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When Luis and Carmen Riu signed off on the final design concept for the $140 million Hotel Riu Palace Peninsula, the two CEOs launched yet another new chapter in their family business. Deviating from the brand’s more traditional look and feel, Riu’s fourth Cancun property has hit the beach with an architectural style that’s both fresh and flashy.
Having stayed at several other Riu Palace resorts within the chain’s luxury line, I naturally expected a high-quality product. But with its contemporary design and trendy touches, this stunning 16-story property delivered on that promise in an entirely different manner. While it showcases the influence of the company’s urban Plaza brand in its decor and amenities, the Riu Palace Peninsula never lets guests forget that they are on a magnificent stretch of white sand that is brushed by turquoise Caribbean water.
“This Palace has a more modern and edgy style to it,” said Javier Monje, Riu’s director of contracting in the U.S. and Canada. “So it’s drawing a slightly different guest from our other Cancun properties — Riu Cancun, Riu Caribe and Riu Palace Las Americas. We’re seeing travelers who lean toward a W hotel but want to find that feeling with all-inclusive conveniences.”
While the property is family-friendly, it’s not family-oriented. As a result, the typical guests are usually honeymooners and couples traveling together. And while the property is more colorful and contemporary, it still has a feeling that’s specific to the company.
Monje noted that for Riu, the lobby is the most important aspect of the hotel since it offers that critical first impression and sets the stage for every other experience that unfolds. The Riu Palace Peninsula accomplishes this with a 40-foot-high ceiling that boasts a massive skylight illuminating a modern interior garden that blends tropical and zen genres. Additional skylights allow sunshine to flood in during the day and are illuminated in blue at night to suggest a starry sky.
What’s both appealing and convenient is the way in which the lobby is decked out with many intimate seating areas. During my stay, I noticed that the area was always lively but never cramped. Guests lounged there to work on their laptops or wait for friends while drinking specialties from the lobby’s coffee bar.
The 562 junior and full suites are distinguished in six categories, with 48 villa suites offering the most exclusive experience. White dominates, which is really all you need since the expansive windows bring in the beautiful Caribbean blues.
“Interior designer Martin Fernandez wanted to give a sensation of space and luminosity through the choices of colors and materials,” said Monje.
All accommodations have a private balcony, a king bed, a lounging area with a sofa, regularly restocked liquor dispensers and a minibar. Jacuzzi suites in the main building and villas in a freestanding, two-level building kick it up a notch with complimentary Wi-Fi access and a Jacuzzi on a private terrace. The Tobago Bar is tucked away on the beach alongside cabanas that are perfect for reading or napping in the shade. The bar is open to all guests, and its proximity to the villas makes it a less crowded option.
As with all Riu all-inclusive properties, guests can enjoy non-motorized watersports on a complimentary basis. There are also five swimming pools, with one reserved exclusively for villa guests.
In addition, the Riu Palace Peninsula provides daytime entertainment programs for adults and children, plus evening performances in La Latina. Guests also have access to a fitness center, sauna and Jacuzzi at the Renova Spa, with treatments available for an additional fee.
On the culinary front, the choices are global. Aside from the hotel’s Las Olas buffet, guests could book dinner reservations at themed eateries such as the Japanese Kabuki, the fusion restaurant Krystal, the Mexican Tamales, the Italian Venecia and the Isla Mujeres steakhouse. My personal favorite was Venecia, where a gourmet-style antipasto bar is so tempting that I never needed to order an entree.
The property’s most unusual “amenity,” however, provides guests with a direct connection to the region’s cultural roots. On its grounds lies an archaeological discovery of Maya ruins named Taakul. This cultural treasure was excavated by the National Institute of Anthropology and History with funding provided by Riu, which is also responsible for the site’s care and maintenance.
While it’s certainly not as sprawling as Chichen Itza, Taakul still offers guests a taste of the region’s iconic ruins and is yet another way this newest Riu stands out in the destination.
Nightly all-inclusive rates for junior suites start at $142 per person from Oct. 27-Aug. 17 and $122 from Aug. 18-Oct. 26. Villa suites start at $161 and $141 for the same dates.