We are a well-traveled couple and usually make a point of seeking out B&Bs, lodges and resorts that are off the beaten path, if not off the map.
I write this purely for the enlightenment of would-be guests:
Xamach Dos looked like it would be the perfect finale to a hot, dusty 10-day Yucatan tour of the Mayan ruins. The photos certainly made it look remote and idyllic, and the website was suitably "homebrew" enough that we figured it would be a departure from the hordes of coconut oil tourists saturating Tulum and the surrounding area.
(***Be warned, Xamach Dos does not look like it does in most of the photos on their website; some of the buildings were destroyed by a hurricane; it's rather less...orderly than it might appear.)
Upon our arrival, the "resort" appeared rather more rustic (and perhaps smaller) than we had expected, but the manager was friendly and, most importantly, it was dead quiet but for a pleasant (and constant) ocean breeze.
Making the adjustment was easy enough, and we soon settled into the very relaxed atmosphere. There were only two other couples staying there, and we enjoyed their company immensely.
But then we started to notice some problems.
Contrary to what the website might suggest, there is no "restaurant". There is simply a large, open, roofed palapa where everyone congregates when food is being served. Food was always one thing, served all at once, on plate per person. What you got was generally all you got (I don't eat much, but one poor fellow was asking around if he could finish anyone's leftovers!). And there was little real variety.
The food itself was sometimes good (they have a local cook, Francesca, who prepared a lot of it; a very hard worker), but on the whole it was far less scrumptious than their website would lead you to believe. We were never served lobster, or crab, or any other shellfish as-is; rather, it was mixed in with pasta or some other ingredient. I can get that at my supermarket. For a place surrounded by fishing and fishermen, yes we were expecting gastronomical fireworks.
We understand that transporting the food down there is a chore, but for the extra $35 a day dining fee, they could--and should--have done a lot better.
In Mexico you can't flush bath tissue; rather, you have to put it in a little receptacle beside the toilet. Fine. But our receptacle was NEVER changed for our entire 4 night stay! That is disgusting and frankly unacceptable.
Don't expect your sheets or towels to be changed, or your room tidied up. My guess is because doing laundry out there is virtually impossible. We didn't have any problem with this, but some might find it surprising...for a "resort".
This turned out to be the worst aspect of our stay; we could almost put up with the other disappointments had it not been for the manager and owner's surprising lack of people skills and awareness.
Consider: People travel to out-of-the-way places to escape their lives. But one of the managers routinely had their laptop out in the palapa, showing pictures, sending emails and whatnot (eventually I had to get up and leave the area). And a wooden bench down by the beach--that apparently afforded cell phone reception--went from being a humorous curiosity to a minor annoyance.
The most egregious incident happened on our last night. Just as dinner was about to be served, a group of people strolled into the camp--seemingly from nowhere--and proceeded to take over the palapa. Literally like something out of "The Mosquito Coast". We didn't know who these people were, and management certainly didn't, but management's attention instantly turned to them (and away from our dinner), serving up round after round after round of boisterous drinks, and even feeding them with the rest of the dinner (which had finally been served to us, cold).
It was such a disrespectful thing to do; we really felt like second-class citizens. The owner brushed it off with "Well, it's Mexico. This is what it's all about". If that's what he thinks it's all about--fawning over strangers in lieu of paying guests--then he has no business calling this a "resort"; more like a halfway house.
Our last evening in Mexico was utterly ruined by this incident.
The owner would no doubt make attempts at characterizing this reviewer as "just one of those people you can't please", but nothing could be further from the truth. We're easy. We don't expect or want to be waited on or even pampered; but what we do expect is to be given value for our money, a reasonable degree of quality control, and for a place of accommodation to be run professionally, by professionals.
This ain't it.
Our advice: Stay in Punta Allen at Serenidad Shardon: www.shardon.com. We met the owner, and she is delightful; she also runs a much tighter ship (and when you're that far off the beaten track, every little bit counts.)
Situated directly off the Mayan Rivieria, the views are, obviously, amazing. There is also excellent snorkeling up and down the peninsula, but the real snorkeling marvels are seen by taking a guided boat out to the reef from Punta Allen. Gorgeous.
The beach is beautiful, but probably not what you might think it is; it is covered in sea grass, which would be fine if it wasn't also PLASTERED with detritus and flotsam & jetsam from the ocean. (They clear all this from the beach directly in front of the cabanas.) It's really too bad about this mess, but there's apparently no solution.
The Sian Ka'an reserve is...well, everywhere; it runs haphazardly from the entrance (south of Tulum) all the way south down the peninsula. We took a short boat trip up from Punta Allen, but unless you're an avid (and patient) birdwatcher, we suggest just renting a kayak and doing a self-guided paddle tour close to shore instead.
However, these unique qualities don't make up for a lackluster accommodation experience. What a pity! Stay at www.shardon.com instead.
Serinadad has a choice of tent, cabana, beach house or hostel style lodging.
When we arrived, there was only one tent left and it wasn't a bad thing. It was clean, comfortable and we were given a portable light to read by (lights off at 11pm).
Everyone is so friendly, including the other tourists, that you can't help but to meet people.
Cost can range from 100 pesos a night for tents (per person) to 25,500 pesos a night for the beach house. But I think the beach house can fit your whole family and your neighbours!
The fact that you're on the beach is always a bonus! There's also hammocks that you can lounge in and watch the world go by.
It's just a great place and I really can't describe the feel to do it any justice. You'll have to see for yourself!
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