It’s been a few months since our Mexican whirl to Riviera Maya, and seeing that travel is some of our most sought out content and some of you many now contemplating a Fall/Winter getaway (I feel ya!), wanted to get our review of the Royalton Riviera Cancun up for you guys!
We booked this trip with 19 hrs to go before departure! The most last minute we’ve ever done! Many of you asked if we saved lots of money booking this way – the answer is no. The end of Summer is a high demand travel period no matter where you’re venturing to and Mexico, which is one of the most affordable destinations year-round, was no exception. Getting a packaged deal was unavailable, so we ended up booking the hotel and flight separately which did save us a bit of money, though. Also, being a family of six, finding hotels that can accommodate our large size in one room are tricky, and typically are found in the luxury category which adds to our price tag.
The Riviera Maya holds a special place in our hearts – hubs and I visited a few times in our dating years (the Barcelo Maya Palace) and honeymooned there 12 years ago (the Riu Palace Riviera Maya). Taking our gang there was on our radar for a while, so finding a great family hotel that could accommodate our large size was top criteria and one of the most referred to us – The Royalton Riviera Cancun.
We had visited the Hardrock Punta Cana 4 months prior to this trip which blew us away on all fronts, so you could say the bar was set pretty high.
Here are the things we loved about the Royalton Riviera Cancun:
1) The Location
The trip from the airport to the resort was super quick – 15 mins max, I’d say. This is a great thing for young families and eager members too restless for a long transfer. The resort is right on the border of Cancun/Riviera Maya.
Note: Booking the hotel and flight separately meant arranging transfers to and from the airport were on us. Royalton has the option to reserve before you arrive with Nexus Tours, but because we booked with under 24 hours to go, we weren’t able to do so. Getting a private shuttle at the airport was no trouble and there are lots of options. The drivers from/to the airport were super friendly, and the one we had back to the airport was right on time on our day of departure.
2) The Accommodations for Large Groups
This criterion is always a must-have for our gang. The resort is divided into 3 sections – Resort, Diamond Club, or Hideaway (adults only). No matter where you stay on property, though, all of their Luxury Suites accommodate 5+ – a great perk for large families and groups and hard to find in All-Inclusive resorts in the Caribbean/Mexico.
Note: Many previous guests of this resort recommended the swim out suites to us, but we bypassed this for three reasons: 1) we have a 3-year-old toddler who’s a flight risk and these rooms are on the main level adjacent to the pool deck and easy for curious minds to wander from 2) they are in high traffic areas where guests walk by your outdoor patio all day, so if you prefer a bit more privacy, this is not a great option; 3) we probably would have spent more time in our room – we like to get out and explore a bit or we all get a bit whirly.
We ended up booking the Luxury Suite with Terrace Jacuzzi which accommodates 6 people comfortably and is on the highest level of the resort. In addition to the amenities included with all luxury suites – DreamBeds, Unlimited WiFi, 24-hour concierge, in-room safe, balcony or terrace, rain showers, stocked mini-bar, satellite TV, Ironing board, hairdryer, etc. – our room had 592 sq. ft of space, 2 Queen beds + pull out sofa bed, an indoor and outdoor terrace Jacuzzi. While the indoor jacuzzi option was nice, it is placed smack dab in the middle of your room and became more of a source of water entertainment to the wee ones than used for relaxation purposes 😉
The outdoor terrace jacuzzi overlooked the pool with a side view of the ocean – beautiful to enjoy a morning cup of coffee, sunrises and sunsets with added outdoor space for the kids to run around a bit. We didn’t use the jacuzzi much, but the upper terrace was a nice space for hubs and I to retreat to for a nightcap once the kids nodded off. The open staircase to get up there was a bit unnerving with a busy toddler in the mix we will say, though.
3) The Family-Focused Amenities
Let’s start with the kids’ Splash Park – arguably one of the largest, most impressive among the all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean & Mexico. The kids couldn’t get enough of the trio of blue waterslides, and the animal climbing & spraying options scattered about.
While its size was impressive, the different levels, blind spots and four kids scattered around meant both parents were on guard at all times, even with lifeguards on deck. But this area kept us active and outdoors for hours, and the family foam party was a major highlight for everyone (memories of Spring Break may arise for you parents 😉, but this version is “kids gone wild”!).
The kids club was a nice option for kids 4 years old plus. You’ll need to sign them in with passports, and the schedule works in 3-hour blocks. We booked them in for a 2-5 p.m. period so our 2-year-old could nap in the room, and one of us could enjoy a massage at the spa. The kids got a bit bored of the programming, however, and we ended up picking them up early. Overall, they preferred to be at the pool most days.
For those who want to get their fitness on, there was lots of activity by the infinity and sandbar pools morning through the afternoon – spin cycling in the water, poolside yoga, etc. The kids loved the basketball courts placed around the pools as well.
The nightly entertainment was top-notch and we loved that it was outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather. Many of the bars and restaurants surround the open-forum stage by the Infinity pool, and you can watch the live shows while sipping/dining from most locations. They had Mexican and Vegas (including Elvis!) themed nights while we were there, and the kids LOVED the high-energy, magic show with a talented illusionist. The Signature White Party was pretty fun too – the kids loved the glow lighting effects and the live DJ and dancers. Don’t forget to pack some white attire for your gang.
For parents who want a bit of after bedtime nightlife, there is a casino and nightclub, and babysitters available to hire if you want a night out sans kiddos. We were all pretty zonked after a full day at the pool and filling dinner, so we didn’t test drive this ourselves, but did speak with other families at the resort who did and had a positive experience.
NOTE: there are on-site photographers everywhere and you’ll have no trouble getting some pro shots done. We even booked a complimentary, 30-minute family session one morning, and got some incredible shots before it got too hot out – nearly 200! Be aware that the cost of those images is pretty pricey – $25 USD per pic, unless you get a package bundle which reduces the cost a bit. Getting all the images from our family session would have cost us nearly $1000 USD! I love photography and appreciate the work of photographers so much, but had I known the package price prior, I would have had them do a smaller reel of images within our budget. We did end up getting a small bundle, and Edgar in the photo centre helped negotiate a better price for us. All the images we selected were emailed to us and they also printed them on the spot so we could have them before we left.
4) The Food Selection & Service
We’d heard so much about the food quality of this resort (particularly the Buffet), and weren’t at all disappointed. We ate at their highly-praised Gourmet Marche – International Buffet restaurant every morning for breakfast, and, with the exception of one evening, every night for dinner. With four kids ages 3- 10 years old, the quick convenience of the buffet was just more suited to our dynamic than a la carte dinners. There are 9 restaurants total, and lost of international culinary variety. We had one a la carte dinner on the roof-top of Grazie, which was delicious and lovely (more on that below).
Our buffet faves – the meat carving, fresh seafood, omelet and smoothie stations. With a section just for kids with pasta, burgers and hot dogs, your fussiest foodies will find something they enjoy too. The Gelato and kids’ dessert bars were also a major hit (obvi!). We weren’t Diamond Club, but were always seated conveniently for our large crew as a courtesy, and our waiters were always so personable and accommodating. They even seated us outside for a few of our breakfasts and surprised our son with a magician card show and special dessert on his birthday.
We ate lunch by the pool every day with loaded nachos, chicken quesadillas, pulled pork tacos, burgers, hot dogs, fries and more as options. You won’t need to walk far for all your food/drink needs, and the wait staff around the pool are wonderful and attentive.
We also enjoyed the Caffe Lounge & Coffee Bar – just off the lobby across from the gift shop, serving specialty coffees, pastries and cakes & ice cream. The kids had gelato from here almost every day, and the cappuccinos were really nice!
NOTE: most drinks are all-inclusive. If you want top shelf alcohol, you must be a Diamond Club member. Also, we’ve had family travel to this resort who had children with severe food allergies and found the food/resort staff accommodating to their limitations. We always appreciate when resorts can be inclusive for families.
Room for improvement:
1) Check-in – getting our keys was mighty slow and took nearly 30 mins. Not sure if this is intentional, as the resort has an online room selection option you can pay $60 USD for before you go and pre-select the room of preference in the category you’ve booked claiming “a faster check in process so you can get to your vacation quicker” as justification for the cost. We also didn’t know we were entitled to a resort credit and missed being able to apply the voucher to our spa service.
2) The Beach – while no fault of the resort, the seaweed “Sargassum” phenomenon overtaking the water is really unappealing and disappointing. Our memories of the ocean in Cancun were crystal blue waters, so we didn’t read up on this before we left, and were stunned to see the water resembling more of a lake colour. We love the option of swimming in the ocean, so this was a bit of a downer. The resort staff works really hard to clear the debris from the waterfront, but you will not at all be able to swim in the ocean right now and the smell can be bad at times. The sand is lovely to walk in though, and we still had a few family jaunts despite the conditions. It’s a really quiet spot if you have little ones who need naps with the ocean breeze too.
3) We wanted to enjoy our son’s birthday dinner at Grazie restaurant on the upper, outdoor patio. We weren’t able to make a reservation ahead of time because we weren’t Diamond Club guests (the reality for all non-buffet restaurants), and to sit upstairs, had to pay $50 USD for a bottle of wine. It was a bit off-putting, but the food was delish and the service exceptional so it turned out to be a great family dining experience in the end, nonetheless.
1) Bring your own life jackets/swimmers for the kids
2) Don’t bother trying to reserve seats around the pool with your towels before you actually use the chairs – the resort has a strict policy about this and will remove your towels if you try. As a family of 6, we never had much trouble locating a spot with 2-3 chairs at a time, so don’t sweat it.
3) Despite mentioning it on check-in, we had to call concierge services to have a little in-room balloon surprise arranged for our son on his Birthday. I’ve seen Max & Ruby promos for special occasions in marketing materials but did not see the characters while we were there. If your child has their heart set on seeing them, inquire about this before you go.
Overall, the Royalton Riviera Cancun is a fantastic option for families and multigenerational groups. While many guests are repeat visitors (a testament to the resort’s allure), we’ll be postponing a return to the Mayan Riviera region until the Sargassum issue plaguing the waters subsides. Given the family-friendly appeal of the Royalton resort chain, however, we are definitely interested in checking out some of the other properties throughout the Caribbean, however, and have our eye on Jamaica next! In being completely honest, however, the Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana still has the top spot in our hearts.
Let us know about your experience with Royalton Resorts and please reach out with any specific questions you may have about this location in particular!