Sandos All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico’s Riviera Maya — Which is Right for You?

by Heidi Gollub on July 27, 2023 in Travels,

Planning a Caribbean vacation can be as easy as booking a stay at an all-inclusive resort and hopping on a direct flight to Cancun. But it’s important to pick a resort that works for the type of trip you’re planning, as some cater to adults and others are geared toward family fun. 


Sandos, a family of nine all-inclusive hotels in Spain and Mexico, has three resorts in the Riviera Maya — one in Cancun and two in Playa del Carmen. I visited all three properties last month to see which is best for each type of traveler. 

Sandos Cancun

Enjoy the perfect mix of music played by a DJ when laying out by the pools at Sandos Cancun. Photo Heidi Gollub.

Located about 20 minutes from Cancun International Airport, this Cancun Hotel Zone property is a convenient option with healthy food choices and stunning ocean views. Three cascading infinity pools provide a beautiful setting where music and drinks flow all day. Sandos Cancun is focused on the adult experience, but families are welcome.  

Best for: Travelers looking for a party atmosphere, whose perfect all-inclusive vacation involves delicious cuisine, drinks in the pool while a DJ spins tunes and convenient shopping and nightlife options. 

Sandos Playacar

Sandos Playacar is located on the beach in the beautiful Riviera Maya. Courtesy photo.

It takes about 45 minutes to get to this Playa del Carmen resort from the airport, but your reward is a sprawling tropical property with a huge stretch of white sand beach. Sandos Playacar is a family-friendly resort with 10 pools, five water slides and two swim-up bars. 

For adults traveling without kids, there are Select Club Adults Only accommodations, which give you access to an 18+ pool with a bar, two executive clubs, an adults-only breakfast buffet and an exclusive area of the beach to relax. 

The Family King Junior Suite at Sandos Playacar is a popular room choice if traveling with your children. Courtesy photo.

Best for: Families who want a full schedule of activities to keep all ages engaged for days on end. Rent a bike, kayak in the ocean, enjoy 11 dining options (plus 24-hour room service) and stay up late for themed shows. If finding the best beach is your goal, Playacar is for you. 

Sandos Caracol Eco Resort

You will feel immersed in nature at the Sandos Caracol Eco Resort. Courtesy photo.

This Playa del Carmen resort is only 15 minutes from Playacar but feels much more like vacationing in the jungle. At Caracol Eco Resort, the focus is on nature experiences such as swimming in a cenote, snorkeling in a river and watching spider monkeys and coatis play in a mangrove forest. 

Caracol also has adults-only guestrooms that give you access to a special clubhouse, an adults-only pool and a reserved beach area with Bali beds, loungers and hammocks. 

A Mayan fire ceremony is part of the evening entertainment at the Sandos Caracol Eco Resort. Courtesy photo.

Best for: Animal lovers who want to experience the natural side of the Riviera Maya, with eco-adventures and wildlife encounters. Sandos Caracol has Mayan ruins on the property, iguana-laden nature trails through a mangrove forest, eight restaurants and evening shows including a Mayan fire ceremony.  

Two Resorts for the Price of One

Guests at the Sandos Caracol Eco Resort enjoy swimming in a jungle cenote. Courtesy photo.

An advantage of staying at a Sandos resort is that all guests of Playacar can visit Caracol for the day, and vice versa. So if you’re staying at Playacar for its amazing beach, you might like to visit Caracol for a morning of cenote snorkeling. 

Free day passes are available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To take advantage of this perk, you’ll need to arrange your own transportation, which can be done through Seek and Go in the lobby. 

Donations for Rural Communities

At each property, Sandos Foundation has bins for guests to donate clothing, shoes, toys and school supplies for rural Riviera Maya communities. Pack donations to leave behind, which will free up room in your suitcase for souvenirs. 

Playacar and Caracol invite local vendors to sell their handmade wares at the resorts, which offers another low-pressure way to support the community. 

Discover new experiences and wildlife as you explore the jungle around the Sandos Caracol Eco Resort. Courtesy photo.

Pack Kitty Treats To Spoil the Gatos

If you’re a feline fan, you may also want to pack some cat treats. The two Playa del Carmen resorts have resident kitties who come running if you shake a bag of treats. These cats are cared for by a Sandos vet and are available for adoption if you want to take one home to Texas.  


Cover photo Heidi Gollub

Heidi Gollub is an editor who lives in Austin with her family. She grew up bouncing around the globe and now enjoys sharing her love of travel with her own children.