Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
European families abound, tended to by staff who speak a wide variety of languages.
Part of a Spanish chain of resorts known best for its expansive Miami Beach outpost is predictably filled with European tourists, most of them either German or Spanish families with herds of children in tow. In fact, I was perhaps the only English-speaking guest there! Fortunately, the multilingual staff was prepared for all such possibilities -- I personally saw them cater to a range of guests in their native tongues.in the , this
A colossal building with a huge pool and beach access, the Riu is popular with vacationing families precisely because it's in relatively humdrum Miami Beach. Parents don't have to worry about kids wandering off because, honestly, there's nowhere to go. As a result, the hotel is a playground for teens and tweens chasing remote-control cars and one another through the hallways.
Patrons of Rius around the world, please take note -- unlike many of its other resorts, this Riu does not offer any all-inclusive packages!
With a steady stream of questions and requests coming their way, the staff is courteous but frazzled.
Heck, I'd be tired too -- the front desk almost always had a long line of children, adults, and elderly asking for directions, airport pickups, or loose change. It took 10 minutes of waiting in line to check in, but when my attendant got to me, she swiftly handed over the keys to my room. Her brusque yet helpful summary of the Riu's services and dining times wasn't peppered with the usual niceties, but it seemed like more of a byproduct of harried multitasking than anything else.
Service at the poolside Alligator Bar was quick, polite and prompt. Still, it took much too long for my waiter to fetch my bill. Still, it's the only restaurant with table service, as the dinner at Coral and breakfast at the Floridian lobby lounge were presented buffet-style.
Miami Beach boredom, although the beach can get a bit lively.
Up on 31st and Collins, the Riu is well into Miami Beach and, frankly, surrounded by very little besides soaring condominiums and other beachside hotels like the and the . The closest hubs of activity are 13 blocks up at the ritzy Fontainebleau, where you'll find a mini-mall worth of restaurants, stores, bars, and clubs, or seven blocks south to the Gansevoort, a hip but (only relatively) less expensive hotel with a rooftop bar and pool, a club, and several restaurants. While the Fontainebleau is a more impressive visit, the Gansevoort is also at the tip of South Beach and closer to other namesake restaurants and bars like Talula and Rokbar.
If you don't want to shill for a cab in either direction, you can take yourself -- and the kids -- to the beach, which is almost as broad as the SoBe beaches. A constant stream of joggers, dog walkers, and Rollerbladers flows up and down the boardwalk, swerving around the booths of local artists selling their wares. Just a few blocks north, the beach loses much of its character, with fewer locals and tourists around. On the other hand, a younger -- and sometimes raunchier -- crowd can be found a few blocks south. If you're here with kids, this really is one of the best parts of the beach!
Basic beige, with amenities and options right out of the 1980s. That's not necessarily a bad thing in this case.
My pretty basic double room -- its floorplan is the standard entry-level room at the Riu -- was clean but, apart from two framed of parrots on the wall, steeped in beige. Still, even though the décor was dated, I was happy that it stuck to neutrals, unlike the Miami Beach Spa and Resort, which was a crazy clash of prints and colors. And what the room lacked in design, it made up for in predictability. It was an archetypal hotel room, the kind that set the tone for in the 1980s. And while I could have snobbishly asked for more, I have to admit that I was comforted by the room's immediate familiarity.
The beds were a little springy, but I had no problem falling asleep even with the thin walls and the boisterous children next door. The problem was waking up -- despite the large window, the heavy curtains meant that the room was gloomy on even the brightest of mornings.
An old-school TV facing the bed had the standard range of cable channels and videos on demand (for an extra charge, of course). But between the outlets taken up by the TV, the (empty) , and the various lamps, I didn't have anyplace to plug in my laptop. Nor was there any Wi-Fi or wired Internet access in the rooms.
The bathroom was small and very basic. While the toilet, sink, and shower all fulfilled their role, I was annoyed by the toiletries. Packed into tear-away sachets, they were difficult to use and impossible to store. Plus, they leaked out in the shower.
There's no Internet connection in the rooms, but there's free Wi-Fi down in the lobby and a few computers down by the front desk to use (for a fee).
Riu patrons, take note -- this Riu may not be like the other Riu mega-resorts you've visited! First off, there's no all-inclusive pass, so you will be charged for every meal you purchase. Second, the property isn't as large, diverse, or expansive as any of the Rius in Aruba, the , the Dominican Republic, or Jamaica. There are no golf courses, water parks, or kids' clubs -- only one large pool, a hot tub, and beach access.
The pool was without a doubt the most popular attraction, as sun-starved Europeans took in the February sun in droves. Fortunately, there was more than enough room on the broad deck -- and plenty of lounge chairs -- to accommodate them. With its happy mix of adults and children, this is not the place for singles or young couples looking for a romantic getaway. Nor is it the place for anyone with a Speedo aversion.
There's no children's pool, despite the Riu's insistence to the contrary on its Web site. Well, at least I wasn't able to find it. There is, however, a hot tub that I could only capture from behind a fence as it was filled -- at all hours of the day -- with canoodling couples.
A tiny gym hidden on the mezzanine level of the hotel would have gone completely unnoticed if I hadn't asked someone to help me find it. Completely empty during my visit -- I went back to check several times -- it had a few weight-training and cardio machines facing a long, narrow window. The gloomy setting was utterly uninspiring, though diehards will definitely be able to get in their workouts.
The hotel's huge lobby is the next major watering hole, with a pool table by the Floridian Lounge. This lobby lounge serves up a buffet breakfast every morning and drinks during the day. There's also a small stage for evening entertainment, which occasionally includes local maestros singing to Muzak. But all I saw was a disco ball, a couple of colored lights, and someone's drunk grandpa dancing with his . All this to '80s love ballads.
At the far end of the lobby is a small computer center with access to the Internet (for a fee, of course). Most of the guests I saw were using their own laptops elsewhere in the lobby to connect to the free Wi-Fi service instead.
The almost complete lack of diversions for kids doesn't stop plenty of families from bringing them.
So here's the problem -- the Riu is filled with kids even though it doesn't have any particularly kid-friendly activities. I saw high chairs in the restaurant and a bunch of teenagers around the pool table in the lobby, but that's about it. Cribs are available by request for $5 per day but are difficult to squeeze into the standard guest rooms. Still, European families probably come here because they are familiar with the Riu brand. Most of the families I met actually booked a separate room for the kids, thanks to decent prices and a strong euro.
Nothing unusual, although the premises could stand to be refurbished.
Despite the high traffic, I saw no signs of dirt anywhere, indoors or outdoors. Nor were there any significant signs of wear and tear. Having said that, it doesn't look like the décor has been updated in a while. This makes the wall-to-wall carpeting questionable, but I didn't see anything untoward. What about you? Anyone?
Almost entirely buffets (and good ones, at that), although you can also grab a sandwich at lunch.
Do you like buffets? If you do, this is heaven. A buffet breakfast -- its plentiful options have won raves from former guests on TripAdvisor -- is served every morning at the Floridian lobby lounge. At dinnertime, head over to the Coral and take your pick from the buffet line, which includes a carving table and a rotisserie. Guests can sit down indoors or out on the terrace. According to your type of reservation, the breakfast buffet may be included in your room charge. If it isn't, it's $15 for adults and $8 for children. The dinner buffet, however, is $20 or $25, depending on whether you prefer the cold foods or the hot buffet bars.
Only the Alligator Bar by the pool is open for lunch and, alas, it does not serve a buffet. But I loved its sandwiches and friendly service, though it does take a while to get the bill.
A 284-room, Spanish-owned resort chain with kids zooming through the hallways, the Riu has a great pool and direct access to a lively beach. However, the rooms are dated by Miami standards, the beds are a bit squeaky, and there's not much to do in Miami Beach. Bars, restaurants, and high-end boutiques are in SoBe, a 10-minute drive away.