Bright, clean gym with hardwood floors and nice selection of equipment
Entertainment and free water sports
Free self-parking in a staffed lot
Free bottled water
Rooms are dated with old-school features like tube TVs in many
Nothing of interest within an easy walk
No free in-room Wi-Fi
Spring breakers not allowed
Just east of Sangster International Airport, Hotel Riu Montego Bay is a five- to 10-minute drive from Montego Bay's shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions. The large, three-and-a-half pearl, all-inclusive resort offers pretty much everything for a Caribbean vacation: four restaurants, a large pool, a huge beach, and a modern spa all top the list. Rooms are spacious and clean, though the dark, colonial decor frequently looks dated. All feature minibars with premium liquor and private balconies -- some with sea views -- though the tube TVs in some rooms and lack of free Wi-Fi are a let down. Check rates at the neighboring Hotel Riu Palace Jamaica for a more affordable, adult-only alternative with similar amenities.
Beachfront mega-resort with an aging sense of style
Guests familiar with other Riu-brand resorts will immediately recognize this Montego Bay outpost -- everything is fine and pleasant enough, but it's all just a bit average and underwhelming. The overall design is inspired by an Old-World colonial Caribbean aesthetic that includes grand, open-air common areas, oversized furniture, and polished marble flooring throughout. It's all done in beige and tan tones, plus oak and pink granite accents, and feels lifted straight from the 1990s. With 681 rooms, the property is so massive that it’s easy to feel lost -- literally and figuratively. There are an equal number of adult-centric amenities (including a nighttime theater, a modern spa, and a 24-hour sports bar) and kid-friendly activities (dedicated kids' club and plenty of water-sports opportunities), and the hotel clearly strives to be all things to all people. The hotel has a generous 24-hour all-inclusive policy, but is just slightly more subdued than some of its neighbors -- entertainment here gets pretty mixed reviews, and like any all-inclusive, it does have its loud moments. However, the hotel's prohibition on Spring Break partiers means that guests are equally likely to find families and couples on the property.
10-minute drive to Montego Bay's Hip Strip, east of Sangster International Airport
The resort’s location just east of Jamaica’s busiest airport is a mixed blessing. Guests will find the location convenient to all of Montego Bay’s shops, restaurants, and attractions along the Hip Strip -- they’re all less than 10 minutes away by car. However, frequent flights mean a steady stream of noisy plane traffic throughout the day. Two small strip malls and a market are within a few minutes walk of the property, but otherwise there's not much to see and do within walking distance. The Rose Hall Great House will take about 15 minutes to reach by car while the popular Bob Marley Experience is a 20-minute drive away.
The hotel does not provide airport transportation -- curious given its location and upmarket aspirations. However, Jamaica has plenty of affordable and readily available taxi service -- fares are comparable to most other resort destinations in the Caribbean. Shuttle service is another alternative that’s equally as easy to arrange. As passengers share the ride with up to a dozen other people, it’s the island’s cheapest mode of transportation.
Dark, colonial-inspired rooms that are mostly outdated
While the colonial decor was once an elegant choice, everything now just looks dated. This goes for the patterned bedspreads, the cherry-stained poster beds, and the stodgy furniture. Upgraded rooms have darker furniture, but with the same silhouettes, so it just looks like a fresh coat of paint was used to cover up a larger problem. Add to that the light tile floor, pink granite accents, and almost barren white walls hung with too-tiny etchings, and the result is underwhelming, especially for an international chain.
Entry-level Standard Rooms feature a spacious -- though not overly large -- one-room layout. All are available with a single king bed, two double beds, or configured as a Family Room (with one king bed and one double). Floor space increases considerably in each of the hotel’s suites. While most also feature a one-room layout, the sizable sitting area, sleeping area, and semi-exposed bathroom feel like separate and distinct rooms. All rooms also include a balcony or terrace, some with lovely ocean views.
Minibars are stocked with beer, soda, juice, and bottled water, plus an unlimited premium liquor dispenser, in every room. Curiously, in-room Wi-Fi is only available for a daily fee, and while some rooms have flat-screen TVs, others have outdated tube televisions. Beds in all rooms are well-reviewed as comfortable, but beware that a king bed involves simply combining two double beds at this hotel.
Bathrooms are decent enough, and reminiscent of upscale homes from the late '90s -- there are pink granite countertops; tan, white and peach tiling; and bathtub/shower combos in every unit. Suites provide a glass-enclosed shower stall and a two-person whirlpool tub that’s exposed to the sleeping area. Generic Riu-branded bath amenities are standard. Airplane noise can be loud in room, and entertainment from some parts of the hotel will reach the rooms.
A massive beach, a beautiful pool, four restaurants, and a modern spa
This giant resort has so many amenities that it can feel like a small city. With a wide, clean beach, a large pool, four restaurants, numerous bars, and a modern spa, guests could find almost every vacation amenity they need without ever leaving the property. The hotel has a spacious fitness center with a nice selection of cardio and weight-training equipment. There's also a kids' club for those traveling with children. Rates are all-inclusive, so all meals, most entertainment, and things like water sports are all free, though Wi-Fi is curiously not part of the package and can be expensive.
A large semi-private beach with calm, swimmable water
The hotel’s white sand beach offers a massive amount of space, even for such a large property. The entire beach is kept immaculately clean and a sea of white plastic lounge chairs provides plenty of seating. A single bar near the midpoint of the beach offers a full menu of liquor, beer, and wine. While the beach is semi-private, we still noted a handful of aggressive tchotchke peddlers and hawkers selling Jamaican trinkets.
The condition of the waters around the island can vary considerably with the seasons and weather. However, several jetties near the hotel provide a buffer against the area’s strong waves and riptides. Because of this, the water is often calm and swimmable, even for children. A variety of water sports are available and included in the standard all-inclusive package. A dedicated beachfront shack loans out kayaks, small catamarans, and windsurfing kits.
The hotel features only a single pool, but its massive size is more than capable of handling the large number of guests. The organic, curved design divides the entire pool into what appear to be a dozen smaller, individual pools. Large, white trellises line the concrete walkway that bisects the pool, adding a bit of sophistication to the space. Hundreds of plastic lounge chairs and dozens of palapas line all sides of the outdoor deck, providing plenty of shaded relaxation space. A large swim-up bar situated near the beach-side of the pool serves a full menu of beer, wine, and cocktails. Ping-pong tables and water volleyball nets add kid-friendly sporting opportunities to the space. Overall, the vibe is lively but family-friendly.
All-day dining via four restaurants and free, 24-hour room service
With four full restaurants, several snack shacks, and 24-hour room service, there’s no shortage of drinking and dining options. In addition to the main buffet, three other restaurants serve a mix of Asian, Italian, and steakhouse entrees in both buffet and a la carte services. The quality of food receives generally positive comments in all four restaurants.
The hotel’s main restaurant, Rose Hall, serves buffet-style meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The cuisine is typical international fare with a larger-than-average selection of entrees, drinks, and desserts available for all meals. Unfortunately, the dark, massive dining hall feels a bit sterile, like eating in a fancy university cafeteria.
Several additional restaurants serve themed cuisines. Kalu provides a dinner-only Asian buffet in a tiny dining area that feels woefully inadequate given the size of the hotel. The space features a lovely, if a bit generic, modern Asian aesthetic. Little Italy serves buffet appetizers and desserts, but a la carte dinner service with an Italian-inspired menu. Mahoe Bay provides a mix of buffet and a la carte steakhouse cuisine in a large, two-story, open-air space. Unfortunately, guests frequently complain of the difficulty in securing dinner reservations for each the three themed restaurants.
Compared to most area properties, the liquor selection is excellent. Premium alcohol (like Appleton Rum, Jim Beam, and Cointreau) is available at most bars and restaurants throughout the property and included in every all-inclusive package stay.
A nighttime theater, a late-night club, and a 24-hour sports bar
The resort houses three adult-centric entertainment venues. Exodus theater is the tamest and most family-friendly of the lot. However, most acts center around live music or themed variety shows. Pacha is a typical, garish nightclub that opens after dinner nightly and closes early the following morning. An unnamed, 24-hour sports bar also provides round-the-clock cocktail service, several large TVs, and exorbitant pay-per-hour WiFi.
Small, modern spa and salon for massage treatments and beauty services
The modern Renova Spa is adequately sized. However, it feels small relative to the massive scale of the property. A long list of treatments is available, including body wraps, facials, and a variety of massages. The adjacent salon likewise offers a full menu including manicures, pedicures, and other beauty treatments. The overall decor features a soft, earth tone color palette, beige tile flooring, and tasteful, Zen-inspired accents.
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