Affordable Splurge: Kid-Free Bahia Principe
Resort: Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an
Where: Mayan Riviera, Mexico
*Sian Ka’an is one of two adults-only all-inclusive hotels on Bahia Principe’s sprawling Yucatan resort. As one of two “luxury” resorts on the property, it offers a step up in quality from the “Gran” hotels that share the space (read about our family vacation at Gran Coba).
While I visited on my own (with a group of travel writers), boutiquey Sian Ka’an (left) is ideal for couples looking for a quiet, secluded kid-free getaway rather than spring break for grown-ups.
The grounds are lush with jungle gardens that surround walking paths and a series of medium-size pools that lend themselves to reading, talking and lounging while nursing a cold drink.
If you want a livelier atmosphere, consider a room at the kid-free part of the luxury Akumal resort, which has an airy, beach-resort feel.
Either would be an ideal choice for a four-to-five day couple getaway, or a week if the kids can spare you for that long. It’s a bit too much travel from the U.S. for just three days.
Most Sian Ka’an rooms are open two-room suites with a wet bar, dining table, couch, and a private hot tub on either roof decks or outdoor patios. The rooms are the perfect size for two people. The bathrooms are modern with a shower and no bathtub. Just avail yourself of the complementary bug spray before enjoying your private patio.
Akumal has traditional hotel rooms that have recently been done over with warm tropical colors, canopy beds and whirlpool bathtubs. They are spacious for standard rooms. All have small seating areas and balconies and some have sea views.
I preferred Sian Ka’an’s rooms, but Akumal’s airy outdoor spaces.
Bahia Principe is a good hour from Cancun Airport, not far from Tulum, various cenotes and other Riviera Maya attractions.
Within the resort, Sian Ka’an is located next to the golf course and near the resort’s jungle walks and new residential properties.
It’s across the highway (via a private overpass) from the larger main resort and the beach. Shuttles run all day long to take you to Sian Ka’ans exclusive beach area and all other parts of the resort. I would have loved it if they offered bikes so you didn’t have to wait for the shuttle.
Akumal (right) is on the beach in a corner of the main resort. You can walk or shuttle to the main beach, buffets, restaurants and other pools.
Being inland, Sian Ka’an is actually warmer during the day than Akumal, which gets a cool sea breeze. This matters more in the summer than in the winter, but is worth keeping in mind.
My room came with butler service, but I couldn’t think of a reason to avail myself of it. The butler did fill the private hot tub one evening, even tossing in rose petals. But the maid closed the drapes when she did my turn down so I didn’t know until the next morning.
I saw a posted schedule of daily activities at Sian Ka’an. While a staff member had no luck rousing pool goers for a croquet game, a daily pool-volleyball game was popular. The pool bar had a little library.
Sian Ka’an’s beach area was private and secluded but a little sparse. I preferred hanging out at Akumal’s adults-only area, which has its beach right below a fantastic infinity pool.
Akumal’s pool area stops well short of a party atmosphere but it’s more hopping than Sian Ka’an’s. There is pop music on the speakers all day long, lounge chairs are harder to claim and the white canopies on the deck are more selfie backdrop than sun protection.
Wi-fi was free but spotty.
The spa at Sian Ka’an is only for guests of the luxury hotels. It has a nice solarium for relaxing before or after your treatment. Upgraded service includes mimosas and snacks during your visit.
The first half of my 50-minute Mexico lindo massage was light, but the second half that focused on my back was deep and thorough, almost like two different massages. If you prefer a deeper touch throughout, say so when you meet your massage therapist.
If you are at all curious to try golf, this is a good place to try it. The clubhouse has a very good golf pro if you want a lesson.
There’s a nice driving range and putting green if you just want to rent clubs and practice your swing.
Whether you play a full round (9, 18 or 36 holes) or just drive some golf balls get an early enough start to be done by 9:00 or 9:30. The sun heats up the golf course pretty quickly.
We spent one evening at the resort’s new fiesta dinner show. It’s in the Hacienda Doña Isabel, which has shops and stalls during the day and a nightclub on other evenings.
The show is extremely well done with lighting effects, live music, colorful costumes and fantastic dancing. It was first-rate expression of Mayan history and Mexico’s rich musical culture. It’s a must do while you’re there.
I was glad to see it without Tween Traveler along, though. She would have liked a lot of the costumes, lights and dancing. But it was very loud (she doesn’t do loud) and the Mayan portion with its primitive costumes and brief ritual sacrifice would have sent her running from the place.
While the show was great, the dinner was not nearly as good as the food at the buffets and restaurants. And it was hard to eat in the dark while trying to appreciate all the colors and sounds onstage.
This is an event you pay extra for and you can opt to see just the show without dinner. I would recommend eating an early dinner elsewhere on the property and just coming for the show.
Either way, admission includes access to stands set up near the entrance of the zocalo with games, popcorn, cotton candy, soft drinks and cocktails, Mexican sweets and woman handing out spicy, creamy corn, a popular street food. If we didn’t have to sit down to our dinner we would have been better able to enjoy these treats.
Bahia Principe changes up its restaurants every so often to keep things fresh for returning guests, which I can appreciate.
I had a chance to try Alux, a gourmet fusion restaurant that is one of a handful reserved for luxury guests. It’s a picturesque glass-enclosed room next to one of Sian Ka’an’s pools.
For an appetizer, a large shrimp was perched on a foamy wild mushroom soup, and my baby lamb chop main course was perfectly rare. For dessert, a tiny chocolate-robed sacher torte came in a bowl filled with cold stones, over which a waiter poured hot tea to create a theatrical scented steam.
We also ate in Mashua Nikkei, a gran-level restaurant offering Peruvian-Japanese fusion (yes, it’s a thing).
I didn’t know what to expect but really enjoyed ceviche served in a half coconut and sashimi accented with passion fruit and pineapple. a surf and turf had black-sesame crusted rare tuna with a crunchy quinoa arancini and hanger steak in a fruity sauce.
The buffet at Sian Ka’an was similar to those elsewhere on the property. The food is fresh, there is good variety and there’s Mexican food at every meal. The honey they offer is local and amazingly complex and delicious. Try it on churros for breakfast.
I really loved the lush landscaping, the quiet vibe and the amenities in rooms at Sian Ka’an. But it’s hard for me to be at beach resort and not near the beach. If I were to return for a couple’s getaway I would be torn between having cooler Akumal’s beachfront and pool and Sian Ka’an’s privacy.
Travelers who are frequent 5-star resorts might not consider this to be a full-on luxury property, but its details and amenities are a good step above the gran offerings. I felt pampered, which is how I want to feel when I’m enjoying an adults-only couple time.
The value for the quality is excellent. For example, $120 for a 50-minute massage is not only very reasonable for a resort spa, it’s less than I would pay at a New York day spa.
Add in the beautiful pools, lovely dining and easy access to good sightseeing. The result is a long weekend that will help you to better appreciate your spouse and return to your kids more relaxed than they’ve ever seen you.
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*I was a hosted by Bahia Principe for my stay at Sian Ka’an. I did not agree to any particular coverage in exchange for the stay. Our opinions are always our own.