RIU Roundup: Business or Pleasure?

DSCN2653Our guest post and monthly column comes from Howard Hian who was recently awarded a Gold Medal/First Place Award from the North American Travel Journalists Association’s annual international writing contest.  His prize winning story, Houseboating with My Pirate Pals, was in the Intergenerational Travel category.  In 2010 he also received a second place award in the Cancun International writers competition for his feature, Quintessential Quintana Roo. Hian was recently named as the San Diego Hotel Motel Association’s “Allied Member of the Year” for 2011 for his ongoing contributions to the city’s tourism industry through his travel writing.

The flight attendant was handing out immigration forms as I was flying to Mexico. One of the questions: “Business or vacation?” What’s the answer for a travel writer on assignment?

My first trip was a family reunion at the RIU Palace in Cabo San Lucas in Baja, California. During the planning phase, everyone agreed that an all-inclusive resort would remove decision making stress, e.g., where to eat, gratuities, daily activities, personal space, beach or pool, etc. Our goals were serious laziness and catching up with siblings.

Three months later, I flew to Cancun on a press trip to the RIU Palace Mexico in Playa Del Carmen. Their public relations department wanted to introduce a small group of writers to the newly remodeled resort ($20 million dollars worth). Additionally, we were there to explore the exciting Riviera Maya. Nothing lazy about this trip.

What to Do at the RIU Palace and in Cabo San Lucas

Our family chose to be beach bums; languid mornings at the pool reading, followed by lazy afternoons settled in by the ocean and always laughing and eating together. My daily regiment included a Mudslide at 11:00 AM at the swim-up bar. Although there are lots of sites/sights to see, our only outings were a water taxi to Los Arcos’ Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach) for exploring and a shopping excursion into town. The entire experience was the definition of laid back. Note: consider booking a room with a view of the Pacific and Los Arcos, Cabo San Lucas’ signature natural attraction at “Lands End.”

What to Do in Carmen Del Playa and Riviera Maya

The press trip kicked off with an inspection of the “new” RIU Palace Mexico and its nearby sister properties, RIU Yucatan and the RIU Palace. This was followed by “how to” lessons on creating towel art, carving watermelons and mixing cocktails (always a crowd pleaser). Each day we sampled the various restaurants at the resort. One evening, we drove to Playa Del Carmen for a traditional Mayan dinner and afterwards strolled 5th. Avenue, famous for people watching, restaurants, bars and shopping. Our hosts took us on several outstanding excursions. The spectacular archeological site Tulum is not to be missed. We also visited a Mayan family and village. The highlight was a jungle hike with a finale of rappelling 45 feet into the Jaguar Cenote for a swim.

Staying and Playing at RIU

RIU rates include food, drinks, gratuities, wi-fi, in-room safe, 24-hour room service, exercise facilities, evening turndown service, daily/hourly activities, a disco and nightly entertainment. Every room features a liquor dispenser and a refrigerator stocked with water, soft drinks and beer.

Treat yourself to a massage at the Renova Spa; there is a fee. There are programs for kids, multiple pools and bars and Jacuzzis. The staff at both places was well trained, friendly and attentive. Food-wise, they have the same restaurants at each of the RIU resorts I visited. There are eight to choose from, ranging from snacks to gourmet dining and 24-hour room service. The buffet is open morning, noon and night and offers an extraordinary array of food to accommodate everyone’s taste. Each evening it features a dinner theme. My personal favorites were the fresh fruits and smoked salmon served at breakfast, the variety of outstanding cheeses available at each meal and seafood at any of the restaurants.

DSCN2131Reservations are required at the specialty outlets, but there is no surcharge. I recommend Krystal and the Grill & Steakhouse. All of the activities mentioned and more are available through the hospitality desk in the lobby. For information on over 100 RIU family-owned hotels/resorts logon to www.riu.com or call 1-888-RIU-4990. Their locations are also perfect for weddings and business meetings.

So, which box should I check, “Business or vacation?”

Safe travels and enjoy the journey…

Howard Hian


Thanks to the various websites for information and photos.