Spotting the RIU Palace Pacifico in the midst of Riviera Nayarit’s all-but-virgin shoreline is a friendly shock to the senses, like a spoonful of sugary icing. This giant wedding cake of a resort, with its white and meringue-like exterior, refreshes one’s hotel product palate by clinging to its traditional recipe for success while offering a fresh take on vacation escapes.
The RIU Palace Pacifico, which opened last October, is RIU’s 14th hotel in Mexico and the third in the state of Nayarit, though by no means the last. The hotel brand has historically built up its roster at a rate of three properties per year, and the company that began in Mallorca in 1953 with a 30-room hotel—something akin to “a little box,” according to CEO Luis Riu, a third-generation hotelier—is now a 100+ hotel family with nothing less than old-fashioned gusto for the business, as witnessed in this latest prodigy.
A Taste for Riu The trick to RIU’s properties in Mexico is that they make you feel comfortable much like your fuzzy robe and slippers do—there’s no pressure to fit a certain trendy mold. The over-the-top decor of common areas in this property is such a nice change from the last five or 10 minimalist-modern hotels you have been in, which cling on to white and bare as if color were a thing of a distant past. In contrast, the interior of RIU Palace Pacifico, like its sister properties, is a welcome vision of embellished adornment. Its lobby alone is a gigantic, renaissance-type welcome embrace, with Swarowski chandeliers and a gorgeous dome on the ceiling with glass from Puebla.
The 445-jr. suite hotel sits right by Flamingos Beach, next to RIU Vallarta (whose own interiors run more into the art deco) and ClubHotel RIU Jalisco. As in its most successful locations, RIU has more than one property in Riviera Nayarit. Each hotel has its own style and the RIU Palace Pacifico is the most expensive of the three. Its target guest, says Riu, is one who prefers a bit more quiet and privacy and is willing to pay a bit more to get it, rather than opt for the adjacent, more family-oriented properties. (After Palace, RIU has only one higher category, the Grand Palace. Currently there’s only one of those in existence, in the Canary Islands.)
The RIU Palace Pacifico is all-inclusive, with 24-hour room service as well as several buffet and a la carte restaurants. Chief among the latter is Krystal, a fusion-based culinary concept created by RIU that features innovative menus and modern international dishes and which is now present in four of its Palace category properties in Mexico. Another standout in this property is the lilac-colored nightclub for guests of all ages—children may enjoy age-appropriate entertainment here in the afternoon, while dancing and live shows come later for adults. Also fun is its sports bar, with self-service snacks and TVs available throughout the day.
Junior suites at the RIU Palace Pacifico are classical in decor yet with a fresh twist on creature comforts, with an integrated lounge area for cozy lounging, liquor dispensers and stocked mini-bars and hydro-massage bathtubs for in-room relaxation. Families can choose to have inter-connecting suites that provide a bit of privacy for adults while allowing them to keep an eye on the smaller members of the family. The main pool is large and spectacular, looks out onto the beach and has a smaller version for children nearby. And as part of its all-inclusive package, guests have complimentary access to the hotel’s great gym, jacuzzis and steam rooms, which are right by the spa—a lovely escape in itself, incidentally, with novelties such as a cold stone massage (rather than the more usual hot stone treatment that doesn’t always make sense in a warm destination).
Another benefit to staying at the RIU Palace Pacifico is the possibility of exploring the quiet corners of Riviera Nayarit. About half an hour away from the hotel is Sayulita, an artists’ haven where ex-pats and surfing aficionados have breathed new life into this small town. Sayulita can be explored in less than two hours and visitors can rent a surfboard, shop for handmade jewelry or enjoy some seafood just steps away from where it was caught.