RIU Vallarta- An All Inclusive Puerto Vallarta Trip
This post is long overdue.. SORRY! No excuses but life has been crazy busy. I've missed writing these posts though and sharing more in depth vacation content with you all.
In April 2023 I went post surrogacy to Puerto Vallarta Mexico with my husband and a few friends to get back into traveling post baby and celebrate a healthy miracle. If you don't know, my husband Keith and I really enjoy all inclusive vacations. He is an auto technician and works so hard while at home and we both enjoy being able to just kick our feet up and relax and not think about a thing at all inclusive resorts. See my posts from our previous trips to Riviera Maya area (Sunscape Akumal) here and (Occidental at Xcaret) here.
Booking the Trip:
When booking this type of vacation I almost always do extensive research on CheapCaribbean.com and book our trips based on affordable dates/hotels/airfare rather than locking into a certain destination and week. This always works really well for us as we can usually be flexible in the dates we end up booking. For this trip, we had several friends that were also interested in joining so I had to make sure that everyone was good with certain dates. Our usual go to in the Riviera Maya area of Mexico we ended up ruling out pretty early on in our search as the flight times were pretty crummy and there were no good direct flight options which are both important to us to maximize our time at the resorts.
We turned out eyes to Puerto Vallarta airport and I was very pleased with the direct flight option from Chicago along with the pricing. We had never been to this side of Mexico and I was very excited for a change of pace.
While I don't usually review an airport I think it is important to highlight a few things about PVR being that it was our first time flying in and out of here. The airport is small- very small. There is not a lot of seating at the gates and most gates at this airport if not all of them were just doors to buses that took you out onto the tarmac to deplane and board. For the number of people flying in and out I personally thought the airport was too small.
Second thing to note is that the airport building itself sat at an EXTREMELY busy intersection that I didn't think was set up very conducively to all of the traffic coming and going. For some more background.. our resort was only about 10-15 minutes from the airport but from the time we got into our ground transportation shuttle at the resort to the time we got out of it at the airport was close to 40 minutes. We had to sit in long lines of traffic to get into the airport itself. It could have been the time of day that we were leaving but I noticed similar things as we arrived to PVR as well.
The Resort Grounds:
The resort grounds were set up very similarly to the other RIU resorts we have been to in the shape of a "U" with everything in the center of the "U" facing toward the ocean and rooms being built in the "U" in a taller orientation. The restaurants and theaters are on the ground floor and all pretty centrally located. This resort had another smaller stage in the center of the common area as well. Behind that were the pools and behind the pools, the beach and ocean. The grounds were always clean, very clean, and well kept up. I was impressed! It was all well maintained with little sign of wear to the common areas, buildings, restaurants, or rooms and was overall in really great shape. The vegetation was also beautiful although I feel like it usually is at all inclusive resorts. This particular resort had plants and trees labeled with names and QR codes which I thought was a nice touch as well for guests interested in learning more about each plant/tree.
Grounds: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars
When we booked this resort we opted for a nicer room with a guaranteed Ocean View Suite. I am not sure that at a resort set up in a "U" shape like this that is necessary as pretty much every room has direct ocean view. It wasn't a huge upcharge and but I'm not sure in a layout like this I would pay for the upgrade again. I was overall pretty happy with the space, cleanliness, and layout of the room.
We had a minibar with drinks and bottle of alcohol in our room right when we walked in. The large bathroom with dual sinks was on the right, although there was minimal counter space in the bathroom. On the left hand side, there was the room and beyond that was a sunken in living room area with a couch. Finally we had a nice balcony that overlooked the common areas below including the smaller stage and beyond it the ocean.
One thing to note- our room was just above the theatre which was very loud the nights we went to bed before the entertainment was done. Some nights the shows and bands played until after 11pm. I think regardless of the room location in the resort it would have been the same due to the open central common areas below and most people's balcony overlooking
Room: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars
The Food and Drinks:
We have been to many all inclusive resorts and while the food isn't the highlight of the trip you can still find resorts with pretty good food. Most resorts the food is just okay- not bad but not great. The RIU Vallarta is top of my list when it comes to delicious food. None of the restaurants require reservations which I really like in a resort. There are days that you just want to stay in the sun until you are done and not rush off to get ready and go to dinner or be anywhere at a certain time. We had no issues as a group of 6 getting into every restaurant within 20 minutes of walking in. We did notice that the steakhouse always had a line out of it right when it opened so there was one night we did get out of the pool/ocean and got in line to ensure we got a spot. Surprisingly out of all the restaurants the steakhouse was our least favorite. The Asian, Gourmet, and Italian restaurants were all wonderful and surprisingly good.
The buffet was also incredible. There is usually a pretty decent display and array of dishes at the resort buffets but this was by far the biggest and most wide variety buffet I've yet to see at an all inclusive resort. The breakfast buffet had everything you could imagine from eggs and omelet stations, to smoothies, cereal, fruits, pastries, meats and cheeses, authentic Mexican breakfasts, classic American breakfast items, and more!
Lunch was much the same with a large variety of warm and cold options. Our favorite lunch spot was Pepe's right on the pool deck though. It was a walkup grab and go type of quick service to eat on the beach. While the variety of food didn't change at Pepe's it was nice to be able to self serve quickly and not worry about drying off and putting a cover up on for a sit down meal.
The other nice thing about this resort was there was a sports bar. This was a 24 hour/late night hang out that had a walk up cooler with sandwiches, nachos, and a few other items to eat late at night if you needed a little something more before heading to bed.
Finally the drinks were good to above average. Most resort drinks can be a little watered down or considered weak but I don't mind because you get unlimited drinks included in your package. This resort, like many others, had just about any drink you could imagine and I would say they did not seem watered down to me. One thing I really liked about this resort was at the main bars there was a sign with popular drinks listed out. Sometimes I just don't know what I want so being able to see common drink orders was a nice touch!
Food and drinks: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
The Service and Entertainment:
Based on our experiences at the two RIU hotels we've stayed at, if there is one thing I think they excel at it's their entertainment programs and this hotel was no different. They run fun activities all day long from organized beach and pool volleyball to yoga to bingo and poolside trivia. Pictured above they had a fun meal and pineapple drinks on the beach for lunch one day!
While many resorts do this, RIU really takes the cake when it comes to their nightly entertainment. Every single night at this resort there was a live band early in the evening followed by a more robust show in the theater around 9pm. The evening events during our stay were a Mayan/history show, a silent disco (so much fun!), a tenor opera show, classic Mexican music, and live trivia. Each one of these was different but so much fun!
The other fun activity at RIU resorts are the RIU parties. At RIU Vallarta, once a week they host a party at the neighboring resort located just a few resorts down on the beach. They really advertise this well and get the guests hyped up. For us, the theme during our stay was a white party. Leading up to the evening they had face painting on site at our resort even and they encouraged people to go by offering shuttle buses to/from if you didn't want to walk on the beach. If you are planning a stay at a RIU resort, be sure to check out their RIU party page ahead of time so that you know what to expect as this is a fun night you won't want to miss!
The other super fun night was when they had a Mexican night. This was complete with bull riding, infused tequila tasting, taco tasting (the hot sauce was the hottest thing I've ever eaten!), photo ops, games, a live Mariachi band and of course fun decorations.
When you're at a resort, it's just a nice added bonus to have entertainment and options of things to do in the evenings. I really appreciate that about the RIU hotel chain and think they do an excellent job hosting guests from all over the world!
Entertainment: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars
The other couple things to note about this resort are:
The resort has 4 pools including a separate kids area and pool
There is a dedicated smoking section which as a non-smoker I really appreciate
On the beach there are TONS of people walking up and down and stationed in huts offering you to buy their "stuff" which includes hats, jeweler, sunglasses, t-shirts, coverups, etc. They are not affilated with the hotel and after seeing the same people every single day it can get a bit much.
You can purchase things to do right on the beach at this resort like parasailing and beach horseback riding right on there
If you are looking for a great all inclusive resort with above average food and so much to do on site I would absolutely recommend this resort. This all inclusive resort has made it's way into my top 3 favorite resorts I've visited. I would definitely consider coming back to this one and would give it overall 4.5⭐️'s/5. We had a great time with great friends!
Smiley hat (old) similar here
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