Located in the upscale gated residential, resort and luxury golf club community of Playacar 3 kilometers south of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico the  434-room Riu Palace Mexico will delight beach lovers with its stunning stretch of sand while its extensive all-inclusive amenities are outstanding if not quite palatial.

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My first impression of the family-friendly Riu Palace Mexico is one of loud Las Vegas-like luxury with a soaring lobby adorned with acres of marble and a purple design theme that runs throughout the resort following an extensive 2012 renovation. Garish may not be the right word and too harsh a critique but ‘understated elegance’ isn’t how I’d describe the Riu Palace Mexico.

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A welcome drink at check-in is always a nice touch but less so is having to wear a plastic wristband for the duration of the stay as this is becoming increasingly rare at luxury all-inclusive resorts.

The assigned room 2134 is a second floor Junior Suite at the end of the accommodation building nearest the beach and features two double beds and a lower level loveseat and desk with handy outlet to use or recharge devices. The complimentary Wi-Fi for up to 4 devices with the username and password  included in the welcome packet given to guests upon check-in.

A light cotton sheet was all that the firm but comfortable beds are fitted with but unless you set the air conditioning to deep freeze level it should be all that’s needed.  A ceiling fan is a good alternative to cool the space enough without cranking up the AC.

I did appreciate the heavy drapes blocked out more Mexican sunlight  than I expected allowing this light sensitive sleeper to sleep in past dawn as is rarely the case at most tropical hotels & resorts.

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The open concept bathroom with a jetted tub may in the middle of the room not be to everyone’s liking however the vanity with dual sinks did come in handy. The toilet is hidden in a small water closet behind a white door and while not roomy serves its purpose.

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The large shower stall with shower wand and rainfall shower head is behind a frosted glass door and purple glass tiles but has only one small light so I found it on the dark side in the morning with the drapes pulled.

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There is a wall-mounted multipurpose body wash and shampoo but extra lotion, shampoo and conditioner on the vanity.

One brand trademark of Riu resorts is what I call the “medicine cabinet”, a wall-mounted liquor dispenser just above the coffeemaker and mini-bar stocked daily with cans of beer and soda.

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The view from the smallish balcony with two plastic chairs of the central courtyard with reflecting pools and fountains is good but because there is a set back of the accommodation from the swimming pools and beach the resort doesn’t have ocean view rooms or suites.

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The room does offer a large laptop friendly wall safe in the closet and plenty of hangars and drawers to hold all my tropical beach and resort wear.

A big screen TV has dozens of channels and even some in English but it was barely on the whole four night stay as there are more than enough activities and evening entertainment around the grounds to keep me occupied.

There are some room quirks I found such as an array of light switches everywhere but it’s comfortable and user-friendly enough to serve as a good base. Hallways in the block-long accommodation buildings do amplify sounds but an absence of loud late night revelers made for very good sleep quality.

The biggest deciding factor about the room is its modern open concept so for those wanting an enclosed bathroom and a more traditional design the Riu Palace Riviera Maya is a few hundred meters down the beach .

Playacar Beach is miles long and deep with a gorgeous grove of towering palm trees and plenty of shady lounge chairs for everyone.

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photo by author

This was my favorite spot between the resort pools and the waters edge as it was an uncrowded and quiet oasis visiting only occasionally by waiters taking drink orders and the odd brown agouti, a large but timid rodent relative of the guinea pig found throughout Central and  South America.

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photo by author

The Sargassum seaweed that has fouled Caribbean beaches in recent years has washed up in the Playacar beaches making swimming in the sea impractical for all but an intrepid few. The ankle deep brown plants are removed by resort staff daily by hand and skid-steer loader but there’s only so much that can be done to keep up with the volume that washes up all along the Riviera Maya.

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The Riu Palace Mexico’s pools are clustered just off the beach with two pools, one adult only and the other family friendly, flanking a central pool with a swim-up bar that comes complete with tiled lounge chairs, stools and a  long pool table.

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photo by author

I noticed an innovative sun shade design in the metal trellises around the main pools with a screen that could be opened or closed like a window blind to allow or block the sun from guests occupying the loungers.


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It wasn’t too hard to find a spot by the pools or beach although inevitably there were the early risers who reserved their spots early in the morning.

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One disappointment for me was the lack of a quiet adult pool as a DJ stand was set up between the two main pools at the El Palmeral swim-up pool bar with the tunes going throughout the day but for those who like lots of pool games and music this active environment would be to their liking.

A central plaza served as the evening entertainment zone with a variety of local and imported bands entertaining the assembled guests. One Cubano band was a particular favorite.

 

Some resorts I’ve stayed at leave printed daily activities calendar in each guest room however the Riu has several touch screen information kiosks in the main building and lobby.

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The main buffet restaurant Don Julian is open for breakfast 7 – 11 AM and for supper 6:30 – 10 PM.  I liked that diners could choose between an indoor and covered outdoor patio section.

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The beef tenderloin I had at the fusion restaurant Krystal Restaurant was among the best main courses I’ve had at an all-inclusive but the same can’t be said however about the chocolate  dessert calzone on another night at the Italian La Dolce Vita Restaurant as the dough was too  thick to consume with a fork. Maybe I should’ve opted for the more traditional tiramisu.


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photo by author

The steak at the beachfront Steak House Guacamole was tasty but a little overdone (more well done than the medium I’d ordered) while I ran out of time to try the Japanese Miyagi and Mexican La Bodega specialty restaurants.

The family-friendly Riu Palace Mexico does offer a supervised kids activity play place called Riu Land which comes complete with outdoor kiddie pool and indoor kid’s club.

photo by author

photo by author

Guests of the two palace resorts in theory have access to the facilities at the five others adjacent or nearby Riu resorts however upon check-in the Hotel Riu Lupita was crossed off the resort map (see the resort complex map here) and was advised that we needed to stay within our own resort for specialty restaurant and morning buffet breakfast dining.

I visited the adjacent Hotel Riu Yucatan which was hotel chain’s first property in Mexico when it opened in 1997 and underwent its own renovation in 2013 and found the main pools near the beach quite crowded but there is an uncrowded quiet pool just off the resort’s main lobby. The resort has a number of individual walk-up villas instead of the large “U” shaped main building and accommodation wings as at the Palace resorts. The inter-resort exchange privileges are a perk better utilized on longer stays.

My stay at the Riu Palace Mexico was very enjoyable as I was able to find a quiet beach lounge chair in which to devour a few paperback books and while away the first few days doing almost nothing. I’d rate this as a solid four plus star all-inclusive resort but it just doesn’t compare to the true five-star resorts that aren’t far away within the Riviera Maya corridor.

Find a Riu Palace Mexico resort map here.

Pros

  • Miles of glorious white sand beach
  • Four swimming pools including one for adults only with swim-up bar
  • Kids’ club, playground, and swimming pool
  • Renovated rooms have liquor dispensers and jetted tubs
  • One buffet and five specialty restaurants and seven lounges and bars
  • Exchange privileges with other neighboring Riu resorts
  • 24-hour all-inclusive plan
  • Live entertainment in a central courtyard
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the resort

Cons

  • Lack of a quiet adult pool
  • Bathrooms with a modern open concept may not be to all guests liking
  • Seaweed on the beach
  • Plastic wristbands
  • Big rooms, small balconies

 

 

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