Stay

Resort Review: Grand Bahia Principe, Riviera Maya


The Maya Riviera has everything my family likes in a winter beach getaway: sun, kid-friendly beaches, culture, direct flights from New York and good values. We’ve been there a few times, finally going the all-inclusive route last winter at the popular Grand Bahia Principe.

GBP has four resorts that form one seemless, sprawling complex about an hour from the Cancun airport. Here is all you need to know if you are thinking about staying here. (Check rates and availability on *Travelocity.)

The Layout

the main pool at grand bahia principe cobakids water playground at grand bahia principe cobaThe Coba resort is  aimed at families. It has the biggest pool–with graduated entry­–plus a water-play zone and kids club. The one thing Coba doesn’t have is beachfront. But the Tulum and Akumal resorts do and trams run between the resorts all day long. I think it’s handier to have the family pools nearby and travel to the beach when you want to than the other way around.

It’s worth looking at a map and thinking about where you would like your room to be before you book. For us the ideal was a room close to the kids’ pool and the main building. But others might want to be closer to the beach or the main pool or in a more secluded area.

The Activities

As is always the case at big resorts, you can quite easily do nothing or seek out as many shows, sports, classes and excursions as you’re interested in.

a mexican cenote on the grounds of Grand Bahia Principeraccoon-like animals exploring the Grand Bahia Principe resortNature Walks: A fair amount of the property is undeveloped jungle and they run free nature tours daily, which I recommend. We took a short bike ride and then a guided walk through the jungle, passed a cenote (fresh water pools) and up to the top of a fire tower. We learned about the birds, animals, plants we saw all over the property and about Mayan culture. Our trained guide was a local and had genuine enthusiasm for his subject matter. You can also borrow the bikes to ride around the property on your own.

biking at grand bahia principeNote: I wouldn’t recommend this for kids unless you know they can bike about mile with no problem. If you consider putting a smaller child in a bike seat, be prepared for a no-speed bike with foot breaks.

Snorkeling: We considered a snorkel excursion, but discovered we could bring our masks and see quite a few fish around the rocks that mark off the swimming area. In some parts fish swarmed around us as soon as we walked into the water because too many guests ignore the resort’s request that you don’t feed the ample wild life on the property. It made for easy fish viewing, but I definitely don’t encourage it.

the parrot show at grand bahia principeDolphinarium: There is a free 30-minute show here every day. They do it mostly to draw attention to their other for-fee dolphin experiences, which we did not even consider doing. The show isn’t spectacular but it’s worth checking out once.

Pool Activities: There is an assortment of activities around the main Coba pool all day long aimed at various age groups. Tiny Traveler enjoyed a Mexican-style kids party, complete with a piñata and ice cream. We all enjoyed an impressive parrot show.

Special Events: Our stay coincided with Carnevale (Mardi Gras) so we got a special treat: A very loud and colorful parade staged by the employees, who clearly do it as much for themselves as the guests. It tends to coincide with winter break; if you catch it, I recommend it.

The Kids Club

playground and kids club at grand bahia principeThe kids club was weak. A few of the staffers were friendly and energetic but others seemed like they would prefer to be elsewhere. None spoke English very well. Activities rarely started on time. Our friends didn’t use the club at all. TT enjoyed a nighttime pirate party and happily joined in on art projects here and there. But she wasn’t clamoring to go as she has been elsewhere. A little more staff training would definitely improve things.

Note: The evening sessions last one hour but they give you a grace period at the end. If you make a reservation at one of the sit-down restaurants near the kids club you can manage a dinner for two and just about make it back for pick-up.

The Dining

The dining, a mix of buffets and sit-down restaurants, was better and more varied than other all-inclusives we’ve been to. Our package included just about any buffet or restaurant at any of the resorts. The best meal we had, not surprisingly, was at Tequila, a newer Mexican restaurant at Tulum. Make sure to order the Mexican coffee, mostly for the fun of watching them make it.

All the buffets are similar, but some are bigger and more varied and others are smaller and easier for grabbing a quick bite. We usually chose one close to the beach for lunch and then hit the sand afterward.

The sit-down restaurants and all but the smallest buffets had a kids’ menu or section. At the buffets it was mostly sandwiches. TT and her friend preferred the burgers, hot dogs, roasted corn and other veggies, chicken dishes, pizza and choose-your-own pasta at the regular buffet. The ice cream, which change flavors every day, was really good.

The drinks were real drinks and well mixed. We alternated through the day between tropical cocktails or beer and fresh limeade, which the kids liked, too.

playing at the beach at grand bahia principe

The Bottom Line

Grand Bahia Principe didn’t blow our minds, but we didn’t expect it to. Having been to this part of Mexico before, we were happy to make this a strictly R&R week (unusual for us). While everything wasn’t perfect, there was more that we liked than that we didn’t. Over all I think it provided a good value and an easy beach getaway with kids. (Search vacation packages on *Travelocity.)


Previous post

Totally Tubular Toys, Games, Crafts For Travel

Next post

Getting the BackSeat Ready For Road Trips

3 Comments

  1. […] resorts is that they can get a little repetitive. Same beach, same pool, same buffet every day. Grand Bahia Principe on Riviera Maya is four resorts that overlap on one property and guests can move between them, […]

  2. March 18, 2015 at 11:21 am — Reply

    Our experience was very similar. Overall I think the Gran Bahia Principe great value for what it is. We stayed at Coba and loved the trams to/from the beach (a highlight for our kids!).

    I would add that I found the service was better than I anticipated for an all-inclusive resort. We went to the main buffet restaurant at Akumal for most meals and sat in the same section with the same bad-ass waiters who knew when we arrived that we wanted cappuccinos with breakfast (he had to travel to the bar to get them), and the evening waiter knew what beer my husband drank.

    It’s been a few years since we’ve been, but we had a great experience at the Kids Club. Our kids wanted to go every day. Maybe we got lucky with the staff then (or you got unlucky!?).

    Also I would add that I’ve stayed in a few other resorts in the area and what brings me back to the GBP is the beach. It’s got that calm Caribbean glassy thing that I didn’t find at other resorts with bigger waves and seaweed. They have big sandbags in the ocean that break the waves. Love that you can snorkel right off the beach!

  3. February 25, 2015 at 5:27 am — Reply

    Thanks a lot for mentioing us in this post. In Bahia Principe Hotels and resorts, families can enjoy a lot with our entertainment team activities 😉 😉 😉

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *