Riu Playacar – The Best Kept Secret

Talking about boring family, we are one. We seem to like to do the same thing as long as it gives us what we expect, vacations are no different. We like warm beaches and tasty foods for our vacations. Cancun – Playa Del Carmen seem to deliver and here we went again.

Riu Playacar – The Best Kept Secret

I don’t know if the economy is booming or not, but I can see the prices of vacations are going up ~ 30%. In 2010, Cancun all inclusive trip was $2800 – 2011, $3200 – 2012, $4200 – and this year it went up to $6000 for 2 adults and 2 children under 9. We didn’t want to spend $6k for our vacation – we found Riu Playacar for $4k – 7 days with Bookit and United Airline – Horrible experience with these 2. Bookit over booked our flights – we paid for the airline tickets 2 months in advance – The day before our departure, we logged in and try to get seats – there were none with United Airline – it was a bad feelings when you don’t know what’s going to be since your seats are not assigned and confirmed. We never had any problems like this with Expedia and other airlines.

The whole family woke up @3:30 AM to go to SFO to catch the flight @ 6:29 AM. We had to park at long term parking Park’nFly before shuttled to SFO. Got in line, checked in all bags without seats assignment. Went to gate found out that the flight was overbooked 5 people – we’re 4, so we get to move to a new flight 2 hours later – But we got to flight to our destination – They sat us with 2 children on the exit door – our seats had to be re-assigned and we sat all over the plane – 6 and 9 year old kids away from parents (my wife was steamed but we just wanted to get to where we’re going). The bags were promised to go with our new flights. Got to Cancun safe and sound – NO bags – they missed the flights and they’re in Houston – promised next day – delivered to our Riu Playacar – No clothes or toothpaste or anything. Got some toothpaste and brushes from a shop across the hotels for $10.  The bags came at 3PM the next day. We’re happy like hitting the lottery – Horrible experience. We’ll think twice about booking anything with Bookit.com and United Airlines. We figured out why they overbooked us, because they wanted us to upgrade to “economy plus” seats for additional fees. If the people who on the economy list upgraded and filled up the “plus” and we didn’t, we got bumped off the flight. These days,  United Airline wants to nickle and dime us to death, the video screen is now $7 to watch anything, we didn’t pay, we have you use our own multimedia devices. Yes, the videos of United Airline promote the great services with the CEO and employees made us go hmm? 

We were glad something good came out of this vacation.


We also learned that the stars rating on hotels is dependent upon the services and how nice the rooms are. This RIU is rated a 3-3.5 stars because of some missing services.

front lobby     front lobby

1. No room service for Food.
2. No waiters or waitresses on the pool or beach.

our bed    our room

3. Great buffets – different themes for each day.

great buffet     great buffet

4. 3 Specialty restaurants but we rather to be at the buffets.

Japanese restaurant     Japanese Restaurant

5. The 3 bars were never too crowded to get drinks – even my children could get their drinks themselves (6 and 9 year old).
6. Service people here are trying to please customers and not being bothered by customers.
7. The best beach in all the beaches we’ve been to : Barcelo, Grand Melia, Crown Paradise. Fine warm sugar sand beach with waves even going out away from the sand. The kids love being there all day. The storm was there, but we’re still enjoying our beach and pools – the water was so warm and fun.

Riu Beach     palm trees

8. Mosquitos exist at night even though they’ve been sprayed every few days.
9. The in room bar is always filled with water, soft drink and beer. There is NO lotion, conditioner, hair dryer, mouth wash, tooth brushes, tooth paste, or bath tubs. Bring your own (except the bath tubs).
Our criteria for once a year vacation are: great beach, tasty food, nice pools, nice room (although we don’t stay in the room often), friendly and efficient service – this Riu Playacar got them all.
I’ve been in Riu hotel chain at Guadalajara for business, and it was very nice. I emailed and asked the front desk to book for us the Japanese restaurant and a room close to the pool and the ocean for the kids as a courtesy, Riu Playacar booked it for us, but we came late due to trouble with United Airline.
We came late at 8PM – everything was ready and the room was 6111 next to the pool & restaurant just as requested. But it’s a little noisy at night if we sleep early because of the shows every night – didn’t bother us, we didn’t sleep early at all.
The front desk people were so pleasant, always smilling and helpful.
We checked in, went to the buffet (closes at 10:30PM) and the food was great – we missed the Japanese buffet reservation at 6:45PM.
So, the hotel is old, but our room was clean, air conditioned and the kids loved these animal towels on the beds. Yes, the bed is hard even with padding. My bony daughter slept on me (literally) in the first few nights, until we figured out to put 4 pillows as a pad for her.
Everyday at the buffet – there are always pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, pasta for people who are hard to eat like my son. The salad bar and the hot food sections are plentiful with tasty food every day. We love the buffets.
Carpaccio was better than many Italian restaurants in the state – and good thing is not many people know about this wonderful appertiser. There was plenty and they keep bringing it out as soon as the plate is empty.
Lobster bisque – seafood – tortilla soups were great. Guacamole and salsa were made fresh daily – the sweet dessert bar is always filled with great stuff, never a dull moment.
We do like to eat and we did eat very well here in Riu Playacar.
My wife complained that the Japanese restaurant was cheating her by only service buffet foods. Not full service a la cart as other restaurtants. Oh well, as long as the food is good what do you care, but she did.
There are 3 bars and we did drink a lot, even the kids, they love Shirley Temple, and all the daquiris.
They do have fresh coconuts which my wife and the kids love – only one day while we’re there.

coconuts table     coconuts

The beach – you can walk hundreds of feet away and the water is still only up to your hips. The kids love the waves – the water was warm and we do stay in the ocean most of the day. The water is clear and the beach is clean. Amazing. We always brought our water shoes, but this time we didn’t have to use any because the sand was so fine and NO ROCKS.
Lawnchairs are every where and always have empty ones for us to use.
There were some topless people – so nice that “I” actually had to have a second or third looks – not like other times and resorts. Many beautiful single ladies and men there this time.
We took pictures on the sunset, which was amazing.
It was Thursday, they had BBQ on the beach with music for dancing – the food was also wonderful and the people do dance very well.
They have scuba diving lesson – or demo, sports events and also Riuland for children, but our kids didn’t want to go.
The pools water were hot – the kids also liked the pool after playing in the ocean. The pools are not huge, but we could swim a few laps. Lawn chairs again were available. Just there’s no waiters or waitresses that we can order drinks or food. I think that’s why the pool is pretty clean.
The shops are right in front of the hotel if we want to buy some sourvenirs or neccessary stuff. I heard there’s also a night club for people to go dancing near by, but I haven’t seen it (my 2 children are always with us).
Elena Lopez was the director of the hotel – very nice and pleasant young lady. She’s always running around checking things to make sure everything goes well, and to me, everything did. She recommended us to visit the Riu Palace and Riu Rivera Maya Palace, we did, they’re nice but my wife seemed to like this one better because it’s more down to earth and less pretentous and superficial.
There must be complaints for all trips – right?
The hard beds (to me it’s fine when I put blankets under the padding mattress) – Mosquitos (we brought spray and repellent bands) – only 3 specialty restaurants? but the buffet foods tasted better than restaurants then? Ah, some people want to feel important, romantic, then they need to be served.
Final thoughts, snobish people wouldn’t like this place – try Riu Palace or Riu Riviera Palace – or any resorts with “Palace” in the end like our last year Barcelo Palace Deluxe.
The real deal is this, at the time of booking this trip – the cost of going here is about $2000 less than other “Palace” we wanted to go which is about 1/3 of another trip. We used some of the saving money to tip our service people here at the Riu Playacar. The bottom line is great beach, great foods, great place and great people, that’s all we want from a nice vacation.
This is a 3 stars hotel due to missing some extravagant services – but I give it a 5 stars for being great for a 3 stars hotel (does it make sense?). BTW, in two years, this Playacar will be renovated and the price will be higher which I think it’s a waste, we want it just the way it is with the lower price.

At the pool.

The beach and activities

The last day.

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