The Riu Palace Mexico underwent a $20 million renovation and reopened its doors December 2012 to newly designed guest rooms and public spaces. Gone is most of the Old World Mexican charm; instead, those who enjoy Miami Beach décor with lots of white, chrome, glass, and purple accents will enjoy the contemporary ambiance created by the new look.
Although the existing resort structure was not greatly altered during the renovation, there were quite a few changes made including the following:
- a new lobby area
- addition of a 24-hr. lobby lounge (Lounge 24)
- coffee/ice cream café (Capuchino)
- redesigned the courtyard (new stage, seating areas, and rectangular water feature)
- restaurant changes (redesigned existing restaurants, closed the Brazilian a la carte restaurant, opened new Mexican, Italian, and steakhouse a la cartes)
- closed the existing beach bar
- added a new spa and new fitness center equipment
- complete renovation of the pool area
- guest room renovations
Although the overall look of the resort may have changed, the location is still the same–on a fantastic beach in the gated area of Playacar which is just south of Playa del Carmen. Since this is a Riu Palace resort (the most upscale of Riu properties), guests can enjoy all amenities at nearby Riu properties with the exception of Riu Lupita; dinner, however, must be eaten at one’s own resort. Riu Palace Mexico is within walking distance of the Cozumel ferry (a 30-min. beach walk heading north), while Playa del Carmen’s famous 5th Ave. can be reached via the sidewalk which conveniently passes through the neighborhood of Playacar, or by walking past the Cozumel ferry along the beach and heading inland. Cabs are easily obtained (the doorman will summon one upon request), and are quite affordable–it takes less than 10 min. to reach the shopping, dining, and entertainment mecca which is Playa del Carmen.
Undoubtedly the resort’s best feature is its wide and lengthy stretch of beach with cool, soft white sand, gradual water entry, and the turquoise Caribbean Sea beyond. While there are no shade umbrellas, there is a mature, dense coconut grove which provides ample shade.
Several hammocks and numerous loungers are readily available; in fact, there are so many loungers here that many guests are able to claim one throughout the day with little fuss–no getting up at the crack of dawn to “reserve” a chair. Beach waiters have been known to bring around trays of various types of drinks, but if a specific type of drink is required a trip to the pool bar will be necessary. Beach BBQ’s are a daily occurrence with many choices including paella on occasion.
Prior Riu Palace Mexico guests will be amazed by pool area changes. Instead of the old, multiple semicircular pool formation, there are now four distinct pools including one with a dedicated swim-up bar with in-pool tables, seating areas, and tiled pool loungers (for adults only), an activities pool, children’s pool, family pool with gradual entry and support railing for those with disabilities, and some primarily decorative beachfront infinity pools (the infinity pools are not actually for swimming since they are incredibly shallow). Poolside loungers and shade umbrellas/canopies are provided; there may be times when poolside chairs can still be obtained past 10 a.m.
Guests walking back from the beach and pool areas towards the courtyard and lobby will encounter multiple fountains with accompanying statues, meticulously maintained hedges, topiary designs, and mature palms majestically flanking the blue tile patterned “pools”. It’s a beautiful space unto itself and is one of the reminders of Riu Palace Mexico’s Old World Mexico charm prior to its renovation. Walkways on either side of the “pools” lead to the courtyard which hosts nightly live entertainment along with a smaller interior theater space. The courtyard offers padded benches and chairs, small tables, and a more comfortable layout in which to enjoy live performances.
While the stunning, old-school Riu palatial atmosphere is now mostly gone due to the renovation, crystal chandeliers, large arched windows, and some mahogany paneling and trim are some of the only items which remain part of the lobby. Circular padded sofas are also still present but have been reupholstered. Riu has added an additional 24-hr lounge with snacks, flat screen TV’s, and a bar/refreshment section along with the new coffee shop/patisserie/ice cream parlor (Capuchino) and new lobby bar. The upstairs lobby area above the bar is certainly more attractive and usable since the renovations with its additional seating; it can also be a great place to quietly read a book when others are enjoying the outdoors.
Other areas most affected by renovations are the guest rooms. Both the décor and the general layout have changed. Gone are the drab colors, tired drapes, and old bureaus–fresh, modern white furnishings, purple accents, and an open bathroom concept have taken their place. All bathrooms now include a Jacuzzi tub, dbl vessel sinks, separate shower with rainforest showerhead, and enclosed toilet area. Showers also include recessed shelving, an automated gel dispenser, and have frosted glass doors. Some guests may like the open bathroom concept, while others may not–it certainly does present a privacy issue for families with older children or friends traveling together. The resort has tried to address this issue by offering certain rooms with curtains which can be drawn around the tub–ask at check-in if any are available. Guest rooms are no nearer the ocean, however; there are no oceanfront rooms, but there are some rooms available with distant ocean views.
Type of Resort: Family-friendly
Pro: Beach, no dining reservations, free WiFi, shady coconut grove
Con: Small pools, glitzy decor
Best Suited For: Couples in their 30’s-50’s, beach lovers
No. of Rooms: 434
Room Amenities: King or two dbl beds, A/C, balcony/terrace, mini-bar, liquor dispenser, digital safe, flat screen TV, sofa bed, coffee table, small table with chairs, ceiling fan, telephone, coffee maker, radio alarm clock, iron/ironing board, hair dryer, Jacuzzi tub, separate shower, toiletries, 24-hr. room service, and complimentary WiFi. Here is a brief rundown of guest room categories:
- Jr. Suite: King or two dbl beds, sunken sitting room area. View of interior courtyard or resorts next door.
- Suite: King bed and living room area separated by a flat screen TV and TV stand, desk and chair, robes.
- Jacuzzi Suite: King bed and living room separated by a flat screen TV and TV stand, desk and chair, robes, two balconies on two different floors–the standard balcony has a table and chairs, while the upper balcony has the Jacuzzi, two loungers, two chairs, and can only be reached via the circular staircase. There are eight such rooms; many of them have a partial ocean view from the top balcony area.
Physically Challenged Rooms: Available
Resort Amenities: Four pools (one with swim-up bar), spa, beauty salon, fitness center (age 18+), non-motorized water sports, tennis, Kid’s Club (ages 4-12), courtyard entertainment area, theater, pool and beach wait service, beach hammocks, beach massage tables, concierge, photographer, gift shop, tour desk, car rental, and ATM. Riu Palace Mexico guests can also enjoy amenities (excluding dinner) at nearby Riu resorts which include the following:
- Riu Yucatan is immediately to the south (next door, so to speak). Advantages include a younger clientele, upbeat pool music, nice ocean views and breezes from the upper level pool.
- Riu Tequila is inland directly across the road from the Riu Palace Mexico. Advantages include lots of natural wildlife roaming about, more of a jungle-like setting and open-air resort spaces, a sports bar, plus it has its own disco for those who don’t want to go into Playa del Carmen for late night entertainment.
- Riu Playacar is two resorts north. Advantages include a newly renovated resort with a rowdier pool environment and mixture of international guests.
- Riu Palace Riviera Maya is six resorts north. Advantages include beautiful pools and lobby, plus a sports bar with pool tables and flat screen TV’s.
Restaurants/Bars: There is one main buffet (Don Julian) and five a la cartes including Italian (La Dolce Vita), Mexican (La Bodega), Japanese (Miyagi–no teppanyaki show tables), gourmet fusion (Krystal), and a steakhouse (Guacamole Beach). Riu recently started a “no reservations policy” at its dinner a la cartes in many of its resorts, including the Riu Palace Mexico. Themed dinners in the buffet occur several times per week; don’t miss Thursday’s Gala night with complimentary lobster. Additional eating options include the patisserie/ice cream parlor and 24-hr. snack bar both located in the lobby. There are four bars including the swim-up bar, pool bar, lobby bar, and 24-hr. liquor supply in Lounge 24. Wait staff will bring trays of drinks to beach areas in the afternoons.
Entertainment: Evening shows/live music in the courtyard and open-air theater, live piano music in the lobby, and the disco at Riu Tequila.