We stayed at the Riu Emerald Bay the first week of November 2012. Booked through iTravel2000 a couple of months earlier, it looked by far to be the best deal on their site.
Our stay began on a Friday, we arrived mid-afternoon. Just my wife and I were travelling. The place was VERY full, much to our surprise. As we later found out, bus-loads of the local people (with their children) arrive for weekend stays each week on Friday. The pools, dining areas and common areas were a buzz with youngsters running around, noise and very little of the relaxing atmosphere that we had expected upon arrival.
This unfortunately carried on until later Sunday when the buses left. We spent most of the weekend in town to avoid the noise on the hotel grounds. It reminded me of years ago when I would take our kids to the outdoor public pool on a hot summer day; there'd be lots of kids running around, splashing, screaming and laughing. It was to be expected back then, but it certainly was not the reason we booked a trip to Mexico now.
Between Sunday afternoon and Thursday of our week stay the atmosphere was better, but still far beyond a levels of noise and child activity that I would consider tolerable for anyone vacationing as adults-only like we were. It wasn't at all what we had imagined it to be.
Food was consistently good, not outstanding, but full of variety for every taste. The bars always had plenty of alcoholic beverages to serve, with a great selection and prompt service. Two of the three 'a-la-carte' reservation meals we booked actually turned out to be buffets, only one was a served 'sit-down' style meal. This was disappointing, as it resulted in all but one meal for the entire week being buffet-style, which we got very tired of.
The room was adequate, bed wasn't comfortable as it had a plastic sheet covering the mattress. I guess they do this because of the number of children staying at the hotel. Nonetheless, it makes for a less comfortable sleep, even with the airconditioning turned up higher.
The staff were first-class. They were prompt, courteous and always available to assist. We met the hotel manager and were impressed with his thorough hands-on style of running his establishment. He could be seen throughout the day ensuring that the food services, bar services, cleanliness and customer service levels were consistently maintained. Every gratuity we left during the entire week was well deserved by the staff.
Mazatlan is hurting. In the gold zone, we were the only patrons in a popular restaurant at lunch time one afternoon. We walked by several more restaurants with only the staff waiting for anyone to serve. I'm not sure if the season was too early or what, but it was notably vacant on most of the streets where we'd expected to see many tourists. The old town was busy, but very few tourist-types could be seen walking about. We were two of only four people that rode the local bus from downtown back to the RIU for the entire 45 minute trip.
To wrap this review up, I will state that the Riu is a shiny, new hotel with lots of amenities and a terrific staff. It has over 700 rooms, so when busy is VERY busy. The local people vacationing there on the weekends have larger families and bring many children with them. If a relaxing holiday in Mexico is what you are looking for, then the Riu may not be a good choice for you. If you want good value and don't mind the noise and business, it'd be a reasonable selection of destination. For us, we won't be returning because it doesn't provide the peaceful atmosphere that we desire on a holiday.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.