Old Reviews – Riu Playacar Resort

  RIU Playacar   William ~ Canada

September 2009

Arrival: August 29, 2009 to Sept 5 2009

Our room was nicely decorated and spotleesly clean. The mattress were hard. The air conditioning worked flawlessly.

Restaurants and Bars:
no complaints at all. Service was quick and friendly, delivered with a smile. The food was excellent in the buffet. We tried the Steak A-la -cart and were underwhelmed… No matter how you ordered your steak, you got something different…well done came rare…etc.

All were as expected…excellent

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Went on one tour to Ec Balam  (SP?) .  We felt it was overpriced for what we did. The site is worth seeing, and the trip included shopping, a meal at a mexican hacienda and swimming in an underground lake.  However, $108 per person was high.

Other Comments:
Our only complaint came at the end of our trip.  We had to check out at 12, the bus was to come at 3 (showed up after 4) and we sweltered in the heat sitting around the lobby.

  RIU Playacar   Derek ~ Toronto

March 2009

Are spacious enough for what they’re being used for. They are cleaned daily and the bar fridge is serviced every second day. If you need something for the fridge on the non-serviced day then simply call the front desk and ask them nicely to send you up whatever you need. And of course please remember to tip the person for their service…that goes for the chamber maid as well.

Restaurants and Bars

Food There are three a la carte restaurants and a buffet. But don’t cringe at the thought of buffet food for a week. There is a massive selection of really good food here…..for both the meat-eater and the vegetarian. Try the banana milk at the morning buffet, so good.

The breakfast and dinner buffets are served at the main buffet off of the main lobby. The lunch buffet is served at the Turquesa restaurant which is located beside the beach and pool. On occasion they serve a barbeque meal at or near the pool as well.

Service & Staff
Incredible! Each person that we have interacted with over the course of our three visits has been wonderful. Special thanks to Management – Helena and Sebastian; Front Desk – Claudia, Aldo, Jorge, Gilberto and Juan Carlos; Chamber Maid – Maria; Bar Servers – Osvaldo, Benjamin and the rest of that crazy crowd; and of course all the fabulous folks working their collective behinds off to ensure people have a great stay.

Beach & Pool
Despite the beach decay that has been taking place for the past little while, and the sand bags placed in the ocean to help slow that decay, the beach is a wonderful place to relax, tan, swim and enjoy the sounds of the water. For those who prefer having a few beverages throughout the day, while soaking themselves, then the pool bar is a great alternative. Be forewarned however that when you least expect it you may receive a spray of water from the liquid dispenser behind the bar….courtesy of one of the bartenders of course.

Activities & Entertainment There are plenty of activities available on the resort. The Entertainment Team have a variety of games etc that they do each day with folks at the resort….such as: Air Rifle Shooting, Darts, Ping Pong, Water Polo, Water Aerobics, Bingo, Dance Lessons etc etc. Lots of fun and very interactive team.

Down at the beach you have access to a variety of water-related activities.

In the evening the resort puts on a stage show. Each night is different. If you’re only going to see one, however, do yourself a favour and go see the Mayan Show. If you happen to enjoy watching dancers than you’ll want to see some of the other shows as well.

Tours & Other off resort happenings There are plenty of half and full day excursions available if you want to see things off the resort. The trip to Xcaret Park is worthwhile. They have a show in the evening that’ll blow your socks off. The Tulum Ruins are also a fairly short distance from the resort. You have a few choices when it comes to travelling to any of these places. You can get an authentic Mexican experience by taking the Collectivo van to your destination (this is the way many locals travel – A trip to Tulum Pueblo (town) cost us approximately $2 each – 1/2 hour to 40 minute drive). A private van can be arranged through the front desk (round trip to the Tulum ruins costs $120. The driver waits for you for whatever timeframe you’ve pre-arranged….you also don’t pay until he/she drops you back at the resort). BTW, the entrance fee to the ruins is $5.

If you’d prefer to have an arranged or guided tour then talk to the folks from the various tour companies located in the lobby.

If you’re into shopping then you can either walk 30 minutes or a 5 minute $5 taxi ride down to 5th Avenue with several blocks of restaurants, shopping and night clubs. It’s definitely a tourist trap area but it is worth going down. You’ll find some good deals and you’ll also be able to haggle. Everyone stands outside their stores and asks you to come in. Some are more creative than others in what they say to bring you in….like one guy who uses the line "we have the best and rip you off for less"

Other Comments
This was our third trip to this resort. This time, however, was for our wedding. That in itself should suggest what we think of the Riu Playacar and its staff.

When you stay at the Playacar you have access to three of the other resorts in the Riu complex: Lupita (with the golf course, fees apply for golf), Tequila (across the street…this resort has the disco), and the Yucatan.

This resort and its staff are wonderful and we highly recommend it. We cant wait to go for the 4th trip!


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  RIU Playacar   Mirella & Bill ~ Toronto, Ont. Canada

June 2008

Arrival and Flight : We flew with Skyservice. The flight was just like every other flight. Nothing is perfect. What matters to me is, as long as I get there and come home safely! A bit of turbulence but overall it was fine.

Rooms : We were in the blue building. There are I believe 6 or 8 separate complexes. The rooms are average, standard rooms. Don’t get me wrong they are nice….but not WOW!!! type of rooms. We had a king bed, which of course does not exist, they push 2 queen beds together, which is hard sleeping in the crack of the bed. The beds are hard, but I don’t mind that. Shower area is nice, and separate from the washroom. Overall, very clean, and well kept.

Restaurants : We ate mostly at the buffet as we found the Steakhouse, to be nothing different or any better than the buffets. They do have theme nights. I would say the variety is good. However, we did sneak over twice at the Riu Tequila as you are allowed to use their facilities, and eat breakfast and lunch there, just not dinner. Well we managed to sneak in 2 dinners there before we got caught!!!hahaha..They’re food selection is much better, but that hotel is not on the beach. Didn’t bother with the Mexican restaurant as there is always Mexican food at the buffet, and the Asian, we didn’t bother either. Overall the food is good. But the deserts all taste the same and are pretty lame.

Bars : Pool bar is always busy, but that is to be expected. The Lobby bar is small in comparison to the Tequila. We usually headed over there for drinks and entertainment. Drinks are good. My favourite is the Dirty Monkey’s and Mud Slides. Otherwise, they make just about anything.

Beach and Pools : Pool is nice, plenty of room, expect it can get crowded when they have pool activities; such as aerobics and water polo. There are plenty of chairs to choose from, but the huts are usually all gone by 9am. The beach on the other hand was disappointing. I did hear that there was still some damage to the beach due to hurricane Catrina, but I didn’t realize it was that bad. Don’t get me wrong the water is beautiful, but there are huge sand bags in the water….they looked like beached whales. Also along the shore too, there are sand bags too. When you walk in the water it is very rocky, but as you walk in further its better, but there still are some pretty big rocks, so be careful, I must have stubbed my toe at least a dozen of times. Also you can’t just walk from your beach chair to the ocean, it’s like a little hill that’s about 4-5feet down. The hurricane just ripped these poor beaches apart. It’s not that bad, if you walk along to the other hotels, some are worse than others. At first it is disappointing, especially if you have been to other amazing beaches, but you make the best of it and have fun. After your first day, they don’t even bother you anymore. They are trying to restore and re-build the beaches, but it’s going to be another couple of years before it’s complete.

Grounds : The grounds are nice, not a huge resort, the lobby is a fair size, just average. The Lobby and grounds at the Riu Tequila are much bigger and better, but I guess that’s because its across the street and is not on the beach, so they have to make up for it. We also visited the Riu Yucatan, as you can go there too. Again, nothing special, and the buffet is not good at all, in comparison to the Tequila and Playacar

Activities and Entertainment : We didn’t stay at our hotel for the entertainment. But did watch a show at the Tequila. It was o.k, a lot of dancing and nice to watch…but after it was all the same stuff….

We ended up going to Fifth Ave. You must go there for shopping. Tons of stores, bars, restaurants, pubs, cafes ect…It is sooo nice there. Especially at night. Feels like your in your own little town. Everyone just walks the streets and browses. Went to a nice restaurant called Casa Aqua. Excellent food, just pricy. Its only a $5 cab ride.

Tours : We didn’t get to do any tours this time. But I have been on the Tulum Extreme once before. Great tour and well worth the money. Just do your research and see which tour fits you best.

Departure and Check Out : Our departure flight wasn’t till 9pm, so we spent most of the day at the beach. If you want late check out, its $50US extra, only if your room is not booked for the next people to check-in. In my opinion it’s not worth it and no need. They have private shower areas in the lobby next to the bathrooms, where they provide soap and shampoo and a towel. So that’s what we did. They hold onto your luggage in a secured room that is locked, so need to worry about your luggage. Check out was easy and very fast!

Conclusion : Riu Playacar is a nice hotel. If you are beach person you might be a bit disappointed, if you don’t care for the beach and don’t mind a 5mins walk/ 2min shuttle ride to this beach from the Tequila. I would say stay at the Tequila, as its overall appearance is much nicer, and food is better. If the price is good, book, if not then I would reconsider. Yes it is nice, but I wouldn’t go back again, as I know there are better hotels out there. It’s an older hotel, so it’s not like the recently new Riu’s in Aruba, or Los Cabos. We paid very cheap, so overall I had a great time, and you will too, if you really make it a good time!

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January 2008

My Sister and I, ages 21 and 25 from Baltimore, MD enjoyed our vacation at Rui Playacar on January 4th – January 11th, 2008. We had stayed at the Rui Tequila, across the street about 7 years ago. Since that visit, I always wanted to stay right on the beach at the Rui Playacar.

Starting from the departure flight from Washington and leaving Cancun everything went as planned and no delays through the trip, which was a true joy ( I had had bad experiences in the past…) The hotel itself is above average but not excellent. Our room was clean, the beds were hard (but it didn’t bother us because we were so tired at night) the air worked ok. The temperatures were 75-80 degrees so we really didn’t need the air at night. I would recommend ear plugs for light sleepers. Our building was so loud the walls are paper thin. People would be so loud late at night and our neighbors were seriously crazy people. I had to go to town to get ear plugs so I could sleep at night. After that I had no problem sleeping. The weather was great! But we did hear that the winter is rainy season (just a FYI). It only rained one day, so that was not to bad.

The resort is not to big so any room you get is a good room (I think). We were in building two (the dark green building) first on the left. We were on the 3rd floor, there are no elevators, so if you have problems with stairs I would recommend the bottom floor. This was defiantly our workout of the week, three flights of stairs!!! The maid was very good, she clean the room everyday to the fullest extent. She left pretty towel animals and flowers on our beds everyday. We left a $1 tip for her daily, which I think she enjoyed. The room’s fridge was fully stocked at all times.

We did bring one-dollar bills for tipping. I think it did help us get better service, but then again I am not sure. The service was outstanding. Sometimes they were a little slow, but other then that they were very friendly and the drinks were very good. Don’t believe the alcohol is watered down; we get pretty sloppy the first two nights. Hint, Hint, if you like Bacardi, they do have it. Just ask! Only Corona for the beer lovers.

The food is a B plus. It was ok, I used to it after the days went on. They had the buffet and 3 reservation restaurants. They all tasted the same to me. The first night my sister and I had an upset stomach because if the different food. We had to buy pepo bismo. So you many want to bring some just in case.

The Beach:
When I was at this beach 7 years ago, it was big and pretty and the water was calm. Well, not anymore. There is a beach (don’t get me wrong), much better then some other hotels, I will add. But there is not much of a beach. You have to get up early to reserve a chair and the ocean has very big waves…

Excursions: We did two excursions. One was the Tulum Extreme. This was well worth the $100 price. This included, swimming on the cenotes (underground water caves) propelling off a cliff, 3 zip lines across the jungle and the tour of the Mayan ruins. This is from 8 am to 3 pm. Then we did a parasailing trip to two snorkel spots. Very fun, that one was $50 a person.

5th Avenue:
This is only a 20 minute walk from the hotel or a 5 minute, $5 taxi drive. We walked it the first time during the day. It is a great walk, you can look at all the pretty houses and it is very safe. 5th Avenue has lots of shopping, bars and restaurants. Since the hotel is all-inclusive we didn’t eat out anywhere. We did stop at a Cuban bar and Senior Frogs for some cocktails. Both bars had a great inviting atmosphere! We shopped at 5th avenue 3 nights. This place is a must!!!

There was a show every night at 10 pm. At 9 there is a kids show, which can get annoying because it is the same show every night. This resort has plenty of kids, so if you are looking for an adult only, this is not the resort for you. There are families, couples, singles and friends. It was prefect for us. The resort had an entertainment crew. They got the guest to do different activities everyday such as aerobics, yoga, ping-pong, bingo and beer drinking contests. We participated everyday, which made the day fun.

Overall, we had a great time. I hope my advice was helpful on planning you trip!! Enjoy.

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September 2006

We are a couple in our early 30s and this was our first time to Mexico. We went for two weeks in the middle of August. We have previously been to Cuba and the Dominican Republic 5 times.

The arrival and check-in at the resort was smooth and quick. Everything was prepared and we were given a brief explanation about the amenities of the resort (and the Riu Yucatan and Riu Tequila which you are also able to access). We were given our room key right away even though it was only noon and check-in wasn’t until 3:00pm

The room was in block 1. This building is the closest to the lobby and the main restaurant but farthest from the pool and beach. However, because the resort is quite small it was only about a 2 minute walk to the beach. The room was not huge. It had 2 queen beds pushed together. There was plenty of closet and dresser space available. There was a safe in the closet. There was a mini-fridge in the room stocked with water, beer, and pop and a liquor dispenser was provided. The bar was restocked every two days. The bar guy tended to come early in the morning (when we were sleeping) and had a habit of knocking and then immediately opening the door without waiting for a response. It’s a good idea to use the room security latch on the door so he can’t just walk in. There was a large sized shower but no bath. The toilet can be closed off by a door for privacy as only curtains separate the washroom area from the bedroom section.

There were 2 pools. One was more of a sports pool the other had the swim up bar. The swim up bar was usually busy, especially in the afternoon, you were not able to get a seat. Some days it got quite loud other days it was pretty tame. If you can’t get to the swim up bar, you can get out of the pool and the other side of the swim-up bar has a regular bar which is less busy. You can get your drink and hop back in the pool. We didn’t spend that much time in the pool as the water was very warm (we tried not to think about why). There was also a small, shallow pool for small children.

The beach was quite deep but not as wide as previous resorts we have been to. There were plenty of beach chairs and no worries about towel wars. There were no palapas but we could usually find a tree to lie under and move our chairs as the sun moved. For the first while the water was not clear and there was quite a lot of seaweed. It was not particularly rough but you couldn’t see the bottom. By the end of the trip there was less seaweed and the water was clear. The water gets deep fairly quickly. There were pedal boats, kayaks, snorkeling equipment, and catamarans to take out. It was often difficult to maneuver the kayaks and pedal boats past the roped area because there were many sea-dos and parasailing boats that created wakes.

We were impressed by the food. Breakfast was served in the main restaurant and included the usual wide variety of hot and cold options. There were homemade smoothies that were really good. However, if you missed this breakfast (7:00-10:30) then the continental breakfast provided in the restaurant by the pool was not very good -some fruit and a few dry pastries. Lunch provided the least selection. It was served in the restaurant by the pool from 12:00-3:00. You serve yourself your own drinks. There were cold salads, some hot dishes, pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs, and excellent guacamole. We did eat at the Riu Yucatan for lunch (you are served beverages at your table) but we found the food to be better at the Playacar except that the Yucatan had a make-your-own sandwich station that was nice. Dinner was at the main restaurant and there is no longer 2 seatings or assigned tables. There was an excellent variety of food. There was always an Italian section with pastas, fish and breads, 2 soups daily, a variety of cold salads and raw vegetables, and a Mexican section with tacos, salsas, and traditional foods. There was also the main grill section with American/European food. The main feature item changed daily from fish, chicken, pork etc. There were also a variety of sides and mains in this area. We only had dessert once as we were so full from the other food. There was ice-cream every day, a dessert table, and some days a man who made crepes. Mexican night was on Friday.

We went to both specialty restaurants. The first one was the steakhouse. It has a set menu except for the main course. There was a (deconstructed) Caesar salad, then deep fried bar food (wings, fried broccoli), then a soup that we liked. We both had prime rib for our main, which was cooked medium as requested but was very tough. The Mexican restaurant served buffet style appetizers. For our mains we had fish (not great) and chicken (good). We didn’t like the dessert. You can reserve in the morning (by 8:30) to go to the specialty restaurant for the night, which has 2 seatings 6:45 or 8:45. We preferred the buffet so we didn’t bother to go to the specialty restaurants again.

There were a variety of activities and sports to do provided by the animation team. Most of these activities were posted on the board in the lobby but others were not. Therefore, if you were not hanging out by the pool you could miss stuff that was going on. We went to the disco a few times at the Riu Tequila. The crowd was quite young but we went with some other couples we met at our resort and we had a good time. Some of the night shows were good others we skipped and hung out at the lobby bar instead. You need to get to the show about 20 minutes early or else you won’t get a seat.

We found the service at this resort to be superb. It is the best service out of all the hotels we have visited and this was regardless of whether or not you tipped. The servers in the restaurant were constantly working to clear tables and refill your drinks. The bartenders were able to keep track of who was at the bar first so people couldn’t cut in and order in front of you. Overall we were very happy with our trip and would be happy to return.

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RIU Playacar Marge & Lanny ~ Rothschild, WI

March 2006

We thoroughly enjoyed our short stay at the RIU Playacar. We booked our four night vacation on short notice (January 31st) with Apple Vacations. We flew out of Minneapolis/St Paul on Sun Country Airlines. It was a nice flight (they even serve a hot breakfast) and we arrived on time @ 10:10 AM. After getting our bag (one was "delayed") and filling out the "delayed baggage form", we got the "green light" through Customs. After a brief discussion with the time share people, we easily found our Apple representative, who got us situated in our van for the short trip to our resort. Interestingly, the other four couples on the shuttle were also from Wisconsin, all going to different resorts.

Upon arrival, we were immediately greeted and checked into our room, even though it was early. They had a welcome drink brought to us, did a good job of explaining the restaurants and other facilities, and the services that we could use at the two nearby RIU resorts. That afternoon we were invited to a meeting with Anthony, our on-site Apple rep, who did a very good job of explaining the resorts features and informed us about the numerous tours that were available, as well as info on the local area.. We informed him of our lost luggage, and he immediately got on the phone to track it down. It arrived the next day.

We were somewhat concerned because the Playacar only has two restaurants, but found that it was not a problem. Breakfast and dinner buffets at the EL Porche Main Restaurant were great-there was something for every taste. The buffet lunch at the Turquesa open pool resatarant was huge-everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to a huge salad bar, local fish, chicken, & pork dishes, pizza, oyster & shrimp dishes, fresh fruit, and even a made-to-order pasta cook station. The dessert stations always had 6 or 8 treats.Everything was very clean and the service was great. In the evening , the Turquese turns into an A-la-carte restaurant, with reservations made that morning at the El Porche buffet.One side has a Meditteranean menu, with 4 or 5 fish dishes, and the other side is the Steakhouse, again with 4 or 5 choices. We had the baked salmon one night, and the rib eye/ top sirloin on another. Both were excellent, and again the service was top notch.

Our room was on the third floor in the building closest to the lobby. It was therefore the furthest building from the pool and beach, but because it is a relatively small resort, it only took a few minutes to walk there. The rooms were very nice,clean, and the maid service was fine- it seemed like they even washed the doors and furniture every few days! The pool area was nice, but the beach area was super. The wide, white sand beach seemed to stretch out for miles.Plenty of chairs for relaxing, and a great view of Cozumel on the horizon. It was exceptionally clean. The nightly shows were very entertaining.

The location of this resort is handy. Across the street is a small shopping center, and the RIU Yucatan and RIU Tequila resorts are a short walk away, where we could go for breakfast and lunch, to have a drink, or to go to the sports bar and disco. Playa Del Carmen itself is within walking distance (or a $5 cab ride) and it is safe to go there. We were there when two cruise ships arrived, and it is a neat place with many bars, restaurants, and places to shop.

We took an all day trip to the Coba Mayan ruins, where we had an authentic Mexican buffet at a local establishment, and also visited an authentic Mayan village and had an oppurtunity to swim in a cenote (an underground river). We both enjoyed the tour.

The day of our arrival was unusually cool (only around 70 degrees F) and all the locals were "freezing". The other three days were in the low 80’s (F). There was usually a breeze, and a sweater or light jacket came in handy in the evening.

We found the entire staff to be very friendly and helpful. Neither of us can speak any Spanish, but had no problem communicating. Although tips are included in the all-inclusive package, we took along a pack of $1 bills that we used for tips, because we felt that they deserved them. There were guests there from all over the world, and everyone seemed to enjoy their stay. We are looking forward to returning !

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Don & Eileen ~ Nova Scotia, Canada

May 2005

We have been taking a winter getaway for 10 years. This was our 12th trip and this is my first “trip report” after reading thousands, I’m sure! We are an over 55 couple who enjoy an annual two week vacation to a sunny destination. We are not hard to please, enjoy meeting people, having a good time, and love to snorkel.

We found the RIU Playacar to be a great resort.

Check in:
We flew Canjet with Sunquest Vacations, direct from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to Cancun, Mexico airport. The flight was smooth, uneventful, and just over 5 hours. We were given our registration card and bracelets were put on our wrists as we got on our bus to take us from the airport to the resort. We made two stops before arriving at RIU Playacar at 11:50 P.M. Check in took literally minutes after which we were directed into the buffet where a nice spread had been set out for the few of us (I think 15-20) who had just arrived. Our friends had arrived earlier in the day, so they took our key to put our baggage in our room, and then met us in the buffet. We’d left Halifax at suppertime, were only served a light lunch on the flight, so this was a VERY welcome surprise. MMM…desserts!!! And fresh fruit!!!

A request had previously been sent for first floor rooms and close to each other with our friends. We were very happy with where we were assigned. We were next door to each other, and shared the same entry hallway. This was great because when we went in for the night, we were able to close the outside door so we heard NO noise from the main hallway. When we FIRST entered our room, there was a bit of a musty smell, but I put out an air freshener, and all was well. My husband is an asthmatic, and had NO problems. AND…our suitcases DID NOT need to be aired out when we arrived home! Yes, dirty clothes needed to be washed, but they were NOT wet and musty! The room is a good size, with double beds pushed together, to make one large bed, but made up separately. We took some of our own hangers, but lots were provided in the large closet and there was plenty of drawer space. Having the stocked fridge is always nice, and the wet bar another added feature. We did not tip everyday, and still our room was kept very neat and clean, and we always had at least one “towel creation”. Some days, we even had a smaller one by the sink. We had good water pressure and lots of hot water. No problems with the drains. Our air conditioning worked fine. Our friends found our room too cool, but were pleased with their air conditioning as well. The safe is at no extra charge, and although small, is large enough to hold your passports, valuables, etc., and I also fit a camera and digital camcorder in it. The patio has two chairs, a small table and the pull out “clothes hanger”. This is such a small thing, but so handy to have for hanging wet bathing suits and whatever else you might need to rinse out.

There is continual work being done to keep the grounds well manicured and clean. They do a lot to keep the grounds immaculate. BUT then you have some “guests” come in who think that they are Tarzan’s cousins, climb trees, throw anything to try to knock down coconuts, and make a general mess of things and a nuisance of themselves!! More on that later. Some smaller trees are shaped which make for an interesting walk from your room to the Reception area. There are some agouti, iguana, squirrels and lots of different birds. When we first arrived, we walked to the Yucatan to try to spot the family of monkeys in the trees. We were lucky enough to see about eight of them along with two rather small babies. The Yucatan closed the next day.

We didn’t spend a lot of time at the pool, but we were always able to find lounges when we wanted them, whatever time of day we went looking. One of the entrances at the one pool was “handicap friendly” with a hand rail and gradual slope into the water. There were lots of places for those who wanted sun or for those who wanted shade, around either of the pools. Naturally, it was busier where the bar was located. Along with the usual activities, there was also a fashion show of various swim wear that could be purchased.

The activity staff is phenomenal!!! Sergio, Erick, Israel, Joseph, Juan and Yoseba keep the place hopping all day – except for “siesta time”. They have activities happening at the pool, on the beach, almost anywhere on the property. Join in and have some fun…or lay back & enjoy. They do not pressure you. In the evening, D.J. Gustavo gets into the act and you can’t help but clap your hands and tap your feet. The “kiddies” have their time on stage, and often had a piñata to enjoy. The “RIU Ballet” performances were great and very well done. We especially enjoyed Grease, and Around the World. (We missed the Michael Jackson show, but we heard that it was fantastic.) Outside performers were brought in a few nights and did a fabulous job. Also, venders were set up along the walkway, so you could buy some treasures to take home.

We took the tour of the Palace one day and enjoyed seeing it. It is a magnificent resort, and certainly “a step up”. We planned to go on the “kitchen tour” of the Playacar, but never got around to it. I went on one three years ago, at the Yucatan, and found it very interesting. My friend and I also had a half hour massage on the beach. Definitely worth the money!!

We were at the RIU Yucatan three years ago and there has been a lot of beach erosion since then. BUT, a lot of sand came back within the two short weeks that we were there. When we first arrived, we had to walk over sand bags when crossing from the Playacar beach to the Viva Maya. By the end of the two weeks, you hardly knew that sand bags were there. Going north, the sand was up over two or three of the stairs at The Royal Hideaway. The beach is still great, and the color of the water gorgeous. Sunrises are awesome!! The water was rough most of the first week, but lots of fun to play in once you navigated your way past the breakers. I got quite a bruise on my hip from the landing after being tossed by a big one! The water never did get really clear, even in our second week. We did need to play the “towel game” and even had one stolen. Then we got smart and put our own towels we had taken with us, to reserve…very early in the morning. Luckily, we are early risers! We did hear a group of people plotting to “have our spot tomorrow”. But they weren’t quite early enough!

The construction at the RIU Palace Maya was continual. There were so many workers, it was like watching ants!! I think that it will be numero uno in the area, when it is done!!! The beach club for the RIU Lupita was finished and is also very nice.

Yes, the bars were always busy, but the wait was never long. Sometimes, it wasn’t long enough, because we’d start a conversation with the people standing/sitting beside us. We don’t go to these resorts expecting “top shelf” alcohol. We do expect “local brands”. But the top shelf brands were definitely there if you wanted them. I do enjoy the mixed drinks, and they had a great variety to try. Some days a bar would be set up in the pool area, close to the towel exchange. They would have all the various fruits, put whatever you may please in the blender, add whatever alcohol you wanted, some ice, and whirrrrrl…a great drink!!

Breakfast is my favorite meal, and I was never disappointed. A great variety of everything was available each and every morning including seven different kinds of fresh juice, done in front of you. I know that some people even came from the Tequila to have breakfast, just for the delicious ham. Apparently it wasn’t available there.

Lunch was a bit of this and that, but usually it included guacamole for me!! I love their guacamole, and I saw that others did, too! Again, there was always a nice variety, and nobody went hungry.

We tend to always go for supper at about the same time, and usually gravitate to the same table, so being assigned a “dinner time and table” was no problem for us. Some of the animation team did a bit of a preview of the night’s entertainment before the doors were open to the buffet. It was nice to be greeted by management, the waiters and waitresses each evening. Our waiter, “Marcus”, was fabulous! He always had our ice water on the table almost before we sat down, and was quick to see when a “finger bowl”, or anything, was required. It was interesting so see how hard he was trying to learn as much English as possible. If we didn’t quite understand what he was asking or trying to tell us, he’d write it down for us. When he did not understand an expression that we used, he would question it, get us to write it down, and then repeat why it was used. I am one of those people who take pictures in the buffet. No, it’s not necessarily the food that I am taking a picture of, but the craftsmanship of the presentation of the food, mostly made from the food!! The “artwork” and “carvings” were so well done! There was often a large ice sculpture, as well. Along with the large variety that you usually have in a buffet, some of the things that I have not often seen offered elsewhere were kiwi, apples, and grapes, strawberries done up in some special recipe a number of nights, lamb, and duck. Also, shrimp was usually on the menu done some delicious way.

The only a la carte that we ate at was the “Steakhouse”. We reserved there twice, and all four of us were very pleased with our meal each time. “Saul”, our waiter the first time, was great! On our second visit, he saw us come in and had a special plate of butterfly shrimp sent to our table. They were delicious and very much appreciated by us.

My only “negative” comment on the food was at the end of the two weeks, I commented to my husband that I had found the desserts repetitive…but perhaps that was because I tried a taste of at least six, each lunch and each supper! 😉

I can’t say enough good things about the staff here. I have read many negative comments, especially about “Reception”, but our experience was the opposite. We had a medical emergency one day, told reception that we needed a doctor immediately, and were told that we would have a doctor in our room in 10 minutes. I’m sure that it was less than that!! We needed help from Reception on a number of occasions and we never experienced a long wait, and we were always treated with the utmost respect. We had a very nice letter left in our room, from “the reception team” one day, asking if we were satisfied with everything; and to please let them know if there was anything that we would like or like to see changed. We also had a nice hard covered book about the “Riviera Maya”, along with another letter thanking us for coming to “their house”. From the management to the bartenders to the grounds keepers to the animation team, everyone was always friendly, had a “hola” and a smile for you, any time of the day or night!!

There were many countries represented at this resort, and it was fun and interesting to meet a lot of new people from various parts of the globe. But…this is where my one complaint lies, not with the resort!! Yes, we had the usual pushy people, who try to butt in front of any line, and the loud mouths that have had too many tequila shots. They are pretty much harmless. But where are the parents of some of these kids who come in and ransack the grounds? There was a bunch of 8 – 10 kids who tore leaves, palms and flowers off the trees and bushes, climbed trees, and threw anything that they could find to try to knock the coconuts out of the trees. Of course, whatever they threw and the coconuts landed everywhere. We saw many people almost get hit!! We did hear that people did get hit, not badly hurt, but we did not see it ourselves. It was amazing to see the many leaves, palms and such on the ground the first two mornings that this bunch was there. It seemed quite bad for two days, so hopefully, they either settled down on their own after that, or were told to settle down.

Off resort:
Staying in the Playacar complex is just so convenient! The “Plaza” is a great place anytime of the day or night, but we especially enjoyed a walk there after supper. We took a taxi to Playa del Carmen a couple of times to shop. Fifth Avenue is fixed up so nicely now. There are still many “hawkers” to get you to come in to see their merchandise, and lots of bars and restaurants to choose from. One evening we stopped into La Parilla to sit and watch the crowd and have a drink. I had to have one of their “Margarita’s”, and it was just as good as I remembered!

One day, we took the 9 A.M. ferry to Cozumel, and then hired a taxi to tour us around the island for a couple of hours. The East side is always worth a visit. We got the driver to drop us off at Dzul Ha where we had a delicious lunch, then spent the afternoon snorkeling. The water is so clear!! We saw many fish from very tiny to quite large, with various sizes of the gorgeous multi colored Parrott fish. And the fan coral was beautiful!

We went to Xcaret for a day, but this time we saw some of what we had missed when we spent a day there, three years ago…and we still haven’t seen it all!! As we had done before, we swam the “underground river”, and it is still such a different kind of experience. And we snorkeled at the “inlet” where our friends saw turtles and many larger fish. This time we went on the raft down the lazy river, then watched some of the “Horse show”, before we went to get good seats for the night show that we had heard so many good things about. And believe me, it is so much more than anyone could ever tell you!!! The “baseball game” and the “fireball” hockey? game are like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The portrayal of the history of the Mayan was so interesting and well done. The costumes, singing, dancing – everything was absolutely phenomenal. So enjoyable! During the musical part of the show, it was heart warming to watch the Mexicans in the audience singing along and enjoying their music. They were obviously so proud! We slowly made our way toward an exit while the finale was on, but stayed within the amphitheatre till the very last note was played so that we could join in the standing ovation to show our appreciation of the spectacular show that they had performed. YES!! If you have any question about seeing the night show, we definitely recommend it!!

Summary: We had a great vacation at the RIU Playacar and would certainly recommend it. We had nothing but good experiences at the resort and with the employees. >From the minute we got there, we had first class service and hospitality. The staff was always accommodating to our every request. And…a request with a smile and heartfelt thanks goes a lot further than with a snarl and a pushy demand! Go with a positive attitude, ride with the flow and accept things as they come. Enjoy the fact that someone else is making your bed, cleaning your bathroom, cooking your meals, and serving your drinks. Also remember to appreciate the difference between their lives and ours. We are guests in their beautiful country!

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Ed & Sherri ~ Alberta

April 2005

We stayed with our two children (boy 16 and girl 13) from March 26 to April 9, 2005. This was our first trip to a sun resort since our honeymoon 18 years ago, and we loved it. The resort was everything we could have asked for.

ROOMS Check in was quick and painless, 10 to 15 minutes. We asked for adjoining rooms, and got them. We stayed in rooms 4208 and 4209, which are are the second floor of one of the middle buildings, facing the center walkway. The rooms each had two double beds, pushed together. This worked out well because each person had their own bed. Friends who we met there had one room for the four of them (parents and 2 girls 13 &11) and they were cramped for space. Check out was lightning fast (30 seconds)! We had no phone calls and turned in our keys, safe locks and towel cards and they said thanks, you’re done, please come again (basically).

Each room had a desk/bureau with three drawers and two nightstands with 2 drawers each. This gave us planty of room to put away our clothes and other stuff. There was also a large closet with a room safe. Each room had a small table and two chairs, a 20" color TV and a luggage table. One each balcony was two resin chairs and a resin end table. The bathroom had one vanity; the liquor dispensor with gin, vodka, tequila and rum; a mini-bar with pop, beer and water; a 4′ by 4′ shower with a handheld shower that could be adjusted to different heights; and the toilet which is behind its own door.

The housekeeping staff kept the rooms spotless. We left $2.00 US in each room every day and we were greeted with some amazing towel designs, including mermaids, swans, elephants and babies. We left the rooms early, usually by 8:30, and our rooms were finished before noon everyday. The mini-bar was refilled every second day as promised. Our friends did have difficulty getting diet pepsi, but mostly because the person with the diet pepsi showed up at 10:00 pm as our friends were getting into bed.

Regarding the various complaints we’ve read about the rooms: Yes, the beds are very firm and the pillows are thin, but by the end of the day we were all so tired we had no problems sleeping. We prefer firm beds anyways. Yes, the rooms did have a musty smell from the air conditioning, but it disappeared with 20 seconds of entering the room (at least that we noticed). The air conditioning worked fine, in fact some days we turned it down becuase our rooms got too cold. Our clothes did smell when we got home, but they all needed washing from the humidity, they came home damp. As for noise, we heard nothing, and I am a light sleeper!

MEALS The food was excellent! The breakfasts were amazing with eggs of every form, pancakes, french toast, omelettes, fruit, cereals, breads and other baking. They have a juice bar with 6 different juices, on top of your orange, pinapple, grapefruit and apple.

The lunches were down by the pool and consisted of hot foods, salads, fruit, breads, burgers, hot dogs and pizza. There was pasta station with made-to-order pasta and self serve soft ice cream.

The dinner buffets were in the main dining room. The entrees usually included two fish dishes; pork, chicken and beef; fajitas; burgers, hot dogs and pizza; the pasta station and a Mexican table. There was also a large salad bar and a large dessert bar. We ate at both of the a la carte restaurants, and they were both very good. The avocado appertizer at the Mediterranean was exquisite! The menus were limited, but the meals were excellent. As with most buffets, the food can get monotonous. Looking back, we think the problem was you take a little of everything every time, and thereby get tired of fish, chicken and pork every night. Trying sticking to one or two entrees per meal if you are there for two weeks. The staff in the restaurants were great. You do get an assigned table with an assigned seating for dinner, which suited us just fine. We liked it because you got the same waiter and they looked after you very well.

Our only suggestion is that it would be nice to have a sandwich bar or station available for lunch. The breads were there, but some cold cuts, sliced cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts etc. would make a nice change from all the other food.

BARS The three bars opened at 10:30 am and stayed open until midnight. The service was great and so was the selection. We had daquiris, margaritas, beer, mai-tais, screwdrivers, riviera mayas and just good old CC & 7. Yes they are served in small plastic cups during the day, but we brought the insulated mugs and they filled them right up. The drinks were not watered down, in fact some could use some watering down, and we never had a long wait at the bars. For those interested, they did have a dark beer at the bars, all you have to do is ask for "cervesa negra", otherwise you get corona.

POOL & BEACH The pool and the beach were amazing. Playacar is supposed to have calm water, but we had 3′ to 4′ waves for most of our stay. This was fun to play in, but as we found out, it covered most of our beach. Once the water calmed down. we have another 20′ of beach in front of the hotel. The pools were great. We spent most of ur time around the pool without the bar because it was quieter and our kids are water rats. They kept the pools and pool area spotless. There was one fellow who spent all day cleaning leaves from the pool and other just sweeping and general housekeeping. They have lots of shade around the pool with these thatched umbrellas (palapas?) all over the place. They were building more all the time we were there. As for the beach, there are lots of palms to give minimal shade, or if you go behind the massage hut there is lots of shade. It also appeared that the erosion problem refered to in some reviews is healing itself.

STAFF The staff at the hotel are amazing. They are the friendliest and most fun-loving people I have ever met. We found them to be extremely helpful, although honestly, we didn’t need a whole lot of help. They did arrange transport for us to Xel-ha, got us taxis into Playa Del Carmen and helped us with some minor issues. The animation staff were the best, friendly and they got you involved. We did air rifle, water volleyball, water polo, bracelet making, spanish lessons, scuba demo, bingo, and there was much more to do.

GUESTS Regarding the other guests, the only ones we had problems with were Americans, not all, but some. We realize you spent good money to get there, but so did everyone else. The ugly few were constantly butting in front of you at the bars, the buffet and even the front desk. Heaven forbid you give the person in front of you a foot of breathing space, because someone would push in, worse than rush hour! And the disrespect they showed the staff! You are a guest in their country! If I went to Texas or Florida or California and treated resort staff the way some did, I would get deported and Dubya would nuke Ottawa! Remember people, you’re not at home, this isn’t the Waldorf Astoriaand your not eating at a 5-star restaurant. Relax, enjoy and experience a different lifestyle. After all, that’s what we’re all there to do, and the staff is more than happy to help you acheive that goal!

ACTIVITIES As stated earlier, there are way to many to discuss. Just go and enjoy. Off the resort, we did go to Xel-ha. The kids swam with the dolphins, which was wonderful. The snorkeling however was every disappointing. The water was cloudy, the bottom sandy and we saw very few fish. Snorkeling down their river is also a little scary because your competing for space with the people floating down on the inner tubes. We also went snorkeling on a trip booked through the dive shop. They took us by boat about 15 minutes down the coast, just past Xcaret. We saw lots of fish and coral, very nice.

Went to Playa Del Carmen twice. Shopping there is good. We had lunch at Carlos and Charlies – excellent! One note – the Kahlua in Playa runs aroudn $9 US for 750ml, I paid $13 for a liter at the airport. Do you own comparison shopping.

Overall, would we return – yes! Would we stay at the Riu Playacar again – MOST DEFINITELY!

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Karen and Ed ~ Toronto, Ontario

March 2005

In 3 words – DON’T DO RIU. Go to the Playa DelCarmen/Mayan Rivera but Don’t stay at the Rius. Bad service, bad food, bad attitude! My husband and I went to the Riu Playacar for our first anniversary and were Very disappointed. The service is terrible! It started the first night when we arrived late, around 9pm, and asked where we could get a bite to eat. We were told the El Porche was open to 10pm so we rushed across the lobby to the restaurant – we grabbed a couple of cold pieces of pizza and received many dirty looks when we were told they were trying to close up…. FYI: the brochure says ‘snacks until 2am’, ‘snacks’ = hot water for tea or coffee. After our cold pizza we went to look at the beach in moon light and were surprised to not see any cabanas or palupas. We asked the front desk if any shelter was available (We’re both fair and I was 3 months pregnant which means direct sun is Not a good idea). The nice ‘host’ said "oh yes, in the morning all the chairs are set up and umbrellas are available". There is NOT an umbrella on the premise. You can lay under Palm trees but be very aware of falling coconuts (I’m not kidding). The Riu staff will say Anything you want to hear to make you go away (a fact that was displayed again and again). Then to bed – the Hardest bed I’ve ever had the displeasure of sleeping on! Pillows – I’ve used thicker tissues! Every morning we woke up sore and with a beaten feeling.

The food is boring and well below average (I’m being kind, my husband would have a few more choice words I’m sure…) There is only one non-reservation restaurant for dinner, El Porche – an out-dated Miami/Golden Girls inspired restaurant with very limited seating outdoors (I didn’t travel to eat in a depressing interior) – and you have to decide on the early seating or later seating and stick to that schedule. We were told if you ever want to change from late to early or visa versa "no problem". One night we wanted to eat early rather than our usual later and you’d swear we had asked to be hand-feed off golden platters. ATTITUDE. Then my husband found a hair in his food…not a good night! The "2" reservation restaurants – are actually the same place (by the beach). 1/2 the room is the steak menu, 1/2 is the seafood and No you can’t mix the two/order from different menus (regardless if one you loves steak but the other loves fish). Both were ok, but the menu does Not change; same appetizer, starter, entrée choices and same dessert EVERY night and is also the same at the other Rius (the Yucatan and Tequila) you’re allowed to dine at. More Attitude: the night my husband found (a short and curly) hair in his "freshly prepared" food he complained to the waiter, who told us he’d speak to us boss…we waited…and waited…and waited…finally found the waiter and asked what was happening – nothing he said, he told his boss, that’s it. We had had it! Ed went to the front desk, was shown to the manager’s office. The manager listened, her response "well, if you don’t like it here you can go and stay some where else"… UNBELIEVABLE. The worst customer service EVER. We didn’t spend thousands of dollars to be treated like crap!

There are more examples but I think you get the idea. I will never stay at a Riu and warn everyone I speak with not to trust the Riu name! We were in Aruba the year before for our honeymoon and stayed at a Wyndham – this chain I would Highly recommend. My sister is going to the Mayan in month and on our advice is not going to any of the Rius – instead they’re going to the Royal Hideaway which looked beautiful!

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Bryan & Tracy — Alberta, Canada

December 2004

My wife and I just returned from a fabulous week in the Mayan Rivera. We are your typical late 30’s couple who have just started to enjoy trips without the kids. As we have in the past relied on reading other peoples reviews, to help in our decision making, we thought we needed to add our 2 cents worth. This is our third trip to the sun, sand and surf, we have previously been to Punta Cana (DR) and Varadaro (Cuba). However this was our first trip to Mexico and won’t likely be our last.

First off many people like to talk about the flight etc. Who cares, flying is only a necessary evil to getting you to your dream vacation. As long as the plane takes off, continues flying and lands upright at the right location, it was an ok flight. Besides I am the only one I know who actually gets excited about what movie we might see and what kind of food we are going to get. Airline food just marvels me, the way they package it etc.

The Cancun airport is not much different than any other airport, although it would appear to be in a constant state of construction. Customs is a game of red light,green light. You will be asked to push a button, if the green light comes on you proceed to the buses, if the red light comes on you are pulled over and checked out.

Once again the bus shuttle is just a means of getting you to your final destination. Did anyone really come here to critique the the shuttle service, or if the air conditioning worked to there likings? Didn’t think so, anyway we had no delays and in fact our guide was quite entertaining.

We got to the Riu at around 5; the first thing that struck us was how nicely the big open foyer had been decorated in Christmas fashion. We have always traveled in March, so it was really nice to see Frosty the Snowman, Santa and his sleigh in plus 30 weather. Frosty must have been sweating his snow @#$% off because I was and it was not even that warm out.Check in took all of 5 minutes as were were about the only ones checking in. Maybe just the time of year but the resort didn’t seem overly busy, in fact just right. Our room, 1215 was cool enough to be refreshing and very clean. The bathroom is very well appointed, including face cloths which was a pleasant surprise as many others do not have them. But like any other trip one would take, it would be wise to bring your own soap and hair products. No tub just a shower, you will need to upgrade to the Riu Palace to get a tub. As you may have all ready read the beds are very firm, very, very firm, no really they were actually quite hard in fact, and even goldilocks would pass on them. But once again we made due and eventually got used to sleeping rigid. The mini fridge and bar were stocked with the standard fare, rum,gin,vodka and tequila with beer and mix in the fridge, better then mine at home. The fridge was restocked daily and we only ran out of rum once during our stay so we had to resort to tequila body shots.

The food was your typical all inclusive buffet fare, nothing really fantastic but if you go hungry you must be a very picky eater. There really was something for everyone, Breakfast was bacon and eggs and a wide assortment of other breakfast foods, the toaster is set on Mexican time so be prepared to wait or not toast your bread at all. Lunch was pizza, hotdogs, burgers, fries etc. At dinner there was always a different selection of hot meats, beef, pork, fish etc. We did dine at both al a cart restaurants and really enjoyed both;the steakhouse was our favorite, dining there twice. The food and service was equal to any good restaurant in our town. The bars were the same, these people work hard to please you the customer. What we prefer to do is start at the top of the menu and go down, try every drink and then choose your favorite ones. Trust me if you do not like the one you ordered, leave it and order another one, they are not going to charge you any more money to get you another. My personal favorites were the chocolate monkey, the mojito, try the tequila boom boom at least once, the bloody mary (which due the thinner tomato juice they use is very similar to our ceaser) and any other drink with alcohol in it. The real only down side is we really wished they had a beach bar. The 3 minute walk to the pool bar is a killer. Imagine it, you actually have to get up and move to get a drink, unless you pull up a stool at the pool bar. Lots of sunburned backs there.

We had at first crossed the Riu Playacar off our short list due to the fact they did not have any palupas, for shade on the beach. We are now very happy we choose to stay here. There is plenty of palm trees just off the main beach area for shade. at no time did we ever have a hard time getting a lounge chair either at the beach or pool side. We felt no need to race down and reserve a seat early.

Speaking of the beach, this is what we came for. Beautiful warm white sand, picture card perfect water as far as you can see. We walked daily up and down the beach, it is one of the best, not quite Varadaro but close. If you should get sleepy from all the hard work, doing nothing is very tiring, try "napper’s cove" this is located behind the massage hut, nicely shaded, quite and everyone is always sleeping. If you really want to relax I highly recommend getting a massage on the beach, the sounds of the waves crashing, soft music playing and a well oiled lady rubbing you down, no better way to start your day.

Yes, for all you men out there, there is plenty of topless ladies sun tanning. I have no problem with this at all as my wife is one of these sun worshipers. But as with any thing be careful of what you wish for, there are all shapes and sizes of ladies and men on the beach. I didn’t even know they made bikinis that sizes. For the ladies there are plenty of men wearing banana hammocks as well. Unfortunately they are mostly all older and are suffering from dick do. That’s were their stomachs stick out further then their dicks do. People watching is one of our favorite past times, we can do it for hours.

As far as excursions are concerned I really can not comment as we only did a couple of trips that we arranged ourselves. We ventured over to Cozuamel, ½ hr ferry ride which runs 18 usd each. We rented scooters and set out to snorkel the beautiful waters. We ended up going to Chakanaba, paying 12 usd, well worth it. Saw many fish, sting ray, dolphins etc.A word of caution, maybe it is just me, but one should really remember the name and location of the firm you rented the scooters from.Ours had no company name on it and trying to find the agency in a foreign town at night was just fantastic to say the least. The sunset we saw while snorkeling in Cozuamel was wonderful and worth the effort though. We also went into Playa dal Carma a few times, 4 usd cab ride or a 20 min. walk. We bought most of our souvenirs there, slightly better pricing then the mall across the street, same stuff every where. Do not be afraid to barter with the vendors in town or on the beach.

As it was my birthday we went out on the town on Saturday, after a hard day of drinking and relaxing we hooked up with two other couples and went to Carlos and Gerry’s; then over to the Riu Tequila to check out the disco. From what I am told and from the pictures I have seen, it would appear I had a great time. Needless to say Sunday was a lost day.

What can one say about the staff and animation team? These people work extremely hard to entertain and serve you to the best of their abilities. Although his popularity might be on the down swing here, if you get a chance to see the Michael Jackson show, do it !!. This entertainer is fantastic. I have no complaints with any of the service staff we encountered, how ever Alex, Jesus, Samuel and Osvald just to name a few were great. Always smiling and very friendly, outstanding attitudes. Many of our wait staff in Canada could learn from these people. Try and tip the ones you feel earn it, they really do appreciate it and will remember you.

The resort as a whole was very clean, well maintained and quite cute with the Christmas decorations. On our many walk a bouts we saw a few kittens here and there and a creature that looks like a cross between a rat and a rabbit, do not be afraid, these are called " Ricky Martens" and appear to be quite harmless ugly rodents. Other wise no real creatures to worry about. If you purchase a phone card from your travel rep and find that it won’t work in the pay phones across the street at the mall, take a look around there are two different pay phones. Try both, we struggled for a while and then found out that there was a different one around the corner. No "problemo" once we had the right phone.

We did tour the grounds of the Yucatan, Tequila and the Palace. Much like goldilocks and the the bears we found the Yucatan to be quite large and the lobby to be very loud, the Tequila was better and we enjoyed the disco, the Palace is really nice but for the difference in $ value not for us. We found the Playacar to be just right, smaller layout, friendlier staff, great location on the beach and great value for your dollar and you can always try the other two at your leisure. Now for the big question, would we return to the Playacar? With so many other exotic locations to see and try, I would be hard pressed to say that we would return immediately. However if we were to go back to Mexico, the Riu Playacar would be our choice of resorts. One last note, try at least once to get up early, about 6 am. and see the sun rise. It is a thing of beauty and wonderful to see, a great way to start another day in paradise. Enjoy !!!!!!!!!!

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Pavel

December 2004

For specific info on the hotel, scroll down near the end, the first part is long about the problems we had. We are seasoned travelers and I must really stress that one must read between the lines of the various reviews. If you do, you will notice the problems this hotel regularly has.

Traveled 2004-09-18 to 25. This is our third trip to Cancun and first time to Playa Del Carmen and we never had any major issues as far as accommodation and none with hygiene/food safety . We flew Skyservice and had major reservations about doing so since Skyservice flights have small seat pitches and have [had] a bad reputation of having cold lunches on their flights and fees for soft drinks. We flew on the smallest of the Airbuses (A319). We were very pleasantly surprised. Seats were ok and we were not too cramped. We had good people around us on the way up and back who were considerate of the lack of room. I can’t say anything negative about the flight. The 757’s are being upgraded to have a better seat pitch for Xmas.

We arrived tired from our flight from YVR to the hotel. We traveled about an hour to get to the hotel from the airport. It was about 28C/82.4 @75% hum, with a heat index of 35.5C/96.0F when we arrived at the hotel in the evening. We were greeted in the lobby and the lobby was decked out with a centre piece full of drinks. The display was cool. Staff was courteous but dishonest as you will soon read.

I requested about 4x prior to our departure over the last few months for a very cold and quiet room, preferably on the top floor. We were told that the resort is not busy at this time and accommodating our request should not be a problem. However, the front desk lady said our room is a very good room, it’s the honeymoon suite. We checked out the room and the room was very simple and not honeymoonish at all. The in-room liquor cabinet was almost [95%] bare, there was no pop in the fridge, the white towels had fresh blood stains, and the air conditioning was not running well, as others have reported in their reviews. The bellboy was great (I tipped him a 10 USD earlier! and he seen all these problems beore and tried to fix the A/C unit. He said the resort has problems with the A/C.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the A/C to pump out enough cool. He called reception and had them send a maintenance guy and an attendent with a bottle of tequila over. The maintenance guy arrived about 10 min later but didn’t speak any English .. He cleaned the AC unit up and said to go and have dinner and see how it is when we return. If it is not better, he said to switch rooms. We left and returned after an hour or so and my digital thermometer in the room showed no decrease in room temperature. This was very odd since the washrooms in the lobby were very cold. There was no noticable smell in the rooms, but then again, I am accustomed to Mexico’s "smell".

It was 34C/94F w/ humidity index in the room, almost the same as the outside temperature. So, I returned downstairs and politely complained about the bad A/C. On the way to the front desk, I met the bellman again. He said this hotel’s rooms are not very cold. He’s been here for three years and he was doing maintenance before. They always have been that way but some, but not many, are cooler than others. At the reception, I asked to be moved to another room. They tried the "trick" of having the maintenance guy come up and tinker with the A/C even more, but I said no. I insisted on another room. So, we got another room. This time the A/C was a bit better and the room was a couple of degrees cooler. Realizing trying to get another room would be futile, we took what was offered. This room was exactly like the other one, and it wasn’t a honey moon suite. The bar and fridge was full and the towels clean(er). The beds were very very hard. I stayed at various Cancun hotels and I have never had a bed as hard like at the Playacar. The beds lack foam padding/liner. It’s almost like you are sleeping on wood. I have stayed at 3star and 5 star hotels and all Cancun hotels have this padding. The pillows were also small with no support. Using the small double pillows for support only made matters worse. My back and shoulder was so sore that I had to go and get some back medication at the pharmacy across the street. This is totally unacceptable. There was considerable noise from surrounding rooms as well. Even with earplugs, I could not sleep. The buildings are three story, perhaps concrete and wood, or as someone said, there is a steel sheet between the floors and sound travels from one to the another. Once can hear the occupants and also the cleaning personnel too moving the tables at early hours of the morning.

The resort was full of Europeans. Not sociable at all. But we were not concerned. Drinks very poor, very watered down. One could ask for imported but the drinks are not. I asked for Bacardi. The bottle was empty at the counter. The bartender got a local brand with a local label et al. I again said Bacardi. He said it is. He lied right to my face. I tasted it, and of course it was not Bacardi. Food was ok, average. The same old food virtually every night. One night we at the steak house and I was sick and bedridden for 3 days as a result. I had to get the hotel doctor as I thought I had food poisoning. This is extremely rare. I can drink the water in Cancun and eat raw chilies in there and I never had this problem. In addition, a minor point. There was no weather channel on the TV and you couldn’t get any hot water, tea, or coffee after 10PM. No clockradio in the rooms. However, the hotel was in the process of adding them as we were leaving the resort on the last day.

I spoke to our tour rep about the situation and he said that his company has complained many times about the poor air conditioning. Apparently, the Riu Yucatan is the central location where the A/C is generated and sent to all the Riu’s in the area. I don’t know about the Riu Palace. The beds are also a common complaint. All the hotels must order from the same supplier. He also said that the construction of the hotels are limited to what they can do and the rooms **ARE** noisy. He has experienced it first hand and really empathized with us. I asked him if he get us a better room, which he did, but not until the 5th day. This time on the third floor. But there too, we could hear noise from the other end of the building as sound traveled. Since we were not on the top, we didn’t hear anything above us. The room was exactly the same as the rest as far as not being a "honey moon suite".

The Playacar is probably the least stylish of the Rius in the area. All of the Rius except the Lupita are within 5-10 walking distance. Each have decorative lobbies, the Playacar does not. Each of them have something happening like cocktail drinks and towel making in the lobby every night but the Playacar only had it one time. Each had animal statues at the entrance of the hotel, the Playacar did not. There are lots of stray cats and kittens in this quasi hotel zone. We saw some wild monkeys at the Riu Yucatan.

The dinner schedule is rigid. We like the option of eating when we want to. This is not cruiseship. On a cruise you get high quality food and service. The presentations were not bad, but the quality and calibre of food is similar to a fast food buffet chain.

There is no public bus in the hotel zone. You need to take a taxi that costs 40 pesos for a 7min drive to downtown. Cozumel was better than ok; however, most of the shops close at 6PM when the cruise ships leave.

All and all, I regret this trip. I heard negative reports about this hotel after we booked. I had the option of canceling and losing our deposit, but didn’t. I regret not doing so.

Playa Del Carmen, although not as commercialized as Cancun is not for us. Hotels in Cancun are generally made of concrete in and out. People tend to sleep in. All water including bathroom water is purified, I have never gotten sick there before. In Cancun, buses run 24/7 and are cheap. If we return back to the Yucatan, we will not stay in Playa Del Carmen.

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Dave and Amy — Calgary, Alberta Canada

November 2004

Hi Debbie,
I used your site to pick our resort in the Mayan Riviera and thought it would be fair if I posted our review so here it goes

I’d like to start by saying that I’m 31 and my wife is 28 and we were looking for a relaxing and fun week in the Mayan Riviera. It was our first time on the Caribean side of Mexico

FLIGHT Our arrival in Cacun via Air Transat was uneventful and were pleasantly surprised by the plus 30 degree temperature on our arrival at 6 PM. We might suggest seat selection or better yet Club Seats that might give you more legroom.

SHUTTLE The charter transportation to the hotel was quick and efficient aside from helpful people at the airport who try to take your bags for you for a tip which at times felt awkward. They’re not trying to steal your luggage, but rather are only there to help you. If you don’t want to tip don’t let them help you.

ROOMS When we arrived the front reception desk processed us quickly and we were in our room in minutes. Our room was what we would call 4 and a half stars. The beds are firm which I liked, but the wife would have preferred they be softer and as you’ve probably already seen and heard are two double beds placed side by side. The bathroom was clean, but we were unaware they only had a shower and no tub. The mini bar and fridge were well stocked and replacement of water was only a phone call away. We typically tipped about 50 pesos per night for our room service. We stayed in 6111 which was closest to the beach and on the main level, we had no problems of any noise and preferred the fact that we didn’t have stairs to climb.

FOOD We thought the food was excellent and sampled the a la carte Meditarranean, which we liked but were sorry that we didn’t do the Steakhouse a la carte as well. For breakfast we preffered sitting outside in about 20 tables that were available as it was refreshing. For the lunch buffet preferred seating is at the end; towards the beach as once agian the scenery was much nicer and you didn’t get that restaurant buffet feeling. No problems with any of the bar service, if you tip well you notice that you get slightly quicker service and a little more alcohol in mixed drinks.

ACTIVITIES We participated in most activities and enjoyed the animation staff and had lots of fun. We played beach volleyball, soccer, water volleyball and also did some target shooting with pellet guns. They had tourneys and prizes. We didn’t watch the nightly activities much, but did catch part of one show "Grease" which looked like it was very well performed.

THE BEACH The beach was beautiful and after walking up and down, could find none better. The lounge chairs were tightly spaced, but we didn’t have a problem with that. If you’re looking for more privacy you might end up in more of the shady area under the Palm trees.

EXCURSIONS We rented a Jeep Wrangler from across the street from AVIS, feel free to bargain, we did and saved $20 US per day, to have comparable rates with agencies in Playa Del Carmen without the hassle of taking a cab. Driving is safe but remember that you need to follow the rules of the road, even if local traffic isn’t; as police are more likely to pull you over. When re-feuling pay attention to the money exchange, the gas jockey tried to flip notes on me from a $500 peso and switching to a $50 note. I guess this could be said with any transaction.

A cab costs $5 US to Playa Del Carmen which is about a 20 minute walk or 3-4 km. Bringing American $$ is preferred by most shop keeps and you can definetely drive a harder bargain with green backs and saw first hand prices go up if you’re paying by pesos. For the Canadians out there: There is a Scotia Bank ATM in Playa Del Carmen which was convenient and seemed to offer a better exchange rate. I only paid by credit card to rental car agencies and tour operators. We would recommend seeing XEL-Ha as well as Tulum, if you’re thinking about seeing more ruins Coba is about a half our drive away from Tulum. Both were worth while and the drive to Coba was an experience.

There are some awesome roof top bars and night spots in Playa del Carmen, unfortunately I don’t remember their names ( I wonder why??). One had a large projector that played old black and white subtitled movies while your party would be seated on linen beds and very cool lounge music. Awesome places to unwind. If you want to dance we went to the RIU Tequila’s night spot "The Piniata" Everything was "all inclusive" with your RIU hotel package and we had a great time and whats best is that your only 2 minutes walking distance to the Playacar.

Our overall rating is a solid 4 and a half stars, you can’t go wrong for the price/value ratio. The RIU Palace which we toured with friends we met is definetely 5 stars, but I do not believe the service was any different.

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Debra, Steve and Kelsey — London, Ontario

August 2004

Hello Debbie. I would like to share our vacation experience at the Riu Playacar on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico with you and others that may be considering a resort in the Mayan Riviera.

My husband and I, who are both 45 (and very young at heart) and our 14 year old daughter vacationed at the all inclusive Riu Playacar from August 16th to 23rd/2004. We are a very active family, not much into the party scene but do enjoy a good time and are particular about where we lay our heads. Our main reason for choosing the Riu Playacar was that it was the smaller Riu in this area, so we felt it would be more personalized and geared better to our life style. We are not ones to go to another country and stay in a Holiday Inn style resort – we want culture, which the Playacar appeared to have from everything we read or viewed. Our travel agent had vacationed at the Playacar and highly recommended it plus the majority of comments on your website were positive. This resort is rated a 5 star by Sunquest/Alba tours and the Riu chain. We certainly agree with the rating – this is a spectacular resort and our only complaint is that a week was not long enough. .

Our flight from Toronto to Cancun via Skyservice was fantastic – no problems what so ever, the flight attendants were pleasant, friendly and displayed a good sense of humor. Coming home we did have a problem with a high pitched sound on the intercom system, that they could not fix but it was only noticeable when we were ready for landing. Once we landed in Cancun, Sunquest was there to greet us and direct us through Custom’s and onto the very comfortable, air conditioned bus that would be taking us to our resort. Corona was available on the bus for those, like my husband, who wanted to enjoy the culture immediately. Once at the Riu Playacar, Sunquest was again there to assist with our check in, etc. I can’t imagine doing all this on our own – Sunquest was so efficient.

Walking off the bus into the Playacar lobby was a nice feeling. It has a beautiful open lobby, very colorful with a nice Mexican decor, not too big or intimidating, ceramic tiles so clean, you could eat off them and a staff that welcomed us with big smiles. A porter walked us to our room, carrying our luggage in 100 degree temperatures, down a beautiful walkway from the main lobby, lined with palm trees and beautiful tropical greenery. We passed 5 pastel colored 3 storey villa’s with white trimming and white balconies until we reached the 6th and last, a very soft pink bungalow that would be our home for the next week. The porter carried our luggage up to the 2nd floor (no elevators) without as much as a sigh. The inside of the bungalow was very Mediterranean with an open look, ceramic tiles, beautiful wood hotel room doors, a nice tropical garden beside the staircase and again, very clean. As we did book our holiday late, there were no hotel rooms available, only a suite. We were reluctant to pay the extra for a suite but it turned out to be well worth it. The suites are larger than the hotel rooms with a living area, two double beds, huge walk in closet, hallway with a mini bar and liquor dispenser,a beautiful washroom with double sinks, shower and a door separating the toilet from the rest of the bathroom. I am very particular about bathrooms and this was probably one of the best that I have encountered in our travels. The balcony was huge with two chairs and a table, two full sized loungers and a handy dandy clothes line. We loved our location – the end of the villa’s, next to the pools and the open concept Beach Club restaurant and bar plus closer to the ocean. The only downfall was at the bar area, the nightly shows are held. Being so close to this area, the noise can be quite loud if you happen to be an early sleeper.

There are two pools – one with a swim up bar, that were just wonderful. There are many activities around the swim up bar pool for those that want to get involved or the second pool, which was quieter and more family orientated. Being there in August, the temperature was always around 100 degrees – one day 110. But it was not a humid heat like we get in Southwestern Ontario – it was just very hot. The pools as well as the ocean were very warm – probably 80/85 degrees. Just great. There were always plenty of loungers and we never had a problem getting 3 in a shaded or sunny area around the pools or the ocean. The towel service was great. The ocean area was picture card perfect – nice and clean with a white sandy beach and a paradise of palm trees. There were volley ball and soccer nets, which were used daily. The games were enjoyable to participate in or just watch as all nationalities joined in.

The food was wonderful, no complaints what so ever. All meals were buffet style and we never felt the food was repetitious. Each day they added something different to the buffet. There was something for everyone, hamburgers, the best ever french fries, fish and seafood, great roast beef or turkey with gravy, nicely cooked fresh vegetables, salads, assorted wonderful breads,mexican foods, pancakes, french toast, eggs make to order, great deserts and so on. Breakfast and dinner were served in the main restaurant off the lobby. Dinner you had to choose between a 7:00 or a 9:00 sitting and your table was reserved for your stay. We liked this. You had the same table, the waiters got to know you and again it felt very personalized. There was no dress code, which was nice as we do not enjoy dressing up on holidays. Lunch,all day food and snacks were served daily in the Beach Club restaurant. We were so very impressed by the Mexican people working in the eating areas and actually the entire resort. They are a meticulous people, always cleaning and willing to assist you. It was so refreshing to see people take pride in their surroundings and actually enjoy having you in their country. They really are a wonderful people.

The resort is across the street from a nice Mexican style shopping area. It was nice to stroll through this area in the evening and purchase souvenirs or clothing. Playa del Carmen was only minutes away by taxi and 5th Avenue is a wonderful shopping area for clothes, sports wear, swim wear and silver. We walked around the town to show our daughter more of the Mexican life style. You can also walk to the Riu Yucatan or Riu Tequila to use their facilities during the day or evening.The entire area is very safe and we never once felt in any danger.

There are many tours that you can take and Sunquest has a Rep in the hotel lobby each day to assist you. They are very knowledgeable and helpful. At the hotel, there is a great deal if you enjoy snorkeling. They take you to a natural coral reef for 1 1/2 hours for $30.00 US. There is just so much to do and see in this area.

As you can see, we loved this resort. The cleanliness, the personalized service we received from every staff member, the location, the food, everything was perfect. We are already planning our next vacation back to Mexico and don’t have any desire to try a different resort – the Playacar was our resort!!!

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Doug — London, Ontario

July 2004

January 4 to 11 of 2003, my wife & I (each age 50) vacationed at the Riu Playacar hotel about a 50 minute drive, 55 km (34 miles) south of the Cancun airport, on the Caribbean side of Mexico known as the Mayan Coast or Mayan Riviera (Yucatan Peninsula), not far from the town of Playa Del Carmen & facing the island of Cozumel. The Riu Playacar hotel is rated as a 5 star by Sunquest/AlbaTours, Riu hotel chain, myself & others. There are 4 Riu hotels in this complex & they are all 5 stars. Because of the time of year (just after kids go back to school from the winter break), we got a pretty good price of $1250. CDN each, for this all-inclusive (includes plane, departure fees, bus transfers, hotel, meals, drinks, taxes, gratuities, facilities, etc). We both enjoyed it very much & we would go back to this location again (see musty room smell exception below). It’s just too bad this really nice hotel is packaged with a not so good charter airline (Skyservice).

THE FLIGHT DOWN: We flew out of our tiny local London, Ontario, Canada airport which was quite convenient because it saved us having to drive 120 miles to Toronto & the parking. We arrived at the London airport a couple hours before our 3:30 PM scheduled flight only to find that the plane was going to be a couple hours delayed (no mention of this delay on the Skyservice phone message that’s supposed to tell you this BEFORE you leave for the airport), so after checking our luggage & getting seats assigned, we went & visited friends nearby. The final departure kept getting pushed back & was about 4 hours late, which the pilot blamed on various problems at the Cancun airport, having recently changed ownership. The London airport security were very reasonable & did hand check my carry on film & camera, rather than put it through the X-ray machine (which can fog fast film after a few passes, despite them telling you that it’s safe). There was only 1 gate at the London airport (the airport was under construction), so we had to walk out through the snow to where our plane was parked & none of us was exactly dressed for winter. While we were waiting to take off, the Skyservice flight attendant tried for 10 minutes to get all the TV monitors to drop out of the ceiling into position & when they finally did, only 12 of the 16 TVs would turn on. Next the pilot announced that they couldn’t get the door closed because the safety pin was frozen (I volunteered to pee on the pin to warm it up). Then the pilot announced that there would be a further delay until they could manage to get the engines started (reminded me of an old car I once had that wouldn’t start in winter). At this point people were volunteering to get out & help push the plane for a jump start 🙂 The headphone jacks in many seats did not work, one of the toilets apparently was plugged & the climate control wasn’t working well. The seats in this Skyservice Airbus 320 are not all that comfortable (small & narrow, with an uncomfortable metal bar part way up the seat back & lumpy cushion), but that should come as no surprise to anyone who has traveled on Skyservice charter airlines. The seatback at the bottom where it joins the cushion has nothing but a piece of cloth (no padding at all), so an inconsiderate person sitting behind you can easily cross their legs & keep kicking you in the butt periodically, which can be quite annoying. There were so many things wrong on this Skyservice Airbus 320 plane, it was getting to be comical. For the 4 hour delay, I think they gave us a complementary glass of wine. The flight to Cancun was scheduled at less than 4 hours & you set your watch back one hour because of a time zone change. By the time we arrived, got our luggage & cleared customs it was nearly midnight & the time share scammers who inundate tourists at the Cancun airport as they walk out to the buses, had already gone home. Our tickets said AlbaTours which is owned by Sunquest, but the Sunquest hostess at the airport bus didn’t know this & wasn’t going to let us on the bus. Eventually I was able to convince her that AlbaTours & Sunquest were the same company. The Sunquest bus hostess gives you your wristband which identifies you for the rest of the week as a guest. Since we were now 4 hours late & the dining room at the hotel was now closed, I asked the Sunquest hostess if she would phone ahead & make sure there was something for us to eat when when got there, which she did (a nice sandwich plate was waiting for us in our hotel room). It seems that even though the bus transfer is included in the package, the driver & assistant use the opportunity to try to make money by reminding you several times to tip them & to sell you Corona beer on the bus for $3. U.S. a bottle (if you wait until you get to the hotel you can drink all the beer you want at no extra charge). The total journey to get to Mexico seemed like an all day ordeal (thanks to Skyservice), but fortunately the rest of the week at the hotel (thanks to the Rui Playacar hotel) went very well.

THE ROOM: The Riu Playacar hotel is laid out in 3 story bungalows & is rated as a 5 star hotel (I would agree with that rating). It was what I considered a luxury hotel with a moderately large room, 2 double beds pushed together, & large bathroom with the nicest shower I’ve seen. There is a safe to lock your valuables in (no extra charge), which one day we forgot to lock & the maid honestly reported it to the management who kept our money in their vault & gave it all back to us (nice to see honesty for a change). The TV had enough satellite channels though we seldom watched it. We were able to get a second key from the front desk with a deposit. The electrical receptacles use the North American 115 Volt standard & plug type. There is a vestibule outside the door which helps minimize noise from the hallway. The room included, at no extra cost, a mini-bar fridge with bottled water, beer & soft drinks which were replenished every other day. Each day the maid shaped some towels into a cute doll. The only problem with the room was the air conditioning which was not central air & was moldy (musty) smelling. Because it was January we didn’t have the need to turn on the air conditioning constantly, but when we did turn it on, it was noisy & had an odd musty smell which tended to give me cold-like symptoms or chest congestion. There was a strong disinfectant smell in the room when we first arrived, which was probably to mask the musty smell from the air conditioner. We discovered throughout the week that even if we left the air conditioner on all day, it would cool properly, but it was not dehumidifying (damp clothes or bathing suits would not dry even after several days). Apparently the air conditioner wasn’t draining the water, so it didn’t dehumidify & the water sits in the catch pan & filled with bacteria (mold). What I was experiencing was bacterial asthma caused by the defective air conditioner. Some people aren’t as affected by this as others, but if you experience these conditions (no dehumidification, asthma & a musty smell), ask to have the air conditioner repaired (unplug the drain & disinfect), or have them move you to another room. We were on the first floor, but I’ve heard others say that the third floor isn’t as musty smelling. This musty smell in the room is reported often by other tourists to this hotel & is the only reason I would consider not going back. If you are an asthmatic or are prone to lung problems, pick another hotel. Don’t let anyone try to tell you that this musty smell is normal because it’s the tropics. This musty smell is not normal in most other 5 star hotels rooms in the Caribbean, especially in January.

ORIENTATION MEETING: The next morning there was an orientation meeting put on by the permanent host from Sunquest/AlbaTours if you want to attend. This guy was a native Mayan, very professional & imparted what we needed to know in a short time so we could get on with our day. He was fluent in Spanish, English, French, German & I think at least one other language.

THE POOL: Each of the 4 hotels at this Riu complex has one or more nice pools & you are allowed to go to any of them except the "Palace" which is a 5+ star hotel. Our Rui Playacar hotel had two very nice pools beside each other. One was waist/chest height with a swim up bar (very nice) & the other was slightly deeper for swimmers & scuba lessons. In January, both pools were COLD (guessing at about 24 – 25 C or 75 – 77 F), so not many people went in for long. The hotel manager said that none of the pools at this complex are heated because normally they don’t need heaters, but this was a colder than usual January. Frankly I thought that any 5 star hotel located around 20 – 21 degrees latitude should have pool heaters for the winter. It would have been much more acceptable if at least the Jacuzzi had been heated. I had my own shortie 1/8" wetsuit with me, so I was able to make more use of the pool than most others. You are each given a towel card which you can trade for a large beach towel at your pool (they run out some times late in the day). This card can be used at any of the Riu hotels in this complex. The weather in January was not too cold to lounge around the pool deck & just enjoy the scenery & the drinks. Even sometimes after dark the air temperature was still quite nice in January.

RESTAURANTS & BARS: There is a large air conditioned buffet style restaurant on the main floor of the hotel lobby. No reservations are required for breakfast or lunch, but for some strange reason reservations are required for dinner, as well as a dress code. You must book either the early (6:30 PM) or later (8:30 PM) dinner sitting & arrive at that same time each night & sit at the same table. Frankly I wished they would lighten up a bit, since myself & many others on vacation didn’t feel like conforming to a schedule, or dressing up for dinner especially if it was hot (which it wasn’t excessively hot in January). Despite the huge amount of food, the buffet doesn’t change much from day to day, so the food gets a bit predictably boring by the end of the week (I’m not a fussy eater). There is a very large open concept bar & snack bar very near the pool that is open during the day & late evening, but in the early evening is for specialty steakhouse & Mediterranean dinners, to give you a change of pace from the buffet (book really early…like 6:30 a.m.).  Nobody we met claimed to get sick from the food or drink at this Riu complex. Those who were sick said that it was probably because they arrived sick with flu-like symptoms, drank too much, got too much sun, or ate food at a restaurant off the Riu complex. Mexico is what I would call a developing nation, so you are much more likely to have higher sanitation standards at a 5 star Riu hotel than if it were in a third world nation such as Dominican Republic (we know from first hand experience).

THE BEACH: The Riu Playacar hotel is located on the beach, although the rooms are back a bit. The beach is beautiful, wide, long, has very nice sand & the water is nice for swimming (sandy bottom), though the ocean was rather cool in January, I’m guessing no more than about about 24 – 25 C or 75 – 77 F. Snorkeling isn’t a great idea near the beach because of all the boats, but it’s very easy to charter a snorkeling or scuba trip & the general area is one of the best in the world for underwater scenes (Cozumel Island is nearby). There are some topless women on the beach, but not as many as some destinations that cater more to European vacationers. The hotel’s scuba shop at the beach will loan you items like body board, mask/fins/snorkel, kayaking or paddle boats simply by showing your wrist band & they don’t always insist that you return them in 1 hour when it’s not busy. There were other motorized devices you could rent from beach venders such as personal water craft (jet ski for $25. U.S. per 1/2 hour). Staff did a good job of cleaning up the beach for the next day.

SCUBA DIVING & SNORKELING: Because some parts of this area of Mexico are excellent for scuba diving & snorkeling, each of the Riu hotels located on the beach has a scuba shop operated by Scuba Caribe resort dive centers, which rents equipment & books dive tours. Like all optional cost services that you purchase on the hotel premises, the scuba prices certainly weren’t cheap. However the scuba staff were VERY professional & the equipment was new & first class. Booking a similar scuba package in the town of Playacar would have been much less expensive (possibly less than half price), but I’ve heard of horror stories with old defective equipment & I’ve experienced unprofessional dive staff elsewhere, so I didn’t want to save money at the expense of increased risk to my life. A four dive scuba package including a single tank dive nearby on 2 separate days (includes boat ride to reef) & a 2 tank drift dive at Cozumel Island, including the taxi, the ferry to/from Cozumel, really nice dive boat, lunch, drinks & all dive equipment (tank, backpack, BC, regulator, depth gauge, weight belt & full 1/8" wet suit) cost about $218. U.S. cash as best I recall. Because I didn’t bring that much extra U.S. cash, I paid in pesos by VISA credit card, which cost about 10% more. The hotel knows that most tourists don’t bring much cash (they use credit cards) & most tourists aren’t very familiar with the exchange rate, so they play this little exchange game with prices. The price sheet is in U.S. dollars with the Mexican peso amount beside it, but the exchange rate they use for the peso amount isn’t a fair exchange rate (10% too high). Next time I go to Mexico, I’ll know to bring a lot more American cash & rely a lot less on my credit card. I’m a certified scuba diver but my wife isn’t, so she paid a little extra to come along on the Cozumel trip, only she & several others went snorkeling while the rest of us scuba dove & it was the highlight of her trip. Not every day is calm enough for snorkeling, but the staff were good enough to keep rescheduling us until we got a calm day & they were willing to refund the unused portion of my fees if we didn’t get good weather before we had to go home. That’s one of several reasons why I felt they were professionals, because I’ve seen so called "professionals" book dives in Florida when bad weather put lives at risk. Here in Mexico during one of the deeper dives that required a minor decompression stop at 15 feet for a few minutes while ascending, I discovered that I didn’t have enough lead weight on my belt now that the tank was nearly empty & I was fighting to stay down. The dive master spotted this & handed me a 3 pound lead weight under water which solved the problem. Now that’s what I call being on top of the situation like a professional dive master is supposed to be. Our dive master also made sure that none of us were beginners before taking us through some caves. My wife also felt that the dive staff made sure everybody who was snorkeling was helped in & out of the boat & was safe, happy & comfortable. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to spend any more money than necessary, but it was definitely worth the extra money to book these pros from Scuba Caribe right at the hotel.  BTW, while we were at Cozumel snorkeling, a freelance underwater cameraman came by & took individual pictures, which he has developed & ready if you want to buy them at the ferry dock when you leave the island, but we were the only ones in our group that noticed him at the ferry dock (pictures are quite good because he has an underwater flash). You have to keep your eyes open and watch for him as you start walking up the dock towards the boat, or you’ll easily miss him.

TOURIST SITES: There were often agents in the lobby of the hotel who had a variety of interesting tours available, but we felt they were quite expensive & a bit too regimented. We thought we might save some money & be able to custom tailor a day trip by renting a car to go where & when we pleased. We did that & it worked out as we had hoped for. The car rental available through the hotel lobby agent was outrageously priced, so we phoned Hertz in Playa Del Carmen who came & picked us up & drove us to their office where we rented a car for about half the price. Note that credit cards & your home auto insurance policy do not usually cover third party liability insurance in Mexico, so you will need to purchase this from the car rental company. We drove about an hour south on the Yucatan Peninsula to the Mayan pyramid at Tulum which involves walking about 15 minutes in the hot sun from the parking lot. They unfortunately only take Mexican pesos as payment to get in & they won’t accept American cash or credit cards (it’s a government run place). We had pesos in the car, but we weren’t willing to walk 30 more minutes to go get them so we left. The whole place at Tulum seemed like a tourist trap & not well run. We had to pay to use the toilets, which were dirty & had no seat. The tent venders outside Tulum were by far the most aggressive we’ve experienced. Several miles north of Tulum we found a really nice large souvenir shop (with a donkey outside) run by a family (probably not big enough for the bus tours to stop at) & my wife had a great old time buying all kinds of things & getting a good deal (another highlight of her trip). Next we went to Xel-Ha (pronounced Shell Haw) which is a large snorkeling lagoon (expensive) where cool underground fresh water meets warmer sea water. We had heard so many glowing reports about Xel-Ha, that our expectations were high, but it was really windy & that stirred up the water, which made for poor visibility. The water seemed polluted & stagnate to me (like a swamp with green moss) & I ended up with a sore throat from snorkeling at Xel-Ha for 2.5 hours. Being January the water was also cold enough to be uncomfortable (even though I was wearing a 1/8" shortie wetsuit) the fresh water on top being much colder than the sea water on the lower layer. We saw a small barracuda which is NOT amongst the fish species they advertise. We were quite disappointed with Xel-Ha compared to the beautiful snorkeling available from the shoreline on Cozumel Island for free (& warmer because it’s ocean water).

SUNRISE SUNSET: This part of Mexico is about 20 – 21 degrees latitude & on January 3rd in this area the sunrise was 6:25am & sunset 5:19pm (total 10:54 hours of daylight). Our latitude where we are from in London Ontario Canada is 43 degrees & the London sunrise on the same date was 7:56am & sunset 5:03pm (total 9:07 hours of daylight). If you like to take maximum advantage of the daylight hours, you may want to gear your schedule while on vacation to getting up early & going to bed early, especially in the winter.

THE LANGUAGE: The staff’s native language is Spanish, though most knew an adequate amount of English & other languages. As mostly English speakers, we did not find much of a language barrier in this part of Mexico. It wouldn’t hurt to take a vacationer’s Spanish course before you arrive, or learn at least a few important words & phases in Spanish. http://www.studyspanish.com

SMOKING: Note that unlike Canada & the USA where smoking is not permitted in most public places, Mexico allows smoking. We did not find this to be a really annoying problem like we did in the Dominican Republic, possibly because there were a lot less Europeans in Mexico, hence less smoking.

PHOTOGRAPHS: If you prefer to develop & print your exposed film so that it doesn’t get exposed in the security X-ray machine going home, there is a photo shop on the grounds of the Riu Yucatan hotel & another one right across the street in a small mall. Hotel photographers come to the pool, beach & lobby throughout the week & will take your picture with a parrot, iguana or Maruichi band, etc. These pictures are usually on display & for sale in the lobby the next day & after that in the photo shop at the Riu Yucatan, if you want them (no obligation).

LOCAL VENDERS: There is plenty of good shopping nearby in the town of Playa Del Carmen (you can usually barter), which is about a 30 minute walk away, 3 kilometers (1.8 miles), or a short taxi ride ($4 U.S. each way). There is also a small boutique mall across the street, but don’t expect to barter much except with the street venders. All places would accept American dollars (best to have) or Mexican pesos, but most wouldn’t accept credit cards.

INTERNET: If you want to check your email or do some internet surfing, the prices are much higher at the hotel (about $0.25 U.S. per minute), than they are at an internet cafe in the town of Playa Del Carmen (about $0.04 U.S. per minute).

TRIP BACK HOME: We were asked to be out of our rooms early on checkout day, for pickup by the bus at about 7:00 AM for the ride to the Cancun airport for our 10:10 AM flight. Although we asked the Sunquest host & the front desk if the Skyservice plane was on time & was told that it was, when we got to the airport we found that it was running about 2.5 hours late. Package charters like Sunquest tend to herd vacationers like cattle with little respect for their time. We could have enjoyed a leisurely breakfast & had a an hour or two at the pool, if Skyservice had bothered to let the local Sunquest host know that the plane was running late. The checked luggage security lineup at Cancun airport was very long & they looked inside everybody’s suitcase. Skyservice did weigh our luggage to see if it was over the allowed limit of 20 kilos (44 pounds) plus 4.5 kilos (10 pounds) carry on bag each. Going upstairs, to the personal check-in area, was a VERY long slow crowded herding of people up the staircase. The carry on security area staff would not listen to reason & refused to hand check my camera & film, claiming that the X-rays are safe for film (they are not). One of my wife’s 400 ASA films had clear evidence of X-ray damage. Once in the large Cancun airport waiting terminal, our tickets said that our boarding gate was #1, but the departure monitors said gate #6 for our flight so that’s where we went. There is no built-in paging loudspeaker system in the Cancun airport, but we faintly heard our name paged over a portable bullhorn & we were told that they were waiting for us at gate #2. I pointed to the departure monitor which still said gate #6, to which the man said "oh nobody pays any attention to those monitors, they’re never right anyway". We arrived at gate #2 where they loaded us in a bus & took us to the plane that was parked over at a different terminal, presumably because they couldn’t get a parking gate at the main terminal. It was pretty clear that the Cancun airport wasn’t a very organized place. Prices for food or drink in the Cancun airport terminal were outrageous. During the flight, the Skyservice Airbus 320 was too hot in the front part of the plane where we were seated & the air was EXTREMELY dry. Airbus 320 planes are not known for good climate control even under the best of circumstances & winter is not the best of circumstances because the air is normally drier. When we arrived home, the only plane parking gate was filled, so we had to walk through the snow to the terminal (most of us not dressed for winter). Canadian Customs clearance went fast & smoothly. The London Ontario airport has since finished it’s expansion renovation so I hope the number of flights to the Caribbean will increase as this was a convenient location to fly from without the hassles often associated with larger airports.

POST HOLIDAY: Even though I wasn’t sick on the holiday (except for the bacterial asthma caused by the defective room air conditioner), by the time I arrived home I did feel rather sick (not intestinal). My equilibrium was off a bit, I felt a bit clumsy, not 100% with it mentally, felt hot but had no abnormal temperature, had a bloody discharge when blowing my nose, had a significant cough & tight breathing, felt slightly achy with joins hurting & I felt very low on energy for about 7 – 10 days. Two days after arriving home I went to the doctor & had a blood test done which revealed a high white blood cell count, so my immune system was obviously fighting something. It could have been a combination of the mold in the room air conditioner, or snorkeling in the polluted water at Xel-Ha, or 4 scuba dives with several rough boat rides, or the poor ventilation & extremely dry air in the Airbus 320 (it’s drier in winter), or exposure to others who were sick, or the fact that I’m an old fart (50) who was as active in water sports as somebody half my age 🙂   Anyway, it’s not unusual to feel a bit lousy after a trip abroad, so factor than into your schedule.

Here are some interesting links for the area:
http://www.riu.com/?hotel=CAR&lng=uk RIU Playacar web site.
http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/mx.html about Mexico.
http://weather.cnn.com/weather/forecast.jsp?locCode=CUN weather.

written by Doug Hembruff DouglasGHembruff@execulink.com

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Debbie — from St. Louis Mo.

June 2004

. This was my second visit to Riu Playacar .I cannot believe how friendly the staff was . The food was excellent. I cannot say enough about the animation staff. What a great group of young people especially Sergio, Reyna, Eric and Juan. I was alone with the teenaged nephew and they made me feel like family. I will be comimg back next year and I hope to meet all of my new friends again .I enjoyed the Michael Jackson show . the Marachi , the Dance performances ,but most importantly I enjoyed just talking with the animation staff . The Hotel was wonderful and responsive to our requests. All in all an excellent adventure . Ill be back!

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Susan and Michael – Kelowna, British Columbia

February 2004

My husband and I spent two weeks starting January 20, 2004 at the RIU Playacar and enjoyed every minute of it. The first night we were given a room on the backside of building #3 and it was noisy so we asked to be moved. The next morning we were moved to building #5 – third floor with a view of the Carribean. It was wonderful. The staff at this resort are so friendly and helpful. We enjoyed the Animation Team staff and spent a great deal of time talking with them. We had only one rainy day in two weeks and the temperature was high 80’s – low 90’s. We found that this hotel was easy to get around- everything was close and because it is the smaller of the 4 RIU hotels we got to know more guests. The beach area is large and always lots of shade. We enjoyed massages on the beach one day – a real treat! We cannot say enough good things about the place and everyone we talked to had the same opinion. There was enough variety in the food daily to please most people. I could have lived on the fresh pineapple and the ice cream. We walked into Playa Del Carmen twice and enjoyed wandering around the town.

The last week we took Spanish lessons and Alex was lots of fun and we did learn quite a bit of Spanish. We also saw the shows every evening and appreciated all the hard work and long hours that the staff put in to make the guests happy. There are lots of activities at the resort and a variety of daytrips are available from your tour rep. We travelled AirTransit and Nancy was always in the hotel when she said she would be and was very helpful and asked for feedback about the trips.

We would definitely recommend the Riu Playacar and would go back again. We visited the other 3 Riu hotels but still like ours the best.

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Bonnie

February 2004

Just returned from this resort and it was wonderful. There were 80 people in the group and check-in went smoothly-thanks to Brenda @ the desk.

Food-I hated having to go in at assigned times. With everyone arriving at the same time your food got cold if you didn’t arrive and get right in line. We had 22 people sitting together and by the 3rd night Estefon had us all together @ 6:30, our preferred time. There was enough variety of food that I didn’t get bored with it. Ice cream e very night, try the coconut-it’s out of this world.

Entertainment- The nightly shows were good. The activities team had audience participation shows the first 2 nights we were there, and the rest of the week it was local performers. If you wanted to go dancing you had to go to the Tequilla or the Yucatan down the street. Got really wet one night running down to the Tequilla. Would recommend going to the Mambo Cafe in town if you really want to see what dancing’s all about- $25 to get in but you drink anything you want and they’re open until 4:30 AM.

Activities Team- I can’t say enough about them. They included us in everything. There were afew activites around the pool and on the beach, not as many as other places we’ve stayed. We didn’t participate in any events until our last full day there and some of us even won prizes. Look Sergio up for us and say hello, until the end of the week he made leaving this resort the hardest. You’ll know who he is by the smile on his face and the shake of his hips- very enthusiastic!

The beach is quite a walk but who doesn’t need exercise after all that eating. Some in our group took some dives from the dive shop here and were very pleased.

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Shirley — Canada

October 2003

My daughter and I just got back from our first mother daughter trip to mexico.. We flew with Air transat. Our tour guide, Julie didnt even greet us at the air port, and no air conditioned bus for us, we had windows wide open and the curtains blowing in the wind..It took us about 1.45 hours to get to our resort.. Not the 45 mins like it said in the travel brochure.. However, arriving at the resort, was the biggest and most wonderful surprise ever.. Resort and the food, the cleanliness of the rooms, the staff, the water, it was more glorious than the magazines, took my breath away,.The water temp was so warm and the snorkeling was fun right there at the resort.

The buffet was all we needed, food was so wonderful, cant say enough about this wonderful place.. Although, the ******* were not friendly at all. Oh well, I said good morning to anyone I met on the path way, most didnt even bat an eye, oh well they missed out on a nice person there…

WE took the ferry to Cozumel for the day and that was great, the shops there were great, vendors were a bit more pushy than in Playa Del carmen.. We also went to Tulum and to xle ha(spelling) it was great. the ruins were awesome and the snorkeling was great, seen so many exotic fish.

We would definatley go back to this gem of a place… Any further questions, email me at Shataki@nethop.net… We were there from Sept 21st to the 28th… Was humid and hot, but we adjusted… Take care and please if you are going South, consider this wonderful place..

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Mark

August 2003

My wife and I along with our 18 year old daughter and 7 year old son, took our first trip to the Cancun area and our first all-inclusive in mid-July. The Riu Playacar is one of four Riu resorts in the Playacar “gated” community just south of Playa del Carmen. This resort is rather small with about 400 rooms in six buildings that line the central walkway that runs from the reception/front desk/main dining area to the entertainment / snack & secondary dining area; pool area and finally the beach. The grounds are lush and well maintained. A main bar separates the entertainment pavilion from the snack / secondary dining area. The two swimming pools are separated by a bridge – the “upper“ pool is more quiet with a zero entry ramp. The “lower” pool has a swim-up bar and is where most of the aquatic activities take place. Both pools are about 4’ deep throughout. ROOM: The sleeping area of a regular “run of the house” room is about the size of a standard motel room. The bathroom area is larger and separated by a closeable curtain. The toilet area is separate also. The large and tall shower (about 4’ x4’x8’) is fabulous with a height adjustable hand held shower head. No “water-saving” shower heads here, just a strong shower that is very invigorating. A large closet is located in the bathroom area and also houses the safe. An in-room liquor dispenser is there as well along with a stocked mini-bar. Expect Corona, bottled water, mixers and soft drinks – in bottles. The soft drinks were varied during out week-long stay. Our mini-bar was not stocked every other day as promised although I’m sure we could have called to have it stocked if we felt if was necessary. The floors throughout were tiled with beautiful Mexican tile. The beds were very hard and we found them difficult to get used to. The A/C and ceiling fan kept the room cool even during the hottest part of the year. We occasionally noticed the musty smell but it certainly wasn’t that objectionable in the room we were in – we used the candles and plug-ins. A 19’inch TV had a number of English language channels but certainly not what you would expect in the States. We were on the first floor of building six – located closest to the pool area and we faced out to the adjoining resort – a “garden view”. You can go to this web site to get 360 degree views of the rooms and resort: http://playacarallinclusive.com/riu_playacar_virtual.htm.

FOOD: We enjoyed the variety of food served on the buffet. The second “snack” restaurant doubles as the reservation only Mediterranean / Steak restaurant at dinner time. We ate at the main restaurant at breakfast and dinner and had our lunch at the “snack” restaurant that was near the pool and beach. The meats and fish were cut small and thin and everything was basically fried. Others have said that after a while all the food on the buffet starts tasting the same. We do not concur. Although we gravitated to our favorites, there was a good variety of food served; even though it was often prepared differently that we were used to. American staples such as pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers were always available. Fresh pasta was available in the evening and made to order omelets were prepared in the morning. Hand dipped ice cream was available at night and the soft serve ice cream in the second restaurant tasted homemade. Corona was on tap in the dining area. The soft drinks tasted overly sweet to us. Remember the glasses are very small so take an insulated mug.

BEACH: Every time I see the Caribbean, I am taken back by the absolute beauty of the turquoise water. The swimming area (about 100 meters wide and 80 meters deep) is marked off by rope and buoys to allow the water craft access to the beach and space to run. The water is very, very clear and we experienced very little seaweed. The beach area is cleaned every morning. I have swam in swimming pools that were dirtier than the ocean here. The sand is just slightly lighter and grainier than light brown sugar. The surf was pretty calm with waves reaching a maximum of two feet while we were there. The island of Cozumel blocks much of the larger swells. Plenty of loungers were always available on the beach and at the pool area. The Riu Tequila is across the road and doesn’t have a beach so many of the guests from this much larger resort head over to the Riu Yucatan to use the beach and daytime activities leading to much bigger crowds. All Riu guests can use the other resorts except for the Riu Palace which is an upscale resort. We went to the Tequila one day and found it crowded. Although the Playacar is nearly always full, it never felt crowded. The manager told us that 40% of the guests were from North America and about 60% were from Europe. I would have flipped those percentages. We saw a number of Germans with a few Swiss, French and Australians. Expect to see topless sunbathing, I’d estimate 5% of the women wer partially nude – you’ll see at least 5-10 each day and no, I didn’t count! My 7 year old son did not apparently notice, I doubt that would be the case if he was a couple of years older.

ACTIVITIES: The kid’s club wasn’t much for my son. They have a number of daily activities available if you want to participate, but they are not pushy. The nightly entertainment was good and the Michael Jackson Show was fabulous. Non-motorized watercraft was readily available. Try the wave runners – you will enjoy. Some snorkeling is available 25 meters off shore at the resort down beach. Going to Cozumel is much better. We went to Xel Ha and would highly recommend. Get your snorkeling equipment at “Snorkel 3” and get your lockers and towels next door. Take the shuttle up to the mouth of the underground river. You can then send your shoes, sunglasses, etc. back to Snorkel 3 in a secure bag. Look for fish around the rock outcroppings. The main, larger area of the estuary doesn’t have many fish except around the perimeter so spend the bulk of your time in the river. This was the vacation we wanted, quiet and relaxing. Overall, we were very pleased and would recommend this resort.

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Tammy — USA

July 2003

We just got back from 1 week at the RIU Playacar. Our very first trip with Apple. We did not have corona’s on the bus the day they pick us up at the airport. But it was a nice ride in a nice clean bus to RIU Playacar. The resort was very beautiful and clean and the young people that work there could not be any nicer. So helpful and spoke English very well.

We thought the food was great and different things to eat each day and night. The drinks were weak but they would give you more if you asked. The people at the bars were very nice. We did tip them too.

We did have to ask for wash cloths more than once. Not sure why but they would bring them. The frig in the room was nice because it was very hot and we took water with us allot.

Sorry to say the Apple rep. that we were told would be there all the time was NOT!! We could not find him for 3 days and we asked other rep. in our resort and they had not seen him. We did see him long enough to book 2 things then did not see him anymore.

The Playacar is smaller than the other 3 Riu but that was nice because not line for food or drinks and could find a place at the beach easy. The stores across the street were nice also. When we go back I would stay here again!!

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RIU Playacar – Playacar Dennis & Ria — Kelowna, B.C.Canada

March 2003

Just returned from a 2 week ( Feb.15 – Mar.1 ) from the Riu Playacar. We had actually booked with Riu Tequila but when we arrived we were upgraded to the Playacar which is on the beach. No complaints there. The trip started out great as we were bused to resort and the corona’s were already being consumed. After a long lineup at immigration and customs the beer tasted great. Check-in went smoothly and our room was very nice. The musty odor which I had read about was there but quickly overlooked. The room was very clean and our maid service ( Dejanria ) was excellent as she would leave figures made out of towels and also left flowers. Tips were given frequently as she did a wonderful job.

The resort grounds are beautiful, clean and well maintained. The pool area was also nice. The beach is beautiful and plenty of loungers to be had. We walked everyday either one way or the other. The water is so turquoise and warm, just like the pictures. We usually spent the morning on the beach after our walk then to pool after lunch. Life was sure tough for those two weeks.

The food was good, but we did get tired of it after two weeks. The drinks were good but a little weak. Waiters and waitresses excellent.

The bartenders, Osvaldo, Nelson, and Victor were wonderful. Osvaldo would always greet us with the canadian " EH ". We met alot of people there and had alot of great laughs. We are going to try and keep in touch via internet. The animation team did a wonderful job to please the guests.

We took a taxi into Playa Del Carmen a few times with a couple whom we met on bus to resort. We got along well, had many laughs and tequila slammer’s ( sometimes too many ).

Took the bus to Cancun for the day. Cancun is beautiful but too busy. Would rather stay in Playa Del Carmen. We also took a 1/2 day tour to Tulum. All I can say is awesome. It is breathtaking on the cliff overlooking the Caribbean Ocean. We could have stayed there the whole day.

We had use of all Riu resort facilities which we managed a few times. The Riu Playacar is much more open and not so crowded. Would we go back? You bet. We had a great time and hope to go back again in the near future.
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RIU Playacar – Playacar Boston — USA

March 2003

My husband and I are traveling to Punta Cana this March and after reading many informative reviews about the Riu resort we’ll be staying at, I thought I should return the favor by reviewing the Riu Playacar (where we stayed for 8 days in January 2002). We went through the vacation outlet store located in Boston. We always use vacationoutlet because they are 95% dependable and friendly. We took a charter flight from Boston to Cancun. The flight was okay but one cannot expect too much from charter flights. they’re usually packed and very little leg room. Cancun airport was the most unenjoyable experience of the trip. There were lots of flights getting in at around the same time and we waited about 1 hour just to go through customs. Once we got out of customs area, our transfer was waiting for us. We hopped on to an air-conditioned, spacious bus and headed off to our destination.

Check in was fairly uneventful. We were traveling with 4 others and were able to get rooms close-by. We were impressed by the cleanliness of the rooms but it did smell a bit musty. The rooms are very nice though and we cant complain about the rooms. The fridge was always stocked with drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).

We really enjoyed the Riu playacar because it had a quaint, relaxed feeling. We visited the Riu Tequilla and it seemed more geared toward the college crowd. We thought the Yucatan was nice but it was bigger and the beach was definately more crowded. We got a ticket to visit the Palace and it was absolutely breath-taking! Wow! I’ve asked my husband to take me there on our 10th year anniversary!

The food was good. The menu stayed the same throughout our stay but we didnt mind. I’m not a picky eater and I like spicy food items. The salsa was really good. The drinks were okay — kind of watered down.

We were very happy with the condition of our beach, especially after seeing the beaches at Viva Azteca and at the other hotels. Although the Azteca was right next door to us, their beach was badly eroded. There was a drop into the water due to the erosion and many of the hotels on the strip had eroded beaches. I’ve got to say that the Playacar had the best beach!

We went to Playa del Carmen a couple of times and got lots of silver at an affordable price. I got a silver mercedez key chain for my husband for under $30, which was a fabulous deal, considering stainless steel flimsy key chains at the dealer costs about that much. I also had some churros while at the market and it was THE best I’ve ever had in my life. Dont miss out if you get a chance to go to playa del carmen. The sales people out side the stores are very persistent and sometimes rude to you if you dont buy something but i’ve been to other carribean countries and experienced worse.

The high light of our trip was our excursion to Xcaret. Please please go! The place is amazing!!! Lots of history and beauty.

Overall, the trip was enjoyable, staff very freindly and hard working. Pls tip them well as I hear that they make very little and work long long hours. 🙂

I would love to go back to the Mayan Riviera. Next time, I think I’d like to stay at the Riu palace and take a trip to Chichen Itza!

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