Backstory: I am a 24 year old who travels a lot for work so I've seen my fair share of hotel properties from most chains out there. I mention that because I think it allows me to provide YOU with a more rounded and honest review that will help you make your decision easier. Back to the Riu...
I just got back from my Cabo San Lucas vacation at the Palace (April 21-26th), and I simply cannot wipe the smile off of my face. I will add that I intently looked at 5-6 Cabo all inclusive hotels before booking, and boy am I glad that I chose the Riu.
CHECK IN: We arrived at the property at 4:00pm and were greeted promptly, and proceeded straight to check in (no line what so ever). Lorenzo had an envelope waiting for us with a property map, room keys, safe key, towel cards, and a cabo map. He was very friendly and patient with us and gave us the low down on what is going on when/where. After gathering everything we were led to our room by a friendly bell hop. Off to the room...
ROOM: We booked a Jr. Suite Ocean View, which didn't place us on the property facing out towards the beach, but the south side furthest from the Sante Fe with a nice view. The room features an all tile floor with a dark wood accents throughout and large headboard. The King bed is made up of two doubles which does NOT have a pillow top over the top...truly two separate beds that are pushed together tightly. As a couple we basically each got a side so I actually didn't mind at all. The bed is no Westin Heavenly bed but it doesn't belong at the Flinestone's either. It's a mediocre firm bed that shouldn't give you any problems. Spare blankets and pillows are in the closet. Additionally, the room has superb A/C and only works when the sliding door is shut. I will say it's amazing to come back to a 70 degree room after being out in the 90 degree sun. Our room had an old safe that came with a lock and key (newer ocean front rooms have a digital safe). Be prepared to carry the safe key with you EVERYWHERE...this is the only way you can guarantee your valuables will not be taken...although we left a camera out and had no issues. The tv is an old zenith...but we weren't there to watch tv. All in all, a great room for the price. I think for the Mexican market it's actually a notch up.
THE POOL: Because the property is mirrored, there are two identical pools. The southern most is the "activity" pool, and the other is the "quiet" pool. I'll break down the activity pool first: Never had any issues getting great lawn chairs, but starting at around 10 am the "RiuFun" crew will start walking around taking signups for different activities going on around the property or in the pool. For example: Spanish lessons at the bar at 10am, beach volleyball at 11am, so on so fourth. There is a mix of songs being played over speakers all day and although the crowd is older...the songs have a younger feel. Be prepared to listen to people get on the mic all day talking about activities and watching the pool fill up for games. Never ran into any problems, and actually had more fun over here because the crowd was more lively. This pool is NOT heated...so it will feel very cold at first, but once you get in it actually cools you off better.
Quiet pool: Completely the opposite of the activity pool: quiet, heated, and a calmer crowd. Definitely hang out here if you want to read a book and not hear anything over a loud speaker.Of note: Oddly, from either pool bathrooms are somewhat far. That is the one drawback of either side...be prepared to walk for a minute or two either up some stairs, or through the buffet to get to the bano's!
THE FOOD: The majority of the food offering at the property is done buffet style. You'll do breakfast/dinner in the same large area, and there is a lunch buffet between the two pools. As far as the breakfast/dinner buffet goes...I truly think it's an exceptional offering. Something truly to be found for everyone. I highly recommend finding a section with a good waiter and staying with them while you're there. Makes it more enjoyable when they learn your breakfast/dinner drinks and provide a good conversation. For all specialty restaurants you'll need to make reservations in advance...my advice: WELL worth it. You can always fall back on the buffet, but you can't always land a nice surf N turf dinner.
Steakhouse: I had a top sirloin and lobster, completely exceptional. They'll bring you a seafood appetizer to share, and anything you want to drink. You'll enjoy amazing service, and a great view of the beach. Easily could have been a $80 usd bill if you had to pay. Of note: Two days in advance and we scored an 8:45 seating. Was a late meal that can run into nightime activities. Always cross reference your plans before heading to the customer service desk.
Krystal: The Krystal restaurant is the cats meow. This place is unbelievable. Being from Seattle I've enjoyed a few amazing dishes from prominent local chefs...this food is at or above any 4-5 star place. You'll be greeted with champagne flutes and sit down in a very quaint but beautiful location. My gf had the lamb, and I had the beef...both were unbelievable. The starters and desserts were amazing as well. Of note: You must make reservations for this DAY OF and have to be in line by 6:55am or you WILL miss out. Guys must wear long pants and I promise both of you will want to dress up or you will feel like you stand out. The servers are dressed to the nines and it's a special affair.
The Mexican: Although the food is subpar, this place does have the best location for any of the restaurants...you literally are eating right above the beach and as close to the water as possible. A little different than most...you order your entree and dessert, and then get directed to the buffet for anything else you could want. Strangely...you'll find guacamole EVERYWHERE but not at this buffet...remember to ask for it. Again, reservations might be needed up to two days in advance. Still worth the try. Of note: This place turns into a lunch buffet during the day. If you chose to hang at the activity pool...go here for lunch. Heavily under served.
The Japanese: I think my gf and I had the most fun at this restaurant. Walk in to a nice cold A/C room that is heavily themed with bamboo, open air gardens, and more. Great menu, and a sushi tray to share for starters. Luckily, they stopped making you need reservations so you can just walk in. I almost recommend trying this the first night to get it out of the way...that way if you like it you can plan to head back. Of note: Surprisingly not many people showed up for dinner. It is on the backside of the main building so many might not know it's there or what...hidden gem forsure.
THE GROUNDS: There is really no way to better put it than: "Right on the beach baby". This entire property is right on the beach, and designed amazingly to always keep the beach/view RIGHT there. Because the property is essentially a big U shape facing the beach...you'll always be doing something that is in prime view unless you are inside eating. I would put big money that you've never seen a hotel's grounds kept any better than the Palace. I couldn't walk from my room to the buffet without running into a minimum of 5 people sweeping, mowing, moping, painting, etc. Good luck finding a gum wrapper. This place is immaculately clean and it shows. I'd say the best view in the house is from the Lobby Bar which is technically on the third floor, but just a decent staircase up from the main pool/food areas. A stunning open air bar with great service...they truly will make sure you always have a drink in your hand. Please look at the panoramic photo I attached which I took at the lobby bar. It's a great place to mingle pre/post dinner. Amazing view of lovers beach/rocks as well.
The SERVICE: I know they say all inclusive includes everything, but I definitely never include the service in that. Luckily, the Palace is full of amazing workers who love their job, and seem to genuinely care about your time. I can't speak any higher of the bartenders, bar servers, waiters: you ask for it, they will get it for you. If you want a black tea in the morning, or a shot of absolut to go with your mixed drink: your wish is their command. It probably wasn't until the end of the trip that I fully realized how specific you could get with a request...(I don't mean that in a take advantage way) I mean...if you want a grande beer...tell them...they will put it in a larger cup. They are used to just filling the order, but will happily make it to your tailoring. Goes with anything. You want two eggs over easy at the omelet bar, just ask. With all this being said, these people work extremely hard, and they are very appreciative for tips. $5-10 USD works great for the themed dinners, $1-3 to leave at your buffet table, and what I found worked well for drinks is either $1 for two drinks brought all the way to me at the pool, or $3-5 after you've been drinking at the lobby bar for example and head out.
ODDS AND ENDS: (Things I know now that nobody told me)
> Bring a 32 ounce or larger insulated cup/mug to the pool: Bartenders will gladly fill it up, and it saves you plenty of drink runs. Otherwise, you will be drinking out of 10 ounce plastic cups all day that start melting your drink in the sun fast.
>If you want a special lawn chair spot by the pool and you don't see anything you like: ask/move chairs to where you want to be...most hotels won't allow this, here they are glad to see it.
>You can go to the Riu Sante Fe (College party town IMO, took me 10 minutes to get a drink with three other full bars in sight) but they can't come to the Palace.
>At the lunch buffets you can ask for a disposable plate, allowing you to take food to the pool...otherwise you'd have to eat in there.
>Guys bring long pants to wear to the Crystal
>Random yes, but the club sandwich from room service comes dry, you must order it with mayo or whatever you like (they won't tell you that)
>If you miss an evening show or there is one you want to see, it's always on a different schedule at the Riu Sante Fe, chances are you could see it there.
>Lastly, ask for all drinks you like with the name brand stuff...absolut martini, jose cuervo margarita etc. Otherwise they will make it with lower brand stuff even though you see the nicer bottles in the background. Again, your wish is their command. I've seen people on here say they make drinks weak. HOW FUNNY: Simply ask them to re make it or ask for it strong. I did, and I had to nurse margaritas all night.
All in all, I absolutely loved the Riu Palace standard and cannot wait until my next trip to this property, or at another location. This place provides a tremendous value, and heck, most places you stay you'll head out to town or do activities, this is a great foundation for your vacation.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.