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The Hilton Playa del Carmen is a new member of the Hilton portfolio though the hotel has been around for a while (it was formerly known as the The Royal Playa Del Carmen). It’s one of the few all-inclusive resorts offered by Hilton and we recently stayed there in a junior suite and had an overall positive stay though there were a few notable negatives. In this review, I’ll go over everything including things like the dining, pool, gym, and of course the rooms.
We booked our stay with Hilton Honors points. The standard room award was 80,000 Hilton points per night and since this is an excluded resort, you cannot use your free night certificates to book it. This is important to know because it’s possible a polite yet uninformed Hilton agent could book you for this hotel and not realize it’s excluded, which you guessed it — happened to me.
We booked six nights so we were able to get the 5th night free and our total came out to 400,000 Hilton Honors points. The room would have cost over $3,500 so we got over .8 cents per point in value which is fantastic for Hilton points.
We also had two Hilton Aspire cards (one of the best hotel credit cards) so were able to use the $250 resort credits for $500 worth of spa treatment and a romantic dinner on the beach — more on how we used those credits below.
Because we had Diamond status with Hilton, we were given a $200 resort coupon for different items as shown below. We ended up using the spa discount and the discount on the romantic beach dinner (which we stacked with the Aspire credits). With the points and credits, we easily topped $4,000 in free travel and perks on this trip. Plus there’s just something nice about using points at an all-inclusive — it just feels that much more valuable.
The area (5th Ave)
Playa del Carmen is like sleepier version of Cancun (in a good way). It’s about a 45 minute drive south of Cancun and you’ll likely have to fly through CUN to get there. The Hilton Playa del Carmen is located within a few seconds from the famous Fifth Avenue where you can do a lot of shopping and check out different bars and restaurants (even though this is an all-inclusive property).
The locals can be a little aggressive when it comes to trying to sell you things in this area but a quick “no gracias” and lack of eye contact can make things easier for you (sunglasses really help, too). There’s a lot to see on Fifth Ave and you can click here for a 5th Ave shopping guide.
As soon as you pull up to the resort you should be greeted by the staff who will jump on the opportunity to help check you in. The lobby area is very impressive with a beautiful stained-glass dome ceiling and you’ll be hit with a nice breeze as you embark from your vehicle and make your way to the check-in desks.
We arrived around noon so we weren’t able to get in our room until 3pm but they still provided us with bracelets so we could use the hotel’s facilities. Since we were Hilton Diamond members, we were taken to the special check-in room, where they explained all of the different facilities and restaurants to us.
From the time of check-in to check-out the service at the hotel was fantastic. Even though I do have some complaints about things like dining, the service level during our stay really helped to make this a more memorable stay.
From there we had a couple of hours to kill. So we first ventured to the main lobby area. This is a wide open area where you can find the Lobby bar and where a lot of the entertainment takes place at night. It’s also got an amazing view of the ocean and the pool.
The corridors throughout the hotel are very elegant and charming and something I appreciated about the property. Everything also feels very open and refreshing, especially when you get hit with a nice sea breeze.
Many of the exterior corridors are lush with vegetation and also nicely shaded so you can avoid some of the burning sun. It feels very peaceful as you make your way through the different passageways (which can be very tight and can take you a little while to get used to).
The grounds are kept in excellent condition and as a result it’s a beautiful place to stroll around when outside, too.
Unlike beaches in other resorts hot-spots like Cabo, the beach is swimmable and there were lots of people enjoying the beach and water while we were there even though the surf was red-flagged almost every day. The beach is next to the ferry pier which is great if you want to get over to Cozumel but it also means a lot of foot traffic from there (which is at least good for people watching).
Hilton Playa del Carmen junior suite
We had a junior suite with a garden view for the duration of our stay. Even though we were Diamond members, we weren’t able to score a better upgrade since this was peak-season and also a longer stay of six nights.
The rooms are very spacious and elegantly designed. I’m not a huge fan of the opulent design when it comes to things like the columns but this place was called the Royal and it definitely fit the bill.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the huge whirlpool tub. It’s massive and takes a while to fill up as you’d probably imagine. The room definitely has a romantic vibe to it and so if that’s what you’re looking for, you should love it. Be sure to tell the hotel if you have anything coming up and they will likely add a romantic touch to your room for your special occasion.
Surprisingly, they don’t store spirits in the room. If you wan’t liquor, you’ll need to call in and order it by the shot (they will serve you up to six shots or something like that). That’s very different from all of the other all-inclusive resorts I’ve stayed at that supply you with at least mini-liquor bottles.
They also are pretty light on the non-alcoholic drinks and snacks they provide. This wasn’t a huge deal to me but it made it feel like the Hilton Play del Carmen may not be as well-resourced as other all-inclusive resorts.
The bathroom is pretty standard with a nice and spacious shower with two shower heads.
The room does have a couple of unique features. First, room service will deliver your trays (through a window that you can lock ), next to your front door. This was my first time seeing that set-up and I thought it was pretty cool.
The second thing is that you can use a tablet to do things like order room service and to view menus and activities. This is a great feature that helps you have a better understanding of everything the hotel has to offer. So I recommend that you get acquainted with it.
The balconies are spacious and come with hammocks you can set up (or get tangled up in like me). Our view from the room was okay — we mostly could only see the interior courtyard but we did a glimpse of the pool and the ocean (when leaning over the balcony).
We thought about booking the swim-up suites but I’m not a huge fan of them due mostly to limited privacy. But if direct swimming pool access is your thing, it could be great.
Hilton Play del Carmen dining
I’ve been to a few all-inclusive resorts and one thing that I’ve noticed is that the dining typically isn’t the best. You can usually find decent meals but overall you’re usually looking at pretty average quality meals, unless you’re paying top dollar.
At the Hilton Play del Carmen, I found the dining to be pretty average to below average at times. Not every restaurant was open during our stay, but I’ll walk you through the places we tried and give you some of my input. You can find out more about the restaurants here.
Spice is probably where you will be eating most of your meals at breakfast. It’s a large buffet restaurant that serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
At breakfast, it has a lot of variety to offer and you should be able to find just about anything, including omelets made to order. It’s a good place to start out your day but it wasn’t the best all-inclusive breakfast I’ve had, since I’ve had better pastries and items made to order like waffles, crepes, etc.
I also wasn’t crazy about the lunch or dinner options, which I found a bit bland. However, there are a lot of different things to choose from and the made to order pasta and protein station (burgers, chicken, etc.) weren’t bad, so you could probably put together a decent meal with enough trial and error.
Asiana “offers upscale, contemporary gourmet dining with the fresh, bright taste influences from Japan, China and the rest of Southeast Asia.” This was our favorite restaurant by far and we tried it out for dinner twice (though it’s also open for lunch). I really enjoyed the teriyaki chicken and duck and the soups weren’t bad either.
The restaurant is actually just outside the hotel but we felt this place offered some high quality options — definitely check this place out.
“This restaurant specializes in upscale gourmet Mexican-French fusion cuisine, served in the warm and lively atmosphere of a traditional Mexican hacienda.” Maria Marie has a nice vibe to it with beautiful murals and I was pretty happy with the meal we had there, which consisted of a salad, salmon, and creme brûlée. I would say this is a must-stop for dinner along with Asiana.
Pelicanos offers a “selection of à la carte Caribbean-fusion cuisine ranging from spicy to light and fresh.” We ate here for lunch a number of times and thought the food was pretty good. It never quite blew me away but it’s a good place to get served up some fresh and tasty seafood items and it has good views of the beach.
This place has a pretty good taco bar worth checking out but they’ve got a lot of other Mexican food options like enchiladas and burritos. As a Texas my standards for Mexican food is pretty high and the food just didn’t really have what I was looking for.
Barefoot is located near the main pool and they offer smoothies, freshly made pizza, Italian paninis, locally sourced greeneries and a variety of ready-to-go snacks. The pizzas were pretty good for a quick-bite but the smoothies were a let down (you’ll want to ask for extra ice).
Royal Coffee House
Closed during our stay.
Closed during our stay.
24 hour lounge
The 24 hour lounge is a great place to go in for refreshments and snacks. You can pour you up a soda, make a real drink, or just find some snacks to much on. There’s a pool table in there, TVs, and a lot of people gathered in there to play cards and socialize during our stay. It really is a cool little lounge and everybody has access to it (though this would be a nice exclusive Honors lounge).
The food we ordered through room service was mediocre. It’s pretty much snack-bar food and none of it stood out, including the desserts. Don’t go expecting too much with room service as you can tell from the photo below….
Chef’s Plate is the upscale restaurant at the hotel. We used our Hilton Aspire credits to book a romantic dinner on the beach which I believe serves food from the Chef’s Plate. Once all the onlookers stopped gawking at us, the dining on the beach experience was romantic and the food was flavorful (the scene looked much better once the sun set than the photo below shows).
Hilton Playa del Carmen pools
Like many other all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, the pools here are big and there’s often a lot going on during the day. They’ve got things like water aerobics, volleyball, cornhole, and other weird games and things going on. They also have a swim-up bar you can take advantage of and another bar right outside the pool with some cool swings.
The pools are pretty spacious but competition for the best chairs is fierce. You’ll need to get out extra early and reserve your spot if you want a chair near the pool.
This hotel would also be an excellent place to learn how to scuba dive. They have a special pool for learning that even has a clear side panel so you can watch others learn their skills. It’s really cool and would be way better than doing that discover diving course in a shallow pool (like I’ve had to do before).
Hilton Playa del Carmen Spa (SPAzul)
We tried out the spa (known as SPAzul) and Brad and I had different experiences. I wasn’t feeling my massage that much but Brad had nothing but great things to say about his. So it was just a little hit and miss for us. The spa facility is very nice though and we had the hot tub area to ourselves which also included a sauna and plunge pool. The spa gets great reviews so you’ll probably have a great experience — just be very vocal about your preferences. Also, ask about a discount after getting your first treatment!
Hilton Playa del Carmen Gym
The gym was right next to our room which was very convenient. It’s a nice gym with plenty of equipment (free weights, benches, machines, cardio, etc.) and so you should be able to get a good pump in while on your trip.
Overall, this was an average to slightly above average all-inclusive resort in my eyes. It’s a beautiful property with a great staff who are also very friendly. But when it comes to the food, I just wasn’t feeling like they had a lot of high quality options. But with that said, I did enjoy the romantic side of this resort and it has a great location. So I’m not dying to stay here again but it was definitely not a bad stay — just average.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.