Half of RIU Hotels & Resorts’ North American properties are in Mexico, so it’s no surprise that Mexico properties are getting the royal treatment with a $20 million renovation at the RIU Palace Mexico and a $27 million renovation at the RIU Yucatan—all part of a $520 million worldwide project over the past two years.
We experienced the changes first-hand at the 434-room RIU Palace Mexico, part of the company’s exclusive Palace hotel line, where the hotel switched up its dining offerings with new restaurants and a modern take on its colonial exterior.
“We kept the building from the outside as it was before, but we redid all of the common areas with a fresh, modern style that we are going to implement on all of our renovations in Mexico and the Caribbean,” says Timo Wittkopf, sales manager, Riviera Maya, RIU Hotels & Resorts.
“We redid the pool area, which was a major change because we actually changed the location of the pool. And we made sure we still had a variety of restaurants and bars available for our guests, to have the all-inclusive concept for guests to be able to enjoy every aspect,” he adds.
The new pool area is now closer to the beach, with green space filling in the old location, making that area the perfect spot for a wedding ceremony. On the culinary front, the renovations touched the buffet restaurant, Don Julian; the Palace-specific fusion eatery, Krystal; and the Japanese restaurant, Miyagi. Newcomers include the Mexican restaurant, La Bodega; the Italian restaurant, La Dolce Vita; and Guacamole Steakhouse. The a la carte restaurants offer two nightly seating times and require reservations, so recommend your clients reserve a time when they arrive at the hotel.
“The feedback that we have gotten so far on the renovations is completely positive,” Wittkopf says. “People are very happy with the changes that we’ve made and with the modern style. What they like about this property here is the food we offer, not only at the a la carte restaurants, but also at the main restaurant. We did a major effort after the renovation to enhance this concept at the buffet and people are happy about that.”
A common perk at all-inclusive resorts like the RIU Palace Mexico is the unlimited access guests have to the hotel’s dining options, as well as the bars inside and by the pool, which offer snacks and drinks. Another perk here is the complimentary WiFi running throughout the property (which works best in common areas) and the 24-hour room service for those craving a late-night snack.
Guests have four room categories to choose from: guestroom, suite, jr. suite, and jacuzzi suite. While none of the rooms offer beach views (the beach is farther down), they do feature a balcony or terrace, and the eight “creme de la creme” jacuzzi suites offer a jacuzzi on their upper terrace with plenty of room to spread out in privacy within a covered area with lounge chairs.
We spent our week in a jr. suite that featured a split-level lounge area with a sofa and work table, a large hydromassage bathtub and separate shower, and the standard all-inclusive amenities—liquor dispensers offering shots of Jose Cuervo and Bacardi, and a mini-fridge packed with bottled water, soft drinks and beer, refilled daily.
We had more than enough room to get cozy in our suite, with tons of closet space for families (and the ladies who may have packed too many pairs of shoes), and we enjoyed sitting on the balcony facing the courtyard, with prime views of the evening entertainment below.
Guests staying at the RIU Palace Mexico and RIU Palace Riviera Maya, which is within walking distance, have access to the other four classic-level RIU hotels located in the Playacar resort area in Playa del Carmen—RIU Yucatan, RIU Playacar, ClubHotel RIU Tequila and RIU Lupita—although guests staying at the classic-level hotels only have access to the other classic-level hotels.
The perks of being a Palace guest include hotel hopping at the other RIU properties and indulging in their facilities, like the La Piñata nightclub at the RIU Tequila, across the street from the RIU Palace Mexico. So with six hotels set so close together, how do guests choose which one to stay at? We asked Wittkopf what differentiated the two Palace-line hotels, for example.
“You have the same amenities and services because it’s the same hotel category (Palace), but the difference right now between the two properties is the appearance of the hotels. We have the classic and traditional style at the Palace Riviera Maya and a modern style at the Palace Mexico, which for us allows us to reach out to different target groups,” he says.
In addition to the two hotels’ designs, the Palace Riviera Maya has a 24-hour sports bar, which the RIU Palace Mexico replaced with the 24-hour Lounge 24. RIU Palace Mexico also introduced the new patisserie and ice cream parlor, Capuchino, one of our favorite spots to grab a light bite and espresso in the morning.
all in the family
“At RIU, we are happy we can offer hotels and properties for people from nine months old to 99 years old; that’s one of our strengths,” Wittkopf says. “But the Palace line is the most exclusive line we have at RIU, so we have more couples than families, and everyone from 20-year-olds to 80-year-olds.”
Adults can take a plunge in one of four swimming pools, with one featuring the El Palmeral swim-up and poolside bar, while kids have plenty to keep them entertained at their own pool, the RiuLand kids’ club (for age groups 4 to 7; 8 to 12) and the play area for little ones.
Throughout the day, adults have their own form of entertainment too, with a roster of daily programs from morning beach stretching to water aerobics, pool volleyball, evening blackjack tournaments and performances from a Michael Jackson impersonator. If you happen to be on the beach in the morning, you’ll also be treated to an array of fresh fruit and juices, while cocktails circulate in the evenings.
Sample rates for a stay at RIU Palace Mexico during high season (January through March) start at $204 pp per night and $141 pp per night during low season (August through October).
Tip: If your clients are looking for a family-oriented hotel, the RIU Yucatan is their best bet.
around playa del carmen
There is enough action at the RIU Palace Mexico to keep your clients more than entertained, but the area also offers plenty to explore, whether it’s shopping or visiting archaeological sites. Recommend your clients make their way to the pedestrian-friendly La Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) for souvenir shopping, dining and bar hopping into the wee hours (this is a Spring Break destination, after all). Nearby Tulum is also a must-visit, with the only Mayan site on the sea.
Riviera Maya is 34 miles south of Cancun International Airport (CUN), with service from major airlines including Air Canada, American Airlines, Jetblue, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.