Riviera Maya Trip Reports: Gran Bahia Principe Akumal

Gran Bahia Principe Akumal, Pool, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Gran Bahia Principe Akumal, Riviera Maya

Gran Bahia Principe Akumal Official Site

March 2007
Jouni & family

Chose Bahia Principe Akumal based on nolitours website search where it was listed under “great for families” and a co-worker recommendation.

Stayed from March 5 to 12.

Booked via Nolitours and flew Air Transat from Toronto via Montreal (was rerouted one week prior). Add a few hours to the flight, but the crew was great and it went pretty well.

Travelled with two girls (6, 7) and boy (1) and we were nervous about how things would work out, and we were pleasantly surprised how great it turned out.

  • Two rooms on ground floor with door between was provided as requested
  • Good quality baby crib was provided in room with fresh linens
  • Kid’s club open all day was great, and evening program
  • Lot of kids to play with (one kid was from same class as daughter)
  • Lots of food choices for kids (kid’s corner in buffet, ice cream machine, hamburgers, vegetables, fruit, nutella-like spread)
  • Staff was very helpful and warm (picking their toys for ex) One night a guy brought in a helium balloon to keep Max amused

To keep this short and readable, I’ll say that just about every good thing I have read about this place in the reviews is TRUE, and to add you really just have to visit to appreciate the beauty of the place (architecture, food, nature, layout, service, etc.).

Beds are firm (how we like them), beach is semi-rocky (but there are non-rocky sections), and the place is huge (the way we like it – for walking and exploring). Who’s afraid of speedos and breasts?

Here’s a list of tips based on my experiences and talking to others and staff:

  • If bringing toddler, bring stoller with good sunshade/windscreen. Larger wheels if you want to get near the beach.
  • Reserve chairs early (6-8 AM) even though the sign says not to do it – seems to be an ingrained practice
  • Bring lots of US 1 dollar and 5 dollar bills for tips
  • If sitting with kids, take the dining room on the north end (less likely to disturb others with more remote tables, and a mariachi-free zone for sleeping baby)
  • Put tip in min-bar fridge as well as on table for cleaning staff (there’s a separate person for the fridge)
  • Use porter at airport and tip them (they won’t scam you)
  • Stroller will not appear on conveyer belt – it will be with an airline person in the area (there’s a desk)
  • Get rental car at hotel if using for day trips. Very convenient and cheaper than booking online from Canada.
  • Make sure you understand which restaurants you can go to and when: it’s not always clear and sometimes even the staff are confused. Went to Tequila for lunch buffet and were turned away – for Diamond Club only but this is NOT mentioned in the “guide” book
  • Go in Sept-Oct or May and save $, get more sun, and avoid crowds
  • Bring swimming shoes like crocs, and walking shoes for exploring
  • Save some $ by shopping outside the hotel, but the hacienda prices are not crazy by Canadian standards – just not market price and no bargaining
  • Bring cooler mug for beach
  • Don’t miss the “Swing Bar” on the beach
  • If no time to drive/take bus to Playa del C, there are some stores in Akumal
  • Coba seems calmer (not as windy) and quieter than Akumal. Seems good for couples looking for deep R&R.
  • Tulum is kind of like a hotel/golf course on the beach. It may appeal to seniors. Great lobby bar with open air.
  • Akumal seems good for families and all round for those who want to be near the beach, and the “hub”
  • Mix seems to be Canadians (English and French), then Italians, some Brits and other Europeans and then a few USA.
  • Safe key is 4.50 USD per day
  • Dry cleaning is 55 USD for pants and shirt
  • Quiet at night since live music and disco are spaced away from villas and in general there are very few of the 20ish partiers who’d normally be walking around at night yelling
  • On fourth stay you get the VIP wristband and resulting treatment
  • Send email to them before you go if you want anything specific
  • Kids on a plane: bring many dollar store amusements for toddlers, gameboys and portable dvd were also very useful, and snacks and activity books

In summary, I would fully recommend this resort to families and couples looking for a relaxing getaway. My only peeve is that I wish there was one website or brochure that clearly explained the system for what are allowed to go into for all meals with what access levels.

PS: I went to Yucatan last time as backpacker 15 years ago and Playa 5th ave was single dirt road, and there was ONE place to change money near the pier. Was kind of sad to see the old place gone, but it is still definitely your Cancun alternative.

Have Baby Will Travel, starfish, graphics


April 2007
Joe & Family (Children 3 & 10mos.)

What a wonderful experience!

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for posting their respective travel tips as this made our experience that much better. This is a bit of a lengthy review, but I wanted to cater it to the people who are thinking of traveling to BPA with young kids in tow.

My wife and two children (ages 3 and 10mths) traveled to BPA from April 14-28. We were lucky to have traveled with good friends of ours who also had two kids of their own (ages 4 and 2).

Booking: Our trip was with Transat Holidays. Although we were apprehensive to bring our young kids, we have nothing but good things to say about our experience with Transat. It is better to spend the minimal fee $30/person (return) to pre-book your airplane seat. We chose seats 4ABC (bulk head at the front of the plane). Transat flies either the A330 or A310, so you won’t go wrong with seats in row 4. You might as well get the extra legroom while avoiding the additional Club Class fee. When at the airport, do not line up at the main line. Proceed to the club class section as Transat employees will fast track all travelers with young kids. My family checked in within 10 minutes, while the other people lined up for at least 50minutes. This is true for both Toronto and Cancun.

Airport Transfer: We took some advice and booked with Cancun Valet. Since our kids would have been in the airport and on the plane for the better part of 7 hours, we wanted to expedite our transfer to BPA. It is definitely worth the ($140/return) money. Cancun Valet even had the two baby seats we had requested. We were on the road within 5 minutes of retrieving our luggage.

Villa: Take the time to email the resort two weeks prior to leaving so you can book the Villa of your choice. We were in the Golden section and requested ocean view. They did not have any problem accommodating our request; however, please keep in mind that on occasion they are unable to fulfill this request. We stayed in Villa 66. Spectacular! We were only a few feet from the sea – so, if you’re interested in prime views you will not go wrong with Villas 65-67. The Villas do not have elevators, so keep this in mind when traveling with kids and strollers.

Pools: The pools were very clean and only a stone’s throw from the sea. After reading the reviews about people “laying claim” to pool side palapas, I was prepared. The readers were right. BPA staff did not enforce the practice of placing your towel to lay claim to a chair. Why fight it? You might as well play the game and enjoy your vacation! I was fortunate that my kids woke up early, so I casually walked to the main pool at 6:30am and placed my towel at the palapa of my choice. Since I was already at the main lobby, I was able to get an English newspaper and then walked back to Villa 66. There’s no rush so you might as well enjoy yourself and stop at the 24hours snack bar for a nice coffee, fresh fruit and a ham and cheese croissant.

Buffet: We were two families traveling with 4 kids under the age of 5. I don’t think we would have lasted 10 minutes in an a-la-carte restaurant!! The buffet food was good and it catered to many different tastes, I have to say I was a “little” turned off on it by day 14. Don’t get me wrong – the food was good, but there was little variation to the theme and menu. I used the Barcelу Maya Beach complex as a point of reference in this area as my wife and I also stayed there in 2000 and 2004. They had theme nights throughout the week. In order to change things a bit we ate at the Coba. This was a nice change of pace for us and the kids.

Beach: The beach was nice. Make sure you stay in the area just beside the pier where the fish are. It is a great area for the kids as the water is much calmer. As with the pool palapas, you have to “play the game”, get up early and lay claim to your spot otherwise all prime spots will be gone by 8am.

Evening Entertainment: With young kids, we didn’t expect to stay up late to watch any of the shows; however, we had a blast watching my 3yr old son at the kid’s disco. It helped us to drain the last remaining ounce of energy in his body, so that he had a great sleep at night. We found Coba’s evening entertainment much more energetic so if you’re eating your evening buffet at Coba, take the time to stay a while to watch the show in the courtyard.

Resort size: Yes, this is a big resort, but it is not so big that you can’t enjoy the walk from Akumal to Tulum. We only took the trolley twice to visit the Hacienda (we told my son it was Thomas the train, so that was his highlight) and walk the rest of the time. When traveling with two stroller sized kids, spend the additional money to buy a double jogging stroller with large wheels. It was much easier to push especially when lugging kids, towels and toys to the beach. The grounds are immaculate, so we took advantage of the pedestrian paths that meander between the three resorts. There is also a path between Akumal and Tulum where you can walk to the Hacienda in 25 minutes. We took advantage of this nice walk to get the kids to take their afternoon nap.

Staff: The staff was all superb! Although tipping is not mandatory, we chose to give a little each day.

Misc: Take the time to pack all the medicines, sunscreens, baby foods, wipes and diapers that you need for the duration of your stay. The Hacienda may have them, but the prices (even with the favourable exchange rate) are very expensive. The Hacienda has wipes should you run out, but hey do not carry any formula or food, so please plan accordingly in this area. On a final note, my wife had a terrible sinus infection when we arrived, but she was able to visit the doctor, and he prescribed antibiotics that quickly made her feel much better.

This is a great resort for kids as there are many activities that would keep them entertained from morning to night. Remember you are traveling in Mexico, so it is not fair to compare everything to what you are used to at home. You won’t go wrong if you do your homework, travel with an open mind and enjoy yourself. Happy traveling!!

Have Baby Will Travel, starfish, graphics


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