My husband and I got married at the Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas on Valentine’s Day, and spent the week of Feb 10 – 17 there with a group of 21 people. We really rely on Trip Advisor reviews when trying to choose our resorts, so we wanted to write a comprehensive review when we came home to help future travelers in their decision making. I've gotten really detailed, because before we came, we wanted to know EVERYTHING. If you prefer to be surprised, stop after the next paragraph.
The resort is fabulous! Gorgeous, clean rooms and grounds; spectacular views, friendly, helpful staff, great food; pretty beach; 2 pools (1 quiet, 1 with activities) with lots of chairs; cute, albeit not professional caliber evening shows; and lots of little touches that make the resort special. It's the perfect size – about 600 rooms - not so big you need a cart to get around, but big enough that you have some variety as to where to hang out. I would recommend it to anyone - old, young, couples, singles, big groups and families. There are places to go and age appropriate fun to be had for all of you.
The wedding coordinators really know their stuff. They don’t contact you until very shortly before your wedding, which scared me a little bit, but when you get there it’s obvious that they have everything under control, and you need only a short meeting the day after you arrive to nail down the final small details. Our wedding was beautiful, and an incredible value for the money we paid for the package. More detail in later paragraphs if you’re interested.
Before you go:
Choosing a room category:
If you can, book a Junior Suite, Oceanview. It has a little extra space, with a small sitting area and table, and a view of the Arch and Lands End. The resort is 4 floors, so see if you can get third floor or above. The rooms overlooking the activity pool are actually quieter at night, because the disco is near to the quiet pool.
You hear lots of differing opinions about what kind of money to bring, but it really is best to bring U.S. dollars and some Mexican Pesos. Canadian money can be changed to pesos in the hotel, but is NOT good for tipping. Giving the staff loonies and toonies is no better than giving them Canadian Tire money. They can't use it to buy anything, and have difficulty changing it. Getting small US bills at the hotel is very difficult too, so gather as many US singles as you can before coming . There is a bank machine in the hotel and several in downtown Cabo San Lucas, and if you withdraw pesos from the ATM you will get the best possible exchange rate. Bring a credit card for booking tours and for large purchases.
What to bring:
Cabo is hot in the daytime, but windy and cooler at night, so bring a sweater or pashmina or light jacket. No bug spray is necessary here, haven't seen any signs of mosquitos or sand fleas. The rooms have hairdryers ,shampoo, bath/shower gel and lotion. People dress nicely for dinner, and the guys have to wear long pants (jeans are ok), a collared shirt and closed-toed shoes, unless you plan to eat in the buffet every night. You don't need to bring beach towels, they are provided and you can even take them on tours as long as you bring them back. Do bring a hat, the direct sun is very hot and will burn your head - especially if you plan to go out on the water.
Los Cabos airport:
The airport is hot and not particularly air conditioned, so dress accordingly when you leave home. The wait for bags can be long and you don't want to start your vacation grumpy because you're melting in your jeans and parka.
If this is your first trip to Cabo, you need to know that the airport is filled with time share guys, who are very clever at making you think that they are your transportation, or are your contact for getting transportation. IGNORE THEM. Your travel reps are always outside the airport. Put your head down and charge through the crowd until you smell that special Mexico air. Your travel rep will have a sign and will direct you to the correct bus. The resort is about 45 minutes from the airport.
You leave your bags to be unloaded from the bus, and head for check in. They welcome you with a smile and a cocktail or champagne. Say "hola" and smile back. You are now on vacation. After check-in, you can either grab your own bags, or point them out to a bellman, who will accompany you to the room with your bags, or will deliver them shortly.
Getting a good room:
Get the desk clerk to show you your room on the map, and if you aren't happy, slip them a $20 and ask if there is a nice ocean view room available. Being friendly, smiling, saying please and thank you go a long way. So does impressing them with your bad Spanish, and just generally not being a demanding jerk. We've all seen them. Don't be that guy.
Comfortable, clean, nicely furnished (Mexican style). Firm bed (but not too hard) with lots of pillows. We had turn-down service every night, but we’re not sure if this is the norm or if we were just lucky. A balcony outside with a little table and 2 chairs, and a bathing suit drying rack. We had a little sitting area, with the sofa and coffee table with two chairs, and enough drawers and closet space for two people.
The bathroom has a large vanity with two sinks, and a tub/shower combo. We always had enough towels, and left a note for housekeeping to bring us facecloths each day. Bring air freshener spray because there is no fan in the bathroom.
The rooms do not have Wi-Fi, but free wireless is available in the lobby, and there are lots of seating arrangements so you can sit with your laptop. There are full liquor bottles in your room, with rum, tequila, vodka and brandy. The fridge is stocked with juice, bottled water, beer and pop. We always put a generous tip in the fridge the first day, with a note asking them to provide lots of whatever we want more of. That seems to ensure we get refilled every day throughout the stay. The fridge guy is a different person than the housekeeping person, so tip them both. Leave the maid's tip on the bed, and the fridge guy's in the fridge.
There is a coffee maker with coffee in the room, but remember to bring milk up from the buffet for your fridge, and sugar or sweetener.
The resort is gated, and everyone is checked coming and going. Use caution when walking alone at night (just like you would at home), but we felt very safe at this resort. There is usually a staff member nearby, and the areas are well-lit.
There is a safe with a lock and key in the closet of each room, and it’s just good sense to use it for your passport, extra cash, and good jewelry. We have never had a problem with items stolen from our room or anyone breaching the safe, and this is our second stay at the resort. Further, we accidentally left our safe open and the lock and key on top, and still nothing was taken.
We left our camera at our table at the show one night, and Reuben, a security guard, noticed it sitting unattended and brought it to the front desk to the lost and found. He overheard me asking about it at the bar the next day, and accompanied my husband to the front office to make sure he retrieved it okay. Above and beyond service, and proof that in spite of reviews to the contrary, the staff at this resort is trustworthy and security doesn’t seem to be a problem.
Room service is available for about 18 hours a day, and offers sandwiches, nachos, a chicken Caesar salad, and drinks. Good for a late night snack, although there are also snacks available in a fridge in the lobby bar that you can go help yourself to.
There are twin infinity pools, with adjacent swim-up bars. Facing the beach, the one on the left is the “activities pool” where they do aqua-gym, volleyball, have music playing, and come ask people to participate in bingo, rifle shooting, darts, Spanish lessons, and dance classes. This pool is warm like a bath. The Jacuzzis seem to be just jetted portions of the pool, not actual hot tubs. The other side is the “quiet pool. No loud music, and no one bugs you to join activities. Chairs are usually easier to find at this pool.
There are lots of chairs by all the pools, but people seem to do the usual thing of getting up at 7am to reserve chairs. You will still find a chair if you don't reserve, it just may not be in your ideal choice of spot, and it’s difficult to get chairs for a group. There are a lot of chairs on the beach too, with good shade.
Upon check in they give you one towel card per person, which you trade at the towel stand by the activity pool for fresh towels.
This is a gorgeous big beach with sand as far as the eye can see in both directions. Great for walking. Lots of seating and some shade, but most importantly, you have to understand that it is not safe to swim in this water. The waves look like fun body surfing waves, but the undertow will grab you and drag you out. Wading is fine, but hang on to your kids, because the sand gets swept out from under your feet. There are a couple of public beaches nearby where it is safe to swim (Santa Maria or Chileno), and you can book snorkeling tours that will take you to safe areas. Whales, manta rays and dolphins can sometimes be spotted out in the water in front of the hotel. Very cool.
There are beach volleyball matches twice every day. Bring water shoes if you have tender tootsies, because the sand is a little rough on the feet.
The spa facilities here are good, but not a particularly fancy atmosphere. I had a mani, pedi, hair and makeup done in a bridal package for $200 USD, and it was all really well done. We had a couples’ massage included in our wedding package, which was nice.
Can't really comment on it because we didn't use it, but the kids must have, because for most of the trip there were very few children in the adult areas. Just wanted to let you know they have one.
My favorite subject, and reviewing the restaurants here will be easy - they were all great. My husband and I are foodies and have stayed at a lot of all-inclusive resorts, and the food here competes with the best of them. The food is fresh, well cooked, and the restaurants are all immaculately clean. The house wine is pretty mediocre, but definitely drinkable. The servers are attentive, friendly, and appreciate even small tips.
The buffet here was actually really good (says the food snob). Everything was fresh and well prepared, and they varied the theme at dinner a little every night. Lots of fresh stations, like a beef carvery, seafood paella, grill items, and a huge selection of desserts. Breakfast is great there too. From fruit, cereal and yogurt, French toast and pancakes, to eggs, bacon, sausages, and made-to-order omelettes (fantastic). Sit in Nanci’s section if you can, she is a warm, wonderful server there who greets you with a friendly smile and great service.
Lunch is served in the steakhouse, which is converted to a grill/ buffet at lunch time, where you can get salads, burgers, hot dogs, nachos, and various other snack items. Lunch is also available in the Mexican a la carte restaurant.
A la carte restaurants:
Book reservations at Guest Services to the right of the front desk, starting at 7:00 a.m. They will usually let you book a couple at a time for the same day or the day after, so that everyone gets a fair shot at reservations.
This is the resort’s fine dining restaurant, featuring gourmet fusion cuisine. Gorgeous presentation, nice salads and starters, beautifully cooked meats (filet mignon, lamb, chicken breast and fish, and the desserts were to die for. They also serve the wine by the bottle, and it’s a little higher end than the other restaurants. Definitely worth checking out. You can only reserve here on the actual day you want to dine.
We had our wedding dinner here, and it was fantastic: Starter caesar salad;, a fresh seafood platter for each 2 people that had crab legs, prawns, oysters, and mussels; a main course of filet mignon and prawns; baked Alaska and wedding cake for dessert. This was a group menu for 21 people, but I believe all these items are available on the regular menu. They have a selection of different steaks and grill items, served with potatoes and veggies. The tables have a nice view of the ocean.
This was very good, you just have to remember that it is Japanese food in Mexico, so the interpretation is a little different than you’re used to at home. That being said, the sushi was fresh, safe, and delicious, prepared by proper sushi chefs. You start with a platter of assorted sushi, a choice of appie, a main course (teriyaki chicken, sautéed prawns, beef or a vegetarian option), then dessert. We had the tempura deep-fried ice cream. Yummy! Saki was also available.
This restaurant is on the beach, and has a great ambiance. It’s open for lunch and dinner. Worth trying if you want to have some Mexican dishes other than what is served en masse at the buffet. The food here is okay, just not spectacular.
They had a different show every night, starting at 9:00ish, and they were cute, but not professional. A band played before the shows, and it was very good. The dancers were great, and some of the activities staff were often in the shows, which was fun once you got to know them a bit. Two of the six shows we saw were “audience participation” games as opposed to actual shows, which were kind of annoying if you weren’t involved. The Michael Jackson show is excellent and worth watching. One tip: The theatre is open air, and the wind picks up at night, so bring a sweater or jacket. The seating is cocktail lounge style, and the bar to the left of the stage is a main meeting place/hangout after dinner.
After the show ends, the disco opens. Typical disco lighting and music, with a main bar serving drinks. It was very hot in there though , so ditch the jacket you needed for the show. The theatre bar also stays open late.
Upstairs off the lobby is a large bar with pool tables (coin operated) and televisions. It seems to stay open late, and has self-serve nachos and sandwiches for snacking on.
Buying duty-free booze:
The cheapest place is at the Walmart across the street from the hotel. It has a reasonably good selection, and the prices are lower than in town and definitely cheaper than the airport duty free. There is, however, a cool Tequila Shop in Cabo San Lucas that gives samples, and has a lot of different brands and unique bottles.
Wedding at Riu Palace
The Riu has two locations at which you can hold your ceremony: the beach, or the gazebo. We chose the beach, which has a small wooden arch set up down on the sand, and then seating for guests with white chair covers and bows of your color of choice. The gazebo is beautiful too, and is more appropriate if you have a super formal gown or guests who can’t negotiate the sand on the beach.
They have three different wedding packages to choose from, and their website shows what’s included in each one, but in short, they all include your wedding flowers, ceremony, officiant, a semi-private dinner in one of the a la carte restaurants, champagne for toasts, wedding cake and a few nice extras for the bride and groom. Extras can be purchased, like a mariachi trio, extra flowers, specialized equipment for audio-visual or a dance, specialized menu, and even fireworks. The flowers were gorgeous – they were done by an outside florist, and included premium flowers at no extra cost. We had red roses and cala lilies. The resort dedicates a wedding coordinator to your event, and as I said, they do so many weddings each week, they are incredibly organized. Our wedding coordinator was Jatziri Acero, who was a lovely person who had every detail taken care of, and fulfilled all our special requests without a problem. She accompanied all our guests to their seating at the beach, got the groom and his attendant set up with the minister, then came to pick up my parents and I to escort us to the beach for the walk down the sandy aisle. She then came to take us to dinner, and made sure everything was perfect.
If I can say one thing to the brides to be: if you are choosing to get married in a tropical destination, don’t try to make it the exact kind of wedding you’d have at a golf course at home. Use the gorgeous backdrop that is available, have faith that the resort will give you a beautiful set up, and leave all the other crap at home. Giveaways, patio lanterns, gift bags, special linens and other things that you can get all wrapped up in but are a pain to pack or ship will just get lost in the beauty of the day and the Mexican setting anyway. I was so thrilled to be poolside on the day of our wedding until 1:00 (ceremony at 4:00) enjoying the sun and relaxing, rather than figuring out seating plans or wrapping up chocolate whatsits.
Enjoy your holiday and let your guests enjoy theirs!
Back at the airport:
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Your shuttle from the resort will get you to the airport about 2 ½ hours before your flight. Remember it's hot in the airport, so don't dress for home if you can avoid it. The check-in line is long and slow, so bring water, patience and comfy footwear. If you booked a class upgrade with your airline, there should be a separate check-in, and the line is much shorter. They don't advertise it though; you have to ask or hunt around for it. Also be aware of your luggage weight restrictions, as they do enforce them and charge a fortune for overweight baggage.
There are minimal facilities to get a snack at the airport. There are duty-free shops and souvenir shops, a convenience store, a pizza place and one bar, which serves made to order hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, Mexican food and fries. The food and even the ice are apparently safe, as we ate and drank there and didn't get sick.
The Riu Palace is one of our favorite all-inclusive resorts, and we would recommend it to anyone. It was a fantastic place to have a wedding, and the staff all make you feel so welcomed and pampered, it’s hard to go home.
Just remember, a smile, using please and thank you, some tolerance and a small tip here and there go a long way towards having a great vacation. If you want things to be just like they are at home, why did you leave home? A bad day on vacation beats a good day at work, so BE NICE!
Enjoy Cabo, and this truly excellent resort!!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located in the southern Baja California peninsula, 4.5 km/2.8 miles from Cabo San Lucas. 5-storey building. On the beachfront. Complimentary sun loungers on the beach. 32,000 m2 garden. 3.5 km/2.2 miles from downtown Cabo San Lucas. 40 km/25 miles from the airport. 500 m/1650 ft from a bus stop. Credit cards accepted: MasterCard, Visa, Diners, Discover ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas Hotel Cabo San Lucas
- Riu Palace Los Cabos
- Riu Cabo San Lucas
- Riu Los Cabos
- Hotel Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas Los Cabos