We just got back from an amazing week on a Costco Travel Package to Mexico! I’ve got a complete Hard Rock Riviera Maya Review for you below, with tons of tips, ideas and photos for your vacation planning! On the whole, it was a great vacation -we had tons of fun on and off the resort, and created amazing memories with our kids!
I was really pleasantly surprised by the Hard Rock all-inclusive resort – and the short of the long is that yes, I would stay there again, and I would recommend it to friends. We’ve only stayed at one other all-inclusive which we didn’t love, so we had low (low, low, low) expectations – and really this trip to the Hard Rock Riviera Maya Resort changed our opinion, I’m now a fan!
- Our Travel Profile
- General Resort Pros & Cons
- Property Map
- Resort Activities & Reservations
- All Inclusive Dining
- Room Service & Menu Sample
- Rock Circus Show
- Pool & Lagoon Beach Areas
- Kids Club, Teen Gaming Club & Teen Lounge
- What to Bring / Recommendations
- Lessons Learned
- Additional Photos of Hard Rock Riviera Maya All Inclusive Resort
- More Family Resorts Near Tulum
- More Recent Travel Posts, Resort Reviews & Destination Guides
Our Travel Profile
Before you listen to any travel blog…you’ve got to know if you’re “on the same page” on your travel style and priorities.
For our vacation we had three items that were our top priorities. We compromised on one of them to make it all work. Here they are:
- Close to Tulum
- Waterpark and activities for the kids
- Suite or connecting rooms for a little more space [compromised]
We were hoping to find a resort in or near Tulum because we knew we wanted to see the Tulum Archeological Site Mayan Ruins, cenotes and other day trips that were in or around Tulum. Tulum is about a 90 minutes drive from Cancun (give or take depending where you are) and we knew our kids would be unhappy on a day trip that required 3 hours in the car round trip so we really wanted to stay close to Tulum. The Hard Rock Riviera Maya is in Puerto Aventuras, which is just North of Tulum. It’s about 30 minutes to Tulum, and 1 hour from the airport. Good Location for us.
Our kids love at least a few days of each vacation to be spent just hanging out at our resort, and they also love water slides, lazy rivers, and pools…no surprise there…and we wanted to find a water park designed for older kids too – many resorts have a toddler water slide or splash pad, but our boys are 8 & 9 and we wanted big kid waterslides and activities, and the Hard Rock Riviera Maya delivered 110% on that!
We had hoped to find a suite or connecting room. We booked late and they were all sold out. To be honest, I knew when I booked it that I wasn’t happy about the single room and in the future I’ve promised myself I’ll book in advance and get the suite/connecting rooms. Largely my fault we didn’t get to check this box off. The best deal I found on the travel package was by far Costco Travel. Especially as it got really close the flights went up a lot less on their packages!
General Resort Pros & Cons
No hotel or resort is perfect! And that’s ok. The most important thing for travelers [in my opinion] is that you know in advance, so you can manage expectations and know before you go!
- The waterpark area was great. Our kids (8 & 9 year old boys) LOVED the waterslides, splash pads, buckets dumping water everywhere…and there’s even a little food truck with some lunch options in the park. It felt clean and I saw staff testing the water constantly.
- The resort uses soft fabric bracelets with built-in keys for each family member – it’s AWESOME! Kids can unlock the door too, and no one ever is without a key, no forgotten keys and going back to the lobby to fetch more, etc. It’s not a stiff plastic bracelet, it’s very soft and I didn’t even notice it after five minutes. All hotels should have these!
- Most wait times we were given were much shorter than told (I think they’re under promising and over delivering which is good IMO) – from wait times in restaurants to room service delivery we found we never waited as long as they quoted.
- Housekeeping was A+ and were quick to deliver everything we ordered or clean the room upon a call, and overall just really very professional.
- Room Service was better than most. I generally think all room service is pretty mediocre, but we were really happy with almost everything we ordered (especially the salmon plate, chicken quesadilla, brioche french toast, and omelettes).
- Buffet Food at Hacienda side was overall very good for a mid-priced all inclusive.
- Employees are all very helpful and nice, and seem to really like working there and helping guests.
- Guests are very diverse – we met lots of Europeans, Mexicans, Australians, South Americans and of course Americans.
- The Hotel was sold out when we were there – at 100% capacity – and we had no major problems with being able to do what we wanted, make reservations for activities, etc. I do highly recommend looking into what you want to do before you arrive, and book it all with the concierge on your first day because some activities do sell out several days in advance.
- Lots of activities for families: water park, escape room, evening shows, pool tables/foosball/air hockey, volleyball court, snorkeling, music experiences, family photos, and a full slate of poolside activities from trivia games to jumbo beach ball competitions.
- It was easy to take golf carts between the Heaven and Hacienda side, or to have them pick us up at our room.
- The standard rooms are small. There is a large jacuzzi tub in the main part of the room which takes up a lot of what could have been useable space. For little kids still taking baths this could be fun since they can see the TV from the tub…for everyone else, I think we’d all rather have a sofa or dinette or just more open space.
- The “lazy river” does not have a current – it is a loop you can float or swim around.
- Guests “save” pool chairs early in the morning so you do too or it’s slim pickings. This is a personal pet peeve of mine and it happens in almost all large chain resorts, it’s certainly not exclusive to the Hard Rock. If everyone would just stop this nonsense there would always be seats open for everyone when they were actually at the pool. But you either join in and have a seat, or resist it and risk not having a seat. Sigh.
- Guacamole was pretty disappointing. And now you know I’m digging deep when guacamole makes my list lol!
In case it’s helpful to see the who, what and where….here’s the map that was provided to us in the activities document. As you can see it’s a large resort…or two resorts in one. Previously the resort was divided into an adult only side (Heaven) and a family friendly side (Hacienda) and adult guests could use both resorts but kids were limited to Hacienda. Currently, the entire property is family friendly and kids may stay, play and eat at both Heaven and Hacienda.
Resort Activities & Reservations
The Concierge was very helpful, as were the Vacation Planners. There’s someone who can help you to do everything you want to do, just ask! On the concierge’s desk you’ll find a QR code you can scan to see all of the week’s activities. And you’ll find loads of brochures and info on excursions at the vacation planning desk.
Top Tips For Activities Planning
- The weekly schedule of shows and activities comes out each Monday for the week. So if you’re a planner you might consider arriving on Sunday or Monday so as you get the schedule for your entire stay in the beginning of your stay.
- There are two dinner options that require reservations (on the all inclusive plan) which is the dinner shows and for the teppanyaki grill (think Benihana style) at Zen.
They have a concierge and a Vacation Planners tour desk. There is a division of who does what- here who you need to see for what:
- Booking Zen Teppanyaki Grill
- Booking Dinner Shows
- Booking Experiential Dining ($150 per adult and $75 per child)
- Booking a Rental Car (24 hours notice requested, but said often 6 hours notice is sufficient) – it’s around $85/day for a basic sedan for four people.
- Ideas for self guided day trips, activities, off site restaurants, and local artisan shopping
- Booking Rock Circus Show Tickets
- Booking organized tours to Maya Ruins, Cenotes, etc.
- Booking Escape Room Experience
- Family Photo Sessions
Activities Schedule Example
Don’t mind my circling, I was making notes of what we were interested in lol!!
Note on Zen: you can get sushi without a reservation – only if you want to sit at the grill for a Benihana style cooking show you need to book in advance.
Note on Dinner Shows: if the dinner shows are sold out, you can generally still go watch the show – it’s just the dinner that books out (in advance). For shows that don’t have dinner, you don’t need advance tickets or reservations just show up.
Hard Rock Music Lab
Included in the all-inclusive offerings at the Riviera Maya Hard Rock is the Music Lab experience – you can book 1on1 or group experiences, perform in front of a real live audience, and more. The concierge can help you set up.
- JAM BAND
- Ever wonder what it would be like to play in a rock ‘n roll band? Jam Band gives you the opportunity to be a rock star for a day regardless of your skill level. Choose to play 1 of 4 instruments or be the lead singer in a rock band! Your very own Rock Specialist will coach you to finally perform in front of a live audience. Located at the Hacienda Patio
- MIX DJ
- It is the basic and most important preparation to be a DJ. Throw some beats, bass and instruments and let the music flow to create your own musical mix. Located at the Club Heaven Lounge
- ROCK TUBE
- It’s the fun experience of shooting a music video. Lights, camera and lots of Rock n’ Roll! Choose your song, come with your family and become a video star. Before scheduling, talk with our Concierge Team to arrange the location and time availability.
- STUDIO TIME
- Now all our rockers can record their own music track on a Recording Studio. Pick your favorite tune and fill in for any instrument on the track. If playing an instrument it’s not your thing, you can always sing along! And in the end you’ll get a remastered version you can share with your biggest fans.
- GUITAR MASTER CLASS
- A personalized Guitar class
- VOCAL MASTER CLASS
- Your personal vocal lessons.
There is a main show every evening – some are dinner shows and some are performance only (no dinner). Additionally there is live music or entertainment in each lobby every evening. Most tend to start late, if you have toddlers you’ll probably miss most of these.
We saw the Circus Rock show (the free one in the theater) and it was GREAT! I wish we’d gotten there earlier to get better seats. Kids of all ages were engaged. We also the magic show, which was totally fun considering it was free 😉
ProTip: the first five rows of the theatre shows are reserved for the members and those who paid for upgraded status. Once the show starts they release the seats that were no-shows (which was about 40% for the magic show)…double check with one of the guys managing those seat reservations when he’ll release them and grab em!
All Inclusive Dining
Each resort has a buffet restaurant, and a few a la carte restaurants. There aren’t a la carte reservations except for Zen teppanyaki tables, and for the dinner shows. Those with rock star status or membership may be able to make some reservations in advance…for everyone else it’s first come first serve. They do give you a buzzer or an estimated time to come back, and we found it quite manageable.
When hotel is sold out, plan for a 60-90 minute wait time for the A La carte restaurants at prime time (6-8pm) for dinner, that shortens to about 25 minutes when you arrive at 5:30 when they open.
Employees are all nice and professional and seem to like working here. A few hostess were short with us but tbh that’s one of the worst jobs to tell hungry and hangry people they have to wait for food 😂 I saw some people be really awful to the hostesses!
No wait times over 5 minutes for breakfast buffet. Plus there’s a mini buffet in the atrium of each resort which never had any wait. Lunch is served in a zillion places – burger and taco stands at the pool, brick oven pizza at the pool (it’s a REAL brick oven, get one they’re good!!), salads and snack stands by the pool, plus there’s a food truck in the water park and the buffet and cafetto are open.
Cafetto is a small coffee shop style cafe – there’s one on each side of the resort both in Heaven and in Hacienda and they have ice cream, coffee, sandwiches, donuts and more and it was always open when we were in the lobby (from early till’ late).
Hard Rock Riviera Maya Cafetto Photos
Room service is 24 hours, and included in the all inclusive dining plan.
Buffet Tip: The buffet in Hacienda is MUCH larger than the buffet at Heaven (whis is an “Italian” buffet only). The Hacienda Buffet has a brick pizza oven in the back and makes fresh pizza, as well as a grill where you order your cut of meat (variety of beef, fish, chicken and pork) and they cook it to order. Plus there is live music during dinner – we much preferred the Hacienda Resort’s Buffet.
Buffet Tip 2: Pace yourself on trying all the foods. If it’s your first all-inclusive rodeo and you tend to tire of foods easily, don’t mix your plate with a taste of all the offerings for each meal or you’ll feel like you’ve already had everything within a day or two. Stick to one theme for each plate, and mix it up day to day. Omelette one day, pancakes the next, avocado toast the next, chilaquiles the next, etc.
Hard Rock Riviera Maya Hacienda Buffet Photos
Room Service & Menu Sample
We thought room service was pretty good! Menu is somewhat limited but there’s something for everyone and room service is included in the all-inclusive package at Hard Rock Riviera Maya.
Here’s a few pages of the Hard Rock room service menu to give you an idea of what you can order delivered to your room. I recommend the chicken quesadilla and the salmon plate (on another page of menu).
Rock Circus Show
There is a separate full production live show not included in the all inclusive which is on the premises called Rock Circus (confusing with the show mentioned above – but a different show with very similar name) which offered on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30pm. The tickets are $100+ per person, and the concierge can help you to book tickets or see the link above for more info.
The difference between the free Circus Rock in the hotel theater and ticketed/paid Rock Circus show is that the freebie is about 45 minutes long with about 7 acts versus the paid show which is 2.5 hours long and has over 40 acts and live music.
This start time was a little late for our kids, so we didn’t see it but you can see a preview below.
Pool & Lagoon Beach Areas
There is no shortage of pools and lagoons for swimming and lounging at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya Resort! Each side of the resort has extensive pools and pool seating. As well as several lagoons and beach seating areas. From seating under palapas to umbrellas to loungers on a shelf in the pool…there are lots of options!
There is a private VIP pool and VIP Lagoon on the Heaven side for those who upgrade or are members.
As noted above in the cons, people tend to “reserve” their pool seating early (before 8am) so I suggest you set aside a few items to leave on the seats (book/magazine, cheap pair of flip flops, a pool floatie, etc) and designate someone to snag seats early.
If you like night swimming you will have the place to yourself! I was surprised there weren’t more teens in the pool at night, or kids getting a little energy out after dinner! It’s all lit up, and beautiful!
You can get the pool activities by scanning the QR Code at the concierge desk. Or choose your seat near the DJ stand and you’ll be able to just hear what’s going on.
Hard Rock Riviera Maya Pool Area Photos
It’s important to note that the beach at the Riviera Maya Hard Rock Resort does not have waves – they have put a faux reef in that breaks the waves and creates calm lagoon areas. This is much more suitable for snorkeling (borrowing snorkel equipment is included), stand up paddleboarding and other water sports…and it is safer for young children as it doesn’t have an undertow.
It also serves to block the sargassum! That’s right, the beach at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya does not have sargassum in it!
Sargassum is a free floating seaweed that invades the beaches in the Riviera Maya area of Mexico in the summer – the seaweed washes up on the shore faster than staff can clear it, and it can discolor the water so the clear blue Caribbean water you expect appears dirty and murky – it can make the beach unusable and this affects nearly every resort in Riviera Maya from June until August. If you read reviews of resorts and see mentions of this from tourists who didn’t know about it in advance- but please know it’s not limited to any one resort, and it’s important to know about Sargassum before you book a summer vacation to the Riviera Maya.
That said, it also blocks the waves…so if you’re hoping to surf, boogie board, or otherwise enjoy the ocean waves, you won’t really be able to do that at the Hard Rock.
Hard Rock Riviera Maya Lagoon Photos
The waterpark was great. It was clean and well kept. I think it could use more seating, but it worked out that we found at least a one chair so we had a home base. If you have kids between 3 and 12 I think they’ll be very happy here! Teens certainly liked the big water slides too!
The standing water around the water slides is 12 inches deep, so for our kids this was nice as we didn’t worry if we lost sight of them, they could slide and explore with more freedom (and less worry for us). There is a separate pool that’s about 4 feet deep, so set a ground rule with your kids if that’s not a safe place for them. And you can always put a puddle jumper on toddlers too.
Hard Rock Riviera Maya Waterpark Photos
Kids Club, Teen Gaming Club & Teen Lounge
There is a huge building next to the water park that houses the kids club (included in the all-inclusive), a teen lounge with pool tables, foosball and air hockey as well as a teen gaming lounge (additional fee).
We called the area outside the game room the “teen lounge” though I really don’t know the official name…it’s a large open space on the second floor of the building with two pool tables, two foosball tables, air hockey and some seating – it was empty every time we went so our family went there on a few hot afternoons to cool off and play table games with the kids. It was fun, well air conditioned, and free (just ask inside the game room for the pool cues, balls, air hockey accessories, etc.).
The teen game room is for kids 13+ and it’s a drop off gaming room loaded with nearly every gaming console and game you could want including a few virtual reality headsets. There is someone who checks kids in at the desk, and some minor tech support to get kids going and manage who’s playing what – but largely this isn’t babysitting and is for independent kids who I imagine would be allowed to stay at home alone too. Younger kids may use the gaming room but a parent must stay in the room while they’re in it (same fees apply).
The Kids Club occupies a portion of the first floor of the building and has structured activities every half an hour or so – our kids didn’t use it but it’s visible below from the “teen lounge” and it appears very organized, and well run. The average age of the kids I saw was probably about 4-7 I would guess.
Gaming Room & Teen Lounge Photos
What to Bring / Recommendations
TopTip: I’d suggest you buy a waterproof pouch and just wear your phone and wallet on your neck – these are also good for everything from water slides to paddle boarding and allllllll the stuff you’re going to want to do. If you want to take it one step further, share your location with someone you’re traveling with so if you do lose it, they can help “find my iphone” right away.
- Pool Phone Pouch
- Mister fans, mist water bottle, or Personal battery fan
- Fanny pack/crossbody pouch
- Pool Floats
These aren’t things that will necessarily apply to everyone, but if it’s helpful…I’m sharing…for background I worked at the front desk of Sheraton Golf Resort for two summers in College…it’s been awhile but I do know “how things work” and I’ve been on the other side.
We booked our room in Hacienda (where all the kids stuff is) and then were blocked into a room at Heaven (need to take a golf cart to get to water park). We had to get room changed and that took a LONG time to sort out. This was despite our booking specifically being for Hacienda and adding a request to be near kids pool (which was the only request we made). And it was 8:30 at night and our kids needed dinner and were going sideways FAST which probably compounded the frustration because of this.
We inquired on paying to upgrade to a suite, and were offered one option for an $800 per night upgrade. When booking Costco vacation packages I find hotels aren’t very willing to offer any kind of upgrade on the room that is reasonably priced…so do be sure to book the room type you want from the onset. To be fair, there were no upgraded rooms available when I purchased it, so it may very well be that there just weren’t any available room upgrades available. But just know before you go.
When we finally made it to our room, it overlooked a walkway and golf cart parking which was really the worst view in the house. Luckily there wasn’t awful noise from this as I’d feared (golf carts are electric thankfully!), it’s more just that the patio was far less enjoyable and didn’t have a hammock like most of them. In the future I will call ahead and request a quieter room location, and speak with the front desk so that I can be blocked into a better room. We were too exhausted to bother to move by the time we got to it and realized.
Our hotel transfer from the airport to the resort was super easy, no problems at all. Our return flight was an 8am flight, and when we called the evening before to get our pick up time, they told us they were picking us up at 3am. Yes, that’s not a typo. Or a joke.
Cancun airport is about 45-60 minutes away, so a 3am pick up would put us at the airport at or before 4am, for an 8am flight. We of course told them this was absurd, but they claimed that changes at the airport necessitated they allow for 2 hours of transport time. Even if that were true (which it’s not that early in the morning) we don’t need to arrive at 5am for an 8am flight. To each their own – if you like to arrive 3 hours early that’s fine – we find that 90 minutes is PLENTY of time when we’re all checked in online and there are no visas or test results or complicated paperwork involved.
The transfer provider was unwilling to change the pick up time by even half an hour. We told them to cancel and not to send the car and that we’d just take a cab, but they also refused to cancel the car. We told them do not come to our hotel, we will not be at valet waiting and we don’t want valet calling our room at 3am and waking us up looking for us. They refused to cancel the car, and wouldn’t assure us our room would not be rung in the middle of the night.
Presumably they don’t want to “cancel” it or they won’t get paid, which I do understand and we don’t wish to take money out of anyone’s pocket…but in comparison to our last Costco Travel Package to Mexico, where the transport was fantastic and well communicated both ways…this was shocking and VERY frustrating. I tried to call the Costco Travel helpline but was disconnected and then left on hold for 30 minutes…never even being able to speak to a human.
The fact that there is new construction at Cancun airport causing major traffic is true, however we took a cab at 5:30am and were at the airport before 6:15am. Our driver told us it does not start until later in the day, which surely the transport vendor knows as well. Take what you will from this – I can tell you that in the future I will confirm the pick up time for the return transport at the time of drop off, and ensure that its in the time frame I want. But this was silly and 3 am was just crazy and cost an extra $80 plus tip- but well worth it for 2.5 more hours of sleep and not having 5 hours to entertain 2 kids at the airport in the middle of the night when everything is closed!
Tip: There is a Hilton Garden at the Cancun airport – if you have an early morning flight or get anxiety about missing flights, it’s not a bad idea to stay there the night before and be right at the airport and not worry about traffic!
I asked about the family photos, and was told it was $25 per photo, and the price per image was cheaper if you bought larger quantities. I said great, and signed up for a session. We asked for a quick 15 minute session because it was our last day and tbh we had family photos taken less than 6 months ago so I just thought a few would be fun to have.
When I went to review the photos they said it was a minimum of 10 photos. Let’s chalk this up to a gross miscommunication, but it was most definitely not made clear in advance. I don’t discourage doing the photos, the backdrop is really (like REALLY!) beautiful…just take them early in your trip while you’re still there and know it’s going to be $250 minimum (10 photos), bring outfits for them and spend the time to do a whole session.
Additional Photos of Hard Rock Riviera Maya All Inclusive Resort
More Family Resorts Near Tulum
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