restaurants
(Select Club guest rooms)
- Riviera Jr. Suite: King or two dbl beds, sitting area with sofa bed, two armchairs, coffee table, bathroom Jacuzzi, desk and chair, and Select Club amenities. Jungle, garden, or pool view.
- Master Suite: Two queen beds in separate bedroom along with two armchairs and desk and chair, living room with sofa bed, two armchairs, coffee table, breakfast bar, upgraded mini-bar, bathroom Jacuzzi, and Select Club amenities. Jungle, garden, or pool view.
Physically Challenged Rooms: Available
Resort Amenities: Two pools all guests can use (no swim-up bar), numerous private pools (Select Club pool with swim-up bar, Royal Elite beachfront pool for timeshare owners, and individual Hacienda villa pools), children’s pool, spa with hydromassage beds and Jacuzzi, sauna, and Temazcal hut, beauty salon, fitness center with separate spinning class area, tennis and general sports courts, mini-golf, motorized and non-motorized water sports, dive shop, bicycle rental, Baby Club (ages 2-3 with parental supervision), Kid’s Club (ages 4-12), playground, teen center and disco/soda bar (ages 13-17), games room, adult disco, sports bar, movies, theater, new outdoor stage, pool beach wait service, beach hammocks, giant chess at Select Club poolside, Mayan ruins on-site, shuttle service, concierge, tour desk, gift shop, jewelry shop, craft shops, photo shop, car rental, and ATM.
Restaurants/Bars: The resort is currently renovating both primary buffets and combining them into one large buffet which will be called Festival Buffet Restaurant; this space will be air conditioned by the end of 2016. There is also an Italian buffet (Il Piemonte) for dinner. Select Club guests have an additional restaurant choice (El Gaucho) for a breakfast buffet. A la cartes include Oriental (Asiana), steakhouse (El Gaucho), Brazilian Rodizio (Fogo de Janeiro), Mediterranean (Iztapalapa), French (Le Gourmet–adults-only), two Mexican restaurants (Riviera Maya and Gourmex), and casual fare (Blue Moon). While most a la cartes no longer require advance reservations, they are required at the Brazilian Rodizio. Additional meal choices include three snack bars, a dessert/coffee shop, a crêperie, and an option for quick Mexican food, Chayita Mexican Grill. There are six bars for all guests to enjoy including the lobby bar, disco/nightclub bar, theater bar, poolside bar, beach bar, and the new bar by the open-air stage. Select Club guests can enjoy a swim-up bar as well as two Premium bars, while teens have their own soda bar in their own disco. There is also a beachfront juice bar.
Entertainment: The new open-air stage hosts many of the nightly shows which were held in the theater, live music (reggae music on the beach and bands performing around the resort), movies in the theater or main square, fire show, and several theme nights including a beach party on Sunday night and Mexican theme night. There is also a sports bar as well as a disco which is open until 2 a.m. Teens have their own disco.