Beach Time: Riu Palace Riviera Maya, Mexico

I’m a fan of both vacations and beaches. When these both aligned to bring me to Mexico for an 8-day stay at the all-inclusive Riu Palace Riviera Maya, yes, I am a happy person. It had been a few years since a beach vacation south of the border until my hubby and I, along with another couple, booked an all-inclusive Playa del Carmen vacation at the Riu. We returned from Mexico tanned, happy, and carrying a few extra pounds from all-inclusive dining.

Riu Palace Riviera Maya Mexico

Confession: We had originally booked Riu Playacar as regular ol’ paying guests, but once we (two couples) arrived to check in, that Riu property was overbooked. We were offered an upgrade to Riu Palace Riviera Maya. Although we accepted, we had no idea how awesome this upgrade would be!  Because we were frankly tired and ready to be in our room and get started on that beach time.

The staff at Riu Playacar taxied us over to Riu Palace (a few minute ride) for us to check in there. There was a line at the front desk, so our first Mexican celebratory cocktail was delayed as well  as our check-in.riu-palace-riviera-maya-entrance

Once we made it to the front of the line, we were basically told that we had a standard room with no ocean view (which we had paid extra for at the Riu Playacar). After a few minutes of discussion, we were passed on to the most amazing front desk manager, who politely listened to my need for an oceanfront room. Apparently, this particular Riu does not even offer traditional oceanfront — what!?!

After a bit more discussion, the manager was very accommodating and offered to show us our two options. While our husbands opted to sit at the lobby bar, we took a quick tour of the two rooms. One was on the second floor tucked away, lovely room, but not great location. The second option were suites on the lower floor.  We opted for easier access on the lower floor steps from the beautiful courtyard — and we appreciated that convenience during the next 8 days of our stay.

Ah the courtyard. Two wings of the hotel lined up along either side of the courtyard. Enter the courtyard from the lobby and then walk all the way to the pool area and then the beach and ocean. Paradise!


Arrival at Riu Palace Riviera Maya

The Riu Palace Riviera Maya is located in a stunning stretch of beautiful white sandy beach known as Playacar, about an hour’s drive from the Cancun Airport. Tropical palm trees, lush vegetation, and nice homes intermingle with businesses and condos. This all-inclusive Mexico hotel is about 15-20 minute walk to the popular Fifth Avenue shopping, dining and entertainment district of the Riviera Maya.

So here we are, the lobby of the Riu. What I love about Mexico resorts is the large airy, welcoming lobby! This all-inclusive Riu was no different with ornate chandeliers, grandeur Mexican art, marble floors, and dark wood enhancements. Enter the main door, and turn right to the reception.


Straight ahead is the lobby bar, which we loved for its great view of the courtyard that intersected the center of the resort and the ocean beyond. Oh yeah, and the all-inclusive drinks; that was pretty awesome too.


Suites are Sweet Accommodations in Mexico

With room upgrades confirmed…Okay, back to getting to our room. Luggage assistance was immediately offered, and the bellboy loaded all of our luggage onto a rack. We followed him to the elevator off the lobby near the sports bar.

We dropped our friends and their luggage off first, and then the bellboy escorted us to our room. Great view of the pool and the ocean beyond. But that’s when I understood that it technically wasn’t an oceanfront view, but we did not mind. Just get a look at our view from our balcony.


And our suite included a long entry hallway, walk-in closet, living area, step up into the bedroom (with views of the pool), a hot tub/bathtub, and bathroom.


And you can recline on your balcony with a drink from the (all-inclusive) in-room and stocked refrigerator and in-suite liquor dispensers.

For those (like me) that can’t quite get away from work, the in-room Wi-Fi was surprisingly strong. After an initial issue logging on, which involved returning to the desk and getting assistance, I was able to work, check emails, do social media as needed without any hitch.

Dining options

I like all-inclusive resorts in Mexico because I don’t have to worry about my budget. But what I don’t always like are the buffets. Sometimes they fall short in freshness and variety. But this is not the case here at the Riu Palace Riviera Maya. From the buffets to the special dining options, service was top-notch and the food was (surprisingly) excellent. Sure, the buffets are still buffets, but we were quite pleased with the quality and the attentiveness of the staff. Take a look at this collage of the great food we experienced.

Side note: When I’m on vacation, I don’t want to choose a restaurant in advance. At this Riu, the optional dining options, which are included, no longer required a reservation, although two seating options were still the choices. Our favorite, fork-down, was the Krystal Fusion restaurant.


When in Mexico, it is all about the pool and the beach. And the Riu nailed this. Great pool area, fantastic service, and full beach access.


Overall, our Mexico beach vacation to the Riu Palace Riviera Maya was paradise!  Beach, great service, beautifully relaxing room, a perfect getaway from our home in Denver.  All-inclusive rates at the Riu Palace Riviera Maya start at $147 and vary greatly on accommodations and time of the year. You can check for specials on the company website or try either Expedia or

Looking for something more upscale? See our sister site’s reviews of the best luxury hotels in the Riviera Maya and Cancun.

Photo credits: Diana Rowe and Riu Palace Riviera Maya.

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