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A TripAdvisor Member
SF bay area
120
Reviewed 27 February 2007

My wife and I just returned from 5 wonderful days at Ikal. It was everything we wanted and expected, and more. You can read other reviews for information regarding the spectacular setting and amenities, but I want to focus on why there are a few negative reviews amongst the majority of positive ones.
Ikal is a sublime paradise for a certain kind of traveler, but it is not for everyone. You are paying for a particulat mind-set and ambiance, not "things" that can be measure in monitary terms. The goal at Ikal is to create a serene and tranquil atmosphere where no reminders of the busy outside world exist, a goal they acheve extremely well. (even every day items like brooms and trays are wrapped in canvas bags when carried through the property by staff, ask for matches and they will be presented wrapped in a banana leaf to cover the printed images) Having been in the hospitality industry all my life I was very impressed by the staff. Without exception each staff member in genuinely warm and sincerley focussed on meeting and exceeding each guest's individual wishes and desires.
When considering Ikal keep the following in mind:

Ikal tries very hard to preserve the natural beauty of the region and to keep alive the sites sounds of the natural enviroment and ancient Mayan culture that have existed there for countless centuries. You are in the jungle, there are bugs. They are not numerous and they certainly won't bother all but the most sqeemish visitors. Yes, they end up in your pool and one or two might even wander into your room. For me this is a plus, I know I am in a tropical paradise. If you want a sterile enviroment without a few mosquitos then Ikal is not for you. Of course you also have to give up the many species of butterflies and tropical birds that fill the air, the geckos and and lizards that are darting about.

There are no signs, no printed words or numbers to help you find your bungalow amongst the winding jungle paths, and paracticaly no where else on the property either. Again, this is very intentional and forces you to slow down, way down, and become a part of your surroundings. For us, we loved finding our way back along the paths at night (lit by hundreds of candles and torches) by remembering to "take the left past the waterfall and look for the banana tree, then go right where the path splits around a huge flowering vine" Yes, you will occasionally get it wrong and wander into another bungalow area and have to turn around and go back. If this sounds charming, as it was for us, then Ikal is your kind of place, If it sounds irritating, skip Ikal.

Nothing happens quickly, again, very intentional. If waiting a few minutes for a drink or your entree means bad service to you, go somewhere else. I would rather be served at a relaxed pace by someone who sincerely loves his or her job and genuinely wants to please, even though they may not be familiar with every wine on the list or every ingredient in the the dozen or so different (and wonderful!) ceviches that are offered. The world is full of great restaurants with polished servers that know more, serve faster, and also regard you as source of income rather than a respected guest in their home, as is the case at Ikal.

We found Ikal very private. Yes, you can hear other guests at times, the bungalows are fairly close, but there is thick jungle between each that creates a visual screen. The outdoor showers are wonderfull, and although you can see out to the paths quite easily, it is almost impossible for anyone to see in. (at first we thought we were exposed, but I went out to the path to see if I could look in and found that everything was obscured that should be) If you are modest than use your indoor marble shower instead.

If you can't put away the cell phone for the whole trip, do yourself and all the other guests a favor and stay somewhere else. staying connected with the outside world undermines the whole purpose of the resort. Our only negative experience for the whole trip was hearing a cell phone ring at dinner, and then watching the guest look irritated for having to go to the far side of the dining room to take the call. I don't know what they were talking about, but I assume they were complaing to another type "A" personality that breakfast was 10 minutes late and that their double half-caf soy latte had to much foam and not enough peruvian nutmeg. Guests are asked not to use cellphones anywhere on the property.

The beach is rocky and getting in and out of the water is difficult right in front of your beach palapa, just walk a couple of hundred feet to a nice sandy entrance point to the north. I snorkaled every day (equipment complimentry of Ikal) and was amazed at 10 pound Parrot fish, huge schools of Jack and large live coral reefs in 6 feet of water directly in front of the property!

If you want to be immersed in an enviroment that is not like home, if you have respect and interest in the Mayan and Mexican cultures, if you enjoy the contrast of opulent comfort amidst rustic and natural beauty, and if you like service from real individuals with genuine smiles, then Ikal will be a treat of a lifetime.

This is not the Ritz, thank God!

  • Stayed: February 2007, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
20  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 February 2007

We recently returned from 5 days at Ikal Del Mar, where we celebrated our 30th anniversary. We booked our trip after reading many reviews of Ikal, both positive and negative, on this forum. We had hoped the negatives were exaggerated, but unfortunately they were not.

The rooms and grounds are beautiful and the staff is friendly, however privacy is an illusion, service is at best merely competent and the food only average to good. Ikal does not provide the level of service that should be a given for the price they charge and we won’t be returning.

In more detail....

The Good

Villas are spacious and well maintained/cleaned. Bed linens are luxurious and the bed is very comfortable. Towels are plentiful. Bathrobes, sandals and Moulton and Brown bath amenities are provided. The fridge is stocked with 2 Cokes, 2 Diet Cokes, 2 fruit juices, 2 beers and several bottles of water.

Having a plunge pool is a treat.

The grounds are lovely, pool area is beautiful. There are ample lounges (both sunny and shaded) by the beach and pool. A generous supply of towels and straw hats are provided. Iced face cloths are passed out at regular intervals. Staff is available to take meal/beverage orders and bottled water is available

The staff is pleasant and courteous.

A few of the staff tried hard to make our stay memorable - Eduardo (the head butler), Manuel (our waiter on several occasions), and Israel (the bringer-of-cold-towels-on-the-beach) stand out. When we had an undercooked burger for lunch, the waiter not only comped the lunch, but also insisted on giving us a complementary cocktail at lunch the following day

Some wonderful butterflies, moths, and lizards abound on the property.

The Bad

The villas have no screens, AC must be used at night (to escape insects and the heat) but the AC has a strong mildew odor.

There is insufficient light in the room or on the patio to read at night. They do provide a small gooseneck desk lamp, but there was nowhere to place it for two to use.

The plunge pool does get dirty quickly with fallen leaves and dead insects. They clean it once a day, but if you return to the room before they have cleaned it, they won’t intrude. Contrary to other posts, they do not ask about your preferred pool temperature, they turn the heater and pumps on and off at prescribed times.

The room/pool/outside shower are not really private. Depending on the villa location they can be seen at the very least by immediate neighbors and staff. Those along the main path can be seen by anyone walking by. You can also hear your neighbors.

Despite the travel agent telling them of our anniversary twice, and our subsequent mention of it on the guest questionnaire, there was no acknowledgement by word or deed by anyone at the property

Contrary to other posts, they did not ask if/when we wanted the continental breakfast delivered. We did specify a time to our guide on the afternoon we arrived. The first morning our 8:00 breakfast arrived at 9:45, but only after two phones calls to ask where it was. All subsequent mornings it was delivered 45 minutes later than requested.

Meal quality varied from good to average, but no better. On Valentine's Day there was a prix fixe menu - our waiter didn't know that there were four courses, or that the dessert included champagne. When the restaurant manager was making final rounds and asked us how things were, we told him they were not good - he acknowledged that he knew of our "case" (missing a course, missing the champagne), and we also told him there was lobster shell/cartilage in our soup. He apologized, and offered excuses, but nothing else. At $120/person for a meal, we expected better execution and a better response from the head of the dining room.

Mosquitoes - Ikal did provide repellant, but we still got munched on – over 29 bites for one of us in two days.

Tey no longer offer a shuttle into Playa del Carmen in the afternoon. You need to take a cab instead. They happily got us a cab, but never mentioned that they charged our room (nor did we sign anything), so we paid TWICE, once to the driver and once to the hotel. On the second trip in, we signed a voucher and knew we were being charged, so we only tipped the driver. Ikal also double-charged us for a second trip into Playa, but corrected it once we pointed it out.

No request made to the front desk by phone was ever handled correctly. It required at least two calls or a visit in person (missing bathrobes, missing glassware, breakfast not delivered).

When we were there, the pier into the ocean was closed, so getting in and out of the water required either a pair of reef-walkers or careful stepping.

Stayed: February 2007
19  Thank WinterVacationer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 February 2007

Ikal was a big splurge for us, and we initially wavered a bit on our decision to stay there, especially once we read some of the critical reviews posted here in recent months. But these two picky New Yorkers were mostly impressed (and relaxed, and pampered, and rejuvenated).

This place has its act together: it's gorgeous and incredibly well run, eager to please and yet laid back and on a par with the best places we've ever stayed (Four Seasons resorts in Asia etc). The casitas are stunning, the communal pool area is gorgeous, the shaded palapas on the beach are very comfy (though the beach is a bit rocky and not worth exploring -- there are some more sandy parts a few hundred feet to the left, but there's nothing much to see in either direction beyond that other than trash and all-inclusive resorts so don't bother exploring), the bed sheets are the most heavenly we've ever felt, the included breakfast is sensational, and there are a lot of little extras-- gifts of morning coffee and pastries delivered to your room, wine or champagne each day, cheese, fruit etc-- from the (newly installed) butler staff. They definitely go the extra mile to please: one morning, my husband was craving churros, and by lunch the chef had whipped up a fresh batch to order, complete with dark chocolate dipping sauce.

A few tiny cons: get GOOD directions before you go. The ones on the web site are utterly useless (for starters, the street they tell you to turn on from the main highway has no sign and certainly isn't marked as the web directions say it is), which is inexcusable. If you call, they'll tell you it's on an unpaved road but won't tell you that the road from the highway starts off as paved. Turn onto an unpaved road from the highway and you could end up in a dump, as we did, with giant holes in the road that could swallow a car.

Also, there are are no "do not disturb" signs on the paths leading to your room (why don't they do this?), and staff comes and goes several times a day. Keep this in mind if you want to swim naked in your plunge pool (and ask for a more private room a few days beffore you arrive -- some are indeed visible from the guest footpaths around the property, and because we made this request ahead of time we didn't have this problem).

The food is good but resorty (in other words, far more expensive and less exciting than the authentic stuff at la floresta and la carboneria in playa). The drive to Playa del Carmen, once traffice and parking is taken into account, can hit 25-30 minutes each way, but it's worth it. Rent a car rather than dealing with cabs, and if you get pulled over for speeding, a $20 bribe is all you need (we overpaid).

Also, lunch can be a bit slow to come, though the ceviche is excellent (as it should be for $20 an order). Order from your beach chair and then move to the dining area in half an hour (or more) when it will (finally) be ready.

Truly, though, we adored it and dream of going back.

Stayed: February 2007
7  Thank jodiandron
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 January 2007

I have searched for Heaven on Earth for vacationing and found it at Ikal! I first saw this place online over a year ago, drooled over it, and decided to go to its sister resort, Esencia, instead last year (it's a little cheaper, and lovely, BTW). I held my longings for Ikal for the year, and for our 10 year anniversary this year, my husband and I decided to splurge and visit Ikal del Mar. We could only book 2 nights, and that was tragic, but we decided that 2 nights was better than none.

We arrived after a horrid experience at an all-inclusive in an unusually cold Cabo San Lucas, and were greeted warmly with cups of coconut milk and cool towels to refresh ourselves from our long day of flying. The welcome pavilion was gorgeous and we could feel the horrid experience falling away s we were led along a jungle path, surrounded by the soothing sounds of the junlge at night and waves in the distance.

We were led to our villa and I almost cried with relief to see how private and beautiful it was! This is the first resort to have a Cal King bed (a big deal to us at 6'1" and 6'10", respectively). The bed was surrounded by a gauze tent, the bathroom was beautiful and luxurious, though no tub--but the warm plunge pool made up for that. Our luggage was delivered, and we were then given a tour of the grounds; the restaurant was open air and had a place for lounging for drinks on the ground floor, with the dining above, giving nice views of the pool and ocean.

The pool was lovely and glowing, and the grounds immaculate. They had a crew replacing the roof on the pavillion by the pool all night that first night, but they were finished after that and we never heard from them again. I was fun to watch while eating our delicious dinner. I highly recommend the Big Mistake for dessert. All of the food was great, but the Big Mistake was my favorite. And they make an excellent Margarita.

The staff was excellent from the Spa to the groundskeepers. Everyone worked together to be sure our stay was comfortable. The spa is gorgeous and peaceful; I had my first hot stone massage and enjoyed it immensely--I was a pool of jell-o, and I get massaged often here at home, so this was a good massage, IMO. Olivia did a great job relaxing me!

My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the room and it's amenities from the plunge pool to the outdoor shower. It's so private and quiet--perfect for a romantic getaway or honeymoon.

So, spend the extra $$ and pick this lovely gem of a hotel over any all-inclusive place. The food is infinitely better and the accommodations, top notch!

  • Stayed: January 2007, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
11  Thank Forca
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 January 2007

My husband and I have visited Ikal del Mar twice over the past couple of years and upon reading other guests' reviews, I thought I should share my own experiences with this resort.
Yes - the villas are stunning - the bedding, plunge pools, marble floors -absolutely beautiful / sexy. I have tried to find another place with comparable rooms and have failed (which is the primary reason I visited Ikal a second time)
The beach really isn't great. It's okay but rocky and the water isn't nearly as beautiful as the beach in Playa del Carmen.
The food is just okay - given the price they charge, it should be spectacular, but it falls short.
This last trip I took with my husband was in February of 2006 and there were two nights that sleeping was near impossible due to the sounds of trucks loading / unloading / ???? - just lots of banging and engine noise.
For the price - I was disappointed to say the least. For $700+ a night I expect, and rightfully so, to enjoy slumber that is out of this world - beautiful villa or not - it was not worth the $.

Stayed: January 2007
6  Thank shandasbee
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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