It’s almost the time of year where I find myself itching to get out of winter and fly somewhere warm and tropical. The Gran Bahia Principe resort on the Mayan Rivera is one of those resorts the consistently comes up as a budget vacation spot for last minute bookings- I find there’s always a good deal to be had staying here. We’ve been lucky enough to stay at this resort on multiple occasions and we think it’s a great place to ditch winter and play in the sun. The facilities and programming are perfect for kids and families, with so much to do and see.
The biggest thing to know about the this massive hotel, is that it is broken down into several resorts on one property – Bahia Principe Akumal, Bahia Principe Tulum and Bahia Principe Coba. There is also Sian-Kann which is adults only. We were grateful to have received a wristband to allow us to check out all areas of the resort, and loved features of each. We booked an ocean front room on the Tulum side- the Tulum section is great, lots of pools, beautiful grounds, well laid out with good food. The Coba side is not ocean front, but rather in behind the Akumal resort. The Coba section boasts the incredible kids water park, lots of pools and also features larger family suites compared to standard rooms. The Akumal side is the nicest of the three and has little extras like pool side drink and snack service, a nicer beach, prettier pools and better buffet. If you are staying in the Akumal side you have access to both other resorts, while if you are at Coba or Tulum, you may not enter the Akumal property. So after visiting them all, which one would I choose? Well, if the budget allowed I would choose the Akumal for all the extras and the better buffet, but to be honest we felt like both of the others were fabulous. My kids loved the water park at Coba, so we ended up there every afternoon. They also enjoyed the kids club at Coba the best, followed by the Club at Akumal. I liked being right on the beach at Tulum, so I enjoyed having our room there. But it is easy to get around the resort, there are trains leaving every few minutes to bring you wherever you may need to go, so don’t get too worried about where you are sleeping.
The beach runs along the resort and includes rocky areas and sections of pure white sand. You may have to move a bit to find the perfect location. There are sections of chairs that are reserved for those staying in that area of the hotel, but the beach and water are open to everyone. Around the pier there are so many fish to see, you don’t even need any snorkel gear to get up close. The ocean sports hut does have free snorkelling rentals if you’d like as well. I felt like the beach was really safe for children as they have put up sandbags to break the waves. Maybe a bit of eye sore if you’re picky, but I like being able to relax in the water with my kids without being worried about giant waves. If waves are your thing, there are sections of the beach that don’t have breakers as well. We didn’t bring water shoes, but I can see them being beneficial if you wanted to explore all areas of the beach. There are no complimentary sand toys, so make sure you bring some cheap ones along.
There are no shortage of pools at any of the three resorts. My kids LOVE swimming and spent a ton of time in the pools. Almost everyone has a kids “play ledge” or a shallow area, and they’re so big you never feel crowded. There’s multiple swim up bars and pool volley ball/basketball nets as well. Floaties are allowed in the pools, so be sure to pack one for lounging. Each resort also has an “activities pool” which hosts the different games and events the staff puts on- this may or may not be your thing. The Coba section also had a quiet adults only jacuzzi pool and a massive zero-entry family pool. It also was home to the massive water park.
The Water Park-
Seriously, how fun is this? They loved this place. With slides for every age it was a huge hit for all families we talked too. There’s ample shade and sun chairs around the park for parents to relax while the kids played. The only time it got busy is when one of the kids clubs showed up to play.
The Kid’s Club “Bahia Scouts”-
I have heard parents say “why would I drop my kids off at a kids club when we are on a FAMILY HOLIDAY?” Well, I get that. But I also like Jacuzzi pools and quiet time. And my kids LOVE the clubs. We didn’t drop them off every day all day, but did leave them for the morning every other day. They made new friends, made crafts, went to the water park, had sandcastle contests, watched a dolphin show, did scavenger hunts…. they did more then we would have done with them! We picked them up at lunch and we enjoyed the rest of the day together. Tim and I got some well-deserved relax time and were able to have conversations and read books. I call this a win-win. The club also had “Monkey’s Birthday” once a week at each of the resorts- there was a bouncing castle, party games and prizes, a piñata full of candy and of course, birthday cake. “Monkey” (a costumed man) danced along with kids. Of course, this was a huge hit. You don’t even have to put your kids in the club to enjoy the fun, you can join the party at the pool if you see it happening. All the activities are listed outside the clubs, so check them out and plan your week a bit in advance. My girls enjoyed the Coba club the best, probably because of the fabulous staff on site. I also enjoyed it was air conditioned so they could cool down and not spend every minute in the heat- the Tulum club is open air. At the end of our week the kids both got a t-shirt, which is a favourite pj top now. But if kid’s clubs aren’t your thing, there were so many family activities taking place around the resort as well.
The Bahia Principe has so much going on, there’s never a chance to be bored…unless you want to be, which I also highly encourage. On top of the pool games, the sports rentals, tennis and archery, there were also events every evening. We spent our evenings in the Tulum section, where there was always live music in the lobby bar along with a show in the theatre. We didn’t get to all the shows, but we did see the “circus show” (highly recommended with kids) and The Lion King (again, a fan favourite). There was face painting before the Lion King shows and a chance to meet the characters. There was also activities in the garden outside the lobby on several evenings- balloon artists, face painting, bouncy castles, giant outdoor movies on a drop screen with popcorn and treats, dance parties…they really cater to young families. I also never found any events too busy. Lots of kids go to bed early or families have dining reservations, so the crowd is always spread out. Some night we were ready for bed after our dinner too- we just played it by ear. However, the dining options were also a highlight of the trip.
So dining is an important part of nearly every trip. The food at the Bahia doesn’t disappoint. We found the buffet at Akumal better then those at Coba and Tulum- but there was nothing wrong with those buffets either- just don’t be expecting a gourmet meal. There was lots of variety but nothing you’ll write home about. I did make some epic salads and I loved the Mexican section of the buffet as well. During a week stay you receive 3 a’la carte meals. Our favourites were the Brazilian (unlimited meat sliced at your table), the Japanese (tepanayki style, cooked right in front of you with a show) and the Mexican (cause, well, it’s Mexico). It’s highly recommended to book your tables the night you arrive at the resort, they fill up quickly- you can wait in line to do this, or download the hotel app and book your tables as soon as you log in. Wifi is available for free in the lobby to do this. One night we didn’t have reservations and we didn’t want the buffet so we walked up to the Mexican Restaurant, hoping to tip the waiter for a table (this happens frequently if you follow along on trip advisor). We were offered a table on the beach if we purchased a bottle of wine. I think the cheapest bottle was about $12USD (which we didn’t even drink, but they sent it up to room that evening anyway). We figured an extra dinner on the beach was worth $12 and indeed, we had the best dining experience of our trip. The kids played while we relaxed, the weather was perfect and the food was delious. If you’re able, definitely try to get an outdoor table at the Mexican Restaurant. For lunches, we always ate at the beach buffet- no changing out of your swimsuit, lots of good variety for the kids (and it changed every day) and you can’t beat the view. There was also hard ice cream which was a huge hit for hot days. The kids ordered a ton of “smoothies” aka blended sugar juice, but the bartenders can add a banana to make it kinda healthy?? Another favourite was sparkling water with a bit a lime (essentially a virgin mojito).
All in all, I would definitely recommend this resort for a more budget-friendly family holiday. We never felt like we were at a low end resort by any means, but in comparisons to higher end vacation spots, you may notice a difference. The location is a bit far from the airport, but it was very close to the Tulum ruins and town, Xel-Ha and other tourist locations. We were able to take a Collectivo (local transportation- info here) everywhere we wanted to go and felt very safe at all times. The Akumal Forum on Trip Advisor is resource for specific questions about a trip to the hotel- there are threads about restaurant menus, nightly shows and activities. Very useful if you like to plan ahead and the information is more useful then hotel reviews. My kids have been begging to return- definitely paradise for them!
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