(Submitted by Cheryl and friends, Maple, Ontario)
Hotel: Holiday Village White Sands
Date Visited: Feb 21-28, 2009 (Cozumel Carnival week. Carnival is generally a 7 day celebration that starts the week before Fat Tuesday or Mardi-Gras. Dates change every year.)
Price Paid: $1,314.50 per person including all taxes (booked on January 26, 2009)
Hotel in General: Absolutely ideal for families. The entire property is beautifully. It is well landscaped, and is maintained daily by literally dozens of groundskeepers. Everything was well spread out; not too far and yet not too close.
There are 3 pools: a large kiddie pool/splash pad with all kinds of water features. In the middle of the 3 pools, behind the Mexican-specialty restaurant, there is a relaxation pool in the shape of two conjoined circles offering quieter space. The third pool near the beach serves as the center of daylong activities. Sundecks around both pools are furnished with lounge chairs and thatched-roof palapas for shade. The lawn on either side of the pool closest to the beach has hammocks and an oversized black-and-white chess set. A hot tub is situated right at the entrance to the beach with an incredible view of the ocean.
There are a number of bars located around the resort. Of course the busiest is the bar closest to the beach. The bars and restaurants do not use disposable cups or mugs. They use hard plastic, picnic type reusable glasses.
There is a small souvenir/tuck shop in the main lobby, but is very expensive. Instead walk across the main road to the San Miguel market.
There are many iguanas on the grounds to see but they are more afraid of you so no need to worry.
There is a place to work out and there is Internet access (for a price) in the main lobby.
Is a busy cruise ship port with sometimes up to four of these monsters at the dock at any given time, and downtown prices reflect that. There is no public transit on Cozumel, the result of a very strong taxi union. There are taxis everywhere and most tourist establishments have a sign showing taxi fares to most major destinations. The taxi drivers have them in their cars too, but not always visible. Confirm your fare before shutting the door.
Rooms: There were a number of two-story, Polynesian-style villas (8 rooms in each). We stayed in the Family Room therefore we had two room numbers: 4212 & 4224. We had a king bed in one room and two doubles in the other room. Other than that, the rooms were identical. We even had our own door to go out onto our own balcony. The rooms were connected by an adjoining door so we could have our own privacy if needed. The rooms weren’t large but they were sufficient. After all, you don’t go to Cozumel to spend time in your room other than to sleep and get dressed!!! We were on the second floor which had a thatched roof. It was quite high so it made the room feel a bit bigger. It was even fun to return to our room after the maids were done to see what towel animal was waiting on our bed to greet us.
Service: The staff were great! Very friendly and professional. In fact, almost too professional as I felt that when I tried to joke around a little, as much as they seemed to want to joke around too, I felt that they were holding back in the sense that they were almost looking over their shoulder to see if anyone was watching in fear that they might get fired.
Weather Conditions: Not sure of the exact temperature but the weather in the day was beautiful. Not too hot or humid but definitely bathing suit weather. The evenings were a little cool where wearing a long sleeve top or light sweater was comfortable. Didn’t use the a/c in our rooms at all (turned it off) and the temperature was just right.
Snorkeling: Just off-shore, Cozumel features the second largest barrier reef in the world. The St. Anthony reef is over 300 km long and stretches all the way down to Belize. The scuba diving is incredible, the water is amazingly clear with over 30 meters of visibility. You need to book the snorkeling equipment for use (free) as there is not enough for everyone.
There is a PADI dive organization on the property, and a large pier that sees dive, sport fishing and glass bottom tour boats coming and going all day. There are kayaks, and sail boats, etc.
Beach: The beach is beautiful! The water had various shades of blue and a gentle surf rolled onto the white sandy beach. You can sometimes find fish swimming nearby as you make your way knee-deep into the water. The water is very clear. There are no properties immediately next door, so you are able to take a nice long quiet walk before coming upon the next resort. Numerous palapas entice in one direction, and the Caribbean‘s warm, turquoise water attracts in the other. There is a volleyball net set-up on the beach right in front of the hotel that was often used for a friendly game of volleyball by all ages which was really nice to see.
You can get a massage (for a price) right on the beach surrounded by white curtains and canopy for a bit of privacy and to keep the sun out of your eyes.
Food: The main restaurant is of course a buffet, located on the 2nd floor of the main reception building. The buffet is open for breakfast and dinner, and the hours are quite good. The food is fine – lots of variety. The sitting area was large enough that there were always tables available. Lunch is available at the beach bar/mexican restaurant, and offers both hot and cold buffets plus a fast food bar with fries burgers etc. Most days at lunch there was also an outdoor BBQ next to the main pool, with ribs, tacos and all sorts of stuff. There is an a-la-carte Oriental and Mexican restaurant. These require reservations and have some degree of dress code. The Mexican restaurant has its own kitchen and chefs so you aren’t getting served buffet fare. The Mexican and Oriental restaurants were both worth visiting.
There are several bars, all seemingly with different operating hours. The beach bar is open from 10am to 6pm, and is between the main pool and the beach. The pool bar is part of the lunch restaurant, and I think has the same hours. There is an evening bar just outside the main building, and also adjacent to the buffet restaurant upstairs. There is also an adults only bar next to the theatre, which is open until the wee hours of the morning, and also has late night snacks. There is food ALL THE TIME and drinks ALL THE TIME, hotdogs and popcorn at the kids area all day so you cannot go hungry!
Note: We did not take any special shots (ie. Twinrix) before our vacation and no one was sick from the food or drinks. We did not take any special precautions other than used the bottled water provided in our rooms when brushing teeth and rinsing our toothbrushes.
Opinions/Tips: The Information Desk (you’ll see right after you walk into the resort) tries to get you to visit to their sister resort which is called Occidental Grand Cozumel, located next to this resort in exchange for breakfast or lunch and coupon vouchers which allows you to rent a jeep for only $20 U.S. for 24 hrs. In return you must spend 2 hours there talking to a rep. over breakfast and then touring the grounds. They then try to get you to buy a membership there which is a RIP OFF! Be firm and don’t let them pressure you! We did it and felt it was worth the 2 hrs for a good breakfast and a $20 jeep rental. Our opinion is that Occidental Grand Cozumel didn’t seem to be as family friendly as Holiday Village W.S. We saw very few families with kids there.
It is my understanding that Signature Vacations took over a long-term lease. They got rid of the old staff and hired all new Mexican staff. They brought in “Signature people” (young British adults) to run the entertainment including kid’s activities during the day and the shows in the evening. I must say it was disappointing that they didn’t have decent entertainment in the evening for adults. I am in Mexico and would have loved to see some cultural entertainment and even some dancing in the evening – it doesn’t have to be all night – until 11pm or midnight.
Even in the day when we were laying next to the pool, some nice Latin music in the background would have been great, instead they played 80s and 90s pop and rock! I don’t get it. Certainly not what I wanted to hear in Mexico! But it was very pretty….
Would I return: Yes. I would especially recommend it to families.