We stayed at the RIU Palace March 8-15, and cannot say enough good things about this place. We have stayed at the Palace before, in Riviera Maya, and while we loved that one too this is the one we will go back to! I honestly cannot undestand any of the negative reviews I have seen posted!
Arrival: Luckily we had been pre-warned by our friends who had been to Punta Cana before about the airport situation. While it was fairly seamless, DO NOT put your bag down. If you do, you run the risk of people who are not really airport workers picking it up and carrying it for you – then expecting a tip. Once we walked through that crowd of men at the bottom of the ramp, we found our tour company easily and were pointed straight to our bus that took us to the hotel. It was about a 35 minute drive. Check in was very fast. We arrived around 1:30 and were ushered straight to our room, but not before we were given a mango margarita, which was tasty!
Rooms: Rooms: We were given Room 1162, which faced the fountains and was right in the middle of the hotel. We paid a little extra per person when we booked the trip to make sure we weren’t facing the back of the hotel, like we did in Mexico. If you want a nice view, it’s worth it. (The back of the hotel faces construction basically.) Yes, the room smells a little musty when you walk in, but you are in the tropics where it is damp, so what can you expect? By the second day, you can’t even smell it anymore. I do however; suggest packing some fabric softener sheets in your luggage to keep it from picking up that musty scent. I put it in the drawers and left some in my luggage which helped alleviate that problem. When we walked into our room, we noticed it had two queen sized beds, but before we could ask where our 8 yr old daughter would sleep, they were back in the room with a cot for her. Each room had the typical RIU mini-bar and stocked fridge. We told housekeeping on the first day to keep the beer coming and gave her a tip – needless to say – she made sure my husband had extra beer everyday. The air conditioning worked the entire time that we were there, and kept the room nice and cold!
Restaurants and Bars: Restaurants: While it is true that people line up before 8am to get their seating choice in the ala carte restaurants, it’s slightly unnecessary. I would stroll over there around 9 and there was no line and never really problem getting a seating time. That said though, we did only try two of the ala cartes while we were there, because we were with my 8 year old daughter. The menus for each place were good, but with only 5 or so entrée choices, it was dicey when it came to her. Breakfast: I am not normally a breakfast eater, but the buffet there was excellent. They have so many different items to choose from that you couldn’t go wrong. Lunch: This was my least favorite meal of the day. Nothing spectacular-burgers, nachos, pizza, lamb chops, some kind of beef stew, etc. The salad bar wasn’t anything great either. I will say that one day they had Paella and that was outstanding. If only they had that everyday! Dinner: I will say that the Italian restaurant was outstanding (and I come from a hard core Italian family). Their food rivaled anything I have had in NJ/NYC. They had a hot and cold antipasto bar that was excellent. It’s hard to find a place that cooks calamari correctly, but they did! The only slight disappointment I encountered was the steakhouse. Their food was alright, but if you are in the mood for a big juicy steak, you will be disappointed. I had the rack of lamb and had no complaints on that. When I go back there though, I will avoid the steakhouse. Everyone else raved about the gourmet restaurant and said the Chilean Sea Bass was outstanding. I heard the Japanese steakhouse was decent. Most nights, again due to our daughter, we ate at the buffet and were never disappointed. They have different food every night, with theme nights 4x a week. We missed the first “Dominican Night” when we arrived (unfortunately we were at the steakhouse) but heard all about the giant lobsters they were serving. We did make DN later in the week and they had sea bass that night, which was excellent. If anyone tells you the buffet isn’t fantastic, then I don’t know what they possibly could have eaten there. The selection is wonderful!
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Beach/Pool: I do suggest getting down there early and getting your towels. Most people would set theirs up on the pool chairs, but I didn’t bother with that. I headed straight for the beach loungers each morning and picked our spot. Not that you would have a hard time finding a chair, but we wanted to sit close to the water, yet near the smaller palm trees. The beach is a little crowded, but it didn’t bother us. There is drink service. We learned years ago to bring big insulated cups with us, and have them filled at the pool bar on the way to the beach. The waiters would get us refills in them though, if we asked. Each day around 4, we would go up to the pool to unwind a little more before dinner. It’s a really nice sized pool, and the pool bar is great. By the way, if you throw them a few dollars in the morning, they will remember that and make you some strong drinks all day long! There is entertainment at the pool during the day, as well as games. We chose to return to a RIU Palace because they have a no spring breakers policy, and while there are families there, it is not over-run by screaming kids, like I have witnessed at other hotels.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Activities off-site: This is the only bad spot on our trip. We signed up for the quad adventure, and are sorry that we did! Other tours had 25 or so people on them…ours had the 3 of us and a tour guide…NOT GOOD! For $180, we were driven in the middle of nowhere through a shanty town, where he would stop every few minutes in an effort to get us to buy things from the locals who would have a stand set up in the middle of nowhere. My husband is a BIG guy (and a cop) and we didn’t feel safe at all. We were consistently harassed throughout the tour, and treated poorly if we chose not to buy their wares. After that harassment, we flat out refused to even look at what they had. It was absolutely ridiculous. I can’t forget to mention that I got to ride through a garbage dump, and the guide, who obviously had no knowledge of quads, got himself stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere. Some farmer had to come along with a tow-rope to pull him out. When he did, they got into a nice little argument because he wanted money for that. It was absolutely ridiculous. We were going to go on the catamaran/ snorkeling adventure, and really wish we had. That will be our choice next time, for sure!!
Other Comments: Staff: The people that work for this resort are top notch and all work their tails off! The waiters at the buffet spoiled my daughter all week long. They decorated our table with flowers each morning and night, all made it a point to come speak and joke with her, and hung up the pictures she drew for them. If you go to the buffet, ask for Marino. He is far and away the best employee they have there! We went to the plaza each night and were treated like gold by the outside manager, Alejandro. He would have a table for us, no matter how crowded it was, and always had our drinks ready for us. *One thing I need to say here is to PLEASE tip the staff!!! I could not believe how many people I saw who didn’t do that all week long! I know it’s all-inclusive, but these people work HARD. A few dollars goes a long way for them – and they are unbelievably grateful when you do. Nightlife: As I said, each night we would go sit in the plaza for some drinks, music and a show. It’s really a great, laid back atmosphere. The bands would play at night, and many people would get up and dance. It’s a good chance to show your skills if you take a dance lesson at the beach during the day. Twice a week they bring the vendors in. If they give you a price, go at least half of what they are asking. You can always shop and barter at Caribbean street too. No matter where you buy from, they all have the same stuff. The nightly shows were pretty good. They have Grease, Las Vegas Night, a Michael Jackson impersonator, Latin dance shows, and a magic show. If you’re expecting a Broadway production, try to remember that you’re on vacation. I personally thought they were pretty good. Everything wraps up there around 12am, but there are bars inside the hotel and a disco at one of the other RIU’s as well as a casino. Be forewarned about the casino, I heard nothing good about it. Other comments: Aside from the tour disaster, we had a fantastic week at the RIU and are already planning our return trip for next year. I highly recommend this resort, especially if you are looking to just relax and enjoy the sun!