Just got back from a week at the Riu. It was our first time to Jamaica and we would definitely return. We would try a different resort - likely an adults only place.
We were quite happy with the Riu and had a really nice trip. Here are some specific comments:
Three 5-6 storey buildings, two pools, whole resort is on a private part of the beach. This resort is located right beside Sandals but there is a wall so the beachfronts are separate.
Our room was quite basic but we had a nice king sized bed which was quite comfortable, a bathroom with double sinks and granite countertops, a TV, balcony, bar fridge, safe (you get a lock and key when you check in), large closet and drawers. Above the bar fridge were pure alcohol dispensers - rum/vodka, etc. The bar fridge had beer, soft drinks, tonic water, etc. All was included. The maid service was great and I felt like our room was always kept clean, fresh towels daily, extra efforts made to leave flowers for us, etc. We tipped a few dollars each day. Our sheets were changed once during the week.
I am a vegetarian (not vegan) so I never have high expectations for the buffet style food at all inclusive resorts. I felt like the food was certainly on par with other all inclusive resorts and there was good variety and lots of options. At breakfast there was an omelette and crepe station, at dinner a pasta station and always a grill station with some theme for the night (in addition to the regular options). The a la carte restaurant system was poorly organized, in my view. You sign up the day of for the restaurant (but there is no limit to how many you go). You would supposedly sign up between 8-4 daily but people started lining up at 7 a.m. so if you got in line after about 8:15, your chances of getting a spot were not great. Lots of people made reservations for large groups, sometimes for other friends at different restauraunts, etc. Only one of the restaurants had ANY vegetarian options so we only went once. The food was quite good and it was a nice change from the buffet.
They have one buffet restaurant which is open for breakfast and dinner. For lunch they have an Italian/pizzeria snack place and another buffet style lunch restaurant - Mammee Bay. The a la carte restaurants include - 2 "generic" restaurants/no specific theme, one asiana restaurant, one japanese restaurant, and one steakhouse.
I felt like the variety of drinks was very good. My favourite drink was a slushy, fruity mixture called "Miami Vice". The bartenders were laid back and friendly.
There are two pools on opposite ends of the resort. One was more for adults and one was more for kids/families and this was the noisier pool where the entertainment staff did aquafit and various other activities and announcements would go on throughout the day. It was nice having the two options depending upon what you were looking for and despite being on opposite ends, it's all very close. Chairs were snatched up pretty early but not crazy early (by about 9:15 you'd be out of luck). Only one pool - the more "adult" pool - has a swim up bar. The other pool has a bar pool-side though.
I was quite impressed with the beach as this resort is truly beachfront. Some all inclusives say beachfront but are so sprawling with so many outbuildings that depending upon where you are it can be quite a trek to the beach. Not so with this place. Everythings is minutes to the beach and there are tons of chairs. At different times there would sometimes be bits of litter washing up but for the most part the water was clear, the beach was clean and the resort staff was great about coming by to pick up empty glasses and garbage. Sand bottom - not weedy. People would hang out on their seadoos in the ocean and try to get you to go for rides. They were pretty chill and not too invasive. Resort spa, photography and scuba staff do wander around and ask if you're interested in their services but they were not invasive either and were just friendly and moved on when you indicated you weren't interested.
I highly recommend the Chukka tours. You can book at the Riu or through independent operators. For the Chukka tours, the prices are the same regardless. They have zip line ones, ride 'n swim (horse ones), 4 wheelers, etc.
I did Dunn's River Falls and would not recommend this. Unless you go very early so you avoid the big groups. Otherwise, you get stuck in groups of 15 people, holding hands walking up the falls. Takes a long time and I didn't find it that enjoyable.
SPA AND FITNESS CENTRE
Didn't do any spa services. The fitness centre is pretty crappy. No free weights whatsoever. A few weight machines, some of which were broken. Some ab mats. 4 treadmills, some bikes, some ellipticals. Not for the super fitness buffs. Okay for those who just want to put in some sort of workout while on vacation. I went one day and was so unimpressed I didn't bother going again.
Can't say that we took part in the nightlife much. We were more into the relaxing on the beach by day and going to bed early (we're lame!) That said, the resort does have a "disco", there are buses to Margaritaville, and there was always some kind of show put on by the entertainment staff. There is a sports bar and a few other bar. I can't really speak to them but it was definitely a reasonably lively resort.
As indicated herein, we tipped our maid daily while we were there (USD). $2 each day and $5 on our last day. We also tipped randomly the restaurant staff. We didn't feel compelled to tip every day or every meal (except at the a la carte where I think it is likely common to tip) but we left a few dollars for various servers many days. I never got the impression that tips were expected, although they are certainly welcomed and deserved.
We brought US cash (though we're Canadian) and we used that for excursions, tipping and in the resort shops. If you go off the resort and pay for things in stores, etc., they will give you Jamaican money as change. There is an ATM in the casino on the resort (the word "casino" should be used loosely - it's not much of a casino) which dispenses US currency but there is a $6 service charge. Best to bring sufficient funds so you don't need to do that.
Check out is at noon which concerned us at first because we had a really late flight (9:50 p.m.). Fear not - there is a baggage room in the lobby where you can store your luggage. They let us keep our beach towels (normally you would turn in your towel cards when checking out) all day and there are change rooms with shower and fresh towels so you can shower and change at the end of the day before heading to the airport.
Overall we were quite happy with our trip, we loved Jamaica, and we felt that we got decent value for our money at a nicer resort.
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