We stayed in chac al hal e-106, a 2 br 2 ba ground fl unit, right after new year’s 2008 with our 27 month old and had a great time.
The condo was really ideally situated, between the beach and the pool, and just steps away from the marina. Even though we were very close to all the restaurants, shops, etc. it was still quiet and peaceful. I am very glad that we paid the premium for a beachfront unit, because it was well worth it—it really was much nicer on the beach side. The beach itself, while not huge, was never crowded, nor was the pool. The pool has a gentle sloping area perfect for little kids. There were a few other families with children while we were there, but mostly couples of various ages. Clientele was predominantly American, but included Mexicans, Canadians, Europeans, etc.
We rented the place as a 1 BR from Coldwell Banker and they were really excellent. They provided us with a booster chair and crib and dealt with service issues very promptly. They even offered to send their driver into Playa to buy us a stroller. We would be happy to rent from them again.
I’m not sure I would rent this particular unit again, however. Even though it has some nice features (e.g. the second br looks out onto a terrace with high walls, and not directly onto the parking lot, like some units), it didn’t have a dishwasher, dvd player, internet access, etc. The bed was REALLY hard, though it was a lot better after they put a couple of mattress pads and a foam topper on it. Furnishings were decent, though not exactly high style (if things like plastic soap dishes and plastic towel bars bother you, this is not the unit for you). We also had persistent trouble with the toilets backing up. It had a small (5’ x 2’) refrigerator and cable with stations from nyc and Miami which came in intermittently. We were able to get a code for wireless access from Coldwell Banker that did not work in our condo, but would work out on the beach.
The ocean was calm, with very gentle waves. We did not go snorkeling, but people we met said that there was lots of coral and fish just a short swim away. The common areas of the complex were well maintained and it was great to be able to walk out from our place and see the pelicans and palm trees.
The marina has about 10 restaurants, and our daughter really enjoyed watching the dolphins, sea lions, and manatees who live there. The restaurants all charge tourist prices and pretty much have the same menu: e.g.
1) Fajitas/tacos/enchilada, etc. (60-90 pesos)
2) Hamburgers/chicken fingers/fish and chips/sandwiches (“)
4) Grilled fish w/rice and vegetables and simple sauces (175 pesos)
5) Steak/filet mignon/jumbo shrimp/lobster/surf n turf etc (250-300 pesos)
After a while, the meals did become kind of monotonous. We ended up eating at both the Pub and Tiramisu regularly, although service at both places could be quite slow. Gringo Dave’s can be a fun place—the waiters balance margaritas on their heads, and they also make balloon animals for the kids on certain nights. The best entrée we had there were the fish skewers, which are not on the menu (far superior to both the fish fajitas or the grilled fish). The best place for your basic fish/rice/veg plate was, oddly enough, the Italian Bakery. Their pizza had a soggy and undercooked crust, though. Soups and salads at Trebol were quite good, though the entrees we had there were disappointing (the fish was not fresh, and the enchiladas weird and tasteless). Richard’s served a nice steak. It’s all pretty basic, simple food—no haute cuisine/creative cooking here.
All of the restaurants accept American dollars, and a few take credit cards. There is an ATM in the marina and an internet café that charges a peso/min. Trebol and Tiramisu also offer free wireless.
For cheap eats, several places had pizza (150 pesos for a lg pie). There is also a tiny place next door to the Pub (called the Pub deli) which serves sandwiches (called ‘tortas’) for 30 pesos and a daily luncheon special (e.g. chicken w/cactus and soup; pork cutlet with rice and beans) for 50 pesos. The menu is only in Spanish, you sit on plastic chairs and don’t have a view of anything really.
Peanut allergy warning: if your kids are allergic to peanuts, be aware that the granola that they use in smoothies in Mexico has peanuts in it. We discovered this after our daughter got sick.
PA is a tourist enclave and the prices are what you would pay in any resort: 40 pesos for an ice cream, $5 for a box of cereal, 20 pesos for a bottle of water, 35 pesos for a smoothie, etc. Even though we ate breakfast most days at the condo and had snacks there, we spent $100/day easily [and we’re not big drinkers or lobster eaters or anything)
There is a little playground at the school, which is located just past the main entrance to villas del mar. (about a 5 min walk from the marina). it’s to the right as you are facing the school. There is a very pleasant café called Bamboo across the street from the school where you can get ice cream, smoothies, sandwiches, etc.
4) Airport transport
We used Cancun valet, based on recommendations from trip advisor, but I would not use them again. On our way down, we called to request a car seat and they did provide one as promised, but then they forgot to give us one for the return trip to the airport and we ended up having to hold our daughter on our laps. On top of that, our driver was surly—when we got to PA, after a very long trip, we asked him to help us bring the luggage into our first floor condo. He said yes, then dumped the bags outside of the van and drove away. On the way back to the airport (it was the same driver), he forgot to unload our dvd player along with the other luggage and nearly drove off with it.
We stopped at Walmart in Playa on the way to PA, where we were able to buy fresh milk (the only kind they sell in the convenience stores in PA is the kind in the box), good fruit, large containers of unsweetened yogurt, etc. They even have a small organic section (near the express checkout lanes).
All in all, chac al hal was a great place if you are looking for a low key beach vacation and don’t want to deal w/crowds. It was great to be less than a minute from the beach, the pool, and places to eat. We had one day that was overcast and chilly, and another where it rained on and off, but besides that the weather was fantastic, and the ocean breezes just great. It would have been nice if the restaurants had been a bit better but other than that, it had everything we were looking for.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC