Living in Michigan, there's nothing quite like getting away in the dead of winter. A sunny vacation can do so much for your mood, especially as a young parent.
That's why we were thrilled to visit beautiful Playa del Carmen recently. We experienced 7 days at Playa del Carmen's beautiful Riu Palace Mexico.
In this Riu Palace Mexico review, I'll share the best features and some areas for improvement for this all-inclusive resort.
Riu Palace Mexico Review: Best Features
The Playa del Carmen beach outside of the Riu Palace Mexico was absolutely gorgeous. As soon as you set your toes in the sand, the feeling was like a massage. On some beaches we've visited, the sand can feel rough on your feet. Not this beach!
It was perfect for chasing the kids, playing beach volleyball, or even a morning or evening stroll.
On two separate mornings, my wife and I made it down early enough to catch a magnificent sunrise. The beach chairs were set up so you could easily relax and take in the view.
We were greeted with a smile from the moment we arrived. The Riu Palace Mexico team did an excellent job making our family feel truly welcome. And given the number of people on staff at the resort, it's amazing how this consistent welcoming feeling persisted throughout our entire experience.
At each of our dining experiences, the waitstaff would be sure to ask us (and our kids) if they wanted anything else. It was such a joy to see our kid's eyes light up when they ordered their own drinks. The “fruit punch” was a huge hit for them!
Down at the pool, there were servers available to take our drink orders as we lounged in our reclining chairs. They were very friendly and encouraged our kids to try out their Spanish speaking skills – with no judgment if they got nervous. It was really nice.
Although we didn't need to tip as it was included in the all-inclusive package, we wanted to because the service was so good.
Speaking of staff, the Riu Entertainment team was spot on! This crew kept our entire family laughing, dancing and playing games from day one.
While lounging and relaxing was on the top of our vacation to-do list, this entertainment team made you want to party and get moving! Perhaps it was because they were celebrating their 25th anniversary for Riu Entertainment while we were there, but the mood just felt more fun.
One of the days, we played a series of lawn “Olympic games”. This included fun and easy games like darts, cornhole, and a version of Plinko with a ping pong ball. The kids really had fun and so did we.
The entertainment really hit “peak party” with a foam party on Saturday. People were floating on gigantic rafts, bouncing huge inflatable balls into the air and dancing to great music (while being hit in the face with foam)!
The perma-smile on my daughter's face will forever be engrained in my brain from that party.
Although we didn't take advantage of it, the availability of non-motorized water sport options was a nice perk to have. Also, there were many more advanced water sports choices as well. This included snorkeling, scuba, and jet skiing.
The Riu Palace Mexico had four different swimming pools to choose from. They were all very close to each other so you didn't need to walk from one side of the campus to the other to use them.
There was one pool with a convenient swim-up bar that was adults-only. This did bum out our kids because they couldn't do the swim-up bar and order smoothies like they had in other all-inclusive resorts.
We've had the opportunity to visit a few all-inclusive resorts as family, including the Paradisus in Cabo San Lucas. I don't recall the food being consistently good at each restaurant we visited like it was at the Riu Palace Mexico.
Whether it was the sit-down Japanese restaurant or even just the buffet, the food did not disappoint.
While I enjoyed the Mexican restaurant (La Bodega) and the Fusion restaurant (Krystal), my favorite was the Japanese restaurant (Miyagi). Even though it wasn't one of those Japanese Steakhouses where they cut up the food in front of you like I was expecting, the food was well portioned and delicious.
Here is a list of the restaurants at the Riu Palace Mexico when we visited:
- “Krystal” Fusion restaurant
- “Miyagi” Japanese restaurant
- Italian restaurant (buffet starters and dessert)
- “La Bodega” Mexican restaurant (buffet starters and dessert)
Knowing the state of the world right now with the pandemic, it was important for our family to feel safe during our trip. And we definitely did.
The Riu Palace Mexico ensured guests wore their masks while indoors (and not eating or drinking). And the staff was stationed at the entrance to each restaurant to provide hand sanitizer.
If you forgot your mask, they would provide one to you at the door before entering.
Before entering the gym, you had to enter the spa first for about 3 seconds. Even then, the spa staff wanted you to wear your mask. After entering the gym, you could take off your mask if you wanted to. So the mask protocols, even though they felt a bit hyperbolic at times, still made us feel safe.
The hotel even helped us to coordinate our COVID-19 test before entering back into the United States at no charge as well. The communication process could have been a bit smoother here, but in the end, we got the tests (we were negative, woo hoo!) and were able to go home safely.
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Riu Palace Mexico Review: Areas for Improvement
Not all trips can be perfect and that's to be expected. Although our time at the Riu Palace Mexico was just the winter getaway that our family needed, there's always room for improvement.
Here are some of the things we'd love to see improved before we head back to this Playa del Carmen resort.
As young parents, a major part of our ideal vacation is getting some time alone without the kids. And vacation resort kids clubs are a great way for our kids to have fun and for us to relax.
Although the staff was very kind and inclusive, the kids club facilities and programming were lacking. In comparison to other resorts we've visited, the physical kids club location at the Riu Palace Mexico was very small. It looked more akin to a storage closet than a welcoming and fun kids club.
They did have kids' activities throughout the day which was a plus. Overall, we feel more attention could have been paid to the kids and making the experience more fun. Because when the kids are happy, the parents are happy too.
More Bathroom Options
Perhaps our family didn't scan the map correctly enough, but there weren't enough bathroom options on campus. In looking at other Riu Palace Mexico review posts online, it appears I'm not alone in this complaint.
The main bathroom was near the pool buffet restaurant called Guacamole. Outside of that option, we would return to our room if we needed to use the bathroom.
So if we were at the beach or at another pool further away from Guacamole, the walk to the bathroom was a bit more inconvenient.
This wasn't a huge issue, but something for the Riu team to consider as they make further investments into the resort. Maybe it's as easy as setting up more signage to the existing bathrooms (if there are more we didn't know about)!
Our third and final suggestion for improvement would be with the sleeping rooms overall. Investment into these rooms could go a long way in making your stay away from home feel more comfortable.
I'll go over a few points and suggestions:
Upon arrival, our power went out frequently. It wasn't from the typical “blow-dryer while doing 5 other electrical things” situation. No, it was using the ceiling fan and one light.
There was a breaker box in the room that we could switch back on if the power went out. Unfortunately, that was only a temporary fix as it would happen again just 20-30 minutes later.
An electrician eventually came to the room to fix the issue. He was very helpful as the electricity started working more consistently after that. We did have the electricity go out a couple more times later in the trip, but not to the extent of when we originally arrived.
Outside of the electricity going out, the outlets were dated and some didn't even work. Definitely an area for improvement overall.
The layout of the bathroom was a bit old as well. A jacuzzi tub in the center of the room took up quite a bit of real estate. And the toilets were placed in a very small closet-sized room.
While I'm not a room designer, our entire group agreed that the bathrooms could use some upgrading.
Our room had two double beds connected into one gigantic king-size bed.
Initially, this looked cool, but it wasn't so comfortable. If you found yourself in the center of the bed, your body would start to seep in between the space where the beds separated.
Also, the spring-style mattresses were not the most relaxing either.
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Riu Palace Mexico Review: Other Questions
As we were preparing for the trip, I had a few questions that I couldn't find answers to. Now that we've visited this all-inclusive resort, I thought I'd place some of them here.
How far is the Riu Palace Mexico from the Cancun airport?
Since Riu Palace Mexico is located in Playa del Carmen (and not Cancun), it was a bit farther than we expected. The driving distance is around 38 miles / 60 kilometers and takes about 55 minutes.
Do you have to make reservations at the Riu Palace Mexico restaurants?
When we visited, we did not have to make reservations at any of the restaurants. This was a very convenient option because it allowed us to go to dinner whenever we wanted.
The longest we waited for a table was about 7 minutes. Enough time for us to grab a cocktail at the bar.
This “no-reservation” option may be a new option given that we heard the Riu Palace Mexico was at only 60% capacity when we visited.
Can you eat at the other Riu resorts located near the Riu Palace Mexico?
Yes, we had the option of eating all-inclusive breakfast and lunch at any of the 6 Riu resorts located in the Playacar / Playa del Carmen area. Dinner was only available at our resort though.
Final Thoughts on this Riu Palace Mexico Review
All in all, visiting the Riu Palace Mexico was an incredible experience and we'd definitely come back. Given the amount of other Riu resorts near our hotel, we feel like we didn't even scratch the surface of what we could experience.
The beach was the most memorable feature of our visit and the staff made our entire family feel welcome.
Outside of a few areas for improvement mentioned above, the Riu Palace Mexico stands out as one of the best resorts we've visited as a family.
What do you think of this Riu Palace Mexico review?
Have you and your family had the opportunity to visit Playa del Carmen? Or are you considering it?
Please let us know in the comments below.