The Riu Palace Peninsula is one of the newest hotels in Cancun. Located on the northern stretch of the Hotel Zone, this towering resort is the most visible structure from air, land, and sea. Upon entering the expansive modern lobby dressed in purple and gold, I wondered if I had stepped into a Prince video. I was greeted with a warm inviting smile by Alex, the bellman. He took my luggage and set it to the side to be delivered to my room. Check-in was a breeze, even though it was 2:00, which is normally a busy time of day. I received a silver VIP bracelet indicating I was staying in the Villa Section.
A short walk down the hall and through the open-air theater led us to a path with a sign reading “VIP, Adults Only Villas”. The small 3-story white Villas contrasted the giant modern structure that towered over them. They had a peaceful feel that seemed almost removed from the flurry of activity in the lobby. My request for a upper level room was honored and I made my way up the three flights of stairs. There are no elevators in the Villas, so if you have difficulty with stairs be sure to request a lower level room. One observation was that the marble stairs can get quite slick when wet or if you have sand on your feet.
My room was what they consider a Villa Garden View Junior Suite. The interior of the room is identical to the standard Junior Suites in the main building. The vibrant theme of white and purple is carried over from the lobby. The bed, which in the past was a common complaint of the Riu’s, was very comfortable. Just off the bed was a large Jacuzzi tub, which is standard in every room as well as a large Jacuzzi on the balcony that can easily fit up to 4 adults. On the other side was an inexpensive looking love seat that appeared to be constructed of plywood. It served the purpose, though, and was actually rather comfortable. There was a dining table and two chairs across form the loveseat which came in handy for those late night room service calls. The flat screen television appeared to be about 32” and the Jacuzzi Suite rooms have a 40” that rotates between the bed and the living room. The bathroom consisted of two sinks and a purple-hued glass block wall separating the large shower which had a removable shower head and an alternate rainforest shower head. There was also a separate toilet area with a privacy door. The refrigerator was stocked with beer, soda, water, and snack bars. I prefer my beverages very cold and it did not suite my taste, so I pulled the fridge out and turned the dial, which was set on 50%, to 100%. That setting resolved any concerns and actually froze some of the sodas on the top shelf. On the wall above the fridge and coffee pot was a liquor dispenser with a fifth of four common liquors: Jose Cuervo, Smirnoff, Bacardi, and Presedente Brandy. The Jacuzzi Suites are about 30% larger, most of that space being a living room area.
One of the most common guest objections with Riu’s is the difficulty making reservations for the gourmet restaurants. This objection was validated when I was unable to make reservations for the Steak House or the Japanese restaurants for any of the three nights of my stay. Fortunately for me, staying in the Villas allowed access to the exclusive gourmet Caribbean restaurant, Kulinarium. The 5-course menu there was limited in choices but certainly not in taste! I had the filet and it was phenomenal. Although there was availability there each night, I chose to dine at the buffet the other two nights. I understand that being unable to eat at the restaurants of your choice at an all-inclusive that advertises fine dining can be frustrating, but the Riu Palace Peninsula more than makes up for that deficiency with some of the best buffet food I’ve eaten, including lamb and Caribbean lobster. For lunch, the Italian restaurant does not require reservations and has a nice a la carte menu as well as a wonderful Italian buffet. The 24 hour room service menu was also limited and took about an hour to be delivered, but the freshness and quality was on par.
Without a doubt, one of the best features of the Villas is the private pool. The ambiance there just could not be matched at the other main pools. The long private infinity pool was the perfect place to relax and enjoy the views of the gorgeous turquoise Caribbean waters merely steps away. It was never a problem getting a pool chair or even a bally bed and the towel cards that most all-inclusives are known for were not necessary in the Villa Section. And the pool waiter, Fernando, would never let me get to the bottom of my drink. Although the private Villa pool is top-optional, I did not notice anyone sans top throughout my stay.
All in all, the Riu Palace Peninsula exceeded my expectations in most every category. I was disappointed that I could not make reservations at the restaurants I desired, but that actually made very little difference to the overall quality of my experience. I enjoyed my stay and look forward to my next opportunity to return.