All-Inclusive Resorts | International | Travel

24 Hour Break from Paradise

 

Seven years can change so much, sometimes more than you’d expect.

During our 2-week stay in the Mayan Riviera, we had also booked a 7 day stay at a resort which Hubby and I had been to seven years ago. At that time, we loved it. That’s without saying, since we wouldn’t have planned a repeat stay if we hadn’t. The resort I’m talking about? Sandos Caracol Eco Resort & Spa.

When we got out of the taxi, memories came flooding back. Yet, we were eager to make new memories, this time as a family. Apparently they had done renovations since we’d last been there, adding a waterpark, nature paths, animal sanctuaries and more. We were eager to explore.

We first had to sit down with concierge for check-in. Which went fine until we were hounded about their new ‘timeshare/vacation section purchase thingy’. This immediately turned me off, since we hadn’t even stepped foot out of the lobby yet. Yet, the pressure was on.

Concierge: “let’s book a meeting over breakfast tomorrow”

Me: “well, no. I’m not sure when we’ll get up and what we want to do tomorrow. We’ll see, maybe another day”

C: “what time is good, we can do it later in the day”

me: “I don’t know yet, so we’ll see in a couple days”

C: “well, when works for you?”

C’mon people, the kids were tired. We wanted to unpack and get settled. It was very hard to get out of this conversation yet finally did.

Along the way to our room I noticed that the nice manicured lawns from our last visit were replaced with leaves and gravel. The foliage was thicker and more abundant now, which is great, as I have nothing against lush gardens and trees. Yet quite honestly it made the place look neglected and un-kept

We arrived at our Family Jacuzzi Suite room, and stopped just inside the door.

You’d think that this type of room was a step up from the usual, right? NOPE! The standard rooms that we stayed in before, was much nicer than this. They are more modern, clean and comfortable. This suite, at a higher cost, was sorely disappointing.

The ‘jacuzzi’ was located on the ruins of a patio, and it was just a huge dirty bathtub. Such an eyesore. It was filthy, filled with bugs and terribly rusted.

sandos caracol balcony

 

sandos jaccuzi

 

sandos jacuzzi suite

This is a close-up of the patio floor, the bugs and dirt that covered the entire surface. Eww…

photo (3)

I decided right then and there that despite my love for having a peaceful coffee on the patio while on vacation – WOULD NOT be happening here let alone using this ‘jacuzzi’. Terrible.

sandos caracol family suite

While the ‘suite’ did have a larger surface area, with room for an extra cot – it’s ALL massively outdated. The entire space looked like it was built and preserved decades ago and never properly cared for. I mean, take a look around the bathroom and especially the sink?!

sandos caracol bathroom

 

sandos caracol bathroom sink

As I looked around, I sighed and thought “it is what it is” and carried on.

We immediately dressed and took the girls to check out the new Kids Water Park, which is impressive {in photos}. In reality, it would be fantastic, if not jam packed with kids and if the staff paid some attention to the area.

Isn’t it nice in pictures courtesy of the resort?

Caracol-Aqua-Park-Small

In reality: dozens of kids fighting over limited space in dirty water, kids’ music so loud it could revel any rock concert. Food, garbage and dirt lined the cement patio surrounding the park, empty plastic cups floating with the kids in the pool. It was gross, nothing like this press photo.

Hubby and I just looked at each other with raised eyebrows of ‘OMG’, and after 20 minutes of play, it was our kids that asked to leave. That’s pretty bad.

We left the kids water park and made our way back to the room to change once again, only to discover that the terra cotta light fixture outside our room had fallen. Pieces of the fixture and glass laid all over the entrance to our room. I didn’t see a housekeeper anywhere, yet someone would notice while we were out.

broken light sandos caracol

We quickly changed and decided to explore the new xcalacoco area of the resort.

sandos caracol xcalacoco

As the story goes, they had recently discovered mayan ruins in the area surrounding the resort, and thus expanded the resort to include viewing for guests. There is also nature paths and different stations to see, telling the history of the Mayan culture. It was cool. That, we all really liked.

sandos caracol family resort

sandos mayan

We went back to the room {which is close to the xcalacoco area} just as it started to sprinkle with rain. We walked past the broken light fixture, still in pieces on the marble entrance, and went into our ‘suite’. That’s when we discovered THE BUGS.

sandos caracol bugs

All over the floor and window sills, were bugs, of a few different kinds. Nice.

I called the front desk, and managed to ask the lady that answered {whom didn’t speak english}, for a couple pillows and someone to clean up bugs in our room. 20 minutes later a man arrived, shoved 2 pillows at us and went to leave.

Oh no, no, no you don’t señor!

He didn’t speak english, yet I pointed at all the bugs and made a sweeping motion. He eventually ‘got it’ and fetched a broom and swept it up. After he left, there were still bugs around the perimeter of the room. sigh.

Then, I discovered the 3/4 inch gap around the entrance door, there’s the easy access for creepy crawlies! I decided sweeping wouldn’t matter and more would most likely come. Freaking fantastic.

I recalled the ‘eco-friendly insect repellant’ station on the main path just down from our building, so I got a little baggie, with the intent of filling it up and putting some repellant along the entrance to our door {at this point, I’m playing housekeeper folks}. Maybe that would help since I couldn’t find a housekeeper and the front desk didn’t understand a word I said?

It had rained a bit, and I knew the marble floors were slippery. This isn’t my first time to Mexico people, I KNOW about slippery marble. This resort doesn’t have the strips of ‘sand paper tape’ on their marble stairs like other resorts, so I walked turtle slow and was extremely cautious. Didn’t help. I was half-way down the stairs of our building when I fell. Hard. Ass hitting the corner of marble, along with the right side of my leg. I laid there for a few minutes in intense pain and eventually crawled back to our room.

After laying in bed for 40 minutes, I had to get out of there. This room drove me insane and the kids didn’t want to be in there either.

We decided it was time to get something to eat, though we all weren’t very hungry. We chose to go to the 24 hr snack bar, a circular area in the main common area between the lobby and the beach. We sat down with our plates of hot dogs and fries, and noticed cats, raccoons and Coati running around the area.

Side note: this resort has animals roaming free {types highlighted on signs throughout the resort} as well as penned for viewing {like donkeys etc}. ‘Animal friendly’ is possibly part of the eco aspect of this resort, yet we have those here, and they are called Zoos. Hmmm.

Back to dinner and the animals: We discouraged the kids from calling or interacting with the roaming animals, as we were eating. People around us were trying to scare them away, as they were eating too. Then, a Coati jumped on our table and started eating Katies food. GROSS.

We left, this time hubby was the one that was fuming most.

We love animals and like seeing different ones native to other countries. I’m not anti-animal. Yet, Personally I don’t like wild animals, that acted like they were trained to come that close to humans, to eat off guests plates. I find this repulsive in a resort that must have to adhere to certain health and safety standards. To me, it’s in no way ‘cute’.

We again went back to the room, really tired from the chaotic day. More bugs had come in to which I tried to sweep out with a towel with little success. I fell fast asleep, only taking off my shoes to sleep. Correction, all of us wore shoes in the room unless to sleep.

A new day came with the hope of a better start to our family vacation. Yet, hubby woke to find huge beetles in bed with the twins. Luckily he caught them before they did, or I’m sure the screams would have woken the entire Mayan Riviera. While he didn’t say anything out loud, the look on his face was one of disgust and plainly put: ‘really pissed off’.

As we left our room, we noticed that the remains of the light fixture had been slightly swept up, yet still there was glass all over the floor. It was a half-done job, in haste and not done with attention.

glass sandos caracol

We were all starving this morning, so we went to the international buffet for breakfast. My viewpoint: a hot and sticky large room with no air conditioning. Scents of different foods mixing with the sweat of hundreds of people elbowing for space in line. Pig trough.

I got the kids some food and then walked the area looking for food for myself. I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand the smell, the crowds. I grabbed a banana and a yogurt and made my way back to the table where my family sat.

Yet to get to our table, I had to pass by other tables eating – as well as the garbage can and waste from other peoples plates. Yes.

Instead of taking the plates to the garbage which is out of sight, a staff was pushing a massive garbage can through the restaurant, TO TABLES, in order to discard remains. I literally had to squeeze myself in between a garbage can and a family eating at a table. Seriously.

I sat down and almost retched.

A waiter came by and offered me a mimosa, YES. It was my first {and only} drink at the resort and by this time I needed it. Yes please! I gulped my one breakfast drink, hurried the kids and got out of there.

I went to the lobby and our concierge lady spotted us. She ran to me, asking how everything was. I started with a ‘oh, not so good actually’. To which she changed the subject and started hassling me about the timeshare meeting. I interrupted her and started re-telling the story of the bugs and the glass. She reminded me of the rain and that bugs come out when it rains. Yes, I understand that. Yet, it would be nice to not have a huge gap around our door, so that it wasn’t so easy for bugs to get in. She said to ask the front desk for a new room, and then find her about this timeshare meeting. Sure, right. I’ll be sure to do that lady.

Speaking to the woman at the front desk was difficult, as she didn’t speak English. I literally had to draw photos of bugs and the gap in our front door. In broken English she said that she’d have someone clean, yet also said, “no rooms free to switch right now. Cannot guarantee that any other room has no bugs”.

We walked away from the front desk with the realization that we, as guests, were experiencing unsafe, unsanitary and unpleasant conditions. Also, there was no-one at the resort, who was willing to find us a solution. Oh, but if you book a meeting and pay a timeshare fee, you might get a clean and acceptable room. I get it.

My heart sank and once again I wanted to cry. 6 more days, 6 more days of this.

To the beach we went, shocked and disappointed. Yet, the beach. That part, my friends, was divine.

The beach at Sandos Caracol Eco Resort & Spa is fantastic. The kids played, collected seashells and we went for walks along the shore. Finally, I had some peace for a couple hours.

We then found ourselves at the main pool, which is rather small when compared to a resort of this size. The kids splashed in the water for a while with other kids, then hubby suggested they check out kids club. Which, they were excited to do.

I walked into the Kids Club, signed the kids in and tried to ask questions about the area and their policy. None of the ladies working there spoke English. They handed me a pager, exactly like you’d get at a restaurant to notify you when your table is ready. I guessed that if they needed anything, it would vibrate and the lights would flash. I hesitated walking out and leaving my kids there, yet did pull my oldest aside with strict instructions to stay with her sisters and watch them.

I walked out of the building as hubby pushed his wallet into my hands, “GET US OUT OF HERE … make any arrangement you can. I’ll pack while the kids are here and we’ll come get them on our way out. We are leaving this place, within the hour”.

And so we did.

We waited a long time for baggage to come get our luggage and were met with a man who at last spoke English. He knew we had checked in the day prior and asked why we were leaving. We told him why to which he agreed and said that at that time they were overbooked and understaffed. He said there was a hundred people in the lobby waiting for rooms, which they didn’t even have. He completely understood why we were leaving and apologized for us having to go through this. The first one there, to ever apologize for what we experienced. And it came only on our way out.

7 years ago there was exotic fruit displays, flower arrangements and clean/safe surroundings. All that remained now was quantity over quality.

As hubby wrote a letter to be given to the manager later that day, as to why we were leaving {check-out lady didn’t speak English}, I got the kids. They asked me why I was picking them up so soon, and I told them that we were leaving. “The bags are packed, a cab has been called and we were going back to Azul Sensatori, where we had stayed at for the first leg our vacation”. The kids, they cheered. They were thrilled to be leaving.

Less than 24 hours at this resort, it was all we could take.

This has never happened before, we had never done anything so impulsive. So gutsy. But, we couldn’t take it. We couldn’t make our family stay there any longer.

Bottom line: The majority of families are blessed with only one family vacation per year, if that. It’s a special and memorable time, and everyone has some level of expectation for that holiday. You really have to be choosy when it comes to where you stay. And you have to take a stand. Your vacation is worth it. Make it count!

Hubby and I fully expected this paid week to be a total loss. We expected to lose that money, plus the additional cost of booking elsewhere. Yet, we decided that our time together and our safety and happiness were worth it. SO WORTH IT.

Family vacations go wrong, Griswold style as ours did. Yet do your research, read the bad as well as the good reviews and know that sometimes a frugal deal comes at more of a cost in the end.

We know people that stayed at this resort weeks prior and loved it. Different expectations? Different staff? Less busy? Who knows.

Yet this is our experience. While we will always hold dear those wonderful memories from 7 years ago, we have come to realize that time can change a resort so much. While I think the resort had good intentions with the renovations and expansions to make them an ‘Eco Resort & Spa’, I think they missed the mark. They lost sight of the basic fundamentals that guests expect from a vacation. As a result, our family will not be back.

Happy note: we booked our stay with Expedia.ca and after a very short phone call when we returned home, the company refunded us the 6 days that we weren’t at this resort. Thank you Expedia.ca. It was unexpected, yet a nice surprise. THAT is customer service. Finally.

 

**update: Friends of ours stayed here for a wedding in Fall 2015, and the entire party of 20 came back with a full body ‘rash’ that lasted weeks. Their doctors chalked up to “bad pool water”.

Sigh.

 

 

 

 

.
.

Similar Posts

71 Comments

  1. omg how horrifying :(.. I’m glad expedia righted the wrong. Word of mouth, ratings, pictures aren’t all that I’m afraid. It’s pretty apparent that whoever is running the ‘resort’ .. just doesn’t care. So sad really, looks like it ‘could be’ a beautiful resort.

    1. Can you believe this one is a 4 star … wow, just wow. Like I said, maybe we went during a BAD time, but most of this shouldn’t go on at ANY time!
      From now on I’m calling our decent stays a 10 star now, cause this was no 4!!

  2. WOW! I too have stayed there, but a few years back. I found it beautiful at the time, but by the sounds of it I would NOT enjoy it at all now! Yikes!

    1. I give a lot of kudos to a resort that can maintain good standards. Wonder if this resort had a change in management or owners?

  3. oh wow. that’s pretty crazy. it says a lot when the kids want to leave! so I’m sure it was bad. Hlad to hear about Expedia refunding you. That is awesome customer service. so rare these days.

    1. Yep, while we will never stay at this resort again, I wouldn’t hesitate to use Expedia.ca in the future!

    1. I wish I would have taken more photos Suzanne. Like of the animals on the tables or the garbage cans being pushed around the buffets… I was in partial shock. I was literally in shock over what was taking place here, just terrible.

    1. We tried! We tried to put the most positive spin on it, for the kids sake. But it was too much, too much to bear. And why should you have to try and ‘put up with it’. NO WAY! We realized that you shouldn’t have to try, pretend that it’s ok. It’s not! We got ourselves out of there, best decision ever!

    1. It was a ‘vacation deal’, but not a huge one. Plus, it’s rated 4 stars – can you believe that?! just wow, I’ll never look at star ratings again!

    1. Bugs + the depressing, outdated ‘family jacuzzi suite’ that comes at a higher cost. Not sure which disgusts me the most. Worst room ever!

  4. Awful! I would have done the same thing. There’s no way I could have stayed. The bugs alone would have been enough. I can’t believe that is a 4 star resort. Sad that their standards dropped so low too. I wonder if they are under new management that just let the place go like that? I’ll make sure never to stay here when we go to Mexico. Ick.

  5. Absolutely repulsive & disgusting. I give you kudos for being there as long as you were….haha…..I wouldn’t have stayed a day {seriously}. On a family vacation to California, the hotel my Husband booked ended up being a motel and disgusting. I sat in the car for 30 minutes before anyone could even coax me to go into that room because I was so horribly disappointed. Once I found hair in the bed, it was on….I went to the front desk, had an upleasant “discussion” with the lady, got our money back and went down the street to where an awesome hotel was & booked it…..I am so glad to hear that you were able to get the remainder of your money back and enjoy the rest of your vacation…..♥

    1. Yikes Kristen, that’s horrible! Bleh, I almost vomited in my mouth just thinking of it. Glad it all worked out!

  6. Ick! You’re brave for staying that long! The bugs alone would have had me running. And when the kids are happy to leave, you know its bad! Glad you got something back from Expedia.

    1. The bugs … oy, the bugs!
      Have a few stragglers is one thing, but coming in by the swarms… eewww!
      I shudder just thinking about it.

  7. Oh my. I am SHOCKED! That is beyond a ‘bad experience’ – that is horrific. 🙁

    I’m so sorry you and your fam had to experience that! I am floored at how horrible your experience was.. seriously.. How do they expect ANYONE to come back to a disgusting place like that? Horrific.

    Cheers to Expedia though for helping to make a horrible experience slightly better though!

    1. Yes, the service at Expedia.ca was beyond what I was expecting. All they had to do was veryify that we only stayed 1 of 7 days. I didn’t even need to go into great detail, they backed us 100%. More than I can say for the resort, who didn’t even care about us guests.
      Live and learn, I guess!

  8. You had me at bugs. The last thing you want is to bring home little foreign critters in your suitcase. And while I know that bugs exist in most foreign(and domestic) locales, they don’t normally appear in such vast numbers. I am glad Expedia stepped up and refunded you for the time you didn’t stay. It’s nice to know that when things go wrong someone will make it right.

    1. “I am glad Expedia stepped up and refunded you for the time you didn’t stay. It’s nice to know that when things go wrong someone will make it right.”

      AMEN!!

  9. Sounds like a case of the owners wanting to pay out as little as possible towards staffing, thus overworking the staff that they have, who probably, by the time you got there, didn’t give much of a heck anymore esp if they knew there were a hundred people clamoring to take your place. Really though it sounds not much different than many other businesses are run anymore, even here in the USA-like you said, quantity over quality (for the customers and the workers). I’m sure the owners are living in luxury and I’m sure many of the workers live in much worse conditions than they work in. Sorry you had a bad time. I loved Mexico, even the less luxurious side, but it’s been years since I’ve been there and I’m a little afraid to go back because of all the drug and political horror stories I read.

  10. Oh that is horrible!!! How awesome that you didn’t have to fight with Expedia too 😀 The bugs, oh the bugs, I would have died.

    1. I’m not afraid of a few bugs, but when they come in by the swarms and they are literally everywhere? Ugh, I was livid. Hubby said the final straw was the beetles, since they were too big to go through the door gap. So, there would have had to been another ‘entry spot’. Gross!

  11. What an awful experience! The hut in one of the pix probably would have been a nicer place to stay!

  12. Whoa, even for the short time you were there, the vacation must have seemed never ending. What a nightmare, especially when you have kids in tow. Good call in getting out asap.

    1. It WAS never ending, literally one terrible thing after another. I wonder if we might have done things differently if the kids weren’t there with us. Yet, probably not, one person or 5 – who needs to ‘vacation’ like this?!

  13. I am surprised you guys last one night. I would have been out of there within the hour. How disgusting and awful. So glad you guys were able to book elsewhere and save your vacation.

    1. Ha, I was tempted to run after the hour! Yet, I’m stubborn. I wanted this to work. I finally realized that it wouldn’t at all, such a shame. Live and learn, yet we still are mad that 24 hours of our holiday was spent like that. Ugh.

  14. I would have started crying when I first noticed bugs in the room, I’m so bug phobic. I can’t believe you managed to stay for 24 hours! At least it was an adventure of sorts lol.

    1. I’m not so ad when it comes to bugs {spiders, that’s a whole other story}, yet to have them room with you. Outnumber you. Sleep with you – yeah, not cool with that at all!

  15. Wow! This is the complete OPPOSITE experience as my husband and I had at a resort in Mexico! How awful! 🙁 I’m glad you decided to leave, and that you were able to get your money back! I had shivers of disgust while reading this!

    1. 4 star, same price as most – yeah, by far the opposite of all my experiences as well. It was a total shocker that’s or sure!

  16. I give you a lot of credit for trying to make the best of it and even staying one night. There’s no way I could have slept knowing not only were there bugs in my room, but also that the door didn’t seal. I would be up worrying about what larger creatures could squeeze their way through the gap and eat my fingers. I’m glad that Expedia was so great about getting you a refund, too!

  17. We were there in October for one day while my daughter shot a video. Of course we only saw the very best side of things and we didn’t stay. My husband and I stayed there many years ago and we did what you did and left 🙂 I thought it had got better but a couple of hours doesn’t give you a full story.

    1. Oh really Candace? You left too? wow… I don’t hear of this happening at all, where people actually leave because it’s so bad. So, you know it’s horrible when many do!
      It’s a shame since this was such a nice resort years ago. Makes me appreciate those places that really focus on what guests want from their holiday – and not just a mad rush to get those beds filled!

  18. I read this last night on my iPad, but the photos wouldn’t load. Came back today just to see them and they were much worse then what I thought.

    Wow. This resort will NEVER get my business. Thanks for sharing Tammi, and I’m sorry for the rough experience.

    1. Thanks Randa, the photos were worth coming back for, right? Besides Expedia.ca and the bellman when we left – we didn’t get one apology at all from anyone else. Not from who it should have come from. It’s a little complaint, yet one that speaks volumes to me!

  19. Usually, I skip over posts like this, because some people can be so petty and look for anything to complain about. I’m so glad I took the time to read through your post. Those photos… just gross. I think you lasted longer than I would have and I am so glad expedia refunded your money for those 6 days. Unbelievable!

    1. I’m the same way, sometimes I don’t entirely read negative reviews because they are exactly like you said, petty. Sometimes, people complain about the dumbest things! This though? This? Inexcusable!

  20. What a nightmare! You are right; some inconvenience might make a holiday more memorable and even fun, but family vacation time IS precious, and oughtn’t be wasted in a hellhole like that. (Not to mention precious dollars….)

  21. Sorry to read this about your vacation but so pleased to see Expedia.ca came through for you. We have only been to Mexico once and that was to the Ocean Coral/Turquesa Dec 2012 and it was a fabulous place to stay, 5 star all the way

    1. Glad to hear that resort was great. I looked into that one once, since it can accomodate a family of 5. Will keep that in mind for next time!

    1. Of course, I post good and bad, what travellers need to know. No sugar coating here, I state facts! I wouldn’t want another family to go and experience the same, hopefully my travel posts allows families to choose the perfect vacation for them!

  22. What an awful experience you had in your very short time at that resort. Thanks for your report and pics.
    The only positive I can see is the beach….

    1. Yep, that was the only positive, what a tiny list of ‘goods’, right? I still shake my head, what a nasty experience without an apology! I still fume thinking about this place!

  23. Terrible experience, I too would have left. We work so hard and when we can afford to take a vacation why should it be spoiled with bugs, construction and filth. I’m so glad for your family that the rest of your vacation was awesome and Expedia did the right thing with their refund.

  24. Wow that is shocking!!! I have dealt with bugs and gaps in doors before, but that was in the cheapy cheapy guest houses in Asia where you don’t expect much. But from a hotel! shocking. Did you ever find out what the child pager was for?

  25. You are very fortunate that they gave you a refund, it seems now a days good customer service is very hard to find. I am glad it worked out for you in the end.

  26. Wow, what a horrible experience! You don’t expect things to go perfectly when you travel, but you’d hope that managers would at least try to fix things when you make a complaint! Good on you for packing up and leaving and I’m glad to hear that Expedia refunded the rest of your stay.

  27. WOW. I wanted to weep for you while I read this. The anticipation and excitement of vacation time……to that! Smart move leaving the next day. How disappointing for your family.

  28. That sounds horrible. I can handle a lot of mishaps on vacation where it is warm and I’m with my family, but if bugs crawled in my room and animals crawled on my table I couldn’t handle it at all!!! I know quite a few families who have stayed there and isn’t it funny how everyone can have a different experience at the same resort. Sometimes I wonder how different all parts of a resort are!! The water park for the kids really gets me too. So glad you got out of there and fast!

  29. That sounds like an abolute nightmare. I’m glad at least part of your vacay was salvaged. Thank you for sharing, hopefully it will help others avoid a similar fate!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *