Kids’ club with crafts and games, and kiddy pool with small slides
Fee for the in-room Wi-Fi
Complaints of a musty smell in the rooms
Few rooms have full ocean views
No room service or turndown service
No drink orders from loungers (though a waiter may bring a tray of drinks around)
No umbrellas at the beach (though palm trees provide some shade)
No rooms with tubs
This 396-room, upper-middle-range Riu Playacar is located in the residential, gated Playacar community near Playa del Carmen. It's the nicest of the four Classic-level Riu properties in the complex (and priced accordingly); thanks to 2015 renovations, it's also even fresher than the two more expensive Palace-level properties. It’s jam-packed with activities, including nightly live shows, and there are four restaurants (but no room service or personal waiter service at the beach, unlike at the pricier Riu Palace Mexico and Riu Palace Riviera Maya). The kids' club has its own pool with small waterslides, and there are three other pools for the whole family, on top of an on-site gym and spa. Those looking for a cheaper option may prefer the Hotel Riu Tequila, but it's farther from the beach.
The most modern of the Classic-level Riu properties in the gated Playacar complex
Riu Playacar All-Inclusive is one of four Classic-level Riu properties in the gated Playacar complex, and is easily the nicest -- but it's also the priciest. The entire resort was gutted in 2015, shutting down operations from April until October. The pools, reception, restaurants, and most of the public areas were completely rebuilt, and all of the rooms were refurnished. As a result, everything is more modern here than at sister properties Riu Yucatan, , and , and during our 2016 visit we saw zero wear and tear in the new areas. The old Mexican-style architecture is gone, replaced with more modern structures that are very square and rectangular in their design. Expect clean lines, large ceramic tiles, reflective mirror glass, and contemporary art and lighting throughout. But the colors still feel very Mexican, and there are plenty of vibrant oranges, purples, and blues throughout the main areas and the rooms themselves. There’s still some minor wear and tear visible in the residential hallways, mostly due to weathering and age, but it’s minimal and barely noticeable, thanks to regular maintenance that includes coats of paint.
The massive lobby is a wide-open space with gray tile floors and pillars, and a triangular seating area to the side of a bright orange and brown reception desk. There are shops and a bar off of the lobby, and a long walkway leads through the heart of the resort and by the pools to the beach beyond. There are about a half dozen three-story buildings housing the rooms on either side of the path. Table games and loungers abound, and there's plenty of shade by the pool -- though no umbrellas at the beach (palm trees provide some cover).
The Riu Playacar is extremely family-friendly, with tons of activities all day, a kids' club, and fun kiddy pool. The footprint of the resort is more compact than the other Classic-level Riu properties, which will also appeal to parents who don't want to trek far with their little ones. Couples should take note of the kid-oriented atmosphere; they may prefer one of the Palace resorts -- Riu Palace Mexico or Riu Palace Riviera Maya -- which are located on either side of the Riu Playacar and cater more toward adults. The much pricier and adult-only Royal Hideaway Playacar, sandwiched in between the Riu Playacar and Riu Palace Riviera Maya, is another option. The Riu Yucatan is very comparable to the Riu Playacar, but a bit bigger, while the Riu Tequila and Riu Lupita are more dated and farther from the sand.
Beachside location in an upscale, gated community of Playa del Carmen
The Riu Playacar is set in the heart of the residential district from which it takes its name. It’s not exactly private, but it is high-end, and guests have to pass through security at the front gates when driving into the district. However, locals and tourists can also walk the beach from downtown, which is around a half-hour away on foot, so the beach isn’t entirely private for the guests of the resort. Riu Playacar arguably has the best location of any of four Classic-level Riu properties, in between the two pricer Palace resorts. Riu Yucatan is to the other side of the Riu Palace Mexico, and also has a prime beachfront location. Both the Riu Tequila and Riu Lupita are on the other side of the street from the beach (Riu Lupita is the farthest from the sand). The only downside to the Playacar's location is that it isn't right next to any of the Classic-level properties, so using the facilities at the others isn't super convenient.
The street out front has taxis to downtown, and the ADO bus station is the first thing guests will find once they arrive on the 5th Avenue. The town's main hub, 5th Avenue stretches north through the heart of Playa del Carmen, and is lined with dozens of restaurants, clubs, and shops.
Modern rooms with balconies, but few with ocean views
The 396 rooms at the Riu Playcar were fully remodeled in 2015, bringing them up to modern standards. The old box tubes were replaced, and the rooms received new flooring, bedding, paint, furniture, and mattresses. The look isn't quite upscale, but it's certainly fresher. Most rooms have cream tiles and white furniture, with purple flower patterns on the headboard, purple shades, purple cushions on the chairs, and purple patterned runners on the beds. Some are more neutral, with lots of white and gray, and bright green accents.
There are three categories: the Standard Double, the Standard Double with a sofa bed, and the Junior Suite with a separate living room area. All have furnished balconies, although most only have garden or partial ocean views. Amenities include minibars and liquor dispensers, but unlike the Palace-level Riu properties, there is no room service. There are flat-screen TVs with basic satellite channels and in-room safes, but Wi-Fi incurs a fee.
Bathrooms are mostly ceramic tile throughout, with porcelain countertops. The Standard Double Room we saw had glass-block walls and purple mosaic tiles in the showers; in the Junior Suite, tiles were standard ceramic. Walk-in showers have adjustable-height showerheads; no rooms have tubs.
Three pools, activities, kid’s clubs, fitness center and spa
The three pools are the main hub of activity at the resort. The central pool is essentially a massive swim-up bar, with in-water tables as well as well as an adjacent bar area on land. There is a rectangular pool on either side of the swim-up bar; they're essentially identical, and have canopies for shade. The one to the left (while facing the beach) is next to the kiddy pool, which has a mushroom fountain and small slides. There are tons of activities by the pool, such as water aerobics and water polo, but the entertainment team won't push anyone to join if they're not interested. Guests get a free introductory scuba lesson in the pool.
The beach is gorgeous, with white and and turquoise waters. Water sports here include kayaks, catamarans, and Jet Skis. There are plenty of plastic and mesh loungers, but no umbrellas, so guests will need to use palm trees for shade. There are a few vendors, but usually not so many as to be a nuisance. Unlike at the Riu Palace Mexico and Riu Palace Riviera Maya, guests can't order drinks from lounge chairs, though waiters usually do circle around with trays of drinks (available on a first-come, first-served basis).
The RiuLand kids’ club has two different activity programs, one for kids ages 4 to 7, and the other for ages 8 to 12. There’s also a separate kids’ pool here as well. There's an evening kids' show, followed by shows for the whole family; they're a little cheesy, and some involve audience participation, but can be fun for those in the right mindset.
There is a spacious gym with plenty of natural light and machines, though they're not the most modern; tennis courts are also available. The small spa has a salon for manicures and pedicures, and offers indoor treatments as well as a beachside massage hut.
Four restaurants and four bars, but no room service
The Palms is the main buffet restaurant, with live cooking stations and themed buffets three times a week. There are three a la cartes, which have dress codes for dinner and require reservations (made in the lobby in the mornings). These include Jade (serving Asian cuisine), Traviata (Italian), and Turquesa (the poolside steakhouse). Las Olas is the poolside bar, and there are also bars in the lounge, lobby, and plaza. Top-shelf liquor isn't usually served but can be requested. Guests can also have lunch and drinks at the Riu Tequila and Riu Yucatan.
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