My husband & I stayed at the Riu Palace Mexico from December 18 to December 25, 2004 and after reading countless excellent user reviews I can unequivically state that they were all on the money. Throughout the week we were constantly comparing everything with Secrets Excellence in Punta Cana, DR, where we stayed the same week last year and loved also, so I'll write this review in a comparative manner.
Physical Plant: The Palace was just that and far surpassed the photos you see on the internet. Every surface on anything, was spotless and flawlessly maintained. One thing I read time after time was how slippery the tile/marble floors and walkways were and this was no exageration. I saw more than one person who had injuries too recent to have come from anything else but a fall there. I know it's tough to wash the floors and walkways at a time when there's no one around but certainly 8-10am when literally everyone is up and about, isn't it. Be careful! I'd give the edge here to the Riu although Secrets was gorgeous also.
The Beach: The nicest and largest in the area, including the Royal Hideaway two hotels to the left if you're facing the ocean. The water was the clear, turquoise you see in brochures often but hardly ever encounter once you get there. Temperature was perfect and the combination of small waves in a calm sea made it perfect for swimming or just floating around. We spent 95% of our sun time there. In comparison with Secrets, the latter had a great beach also. Not as deep (this hotel is set way back and the sand started very far in, with many palm trees) but the biggest difference was in the amount of action on both. The Riu was really busy-lots of people, as it was shared by the other Riu properties nearby, para-sailing, speedboating, windsurfing, catamaran sailing, cruise ships docked nearby, etc. The Secrets beach was just perfectly peaceful with literally nothing happening. The water there was beautiful also but remember, it's the Atlantic not the Caribbean, so the water was not quite as blue or clear. For me I liked the peace and quiet at Secrets but my husband liked the sea at the Riu. Some of the nearby resorts had literally no beach when the tide ws in and I would have absolutely hated that.
Food and Liquor: The food at the Riu was wonderful and the main eating place was Don Julian, the buffet, which we liked best. We went to two of the specialty restaurants, Sir Edwards and the new Japanese one which opened when we were there. I had to get up and be downstairs by 6:30 to get a reservation which is sheer stupidity when you're on vacation and for my money not worth the effort for a second, considering the vast anount of choices at the buffet. I also didn't like being tied in to a particular time to eat and at the Riu you had to choose an early or late seating. In this area, Secrets was far better as you could go to any restaurant at any time without reservations and the most that happened was that you might have to wait a few minutes to get in. You'd just have yet another drink! The liquor at both places was top shelf although Secrets might have a small edge there. I was amazed that at the Riu they had no good brandy, i.e. Courvoisier or Remy. If you wanted Don Julian tequila at the Riu they took out a bottle from under the bar-it was obvoius that they were discouraging anyone from seeing/wanting it. I usually drink Jose Cuervo Especial (sp?) but am ruined after the introduction to Senior Don Julio. All rooms were stocked with Smirnoff Vodka, Jose Cuervo, Bacardi Rum and a brandy I can't remember and didn't recognize. This was not an amenity at Secrets. The best bar at the Riu, by far, was the Cubano Bar and the best bartender, hands down, was Miriam who worked there every night. I really hope management recognizes her talent as she was totally efficient, friendly while being professional and used excellent judgement in every situation. If she were being secretly videotaped the higher-ups at this resort wouldn't ever find fault with her performance. She was an absolute pleasure, made the best drinks and was one of the high points of our visit.
Rooms: At the Riu, were spacious, clean and well maintained but Secrets clearly had the edge here. Riu's bathrooms were adequate but Secrets' were gorgeous and every room had a two person jacuzzi which was great. Also, we stayed on the top floors of both resorts but Secrets' had cathedral ceilings which gave the feeling of much more space. Also, the latter was decorated nicer and had a much better TV with many more channels than the Riu. We didn't watch much TV but when we did there was a disappointing number of options. My husband, who's a real sports face, had to watch the football games in Spanish. Secrets also had better water pressure which was really bad at high usage times at the Riu.
Gym & Spa- Secrets, hands down for both. It had a great, well equipped gym that was air-conditioned. The gym at the Riu was a joke and although I'm a workout nut I didn't bother at all for the whole vacation, ergo, the five pounds I gained. One guy we met at the Riu cabbed it to a place downtown to go to a gym there.
Clientele: We, as Americans, were in the vast minority at the Riu, which is a chain owned by Spaniards and definitely caters to Europeans, especially Germans. This was certainly no problem for us and we met many lovely people. The one major problem for us, and it was a biggie, was the number of children at the resort. I had been reading reviews for a year and the impression was definitely, that although this was not an "Adults Only" place, there were very few kids due to the fact that there are no children's programs or much for them to do. The other Riu properties nearby, the Tequila and Yucatan, were much more kid friendly. I guess because it was Christmas, and visitors consisted mainly of families, there were many more kids than we anticipated and it was the only low point for us. Please don't get the impression we're anti-children. But, we don't have any and we had no fun sharing the formal bar with 8 year olds at 10.00 p.m. ordering milk shakes, or waiting 10 minutes to get a drink at the pool bar because kids were ordering every fruit smoothie they could think of and then leaving them because they didn't like them. We were told that, at other time of the year, when there were almost no children, that the ambience of the hotel was considerably different. So, it's just a matter of what you're looking for but consider this possibility if you'd be visiting when school
Pool: I'm not a pool person when the beach is as beautiful as it was at the Riu Palace. It was fine but nowhere near the calibur of the pool at Secrets. It is supposed to be one of, if not the, best in the Caribbean. The pool at the Riu was cold as was the jacuzzi, which drove people nuts. They should really do something about that. Secrets here, no contest.
Service: Wonderful! Unlike most people we saw, we tipped. We probable went for a bit over $200. in a week and I wanted to give more. In my mind, "All-Inclusive" where "gratuties are included" just means you don't have to give them anything. It's not like they get any of what you give the resort above and beyond their tiny salaries. I saw everyone get great service and just don't understand how, that at the end of a 6 hour day at the beach with your party/family, sucking down endless drinks, you can't leave the bartender ANYTHING! A DOLLAR!
Summation: This is a top notch, beautiful resort where, everyone we spoke with, said they had the best time. I don't think you will find a better place in that area, including the much touted Royal Hideaway. We were given a personal tour by the manager there, who was so gracious, that I'd consider staying there if everyone was half as accommodating as he was. However the Riu Palace Mexico was far prettier, the beach was twice as nice, and all of the restaurants at the RH were ala carte. We loved the buffet at the Riu. I like to see what I'm getting and get as little or much as I want and the quality of food and presentation was fantastic. The RH, however has the peace and quiet we would have loved as it only allows children over 13 and there were very few of those. The atmosphere couldn't have been more different, so, once again, it depends on what you are looking for in a vacation. I'll leave my e-mail address even though I'm probably risking hate mail on the kid thing! Feel free to ask questions. Whew!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- * Located on the Yucatan peninsula, 3 km / 1.9 Miles from Playa del Carmen * Within the Playacar resort, along with the Riu Palace Riviera Maya, Riu Yucatan, Riu Playacar and the ClubHotel Riu Tequila hotels * 2-storey building * Surrounded by 20,000 m2 / 24,000 sq. Yards of lush gardens * Located on the beach * Complimentary sun loungers on the beach * 200 m / 650 feet from Mexican Street * 55 km / 34 miles from Cancun Int???L. Airport * Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Diners ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Riu Palace Mexico Hotel
- Riu Palace Mexico Playa Del Carmen
- Riu Palace Playa Del Carmen
- Riu Palace Mayan Riviera
- Riu Playa Del Carmen
- Mexico Palace Riu
- Riu Mexico
- Rui Palace Mexico
- Hotel Riu Palace Mexico Riviera Maya/Playa Del Carmen