I just recently returned from a 10 night stay at the Riu Tropical Palace with my boyfriend. We absolutely loved the hotel and I thought it would be useful to write an accurate review since there is a lot of mixed feedback about this resort.
First of all, Negril is one of the best places to stay at in Jamaica. The beaches are amazing, it has a very laid back atmosphere and there are some really nice restaurants and sights. We ventured off the resort a few times and we always felt safe.
As for the hotel, I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to visit Negril. It is more of a family and couples resort so if you are single, you won't find too much action here. Better to stay at another hotel with more young people and nightlife.
Beach: It was beautiful! Hands down! The water is incredibly clear, warm and has a nice aqua colour. The water was so clean and you can swim out pretty far and still touch the bottom. We walked the entire beach in the bay area, and Riu Palace had the nicest strip. You see plenty of tropical sea life which is definitely a nice touch!
Food: I thought the food was very good. The breakfasts in the buffet were delicious and there was so much to choose from. Lunch was great too. You could either choose from the buffet or the jerk chicken, which was very good. I also enjoyed the dinners. The buffet had lots of selection and generally was good. Certain things were misses though but much better than the food I've had in Cuba, DR and Mexico. We ate at 3 of the a la carte restaurants, the Japanese, Fusion and Steakhouse. The fusion (Krystal) restaurant was by far the best. The Japanese was not bad but I don't recommend the Steakhouse. We didn't bother trying the Italian.
Service: Amazing! The people at this hotel, and in Jamaica in general, are so warm and welcoming. Everyone was friendly and helpful with our requests. The housekeeping always left us lots of towels and our mini bar was always well stocked. The front desk was very helpful for making reservations at restaurants outside the resort and for arranging for a taxi service. I found the staff to be courteous, responsive and always smiling. Andrew at the pool swim up bar was awesome! He always made sure you had a drink in hand! Beware of the Bob Marley shots!
Excursions: there are a few to choose from. They are pricey but it's nice to get off the resort at least once. We did a catamaran excursion with Scuba Caribe. Torian, our sales rep, was great in providing all the info we needed and for ensuring we had a great time. The tour took us snorkeling and then to Rick's Cafe. If you can, you should visit Rick's Cafe at least once. It is definitely touristy, but still a nice place with great views and it's fun to watch the divers. Also, try to visit the Rockhouse Hotel. This is a boutique hotel in Jamaica with villas on the cliff side of Negril. They have a great restaurant situated right on the cliff. It's an awesome place to watch the sunsets and you can't get better views of the ocean than from here! It was one of my favorite places in Negril. We also went to Sweet Spice, a local Jamaican restaurant in the town of Negril which was delicious and Xtabi (also very good).
Overall, the hotel is great. It's clean, right on the beach and the site is not too big so it is easy to get around. The entertainment staff work hard (we loved Sandy!) to ensure that there are plenty of activities for the guests. Of course, since it is more of a family/couples place, there really is no nightlife past 11 pm and the shows can be a bit cheesy but you're not in Jamaica for that. We had a fun time at the nightime beach parties and we loved all the live reggae bands that they brought in.
I have no hesitations in recommending this resort to families and couples. We had an amazing time and both fell in love with Jamaica! Can't wait to go back!