Stayed at the Gran Caribe Real from April 20-27th 2005 as part of an all-inclusive package through Air Canada Vacations (booked through Sun Holidays). We are from Ottawa, and flew out of Toronto (bc no availability from Ottawa on the 20th) It was me, 22, and my boyfriend, 25. We LOVED this resort and would definitely go back. This is definitely a 4.5 star resort. The best parts for me were the service, and the beautifulness (sorry, know that’s not a word) of the buildings. All our complaints are very small and minor and didn’t really affect our vacation at all. Here is my review.
The Good: -very nice and big beach -very nice hotel and nice rooms -good food and lots of selection : 2 buffets, one of which has the option of a-la-carte and/or buffet for dinner, AND 2 a-la carte, one of which is open 3 meals a day, the other is open for supper only, AND a beach bbq for lunch, AND a poolside grill for dinner The Bad: -air conditioning isn’t strong enough -no disco -not enough elevators (always had to wait) -main pool too loud -jacuzzi closed in the evening -shower pressure and temperature -not enough shaded areas at beach and pool
the hotel is very nice, just as nice as the pictures you see in the brochures and on their website (http://www.realresorts.com.mx/). There is a main building with 6 stories, and then a long stretch of villas. The property is very large because there are a lot of villas.
The hotel is very clean and well kept. It is located just below the corner of the “7” (i.e. the cancun hotel strip is often referred to as being in the shape of the number seven) There is the Flamingo Plaza mall which is just a 2 min walk away, and the Plaza La Isla is a 10 minute walk away. As for clubs, G-Spot and the Over 30s Club are basically across the street. At Flamingo Plaza there is Margaritaville and another irish bar/pub (can’t remember the name)
We had a Junior Suite in the main building. I asked for an ocean view room, and also for a renovated room, but I was told only the Deluxe Junior Suites were renevoted and had ocean views. It cost 40$ a day to upgrade so I didn’t bother. In retrospect, I realized that very few rooms are right in front of the ocean, and I should probably have asked for a “pool view” room which has a view of the pool and ocean, because there are lots of those. Nonetheless, we were really happy with our rooms. We had a king size bed which was very very comfortable. The room also had a couch and a nice big t.v. with dvd player. Our balcony faced the lagoon and it was a very nice view. The bathroom was large and had a separate tub (nice and big) and shower. The shower never had that much pressure at 4-5pm, and the temperature would vary a bit from hot to cold, but I guess that was because everyone was showering at that time to wash up after a day at the beach/pool. It didn’t bother us much. The room was air-conditioned, but the air conditioner was not strong enough. It was barely cool in the room, even though the air-conditioner was running 24/7. If we had an ocean view or pool view room, we could have opened up the balcony door for a nice breeze. If having a cold room is important to you, it might be worth upgrading to a pool/ocean view room. For us, we didn’t mind that much because the room was just cool enough to be comfortable (it wasn’t hot, just not very cold).
The beach is wonderful. I had read some reviews saying the beach is small, and I didn’t understand how people can say this. There is no beach directly in front of the main building (i.e. in front of the main pool, where the arch is). The waves come almost right up to the wall. But there is beach starting right beside the main building and all along the villas. You can walk a good 5 mins along the beach. There are some vendors on the beach selling sarongs and silver jewelry, but there aren’t bothersome at all (I had being hassled while trying to relax on the beach). If you say no thanks they leave right away, if you ignore them they leave after a minute or two. There was plenty of lounging chairs available until around noon. After noon, there were not very many available, but you could always find a couple free ones if you searched. There was however not enough shaded little huts. There are huge waves on this beach. Every day except one the red flag was out. But lots of people were swimming anyways, you just can’t go out very far. But you don’t need to go out far, the waves make swimming really fun even though you are close to shore. There were even kids swimming. I would only be worried if I had kids say aged 12-16 who don’t really listen well when you tell them not to go out far. But for really young kids, it was no problem there were lots of them swimming, they just stayed real close to shore. There are huge sandbags in the water (looks like big rocks) which I think are there to keep the sand from getting washed away (see pictures). They were fun to play on with the big waves, but you also have to be careful not to get pushed into one by a big wave because there are as hard as rock.
There are 3 pools: main pool, back pool and villas pool. The main pool is very busy. Music is played all day, and it’s pretty loud. I found the animation team pretty annoying, for example, who wants to lay by the pool and listen to someone scream bingo number and be the ref for the volleyball game while on a loudspeaker system. I spent one afternoon at the pool and didn’t enjoy it at all. But I think it was quieter before lunch. Obviously it didn’t bother other people as much as me because there was always tons of people there. Nevertheless, we had no problem finding lounger chairs, even after lunch there was always some available. But there was not enough shaded areas and these always got reserved early in the morning. The back pool faces the lagoon (it’s right off the main building as well). The pool was much quieter and not as many people around. This is where the Jacuzzi is. It was open and I touched the water and it was hot, but nobody used it because it was too hot to be in a Jacuzzi. This pool and Jacuzzi close at 6pm because they open a dinning area around the pool with a bbq grill. The villas pool is located way at the other end of the property, next to the last villas. I only visited it at night but it looked very nice.
There are 2 a la carte, 2 buffet, and 2 grills. The Gaviotas is a buffet open for all 3 meals. The Albatros is a buffet open for all 3 meals, and also for dinner they have an a-la-carte menu so you have the option of buffet or a-la-carte or both. Maria’s in an a-la-carte Mexican restaurant and it’s only open for dinner (need reservations). Il Pescatore is an a-la-carte restaurant open for 3 meals a day. for lunch they have a seafood menu and for dinner an Italian menu (you only need reservations for dinner). There is also a bbq grill which is open for lunch only which serves hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken next to the beach bar. There is also a bbq grill around the back pool open only for dinner (they set up nice tables around the pool so it makes for a very nice atmosphere) which serves ribs, steak, etc. There is also a 24 snack bar next to the villas pool. I only went once and it didn’t seem to serve much (fruit and soup, buffet style). All in all we were very happy with the food. Sure, there is some thigns we didn’t like, but there was always plenty we liked so we would go back for seconds. Only once did I eat cold food from the buffet (cold hashbrows) every other time everything was hot. The service at both the buffets and a-la-carte was great (i.e. get up to get seconds at the buffet and by the time you come back your 1st place was cleared away). Oh, you are also allowed to order room service anytime for free as part of the all-inclusive. We ordered breakfast once and it was a 30 min wait to get the food but everything was good. They seemed to have good stuff for lunch and dinner too so I wanted to try it but never got around to it because too many other good places to eat! Oh, and I had no problems making reservations for dinner at Maria’s and Il Pescatore. I made them the day after I arrived, and there was nothing available for that night but plenty available for the rest of the week so I booked each restaurant for 2 nights. You can make all your reservations in one day (do this at concierge desk in lobby, or call the concierge from your room)
All around the service was great. The maid did a good job cleaning our room. At the restaurants the service was great too and very friendly waiter. Our bellboy was super friendly and gave us lots of good advice when we arrived. The bartenders and servers were also very good and friendly. We even got served drinks at the beach! A server would come by every 15 mins – 1 hour and bring us our drinks (very nice!) All in all we were very impressed by the service. Everyone was friendly and always smiling.
As mentioned in the location section, there are a few bars within 2 minute walk. A bunch of other bars (including Coco Bongo) are a 5 min drive away. At the hotel, there is a show every night at 9:30. I went one night and though it was good. I’m not sure if it was repetitive the other nights. There was also a live band every night in the lobby bar. One thing this hotel is lacking is space to hang out in the evening/night. The lobby bar only sits maybe 75 people. And when the band was playing, it was impossible to talk with friends. They have several empty ballrooms, so they should really turn one into a disco or something so that there is a place to dance. They should also have a place people can sit for drinks while chatting with friends (you can’t do that at the lobby bar while the band is playing).
Gran Costa Real:
You can visit the other real resorts as part of your all inclusive package (you can even eat and drink at the other resorts) so we went to the gran costa real one day to check it out. The hotel looked very similar to the gran caribe real except there is only a main building, no villas (so the property is much smaller). I think there was only 1 pool, but the pool area was large and seemed very nice. The 4 restaurants are the same (Albatros, Gaviotas, Marias, Il Pescatore). However, the beach was not at all as nice as the Gran Caribe Real. First of all, it was about 1/10th or 1 /20th the size. Plus, there is seaweed and rocks/coral in almost the whole swimming area (only a small part of the beach has none). There was also lots of seaweed washed up along shore and I was surprised the staff wasn’t cleaning it up (perhaps they only do it once a day). There are no waves, as this hotel is located at the top part of the “7” and is protected by Isla Mujeres. You can rent paddle boats and kayaks for free and we did so but it was pointless because you can’t go very far with them (there is no current close to shore, but if you go out a bit there is a very strong current). After seeing the Gran Costa Real my conclusion is this : if you aren’t a beach person, the Costa is fine. If you like a nice beach, either a) stay at the Gran Caribe Real b) if the Costa is cheaper than the Caribe then you could stay at the Costa and travel each day by bus (65 cents per trip, 10 min bus ride) to the Caribe.
Every day we were there is was over 30 and sunny. Some mornings it was cloudy, but the clouds were always gone by noon. It never rained once. At the hotel there is a strong wind from the beach which keeps the weather comfortable. However, if you go inland (i.e. downtown) it is much hoter because no wind.
We made a day trip to Xel Ha and loved it. We did it ourselves by taking the bus from downtown. We saved money this way and were able to do it on our own schedule. It took a total of 2 hours to get there from the hotel. There is lots to do at the park. We spent 3 hour snorkelling. Lots of fish, and they are lots of different colors and there are tons of really big ones. But there is no bright coral. There is also a tube ride (i.e. sit in the tube and the current brings you down the “river”) and a dolphin program and cliff jumping. We loved this place and I will never again go to cancun without going back here. (for more info on how to do this trip yourself, see my post on the cancun forum section)
Air Canada Vacations / Sun holidays:: We had no problems with either. A bonus of booking with Air Canada Vacations is each person is allowed 32kg per suitcase, and you are allowed 2 suitcases each. If you fly with another charter, you are only allowed 20kg each person!!! On our way back, we were offered a different flight (going through Miami instead of direct to Toronto) because they had overbooked and we would get to fly 1st class and get a 300$US Air Canada Voucher. So we took this deal. It got us home 4 hours later but to me it was worth it for the voucher. Plus, it was an offer, we could have said no and other people were willing to take it. Just a few side notes: the Gran Caribe Real used to be called Continental Plaza. Gran Costa Real used to be called the Gran Caribe Real (perhaps the people who complained that the beach was small at the Caribe were talking about the Costa????) Also, we were there during April when it wasn’t as busy as Feb or March. I can see how people who were there in Feb or March might have had trouble getting chairs at the beach and pool. There is definitely a plus to travelling during non-peak season. We didn’t see one bug in the hotel or in our room. You can take the bus to the downtown, the malls market, etc. It’s very simple and comes every few minutes and costs only 6.5 pesos (65 cents).
We developed some of our film at the Flamingo Mall before leaving. For 8$ US we thought this was very reasonable.