My boyfriend and I celebrated his 25th birthday here May 12-16th. I was a little nervous since the reviews were so mixed but I got an excellent flight+hotel deal so I decided to stay at Riu Vallarta and see what it's about. From the moment we arrived we were treated excellent. Ramon at the front desk was very accommodating and upgraded our room since we were celebrating a b-day (it also helped that I had signed up for a Riu Class Card before we came).
The Rooms: The room was very nice. We had a small living room area and a balcony overlooking the kid's pool on the 7th floor. The mini bar was stocked with sodas and water, and there were four large bottles of alcohol. All complimentary. We only opted for room service once but everything was restocked when we did. The shower pressure was great. The bathroom was big and had two sinks and a blow dryer. The only complaint I had was the bed. It was so uncomfortable, even with a pillow topper. It wouldn't have been that bad if we hadn't stayed four nights. By the fourth night, I was contemplating sleeping on the couch. I didn't hear any noise whatsoever and slept fine. We weren't overlooking the courtyard though. I can imagine it would be noisy if we were. The room did smell musty but that's what you get at beachy locations. It wasn't a big deal for us.
The Food: I am surprised by how many people complained about the food. I thought that there were more than enough options to find something worth eating. We ate breakfast and dinner at the main buffet restaurant, Don Raffael's several times. Breakfast wasn't my favorite, but it never is. The yogurt with fruit and granola was very good. They also had tons of egg, bacon, sausage, pastry, pancake/bread options. The cereal was almost always stale. The hashbrowns were disgusting and the so was the french toast. If you stick to the Mexican food options, you'll be better off. I was excited about the fresh fruit juice bar but it tasted like artificial sweetener so bad, I couldn't drink it. Dinner was much better than breakfast. Again, tons of options. The pizza is good, and so was the salad bar and the taco stand. The desserts were ok, but I stuck to the ice cream :). We thought that the small buffet at the Flamingo was better and less crowded for breakfast. Less hot options but fresher food. We ate lunch at the Flamingo everyday and it was my favorite meal of the day. They had tons of salads, pizza, burgers, grilled veggies, tacos etc. The chips and guacamole with pico de gallo were really good. We only ate at one of the specialty restaurants because there were no reservations available. We decided to try Sir George (the steakhouse). We didn't have reservations but went a little after the seating time and asked if they had any openings and they sat us right away. It was ok. I would rather have eaten at Don Raffaels. The steak was a little off and not really worth it. The wine was disgusting. Beer and wine were available on tap at all the restaurants. Obviously, an all inclusive resort is not going to have gourmet quality food but we are not picky and were able to find many great options for every meal. I was pleasantly surprised with the food.
The pool was really fun and we layed out by it all day during our whole stay. There were a group of guys from Texas who were beyond obnoxious and loud. They were wasted the whole time and nobody ever said anything to them. They were splashing people and falling over. It was actually entertaining but it got old by the 2nd day. The pool has swim up tables that you can sit at, drink and watch the drunks make a fool of themselves at 1pm. We never had a problem getting a table. The water was really nice too. Probably from all the bodies which is gross to think about. Just drink more and you'll get over it :) We never tried to get a chair next to the pool, we preferred to lay out away from people and there were always tons of open chairs behind the first row of chairs. The swim up bar was great. The bartenders work so hard!!! They are amazing. Please tip them. The drinks ranged from weak to strong depending on who poured it. Do you really want crazy strong drinks if you're going to be drinking all day though? You'd be hammered by 11am. I definitely got a little drunk as the day went on. Some of the drinks were better than others. I LOVED the bloody marys!! I could (and did) drink them all day. The dirty monkeys were amazing as well. The beer is Dos Equis. I didn't like some of the drinks (margaritas and mojitos) because I could taste the artificial sweetener really bad. It was fun to try all the different drinks and not have to pay for it. The swim up bar stops serving hard alcohol around 5pm and serves beer until 6pm then it closes. I can definitely see why they have a separate pool for kids and adults. I can imagine that the adult pool gets pretty crazy with drunk people during busy weekends and holidays. Most people (except for the texans and one annoying group of girls) were holding their liquor pretty well so there were no problems.
The beach was really nice. We tried to walk to town one day but walked about 30 minutes and didn't see it, so we turned around. About 20 min up the beach to the right, there were tons of massage tents offering massages for $20. Near the resort, there are tons of lounge chairs underneath palm trees. They were really comfortable too. I fell asleep on them several times. The water is not clear blue Hawaii style, but it seemed swimable. We never went in though.
We never participated in any of the entertainment options because it wasn't that type of trip for us. We preferred to do absolutely nothing. They did have tons of group games and activities throughout the day (volleyball, ping pong, horse shoes, rifle shooting, water aerobics etc). The entertainment staff works really hard and they were all really nice and funny. They have a different show each evening. We never saw those either. At night, they had a live band in the courtyard and it was fun to watch everyone dance and have a good time. There was a big bar there too. Tony made the best drinks. There's also a disco, but we didn't do that either.
Many other reviews mentioned the locals taking over the resort... It was pretty crowded on the weekend but it was definitely not a problem for us. Without locals, you just have other tourists and I really don't like tourists :). At the restaurants, they were a little pushy and it got frustrating how crowded it was, but that's about it. I felt like the guests were a wide range of ages and nationalities. There were a bunch of young people drinking and meeting each other, but there were tons of families too. We kept to ourselves but it would be really easy to meet other people and party with them if you're into that kind of thing.
The town is a 60 peso ride away. We had my boyfriends birthday dinner at Adautos and it was amazing. We sat at a table under a palapa on the beach and watched the sunset. The drinks were strong and the food was great.
Overall we had an excellent time. If you are not a picky or high maintenance traveler you will have a great time. If you're used to staying at the Four Seasons and eating dinner at Ruth's Chris every night, you will hate it. I would definitely return to Riu Vallarta.
-Get a room higher up overlooking the childrens pool and you will hear no noise.
-you're more l...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.