This is only the second time I have ever travelled on an all inclusive holiday, last year opting for a less than admirable hotel in Hisoronu, Turkey, and was quite keen not to repeat the experience. This year, I was persuaded by the group who I holiday with to give it a go, as one of the couple's had stayed at a Riu hotel in Dominican Republic. I have to say that it completely changed my perspective of an all inclusive holiday, but also really put a light up to how poor most European and Turkish all inclusive holiday's are by comparison.
We arrived on the 12th June 2012, after an 11 hour flight. The 11 hour flight was the worst thing about the holiday, and for those of you not great at flying, it might just be a few hours too long. One of the couple's in our group really really struggled with the flight, and felt quite ill afterwards - drama queens!
For me, the flight was less unpleasant than I expected, given that Thompson's offered a reasonably acceptable entertainment package for only £5, and served up food that wasn't entirely inedible.
Having arrived in Mexico, there was an absolute calamity at the airport. You do have to fill in a form on the plane that you then return to immigration when leaving the country along with the princely sum of £50 (800 pesos). It transpired that we then had to fill in another form once through customs- nobody mentioned this - and it caused no end of problems with people pushing each other out of the way to get through, huge queue's of people filling in forms with no explanation as to why, and generally some of the worst manners in human beings I have ever witnessed. Just wanted to mention this to get it out of the way for anybody travelling to Cancun.
The hotel was absolutely stunning. You enter a huge reception area, where you are served instantly with a small refreshment and your handed your keys with very little waiting or fuss, and your cases are whisked away to your room on your behalf within the hour. We were then ushered through the complex which is massive, and shown to our rooms which were far enough out of the way that we were never disturbed by the entertainment, loud holiday makers or any other disturbances at ungodly hours. The rooms were adequate, although not as good on the eye as everything else within the complex.
Our room was a double room, although it housed 3 of us. I was slightly irked by this. The holiday cost us approximately £1,300 each for a fortnight, so I at least expected not to be sleeping in, what appeared to be, a hospital cot in the corner of the room. The bed's my two companions slept in looked amazingly comfortable. Mine, not so much. A small complaint though. The room was cleaned every day, and not just wiped over, but properly cleaned with fresh towels, fresh bedding, and I even walked in when the maid had pulled all of the furniture out to clean under it. There were also optics in the room which allowed us to have the drink of our choice before going out at night, without having to take it with us. Beers and soft drinks were replenished in the fridge every day.
There were 3 restaurants of choice within our complex, although I have to point out that our arm bands also allowed us to use the facilities and restaurants of the other 2 complex's across the road, both of which sat directly on the beach. The first restaurant was a huge buffet bar that just about catered to every whim. Seafood, every meat known to man, vegetarian options, Mexican, Spanish, Chinese, Indian; all cooked freshly and on the menu every night. There were no shortages of choice for breakfast and dinner. Lunch was served at the pool-side restaurant, again buffet options, but later turned into a swankier steak restaurant that you had to book in the morning. The rib-eye that I was served was the nicest steak I've ever had, and cooked exactly as I ordered it. The third restaurant was an oriental option, servicable but less varied than the other two. The only downside is that you had to dress at least smart but casual in the evening for dinner at any three of the restaurants, something not entirely pleasant in the soaring heat unless you have gone with plenty of linen shirts etc.
The pool also had a swim-up bar, where many of us spent our lazier days. Although I dont drink alcohol during the day, there was no shortage of fanta being passed up the bar by the extremely attentive bar people. As per every member of staff at the complex, they were friendly and attentive regardless of whether you tipped them a tenner or tipped them into the water. It was fairly obvious that they work for their tips, but the more miserly people around the bar were treated with the same courteousy and attention to service as the people who were happy to give their appreciation in cash. What was also notable is that all drinks were included 24 hours a day at any open bar in the hotel, so there was no need to run back to your room to fetch extra cash once the bar shut its free doors.
There was also a night club available on the complex, but we refrained from going in there. It looked as if the average age was 12 and a half. I still enjoy the occasional night out clubbing, but as the youngest of the 18 strong group, I dont really feel like getting down with the kids. I opted for more low key evenings, with the animacion entertainment group, who provided some of the best hotel entertainment I've ever seen. Everything from a carribean night, to a re-enactment of Grease (which I must say was the only pitiful element of the entertainment the entire fortnight I was there), through to a brilliantly done recreation of Mamma Mia. There was also a sports bar that would stay open 24 hours, with pool tables etc, that was turned into a small arena for football matches. On those occasions, we were deafened by some very loud English, Spanish and German supporters. Note that the only volume from us scots usually came outwith football match times.
There was also plenty of daytime activity on the grounds, with the complex housing various different sports equipment. The entertainment team are there from 10am to amuse the kids, get the adults in for a bit of a work out, and basically shake those hangovers out of you in preparation for the next night of partying, or quiet socialising, whichever grabs you. I have to say that aside from the entertainment itself, the entertainers were extremely personable and, on one of the extremely torrential days, sat with us and had other people's kids up on the stage for dance practice. They were really excellent all-rounders.
About ten minutes walk from the complex is Fifth Avenue, which is the Main Street of shops in the area. Plenty of fun can be had bartering with the guys down there, although some were slightly aggressive, and we were offered (half-jokingly, half-not) some questionable products that I dont think the older crowd would have enjoyed too much. All in all though, most were friendly, and it wasn't as scary as many scaremongers would have believe. You just have to be able to say no, not allow yourself to be bullied into buying anything, but most of us have had experience with pushy sales people on the phone or at the front door, so saying no to these guys will be a push over for most of us now.
There were plenty of other trips offered, and we opted to go with the guys down the town rather than the hotel reps. We were told it wasn't as safe with those guys, but I dont think thats the case. For instance, a couple of our hotel paid £85 to go to the all inclusive evening at Coco Bongo, Playacar's premier night club, and we managed to get our guy down to £42 each for the same all inclusive package. The evening was amazing, and CB is the best club I've been to in years. Entertainment is laid on thick and heavy with an ongoing cabaret and acrobatic show that is interactive with the audience. There was also plenty of ground level entertainment and the service again was second to none. Just tip your waiter when you go in and he'll keep those drinks coming all night, at no additional cost.
We also took part in the jet ski's and parasailing expiditions that were five minutes along the beach from where we were. Both were amazing ventures, although the parasailing was shorter than I would liked it to have been. I wouldn't normally have tried something like that, as I'm a bit of a danger stranger, but the fact that you go up in two's made it more enticing, and once I was up there, I was absolutely thrilled by the experience. There are plenty other water sports that you can enjoy as well. All of these are available on the beach at cut prices. Again, I would say go with the guys down there or down at the local sales offices, as you can get it for almost half the price of the hotel rep's without any more or less safety guarantee.
The last of our trips, and one that I was most excited about, were the Mayan Ruins. The trip turned out to be less exciting than I thought it might be, although the swim in the underground lagoon definitely made it worthwhile. I have seen many more spectacular ruins than those one's on those grounds, and there seemed to be something staged about the whole affair. That said, it wasn't entirely unpleasant, and the visit to where the Mayan people themselves lived was quite education if not a little over-explained by our enthusiastic tour guide.
All in all, the holiday was a blast, with good company, good food, and plenty of drink available, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The journey itself was the only drawback to what turned out to be one of the best holiday's I've been on. We even got treated to the occasional tropical thunder storm and torrential downpour but, being scottish, we barely flinch at such downpours. Our summer's wouldn't be our summer's if we weren't drenched at least 3 times a week. At least this rain was still warmish, and served to cool us down slightly. The hotel was stunning, the service was unquestionably good, and the food was the best holiday food I've ever eaten. It made me squirm when I returned home and didn't find a banquet awaiting me in the fridge.
I have just returned from the Riu Tequila in Mexico's Playacar and it was my second visit, the last visit was 3 years ago and although I had a great time recently it was not as good as last time. Right I will get the negatives out of the way, there are only a few minor points, they have kind of spoiled the beach a bit with putting large sand bag (whales) in the sea although it sounds like they didn't have much choice due to the hurricanes, also you have to get up at 6:45 in the morning if you want to book any of the restaurants and they no longer serve Corona in the bar or have it in the mini bar. Apart from these small points it is an excellent hotel in a great location, you can use the facilities of the other Riu's in the area and it is only a short ride in a taxi to Playa Del Carman. Overall the food was good and the lush green surroundings were very nice. The pool area was relaxing apart from the entertainment team doing there activities, the beach across the road was good and there are ample sun beds.
I don't think I will be going back a third time but I would still advise people to go if they want to stay in Mexico.
In my 30 years on the planet I reckon I've stayed in about 100 hotels now and I can honestly say that the best I have ever stayed in is the Riu Tequila, located in the Playacar resort on Mexico's Yucatan coast. I stayed here in 2004 and booked through Kuoni for a two week stay.
The transfer from Cancun international airport takes around 8o minutes on Highway 307. Being with Kuoni all our connections were so well organised. I can still remember the feeling of stepping of the plane for the first time and being hit by a wall of humid warm air. I can still remember walking under the massive Mexican flag in the passport control area of the airport. Meixco was my first trip outside Europe and for me everything felt so exotic. On the short drive to the hotel I got bored of watching the eagles hover by the roadside and of the endless green vegetation of the jungle forests.
At the hotel we were greeted with a massive marble lobby which was open to the elements on two sides. The service through the check in process was rapid and we were soon following the bell boy to our rooms. All the rooms are in two levelled apartments all with views of the gardens. Our room was handily close to the main restaurant and just a short walk to the pool.
The room itself in all honestly was pretty basic. It had an ample balcony with a great spot for watching the lizard life in the garden (large 3-4 foot iguanas patrol the grounds). The bed was a large and comfortable double bed. We had a television with a handful of US news channels. The shower and toliet were both clean and in good order. We had optics in the room with free drinks (tequilla and vodka on tap 24 hours a day - messy).
So why then, you are thinking, is it the best hotel. Well, firstly the food. We were all inclusive which in some places gets a bit tiresome with the same options rotated for two weeks. Well not here. Firstly the hotel has three speciality a la carte restaurants which we could include in our all-inclusive use twice each on our stay. One was a seafood place and the food here was absolutly perfect. The other was a Japanese / Chinese with the food cooked on massive stoves in front of you. The show the chefs put on is great theatre and again the food just about as good as I have eaten anywhere.
Back to the main restaurant though. For breakfast there was all manner of options from the unhealthy artery clogging bacon, sausage and eggs, to continental cheeses and meats to my favourite option of tonnes of healthy, delicious, fresh and exotic fruit. Every morning for the two weeks for breakfast I has the freshest mango, papaya, pineapple, jack fruit, bananas and all manner of other fruits. We can get these in the UK, normally frozen and shipped from Spain or from some far flung country via a long haul flight. In Mexico the fruit is so, so fresh it almost tastes like different types of fruit. Actually, I'm not a saint and I did mix this with freshly cooked pancakes and maple syrups some of the days.
From breakfast where next. Well the days we weren't out and about following the way of the Maya we were either on the beach - a short walk to a short golf buggy ride to get too. Or we were (more often than not) by the pool. It would have seemed rude not to be here with the all inclusive beer at the swim up bar waiting to be tapped into. The pool bar and surrounds offered great sun bathing opportunties for me and also great shade for my wife and was the perfect place to relax and enjoy the perfect Mexican weather. The staff at the swim up bar were only too happy to help and really friendly. The swim up bar also had a restaurant (obviously out of the pool) which, throughout the day served up burgers, chips, pasta and all day round, help yourself ice cream. I'm fairly sure that everything a human being needs to survive could have been obtained without walking more than 10 meters.
The food at night was great too. Whilst not perhaps the fine dining experience of the specialist restaurants, the food was varied and well cooked. They have theme nights too to give greater variation so look out for the BBQ nights or the Italian and Mexican nights.
The beach for the hotel is a short golf buggy ride away through the hotel's sister hotel, the Riu Yucatan. Again, with the all inclusive at the Tequilla we could use the facilties at the Yucatan through the day so didn't need to leave our beach side sun lounger for long. The sand of the beach is the stereotypical Caribbean white and the sea that stunning azure blue.
At night and also for the energetic, the hotel has the Animation team. By day they run volleyball sessions, salsa and pool games. By night they put on various shows. Some of them really good...some of them really bad in fact so bad that they become unmissable. The Michael Jackson show stands out as a must see! To give the staff their due they work very long hours and night or day are so approachable and friendly. The night shows become a staple for us, obviously aided and abetted by copious amounts of cerveza. There is also a small night club which has thumping Euro beats playing most nights and a mostly American crowd. Whilst the music and djing are pretty poor the atmosphere is nice and friendly.
On returning to our room we not only found that it was cleaned everyday but also our fresh towels were arranged into animal shapes with petals for eyes. We had most notable an elephant which was so good I took a photo (how Japanese of me!!).
Some people we over heard liked the resort so much they never ventured beyond the gates for the full length of their stay!!!!! Why would anyone do that?? Mexico is such an amazing country to visit. Close and easy enough to get to from the Riu resort complex are Tulum (previously reviewed on Dooyoo) an amazing beach with incredible Mayan ruins and Chichen Itza is only around 120 miles away. Two amazing eco-parks Xcaret and Xpu-Ha are less than an hour away.
Even staying closer to home to get a flavour of Mexico taking a short taxi ride to the town of Playa Del Carmen gives you some perspective on Mexico. Whilst much of Playa Del Carmen in tourist driven it still has pockets of the real Mexico and some great places to eat and shop. We managed to a haggle a great price on a marble carved chess set that cost around 25 USD and weights an absolute tonne. We found a great taco bar on the main strip and after a short walk around the Coronas with lime tasted all the better.
Please go to the Rui Tequila hotel, but please, please, please use your airfare wisely and get out and about and explore this amazing country with incredible civilisations and history.
My husband and I visited the 'Clubhotel Riu Tequila' two years a go for our honeymoon. We both liked the idea of trying Mexico as a holiday location, as we were looking for a non-European holiday destination and it sounded like quite an exotic location, but with reasonable priced hotels compared to other worldwide destinations.
Temperatures in Mexico between April and October are 30 degrees plus, so it can become extremely hot and sticky. You also need to be aware of the chance of hurricanes in this part of the world. We missed Hurricane Emily by only a matter of weeks, so we were extremely lucky!!
Plane journey time is about 10 and a half hours. We flew from Manchester airport.
We paid about £2700 for a fortnight break in August, which included flights, airport taxes, in flight meals, coach transfers and all inclusive accommodation in the hotel. The 2008 brochure prices for this hotel in the 'Portland Direct' brochure range from £975 to £1179 per person(May to October), depending on the date of travel. There is a departure tax to pay, which is payable directly to the airport. We made sure we kept this money separate at the beginning of the holiday, so we knew we had enough to cover the cost.
The Mexican unit of currency is the peso. Most shops also use and accept American dollars.
The main language is Spanish.
The hotel is situated on the Yucatan Peninsula, which is between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean on the South East of Mexico. It is in a resort called 'Playacar', which is 3km from the main town of 'Playa Del Carmen'. This is 68 km from the livelier resort of Cancun, which is where the airport is located. Coach transfer time is approximately 1 to 1 and a half hours from the airport to the resort.
Playacar is a small resort, with a golf course, hotels and residential housing. The beach is within walking distance from the hotel. When you arrive at the resort, you are greeted with large stone lettering which reads 'Playacar', which is quite a nice touch. There are a handful of gift shops and outdoor market type stalls within about a 5 minute stroll from the hotel, with plenty of interesting gifts to buy. This is a nice area to explore during the evening when temperatures are cooler.
The town of 'Playa Del Carmen' is within walking distance of the hotel, although this was not an easy stroll in hot temperatures. It took us about an hour at a slow pace to reach the main town and I would definitely recommend that you take a drink with you. It is a pleasant walk, however, and offers you a town with many more shops, restaurants and cafes than Playacar. 5th Avenue is the main shopping street, which is adjacent to the beach.
I'm sure Playa Del Carmen could also be reached by bus or taxi, although we did not try this option.
We chose the Riu Tequila because of the reasonable prices and the good customer ratings that were shown in the brochure. In the 2008 Portland brochure, the customer ratings are:
It is rated with '4 ticks' and has a 'Gold Medal', which is awarded to hotels that receive excellent customer ratings. It's official rating is 5 stars.
We also chose this hotel because the facilities sounded good and the photographs made it look like a nice hotel.
We booked at the Holiday Hypermarket through Thomson.
We were certainly not disappointed.
All people on our coach from the airport were staying at the Tequila, so we did not have to make any other hotel stops. One of the reception staff from the hotel joined us on the coach and gave us our all inclusive wrist bands and welcome packs. This made check in when we arrived at the hotel much quicker, as we only had to collect our keys, which was a welcome relief after such a long plane journey.
The hotel reception area was cool and tastefully decorated, with a large reception desk, a small shop, comfy seating areas, a fountain, trees (part of the area was open air!!), holiday representative areas and toilet facilities. Overall, we were very impressed with this area, being our first impression of the hotel.
We received a welcome arrival drink, checked in and were directed to our rooms. Our suitcases were left in reception to be delivered to our room by the porters. I think we waited about an hour for our suitcases to arrive, which was a little too long to wait. Sitting out on our balcony in the warm afternoon sunshine with a refreshing drink was nice, although finding something cooler to wear from our suitcase would have been even more ideal. We were not able to give the porters a tip, as we did not have any loose change!!
The rooms were dotted all around the hotel complex, arranged in small blocks of about 16 rooms set on the ground and first floors. The rooms were signposted well and it was easy to find. There are 664 bedrooms altogether, although it does not feel like this many as the apartment blocks are spaced all around the hotel complex. Our room was located on the first floor, just a couple of minutes walk from the pool area.
The facilities in the room were excellent. There were 2 double beds, a TV, dressing table, safety deposit box (for free!!), a wardrobe, larger bathroom area, with the toilet in a separate room and the largest walk in shower that I have ever seen. The room also had a mini bar fridge, liquor dispenser, hairdryer, air conditioning, wicker chairs, small table and a balcony area. As it was our honeymoon, we also received a free bottle of tequila.
The room was clean, cool and by far, the most luxurious room that I had ever stayed in. There was a maid service daily and the mini bar, which included non-alcoholic drinks, was re-stocked every 2 days. The towel arrangements that were left on the bed each day were amazing!! Towels were wrapped and arranged in different ways to make animals.
My one tip is to leave your 'do not disturb' sign on the door last thing at night, as some of the room cleans were done at very early times of the day.
Food and Drink
Our first task when we reached the hotel was to book a dining time. I can't remember what the two choices were, but I think the first sitting was 7 pm and the second was 9 pm. I remember thinking that one was too early and the other was too late and whichever slot you chose, you had to keep this for the duration of the holiday. We opted for the later sitting.
The 'Jalisco' restaurant offered a buffet style option of food, with a good selection of dishes to suit all tastes and cultures. We had the same table each evening and waiter service providing drinks. During breakfast, however, you could sit anywhere. The food was good quality and very enjoyable. Occasionally, some food was cooked on the outside BBQ and there were always chefs making some freshly cooked dishes within the restaurant. The desserts were delicious also
Within the restaurant were ice sculptures and character fruit displays, and usually some real life, massive butterflies resting high up on the walls for added authenticity.
The food at breakfast was equally delicious, ranging from continental options, cereals, fruits and traditional cooked breakfasts. Even the fussiest of eaters would be satisfied!!
My two criticisms with the restaurant would be that the dining times were not great and that during the evening, there were long queues for food.
There were also other options for food during the evening. 'La Lupita' restaurant offered a steakhouse option, situated on the hotel complex between the two pools. Or alternatively, there was a restaurant at the 'Beach Club', which was not on the hotel complex and offered more of a Mexican cuisine. Both of these restaurants needed booking in the hotel reception area, which you had to do on the morning of the day and it was a first come, first served basis, with limited availability. We tried the 'La Lupita' restaurant, which made a nice change as it was waiter service. This was a lovely location for a meal, but was rather warm, as it was more 'open air' and did not offer the same level of air conditioning as the main restaurant.
During the daytime, snacks and lunch were also available from the 'La Lupita' restaurant and the 'Beach Club', based on a self service, buffet style option. The food available was varied, hot or cold and drinks were available 'on tap', including beer, wine and soft drinks. This was very convenient and the 'Beach Club' was handy, as it was located right by the beach.
Overall, the food quality was good and there was a good selection of different choices at every meal time. We certainly did not go hungry.
The hotel has three bars and it was always easy to get drinks, even during busy evenings. As the hotel was 'all inclusive', all drinks were included in the price of the the holiday.
My personal favourite bar was the swim up bar, which formed part of the swimming pool. It was so refreshing to slip into the pool in the heat of the sun, swim to the bar and order a cool cocktail...LOVELY!! It was, however, a bit tricky to sit on the bar stools as the movement of the water made it difficult to stay on them.
Other Hotel Facilities
Other facilities available in the hotel included a second swimming pool area, both areas providing sun loungers, free towels and umbrellas. As with all hotels abroad, it was often difficult to find a good location around the pool and the usual 'early morning reservations' were needed!! Sun umbrellas were also limited, but were definitely a welcome relief during the hotter parts of the day. The umbrellas were made from natural palm leaves and were a more attractive addition to the poolside than canvas umbrellas. We collected and returned the hotel towels for the pool and beach every day, so they were always clean and fresh.
Most days, there were photographic opportunities around the poolside with huge Iguana lizards and parrots, that were brought around for guests to hold. My husband and I braved the parrots, but not the lizard!!
The hotel had a small shop, which sold snacks, a limited amount of gifts, toiletries, swim wear, magazines etc. To be honest, the shops that were five minutes away from the hotel were a better option. The size of the hotel shop was disappointing for the size of the hotel.
There were daily activities available around the hotel, including tennis, water polo and salsa lessons. We did not indulge in any of these and the staff were not 'pushy' in trying to encourage people to join in.
As we did not go on holiday with children, I am not sure about the children's facilities, although I think there was a Children's club available in the hotel and I do remember some activities in the evening that were geared towards the youngsters.
The evening entertainment was impressive, varied and entertaining. This mainly focussed around the stage area, which led from the main reception and was surrounded by two large bars, with a nearby disco (we ventured into the disco once we felt too old, as it seemed to be the area that attracted the teenagers!!) The area was partly covered, partly open air, which was lovely to sit in during the warm evenings. A disadvantage was that this area got extremely busy and it was often difficult to find a seat, especially after our late dinner time.
There was a regular entertainment team. Evening entertainment always began with something for children, although we did not see any of this as it clashed with our dining time. The evening always progressed into a show, usually involving the hotel team, but occasionally using outside entertainers. The shows were song and dance, comedy or traditional culture and we enjoyed every evening. The entertainment was top quality and extremely professional.
Occasionally, there was musical entertainment in the reception area just outside the restaurant, which was a nice touch on the way into dinner.
On a couple of evenings, there were also some craft stalls within the hotel complex, which provided some extra gift ideas and were just nice to wonder around.
As an extra bonus, we could also wander into the nearby hotels of the 'Riu Yucatan' and 'Riu Playacar' and use their bar and restaurant facilities, but not for breakfast or evening meals.
There was some interesting wildlife within the hotel complex. Huge butterflies and moths, snakes, large spiders (although thankfully, we did not see any of these), iguanas and some interesting four legged, furry creatures, about the size of cats, which we do not know the names of!!
Although the hotel offered a free land train shuttle service to the beach, it was much nicer to take the short, 10 minute stroll down to the beach out of the hotel and through the pretty covered walkway. This led directly to the 'Beach Club', which in turn, led directly to the beach.
The first time we saw the beach, all I can say is..WOW!! It was a typical white sandy, palm tree beach with turquoise blue sea and the first view was absolutely breath taking. The sand was soft and hot to walk on and the sea was clear and warm to swim in.
There were plenty of sun loungers on the beach and the palm trees provided lots of natural shade. Water sports were available on the beach, some of which were part of the all inclusive package, although we did not try any of these as lazing and relaxing on the beach was just so nice!!
The 'Beach Club' was close and handy to grab a refreshing drink or a snack to eat.
There were two Thomson reps who were available at the hotel. Luckily, we did not need to speak to them about any problems. They provided a fun and informative welcome meeting and they were able to organise our choice of excursions to enable these to be spread well throughout our holiday. Although limited, our contact with the reps suggested that they were helpful and professional. When they joined us on a night out in Cancun, however, they proved to be good fun as well!!
The End of the Holiday
The porters collected our suitcases as efficiently as they had delivered them and this time, we had enough loose change to leave a tip!! Checkout was straightforward, but sad, as we had enjoyed our holiday so much.
We thoroughly enjoyed our fortnight stay at the 'Riu Tequila' and it was an ideal choice for our honeymoon. The facilities and staff were good and there was plenty to do if you wanted a more active holiday. Equally, it was possible to relax and be lazy in the warm, Mexican sunshine.