Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
Mega-resort chain, very fun (and loud).
The Riu hotel chain seems to be taking over the entire Caribbean (and even Florida), due in large part to its cheap rates and fun atmosphere. Based in Spain, the resort is most popular with Europeans and specifically English, German, and French travelers. There are not many Americans who visit – but this is typical of anywhere in the Dominican Republic. With this clientele comes a little more style, some topless sunbathing on the beach, and loads of cigarette smoking.
A friendly and energetic entertainment staff keeps the semi-inebriated guests conscious throughout the day, rousing the passed-out masses from their chaise lounge slumbers with impromptu games of water polo and dance routines. When night rolls around, guests are entertained with various stage shows. These inevitably include dancing, music, and more dancing. Beer and alcohol flow freely, and everyone seems to be having a really good time. There's a carefree vibe, and the super-friendly staff works hard to keep that vibe alive.
Remote locale -- just resorts and the Ocean World theme park.
The Riu is located in the small town of Cofresi, a 35-minute taxi ride from the airport.
It's a sleepy town with little beyond a smattering of casino and the Canadian-owned restaurant draw sizable crowds, a relative lack of activity drives nightlife-seeking tourists 15 minutes east to Puerto Plata and the Playa Dorada complex., the expansive (though less pristine) , and the Adventure park, one of the North Coast's most popular tourist destinations. The area is a mostly barren stretch of low-rise timeshares and small public greens that host the occasional . While a
Rough sand, possibly the worst in the D.R.
The beach, right in front of the hotel, is pretty packed with lounge chairs and passed-out guests. Less crowded spots, however, can be found in between the Riu hotels.
Some guests recommend swimming with sandals or water shoes. Not a bad idea. The sand is pretty rough and mostly made from broken coral. While it's easy to walk out into the water, it quickly gives way to a large reef. Some guests choose not to venture out too far for fear of cutting their feet on the coral (and because they don't want to destroy the reef). The water is warm and not too choppy. There are also changing rooms and outdoor showers on the beach.
Thestation offers windsurfing, sunfish sailing, kayaks, wave runners, and deep-sea fishing.
Clean and well stocked, if you can get past the smoke odor.
All rooms at the Riu properties are smoking rooms. Your room might smell like an ashtray. The A.C. tends to keep the smell circulating long after the cigarettes are out, but the smell improves when you open up the sliding glass door and turn off the A.C.
Other than the smell, the rooms are clean and comfortable. There is wicker furniture, but the “ king bed” was really just two full-size beds pushed together, each set up with separate sheets. Strange, but it's the norm at the Riu resorts.
Like at all Riu properties, there’s a mini-bar partially stocked with a few beers, some Pepsi, tonic, and soda. Unlike any other resort, it also has four hard booze options above the mini-bar. The bottles are set upside down and have single-serving shot mechanisms attached.
The TV is an old 20-inch RCA. Most of the channels don't come in clearly, or the pictures come in but not the sound. The remote worked, but there only seemed to be one English channel at any given time. There was also a clock radio but no place to plug in an iPod.
The A.C. doesn't work when the sliding door is open, and the outlets are Euro/U.S.-style. Most plugs, like those on a cell phone charger, do not fit in the outlet.
The balcony is large but not very private. Because the buildings are clustered so close together, balconies are only a few meters from one another.
Tennis courts, a perfectly decent spa, and a downright terrible gym.
Theis horrible -- ratty old carpet, decrepit , and rusty . It remained empty throughout Oyster's stay. Many guests entered with iPods in hand but rolled their eyes and left once they saw the machines. Worse still, hotel policy states that one must make a reservation to use the .
The Caribbean Street, a of pastel-colored shops and stands between the Riu Merengue and Bacchata. The reception area held modern wicker and the scent of cinnamon candles. The small complex had many facilities, including several teeny and a ., the , and the are located on
Typical jumble of dancing and lip-synching.
The hotel stages a performance each night on the main stage at the Merangue. During our stay, the actors/lip-synchers performed “Grease” to a packed house. After the show, the entertainment staff danced with audience members on stage. Most guests enjoyed the performances, and there was a mix of young singles and couples milling about.
Not much of a draw -- just a dim room with a few tables and some jangly slots.
The El Millon Casino was a single, dimly lit room with a few faded felt tables. It contained a number of noisy slot machines, a three-card poker table, and $5 minimum blackjack. A modest bar in the corner went unstaffed most of the day.
Very clean, thanks to an enthusiastic and hard-working staff.
The hotel’s grounds are well manicured and tended to by a team of hotel staff. Leaves are swept off the walkways, trees are relieved of unwieldy branches, and gardens are weeded. walls are kept stainless. (The rain didn't hurt.)
Meager buffet, but no worse than most Dominican .
The buffets are just OK -- typical of most Dominican all-inclusives, which have some of the worst food in the Caribbean. At lunch it was difficult to find a place to sit at either La Roca or Los Almendros buffets.
The breakfast buffet is really limited -- cereal, fruit, sliced meats, cheese, and bread. For dinner, there are a lot of pasta and starch options as well as some cheese plates. Vegetarian options are limited to one large vat of vegetarian stew and the salad bar. There is a beer tap, which was nice. There are also three taps of wine (rose, white, and red) of the cheapest, jug-wine vintage.
The hotel also has two a la cartes that require reservations, an Italian restaurant and a grill and steakhouse.
As cheap as a D.R. all-inclusive can get without being a cesspool – the Merengue is part of the Riu mega-resort compound in Puerto Plata (along with the Bachata). It shares three booming pools, a , a dank , and loads of bars. The beach, though huge, is covered in coral shards and is about the worst in the D.R. Bring shoes.