• By: Dan Donovan

RIU Resorts in Mexico Make for Great Family Vacations

Having three teenagers can be challenging at the best of times but getting away for a family vacation is a time for everyone to decompress and to enjoy each other’s company without the stresses and strains of daily life back home.

Destination is key to a great beach holiday. Mexico’s Riviera Maya has been a winter choice for Ottawa area residents for more than two decades. The Mayan people are renowned for their generosity, hospitality and rich culture. When it comes to exceptional resorts no one does it better in Mexico than RIU.

There is a reason why RIU has the highest re-booking rate of any resort company in the world. Unmatched customer care, beautiful lodgings and exceptional food all combine for an exceptional and stress free holiday. We decided to spend the first part of our family vacation at the RIU Palace Riviera Maya in Playa Del Carmen and the last three days at the RIU Palace Peninsula in Cancun.

It’s easy to get to Riviera Maya from Ottawa. Several airlines offer all-inclusive vacations to RIU resorts that can be easily found online. If you are going to Riviera Maya and your package does not include transfers, it is worthwhile to rent a car for the week. The cost (120 dollars) is about the same as the taxi service from Cancun to Riviera Maya return. You can park the car at the resort for week and if you are adventurous use it to visit neighbouring towns, lagoons and historic archeological ruins.

RIU has 6 resorts in the Playa Del Carmen area. The RIU Palace Riviera Maya is a pleasant 15 minute walk along beautiful tree lined streets to the resort town of Playa del Carmen — you can also walk into town along the beach. This resort complex offers luxurious, well-decorated rooms that include a mini-bar with cold drinks and liqueur dispensers, refrigerators, Wi-Fi and daily room cleaning. Don’t be surprised if you see peacocks or other wildlife as you walk through the well manicured complex which features plenty of flower beds and plants all in a peaceful, calm atmosphere.

The Riviera Maya is famous for it's beautiful white sandy beaches.
The Riviera Maya is famous for it’s beautiful white sandy beaches.

RIU Palace Riviera Maya has a gorgeous tropical beach. The soft white sand, crystal clear aqua-blue water, shade-covering palm trees and comfortable beach chairs will make a beach person out of anybody. There are 3 swimming pools adjacent to the beach including a “quiet pool” and an array of bars and refreshment stands available to guests.

RIU is known for its food and the Palace Riviera Maya does not disappoint. Whether it’s the beach-front barbecue, or the fabulous buffet lunches at the restaurant by the beach you will be well satisfied. With the all-inclusive service, it’s great for kids because they can come and go as they please. Unlike many resorts I have been to over the years, RIU staff are very attentive to their guests and you never have to wait for anything. The resort has a comfortable buzz that emanates from the calm mood and lively but relaxed atmosphere. As with most  families today Wi-Fi is a prerequisite to staying anywhere and our kids took advantage of the service in the quiet time between day and night activities.

RIU Palace Riviera Maya offers many sports and activities for guests. If you are the beach sport type there is windsurfing, catamaran, kayaking, body boarding, snorkeling or just swimming and hanging out. Off-beach activities include table tennis, gymnastics, volleyball, golf or simply enjoying a book in one of the many lounge areas or cafés. Of course, you always have the option of the Renova Spa which offers a range of different treatments and massages.

For the adventurous there are lots of day trip options. The spectacular pyramids and ruins of the Mayans, the biosphere reserve of Sian Ka’an, the Crococum Zoo, the Crococum Zoo, the ruins of Chichén Itzá or Tulum are just some of the many choices. Going into the lively beach town of Playa del Carmen, day or night, with all its famous jewelry shops, excellent cuisine, cafés, terraces bars and clubs is also a fun excursion. We had a great lunch at a local chicken stand a block from the beach. The meal was inexpensive and the atmosphere and experience was priceless. There is a ferry service in Playa Del Carmen to the island of Cozumel. It is worth the 45-minute trip to visit Cozumel and take in its natural beauty and relaxed atmosphere, plus the ferry ride is fun.

We drove south to the town of Akumel to snorkel with sea turtles and took a day trip to the ruins and beaches in Tulum. A day trip to Xel-Há, a natural aquarium park considered the largest aquarium in the world, is more than worth it. You can dive off cliffs, practice snorkeling, swim with dolphins, Snuba® (a combination of snorkeling and diving) or try their famous Sea Trek® (walking under water).

The great thing about staying at RIU is you can return from an excursion and enjoy a wonderful dinner at one of the resort’s 5 restaurants that feature Italian, Steak, Asian and Mexican cuisines. Mexican cuisine is recognized for its variety of recipes that feature distinctive and sophisticated flavours which incorporate many different spices. The La Margarita Mexican restaurant at the resort is a must. It offers a combination of gastronomic traditions, including meso-american and local Mexican dishes. RIU is a foodie’s dream resort.

The nightly live shows on the outdoor patio are surprisingly good or you can visit the La Piñata club which plays reggae and other dance music. Both venues serve up endless drinks to the sun drenched guests. Parents with younger children can partake in the early evening children’s entertainment. During the day resort staff offer crafts and activities for children.

Beach side at the RIU Palace Peninsula, Cancun.
Beach side at the RIU Palace Peninsula, Cancun.

All relaxed after a week at the RIU Palace Riviera Maya we headed for a great 3 day weekend stay at Hotel RIU Palace Peninsula (all inclusive, 24 hours). Situated in the heart of one of Cancun’s most popular areas for tourists, on a white sandy beach with turquoise water, this hotel did not disappoint. This high rise hotel was an adjustment from the low rise, sprawling RIU resort in Riviera Maya. It combines sophistication, comfort and service into one tidy package. We adapted quickly and loved it, especially the views from our suite. The food was excellent and the Vegas type night show featuring a Mexican Elvis impersonator was an absolutely hilariously good time. The restaurants are wonderful. Culinary options include La Toscana Italian restaurant, a Japanese restaurant called Kawachi and a grill and steakhouse that features a buffet. We went to La Toscana twice. It was so good the first time we just had to go back! Formal dress is required for dinner and it was really nice to see so many families and couples so elegantly dressed and enjoying a night out.

The RIU Palace Peninsula, Cancun.
The RIU Palace Peninsula, Cancun.

Taking public transit in Cancun is an easy way to get into the centre of the city and tour around the many shops and restaurants. The people are very friendly and it is very safe for tourists. After seven days of relaxing I took advantage of the RIU Palace Peninsula’s gym, sauna and jacuzzi. Our kids spent most of the final days of our trip sunbathing, swimming in the three fresh water swimming pools and playing in the resort’s game room. Needless to say after spending 10 days at a RIU Resort we were relaxed. Now I need a vacation to recover from my vacation. I better visit RIU.com again.

For more information on RIU hotels in Meixo visit, www.riu.com