Buffet with good variety, and a 24-hour sports bar with food
Four specialty restaurants: a steakhouse, Japanese, Italian, and gourmet options
Activities include tennis, windsurfing, and nightly live shows
RiuLand entertainment program for children
Attractive, Mediterranean-inspired architecture
Free Wi-Fi throughout
Elevators in main building can be slow
Nearest restroom to the pools is inside, by the sports bar
Sun to pools and beach blocked starting in late afternoon or early evening
Wi-Fi only free for two devices
Specialty restaurants may require a bit of a wait
Snagging a pool lounger can require early rising
Not many umbrellas on the beach
Water in the swim-up bar pool can get murky
No room service
No shampoo or conditioner provided in rooms, just soap
The all-inclusive, upper-middle-range, 569-room Hotel Riu Cancun has a central Hotel Zone location that's a five-minute walk from popular nightlife spots. The long (but narrow) beach has nice white sand and turquoise water. Rooms are modern (if simple), with free minibars restocked every two days, but limited amenities (no toiletries, no room service, and no coffeemakers). Resort features include three pools, a buffet restaurant with plenty of variety, four specialty restaurants (reservations are not required, but there can be lines), a spa with sauna and hot tub, small gym, and a kids' club. Just note that the pools and beach lose sun by the late afternoon, elevators in the main building can be slow, and the public restroom situation could use improvement. Revamped in 2014, the hotel is now up to modern standards and compares to resorts like Gran Caribe -- though the Gran Caribe has a wider beach, and is farther from nightlife.
A lively all-inclusive drawing couples, partiers, and some families
The Hotel Riu Cancun is the quintessential Hotel Zone all-inclusive -- and delivers both the upsides and downsides that entails. It's lively, with an engaged animation team leading activities by the pool, there are plenty of pre-mixed slushy drinks with low-quality alcohol going around, wristbands are required, and crowds can be an issue (be prepared to rise early to snag premium loungers, and to wait for the elevators and seating at the most popular specialty restaurants). But it's also a reliable choice for those happy with the typical all-inclusive mold. There are plenty of activities to keep guests on-site, including water sports, tennis, and and a nightclub, and the proximity to the Hotel Zone's nightlife hub makes this location popular with partiers. (The hotel claims, however, that spring breaker behavior is not tolerated.)
Guests are a mix of couples of all ages, families, and friend groups. Though many guests are American, there are plenty of Brits in the mix, thanks to the fact that the popular U.K. tour operator Thomson sends groups here. Those looking for a quieter, more sedate vibe might prefer neighboring sister resort Riu Palace, which is more upscale and gets more consistent sun at its pools. (At the Riu Cancun, the sun disappears behind the tall main building starting in the late afternoon.) Note that Riu Palace guests get access to the amenities (and some meals) at the Riu Cancun, but the reverse is not true.
In terms of layout, it's worth noting that there are actually two buildings; the main, tall building, served by four elevators, and the shorter annex building that stretches along the beach, serviced by two elevators. After a 2014 revamp, decor throughout modern, with plenty of bright accent colors. In the main lobby, there are black and white tile floors, and massive pillars rise to a single, circular skylight above, ringed by pink and purple patterns and mosaic tiles. There’s plenty of gray and silver mixed in to the interior design as well, plus glass blocks, art pieces, and sculptures. Wall-to-ceiling windows in the lobby look out over the grounds, pools, and the beach. The decidedly contemporary interiors contrast with the more classic exterior; the resort's white buildings feature arches for a Mediterranean-inspired look.
In the Cancun Hotel Zone, a five- to 10-minute walk from the nightlife hub
On a map, the CancunHotel Zone approximates the shape of a backwards 7; the Hotel Riu Cancun is on the top, near the intersection of the two stems. It is a five-minute walk from the Convention Center and five to 10 minutes from the area's most popular nightclubs. Among them: Coco Bongo and Senor Frogs. Nearby restaurants include Hooters and the Hard rock Cafe. Right across the street is a two-story Chedraui Select supermarket, where the upper floor is dedicated to its own series of restaurants and offers wine by the glass while you shop. There's also a shopping center across the street, Plaza Caracol, with a Starbucks, pharmacy, souvenir shop, and the like. (The hotel does offer a small convenience store in the lobby for sundries, but items are cheaper across the street.) Buses and taxis can be found on the main avenue in front of the hotel, and guests can be downtown in 15 minutes, or at the airport in 30 to 45 minutes.
Though many guests spend most of their entire vacation on site, the hotel organizes tours to sights like Chicen Itza (home to famous Mayan ruins) and Isla Mujeres.
Modern rooms with balconies, most with ocean views
There are 569 rooms spread out across three categories: Double Rooms, Junior Suites, and Suites. Double Rooms start at 323 square feet, and Junior Suites and Suites start at 474 square feet. They all come with either a balcony or terrace with patio furniture, and the majority have at least a partial ocean view. The decor style mirrors that of the resort itself, so expect streamlined, chic style with bright accent colors.
Standard amenities include free minibars stocked with beer, soda, and water (refilled every two days), and liquor dispensers. There are no coffee or tea facilities, and coffee isn't available downstairs until around 7 a.m., a downside for early risers. Bathrobes and slippers are also missing, and room service is not offered. In-room technology includes flat-screen TVs, digital safes, and free Wi-Fi for two devices. Most guests report strong air-conditioning, though it may depend on the room. Because of the humidity outside, the floors can get slippery with the balcony doors open. Lighting in the rooms is a bit dim.
Bathrooms are contemporary, with tile floors and granite countertops that feature double porcelain sinks. Showers have mosaic tiles, adjustable height showerheads, and a half-wall glass partition (the floors can get a bit wet). There are wall-mounted Conair hairdryers and bar soap provided (bring your own toiletries). Suites have a hydromassage bathtub in the room, and a separate shower, plus a sofa in the living room, a large terrace, and ocean views. Note that the balconies aren’t exactly private; they have walls that can be seen over to the next balcony for taller guests.
The annex building houses many of the Junior Suites, and is nearer to the pools, theater, and nightclub. This means those on lower floors may experience some noise, and also some balconies on lower floors have their view obstructed by a wall. But there is less waiting for the elevator in this building, and the pools and beach are more convenient.
A narrow beach, three pools, kids' club, gym, Renova Spa, and nightclub
The beach at the Riu Cancun does have fine white sand and turquoise water, but much of it is very narrow. There are plenty of sunbeds, but umbrellas are scarce. There is a pier extending into the ocean for swimming, though note that waves in Cancun can be strong. A sand volleyball court has a central location on the beach.
The three pools are the highlight of the property. The primary two are bisected by a cement walkway; the one to the right when facing the ocean is the activity pool, with sports nets, music, and animation team led activities, while the one to the left is a bit quieter and has an infinity edge. A hot tub is also on offer. The swim-up bar pool also has an infinity edge, and some tables in the water, though guests report the water can get a bit murky (perhaps due to some guests using this pool as a bathroom). The nearest actual bathroom is located inside, by the sports bar, and a sign warns guests not to enter wet or without a cover-up -- though this rule isn't always followed and the floor can get slippery.
Back at the pool bar, pre-mixed slushy cocktails are on offer, but guests can also request drinks with name-brand alcohol. Note that pool loungers can go fast, so it's wise to reserve a spot early. Both the beach and the pool get shaded starting in the late afternoon, as the sun starts to set behind the tall hotel building. Themed events such a a weekly foam party and beach party are organized and tend to be popular.
The hotel also operates its own themed kids' club, with daily activities. There’s also a small gym with older equipment. The Renova Spa has a sauna and whirlpool. There are live evening shows, which get mixed reviews, and the Pacha Nightclub is open late.
A buffet, four specialty restaurants, and a 24-hour sports bar
The Hotel Riu Cancun has a solid buffet with tons of variety and live cooking stations, plus four specialty restaurants that don't require reservations. These include La Toscana (Italian with both a la carte and buffet choices); Kawachi (Asian a la carte); Turquesa Steakhouse (the most popular of the bunch); and Kulinarium (a "gourmet" a la carte restaurant). Though no reservations are required, there can be lines. The specialty restaurants typically have two seatings, and guests who don't get a spot at the first seating may have to opt for the later one. No sandals, shorts, or T-shirts are permitted at dinner.
For lunch, there's also often barbecue by the pool in addition to the buffet. Room service is not available at the hotel.
Bars include the lobby bar, La Punta; the salon bar, La Fiesta (where the nightly shows take place); the 24-hour sports bar (with casual food options); the Corner Bar; and the pool bar called Wet’n Drinking.