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Viva Wyndham Maya Hotel - Playa del Carmen - Review

The Viva Wyndham Maya is not the worst hotel I've ever stayed at - that
honor goes to a $4 a night Guatemalan hotel, where the cockroaches were
so big and so abundant that I had to leave in the middle of the night in search of less buggy accommodations.

This is not to say that the Wyndham Maya is roach infested (though
there were some worrying little bugs coming out of the information
folder), but when I arrived there (after our stay at the Sandor Caracol
Beach Resort
), I wanted to cry.

You see, I paid pretty much the same amount for both hotels - and while
the Sandos Caracol could be described as the “Target” of the all
inclusive resort industry, a solid 3-star resort, the Wyndham is closer
to K-Mart or Walmart, or a thrift store for that matter. Indeed, I
wondered if that's where they got the furniture which surrounds the pool
and pool-bar area. If I was a hotel reviewer (well, I guess I sort of
am, as I'm writing this review), I'd give it one star max (it claims it
has 3).

Now as for the detailed details:

Why I chose this hotel

I chose the Viva Wyndham Maya because it was the cheapest all inclusive
I could get in the Riviera Maya when I made the reservations. I did check out the reviews at
tripadvisor.com, and while some expressed problems at the hotel, most of them
were very positive. None really explained that this was a low-end hotel


The hotel is located in Playacar, a newish designed “community” of
hotels, condos and time-shares. It's across the street from a shopping
area of sorts, which contains a Starbucks, a pharmacy, a travel shop and
various stands and shops selling Mexican-looking souvenirs. Playacar is
about a 20 minute walk our US$5 taxi ride from Quinta Avenida in Playa
del Carmen.

The hotel is located at the beach.

Check In / Out

When we went to check in (mind you, at 2 PM rather than the 3 PM check
in time), they only had one person at reception. That meant we had to
wait, and the “lobby” is open to the elements (read “hot”) and without
seating possibilities. Still, it's all in all not a big deal. However, check in can be very slow
for people who arrive at busy times or in groups.

The check in was painless enough, but the hotel required that we show
them all our passports and entry cards, and they made photocopies of
them. Photocopies that they will keep, god knows for how long, for some
unknown reason (the receptionist claimed he didn't know why they were
doing this, he claimed that it was a policy from Accounting). I am
suspicious that the hotel may believe it attracts the sort of clientele that might
be willing to steal a pillow or break and ashtray, and Accounting wants
to be sure they will be charged for that. Indeed, their hotel policy
says that people will be charged for anything they take, which goes
contrary to the policy of most nice hotels (those who expect guests to come back).

The Viva Wyndham is a “bracelet” hotel. That means that when you check
in they put a plastic bracelet around your wrist that you must wear
throughout your stay. There is no way to take it off at night or other
points, and then put it back again. My bracelet gave me a rash after a
couple of days, fortunately one of the guys at the front desk allowed me
to remove it and put another one on my other wrist.

Unlike other hotels, the front desk staff won't let you check out unless they cut the bracelets from everyone's wrists - again, suggesting that they believe their guests may possibly use their facilities for a little while after check out without paying. *shudder*


The Viva Wyndham Maya has two types of standard rooms, those that have
been updated by the adults pool at the front of the hotel, and the
“regular” rooms closer to the main pool/beach. We stayed in one of the
latter. I did not get the opportunity to see any other rooms, so I
can't comment on them.

The room we stayed reminded me of those at mom &
pop hotels from the 50's. Mind you, the Viva Wyndham Maya is nowhere as
old, but I guess all the humidity and lack of upkeep wears down rooms
quite quickly. Our room had peeling paint and stained walls and doors.
It was simply furnished with two double beds, one night stand, a shelf
coming out of the wall, with two drawers underneath it, that served as a
stand for the TV and as a desk of sorts, and a chair. There was a
closet and a mildewed mirror. The mattresses were put on top of hard
surfaces and they were hard, though not as hard as those in other
Mexican hotels. The pillows were small and hard, not particularly
comfortable, but easily folded for those who sleep that way. I had no
problems with the bedding.

The bathroom also showed many a sign of aging. It had a bathtub, but
the plug was stuck at mid-point, making it impossible to close for a
bath or to open completely to avoid the water reaching your ankles when
you take a shower. The bar for the toilet paper holder was missing, so
the toilet paper was left on a shelf. No big deal, all in all, but
another sign that the room was in decay.

There was a mini-refrigerator in the room holding 3 drinks when we
arrived. Despite the fact that the refrigerator had a weird smell to
it, we did ask for it to be filled up five times during the first two
days. At the end of the second day, a couple of sodas were added, but
no more.

The rooms come with a very loud air conditioning system (the plus is
that you can set it to the temperature you want and maids don't turn it
off when they come clean the room) and a TV. Alas, the AC is so loud
that it's hard to hear the latter. It also makes it somewhat difficult
to get to sleep. On the plus side, rooms near the beach are also near
the “theater” with the nightly entertainment which begins at 9:30 PM,
despite the closeness you can't hear a thing over the AC.

There were dispensers with hand soap and shampoo in the bathroom, as
well as something that could have been shower gel or hair conditioner,
we didn't figure out which and just used our own. There was no lotion
provided or anything else, though there is a shop where you can buy
what you need.

In all, we found the room serviceable but depressing. Alas, we wanted
to stay close to the pool and beach and that's what we got.


The Viva Wyndham Maya is a relatively small hotel, long and narrow. You
can walk from the gate to the beach in about 5=10 minutes. The grounds
themselves are manicured and clean, there are palms and native plants as
well as grass. The vegetation hides a number of agoutis (cute rodents, about
twice the size of a squirrel) as well as the odd iguana. The kids, of
course, loved looking for them.

The hotel counts with two pools, each with their own bar, as well as a
nicer bar in the reception area. The buffet restaurant, serving
breakfast, lunch and dinner, is on top of the reception room. There are
also three other restaurants serving Seafood, Mexican and Italian food
(we only tried Portofino, the Italian restaurant).


There is a gym, with a variety of machines, a spa and an internet room
with three computers. Internet access is not included, and it's charged
at US$5 an hour. There is no wireless anywhere in the hotel (but you
can get free wireless at the large McDonalds a few blocks north of the
Playacar exit).

The hotel provides you with free bicycles (you can take them out for 3
hours between 8 AM and 5 PM), free boogie boards and kayaks, as well as a
catamaran (if you know how to use it).


There are organized activities throughout the day, they don't vary day
by day though there tends to be a daily “tournament” for something or
other. Activities include exercise/dance classes and games.

There is also a trapeze that children from 4 to 15 can use between 9-11
AM and adults can use from 3-5 PM. There is less of a wait to use this
than you would guess.

The hotel has an archery range (open for a couple of hours in the
morning and afternoon), and bows for both children and adult.

Finally, there is one ping-pong table.

Children Activities

The hotel counts with a kids club that operates between 9:30 AM and 5
PM. The two girls who run it are great with the kids, and my children
enjoyed it a lot. There is also a “mini-disco” for kids at 9 PM.

As mentioned above, children are allowed to use the trapeze, the archery
range and the bicycles (there a couple of small ones for little kids,
none with training wheels).

There are babysitting services available for US$5 an hour. We didn't use them.


There is one daily show at the “theater” (a stage reminiscent of a high
school auditorium, with a roof but no walls and cheap plastic chairs) at
9:30 PM. It changes from day to day and is adult-oriented. I didn't
see any so I can't comment on them.


There is one by the reception area. We didn't go.


The Viva Wyndham Maya has two pools. They are both rather small and
were very crowded during our stay. You can't really swim in them or
play something without bothering other people (not that people were that
polite). The water in the general pool was unpleasantly hot. The other
pool is for adults only. The large pool has a swim-to bar.

If you want to get a lounge chair under the shade, you need to arrive by
about 8 AM and reserve it by putting your towel on it. People start
doing so about 7-7:30 AM.


The beach in front of the Viva Wyndham Maya is just plain beautiful.
The sand is white and powdery and the sea has the most amazing
blue/turquoise color. A mere postcard could not make it justice. If
what you want is to stare at a lovely sea, you could do no better.

The beach itself is rather narrow and filled by rather uncomfortable
lounge chairs. As with the pool, if you want a lounge chair in the
shade, you should come and reserve one by 8 AM. Fortunately, I'm an
early riser so this was no problem for me. People seem to be respectful
of others' towels.

The sea itself is rougher than in other areas, and quickly gets
waist-deep, but it's perfectly fine for even young children. The
temperature is great, specially in the morning.

As with the pool, the beach and the sea are very crowded from
late-morning on, if you want to enjoy the sea in peace, come early.

There are large rocks under the water, water-shoes are recommended but
not essential.

There are also sand bags, a few on the beach delimiting the areas for water sports and swimming, and others underwater, where the sea turns deep. We didn't think they were particularly unseemly.

Time Share Sales

The people selling time-shares (or vacation something or other, they'll
never admit they are time-shares) have a desk in the patio area beyond
the lobby. However, they swarm around the lobby and lobby bar area and
will approach you if you make eye contact (or even if you don't). They
are very polite and nice, however, and once they are told that there is
no way in hell that you would buy a time share at this hotel because you
consider it hell on earth, they'll stop bothering you (but they'll never stop saying hello to you).

If you are actually considering doing a time-share presentation for the
gifts, be aware that the gifts here are considerably lower than those
you can get elsewhere. For example, they could only offer me a $60
discount to Xcaret, while other places can offer you discounts twice as


The hotel has a very small parking lot by the main entrance gate. We
were always able to find parking, however.


The Viva Wyndham Maya has a buffet, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner,
a snack bar and three reservation-only a la carte restaurants. In
addition, you are welcome to use the dining facilities at the Wyndham's
sister hotel, the Viva Wyndham Azteca (located three hotels over, also
on the beach), which include its own buffet, as well as three
reservation-only restaurants.

Buffet Restaurant

We had breakfast at the buffet four times, lunch a couple of times, and
dinner once. Breakfast included American “favorites” such as
pancakes, French toast and freshly-made omelets, as well as Mexican
dishes (though few of these). I don't think I was ever able to find any
bacon. I found most of the food bland and a waste of calories, but I
was satisfied with some banana bread and nutella or cajeta (Mexico's
version of dulce de leche). The coffee and tea were somewhat drinkable, and
while the juices were the industrial-size cheap bottled type kind, the kids liked them well enough.

Lunch was actually OK when we had it. Once we had a breaded pork cutlet,
tasteless in itself, but OK with added salt and lemon juice. Another time there was some nice, tender chicken - and yet another a good pork rib. Just don't expect much flavor.

Dinner, on the other hand, was atrocious. There were very few choices, and those
available did not taste very good. We decided on the BBQ chicken and
ribs, and they were so dry as to be inedible. Fortunately we were able
to get reservations at the a-la-carte restaurants for the other 3 nights
of our stay.

A la carte restaurants

There are 3 a la carte, reservation-only restaurants at the Viva Wyndham
Maya, one serving seafood, another Italian food and another Mexican
food. In addition,there are 3 other restaurants (a Mexican one, an
Asian one and an Italian one) at the Viva Wyndham Azteca, the Maya's
sister hotel a few hundred yards down the beach. So guests have
theoretically a choice of 6 restaurants. In reality, it doesn't work
like that. The restaurants, by the way, only serve dinner.

You can go to the reservation desk every morning from 8 AM onward and
make reservations for the restaurants. They will let you make
reservations in advance; how many will depend on how many nights you'll
be staying (we stayed four, so we could make one reservation in
advance). But you can always make a reservation for the same night.

Now, which restaurants and times will be open for your reservation seems
pretty random. I couldn't make a reservation in advance for the Asian
restaurant, but I was able to make it the day of.

In any case, this system benefits the early birds who can be there first
- which worked out well for me, as I'm an early riser. People start
lining up at about 7:40 AM - if you're first or second you should be
able to sit in one of the chairs, so it's best to be early and bring a book.

Below are quick reviews of the three restaurants we visited: Portofino
(Italian @ the Maya), Bamboo (Asian @ the Azteca) and Il Palco (Italian @ the


Portofino is an Italian restaurant with a nautical theme. It offers a few salads, two or three soups, a couple of appetizers, some pastas and some main dishes - as well as three deserts. We found it to be good, though not in the least exceptional, and were particularly pleased with the desserts.

The kids had pasta (the restaurant made it with just butter & cheese for my 4 yo), and were happy with their dishes. I actually thought their spaghetti carbonara was quite good, even though it lacked bacon. Mike and I had steaks, beautifully presented but a bit tough and bland - but Mexico is not particularly known for its beef. The pasta portions were too big but the entrees were very nicely sized. A tartlet with tropical fruits was delicious, and a passionfruit mousse was surprisingly tasty. Service was good and efficient. Definitely a great improvement over the buffet.

Il Palco

Il Palco had the nicest dining room of the restaurants we ate at. The smallish dining room was decorated in soft colors with large (art-deco?) paintings that the kids liked. It had the atmosphere of a chic bistro. The menu was Italian / Italian American, which a few salads, several pastas and entrees. The kids and I had pasta, which we found to be good but not special. Mike and Mika liked my carbonara, which I thought was just OK (but it's hard to make good carbonara), and Mika's fetuccini bolognese was fine. Mike thought his chicken breast stuffed with something or other was pretty good. Mika liked my tiramisu dessert (it had quite a mild flavor). Service, once again, was good, and it was a meal several notches above the buffet.


Bamboo is described by the Wyndham as an "oriental" restaurant - they are seemingly unaware how the word has offensive connotations for Asians and Asian Americans. What it actually is, is a top-notch restaurant serving inventive new-pan Asian cuisine. Despite its tacky 70's inspired Japanese restaurant look, Bamboo could stand alone as an Asian bistro even in a food-mecca-sort-of-city such as San Francisco (or at least the East Bay). Every dish we had was good, inventive, interesting and tasty. The fried spring rolls had wonderfully flaky shells, and a vegetable filling that included black beans and who knows what else - there were distinct Mexican flavors, but it was still an overall Asian dish. The sushi tasted fresh and could have come from any sushi restaurant around.

Mika and Camila had the chow mein, thick noodles with either bok choi or spinach strips, carrots and tiny broccoli stems. It had a sweetish sauce that brought everything together. I had the kofta, described in the menu as an Indian dish. The somewhat heavy meatballs (I actually don't remember if they were meat or lamb) might have been Indian, but the sauce was soy-sauce based, also a bit sweet, and delicious. I wasn't as crazy for the brown rice that came with it, but I'm not a big brown rice fan. Mike had the panang chicken, perhaps the least mutated dish of them all. He also enjoyed it.

We all had the fried ice cream for desert - the kids weren't crazy about the shell, but I thought it was quite tasty. Service, once again, was perfect.

Bamboo is definitely a restaurant I'd go to if it wasn't attached to the hotel - but not, unfortunately, reason enough to go to the Wyndham.


The staff of the hotel was friendly but mostly low key.


The Wyndham has a very international clientele, with an emphasis on Latin Americans (mostly Argentinians and Mexicans) and Europeans, we saw relatively few Americans.


Despite the fact that Mike and I are veteran budget travelers, we did not like the low-end atmosphere and amenities of the Viva Wyndham Maya. We are not likely to stay at an all-inclusive hotel any time soon, but if we did, it would definitely not be at a Wyndham property.

Viva Wyndham Maya
Playa del Carmen

An agouti at the hotel grounds:


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 22, 2009 7:08 PM.

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