The difference between Ocean View vs Ocean Front

Dreams Riviera Cancun Ocean View vs Ocean Front rooms at dawn
Are these rooms at Dreams Riviera Cancun Ocean View or Ocean Front? (Photo Credit: Dreams Resorts)

Choosing an all-inclusive is one thing, but once you do, you are often presented with a second decision: Which room do you go for? There are often many choices, such as a ‘club level’, room vs suite, swim-up or a balcony, etc., but for this post I want to focus on just one aspect:

Ocean View vs Ocean Front

Obviously, one of the most popular types of rooms at a beach resort is an ocean view. The layout of the resort can vary the number of ocean view rooms available, so there are ways that hotels like to increase the number that they can sell. Due to this, what one all-inclusive calls Ocean View is another resort’s Partial Ocean View and a third will call it Ocean Front.

Ocean Front does not always mean Ocean View

Let’s get this out of the way: Ocean Front rooms will often have an ocean view, but not always. All it means is that they are the closest rooms to the ocean and there are no other buildings between it and the beach. There can still be other things that prevent you from seeing the water: bushes, trees, a sand dune, etc.

For example, UNICO 20°87° in the Riviera Maya has an Ocean Front room type. If you look at the photo in their website’s room description, you see crystal blue waters that you could wake up to every morning. What isn’t easily apparent is that the Ocean Front rooms on lower floors don’t have a view of the ocean unless you expand the room description and read all the way past 30+ bullets and multiple paragraphs to the bottom line: “Ocean Front or Tropical Views” (tip: request floors 4 or 5 if you book this room type, the view is apparently stunning if you do get an actual ocean view).

Unico 2087 Ocean Front King makes it hard to see that the room does not guarantee ocean views
Unico Ocean Front King room description, click to open full size

Many people booking through a third party site may never see that in the description. Expedia specifically says it has an ocean view, when that isn’t necessarily true. Anyone debating ocean view vs ocean front needs to understand this key difference.

Ocean View means many different things

The ocean view room type simply means that you can see the ocean from your room. Some all-inclusive resorts will be honest with you and tell you your room has a ‘Partial Ocean View’, which generally means you have to crane your neck out from the balcony to see it. Other resorts will define Ocean View as any ability to see the ocean from your room or balcony.

All rooms (except some first floor swim-up rooms) at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun are listed as Ocean View, and all really offer an Ocean View, as every room directly faces the ocean:

Hyatt Zilara Cancun Ocean Front vs Ocean View
View from our standard room at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun with a beautiful ocean view | Photo Credit: Ben Duffy

The same company that manages the Hyatt Zilara also manages the Hilton Playa del Carmen (Playa Hotels and Resorts), but this resort has a fairly narrow footprint along the beach and their land goes back quite a ways. They have a much looser definition of Ocean View, as evidenced by some of the rooms in that category:

Potential Ocean View room location at the Hilton Playa del Carmen | Source Photo Credit: Hilton Playa del Carmen

Yes, you can technically see the ocean from there, but it is looking past 200 meters of other rooms down a 20 meter wide courtyard. While I wouldn’t mind an upgrade to that room, I would not be happy to pay extra for an ocean view only to find myself there.

The takeaway

If you are trying to figure out the differences of Ocean View vs Ocean Front, keep in mind that they may not be as appealing as they sound. Search TripAdvisor reviews for the room type name and you will likely find people who were either thrilled with the view they received or irked that it did not live up to what was expected. Go on Google Maps and see what the resort footprint looks like relative to the beach. And whatever you find, realize you’ll be on vacation and don’t sweat the small stuff. 🙂

Oh, and to answer the question in the first photo caption:

The rooms above the bar are Preferred Club Ocean View Rooms, while the rooms next to the palm trees are Preferred Club Ocean Front Suites

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Ben Duffy
Ben has visited all-inclusives for years, enjoying the ability to watch the ocean from a Bali Bed with a fresh margarita in hand and not a care in the world
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