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TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen and his family recently spent three nights at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort in Mexico’s gorgeous Riviera Maya. Read on for his impressions. (All photos are by the author.)
Earlier this year, I realized I still had some vacation days left over and a JetBlue flight credit that would expire at the end of February. Not one to miss out on a quick getaway, my wife and I quickly got to work investigating possible vacation destinations to visit from South Florida. We eventually settled on flights to Cancun and three nights at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort, a Hyatt brand with which I had limited experience. Fortunately, the resort did not disappoint.
The Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen is a Category 5 property, requiring 20,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points for a free night. Room rates for our dates were $302 per night ($384.38 per night after taxes and fees), so this would’ve been a great use of the Points + Cash redemption option of just 10,000 points + $125 per night. The thing was I didn’t have any Diamond Suite Upgrades left to use and wanted to keep the cash in my pocket for on-property purchases like spa treatments and dining. I also had a bunch of Hyatt Gold Passport Points in my account from last summer’s promotion, so I decided to redeem 60,000 for our three-night stay. This gave me a redemption value of ~1.92 cents per point, just above TPG’s most recent valuation.
If I had been short on Hyatt points, the quickest way to boost your account is by transferring Ultimate Rewards points earned on cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. You also have the option of utilizing the two free night certificates earned as a sign-up bonus on the Hyatt Credit Card (after you make $1,000 in purchases within the first three months after opening your account), however I’d recommend saving those certificates for top-tier properties like the Park Hyatt Zurich.
Check-In and Lobby
Our short flight from Fort Lauderdale was on time and the immigration and baggage retrieval process was relatively painless, which is much appreciated when traveling with a 15-month-old! We had prearranged our transportation with Cancun-Cab, paying $120 for a round-trip private transfer to the Grand Hyatt, including a car seat for the little one. I was glad to have done this given the craziness of the arrivals area, though it did hurt us a bit on the way home when our flight was delayed (more on that to come).
The drive south took about 50 minutes, and we were soon pulling up to sloped driveway leading up to the Grand Hyatt. We were immediately greeted by name by a friendly bellman, a simple yet much-appreciated customer service gesture made possible by the quick security check at the entrance.
The open air lobby offered a peek of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, while the exposed wooden beams on the ceiling felt simultaneously contemporary and classic.
Given the elevation rise of the driveway, the lobby is actually located on the third floor of the property, and while I wanted to keep on walking straight to check out the beach, we instead made an immediate right to the elevators so our check-in could be processed in the comfort of the club lounge. The outgoing agent welcomed us into the lounge and offered us cold bottles of water while he completed the check-in process, which only took a few minutes. He gave us our keys along with a sheet that summarized the benefits I’d enjoy as a Diamond Hyatt Gold Passport member.
Since this was an award redemption, we were booked into a standard Grand King room. I could’ve redeemed an extra 7,000 points per night for a Club Room, but I knew we’d have club access included with my status and while we were hoping for an upgrade to a larger room, that wasn’t possible. The hotel was quite full and they’d deliberately kept us on the south wing of the property because of the nightclub just to the north; given that we were traveling with Evy, our young daughter, we were very appreciative of this!
We were assigned room 480, a Club King room located just around the corner from the club lounge. The open air hallway actually wound around the outside of the building, ensuring that all rooms in this wing faced toward the interior gardens and offered at least a partial ocean view rather than the view of the adjacent hotel to the south of the Grand Hyatt.
The heavy wooden door opened into a short hallway, with the relatively large bathroom immediately to the left.
The left side of the bathroom consisted of two separate rooms for the toilet and the shower.
Though it seems rather insignificant, the shower had two key characteristics that I’ve rarely seen in other hotels. First, when it came to dispensing water, we had the choice between a rain shower (my choice), wall-mounted shower head (my wife’s choice) or handheld (perfect for bathing Evy). More importantly, the shower area was an inch lower than the rest of the bathroom, ensuring that the water actually stayed contained rather than dousing the floor. What a novel concept!
There was also a small vanity with a wooden stool and a built-in dresser opposite the sinks.
As you walked down the hallway leading to the main area of the room, there was another large dresser on the left. There was also a small alcove that housed the minibar and Nespresso machine.
It’s worth noting that the safe, though large enough to fit my MacBook Air, was situated right above the refrigerated minibar items and thus remained quite warm due to the motor of the fridge.
Just past the minibar, the room opened up significantly. Given that the rooms are angled toward the ocean, the floor plan was a bit odd given the lack of conventional rectangular boundaries. The king-sized bed faced the sliding glass doors and was quite comfortable.
There were two different seating “areas” between the bed and the sliding glass doors. To the left-hand side of the room was a wide armchair, a small, circular table and a modest yet sufficient flatscreen TV that swung out for easier viewing when relaxing in the bed.
On the other side was a small table with two chairs and a frosted blue light suspended from the ceiling.
This was the closest thing in the room to a desk, though I’d guess that most guests of the hotel aren’t visiting with the hopes of being productive.
At 409 square feet, the room wasn’t enormous by any stretch, but did feel open and airy thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows that led onto the colorful balcony. The space was finished with another armchair and table plus a daybed that everyone enjoyed, Evy included.
The daybed was also perfectly situated to take in the view of the gardens and the ocean beyond.
Unfortunately, Evy’s crib was not pre-placed in the room, but a bellman brought it promptly upon request.
All in all, the room was quite comfortable. I did appreciate the multiple standard and USB outlets near the bed, and it was nice to have a comfortable balcony on which to relax. While I would’ve appreciated a larger room, the hotel was quite full, and being just a short stroll from the Grand Club lounge was very convenient, especially with a newly mobile toddler who loves to walk by herself!
Amenities and Service
Speaking of the Grand Club lounge, we spent plenty of time there given the array of amenities and extensive food and drink options that were put out during the day. Despite the high occupancy, the lounge never felt overcrowded. It also provided numerous seating options, including comfortable couches, high-top tables and a roughly even split between indoor and al fresco choices.
Breakfast was served from 7am–11:30am, with a variety of juices, pastries, breads, yogurt, meats, cheeses, cereals and scrambled eggs.
Though the breakfast spread didn’t change much each day, it was still varied enough for three mornings. However, it might get a bit old for longer stays.
However, the evening buffet, served nightly from 6pm–9pm, was the exact opposite. We had grand plans to explore Playa Del Carmen and enjoy dinner on the pedestrian-only La Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), but the diverse food options and complimentary wine, beer and spirits kept us on the property.
Here’s a sample of the kinds of food that were served during our stay:
- Salmon sliders
- Chicken paninis
- Seafood ceviche
- Pasta primavera
- Roasted vegetables with feta and balsamic vinegar
- Multiple types of chips & dips and breads & spreads
The lounge was also open throughout the day, providing snacks (like cookies and other local treats) and access to drinks like bottled water and canned soda. Even more incredible? The fridge was stocked with multiple types of cold beer, and these were available all day (7am–11pm).
Even though my welcome letter indicated that “all items, including food and beverages, are to be consumed inside the Grand Club lounge,” the agent actually encouraged us to bring some beers down to the pool, a bending of the rules that I happily embraced.
Speaking of the pool, it was actually a complex of multiple infinity pools complete with several chaise lounges that sit in six inches of water. There’s also an adults-only pool near The Grill at 1-26. Unfortunately, the weather was relatively cool and the smaller pools aren’t heated, so keep that in mind when you’re planning your trip.
The beach area of the resort is also quite nice, with lounge chairs and umbrellas included for guests at no charge. However, Evy isn’t a fan of the beach or the ocean, so after a quick walk up to the water line, we were ready to return to the property.
There are two full-service restaurants on the grounds of the Grand Hyatt, and we enjoyed lunch at La Cocina during our first full day of the trip (both restaurants are on OpenTable as well). While it was more expensive than our lunch on 5th Avenue the following day, we found the food to be fantastic. My wife enjoyed her shrimp and chorizo burger, and the fresh-made guacamole was heavenly.
Another terrific aspect of the resort is El Paseo, the graduated series of dining and shopping venues between the lobby and the pool area. Designed as the hotel’s own La Quinta Avenida, it includes a coffee shop, casual Mexican cafe, gift shop and bar, which hosted a live Oscar watch party the last night of our stay.
The on-property Cenote Spa was also one of the most unique spas we’d ever seen. Built to model the area’s eponymous sinkholes, the central area of the spa is a circular pool surrounded by chaise lounges and lit with soft, glowing candles.
Above the pool, the walls converged to a small opening that made up one level of El Paseo, providing natural light to the subterranean spa.
The spa also included a lap pool and eight treatment rooms. My wife’s 90-minute Mayan massage and 30-minute complimentary agave facial (a special package during our stay) were fantastic.
Besides the on-property amenities, we found the resort ideally located to explore the main drag of the city, and it’s also an easy jumping-off point for local attractions, including the Mayan ruins of Tulum — you can catch a local bus, though we joined the locals on the colectivo for just a few dollars each way.
As I mentioned before, we did have a small hiccup with our return airport transportation. Our flight was delayed by two hours, yet the company was unwilling to adjust our pick-up time without charging an additional $50. We eventually compromised to postpone our departure by one hour without a fee, though we still spent more than three hours waiting around the Cancun airport. Thank goodness for the Citi Prestige Card and the lounge access it provides; even though the Mera Business Lounge wasn’t anything special, it sure beat spending all that time in the terminal.
We were excited for our trip to Playa Del Carmen, and our stay at the Grand Hyatt didn’t disappoint. It’s in a great location and provides a wealth of options to stay busy on property. Given its proximity to Cancun and the fantastic Grand Club lounge, we will likely be back very soon.
Have you stayed at the Grand Hyatt Playa Del Carmen? Tell us about your experience below.
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