Options. You’ll find lots of them at the sprawling Bahia Principe Riviera Maya Resort complex, located an hour south of Cancun and 30 minutes from Playa del Carmen. There are 3,236 rooms divided among four resorts — Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an, Luxury Bahia Principe Akumal, Grand Bahia Principe Coba and Grand Bahia Principe Tulum — as well as 12 pools, 25 restaurants, 29 bars, four spas, watersports facilities, tennis and basketball courts, two golf courses, an aqua park and a kids’ club.
The complex is so large, in fact, that it feels a lot like a theme park with designated tram routes transporting guests between the resorts and Hacienda Dona Isabela, a shopping and nightlife complex with a disco and casino.
All-inclusive rates here are quite affordable—starting at around $90 to $181 per person per night, depending on the resort and the season—but at a property this big it’s important choose the resort that’s right for you. Here’s our take:
Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an
Opened in 2011, this 420-room adults-only resort isn’t near the beach — but a shuttle gets you there in 10-15 minutes. Surrounded by lush, green jungle and adjacent to two golf courses and a nature reserve, Sian Ka’an feels upscale and secluded; if you stay here you should love shade and serenity and not mind a short drive for beach access.
Rooms: All four categories are spacious with identical modern décor — what differs is location and whether there’s a hot tub. Junior Suites and Junior Suite Superiors are on level two; Junior Suite Garden Superiors are on ground level and have an outdoor hot tub; Junior Suite Superior Penthouses are on level three with a private rooftop hot tub. Note: All bathrooms have a shower, but no tub, and handicap-accessible rooms are available upon request.
Vibe: Subdued ambience at an all-inclusive? Yes. This is a place to read by the pool, enjoy a massage or ask your butler (all rooms have one) to prep your hot tub for a sunset soak with champagne (and provided bug spray — you’re in the jungle, after all!).
Amenities: Sian Ka’an guests can enjoy all four resorts (including unlimited a la carte dining with reservations). There are four pools, two a la carte restaurants (Alux for romantic fine dining and Maiko for modern Japanese), two buffet options (Yalku serving a terrific international buffet and Cenote a more casual poolside buffet), five bars, a spa, free Wi-Fi and easy access to the Riviera Maya Golf Club.
Tip: While Yalku is great for breakfast and lunch (and does serve dinner), with so many a la carte restaurants in the complex, mix it up by trying Mashua (creative Peruvian-Japanese fusion at Coba), Los Corales (adults-only Brazilian rodizio at Akumal) and Tequila (beachfront Mexican cuisine at Tulum).
Ideal for: Couples who love all-inclusives — but not the typically boisterous ambience — and aren’t obsessed with being on the beach; golfers who enjoy a relaxing post-round swim or hot tub soak.
Luxury Bahia Principe Akumal
Located on the beach and adjacent to Grand Bahia Principe Coba and Grand Bahia Principe Tulum, this 758-room resort (opened in 2005) has a dual personality. It’s the priciest and most luxurious option for families, but it also has a group of rooms, a beachfront infinity pool, two beach areas and a restaurant that are designated adults only.
Rooms: There are four categories: Junior Suite Superior (sleeping two adults and two kids, with a garden view); Junior Suite Superior Oceanfront (sleeping two adults and two kids with an ocean view); Junior Suite Deluxe (sleeping up to three adults 18 or older, with a garden view; and Junior Suite Oceanfront (sleeping up to three adults 18 or older, with an ocean view). All have Mexican-colonial-inspired interiors with whitewashed four-poster beds and bathrooms with a shower/jetted tub combo.
Vibe: The well-manicured grounds and beachfront setting give it an inviting upscale ambience.
Amenities: Akumal guests also have access to all four resorts and their a la carte restaurants (with the exception of families with kids under 18, who can’t visit Sian Ka’an), as well as this resort’s three pools. Akumal also has free Wi-Fi, eight restaurants (four a la carte: Arlequin for refined dining, Dolce Vita for traditional Italian, Frutos del Mar for seafood, and adults-only Los Corales for Brazilian rodizio) and nine bars.
Tip: If you want a kid-free vibe, but like to be on the beach (or prefer an indoor bathtub over an outdoor hot tub), book an adults-only Junior Suite here and shuttle to Sian Ka’an for kid-free lunches, dinners, cocktails or a shady pool respite.
Ideal for: Families with a baby or one or two teenage children, as well as couples who prefer a beachfront resort and don’t mind dining near kids.
Grand Bahia Principe Coba
The largest resort in the complex, 1,080-room Grand Bahia Principe Coba opened in 1998 and was designed for families with young kids. It isn’t oceanfront (but a shuttle will get you to the beach at the Tulum resort) and its sheer size can be daunting (it has 30 three-story buildings). Coba also has the most a la carte restaurants (six) in the complex and guests can enjoy three a la carte dinners (here or at Tulum) during a week-long stay. Wi-Fi is free in the lobby, but in-room access costs extra.
Rooms: Décor is traditional yet cheerful across all three categories: Junior Suite Superior (sleeps up to four, but doesn’t have the family amenities of the other two categories); Family Junior Suite (sleeps up to four, located near the water park and has a kid’s mini bar with juice, milk and soft drinks and offers access to exclusive zones and themed meals) and Family Master Suites (two connecting rooms sleeping up to eight and offering location plus the family extras). All rooms have a terrace and a bathroom with a jetted tub and shower.
Vibe: Mostly upbeat and energetic family fun, but there are a few quiet spots, especially two secluded shallow pools with six Jacuzzis.
Amenities: Coba guests can access all the facilities at Tulum as well as enjoy this resort’s two pools, nine restaurants (including six a la carte options, from Cozumel for Mexican to Portofino for Italian) and eight bars.
Tip: If you know your little ones love to splash, book a Family Junior Suite or Family Master Suite so the trek to/from the pool and water park won’t be a hassle — but there are no elevators so you’ll have to lug strollers up stairs unless you have a ground-level suite.
Ideal for: Families with more than two kids, especially younger ones who will enjoy the Aqua Park and zero-entry pool.
Grand Bahia Principe Tulum
The first property in the complex (it opened in 1997), this family-oriented resort has 978 rooms in colorful villas spread out along a lengthy beach lined with loungers and thatched-roof palapas. If you love the water, Tulum offers easy access.
Rooms: There are three categories, Superior, Junior Suite Superior and Junior Suite Superior Oceanfront, all sleeping up to four guests with the main difference being location and tub configuration (the latter two are closer to the beach and have a jetted tub). Similar to Coba, they are spacious and cheerful — and those located north of the lobby tend to be quieter. Connecting rooms are available and handicap-access rooms can also be requested.
Vibe: There’s always something happening, but you can claim a quiet spot on the beach if you want to tune out.
Amenities: The beach is the draw, along with three large pools (one with a child-friendly area), six restaurants (among them three a la carte options including the gourmet Don Pablo), seven bars and a theater for evening shows. You’ll be able to reserve a table at three a la carte restaurants during a week-long stay, including those at Coba. Tulum also has a Dolphinarium, where guests can interact with resident dolphins for an additional fee. Wi-Fi is free in the lobby, but you’ll pay for in-room access.
Tip: Don’t pay extra for the Mexican Fiesta dinner and show at Hacienda Dona Isabela; while the music and production values are good, the set-menu dinner isn’t as enjoyable as the Mexican specialties at beachfront Tequila restaurant.
Ideal for: Families with kids of all ages who want to be on the beach or enjoy a lively, activity oriented pool; couples on a budget who like upbeat ambience and don’t mind having lots of kids around.
Final Note: There aren’t elevators in Bahia Principe Riviera Maya’s three-level buildings, so if mobility is an issue request a ground-level room when booking. Also, Cancun and Riviera Maya have experienced an alarming amount of seaweed over the past few years; so the beaches may not always be in their usual pristine condition.