Review: Riu Palace Pacifico, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
I recently returned home from a week long vacation in Puerto Vallarta. This was my first visit to Mexico, and I couldn’t have had a better experience. Puerto Vallarta is a perfect tropical getaway spot with mild temperatures (summer is hot and humid of course, but bearable), 70 miles of ocean bay beach front, tropical jungles, loads of adventures, and terrific food. It is also extremely accessible, at only a little over 2 hour flight time from San Francisco or Phoenix.
Puerto Vallarta airport is small. After checking through customs and security, you are herded through a small hallway to a room full of white shirted guys selling time shares. You can milk them for some information if you’d like, or just make your way through them to the taxis. The taxi drivers are as bad or worse than the time share guys. But we were smart and prepaid for shuttle services. It may be a bit more expensive this way, but it sure takes the hassle out of everything. Once loaded up, we headed off to our resort in Nuevo Vallarta, the Riu Palace Pacifico.
Check in at Riu Palace Pacifico
Upon first walking into Riu, you feel like you’ve entered a sultan’s palace somehow built in the tropics of Mexico. This place is gorgeous. Palace is the right name for Riu. I feel there may be a “grande” missing in the name. If it wasn’t for the Mexican art and color scheme, I’d think I was in a wealthy Arabian king’s home.
The employees of Riu Palace couldn’t do a better job of making you feel welcome. They were all very professional, helpful, and accommodating. The bell hop guys faithfully stood with our luggage until we were finished checking in. The front desk staff all spoke perfect English and were very patient and nice. We were greeted with glasses of delicious tropical juice drinks, and given detailed information about the resort layout and accommodations.
After checking in, we made our way to our rooms, where our luggage was delivered to us. The rooms were absolutely beautiful. Dark woods, granite floors and counters, a huge bathroom with a step in jetted tub/shower combo, rather comfortable beds, a drop down sitting area, and a walk out balcony. I somehow managed to forget to take pictures of the rooms, so I can’t show you what they looked like, but suffice it to say, these were some of the better rooms I’ve stayed in.
Each had a fully stocked mini fridge with several liters of bottled water (restocked daily), sodas, beer, and wine. There was even a liquor dispenser in each room over the fridge with tequila, vodka, whiskey, and rum. This all inclusive drink what you want thing was an alcoholics dream. I’m glad I’m not a drinker.
Great Food and Dining at Riu Palace Pacifico
After checking in and getting settled in our rooms, we headed straight to dinner. Riu is an all inclusive resort, which means that anything and everything that you want to eat and drink is free for the taking. Riu offers several “reservation only” restaurants, as well as a gigantic buffet room. We ate at most of them, but I have to say that the buffet seemed to actaully be the best option. They had everything you could hope to find. Asian, American, Italian, salads, appetizers, fruits, desserts, sandwiches, grilled meats, and a good selection of Mexican thrown in. I’ll dive into this more in my complete food review of Riu Palace, but for now, let me just say that for an all inclusive place, the food was great, and if a person just wanted to stay at the resort and never go into Vallarta, they certainly could and still have a great eating experience.
Riu Palace Pool and Private Beach Front
After dinner, we headed out to the pool. The pool was nice, and pretty good sized, though it did seem a little small for the size of the resort. Also, it was the only pool on the property, so adults and children were all swimming and peeing together. That seemed a bit odd when I realized that the swim up bar was serving any alcoholic drink you wanted and there were many an adult who had a few too many. But all in all it was fine and never really caused any concern or awkward discomfort for me or our party.
But as nice as the pool was, we found that we enjoyed the beach and ocean as much or more. The water was VERY warm, 87°. We had such a good time just standing in the water with the waves crashing on us. Riu knows the value of their beach, so they have plenty of relaxation chairs to sit on and will bring you an umbrella or two upon asking. They also send waiters out to take drink orders, and there are ladies and kids selling corn snacks should you get hungry.
The beaches of Puerto Vallarta are beautiful. White sands, blue water, a gentle breeze, and plenty of sun. Very relaxing indeed. And when the sun gets too hot, you can just take a dip in the water, which we ended up dipping in most of the days and nights that we were there.
There were even big pelicans fishing around us. They would fly, dive, and come out of the water with a large fish or two. Over and over again they would repeat this performance. They were beautiful to watch.
The only drawback to hanging in the ocean is that there are jellyfish that make their way into shore. The water is not clear enough to see them, so you don’t really know if they’re there or not. My girlfriend’s sister and mom both got stung minutes apart from each other, so we decided it was time to head back to the pool. It’s nice that you have both options at your disposal. And as for the sting, the workers have bottles of vinegar and bandages to help relieve the pain, which only lasts about 5-10 minutes.
Every night of our trip was filled with a massive lightning and rain storm. These pictures were taken about 20 minutes before one came in. It was beautiful to watch, but when I saw lightning literally strike the beach about a half mile from us, I decided it was time to head in. They were fantastic storms though.
Beach Activities at Riu Palace Pacifico in Puerto Vallarta
Again, if a person wanted to make their entire vacation at the Riu resort, there is certainly plenty available to do. The resort offers jet skiing, boating, and parasailing. These are all extra charge activities of course, but are fun if you want to partake. We took in some parasailing, which I had never done before. It was $50 for about 12-15 minutes of flying high fun. This was an amazing way to take in the complete landscape of Puerto Vallarta and the bay. It was absolutely gorgeous, and I recommend it to anyone.
Back at the resort, there are nightly shows starting at 10:00pm. These vary nightly, from bands, to dance, to cultural events. They even had a Michael Jackson impersonation one night that was actually very good.
Recommendation for Riu Palace Pacifico
I absolutely recommend the Riu Palace. It is a fantastic resort, with great food, great service, great activities, and great prices. It’s kind of like a cruise ship on land. I would definitely stay at Riu again if heading back to Puerto Vallarta.
The Bald Gourmet goes to Puerto Vallarta and stays at Riu Palace Pacifico.
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