Located in the paradise of Mexico's Riviera Maya on the Caribbean shore, Bahia Principe Grand Tulum's natural exotic surroundings create an adventurous resort with an array of family-friendly activities. This grand complex offers activities designed to keep guests entertained at the pools, on the beach or throughout the resort.
WestJet Vacation guests of Bahia Principe Grand Tulum receive preferred green fees at PGA Riviera Maya golf course, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional details and to book your tee time. Club rental and transportation to the course are not included in the green fees and are available at an additional cost should they be required.
Let me start by saying the good reviews are misleading. We started by getting a subpar room. Once we entered the toilet was used and not flushed, mini bar was non-existence and consisted of 2 beers and 3 sodas. The stench in the room was overwhelming. There was missing tiles in the bathroom, mildew grout (where there was grout) just overall poor living conditions. They changed rooms with not much improvement. Their idea of all inclusive was 2 dinners for a six night stay all other meals would have to be buffet dinners. The buffets were not self serve which made for long waits and huge cluster where Barcelo was self serve and much easier. Swim up bar was closed and one bartender most of the time at all other bars. We were underwhelmed to say the least. Now trying to reserve dinners was a disaster since there was no availability and the only answer was a shoulder shrug. There was only 2 towels for three adults and was a hassle trying to get more. NO BOTTLED WATER AVAILABLE, only 2 bottles in your room and only anywhere on the resort. Barcelo bottled water was available anytime anywhere.
We booked at another resort (Barcelo) immediately, left day 2 and had amazing time.
This experience has destroyed our view of any Bahia resort anywhere in the world so everyone please beware when booking and Bahia resort.
On a positive note the GM and staff understood our issues and wanted to help but by that time it was to late. Up to then the answer was this is what we have Period.
Currently trying to get a refund for such a poor vacation and not loving up to the advertised expectations.
A Breathtaking Tropical Paradise
Jun 12, 2021
We visited the Bahia Principe Grand Tulum resort with our parents (Tina & Tino™) in early June. We booked 2 rooms through Expedia and stayed for 8 nights. This was not our first trip to the Riviera Maya but it was our first stay at a Bahia Principe property.
I’ve separated my comprehensive review into different HEADER sections to make reading/skimming easier for those considering this resort. You can skip to the CONCLUSION section if you just want to know my overall opinion.
LOCATION - the resort is located near Tulum, about 60 miles away from Cancun International Airport. It may take up to 1 hour and 30 minutes to get to/from the resort during peak traffic. The resort does NOT offer free shuttle service unless you are a silver member in their Loyalty program. Through the Bahia Principe website, we were able to book a private round-trip transfer for $165 for 4 people using their partner company called Coming2. The private van was disinfected, air-conditioned and very comfortable.
LAYOUT - the resort has one of the best layouts we have come across in the Riviera Maya. It stretches out along the coastline in a parallel way, so many of the villas have balconies that face the pools and the ocean. Our rooms were on the 3rd floor and there was no elevator. I was able to see the ocean from my pillow every time I woke up in the morning, which was a breathtaking experience. You can also see the ocean from each pool area and from the main lobby.
DESIGN – If you watch YouTube videos from 2 years ago and compare them to recent videos of the hotel, you will better understand why this hotel is marketed as “newly renovated”. The renovation of the hotel involved transforming the color palette from a traditional yellow-orange to a modern white. The buildings and grounds were repainted, the now-iconic La Isla Bar (“The Island”) in the middle of the main pool was completely re-done, the room layouts and furnishings were updated, and the layout of the lobby/reception was revamped with the desks forming a ring around the central pillar column. The rooms have a modern minimalist aesthetic. I personally loved the new modern design with accents of cultural Maya elements, but some of you may prefer a more traditional Mexican hotel appearance with brighter colors and textures.
COVID 19 PANDEMIC – the hotel and its facilities were extremely well-maintained. All hotel employees and staff wore face masks covering their noses and mouths at all times. The public bathrooms were clean even during high-traffic times, the tables and chairs in the restaurants were disinfected constantly, and the beds surrounding the pools were disinfected every morning and marked with a sign that let you know they’ve been cleaned. I absolutely loved the cleanliness of the hotel grounds and felt extremely safe. Other hotel guests were also very well-behaved and wore their masks in enclosed areas. PSA - Please wear your mask and use hand sanitizer even if you’re vaccinated. You never know if you will move the virus around in shared spaces.
COVID TESTING – the nasal swab test is done across from the lobby in La Hacienda. The test was free for us, but it may not be free for those who have booked a different type of stay. You can walk to La Hacienda or take the train/trolley. The test is scheduled during your check-in and must be completed before your return flight home (for US residents, at least). Although we had an appointment, we still waited about 1 hour in line until it was our turn to get swabbed. We then waited 10 minutes to be told our test results (all negative) and we were emailed official documents about 2-3 hours after that. In our case, we just had to upload the emailed PDFs to our airline’s website for verification and approval. I was very satisfied with how stress-free the whole process was (unless you test positive, of course).
BEACH – if you’ve been to Cancun in the summer months in the past 2-3 years, you will probably be familiar with the seaweed issue that has been recently plaguing the beaches of the Caribbean. This problem has formed due to climate change and other factors. The seaweed/sargaso has made the beach of the Tulum resort almost inaccessible for swimming, but you can still walk around and dig your toes in the white sand. If you wish to swim in the ocean during the summer months while staying at this resort, your best option will be to go to the Akumal side where there is a clear area of water that is seaweed free. Bring water sandals because the ocean floor is rocky. Depending on the weather, the north and sound ends of the Tulum resort will have an awkward seaweed smell, as well. The central area of the resort where the lobby and the main pool is located was scent-free and very pleasant. According to YouTube, there is significantly less seaweed during the winter months, so consider your booking period carefully. We DID end up swimming in the clear waters on the Akumal side of the BP complex but the dark rocks and the large amount of fish scared me so I got out after 40 minutes of splashing around. I would have had a better experience if I had brought my snorkeling gear.
POOLS – the main pool is the one across from the lobby. It appears like 1 pool on the map but it’s technically 3 separate pools (each unconnected section is on a different water level). The activity pool is the lowest pool with the swim-up bar (the lower level was closed during our stay, but the higher level is not). If you want to participate in water activities like water polo or aqua Zumba, you will need to be in this pool at the designated activity times. There is a smaller quieter pool to the north of the resort and another pool and kids area to the south of the resort. All the pool areas were extremely clean and well-maintained.
GASTRONOMY– BUFFET – the Yucatan buffet was exactly what one would expect from a well-equipped buffet. The popular foods were always hot and fresh because they were in demand. The less popular foods could be warm and sometimes slightly dry. Getting the food was fairly straight-forward. You line up in a neat single-file line along each station and when it’s your turn, you can point at what foods you want and a buffet employee will put the food on your plate. The buffet is nicer when it’s less busy and more hectic when it’s crowded. Try it at different times of the breakfast/lunch/dinner hours to see what you prefer. I ate guacamole as a part of every single buffet meal and I have no regrets.
GASTRONOMY – A LA CARTE RESTAURANTS – the Tulum hotel has 4 available restaurants but you are able to visit the restaurants in Coba if/when they are available. Tulum guests cannot access restaurants and amenities in Akumal, however, because Akumal is considered a higher tier hotel in this hotel complex. The 4 Tulum restaurants are Don Pablo, Tequila, La Gran Tortuga, and Thali. You are allowed one reservation per 2 nights of stay. For 1 week, you are allowed 3 reservations. For our 8 nights, we were allowed 4 reservations. We ate at Tequila, La Gran Tortuga, Don Pablo, and Le Gourmet (Coba hotel, not Tulum). Tequila and Tortuga were very good while Don Pablo and Le Gourmet were phenomenal. Their menus can be found on the app and online, so you can figure out ahead of time which ones you’re more interested in and what you would like to order once there.
GASTRONOMY – SNACKS AND DRINKS – the “TRUCK” snack station is available 24 hours in the south area of the resort, especially if the Yucatan buffet is not available. You can order via the touchscreen kiosks using your room number and your request will be ready in the order it was received. There is also a snack station next to the main pool that is available during regular lunch hours. You can quickly grab a bite to replenish your energy after participating in all the fun activities. There are also multiple bars throughout the resort (La Isla, Lobby/Sports Bar, other pool bars, etc) so you can get drinks anytime you want (as long as it’s after 10am, apparently).
ENTERTAINMENT – THE TEAM – this resort has one of the best Entertainment teams we have come across. The Entertainment team members are very lively and full of energy and they work very hard to ensure that hotel guests have a pleasant, fun, and entertaining stay. Our favorite people were Jose, Andrea, and Miguel. Diana, Ulises, and Nestor were very friendly, as well.
The team members that lead the activities rotate on a daily basis to change things up. You will rarely get the same activity with the same individual on 2 different days. (For example, Andrea will lead the 11:30am water polo game one day and Miguel will lead it the next day).
During the day, you will find the Entertainment team members around the main activity pool laughing and playing with you. At night, you will find them around the theater area welcoming you to the nightly shows and later dancing the “Juicy Wiggle” near the lobby bar until 11pm.
Please show the entertainment team lots of love when you get to the resort. They are amazing. Make sure you get to know them – it will definitely elevate your experience at this hotel.
My biggest regret is not getting a chance to properly say goodbye to them. I didn’t realize that our last interaction would be our final one. Unfortunately, they weren’t around when we were leaving the resort in the morning.
When you DO go to the resort, please find Jose, Andrea, and Miguel of the Entertainment team and let them know that Tina and Tino say “Hi” and that we miss them very much :(
ENTERTAINMENT – DAILY ACTIVITIES – the hotel offers a full program schedule with lots of activities and experiences that alternate from day to day. There are 2 games of water polo (consistently around noon and 4pm) and 2 games of beach volleyball (also around noon and 4pm) every day. There are alternating mini games (darts, minigolf, ring toss) around 11am and alternating aqua aerobics and aqua Zumba around 12:30pm. There is also a main “Pool Game” after the aqua aerobics activity that invites all the people around the pool to participate. This pool game alternates from throwing basketballs/baseballs at a target to running across the water on a “magic moving carpet”. It’s hilarious! There are also bingo and Mexican lottery games at 3pm and bike tours around the resort. Alternating dances classes are also available in the late afternoon.
For games with individual winners, like Bingo or the main “pool game”, the guest will win a bottle of tequila. We won over 9 bottles of tequila during our stay and had to start giving them away to other resort guests XD
The activity schedule will become available on the app after you check-in and members of the Entertainment team are more than happy to let you know which activity will start at any given time.
ENTERTAINMENT – NIGHTLY SHOWS – the hotel offers nightly programming usually from 7pm-11pm. There will be music (live or DJ) near the lobby bar. The main theater shows like the Magic Show, the Rock Show, and the Traditional Mexican Dance show begin at 9pm. These shows are free of charge.
The ORIGEN acrobatics show (an in-house production exclusive to Bahia Principe) begins at 8pm and 9:30pm on Wednesdays and costs only $5. It’s extremely worth it. You can reserve your spots earlier through the app BUT you will need a member of the Entertainment team (for us, it was Ulises) to give you a paper “ticket” bracelet that you must bring with you when you show up. Go to the theater a bit earlier (maybe even 15-20 minutes early) because the show is very popular and the line/queue that forms can be ¬-pretty long. You are offered shots to drink while waiting in line, which makes the wait more bearable.
After the theater shows are over, you can laugh and dance with members of the Entertainment team until 11pm, when their day will end, but the music will continue until a bit later.
TIPS AND ADVICE
1. Wear lots of sunscreen. The sun WILL cook you even if you are in the shade because the sun’s rays are reflected off all the white surfaces and the white sand. If you are a pasty human emerging from your quarantine cocoon for the very first time this year, good luck to you. You will become a blistered tomato by the end of your stay, even with copious amounts of sunscreen. Don’t ask me how I know.
2. If you need more privacy/modesty in your room (because the shower/toilets aren’t very private), use the closet’s coat hangers (the ones with the clips) to hang a towel on the shower/bathroom doors.
3. Use the trains/trolleys as needed, but don’t rely on them too much. The resort is much smaller than you think if you just need to get from your room to the lobby or to a restaurant. A 5 minute walk might be more convenient than a 10-15 minute wait for a train/trolley to pass.
4. The best spot for our family to lounge during the day was in the sandy area between the beach and the main activity pool, next to the the pool’s lunchtime snack bar and the volleyball court. The constant ocean breeze was refreshing, the sounds of the ocean waves were relaxing, and we could still hear and see the activities in the pool.
5. If you want a much quieter experience, use the north pool of the resort. The south pool may be even louder due to the kids area.
6. The resort accommodates everyone. Don’t force yourself to have the exact same experiences as other reviewers here on TripAdvisor. This resort is great for both small families and large party crowds. You can have whatever experience you want without being affected by the other resort guests. We’ve all had a very tough year so please be respectful to everyone.
7. Wake up early to watch the sunrise at least once. It’s beautiful. Also try to walk around the resort in the morning, as the calm early morning atmosphere is very therapeutic.
8. Interact with the Entertainment team if you can. They’re hilarious. Let them know we say HI!
9. Restaurant bookings should be made on the BP app even before you get to the resort. The spots get filled very quickly (even those later in the week) and you won’t find any openings if you wait.
10. Temper your expectations. The pandemic is still raging in many parts of the world, so don’t expect a full pre-Covid experience. Additionally, there are less expensive and more expensive resort options out there, so don’t just expect a $5,000/person experience when you’re obviously not willing to pay that much. For us, we definitely got MUCH MORE than what we paid for, especially when comparing Bahia Principe Tulum to the previous all-inclusive resort experiences we’ve had.
SOME THINGS WE DID NOT LIKE
1. The seaweed smell can become fairly overpowering in some parts of the resort, especially on high-humidity days. I’m not penalizing the resort’s rating for this because the smell was much, much worse in a different resort we visited 2 years ago. The central areas of the resort were always smell-free, so we didn’t really care if certain parts of the resort had the dreadful seaweed smell on some days/times.
2. The hotel’s over-reliance on the app for restaurant reservations was annoying because it didn’t accommodate less tech-savvy individuals or those who do not speak English/Spanish as a first language. If you ask for in-person help (or for help over the phone) for restaurant reservations, you will be pointed to the app or to the touchscreen kiosks in the lobby. Learning how to navigate the app or the touchscreen kiosk can be time-consuming for guests.
3. The app unlocks when you check in at the hotel and then kicks you out when you check out. The app should offer some history features for guests with previous bookings to encourage us to keep the app on our phones so that we can be reminded of how much we would like to return. Otherwise, we have no reason to keep the app once we leave the resort and any potential brand loyalty disappears once the app is deleted.
CONCLUSION – We researched over 15 resorts in the Riviera Maya within our budget, including BP Tulum and BP Akumal. We also looked at the previous resorts we had stayed at before. After taking into account features like the hotel design, the amenities, the layouts/map, the beach seaweed situation, and the entertainment/activities offered, Bahia Principe Tulum ended up as our top choice. We prioritized the majestic beauty of the Tulum resort over the clearer beach of the Akumal resort. We were very satisfied with our decision.
This was a much-needed vacation for our family and this resort fulfilled all of our needs. It was clean, gorgeous, and filled with life and laughter. We quickly got used to the pandemic precautions in place and we were able to have lots of rest and relaxation, but also a ton of fun. We are already considering dates for visiting again next year, especially if the current Entertainment team members are still around.
If you have any questions about more specific aspects of this resort or of our experience (e.g. booking, airport, shuttle transfer, etc), you can reach out to us via this TripAdvisor account.
If you’re someone that we met at the resort and want to say HELLO to Tina & Tino™ (or if you simply don’t have a TripAdvisor account) you can email me at nikofromchicago at gmail dot com. I’ll make sure to answer all of your questions and/or to pass your message along to Tina & Tino™ as needed.
Thank you for reading my review of our experience at the Bahia Principe Grand Tulum.
I hope it positively influences your opinion and your booking decision on this resort.
PS. If the Bahia Principe corporate office wants to hire me as a brand ambassador, marketing coordinator, photographer, and/or as a member of their Entertainment Team in Tulum, I am available and will start packing my bags immediately. Just saying…