We stayed at the Riu this past week. I will admit that even though I try to take the negative reviews on TA with a grain of salt, I was slightly nervous and wondering if I had made the right decision. Now I know for sure that we made an excellent choice. Be warned, this is a very lengthy review but people around here seem to like details. Lots to share so I'll break it down.
AIRPORT – Great place to use the bank machine to get your pesos. Good exchange rate.
The timeshare “sharks” were anything but, at least in our experience. There were people there from Pueblo Bonito and they were all behind a counter. But it you ask a question of the few guys standing on your side of the counter, they will direct you to the other guys and say “they can help you”. We got sidelined by that at first but the guy actually did answer our question and once we caught on that he was timeshare he was polite about us leaving. If you keep on truckin’ and don’t talk to anyone, you’ll be fine.
CHECK-IN – We went with Sunwing and check-in was absolutely brilliant. Wristbands on the bus and pretty drinks and tequila in the lobby on the way to pick up our keys. You can leave your luggage for the bellguys but the elevators are right there so we grabbed our own and were in our room in less than 10 minutes. Check your envelope before you go upstairs, they had only given us one keycard and we had to ask reception for a second.
RECEPTION – Very helpful. For anything. Sometimes I just had a question or wanted them to break down my pesos into smaller bills. Very quick and efficient.
RESORT AND GROUNDS – Beautiful place to say the least. Immaculately clean, staff was always puttering about.
Pools are great and the beach is gorgeous. Sunsets are stellar every day and if you’re an early bird you’ll even catch the sunrise from the hallway outside your room. There are plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of beach and pool loungers. And lots of shade. The beach was red-flagged our whole week. You can go in and they won't necessarily stop you, but they will wave you back in if you get out too far. There are vendors that stay behind a giant rope, not an invisible line as someone else mentioned. They hold things up hoping to catch your eye. If you're going down to the water, just say "no, gracias" and they are generally respectful. But be warned, if you show any interest in anything the vendors have, it's open season and they will all come flocking to you.
Yes, there was an obvious influx in people on the weekend (and this was even a Mexican long weekend). While it was noticeable, it did not really affect us. No long lines at the buffet, no extra wait times. A little louder around the pools, but plenty of the Canadians were loud too. Our suggestion, do your excursions on the weekend if you think a few extra nationals will bother you.
In my opinion, the incessant complaints about the elevators were totally unfounded. Never did we wait for more than a few minutes and more often than not, we were the only ones in it.
ROOMS – Very clean, staff did a great job and always left pretty beds and towel animals. Views were fabulous. If you want a great view, pay the $30 extra for the Oceanview category. As has been mentioned before, yes all rooms technically "face" the ocean. But it you only pay for a standard room you will be on a lower floor and may very well end up with only a pool or tree view, or worse yet, the roof of the restaurant, lobby or theatre.
I really don't get the few recent reviews about the slope of the bathtub. It's sloped at the back so you can recline while you’re in the tub which I thought was awesome. If you're just using the shower, get in at the front.
As for the beds, don’t understand the complaints. Ask for the foam mattress toppers when you arrive. We slept like babies all week. One of my pillows was slightly lumpy, but I generally travel with my own so it really wasn’t an issue for me.
We never even used the in-room liquor. Why make your own basic drinks when there are wonderful bartenders to make pretty little cocktails for you?
BARS – Speaking of drinks and bartenders, the drinks for the most part were great. And strong. The most extensive bar menu I have ever seen for an-all inclusive and top shelf liquor. Never much of a wait at all and the bartenders were extremely quick and pleasant. Go see Pacho at the theatre bar. He was fantastic! Ask him for the Rainbow or Domino Shot when there are lots of people at the bar to watch and have your camera (set to video!) ready.
SERVICE – Top notch for sure. Staff are very friendly and helpful. We tipped a lot of the time but not at every single meal, and the service never suffered. Don't forget to tip the towel guy every once and a while. Nobody tips the poor towel guy.
FOOD – Omg, it kills me that people actually complain about the lack of variety in the buffets. There were days I didn't even see everything, there were so many choices. The biggest buffets I have seen anywhere. Beautifully displayed, all sorts of flowers and garnishes made out of fruits and veggies.
Dinner and breakfast are best, lunch is a bit smaller and slightly more repetitive. If you can’t find something you like at mealtimes, you’re either hard to please or have a genetic anomaly where your taste buds are broken. Seriously. Breakfast and dinner are in one enclosed dining room, lunch is in a more casual, partially open-air space.
We only went to the Mexican a la carte as we had heard the other ones weren’t anything to write home about. The food was ok but expect to be there about 2 hours as the service was incredibly slow.
The booking procedures for the a la cartes was probably one of our biggest complaints. As Sunwing guests we were told that we were guaranteed two bookings. When we went they only had 2 of the 3 available and only on specific days. Turns out that there is only one a la carte open each night. So if you aren’t available one of the few nights, then you’re out of luck. And you have to get up at the crack of dawn and can only book for that night or the next. At most AI resorts, you may have to get up early one day, but at least can book for your whole week. This was the main reason we didn’t bother with the other two, just couldn't be bothered with the hassle.
ENTERTAINMENT – Typical all-inclusive shows, the entertainment is fun and a good way to spend an hour in the evenings. If you're looking for Vegas style entertainment, then pay $150 per show and go to Vegas. As stupid as the name sounds, the "Crazy Show" was hilarious and our favourite. The theatre is very well constructed. Covered, but open-air with comfy chairs and tables where you can watch the show with your drink. We only went to the disco once but it was really fun!
ACTIVITIES – A previous reviewer said they saw no activities all week. Sorry, they must have been spending way too much time with the in-room liquor dispenser. There are activities all day every day, often 2 or 3 programs at the same time. If it was rock bottom season there may be less, but our week was by no means full occupancy.
EXCURSIONS – We took one trip on Saturday of the Golden Zone and Old Town. Well put together and covered a lot, although you do get taken to places they “carefully selected”, aka places that get kickbacks. But lots of photo opportunities and our guide Miguel was great.
I took the bus myself into the Golden Zone the following day to hit the Mega grocery store and spend more time in the Zone. Quick, cheap and perfectly safe.
We did the trip up the beach for dinner at Lionso’s. Great ambience. The food was ok, but not spectacular, maybe we just didn’t order the right things, but loved the place itself. Massive Margarita’s though and the drinks are always 2 for 1. The little market has good stuff cheap (easy to talk them down) and the $22 massage was better than the $49 one I got at the resort. While the idea of a beachfront massage at the hotel may sound good, I wasn’t so impressed. The massage itself was ok but the hut is well back from the ocean’s edge and very close to the swim-up bar. Lots of noise and constant music. If you want a quiet massage, opt for the inside spa or head up the beach to Lulu’s.
TIPS – Our only other complaint was the free wifi. Yes it’s free, but the service was slow and sometimes unreliable. You only get 90 consecutive minutes every 24 hours and it’s only good in the lobby. So if you use the wifi at noon today, you can’t use it again until noon tomorrow. The only good thing about this is that the 90 min is per device. So if you have a tablet and an iphone, you can essentially use the wifi twice a day. No email attachments and no downloads allowed but ok for the odd email or Facebook update. Not sure if the in-room wifi was any stronger but that will set you back $70 a week.
I discovered by accident (after leaving my AC charger for my reader at home thinking my iPhone USB plug would work) that there is a USB port on the back of the television. And it worked! Works for iPhones or anything that charges with a USB cord. The TV does have to be on, but we would just charge things up while we were out at dinner or something.
If you’re going with Sunwing, skip the orientation. It was pretty much an overview of Mazatlan (which we heard on the bus anyway) and descriptions of the tours which you can read about at the Sunwing desk anytime. You do have to fill out an info card that they say you have to bring with you but you can drop it off at the Sunwing desk. We basically only went to book the a la cartes and that was a disappointment and the “orientation” was a waste of 45 minutes of beach time.
Overall I was very impressed with this hotel. I wouldn’t go back, only because there are too many other places in the world to see for me to want to go to the same place twice. But I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this place to anyone looking for a great vacation.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.