A Long Weekend at BlueBay Grand Esmeralda, Playa del Carmen

The BlueBay hotel is a popular resort on the outskirts of Playa. We went with the entire family to see if it lived up to its 5-star billing.

BlueBay Grand Esmeralda, Playa del Carmen
  • 77%
    Kids' Facilities - 77%
  • 75%
    Food - 75%
  • 71%
    Rooms - 71%
  • 86%
    Cleanliness - 86%
  • 72%
    Staff - 72%
  • 89%
    Value - 89%

Living in the Caribbean doesn’t mean life is all sunshine and cocktails, especially with two young kids. There are still times when it’s nice to be waited on.

So, after a few tough weeks, we decided we all deserved a break. Cynthia’s family came to visit, and we checked into the excellently-priced BlueBay Grand Esmeralda resort, just outside Playa del Carmen, for a long weekend.

Here’s what we found.

Day 1: Arrival and Checking Out the Rooms

We arrived quite late in the day and the check-in process was straightforward. The walk from the lobby to the rooms is quite long, so once you’ve checked in, the staff will ferry you to your room on a golf buggy. Before long, we were unpacking and making ourselves comfortable in the rooms.

The rooms in the hotel are spacious, but also feel a little dated. In fact, the whole resort could do with a design overhaul. The rooms were short of plug sockets, had no USB charging points, and had shower/bath units that my elderly mum struggled to enter due to the high wall. Overall there’s nothing really wrong with them, but if you’re used to plushier surroundings, you might feel that the BlueBay isn’t up to your usual standards.

Regardless, at $4000 pesos/night for an all-inclusive hotel, the value is still excellent compared with other hotels in the region.

On the plus side, the beds were comfy, everything was very clean, and lots of ground-floor rooms (including ours) had a swim-up private pool connected to their balconies. Needless to say, Harriet and Luca loved it. If you’re travelling with kids, it is a great way to let them have fun in the water without needing to drag yourselves down to the main pool complex all the time.

Soon, we were on the hunt for food. We’d just missed the lunch buffet (ending at 5pm), but the dinner buffet didn’t start until 6pm. Unfortunately, the only place in the entire resort to get food during this period is a snack bar by the main entrance. After a long walk back, we were disappointed to find that the food in the bar was limited; old pizza and dried-out burgers.

Things took a turn for the better at dinner. The buffet was large, well presented, and with a variety of foods to suit every taste.

The evening show was circus themed. Dan and the kids were too drained to make it, but those in the group who did manage to stay awake said it was good fun and an impressive watch.

Day 2: Enjoying the Grandparents’ Suite

In the morning, we headed to the pool area. Despite it only being mid-morning, the main pool speakers were already blasting out dance music. It was extremely loud, to the point where simple conversion was difficult. The BlueBay isn’t a party hotel, so we were quite surprised to find this scene. From our short time at the resort, it seems like this was a daily occurrence.

Our main reason for the trip was to celebrate Cynthia’s mum’s birthday. To their credit, the hotel had upgraded her to a suite and offered to decorate her room as a surprise. After lunch, we went up there to relax for the afternoon. With a private hot tub on the balcony, it once again provided plenty of fun for Harriet, Luca, and their two similarly-aged cousins who were also on the trip. Room service was ordered, and merriment was enjoyed by all.

The suite itself was predictably large, with two bathrooms, a separate bedroom, and two TVs. The style, however, matched the regular rooms and appeared somewhat dated.

Day 3: Kids’ Club and Kids’ Pool

We’d tried to visit the kids club in the late afternoon of day two, but it was shut. Determined not to miss the boat for a second time, we arrived at the gate on day three as soon as it opened.

Inside was a small pool (complete with a kiddy waterslide), chalkboards and painting materials, and a few playhouses and other garden toys. If your kids are aged four or older, you can leave them in the staff’s hands, but with Luca and one of the cousins not making the cut, we hung around to play with them.

After the buffet lunch (which by this point was getting a little repetitive), we headed to the main kids’ pool in the complex. It was a good size and only a foot deep, meaning all four kids could frolic and play without too much risk.

In the afternoons, the hotel also switched the music from banging club tracks to more mainstream pop and rock. It was just as loud, but at least a little more bearable.

On the final night, we’d managed to bag a table at one of the themed restaurants. There were three on-site, but you need to book a few days in advance to get a seat. Technically, the restaurants have a dress code and you near to wear long pants, shoes, and other fancy attire—but the rules were not enforced.

We went to the Mexican one, and the food was a welcome change from the buffet fare. Meals are selected from a menu and cooked to order. Outside, a small band played low-key Mexican music. It was the most enjoyable of the three nights.

Day 4: Checking Out (And a Threat to Call the Police!)

Dan had to leave early on the final day to take a conference call back at home. He left the family eating breakfast, and said his goodbyes.

We’d already loaded one of the cars with the luggage to make it as easy as possible for Cynthia to leave with the two kids later in the day. But when Dan got to the security gate at the main entrance, the two entirely unhelpful security guards refused to let him leave, accusing him of trying to leave without paying.

Despite repeatedly explaining that a) his room was still being used by the rest of his travelling party, and b) the official checkout time wasn’t for another four hours anyway, they continued to throw accusations and refused to explain why they had reached this conclusion.


Dan repeatedly asked them to radio the reception and ask them to confirm that no monies were owed, but again, they refused. Things slowly descended into a heated argument and they became increasingly aggressive, telling Dan he had to return to the hotel lobby or the police would be called.

Dan understandably didn’t fancy spending the day in a Mexican jail, so went back. The reception team was very apologetic and immediately radioed the security gate to castigate them.

Needless to say, he was allowed to leave without issue on his second attempt, with two very sheepish security guards looking on.

You can draw your own conclusions from the story about the way hotels really think of their guests.


Add comment