No Bueno: A Review of the Thompson Beach House in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
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To The Point
Thompson’s Playa hangout may have a “boutique” feel, but while it’s heavy on your wallet, it’s light on charm. Pros: Large base rooms, direct beach access, friendly waitstaff. Cons: Overpriced rates, “lifestyle fee,” bad check-in/out experience, sluggish Wi-Fi, hardly a tranquil hideaway.
With Thompson joining the Hyatt family following the acquisition of Two Roads Hospitality, we set out to review some of the top properties that we expected to soon be bookable with Hyatt points. Sadly, that’s not exactly how things panned out. One notable Thompson hotel didn’t make it on Hyatt’s list — the property I chose to review in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Hyatt wasn’t able to shed much light on the situation, only confirming that the Thompson Beach House and its sister Main House would not be participating in World of Hyatt. You’re not entirely out of luck, though — there’s a phenomenal Grand Hyatt just up the road, which I actually preferred to Thompson’s pricey beach pad (stay tuned for that review!).
At $307 for a base room, the Thompson Beach House is one of the priciest hotels in Riviera Maya — at least among those who don’t fall under the all-inclusive category, with bundled food, drinks and activities.
Taxes of a bit over $90 brought the one-night total just above $397, and then there was a $35 “lifestyle fee” on top of that, which included:
- Bike use (based on availability)
- Daily yoga classes
- Tequila tasting
- Wi-Fi and unlimited national, US and Canada calls
- Two daily bottles of water in the room
- Daily turndown service with Mexican treats
- One minifacial per stay per person based on availability
- Complimentary access for two to the Frida Kahlo Museum
Since I booked the stay through Hotels.com (via Hotels.com/venture) and paid with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, I effectively earned a 10% rebate in addition to the 10% I got back on the base rate from Hotels.com. The 10x miles with Hotels.com offer ends Jan. 31, 2020.
Generally, I recommend comparing rates through other booking platforms as well, including directly with the hotel. In this case, I had actually booked through Thompson’s website first, which was offering a special two-day package, but then I had to change my dates. I tried pulling up the reservation online, but the website kept giving me an error. So I emailed instead, but when I didn’t receive a response within 24 hours, I called the reservations line and had the agent cancel my stay entirely. Clearly, giving the hotel a bigger cut of the rate was more hassle than it was worth.
As I mentioned, there are actually two Thompson hotels in Playa — Main House, set a few blocks back from the water in the main part of town, with 92 rooms and suites, and Beach House, with 27 rooms and suites and directly on the beach, roughly halfway between the two Cozumel ferry piers. Both properties are very much right in the action, though, so you could easily walk to restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.
If you’re planning to swim, note that there was a ton of seaweed in this area of the beach when I went. It didn’t seem to be an issue for hotels a bit farther north, though, on the other side of the ferry pier.
I’m used to the process of checking in taking just a couple of minutes these days, assuming there isn’t a line — heck, some chains even let you complete the entire process via a mobile app, with your phone serving as your room key. At the Thompson Beach House, it took 20 minutes of confusion, calling around and, finally, an upsell — all without a single other guest in sight.
Somehow, Thompson had “lost” my Hotels.com reservation — they kept insisting that I had canceled my stay, since the only booking they could find was the one I had made directly (and later canceled). I pulled up the Hotels.com booking on my phone, but the clerk wasn’t impressed. No, no, it had been canceled, he insisted.
He picked up the phone a few times and finally managed to get things sorted out, explaining, “We’ve been having some crazy shits” with the booking system. All right, then!
He coded my keys, and, just before handing them over, offered an upgrade to an ocean-view suite for $60 or a panoramic corner suite for $80. I declined, but he said, actually, he had upgraded me anyway, because of all the trouble — my room exactly matched the photos for the Beach House Terrace King base room I had booked, though.
Moments later, a bellman swooped in and grabbed my small, lightweight rolling bag right out from under me, just after conveniently walking by the check-in desk and flashing a $10 bill. I insisted — twice — that I take my own bag, given that it was a very short walk and I’m entirely capable of carrying a small bag, but he firmly refused to return the bag, with a big grin. So he carried it the few steps to my room and I handed over the expected tip.
After a long journey from New York and quite a bit of check-in and luggage drama, I was finally in my Beach House Terrace King room.
Base rooms at this hotel measured 607 square feet, so they were quite large. There was a lot of open space.
The bathroom was sizable as well, with a double vanity, shower, water closet and a large soaking tub.
Amenities were from Brooklyn-based D.S. & Durga, and included soap, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion.
There were also cotton pads and swabs, but that was it on the amenities front.
There was a double closet between the bedroom and bathroom, along with a couple of branded robes.
The room itself really felt huge, especially considering I was staying alone. With a second bed, it could have easily accommodated two couples.
There was seating for four inside, just next to the sliding door, along with a table and chairs and a comfy lounge chair of sorts on the balcony.
I was assigned a room just above the lobby, on the first level with guest rooms. Still, I could see a sliver of ocean, plus the rest of the small hotel, including the pool and cabanas.
The room was especially noisy at night, though — music was blasting by the pool at 10pm, even though there wasn’t a single guest nearby, just as it had been throughout the day.
Food and Beverage
There was a ton to eat and drink just a few steps from the hotel, but there was a fully stocked (and expensive) minibar as well. Front-and-center snacks ranged from chips ($4) to chocolate ($8), along with a small bottle of Clase Azul tequila ($67) and Belvedere vodka ($50).
Below, a minifridge included waters and beers (most for $6) and half bottles of chardonnay ($50) and Champagne ($73). All prices also carried a 15% “gratuity.”
There were also two bottles of water in the bathroom, which were covered by the $35 lifestyle fee and replaced daily but hardly enough for even one person, considering there was no option of refilling them.
Given that I only had one night to experience the hotel, I decided not to venture out, so I made my way downstairs to C-Grill. I got a warm welcome and was offered a seat anywhere I liked.
For dinner, I started with a bottle of sparkling water ($5) and a margarita ($8), which was refreshing.
Then I decided to be adventurous, so I went with the raw lobster appetizer ($15.50), based on the waiter’s recommendation. I liked the presentation, but it tasted a bit too fishy to me.
For my entree, I was eyeing the whole catch of the day, which was described as “golden fish” with a pastor marinade. At $50, that was out of my solo-diner budget, though, so the waiter offered to do a filet prepared in the same style, instead. At $17, it wasn’t cheap, considering the prices at local restaurants, but, boy, was it delicious.
For breakfast the next morning, I walked the few blocks to the Main House so I could check out the scene there and catch the full breakfast at Cinco, the rooftop restaurant.
Again, I was the only one dining, perhaps because there were plenty of delicious, far-less-expensive eateries just a few steps away.
There wasn’t a buffet — everything is ordered a la carte — so I started with a fruit salad ($7) and Americano ($3.50).
Next, I had the chilaquiles ($10), with eggs on top. They were delicious, especially with the super-spicy sauce that came on the side.
Breakfast was pricey by local standards, but it quickly became clear that I had ordered a lot of food. I probably could have gotten out of there for closer to $10 and not gone hungry.
Wi-Fi was available free of charge — well, as part of the $35 fee — but I found it to be especially sluggish, making it hard to get much work done.
Most people aren’t coming to Mexico to use the Wi-Fi, though, and if some fun in the sun is what you’re after, Thompson has you covered there.
With just 27 rooms and suites, the Beach House was definitely on the quieter side — well, aside from the loud music. While guests staying here could use the Main House facilities, that wasn’t a reciprocal perk.
The beaches are public in Playa del Carmen, so the hotel set up daybeds and chairs a bit farther back from the water.
There were plenty of spots to lie out on, and this part of the beach didn’t seem to get overwhelmingly crowded.
I also ventured over to the Main House to check out the sprawling rooftop pool, which was very quiet soon after sunrise.
While it can be less expensive, and most of the amenities were on-site — such as a far larger pool and a fitness center — I’m not sure I’d want to spend hundreds of dollars a night for a room atop a shopping mall, with only limited views of the ocean.
As for that annoying $35 daily lifestyle fee, I tried to maximize it as best I could. The tequila tasting really felt like an afterthought — it ended up being fun and informative, but the bartender was just kinda winging it, and didn’t have anything set up before I appeared.
I couldn’t actually find the beach sunrise yoga class, but I did get the minifacial, which was a bit bizarre, hosted at a store in a mall off the main street and really only intended to sell the products they demoed for me.
At just over $430 for a one-night stay in a base room, after all of the various taxes and fees, I had very high expectations for the Thompson Beach House. Expectations that were not met. The check-in snafu was unfortunate but forgivable, though the staff didn’t make any attempt to make up for it. In fact, at checkout, I was charged for room service that I never ordered, and the clerk even argued with me, insisting that the signatures matched a bill I had signed from the restaurant (they weren’t even close). After I asked to escalate to a manager, she relented and removed the charge.
Everyone else I encountered was friendly enough, though, and my waiter, Adrien, at C-Grill was truly phenomenal, as was the bartender forced to put together an impromptu free tequila tasting, which the hotel advertised as a lifestyle-fee perk, seemingly without consulting him. There are definitely better options in Playa del Carmen to spend your hard-earned cash — and points. Plus, since the Beach House won’t be joining World of Hyatt after all, I can’t see myself returning to this property.
All photos by the author.
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