After closing several months for a complete renovation, Riu Playacar opened its doors Oct. 2015 to a practically brand new resort. I last saw this quaint Mexican beauty Feb. 2013 and there have been many significant changes since then. Here is a list of the most notable additions/renovations:
- the addition of two new guest room buildings, #7 and #8, which have pool views; ocean views can be had from the third floor of these buildings
- an entirely new pool area including three separate pools (swim-up bar pool, activity pool, and general pool)
- new children’s small splash park pool with fountains and slides
- renovated guest rooms
- larger lobby and lobby bar area
- new poolside restaurant “Turquesa” (a buffet at lunch/late afternoon hours and steakhouse and Mexican a la cartes in the evening)
- renovation of public areas including other restaurants, addition of ramp areas
- the tennis courts have been removed
My recent stay occurred Dec. 3-6 in a Standard Double with Balcony guest room on the second floor; I was in building #1, fairly close to the theater and main buffet. I thought the room had more than adequate space while the balcony was quite large and easily accommodated two adults with room to spare. As with most resorts, leaving the balcony door open automatically shuts off the A/C–as long as this door was closed, I found that the A/C worked very well in keeping the room cool. (Don’t forget to leave your room key in its appropriate wall slot in order to maintain the A/C and lights while you are inside).
Those with bathroom privacy issues should be aware that while the toilet is closed off with its own door, the sink and shower area are open to the remainder of the room. There are drawers in which to put your clothes, a digital safe, flat screen TV, powerful ceiling fan, hair dryer, iron/ironing board, umbrella, complimentary mini-bar and liquor dispensers, but there was no in-room coffee machine. The shower does have a soap dispenser but there are no additional toiletries offered. I could easily hear the evening theater performances, even with the sliding door closed, but the programs typically end around 11 p.m. All things considered, the room was attractively decorated and gave me almost everything I needed to be comfortable during my brief stay. NOTE: Guest room buildings do not appear to have elevators (I can’t speak for the new buildings, but my guess is that they do not either), but there are only three floors which is fairly easy to navigate with a suitcase as long as you don’t have mobility issues. Also, if you like afternoon sun on your balcony, request an even-numbered guest room building facing the courtyard.
This resort has a great lobby area–very roomy with lots of seating options, lighting fixtures, and close to most restaurants and bars. Although it is open-air, it has a great cross-breeze and therefore tends to stay cooler during the day. Although there was no drink offered upon check-in, I felt very welcomed by the staff and amenities were thoroughly explained–besides, the lobby bar is only a few steps right of the check-in area, so you can easily get one yourself after your all-inclusive bracelet is snapped into place. Check-in is at 3 p.m., and while staff will see if your room is ready when you get there, you may have to wait until standard check-in time. I always solve the “what do I do until my room is ready” dilemma by putting a swimsuit into my purse or carry-on bag; the changing rooms with shower by the lobby or public bathrooms have enough space for one to switch out garments. When my room was ready, I did start to carry my own bags since the resort appeared to be short-staffed in this regard; however, I was met mid-way by a staff member who was more than happy to take my bag and escort me to my room as well as explain in-room amenities.
I loved the new pool area–I could easily enter any one of three pools depending on my mood since all are mere steps from one another. The swim-up bar pool is the busiest with its built-in tiled loungers, seating, and table areas which is a very convenient set-up for socializing–if you’ve ever been to Riu Cancun it is very similar with the exception of the unobstructed sea view (none of the pools here have unobstructed sea views because of the many coconut palm trees on the beach).
The general pool on the north side of the swim-up bar pool also has its own built-in tiled loungers and its share of children and teens swimming and playing here during the afternoon.
Families with younger children will find a separate children’s pool steps away from the general pool complete with slides and splash fountains.
The activity pool on the other side of the swim-up bar pool gets incredibly busy in the afternoon when games are being held–not only are there many contestants lined up to play, but there are guests in loungers as well as many individuals observing the games and having a good laugh or two.
The nearby table tennis also saw a good deal of action with frequent tournaments and people lined up to play. In terms of pool entry, there is no gradual entry in any of the pools, but there are sets of stairs and pool ladders from which to enter/exit. There were no shade umbrellas poolside, but the resort has overhead structures which allow guests to open/close sections of material which serve as shade.
If you’re looking for poolside food options, check out the paella on Tuesday and the poolside BBQ on Saturday. Although I wasn’t there on paella day, the BBQ was excellent with the usual offerings of hamburgers, hotdogs, corn, salad, etc., as well as BBQ’d chicken which was incredibly good. There was also a platter filled with cups of punch (with alcohol), but if you don’t snatch one right away the ice will dilute it to the point it’s not drinkable. Don’t fret, there is a bar just a few feet away from which to get your favorite libation.
On days which don’t offer poolside food, just take a short walk over to Turquesa restaurant which serves an excellent lunch and late afternoon buffet–don’t forget to sample whatever dish is being served in the giant paella-style pan which is situated at the end of the serving line by the main door, it was great on any given day. Feel free to get yourself a drink of soda, beer, or wine from the self-serve stations within the seating area since most of the staff are there to clean tables.
It’s just several steps down from the pools to the beach with its natural shade and many loungers. If you’re looking for a beachside massage, a separate enclosure with massage beds is provided on the south side of the beach, while water sports check-out is located on the north side. Getting to the ocean takes a bit of maneuvering since there is a sand ledge on the north side, but one can easily avoid this by entering from the south end of the resort’s beach. Ocean bottom is smooth and there are no sudden drop-offs; the depth is waist high or a little deeper for quite some distance out. I did not encounter a seaweed problem while I was there, but there was a tractor which did a once-through along the beach around 9 a.m. I don’t know if the recent ongoing seaweed problem, recent storms, or vacationing during a different season was responsible (I was last in this area during mid-February a few years back), but the color of the ocean was not as vividly blue as I remember it even when the sun was shining.
When not at the pools or beach, I thoroughly (and happily) checked-out a majority of the restaurant options. Breakfast is only served at the primary buffet (The Palms restaurant which is located off the lobby area) and this restaurant has two entry points as well as indoor/outdoor seating. The main entry is off the lobby and offers a hand sanitizer station, while the other entry is located at the opposite end via a short flight of steps but does not offer any way to sanitize one’s hands. (I know of some resorts that insist on guests using this useful amenity prior to entering any buffet restaurants). Riu has the best breakfasts–I always enjoy my morning meal when at a Riu resort. Lunch is served at Turquesa by the pools or at Traviata, the Italian restaurant. Truthfully, I did not enjoy the limited buffet selection at Traviata, nor did I like having to race for the nearest open table since there’s not much seating available and no hostess to escort guests to a table. I noticed some diners were ordering off menus at lunchtime, so maybe this would have been a better option in this particular restaurant. Try it and let me know! Themed dinner buffets are at The Palms, while four a la cartes round out dinner options (Italian–Traviata, steakhouse–Turquesa, Asian–Jade, and a newly opened Mexican a la carte which shares space with the steakhouse). As of March 2016, reservations are no longer required at any of the a la carte restaurants. NOTE: Check the master menu at The Palms to see what types of food are being served during the week–I missed the Mexican buffet night when I went to Jade.
Another amenity I appreciate about Riu resorts is a guest’s ability to visit other nearby comparable Riu resorts to check out their pools, bars, and food (with the exception of dinner, of course). While staying at Riu Playacar, guests are also allowed to visit Riu Yucatan and Riu Tequila, both short strolls from the resort. If you want to party late into the night but don’t want to go all the way into Playa del Carmen, the disco at Riu Tequila is available until 2 a.m. If you want to stay at Riu Playacar for nighttime entertainment, the theater is host to a children’s show earlier in the evening (including guest participation), while live music and various shows are held in this same venue afterwards.
Guests who want to buy a few souvenirs closer to the resort will appreciate Plaza Playacar Mall just across the street. There are small souvenir shops, souvenir stands, money exchange place, pharmacy, and a Starbucks, to name a few. Some of the shops actually had better deals than some of the stands, so be sure to check out everything prior to making a purchase.
While I enjoyed my brief stay at Riu Playacar, I would definitely bring shoes with better traction in wet conditions for my next visit. The new ramps which have been built are slippery in rainy weather, and flip flops just aren’t safe on these surfaces. Thank God for the handrails by the lobby! Also, parts of the existing main pathway flood from excessive rain showers which makes for soggy shoes or a late dinner since you have to wait for the water level to go down prior to heading for the lobby. Since drainage hasn’t been addressed yet by the resort, bringing various wet weather shoes seems like the ideal solution for the time being.
While Riu Playacar is no longer the quaint Mexican beauty I saw two years ago, the renovations are sure to please many vacationers looking for a resort which offers excellent value for money spent in a newer facility. This includes vacationers from all around the world–there is truly an international mix of guests here which only adds to the resort’s appeal. I plan on visiting this resort again the next time I book a Riu in the Playacar area, and I would definitely recommend Riu Playacar to family and friends. Take a moment or two and enjoy the photo gallery below–just click on any of the thumbnails to get a larger view of the picture.
(The comments in this review are those of the author/reviewer. This trip was paid for in its entirety by the author; at no time were any monies or services exchanged for this review).
Location: 45 min. south of the Cancun airport in the gated community of Playacar.
Telephone: 52-984-877-2300 (Mexico), 1-888-748-4990 (Riu toll-free number)