The Bahia Principe Coba, Bahia Principe Akumal, and Bahia Principe Tulum form a huge resort complex on the Riviera Maya about 35 minutes south of Cancun.
Relax in the Bahia Principe Coba lobby in the evenings with friends and flaming coffees – Spanish, cappuccino, espresso, etc. Although many guests at the Bahia Principe Coba never venture out of the resort and are content with just hanging around the pools and beaches, Akumal Bay (10 mins. $10Usd) has an outstanding art gallery (Lamanai Gallery), nice restaurants, and good snorkeling from the beautiful beach. Xel-Ha is a water park just 15min south of the Coba resort. The cost is $75 US for a full day. This includes food, booze, snorkel mask, fins, and towel.
There is an Internet cafe at the small shopping plaza (Hacienda Dona Isabel), which is central to the Coba resort. If you discover that the clock used to time your usage is inaccurate and you are overcharged, complain to the cafe operator and he will adjust your charge (another “Gringo Tax”). Playa del Carmen is about 20 minutes up the highway but don’t take a taxi. Take the local transport at the entrance to the resort for $2.00. There is a meeting area in Playa for your return trip. Fifth Avenue is a well-known shopping district in Playa, but everything’s over-priced.
Upon arrival at the Cancun airport, you’ll be greeted by many men and women with official-looking “Information” badges (Sharks) who’ll be trying to sell you everything from timeshares to tours – don’t even pause, just walk directly to exit where you’ll find buses to your resort.
Swim with the dolphins? At $149Usd why not buy one? Do the same thing for Tulum. The collective is $2 bucks and the entrance fee $5. Get a tour guide if you want, but hate getting led around. Use your guidebook to fill in the history yourself.
Taxis offer an all-day rate. If you arrange for the day, you can leave your stuff in the trunk (if snorkeling for example). Split it four ways and use the money you save to splurge on a night out for dinner on the beach in Playa del Carmen. Getting out of the airport can be a bit tricky. You will want to bypass all of the bag carriers and the guys in blue shirts offering to find our arranged transportation. Head for the exit. Your transport is right outside, and you’ll soon be on your two-hour ride to the resort.
Bahia Principe cobaThe larger activity pool has daily entertainment and music, a huge fountain in the middle, a swim-up-bar, a kid pool area and many grass thatched palapas for shade. There is a snack buffet by this pool serving nachos, kid-friendly food, fresh fruit, pretty desserts as well as coffee and tea. The staff here was always animated and ensure that the contests and games stay within the boundaries of “family fun.”
Experience and enjoy a very international crowd. You will meet people speaking German, Italian, Portuguese, French, Catalan, etc. The Bahia Principe Coba Spa with its expert massage therapists is a great way to unwind from the trip. Beautiful. You can adopt the iguanas living around your building. You may choose to take the in-room-safe to keep your passports, extra money, laptops, etc. Manicured grounds with the villas, landscaping and pools/whirlpools thoughtfully designed. Sometimes we would just go for a ride at night and feel the warm tropical breeze and do some sightseeing. Each night, the dancing starts in the main court-yard outside, under the stars.
The rooms are spacious and thoroughly cleaned daily. Towel art and mini-fridge top-ups were supplied daily without asking including mini snickers bars and chips. The food was good to great ranging from chicken nuggets and fries for kids to lobster at the à la cartes. There is a kids section at the buffet that caters to kid’s tastes such as hot dogs, pogos, nuggets, fries, etc. Personal favorites include mimosas for breakfast. Champagne and orange juice greets you at the door. The “tequila buffet”, an assortment of flavored tequilas such as strawberry, cinnamon, mint, and lime, is put out in the evenings.
Although the bar area with its live music shuts down at 11:00 p.m., the festivities continue, at the Hacienda which is a shuttle ride away. To leave the properties, go to the Hacienda Dona and take a “collective” (bus) waiting in front. They cost $2 USD and will take you to Playa del Carmen and Tulum. If you fancy going to Cozumel get the bus to Playa del Carmen and then the Ferry which is about $20 return trip.
In Playa Del Carmen you need to barter because the first price offered (the Gringo price) is usually double to triple what the item will go for. The Mexican shopkeepers pretend to be obstinate but start walking away and they’ll chase you down the street for the sale. The resort can become overcrowded, as they overbook. Arguments over pool chairs are frequent. It can turn a relaxing vacation into a stressed-out contest around the pools and on the beaches.
Beer, water, coke, and soft drinks, along with chocolate bars are provided in the room fridge and refilled daily. Distilled water(?) is served and supposedly used to make ice. Take advantage of the free half-hour massage. Avoid the resort if you don’t like having kids around. Many guests will get up early and reserve lounge chairs with their towels, shoes, etc. Simply remove the towels and then move the chairs to avoid a confrontation. Snack bars are open 24 hrs. Champagne for breakfast is available at the buffets. Playa del Carmen has Sam’s Club, Walmart and of course a McDonalds.
The usual breakfast at the buffets is sausage, bacon, pancakes, eggs, freshly made waffles and so on. A lot of fruit to choose from, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. Coba is reported to have the best buffet in the three resort complex. The Mikado (Oriental) is often voted best and then the Steakhouse. The food is good at all of the à la carte restaurants, but some guests complain of the small portions. There are lots of activities around the pools every day – pool volleyball, aerobics, cooking class one day and a BBQ another.
If you like a view of the ocean, the Bahia Principe Coba is not the resort for you. You can take a shuttle service, that runs every 15 minutes, to the beach. Bring water shoes. There are about 10-20 feet of coral as you make your way out into the ocean, but then it turns into the nice, soft sand. French night at the buffet serves you as much lobster and peeled-shrimp as you can eat. The French and Japanese restaurants are excellent and require men to be in pants. If you like tennis book a court early as they fill up quickly. Take a shuttle to the non-rocky portion of the beach near the Tulum complex.
Le Gourmet (Arlequin) (don’t go if you are hungry, the portions are very small) and the Japanese (Mikado) which was very nice and well presented. The Gourmet restaurant is air-conditioned and much quieter than the main buffet, the service is reported better, and is considered a better place to take children – much more relaxing than the main buffet. Flavored tequila is set up on a table with numerous flavors to choose from (cherry, jalapeno, coffee bean, cinnamon, strawberry, etc.)
Bathrooms are filled with marble/granite/ceramic. Different towel sculpture daily, confetti, rose petals, balloons, chocolate kisses on the bed. The bathroom are adorned with artificial flowers and the Kleenex/toilet paper folded into designs. Little extras really make the stay more memorable. Bar fridge restocked daily with drinks and snacks (chips and chocolate bars – either Snickers or Milky Way).
gran Bahia principeRobes and slippers come with every room as well and a complimentary basket filled with everything from razors, toothbrushes, sewing kit, lotions, shampoo, conditioner, etc. If something was used out of this basket, it was replenished. A fruit basket is delivered to your room immediately upon arrival. For Gold Premium guests, there is a smaller, quieter buffet. If you were looking for a really quiet meal – this is where you want to be. Snack bars/huts have the usual hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos, and fries. In addition, there was pasta, rice, ribs, onion rings, chicken, etc. They have soft serve ice cream machines as well.