This is my 1st time to the Sandos PlayaCar Resort, however I have stayed several times at their sister resort The Sandos Caracol, which is about 15km north of this property on the other side of Playa Del Carmen. Many things I will referance in comaprison between the two in the hopes that I could help someone determine which of the two is better for them. I personally Prefer the Caracol, but the Playacar may be better suited for you. The Playacar (PC) is a generic name for the entire property and was split into three areas in a long 2 km narrow property. The actual Playacar (Playa=Beach in Spanish) is the part closest to the beach and is large apartment style buildings. In the middle is the Haciendas, smaller 4 plex style bungalows with private pools. The furthest from the beach was the Riviera part which was again split into two areas a family area and the adult only area.
The resort itself is nicely located 2km south of Playa Del Carmen. It makes for a good base to day trip to places like Tulum, Coba, Xcaret, Explor park, and Akumal. The Collectivo (Short trip bus) that runs on the Highway to transport workers to the resort can get you to the turtle nesting grounds at Akumal or to the ruins at Tulum or the ecological parks near by for only a couple of dollars, so you dont have to get gouged for $100 per person for a tour to them.
I travelled to the Playacar during mid Feb. with extended family with kids. Let me start by saying this place was very kid friendly. There were many families with children. The resort catered primarily to Canadians and Europeans and a few Mexicans. Very few Americans on resort. There was a wonderful activities center in the middle of the complex that turned into a meeting place for all the kids. There were a few table soccer, ping pong, pool tables and basket ball hoop a low height that attracted lots of kids. There were also a few wii games and things for them to do all free of charge. In the open air plaza outside the games area they started an evening movie just at dusk that usually was suitable for all ages. One night of the week they had a mexican night with traditional mexican games the kids could try.
I found the grounds stunning and immaculate and if you were to give the resort a rating based purely on visual asthetics it would be a 5 Star with food being close to that too. The sister resort the Caracol is a 4-4.5 Star and seemed to be a little older but I understand it has been renovated since I was last there in Dec 2010. I found the pools at the Playacar to be warmer than the caracol, but the caracol has a wonderful small kids area waterpark that the PC could well learn from. There are NO Swim up bars at the pools in the PC except for the adults only area at the far end of the Riviera building. The other Riviera area pool is long and skinny, but has a restaurant at it with a small buffet and ice cream machine. It is a calm, quiet area without the rowdy energy or loud party music of the main pool by the beach.
My main complaint about the PC is that if you do not get a room on the Beach Side of the Playacar ( and wind up in the riviera or hacienda buildings) you will be walking forever many times a day to get to the better buffets and activity areas. The Caracol has a much better centrally located meeting place and resteraunts, so you dont spend lots of time and energy hiking around the property to get to the hot spots. If you can get rooms in the large buildings by the beach at the PC I think the average person would be much happier.
I had mixed feeling on the resteraunts in comparison to the Caracol. We never had bad food from an all inclusive perspecitve. Everything was decent and fresh. The PC had only two buffets a main one and an italian one with limited daytime hours that was more of an evening place. There were a la cartes. One was adult only a french one that looked outstanding but I had kids so was unable to partake. There was a Brizillian rodizio that was decent, but was inside and super hot due to the ovens. Actually the heat was unbareable if you got a table by the kitchen. The Brazillian at the Caracol is 10x better and is al fresco (outside) which makes for a better dining experience. We never ate at the asian all inclusive. We ate at the Steak house and it was 10x better than the one at the Caracol. The cuts of meat were bigger, better grade and prepared better. There was also a nice made to order crepe bar at the main lobby at the Riviera. Too bad it didnt open earlier for brunch. It was only open from 1pm till 7 pm. I never had bad food anywhere on this resort. The all a la cartes could only be booked on Thurs and Monday which made getting into the Steak House and Rodizio almost impossible. There was also a medetereanean a la carte that was decent, but small portions.
I really had a good time at the Riviera/Playacar and so did my 12 year old and parents. I would go back to this place in a second. If I had my choice I would prefer to go to the Caracol because of the better lay out of the resort even though it wasnt as luxurious of a resort. Both are not party central and if youre looking for that go to Cancun with the college students.
A final word of warning, which has little to do with the resort. The only rental car place on the resort was BUSTER car rental. Do NOT under any circumstances use this company. Their cars are old, in poor repair and their customer service is very poor and their 24 Hour emergency line in ONLY IN SPANISH. Our car had 135000km on it. Was dirty inside and had no spare or jack. Our brake on the front wheel seized up just as we were turning into the resort 1/2 way thru the day. The customer service rep left for the day at 430pm. The toll free guy only spoke spanish and refused to get us a replacement car thru our interpreter and made us come back the following day to the CS rep at the resort. You have been warned about BUSTER...or BUSTED as I like to call it.
If you are thinking about either Sandos resort, you cant go wrong. I hear they are also opening a Cancun one as well, but I'm not a fan of the rowdy hotel zone.
Get one by the beach to avoid lots of hiking to resteraunts
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC