7 things to know before booking a stay at the all-inclusive Hilton Playa del Carmen
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About a year ago, I had my first Hilton all-inclusive experience with a stay at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort in Jamaica. There was room for improvement, particularly in the rooms and food and beverage areas, but I did ultimately enjoy my stay so I was willing to give the brand another shot.
My colleague Madison Blancaflor raved about her experience at the adults-only, all-inclusive Hilton Playa del Carmen, and specifically called out the excellent food, so I was excited to try that next. It’s owned and operated by the same company as the Hilton in Jamaica — Playa Resorts — so would my experience be any different in Mexico?
Fortunately, it was — and I can’t wait to plan my next stay there. Here’s what you need to know to plan your own.
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Cash rates for the most basic room, a junior suite, typically hover around $400 per night based on double occupancy. Alternatively, you could book your stay for 80,000 Hilton points per night, again based on double occupancy. That’s worth about $480 based on TPG valuations, so it might not always provide the best value, but is a nice option to have for those that want to book a complete vacation — including meals and activities — for $0 out of pocket.
Keep in mind that if you have Silver, Gold or Diamond Hilton elite status, you’ll receive your fifth night free when redeeming points. It’s easy to be a Hilton elite member since any of its cobranded credit cards, as well as The Platinum Card® from American Express, will give you automatic status.
- The food was delicious all-around. From made-to-order poke bowls to McDonald’s-like french fries (which is a compliment), everything I tasted was fresh and restaurant quality, which I can’t say about some other all-inclusives I’ve been to.
- The rooms were modern, yet felt warm and inviting. They offered all the technological features you’d expect in this day and age, like easily accessible power outlets, fast Wi-Fi and in-room tablets.
- Packed daily entertainment schedule so you’ll never get bored, even if you’re traveling solo.
- Walkable location — lots of restaurants and boutiques nearby, as well as the Quinta Alegria Shopping Mall, which is home to several big-name retailers.
Overall, the pros of this resort far outshine the cons. My only real gripe was that the beach was overrun with pounds of thick seaweed so it wasn’t exactly swimmable. However, this has been an issue for many resorts in the area, not just this Hilton. I also had a slight billing issue — which I wrote about here — but that was ultimately resolved.
The Hilton Playa del Carmen only welcomes adults 18 years or older. While not necessarily a quiet getaway, this definitely wasn’t a party hotel either. Expect to see bachelor and bachelorette parties but no raucous spring breakers.
The main pool deck was the center of the action. It was a lively scene with entertainment like dance competitions and loud music playing throughout the day. I generally didn’t mind the music but there were some songs, like “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses, that felt out of place.
That’s not to say you couldn’t still relax here. For those who wanted a break from the noise, there was a tranquil relaxation pool tucked away in a quieter corner of the property.
Overall, everyone was simply there to have a good time. Although people took advantage of the open bar, no one was stumbling to their rooms.
As a Hilton Diamond member, I was upgraded to a room with an ocean view. There was also a “Thank you for your loyalty” ribbon wrapped around the door, but everything else about it was the same as a standard room.
While I didn’t spend much time in the room, it was spacious and well appointed. It was modern, yet featured a unique design with warm wood finishes, leather headboards and tropical green accents, giving a real sense of place. And although Hilton did away with automatic daily housekeeping at most hotels, my room was still meticulously cleaned every day without having to ask.
The bed was the perfect balance of firm and soft and I appreciated the easy access to the abundance of power outlets and light switches, as well as a tablet for ordering room service and getting hotel information. There was a comfy sofa for relaxing, as well as a round table for dining or working.
The room also featured a large hot tub right next to the bed. While you don’t get that at your average Hilton, I personally didn’t care to use it and thought the placement was a bit odd.
Since this is an all-inclusive resort, everything in the minibar was available free of charge. It was replenished daily with Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Tecate beer, bottled water, peanuts and potato chips.
The balcony was nice, but the view of the ocean was somewhat obstructed. “Partial ocean view” seemed like a more fitting name for the room. Although I didn’t use it, the balcony was also furnished with two chairs and a small round table.
Dining and drinking
The food ended up being a highlight of my stay. There were a whopping nine dining outlets to choose from, though one came at an additional cost:
- 24-hour lounge (self-serve snacks and drinks).
- Asiana (Asian fusion; open for dinner).
- Barefoot (healthy grab-and-go fare).
- Chef’s Plate (formal dinner; additional cost).
- Kalamata (Mediterranean; open for breakfast and dinner).
- Maria Petrona (Mexican; open for dinner).
- Pelicanos (Caribbean fusion; open for breakfast, lunch and dinner).
- Rincon Mexicano (Mexican and pizza; open for lunch).
- Spice (buffet; open for breakfast and lunch).
All restaurants required reservations for dinner so your best bet would be to get that out of the way when checking in.
Everything I ate during my stay was delicious and was of restaurant quality. It was also nice to see lots of vegetarian and gluten-free options available. Some standout dishes included the following:
- Sushi at Asiana.
- Fish ceviche at Pelicanos.
- Poke bowl and acai bowl at Barefoot.
- Grilled salmon and flank steak at Maria Petrona.
- Tacos at Rincon Mexicano.
Of course, the expansive breakfast buffet at Spice was also a favorite, featuring made-to-order omelets, French toast, pancakes and waffles, Mexican specialties, a mouth-watering selection of tropical fruits, a variety of cheeses and more.
There were bars at every turn, including a swim-up bar at the main pool, a stylish cocktail bar and a tequileria. The liquor selection included Bacardi rum, Absolut vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jose Cuervo tequila, Johnnie Walker Red Label whisky and Jack Daniels whiskey, but you needed to explicitly ask for them if you didn’t want the house brands.
There was also Aromas, a coffee shop that served pastries, sandwiches and ice cream from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Twenty-four-hour room service was included for all guests. In addition to the usual fare, it offered some unique multicourse meals, including a vegan Indian package, which came with a beet and macadamia cheese salad, fries topped with cashew cheddar and a vegetable curry.
You won’t run out of things to do if you decide to spend your entire time on the property.
Most people spent the majority of their days at the main pool. Although there was an abundance of cabanas surrounding the pool, they came at an additional cost. The free chairs were behind the cabanas, farther away from the water, and most were claimed by 7 a.m., so get here early.
The main pool deck had a lively atmosphere with programming throughout the day, but there was also the tranquil relaxation pool for those seeking a quiet respite. Although I didn’t indulge in any services, there was also a spa with a cold plunge pool, hydrotherapy tub, sauna and steam room.
Guests also had direct access to the beach, though unfortunately it was overrun with seaweed and rocky once you got in the water so it wasn’t ideal for swimming. There was an abundance of chairs and cabanas on the beach, and unlike at the pool area, they were all free of charge. As a Hilton elite member, I had access to a designated section on the beach, which offered its own bar and beachside food service.
Given how much I ate, I wanted to work off the calories in the gym, but I found the hours to be very limited — 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Personally, I prefer spending my days in the sun and working out in the evening.
Instead, I got my workout in at the rooftop tennis court, which didn’t have set hours.
The evening entertainment also didn’t disappoint. I particularly enjoyed the “silent disco” party.
I loved staying at the Hilton Playa del Carmen and would definitely recommend it to others. It checked all the boxes for an ideal all-inclusive resort experience. The food was terrific, the rooms were modern and had a sense of place and there was plenty to do. Equally important, the resort struck the perfect balance between fun and relaxation. The main drawback was the seaweed on the beach, but that’s been an ongoing issue for the entire region and shouldn’t be as bad at other times of the year. The elite perks were also limited but that’s expected from all-inclusive resorts.
Featured photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.
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