Sandos Caracol Eco Resort in Playa del Carmen has always intrigued me because of its very budget-friendly pricing and it’s eco-friendly reputation, and about a year ago I got to visit it to see what it has to offer. My 18-year old daughter (at the time), Maggie, came along with me to help me with the “inspection.”

To start off, we stayed in the adult-only section of the resort, which is a quiet section near the back of the resort. It has privileged access to the adult-only lounge and beach area. It’s a bit further away from the beach and pool, so though that didn’t exactly thrill me, it did allow me a beautiful morning walk to get the beach for the sunrise. The adult-only section also has a concierge that we worked with from check-in to check-out. She gave us her cell phone number, and let us know we could contact her by text if we needed anything at all!

The room was a standard room with two beds, a stocked mini-fridge, desk, night tables, and a television. There was a water cooler for freshwater and the air-conditioner worked excellently. It was comfortable and clean; it didn’t “wow” me, but it was a good room. We were on the top floor (floor 3) and had a sliding glass door that opened to a small porch outside with a view of a dense treescape. If you have mobility issues, you’ll want to make sure to ask for a ground floor room, as there are no elevators.

This is a great resort for families, with a whole water park with slides, a lot of activities for kids, a pool, and ping pong table palapa (large grass hut).

There are several fun complementary activities around the resort, so you can get the full Mexican experience without ever leaving the resort. There are Mayan ruins onsite here, you just have to take a short hike out to see them. There are also cenotes, underground water caverns, and pools, that you can snorkel in. You can take an eco walking tour with an on-property guide and learn about the ecosystem in Mexico, visit the garden center at the resort that houses some beautiful parrots, and select a tree or bush to plant on the property as a family.

We did everything there was to do except snorkel while we were there. Our trip was in December, and the pools are not heated, so they were bone-chilling cold. If you are visiting in a warmer time of the year, the sun would heat up the water to be good for swimming.

The food at this resort isn’t the best food I’ve ever had at all all-inclusive, but the experience by far overshadowed anything that was missing from the menu. We absolutely loved the Mexican restaurant and ate there often. If you’ve traveled a lot like me, you’ll know that there are some exceptional dining experiences that definitely overtake this one, but otherwise, I think the food was fine. If you are not a picky eater, there are options that will appeal to everyone here.

The eco-friendly reputation of the resort held up! There is no waste of any kind at this resort. No disposable cups, straws, or plastic products. When you get a drink from the bar, it is in a reusable cup. There are stations all around the resort for you to deposit your used cups that are then washed and sanitized for reuse. This is a fantastic option if you align your values with eco-friendliness, as their goal is to be 100% zero waste.

If you love animals, wildlife, and nature, this is a great place for you. Little raccoon-like critters (but cuter!), called coati, were all over the forest, and if you were up early enough in the morning, you could see them all scamper in the mangrove forest on top of the thatch roofs of the common buildings. There were Mexican hairless dogs that were sunning themselves while their owner taught guests about the interesting breed. There is also a “cat city” at the resort where cats are cared for and allowed to roam around the resort. My daughter is a cat lover, so it was a great pleasure for her to count and anime all the cats she found. There were 11 of them at the end of our counting. Each had their place they went to each day to sleep and sun themselves. They were super cute and didn’t disrupt our stay at all.

The main event of the wildlife here are the monkeys. I saw more monkeys up close and personal at this resort than I did in Costa Rica. You are not supposed to feed the monkeys, but I still saw people taking bananas and fruit from breakfast to “share” with them.

We have a fun encounter with these monkeys, as well. Maggie and I were out for lunch, and when we came back, our room had been ransacked like there had been a burglar! The chair was tipped over, the wine glasses smashed on the floor, my suitcase was open and dragged half-way out the slider door at the back, and there were banana peels and plumb pits on the bed and all over the floor. Our lovely welcome fruit platter was empty. The tequila was still there, so it was just a fruit thief. I called our concierge, and she said, “Oh, yes, the monkeys know how to get into the rooms through the sliders, so you have to be sure to lock those when you leave!” We were burglarized by monkeys, and oh, how I wish we could have had a hidden camera in there to see it! The resort came and did a deep clean of the room, changed all the bedding, and we were good to go! No harm was done, but a memory was made!

To be honest, it took me a while to warm up to this resort, but I would absolutely stay here again! You’ll need to set your expectations ahead of time, as this is not a 5-star resort with Michelin dining. But, you can have an amazing experience with an abundance of wildlife, zero waste atmosphere, and family friend adventures. By the time I had my snobbish expectations under control, I was finding myself saying, “I love this resort!”