For first-time travellers looking to book accommodations at Bahia Principe in Riviera Maya, Mexico, conducting research about your vacation destination might be a little bit of a head-scratcher thanks to listings of 4 very different and separate Bahia resorts — 2 Don Pablo Collection resorts – (Luxury Bahia Principe Akumal and Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an), as well as two more moderately priced properties called Grand Bahia Principe Coba and Grand Bahia Principe Tulum.
So… which one of these actually exists in Riviera Maya? Surprisingly, the answer is ALL of them, each one geared to a different and specific clientele yet all four are located on one absolutely massive and gorgeously landscaped property that stretches from the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea to the Mayan jungle.
Chock full of buffets, à la carte restaurants, bars, shops, spas, a wellness and fitness center, two golf courses and related facilities, a children’s waterpark, motorized and non-motorized watersports, and plenty of live entertainment, the property looks and functions like a self-contained city. The grounds are so large, in fact, that trolley service connecting resorts and facilities isn’t just a convenience – it’s a must.
Nevertheless, staying at one of these properties does not necessarily lend access to all of them. So, it’s important to know about each distinct resort and its setup.
Let’s first take a look at Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an, with accommodations geared toward peace and relaxation, strictly for 18+ guests. Located adjacent to Mayan jungle and furthermost from the ocean, this Don Pablo Collection resort contains 420 rooms and suites, 4 pools, 4 restaurants, and 5 bars. As the newest addition to the Riviera Maya property, Sian Ka’an possesses a completely different look when compared to Akumal, Coba, and Tulum, with upscale rooms located in stark white condo-like villas that meander through thick tropical foliage and crystal blue pools.
Butler service is available here, and 24-hour wi-fi is free throughout the resort. A lovely lobby bar and lounge area offer a cool place to sit and relax, with live entertainment just beyond the lobby’s open concept. Expect guests at this resort to be on the mature side. Although Sian Ka’an sits a considerable distance from the beach and all watersports amenities, trolley service allows guests to access all oceanfront action in approximately 10-15 minutes.
The luxury status of Sian Ka’an gives guests an identifying bracelet that allows for access to ALL facilities and amenities located at all resorts, with the exception of their buffets.
To offset the distance from the beach, Sian Ka’an is much closer to the Tao Wellness Centre and Riviera Maya Golf Club, which is just across the roadway. However, it is to be noted that certain features of Tao Wellness Centre, such as dance lessons or the Mayan Steam Bath, are not part of the all-inclusive experience, nor is access to the golf course. These features come at a premium.
PROS: New, modern, and very clean. Very private and noticeably quiet. Jungle setting allows for plenty of wildlife sightings.
CONS: Although trolley service makes it easy to access the beach, watersports, and all other resorts and facilities, it can be frustrating while waiting on the correct trolley for your destination, not to mention time-consuming, especially if guests are having to use it several times in the course of a day.
Luxury Bahia Principe Akumal, (pictured in the lead photo) is the original resort on the property, set on beautiful and private beachfront. Equipped with 758 rooms and suites spread across numerous villas, this luxury resort comes complete with butler service, 7 restaurants, 9 bars, 3 pools, a gift shop, live entertainment, and endless amenities, both in-room and on-site.
An adults-only section also exists at Akumal, with a few upscale villas containing rooms and suites dedicated to 18+ guests. This section of Akumal also features its own infinity pool and an 18+ Brazilian steakhouse.
Just like Sian Ka’an, the luxury status of the Akumal resort and its Adults Only section gives guests an identifying bracelet that allows for access to ALL facilities and amenities located at all resorts, with the exception of their buffet restaurants. Guests are entitled to unlimited à la carte dinners, 24-hour free wi-fi is available throughout the resort, and in-room mini-fridges are restocked daily.
PROS: Proximity to the beach. Activities are plentiful to keep guests engaged. Butler Service is a nice touch. The staff is very helpful and friendly. Unlimited access to all à la carte restaurants allows for different dining experiences all week long.
CONS: As the oldest accommodations on the property, rooms are clean but showing signs of wear and tear and are in need of an update. The beach at Akumal is quite crowded.
To offset the Luxury and Adults Only resorts of Bahia Principe Riviera Maya, and to offer more affordable vacations, this property also offers Grand Bahia Principe Coba, which specializes in ‘family’ accommodations.
Situated behind Akumal, Coba contains 1080 rooms and suites, 2 pools, a children’s waterpark, 9 restaurants, and 8 bars. There is also an upscale spa and a hair salon on-site, along with a nightclub called La Rancherita.
To gear rates to families, Coba’s all-inclusive experience is somewhat different from the luxury properties. Wi-fi is free in the lobby only, there is no butler service here, and à la carte dinners are limited to 3 during a week’s stay. The identifying bracelet gives access to Tulum and all of its facilities and amenities with the exception of their buffet.
Yes, it’s a slightly different experience when compared to the luxury resorts; however, Coba has plenty to offer, including a brand new children’s water park as well as entertainment programs for adults and children both night and day. A 24-hour snack bar is available serving typically American fare, and the pools are absolutely beautiful.
PROS: This resort is newer than Akumal. The rooms are clean and in good condition. Rooms are spacious and adjoining rooms are offered in order to create family suites. Coba really caters to kids and even ensures that milk and juice are part of daily re-stocking for in-room mini-fridges. Seating areas and pools are beautiful.
CONS: This resort is neither on the beach nor near the jungle and golf course, so the mid-point location on the property might be a turnoff for some guests. Otherwise, this resort is an excellent choice for a moderately priced vacation.
Another resort geared to a less expensive vacation is Grand Bahia Principe Tulum, which is a beachfront property containing 978 rooms and suites, 3 pools, 5 restaurants, and 7 bars. The all-inclusive experience that applies to Coba applies to Tulum as well, with free wi-fi in the lobby only, 3 à la carte dinners during the week, and access to Tulum’s AND Coba’s facilities and amenities with the exception of the buffet.
Room décor and set-up mimics the look of rooms at Akumal but with fewer amenities. Children’s activities (ages 4-12) are available in the resort’s Mini Club, there is a 24-hour snack bar featured on site, and free entry to the Hacienda Doña Isabel nightclub is included along with free drinks.
Also, on Tulum’s property are 3 beachfront wedding facilities, for which several options and packages are available depending on which resort you have selected for accommodations.
PROS: Beautiful oceanfront property. Easy access to watersports.
CONS: Currently, the accommodations are dated at this property and are in need of an overhaul. However, plans are already in the works for an upcoming renovation with artists’ renderings that can be searched online. The beach at Tulum is quite crowded and isn’t the best for swimming considering the rocky and coral atmosphere, not to mention that most watersports activities launch at this beach.
Tulum’s property also houses Dolphinaris, for shows and interactive dolphin experiences. For us personally, upon viewing the facilities, we were somewhat concerned with the size of the pool in which the dolphins perform. However, to the resort’s credit, the dolphins appeared to be healthy and well looked after. This feature is not included in the all-inclusive experience and must be paid for per person, per experience.
Most watersports are located on Tulum’s beach. Guests of ALL 4 resorts are entitled to 1 hour per day of free paddle surfing, kayaking, and snorkelling – all upon request and subject to availability. Other watersports such as jet skis, catamarans, and parasailing are available, as is zip lining, but are at a premium over and above and all-inclusive experience.
Guests of ALL 4 resorts are also able to access the spas and the Riviera Maya Golf Club; however, golf and many of the spa services are not part of the all-inclusive package and are pay as you go.
PROS: Bahia Principe has done well to offer several types of accommodations all on one property, to appeal to a wide variety of guests. The landscaped grounds are absolutely beautiful. There is plenty of Bahia staff positioned around the resort, so guests never find themselves in a position of having to search for help. All staff is extremely friendly. All pools are very clean and well cared for, not to mention beautifully landscaped. Breakfast buffets are very well varied and tasty. Well stocked in-room mini-fridges and pillow menus allow guests the option of eating in the room. Convenient gift shops are available in the lobbies of each and every resort and all are stocked with toiletries and over the counter medications in case guests have forgotten something at home. Plus, there is the addition of a small Mexican market for crafts and souvenirs, called the Hacienda, which is located in Coba.
CONS: Some guests (we emphasize ‘some’) might feel that 4 resorts all on one property is actually TOO BIG and that trolley service which is necessary to travel around and visit the facilities is frustrating and time-consuming. The beaches are quite busy with umbrellas and lounges pushed tightly together. The dinner buffets are aesthetically beautiful but the food could use an upgrade and more variation, along with more choices of American fare. All villas in all four resorts are 3 floors high and lack elevators – three steep flights of stairs might be a turnoff for people with mobility issues, or parents trying to carry their children along with whatever is needed for the day/outing, ie beach bags, diapers bags, etc. ‘Accessible Rooms’ are available at each resort for guests with disabilities, but some of the property is not disability friendly considering many of the lobbies, restaurants, and bars/clubs are accessed via flights of stairs and bridges, etc.
PRO/CON: Depending on your personal needs or want of air conditioning and how you react to the humidity of Mexico, guests should be aware that all lobbies and several restaurants and bars are an open-air concept so the only means of cooling are ceiling fans. Even in enclosed restaurants and facilities, air conditioning is noticeably sparse. For some, this might be a welcoming atmosphere. For others, it might be uncomfortable. The best place to cool down is in your room where you can control the temperature. When it comes to animal and marine mammal facilities, Dolphinaris could be seen as a pro or a con depending on what your personal views are.