Set on a long, mellow stretch of Bloody Bay beachfront, ClubHotel Riu is a sprawling 420-room resort that serves up great all-inclusive value, offering a wide range of dining, drinking, activities, and entertainment -- hordes of guests soak it all up. Renovated in 2015, the mid-range property is well-maintained but not fancy or luxurious. Rooms are spacious and on the formal side, with marble bathrooms, free minibars, and private terraces, but no coffeemakers or Wi-Fi (which is available only in the common areas). The resort's vast grounds require lots of walking, but it’s mainly along the beachfront. ClubHotel Riu Negril is a good choice for couples, families, and groups seeking laid-back vacation fun, but serious party animals should stay elsewhere, and travelers seeking a more exclusive all-inclusive experience could try Sunset at the Palms.
A low-key, fun-loving crowd of mainly families and couples -- lots of kids
Between the low buildings and the shady, palm-tree strewn beach, ClubHotel Riu’s relaxed, fun-loving vibe is practically palpable. The property consists of a row of low-level light-purple U-shaped buildings evocative of a condo village. An uber contemporary lobby gives way to an alfresco, Italian plaza-style layout -- where a distinct, Romanesque theme emerges in clay statues, domed structures, and a fountain -- somewhat a la Vegas' Caesars Palace. The crowd is a healthy mix of couples, groups, and families with children of all ages -- and the many happy imbibers among them hold court at the crowded swim-up bar or in the popular lobby bar throughout the day. The beach is long, sandy, calm, and well-landscaped, with hundreds of lounge chairs, a jerk pit, and a beach bar tucked in among low palm trees. Guests are treated to killer sunset views when the clouds comply.
There are no elevators, so if stairs are a problem, guests should request a ground-floor room, and buildings closer to the lobby require less walking. Given buildings and corridors look the same, the property can be hard to navigate, but the layout means guest rooms are sensibly removed from the dining, drinking, and entertainment action.
Following the 2015 renovation, the resort’s rooms and common areas are all in great shape -- guests frequently commend the cleanliness and "tight ship" the managers run.
Overlooking Bloody Bay on Negril’s northern outskirts -- 90 minutes from Montego Bay International Airport
ClubHotel Riu is located on Norman Manley Boulevard on the way into Negril, flanking the Bloody Bay beachfront that's shared with other mega-resorts. The area is quieter than Negril's resort-dense Seven Mile Beach -- but it's also farther from attractions in the center of town and at the cliffs. The resort is a two-minute drive to Kool Runnings Waterpark and a 15-minute drive to downtown Negril, where nightlife, shops, restaurants, and bars are in abundance. For those without cars, it's possible to get around in taxis, but the cost adds up.
Spacious with semi-formal decor, balconies, and free minibars; many a long walk from the action
The ClubHotel Riu Negril's 420 rooms are formal for the tropical setting with dark timber furniture and rich, neutral accents, but this is a Riu hotel theme -- the rooms at the sister resort, Riu Palace, farther down the beach, are nearly identical. ClubHotel Riu rooms look much fresher since the 2015 overhaul. King-size beds are two doubles pushed together, which allow for different configurations, but the seam down the middle can be annoying. There are two categories of rooms: Double Rooms and Junior Suites. The latter have split-level layouts with pull-out sofas, and adjoining rooms are available. All rooms have balconies -- they’re much larger for suites -- and many have beach views, but some are close to the highway, which while less romantic are not necessarily loud.
All rooms have central air-conditioning, ceiling fans, free minibars restocked daily, and liquor dispensers with full-size bottles of booze. There are also flat-screen TVs, hairdryers, irons and ironing boards, and safes. Marble bathrooms are generous in size with dual vanities and combined shower/tubs in Doubles, and huge soaking tubs in Suites. Wi-Fi is not offered in rooms, nor is room service available.
Typical all-inclusive trimmings: two pools, multiple restaurants and bars, gym, spa, and water sports
Resort activities take place within a plaza in the main building that houses most restaurants as well as two bars and the entertainment stage, which really comes alive at night. A busy swim-up bar centers the main pool, which is surrounded by sun chairs and thatched umbrellas -- get their early to secure one. The second, smaller, rectangular pool is closer to the rooms and less busy. Otherwise, the beach, stretching the length of the property, has plenty of sunbeds, a beach bar -- and is much less crowded.
Restaurants feel surprisingly formal given the laid-back daytime vibe. Like many all-inclusives, the resort has a maddening reservations policy for its a la carte restaurants -- line up first thing daily for a booking or miss out. For those who can't be bothered, the Green Island buffet is solid. A la carte options include Luigi’s (Italian), Seagull (Steakhouse), Kulinarium (“gourmet”), and Mandalay (Asian).
Evening entertainment kicks off in the lobby -- our visit was met with lip-syncing staff strutting their stuff as music legends. There are reggae bands, drunken people on stage -- basically a lot of innocent fun. Pacha "nightclub" caters to late-nighters, but only the Sports Bar remains open all night, serving food like microwaved burgers or hot dogs, and popcorn.
Negril is known for its excellent scuba diving, and there is an on-site dive shop -- an introductory scuba diving lesson in the pool is included in the all-inclusive price. There’s also windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, and catamarans, but motorized water sports cost extra. The Renova Spa offers the usual spa treatments (although it’s on the small side for a resort of this size), and neighbors a hair salon and mani/pedi salon. Seaside massages are also available. There’s a fitness center with modern cardio- and weight-training equipment, a beach volleyball court, a sauna, and two tennis courts. Lounge chairs are tucked in among small palm trees running the length of the property for guests seeking a little more privacy.
RiuLand kids’ club caters to kids with a daily entertainment program, and a mini water park. For adults, there’s nonstop daytime entertainment and an evening program with music. Wi-Fi is free in the public areas.
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