Wall-enclosed showers in some rooms feel a bit claustrophobic
The Spanish hotel company Riu offers three classes of all-inclusive (there's one of each in Nuevo Vallarta), with this one being the mid-priced option. Compared with its more budget-friendly sister property, Riu Jalisco, though, certain areas are lacking. For instance, the grounds aren't nearly as immaculate or impressive, and although the rooms have slightly nicer decor they're not much of a step up (plus, the Master Suites at Jalisco feature flat-screen TVs, while tube TVs come standard here). Jalisco even has slightly more varied dining options, though the ones offered here are varied enough to prevent standard all-inclusive-dining boredom. But the expansive beach and the two large play-inducing pools (with in-pool lounge seating, bistro tables, swim-up bar, and slides) are clearly in a class above.
Commanding Art Deco-style building with basic grounds and fanciful interiors
The grand, white Art-Deco building keeps its era-specific design scheme consistent throughout public zones -- with surprisingly colorful decor popping up in unexpected places. The lobby, for instance, is a formal experience with its black-and-white checkered floors, stained-glass accents, and towering atrium with dazzling chandelier. The attention-grabber, though, is the regal-esque tufted-purple upholstered round bench -- which kids tend to love running circles around as they wait for their parents to finish check-in.
This sort of formality-meets-playfulness continues throughout the property. Beyond the lobby, which is encased by the two guest wings, a deco-style fountain centers the hotel's plaza -- a lively designed central gathering place ringed with multiple restaurants, bars, and the Riu's signature live-performance theater. Further along, perfectly groomed garden paths lead guests to the resort's biggest draw -- the two pools. It's a constant party around these areas, for adults and kids alike, with features like a swim-up bar with nearby in-pool bistro tables, a pool volleyball net, and three large slides. For a more serene setting, guests can head to the expansive, clean beach, featuring plenty of shaded and sun-soaked lounge chairs for a little beach-side R&R.
Located on pretty Playa de Flamingos in Nuevo Vallarta
Seemingly a world away from the bustling party destination of Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta is a sleepier resort locale with no real downtown -- just big resorts and upscale homes surrounded by a leafy enclave, pristine beach, or manicured golf courses. This is the area to head if you're on the hunt for a relaxing beach getaway with some golfing or spa treatments thrown in. To experience the culture, dining, nightlife, and shopping of Puerto Vallarta, you'll need to catch a cab for a 25-minute drive.
Only a slight step up from the economy Riu Jalisco a few doors away, the Riu Vallarta's rooms are clean and comfortable, but nothing special. All rooms come standard (even the pricey suites) with old tube TVs, basic mini-fridges, and handy liquor dispensers.
Deck furniture is of the uncomfortable plastic variety, but every room features either full or partial ocean views, which is a plus.
Old tube TVs
Enclosed showers in some rooms feel a bit claustrophobic
Mini-fridges partially stocked with basic beverages