My wife and I spent 5 wonderful nights at the Riu Palace Las Americas September 9 after relaxing at the Ibero Tucan in Playa Del Carmen. The Riu Palace hotel is an excellent choice for a Cancun stay. The location is excellent, situated within walking distance of the Forum by the Sea (nightclubs, Hard Rock Café, etc.). Other shopping is nearby, and the rest of the hotel zone and malls are easy to get to for $1.30 round trip per person on the R1 bus. The buses arrive every few minutes so you don’t have to wait long. Isla Mujeres is a short ferry ride and is a great day trip. We didn’t hit the nightclubs but we did book a boat/snorkel excursion through Olympus Tours at the hotel (Olympus, FunJet and Cheap Caribbean are all available in the lobby). Our 3-hour excursion was through Blue Ray Bay and you drive your own small outboard (30HP) through the mangroves and out to the Caribbean to the reef. This was a great way to spend a few hours. Full-day sails are also available. Beautiful beach and views of the island, this is a perfect spot for anyone!
The Riu is a perhaps a step-up in service and quality from the Tucan, although it is not fair to compare the 2 resorts because they are quite different. We will continue to enjoy both, see my trip report for more information on the beautiful Tucan resort and beach.
Malls in the hotel zone –
Kukulcan Mall is the furthest from the hotel, 10 min bus ride. Nice mall, Ruth’s Chris Steak House is here. The following malls are on the way back to the hotel. We walked back and hit all f the malls. I wouldn’t recommend this on a hot day and it is a long walk.
La Isla Shopping Village is a nice collection of stores, many name stores, Planet Hollywood, Sr. Frog’s, the Aquarium. Open-air plaza atmosphere.
Flamingo Mall is good, Margaritaville was a disappointment compared to the 3 in Jamaica. Just not enough room here I guess…
Plaza Caracol is across from the Riu Cancun (next door to the Riu Palace).
Isla Mujeres, ferries -
We liked being on a beautiful beach without the big waves and also being so close to Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres is a great day trip, either on your own or through an excursion. Cat sails to the island are offered from nearby the hotel with snorkel stops and lunch. Or you can take the ferry and rent a golf cart ($45/day) on the island and take a tour. We did that and enjoyed our day. Had a great lunch at the café by the ruin on the south end of the island, then went to the North shore and enjoyed a bucket of Coronas at Jax bar. Makes for a great, relaxing day. The west shore is a nice tour as well, and there’s plenty of shopping downtown if you want that. We took a ferry from Puerto Juarez because we wanted to return later at night. But you may want to take the Playa Tortugas ferry because it’s closer to the Riu Palace (although it costs more). The buses are sparse at Puerto Juarez and the wait is somewhat longer. It’s also a 1/2 hour ride to Puerto Juarez. The Caracol dock (just east of the Riu before Dreams) was wiped-out by Wilma and this ferry is not running.
The Riu Palace –
The service is the best we’ve experienced yet outside the US. We didn’t expect this level of overall service despite the raves here. And the food! I really did not expect such good food at an AI. The buffet is excellent with a variety of choice meats, salads, and everything you could wish for, Your glass of wine, beer, or soda is refilled before it’s empty. The soups are unbelievable. My wife could have lived on the soup and salad except that everything else was excellent. We enjoyed the steak restaurant, I ordered 2 filets and they were very good, nice cut, very lean. The Brazilian restaurant was an interesting experience, a must-do for anyone. The Gourmet restaurant was also a great experience, you’re pampered there. Breakfast is served inside and out, inside is excellent, you’re seated at either location and given a pot of great coffee and juice. The eggs are cooked to order, bacon is great and sausage is very good. Many choices and the quality of everything is A+.
Never made time for the beach massage, unfortunately. The beach is quiet up to 8 AM, so early morning is a good time for a relaxing walk.
We booked an ocean view and were upgraded to an ocean front by Victor who was very polite and helpful. I must say the entire staff at reception was wonderful and helpful with every question. Nice room, beautiful view. We were in room 513 which is on the east wing overlooking the pool and the swim-up bar. I would request an ocean view in the west wing next stay for a little quieter setting. But the noise from the bar and pool did not bother us, could hardly hear it on the 5th floor.
There are 2 sinks in the bathroom but no vanity outside the bathroom. The tub floor is rounded as many European tubs are so watch your footing. Also no lighting in the tub.
The tap water is not for drinking, although it is fine for us for brushing our teeth.
Mini frig is stocked with a 6-pack of Corona, several bottles of Pepsi(!) and 7-Up and soda water, and 2 large and 2 small bottles of water. The liquor dispenser is stocked with 4 bottles – Smirnoff’s vodka, Bicardi Rum, Jose Cuervo tequila, and a brandy. Home sweet home!
Lobby bar is nice and roomy with several small tables, pianist plays every evening until the show starts. A band performs before the show and is pretty good. Nightclub at Riu Cancun is open 11 PM – 3 AM. But we’re in bed at 11 because of the beautiful mornings.
Best vodka at pool bars is Smirnoff’s, at lobby bar is Absolut. Most premium liquors are available at the lobby bar. Evenings the lobby bar is filled to capacity and drinks are served by waiters. The wait service is excellent and any drink is available. They make a great blue martini, Gorge will take care of you. We tipped at the lobby bar, at the shows, and at the pool bars. The service is outstanding. Most employees work 10 – 12 hours 6 days a week and appreciate the tips.
The shows are not that good at the Palace, and I’m sure better entertainment can be found at the nearby nightclubs. But some nights the shows were very good, and I believe these are shows performed by outside groups. Similar to the Star Friends at the Iberostars.
The lack of ventilation in the bathroom and the odor in the hotel has been discussed here in detail. The tiles can become slippery after taking a shower so leave the balcony door closed so the A/C stays on and it’s not bad at all. A/C works fine when door is closed. And there is a distinct odor in some areas of the hotel, It is apparently from the carpeting throughout the public areas of the hotel and the proximity to the shore. These issues will not prevent us from returning because of the sheer beauty of this resort and the excellent service and quality of food.
We would recommend the Riu Palace to everyone wanting great service, excellent food, and the perfect location. And the Riu Cancun next door is also very nice. We toured the public areas there and saw little difference from the Palace. Not sure if the service and the food is as good or not. But both are in an excellent location in Cancun and it will be a vacation to remember!