Fairmont Mayakoba Rating: 4.5 Pearls
This is the only non-all-inclusive property that made it to our list of best value hotels in Riviera Maya -- and for good reason. The Fairmont is a gorgeous 5-pearl hotel with amenities comparable to other luxury properties, but usually for a fraction of the price. Property highlights include beautiful, contemporary rooms, a high-end spa, a number of dining options, five attractive pools -- including a 10,000 square-foot main pool, a kiddy pool, and an adults-only pool -- and a great location on a white-sand beach a few minutes north of Playa del Carmen.
Azul Fives by Karisma Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Azul Fives by Karisma is a 360-room hotel located about 15 minutes from downtown Playa del Carmen. It offers flexible meal plans (great for those who book a unit with a kitchen), and the the full all-inclusive rates cover all meals, snacks and beverages, free minibar items, non-motorized water sports, and a few other perks. Rooms are chicly decorated, and come with a balcony or terrace, dining table, iPod dock, and Jacuzzi tub. Plus, the private beach is lovely, and there are three beautiful pools and five restaurants to choose from.
Ocean Coral & Turquesa Rating: 3.5 Pearls
The Ocean Coral & Turquesa is an expansive resort featuring contemporary rooms with red accents and whimsical touches along with amenities such as balconies, flat-screen TVs, and minibars. The kids' club, scuba diving, tennis, and many non-motorized water sports are all included in the rate, as well as six restaurant choices and a cozy coffee shop. For the ultimate experience, privilege status includes premium alcohol, restaurant reservations, and access to a separate beach area.
Riu Palace Riviera Maya All Inclusive Rating: 4.0 Pearls
While the rooms don't quite live up to the exterior hype -- with old-fashioned decor and just average bathrooms -- the numerous dining options, dozens of activities included in the all-inclusive rate, and soft, sugar-white beach make this a solid value pick for those more interested in having a great time than in fancy rooms. The beautiful manicured grounds and the huge pool with a swim-up bar are also highlights.
Riu Playacar All Inclusive Rating: 3.5 Pearls
This 386-room hotel isn't the most impressive all-inclusive in town -- the rooms are outdated to say the least -- but the property is charming and quaint, and rates are more than fair for what it offers. The main pool is fantastic, and the beach is one of the best around. There are tons of activities included in the rate, but guests looking for something not available on-site can probably find it at one of the other Riu properties in the area, which they are entitled to enjoy too. As far as food goes, guests can choose from a number of options -- inclusive and a la carte, casual and upscale.