Advantages Location, service, beach, food, drinks, wildlife
|Value for Money|
|Quality of Rooms|
|Standard of Service|
|Quality of Food & Drink|
|Quality of Facilities|
Had this not happened we may never gone to Mexico as it is very expensive and I think unless you know how amazing it is you may not be prepared to save so hard to go.However, before we had even got on the plane home we were lying out in the pool in the Caribbean sunshine, working out our finances as to how to afford a return trip in 2007.
We had a particularly bad flight experience the year before with Monarch (as some of you may know if you've read my review of this). As the flight essentially makes up two days of your holiday we wanted to have a decent flight this year. First Choice started advertising their new and improved long haul flights and we were well and truly sold. Offering a 36 inch leather seat pitch (largest economy seat pitch by any flight operator), seat back tellys with a choice of 8 blockbuster movies that you could play and pause as you like as well as a selection of games, tv shows and a four course meal. Best of all you got a whopping 30kg hold luggage allowance and 5kg hand luggage - perfect for a girl like me!I began to research hotels when we came back and the Iberostar Tucan caught my eye for many reasons. This is very lucky since we definitely wanted to go back to the Playacar area and First Choice only offered two hotels in this area; the Sandos and the Iberostar Tucan. Luckily they both are on the best bit of beach but the Iberostar Tucan (at the time of us going) is a superior hotel by far. That said the Sandos is undergoing huge renovations to become a five star at the moment.
The Iberostar Tucan is rated 4th best hotel along the Riviera Maya, and 2nd best in Playacar. However the beach at the number one rated hotel (for both Riviera Maya and Playacar) has a damaged beach so this was out of the question.We had planned to book the holiday in January (to give us a bit of a break from paying off/saving up for holidays!) but in October (a month after we got back off holiday) we decided we would "just go and price it up" when we happened to be walking past the First Choice shop in the Trafford Centre. We priced it up and they only had 2 rooms left for the dates we wanted already! I honestly believe this was true after having been to the hotel. The demand is so great that apparently if you want to go in high season (we went in low season) you can have to book over a year in advance!
We definitely wanted to go, and definitely wanted to go with First Choice, so we ended up booking there and then!LOCATION
One of the most important things any hotel can have going for it is the location. It could be the most stunning hotel in the world, with the best staff and facilities but if it is in the middle of nowhere or on a bad stretch of beach then it wouldn't interest me to go there in the first place.The first point that the Tucan wins hands down for us on is the location. It is situated directly on a wide, white sand stretch of beach in the beautiful Playacar. Playacar is a gated community that houses the higher end all inclusive hotels. There are security guards on the three entrances to Playacar day and night, you feel completely safe within the place. Playacar itself has the Playacar Plaza which houses a small number of gift shops and places to book tours from.
The grounds of Playacar are beautiful, it's like entering another world, it almost seems unreal, the first time we left the complex it felt very surreal. The palm lined perfect streets almost look fake.The best thing, however, is the location of Playacar itself. It backs onto Playa Del Camen, so depending where about in Playacar you are it could be a ten minute or a thirty minute walk into the town of Playa Del Carmen, which I have to tell you is absolutely fantastic. Playa Del Carmen is the best place I have ever been. The area is stunning. I'm not sure how you imagine Mexico if you have never been, I've heard many picture it as a poor derelict place. I can't speak for other places of Mexico but Playa Del Carmen is beautiful. As you enter there are a selection of 'Americanised' shops such as Pull and Bear, Bershka, Subway, Starbucks etc then once you get to 5th Ave the streets are lined with bars, shops, clubs and resteraunts. There is plenty to do here.
Personally we couldn't stand to go on a holiday and stay at the hotel the whole time, so for us it is essential to be close by to these amenities or we would go stir crazy!The Tucan is at the South end of Playacar, it is the second to last hotel in the complex. It would be around a 30 minute walk to Playa Del Carmen but there is no need to do this as there are always taxis at the front lobby of the hotel that you can get into town for £2.50.
The hotel itself is located in its very own jungle, the grounds and rooms are within this jungle atmosphere. It is a very unique experience and really sets it apart from all the other hotels.The Tucan along with the Sandos are also located on the best stretch of beach in Playacar, as sadly due to erosion, most of the beach infront of the other hotels has now been ruined.
At the Iberostar Tucan, you are presented upon arriving with either a green (over 18s) or white (under 18s) wristband upon check in. Don't worry the drinking age in Mexico is 18 not 21. At the Tucan you are allowed unlimited food from the buffet restaurant, unlimited room service and unlimited drinks of any kind. They had local brands but also had a selection of international brands such as Bacardi, Smirnoff and the like. More about the drinks later...Depending how long you are staying for you are allowed a certain amount of reservations as the speciality restaurants (more about those later too!). As we were staying for 14 nights we were officially allowed 5 bookings. Every one we made was granted and we actually made a sixth one without any problem. I think should the availability be there (i.e. They're not overly busy) they will let you visit as many times as you like provided you make a reservation. However even in high season, if you are going for 14 nights (which from the UK you presumably are) then you are guaranteed your 5 reservations.
Guests apparently receive a complimentary entry to Lucy's Mini-Club program for children, however, being lucky enough to have left the little one at home with Nana I can't comment on this so you may have to research further if you are looking at taking kids.
The AI at this hotel is 24 hour, at some places you can only get drinks on the all inclusive during certain times. However after 12am most of the bars shut other than the one at the onsite club which is open till 3am. After 3am the only drinks (soft drinks or beer) and food available are from the buffet on the restaurant side.
Lounge chairs, sun umbrellas and towels are complimentary by the pool and on the beach. This is something I found amusing at first as I thought it would be ludicrous for them not to be free at any hotel but after mentioning this to people they informed me they had been to hotels where they've had to pay to use the sun beds on the beach!
There are 350 rooms at the Tucan separated into blocks of 24 (I think!). However, the Tucan essentially makes up half of the complex as there is an identical 'hotel' running parallel called the Iberostar Quetzal. It is a mirror image and all the rooms are the same, they share the same restaurants, beach and pool. They are essentially one hotel but with two lobbys to ease check in. If you bear this in mind there is in fact 700 rooms.
Our room had two double beds, a fold out sofa, a chair, a table, dressing table, large cupboard which was plenty enough room for both mine and my boyfriends clothes. The beds were firm but we never found them uncomfortable, even on hangover days when we stayed in bed all day! Depending on what block you stay in you may get a king size bed instead of two doubles.The rooms had a television which we never used but had quite a few satellite channels on it. We met other English people who had been able to watch the football on the tvs in their room. The television also had internet access on it which we never used as there was no indication to what the charge was.
The air conditioning and ceiling fan worked brilliantly, it's lovely to come into a nice refreshing room from the heat outside.The room had its own hairdryer in the bathroom. My hairdryer I took with me actually didn't work (voltage difference over there I think) so I had to use the hotel one. It was a nozzle on what looked a bit like a Hoover pipe extending from the wall. It got very very hot to hold (I usually had to wrap a flannel round it to hold it) but it dried my hair fine. My friend, staying at a different hotel, had trouble with her GHDs heating up (in that they wouldn't) but I used my straighteners (PBMs) and they heated up just as hot as at home both at the Tucan and the previous year at the Allegro.
There was a telephone in the room which we only ever used to dial room service on as it would be very expensive to make proper calls off it. Room service was however free of charge.There was a mini bar which I had read reports of it not keeping things cold. This is absolute rubbish. The drinks were really cold, me and my boyfriend are both fussy and we found them fine. Also just outside our room was an ice machine which you could go and fill up your ice bucket with. The mini bar was restocked every other day (but you could phone down to reception if you needed anything stocking up earlier than that). It was stocked with Diet Coke, Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Water and a beer called Superior. My boyfriend is a very fussy drinker but thought Superior was okay.
There is a safe which is free to use and you set your own four digit code to open and close it instead of having to carry a key.Every room has either a balcony or terrace. You can not get a beach front room unless you upgrade. We got closest to the beach without upgrading and still had a beach view. We were also close to the pool. We stayed in block 12. You can also request a jungle view room if you prefer and if you do you are quite likely to have monkeys on your balcony!
If you are bothered about a view then a request of an inward facing room means that you are not facing the next hotel along. If you go for an inward facing room you will have either a view of the jungle or the pool. We weren't actually too bothered about the view so much as the location. We wanted to be close to the beach and pool.The complex is quite large, it's probably a five minute walk from the beach to the lobby, it's not as big as some but not as small as some either. If you want to be close to the lobby and buffet restaurant then request a higher numbered room as these are closest. I know block 16 which is right in the middle has a good view of the jungle. Blocks 13-11 are closest to the beach and pool. This is what we requested as we wanted our room to be near by if we were popping back throughout the day. We were just lucky that we got the view as well without even asking. The hotel will do its best to accommodate your request.
The best beds by the pool were taken early by people playing the towel game, despite it not being allowed. Personally, if I'm in the Caribbean I want to lie on the beach not the pool, you can lie by a pool in any country (Well okay maybe not in UK but you get my meaning!). If you do want a bed and someone has reserved it but isn't there I would say after an hour of non return I would have no problems moving their things if they are not using it or simply asking a member of staff to do so. I had a bed one day and at 10am some people came and reserved several beds next to us. They did not return once all day. If they are going to do pointless things like that if their stuff gets moved that's their problem. They can't really complain when it is in the 'rules' that you are not allowed to reserve sun beds.There were a few 'double' bed type things around the pool, these were reserved as early as 5am so you're only going to get one if you do the same, or move peoples things. These are shaded however so I personally wouldn't want to lie in the shade all day.
Despite the area round the pool usually having nearly all the sun beds taken up, the actual pool never looked even slightly busy as it honestly was so huge. I can't even express to you how big it was.
There were certain things I didn't like about the pool. It was deep the whole way round. I'm not sure how deep but over 5ft and I'm only 5ft tall so there wasn't really anywhere where me and my boyfriend could play about in it. There is a shallow bit at each end where you get out but that's all.
We didn't really use the pool much as we were mainly on the beach and in the sea.BEACH
We tended to spend all our time on the beach as the pool was really crowded, by 8am there were no good beds left. On the beach we used to pull two sun beds down to the bottom so we were closest to the sea in front of us and the Sandos to our right. The Sandos closed for renovation so from our sun beds all we could see to our right was just clear beach with nothing on it, and just in front of us was the sea so we had the perfect view from our sun beds. It was also more relaxing on the beach as there weren't loads of games going on.
It was such a bonus for us that the Sandos had closed as it meant we had this view with no people/sunloungers on the beach next to us!
To the south of the Tucan there is one more resort (the Sandos) and then unspoilt beach with nothing on it. It's perfectly safe to walk down this during the day as far as you like and go off exploring - we had lots of fun doing this. The beach to the north in front off all the other resorts in Playacar has suffered bad erosion and are no longer resorts I would consider recommending anyone who wants a Caribbean beach to go to.We had said we would go for a walk down to our hotel from last year at some point, as it does hold lots of memories for us - it was our first holiday together and it was where we first fell in love with Playa. We knew there had been beach erosion but we weren't prepared for quite how bad it was.
Walking down the beach to the Allegro from the Tucan was just shocking. The beach at the Tucan and Sandos are stunning but go towards the Allegro and the beach just gets worse and worse by each hotel. There is beach erosion, huge sandbags, at one part there was a part of a building half collapsed...it all just looked really bad. I would have been devastated, had I not known about the erosion if I had got on holiday staying at one of the hotels with the bad beaches as the beach is a big part in a Caribbean holiday. I would only ever return to either the Tucan or go to the Sandos in future. I just hope the beach there remains good and possibly they may build some more hotels south of the Sandos? I can't see any reason not to.
We struggled (climbing over sand hills, bits where there was no beach, rocks, sand bags etc) all the way to the Allegro, but beyond this point you couldn't actually get any further as the beach was completely gone.
Our first few meals and subsequently most of our meals were at the buffet restaurant. The food here is gorgeous.At breakfast they had choice from fruit, to cereal, to fresh bread, to pancakes, but what we opted for was, of course, a full English breakfast! The bacon was crisp, the sausages nice, hash browns cooked to perfection. You could have your eggs pretty much anyway you desired; various varieties of scrambled egg, various omelettes, poached eggs, boiled eggs, fried eggs...the choice was yours. Everything we had was really nice.
At tea there was huge selections from carvery meats, fresh veg, any kind of potato you can imagine; chips, roast, gratin etc, meatballs, lasagne, pasta dishes, burgers, traditional Mexican food, even fresh lobster! Honestly that's a small example but the selection was so diverse - English, American, Mexican, Italian, Seafood even Chinese!I really don't understand how anyone can complain about it and people who say that you get bored of it after a day or so I really don't understand because there's different things on every night and there's enough choice each night to make completely different meals anyway. Mine and my boyfriends plate's always looked completely different there's loads of choice and we piled loads on! I loved the food in the buffet restaurant, I didn't just think it was ok I thought it was really nice.
The buffet restaurant has a palapa style roof but open sides. There is no air conditioning but there are over head fans. It wasn't cool in the place but we didn't find it too hot or uncomfortable. The buffet restaurant is surrounded by a pond and marble walkways over this pond to get to it. In the water there are fish and turtles. You can sit right at the edge of the restaurant by the water if you wish but the place is huge and if you rather sit further indoors you can sit far away from the edge. There were little birds that used to come in occasionally and sit around. We found this really nice but upon telling our friends they pulled a face and said they wouldn't have ate there then. I suppose it depends how you feel about being surrounded by wildlife as to whether you would like it or not.Steakhouse
We have one night out one night in on holiday, so we had booked in at the speciality restaurants for our nights off. We had no problems always getting in at the restaurants we wanted on the days and times we wanted. Our first reservation was at the Steakhouse.This was by far the nicest meal me and my boyfriend have ever had ever. I don't just mean in a hotel, this was nicer than any restaurant, however expensive that we have ever been to. I had the tenderloin steak and my boyfriend had the rack of beef ribs.
Both were cooked to perfection and really, really soft. Both were served with a corn on the cob and a baked potato with sour cream. I'm very wary of eating baked potatoes unless they are cooked by me as there's nothing worse than undercooked hard potatoes (in my opinion!) but these did not fail to satisfy, they were really soft and the sour cream was gorgeous. We didn't have a starter or desert this time as we were too full.We booked in at the Steakhouse again for tea. The Tropical was closed while we were there and out of the 4 we tried the Steakhouse was a clear winner so we wanted to go there again. This time we went up for starters, there wasn't much really at all and nothing to get excited about. This time I had the full rack of beef ribs because I'd tried Ste's the last time and loved them. They are GORGEOUS!! When you have a rack of ribs over here (I think they are usually pork) you have to fight to saw through the meat to get them off the ribs! The meat was so soft and tender it literally just fell off the bone when you started to cut. It was absolutely gorgeous. Ste had the sirloin steak which was also really nice but the ribs were our firm favourite. The baked potatoes were gorgeous again. This time we had a dessert which was a chocolate brownie. It was nice and really well presented.
They bring round sushi at the beginning which you can eat if you like but don't have to. Ste didn't eat any but I tried each different kind. It wasn't awful but it wasn't nice either, I'm not sure what all the fuss was about it just tastes like fish but is really chewy. That's no reflection on the quality of food at this hotel, simply a matter of choice as to whether you like sushi or not.The starter we both ordered was fried vegetables, which were deep fried. It was actually really nice but a little sickly towards the end of it.
Next the chef came over and started cooking the food and doing the tricks. Now for those who want to know a sample of the tricks he performed read on, but if you are intending on going, it can be best to watch not knowing what is going to happen next so if you don't want to know scroll down to below the spoiler...**********************************
The chef at one part of the show had an egg that he was spinning around and around really fast on his spatula, with a flick of the wrist he made the egg fly up into the air. I remember thinking oh my god how is he going to catch this now, instead he turned his spatula on it's side and sliced through the egg on it's way back down so that the egg cracked onto the frying plate below!
He also shaped the rice that was cooking into a heart shape in front of a couple and put his spatula underneath and tapped it to make it look like the heart was beating.
********************************This honestly was the best dining experience I've ever had, not because of the food, the food was okay but nothing special, but watching this guy do these amazing tricks and having your food cooked right in front of you was brilliant. If you can only book in two restaurants during your stay I would recommend the Steakhouse for the food and the Japanese for the experience - honestly it was amazing I absolutely loved it.
I had the chicken, beef, shrimp, veg and rice. The only thing I didn't try was the octopus! Everything was nice but it's not in any sauce or anything so it's nothing special but it's not bad either. The rice is fried in what I think was soy sauce and I really liked it although again by the end of it, it was getting sickly. I think the veg was fried in this too. My boyfriend wasn't keen on it as he doesn't like soy sauce.As you were sat around a table with everyone and watching all the tricks etc this actually took a long time I think we were in here about two hours!! After our main course we ordered a desert. There was only a choice of two things and we ordered the banana fritter and ice cream which honestly was disgusting! I think it would be disgusting anywhere though not just at this restaurant!!
Then they came out banging lots of loud things and singing happy birthday and brought a little cake over to a woman whose birthday it was and were bringing her tequila etc.
It was a great way to spend a night, it wasn't just simply eating.
Even champagne was on the all inclusive and you could have champagne cocktails should you wish.The strength of the drinks varies. I found them to be stronger in the pool bar than the lobby bar which would ideally be better the other way round! However if you want it making stronger or weaker just ask! They're more than happy to make them as you like.
The beer they serve on draft is Dos Equis. My boyfriend is a fussy drinker and normally only drinks Corona or Sol but he liked the Dos Equis just fine. Trust me; if my boyfriend rates a beer as good then it really will be, he's so fussy it's a nightmare (we can never just get whatever is on offer it always has to be Corona or Sol!)They also had a selection of shots on the menu including the Flaming Mexicano which looks like the Mexican flag, is lit alight and you drink through a straw. They'll even do sparks above it for you if you want. Another on the menu is a Cocorocha or something like that! This is not nearly as nice as the Mexicano!
In the club we gave the barman a $5 tip and he made us each a 'death shot'. This was a whisky glass sized shot, not a shot glass sized one! It was filled to the brim with all sorts of alcohol and the name is very apt! I've never seen my boyfriend so worse for wear and that's saying something as he likes his drink!We only ever drank in the lobby bar, club or pool bar. There seemed to be a huge selection in the theatre of drinks though. The pool bar is really ideal for drinking in the day. Unlike at many hotels with a swim up bar it is in a separate pool to the main one. It is over 18s only so no kids splashing about around you. You enter via steps and to your right is the bar which has plenty of bar stools (under the water) and to the left are three 'booths' much like you would find in a pub, complete with tables. It was the best swim up bar I've ever seen as it was actually like a bar! It was in a lagoon like setting complete with waterfall, and the trees surrounding it kept it a cool refreshing place to relax. This place is honestly so gorgeous, you must look at my photos to fully understand what a paradise it really is.
The club never got busy and the music was average, for a night out you really should be going into Playa Del Carmen, it's amazing there. That said we had a good night at the club one night and ended up staying there most of the night. If there are a few of you it can be fun and of course it's free and so are the drinks.WILDLIFE
The main thing that really sets this hotel apart is it's jungle setting. Amongst the animals freely wandering around the grounds are monkeys, agouti (looks a bit like a large but cute rodent but is in fact of the pig family), peacocks, hens and the biggest lizards I have ever seen.For the first few days we didn't see any monkeys but they are always about it's just a case of noticing them. We usually only noticed them when we saw people stood around looking up. We saw them on the roofs of two buildings 'shouting' across to each other (very scary noises they make!) and we saw them swinging and jumping from tree to tree. Although our room was away from the jungle they were sometimes in the trees near our room and I spent a long time one afternoon on the balcony just watching them.
The scariest thing I saw was just near our room a moth that was bigger than a bat. No, I'm not joking or exaggerating! It was absolutely huge, three times the size of the door frame it was on! I took a photo, and then upon going in for a close up photo (partly because part of me simply didn't believe it could really be a moth and wondered if it was just a large leaf or something) it flew directly at my face! I have never been so scared in my life!! My legs wouldn't work so I simply dived head first away from it straight onto the marble floor, slid right the way down the corridor and stopped when I hit head first into the wall. Remarkably, neither myself or my camera was damaged, I'm just glad the only person their to witness this and laugh himself silly at me was my boyfriend!None of the wildlife will hurt you and it is a really exciting element to have.
The hotel has entertainment and activity run by staff called Star Friends. We never participated in any of it but they all seemed very friendly. If you are lying out by the pool expect to be asked multiple times per hour if you want to go dancing, for a scuba demonstration, to play a game etc. If you say no they try to convince you for a minute in a friendly manner but move on if you're not interested. If you lie out on the beach though you don't get any of this other than occasionally a guy coming by asking if anyone wants a game of volleyball.There is plenty to do if you want to but you can be as involved or uninvolved as you want. We didn't actually take part in any of it.
I had seen photos and read before I went about different activities and two I wanted to do was they bring a mechanical bull out on the beach (I've always wanted to ride one) and they put two large balls (think of zorbing balls) in the pool which you climb inside and race each other across the pool in. Unfortunately I didn't see either of these activities while we were there as there is no indication of when they may happen.There are also supervised activates available for the children in the Mini Club such as singing, painting, games and swimming in the small children's pool.
There were nightly entertainment shows in the theatre but we never went to these.SPORTS INCLUDED
Each day there is a free scuba trial in the pool andguests can enjoy the CDC PADI Gold Palm Resort Dive Center, which offers various diving courses from beginner to instructor levels. There are also nitrox courses, local and night dives for those who are certified, as well as cenote diving. Diving comes at an extra price other than the free pool trial.SPA
There is a spa that has a steam bath, Jacuzzis and massage cabins but I never saw the Spa let alone used it. They did some massages by the pool over looking the beach. I did not have one but I think I might next time, they looked very relaxing. Beauty treatments are also available but I didn't use this service so I can't comment.PRICES
Prices for two adults for two weeks range from £1800 through to £3600 depending on tour operator and time of year.
Well I think the biggest sign of how good this hotel is that upon landing at Manchester airport the first thing we did was to go to First Choice and price up for our return trip next year. We didn't end up booking with First Choice (too expensive) but we are already booked to go back to this hotel next June. We will return time and time again, the only reason I would ever not go back is if the beach deteriorated.Both this hotel, and Mexico in general, offers things suitable to all ages. I think anyone from 4-74 would love their time here at this hotel.
Another thing that speaks volumes for this hotel is the fact that just from seeing our holiday photos at least 6 of our friends have decided to look into booking for going themselves!Absolutely amazing resort - I defy anyone not to love it!
**********************************************************This review, as you can probably tell, took me a long time to put together; read/rate/comments would be greatly appreciated!!
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