Just returned from a week at Riu Palace with my husband and some friends from across the sea. The hotel is located in Playacar, a ritzy development just south of Playa del Carmen, you can see the Cozumel ferry from the beach. It is much smaller than the huge spreading resorts you find further south in the Mayan, and though there are 4 sister properties very nearby, they are all a bit of a walk and none are as nice as the Palace (the sister Palace Mexico is currently closed for renovation) so we mostly stayed at this one. It is very grand and beautiful, not Mexican style at all but more classical italian/greek influenced decor. The public areas are all shining marble, everything is clean and beautiful.
The room is typical, they call it a Junior Suite but actually it's just a largeish hotel room with a small sitting area. The bathroom has double sinks, the tub is jacuzzi and quite deep (might be a challenge to get into if you have knee issues, there's a big step to get in), minibar is stocked daily and the mattress was the softest I've had in Mexico.
There are two pools, one is the lower pool with the swim-up bar, and a higher infinity pool that dumps into the lower pool. Both were nice and chlorinated, which is helpful in the presence of people drinking that much beer in the pool. The infinity pool needs a good scrubbing and re-grouting but we felt comfortable in both. There are a lot of umbrellas and palm trees, so we never had trouble finding a lounger in the shade. Note that there are ONLY loungers available, no straight chairs except in the bar area itself, which became an issue when my husband threw his back out and couldn't lounge. The usual towel game applies, get out there early. There is waiter service all around the main pool.
This is the nicest beach for miles, plenty of palm trees for shade. The water entry is fairly deep but there are no rocks, no need for water shoes. There is quite a bit of surf, you can't snorkel on this beach.
It was pretty good. Krystal fusion restaurant was the best ala carte, followed closely by Chili's steakhouse and their amazing surf and turf. Even the buffet was better than average. Everyone is expected to eat lunch in Chili's, which gets overcrowded around 1 PM. Maybe that's just an off-season thing. Breakfast is the best meal as usual for all-inclusive. Servers are universally kind and helpful. You do have to go at noon (well, line up at 11:45) to the main lobby to make your ala carte dinner reservations. You can only make 2 at a time, up to 3 days in advance so if you don't want to eat buffet every night (which is still a fine choice) you have to be aware of the time and leave your beach/pool fun every other day to stomp up and stand in line in the lobby. This is really stupid and it is one thing I would advise the management to change right now.
The dive shop:
The folks at the dive shop are wonderful, they can't help it if the reef is in terrible shape all around them. The diving on the mainland is very disappointing, we went over to Cozumel on the ferry (organized trip from Scuba Caribe, the onsite shop) and it was as wonderful there as ever. Mainland corals were bleached and dead, very minimal fish life and only 2 turtles at the divesite called Tortugas, where we dove 5 years ago and saw at least 20. Not sure what has happened, but from now on if I'm not staying in Coz, I'm not even going to bring my gear. WARNING: there are no piers in this part of Playacar, so to get onto the dive boat you have to swim through the pounding surf (at least on the days we did it) to the boat anchored offshore. They take tanks for you and your fins, but swimming against the surf in the rest of your gear is very challenging, and swimming back from the boat after the dive is just as difficult. If you have any health issues (bad back, tire easily) you will not be able to dive here. They don't have any alternative to get you on the boat, you have to swim for it, which gets exhausting fast. If you're a diver, this is not a great resort choice, go to Cozumel instead.
Overall this is a lovely resort and if you aren't coming for diving you will love it. It's one of the nicest resorts we've stayed in (including Dreams Tulum, Barcelo, Grand Palladium, Iberostar, Occidental). When we return to the Mayan Riviera we will probably go back to Palladium before we would return here, but if you like a smaller more intimate resort with elegant surroundings and an excellent beach, this is a great choice.
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- Also Known As:
- Riu Palace Riviera Maya Hotel Playa Del Carmen
- Riu Riviera Maya
- Hotel Riu Palace Riviera Maya Playa Del Carmen, Mexico