I travelled to the Azul Fives hotel by Karisma, in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, in December 2013. It was my first time to Mexico and was travelling with a group for a wedding. This resort is considered a “boutique hotel” so it is not a huge resort. It should be noted that we were staying with the “gourmet inclusive” package.
Check-In: We arrived at the resort after about a 45min-1 hour drive from the airport. As we were with a group, the check in was probably a bit different than if you are just one party, but it went quickly regardless. They actually take your photo and give you a card with your photo on it as your room key. This card also serves in place of the traditional wrist band you often receive at all inclusive resorts (you have to show it at restaurants etc.). Our rooms were not ready as we arrived around noon, so they kept our bags and asked us to come back in a couple hours. Our rooms were ready quickly and we returned in about an hour and we’re taken by golf cart to our room with our bags.
Room: The room was a standard room with two double beds. The bathroom was an “open concept” as it had a large open area with two sinks and then the toilet was in one frosted glass “box” and the shower was in another. The shower and toilet shared a frosted glass wall which felt a bit odd as you could see the shadow and outline of the person on the toilet while showering and vice versa. The shower had a waterfall shower head. There was a flat screen TV with some English channels; maybe ten. The balcony had a nice sitting area as well. There was a mini fridge that was restocked daily with water, pop, beer and snacks (which were two bags of plantain chips), and also a complimentary bottle of champagne on ice. The rooms were cleaned daily and fresh towels were provided, we never had an issue with the cleaning services.
Restaurants and Bars: For breakfast there is the main buffet that had all the basics, lots of breads, bacon, French toast, omelettes, as well as some Mexican dishes like fresh made tacos, guacamole, and tostadas. It was open until noon, so you didn’t have to rush there in the morning if you slept in.
For lunch there is the “sea olive” restaurant that is a sit down, menu order, full service restaurant, or the “Oriola” beach grill that has a long list of different burgers, as well as salads and wraps, which is also a full service restaurant. I personally am used to buffet lunches in AI’s so this was new. I will say I loved the food here (OPINION alert!), but I also sometimes wished I could just grab something to eat at my own pace and not wait for service. A couple of people in our party ended up waiting for about an hour for lunch on more than one occasion. (Note: the hotel website actually provides menus online so you can see what they have which is nice).
For Dinner the buffet is open some days, or you can go to the Sea Olive without reservations. Otherwise you can reserve at the a la cartes, which are Italian or Japanese. We ate at all of the options for dinner and were very satisfied with the meals. The portions are very small (the chicken gnocchi was about 12 pieces of gnocchi and 3 little strips of chicken breast, about an two inches long). We always ordered appetizers, soups and desserts at dinner and that did the trick. The Italian restaurant did have one night that was adults only, but otherwise the restaurants all seemed family and kid friendly with toys available for children to use while in the restaurant.
There is also a couple of snack bars by the pools that have very quick service of things like fresh tacos and pizzas. Room service is also provided 24 hours and has an extensive menu (filet minion!)
Overall I loved the food here. There was a lot of variety and I felt safe eating everything and no one got sick. The drinks were very sweet and we ordered Mojitos with no sugar or “not very sweet” all week. There is plenty of drink service at the pools as well as at swim up bars.
Pools and Beach: There are two pools at this resort. The main pool is an infinity pool overlooking the beach. It’s not very deep, about up to my shoulders (I am 5’7″ FYI), but has shallow areas for kids as well. The other pool winds through the villas where rooms are located. It was less busy, but had some great loungers that sat right in the water which was a nice touch. Swim up bars at both pools as well as drink service. We never had a problem finding chairs at either pool, but the Resort was not even close to capacity while we were there.
The beach was very nice, clean and private so people weren’t bugging you to buy things etc. The water was often very wavy with a “red flag”, but people were swimming every day. They have chairs and beds for people to lounge on, on the beach.
Entertainment and Activities: We booked a snorkelling excursion through the hotel (the guy has a little shack on the beach beside the infinity pool), and were really happy with it. You get to rent the boat for 3 hours with your group and the guide took us to Puerto Morelos reef, which is amazing (in my OPINION)! We saw sting rays, a giant eel, a sea horse, and tons of tropical fish. We also stopped to take some pictures with amazing star fish…ensuring to get them back in the water right away of course.
There were evening shows, such as the standard Michael Jackson themed show, as well as a beach party, fire show, and a casino themed night where they give you fake money to play games with and provide prizes. The Skybar is a beautiful lounge/nightclub on the third floor that has a large patio overlooking the ocean and pool. It has nightclub music and dancing until 1:00am. During the day there is archery, pool games, beach volleyball and a table where you can paint pottery and do crafts (lots of kids doing this).
Service: I thought the service here was great (OPINION alert). There were a few times the service in the restaurants was slow, but the staff were always very friendly and helpful. I found the animation team to be refreshingly calm. By this I mean they would only ask once if you wanted to join an activity and if you said no they would leave you be, which I personally prefer. Also they would just be around to chat, get to know you, or play a game of beach volleyball without it being a scheduled activity. They also provide a personal concierge service for reserving a la carts, booking excursions etc. which makes these things quick and easy.
So…pros and cons???
Pros: The food, service, modern look and feel of the hotel, infinity pool, beach and ocean.
Cons: Drinks are very sweet, not a big energetic resort if that’s what you want.
I would return to this resort for sure.
Have a fabulous trip!