Set against a long stretch of Riviera coastline with both soft sand and rocky beachfronts
Clean, contemporary rooms have upscale colonial decor; some have outdoor showers
Several pools including an adult-only pool, natural saltwater rock pool, and hot tubs
Over 30 bars and restaurants; including beach and swim-up bars, snack bars, buffets, and international a la cartes
Family-friendly features include kids' club, teens' club, kids' menus, and water park
Included activities include live shows, games, exercise classes, language lessons, and nightclub
Natural grounds feature native wildlife like coati, capybara, and (fenced-in) crocodiles
Unique features include on-site chapel, wildlife, restricted diet cards, and cenotes
Free basic Wi-Fi throughout, shuttle trams, and on-site parking
Even partial ocean views are scarce, and not guaranteed
Fee for high-speed Wi-Fi
Small per use fee of spa and gym facilities
No elevators (but accessible room options available)
Sprawling property requires use of internal shuttle services (or long walks)
Sharing space with the Grand Palladium Colonial in a massive five-resort complex, the 422-room Grand Palladium Kantenah is located along the beautiful Akumal coastline between Tulum and Cancun. This luxury resort gives guests an all-inclusive experience with more food and drink options than you can count on both hands, all-day and night activities, soft sand and coral rock beaches, wildlife, a huge hydrotherapy based spa with gym (there's a fee to use facilities), and relaxing nature-filled grounds. Accommodations range from slightly dim but authentically decorated contemporary Standard Rooms to chicer suites; some rooms have outdoor showers. Decor is a notch above what is found on the White Sand and Riviera side, but that side offers more affordable two-room Suites. The adult-only Royal Suites has the nicest (but priciest) rooms.
Large upscale but simple resort within a massive resort complex
Riviera Maya's Grand Palladium resort complex consists of five separate resorts: Colonial, Kantenah, White Sand, Riviera, and Royal Suites (which has nonreciprocal access across all resorts). However, the remaining four resorts are unofficially grouped based on their location -- Kantenah shares space with Colonial, and White Sand with Riviera -- but guests staying in any of these four resorts has access to all the features, food, drinks, and entertainment of the others.
The largest (and oldest) sub-section of the resort is the Colonial and Kantenah side. Both resorts have their own large lobbies, reception desks, and entrances, located in what is essentially one massive building split into two sections. Kantenah's entrance is large; a big, open-air building with a brown palm frond roof, cream marble tiles, and a huge lobby surrounding a large Mayan statue. The grounds are jungly, and the furniture -- as found through most of Kantenah -- is in neutral colors and a bit more upscale than that in Colonial. Sleek black and white vases greet guests as they walk into the lobby, and clay gray colored furniture is carefully set around the lobby, though the cream and orange walls seem a bit out of place. Regardless, everything is grandiose, from the entrance, to the open-air (and somewhat dim) lobby, to the stretching stone sculpture, to the almost wall-to-wall stretch of the front desks.
For the most part, there's no specific vibe -- everything is so large, it's hard for a distinct personality to stick -- but that doesn't seem to bother anyone. Guests are too busy getting from point A to point B, grabbing a quick coffee on the terrace, or most likely, hanging out at the pool and beach. The resort has open hallways, nicely landscaped grounds, and clear-cut signs to get you to where you are going (but it's still possible to get lost). Shared space -- across the entire complex -- tends to have a generic, but well-kept, style. Because of the proximity of the Colonial and Kantenah section to the kids' club and water park, this side is better suited for families, though it is also considered to be of a slightly higher class than the Riviera and White Sand side.
Beachside location off Highway 307 between Cancun and Tulum
The huge, five-resort Grand Palladium complex is located off northbound Highway 307. It's just over an hour driving south from Cancun and 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, but less than 15 minutes north of Akumal Beach's town center and 30 minutes north of the town and beachside ruins of Tulum. Adventure parks Xel-Ha, Xcaret, Xplor, and Alternative Tours are located just up the Highway 307 strip on the way to Playa del Carmen. The village-like resort complex gives little need to explore beyond the property, but if you want to get out and about you'll need a car or cab -- even just to make it to the front gates.
Upscale colonial-inspired decor with outdoor terraces and some outdoor showers
With a neutral color palette in varying shades of cream with black and taupe accents, the 422 rooms at Kantenah look a bit more upscale and chic (and therefore slightly less dated) than those at the neighboring Colonial. Furniture has a simple colonial-style wood design with minimal accents, contemporary converter couches, and stylish wicker chairs. Patterns on the furniture and bed runners show local influences as well. Spotless floors and bathrooms are smooth cream marble tile with green tile accents. Mayan Suites are not actual suites -- just rooms with a sitting area -- but do have outdoor showers with rainfall showerheads and large terrace space with hammocks. These rooms have exceptionally large bathrooms with separate tubs, showers, and vanity areas, while Junior Suites and Standard Rooms have shower/tub combos (though the Junior Suite tubs are jetted). Some rooms are bright, while other can be fairly dim. All rooms have comfy beds, fluffy pillows, flat-screen TVs, MP3 docks, outdoor space, lots of closet space, hairdryers, makeup mirrors, and hairdryers.
Because of the jungle setting, ocean views are scarce -- it may be possible to see a glimpse of water from some of the third-floor units but it's not guaranteed. Buildings 33 through 36 and 51 are closest to the sand.
Ultra-luxe Master Suites are available, but only directly through the hotel, and include sofa beds, hot tubs on the terrace, and separate living rooms. Those seeking two-room suites at a lower price can find them on the Riviera and White Sands side.
A barrage of buffet, snack, and international a la carte options; friendly to restricted diets
The Grand Palladium Colonial and Kantenah share a slightly small main buffet, El Grand Azul, that serves breakfast, lunch, tea time snacks; there's outdoor seating overlooking the pool as well as a pool-facing bar with swim-up area where drinks are served. (An additional and similar buffet is available on the Riviera and White Sand side of the complex). There are also two much larger buffets, Tikal and La Hacienda. Colonial's massive La Hacienda buffet is open for three meals a day, while on the Kantenah side Tikal just has breakfast and dinner. The a la carte selections on the Colonial side include La Adelita (Mexican) and El Dorado, while on the Kantenah side there are Sumptuori (Japanese sushi, hibachi, and table service) and Chang Thai (Thai). On the other half of the resort complex, guests have even more choices with the impressively decorated Bamboo (Chinese) restaurant, La Lola (Spanish tapas), Portofino (Italian), and Ribs & More, a grill and barbecue joint. Reservations are required 24 hours in advance for the a la carte spots, and most have seating both indoors and outdoors.
In addition to the official restaurants and buffets, there are quick snacks like nachos and burgers available at the Beach Bar and Sports Bar.
Besides having a head-spinning amount of dining options across all four resorts, Grand Palladium has implemented a fantastic program for those with restricted diets (including those with egg allergies, dairy intolerances, or celiac disease). Upon check-in guests with special dietary needs will receive a card to present to dining staff which alerts them to their particular requirements. Informed staff members can then show what dishes are acceptable or can be modified for the guest.
Fill your cup at over 20 spots scattered across the entire complex
With more bars than some small towns, the Grand Palladium complex has plenty of places to make sure your cup is never dry, from the beach, to the pool, to the theater, to the lobby, to the late-night dance club. On the Kantenah side, there's Bar Kantenah in the lobby, serving coffee, pastries, and cocktails; two evening lounge bars; and the dual-level Gran Azul bar next to buffet. The lower half of this bar has swim-up service that closes in the early evening, but the top part stays open late. Off the far north corner of the beach, there's also La Jarra beach bar and an adult-only pool with pool bar service. Nearby, on the Colonial side of the resort, there's another lobby bar, large and dim Sports Bar, and La Plaza theater bar. Both resorts have the beachside Beach Bar (that also serves snacks) just behind the main pool and water park.
The White Sand/Riviera sections of the complex give guests additional options with two more lobby bars, another theater bar and beachside snack and booze bar, and nearly identical dual-level pool and swim-up bar near their poolside buffet. Out off the Riviera side of the resorts, there's a unique saltwater pool among the rocks where a small bar is set up, as well as a late-night dance club, Sunset Blvd. located off the Riviera lobby.
Long and busy stretch of soft sand, plus small coral rock area
The Mayan Riviera coastline is famous for soft white sands, turquoise waters, and sometimes, rocky coral shorelines -- oh, and a few (or more) gusts of wind. While busy and filled with sunning bodies (some topless), small shady palapa huts, and lounge chairs, the long stretch of beach behind the large resort still manages to feel natural and relaxing. Perhaps this is due to the mangrove and palm tree barrier between the edge of the pools and the beach itself, or the secluded Las Rocas area -- a naturally elevated spot with rustic views, coral reefs, and a saltwater pool -- connected to the sandy beach via a scenic walk through jungle landscaping with peekaboo ocean views. Down on the sands, lifeguards are on duty; water sports gear like paddle boats and kayaks are in frequent use; a webcam streams live; and people take dips in the shallow waters. Typical white loungers with tight-stretched blue fabric are strewn across the sand, and if you've got kids, note that topless sunbathing is allowed. Here, on the Colonial and Kantendah sides, there is a small section of sand under the shade of palms, but otherwise the beach is mostly unshaded.
Beach bars include Las Rocas, Punta Emilia on the edge of the White Sand and Riviera beach section, the Beach Bar smack in the middle of the beach on the Colonial and Kantenah side (where food and beer, but no liquor, is served), and La Jarra on the far edge of the Kantenah strip.
Seven freshwater pools, plus one seaside saltwater pool and a kids' water park
In total there are seven pools and one saltwater pool accessible to Kantenah guests, but only three of these pools (plus a nice-size kids' water park) are located on the Colonial and Kantenah side of the complex. The main pool is large, contains a volleyball net, jetted area, fountain, multiple bridges, and plenty lounge space. If viewed from above, its irregular shape looks like a splatter of water. Notable features include the in-water tiled lounge beds, beach entry section, and a slightly sectioned off area where the swim-up bar is located. The kid's water park is off the main pool, between the large pool deck and the beach. Just off the side of Kantenah, there's a small pool with hot tub and bar service.
There's also a secret, garden-surrounded adult-only pool (marked on the map, but not on resort signage) placed between the Colonial/Kantenah and White Sand/Riviera sections. Although it's a quasi-secret, it's usually packed, but is still a much quieter and more elegant looking spot than some of the other pools. A small bar is off to the side to serve up drinks. Otherwise, the remainder of the pools -- the seaside saltwater pool (with small fish inside), another main pool, and an adult-only pool with bar accessed via a bridge off the main pool, can be found on the White Sand and Riviera side of the complex. An infinity-style pool lined with shaded loungers is located at the spa, but can only be accessed with a spa pass.
All the features of a veritable village, including a large spa, small cenotes, and Segway tours
Built first, the Grand Palladium Colonial claims the bulk of the complex amenities; just off the lobby guests will find bars, a theater, multiple shops -- including a pharmacy and tobacco shop, a 24-hour doctor's clinic, and row of tour desks, along with baggage, telephone, and money services. On the grounds outside the lobby, Colonial is home to a pretty chapel with mass services (and weddings), orchid garden, and a flamboyance of flamingos (also found outside of Kantenah). Behind the Colonial and Kantenah pool area, there's an indoor and outdoor kids' club area with a large and colorful water park full of slides, fountains, and splash areas. This side of the complex also has a baby club and teens' club, which is priceless for those hard-to-cater-for ages. The Kantenah lobby also has a baggage wrap station so you can secure (and weigh) your luggage before you go.
Around the complex grounds, guests will find a large sports center -- that people actually use -- with tennis, basketball, archery, soccer, running tracks, and mini-golf. Nearby, there's also the massive Zentopia spa which has its own pool; a large hydrotherapy area with saunas, various temperature pools, a typical Mayan sweat lodge, and treatments; beauty salon, treatment rooms with outdoor showers in Mayan decor; and a gym. Access to the spa used to be a part of the all-inclusive, but in order to keep it less congested and more relaxing, the hotel decided to start charging a small fee.
Because of the massive grounds, golf cart shuttles transport guests from lobby to lobby, with drop-offs at the spa and sports center as well. But, if you want to get adventurous, you can always rent a Segway and zip around the property yourself. The garden grounds have an abundance of wildlife. It's not uncommon to see coati (raccoon-like animals), raccoons, capybara (large hamster-like fellas), and various birds -- there are even caged-in crocodiles hanging out behind the lobby. The resort also has three natural cenotes hidden among the verdant grounds, although unlike the popular ones along the highway, you cannot swim in them.
Parking and basic Wi-Fi are free, but if you want faster Internet speeds with more access, you'll have to pay extra.
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