Every year, my hubby and I make it a priority to have at least one family vacation, but we’ve been limiting our destinations within the United States due to my sons’ allergies. From the time my son was born though, I had always wanted to take him on an all-inclusive trip, but I was always anxious about managing his allergies in a foreign country where we would have no control. This year, we finally decided to take a leap and travel abroad with our 4-year-old.
Ultimately, we chose to book the Riu Palace Costa Mujeres (right outside of Cancun, Mexico) based on a friend’s recommendation. After last year’s not-so-amazing trip to Mexico (review here), we vowed to stick to the Dominican Republic for our all-inclusive trips, but we ended up getting an incredible deal on the Riu Palace, even with a room upgrade. I’ve detailed my thoughts on the Riu Palace Costa Mujeres below, including a full review of their allergy protocols
Costa Mujeres is located approximately 30-40 minutes from Cancun airport and exudes more of a resort ambiance than Cancun itself. The Riu Complex comprises of both the Riu Palace Costa Mujeres and Riu Dunamar, with Palace guests having access to both properties. However, we didn’t have enough time to explore the Dunamar side.
The Riu Palace Costa Mujeres opened in the fall of 2018, and its contemporary and immaculate appearance is impressive. The hotel offers an extensive range of amenities, featuring 5 swimming pools, 5 restaurants, a waterpark, a spa, a gym, and a theater.
The resort’s U-shaped design incorporates the rooms across the arms and a central lobby located in the back and middle of the U, which differs from the villa-style setup I’m used to at most all-inclusives I’ve visited.
Initially, the layout makes navigating the property challenging, given the limited signage throughout the resort. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take long to acclimate to it.
Upon arrival, check-in was efficient and seamless; however, unlike other all-inclusive resorts, we weren’t given a tour or any directions. As a result, we had difficulty finding our room, which was the last thing we wanted after a long day of traveling.
As we were traveling with our toddler, we decided to upgrade to an Ocean Front Room, thinking it would be a quieter option for putting a toddler to sleep earlier in the evening. However, we were mistaken!
Our double-bed oceanfront room, while having a stunning view, was situated directly above the theater. On our first night, the music was blasting until 11 p.m. and was so loud that it seemed as though the band was performing in our bed. It was actually comical.
The next morning, we contacted the front desk and requested a room change. They informed us that they did not have any double-bed oceanfront rooms available, but they could offer us a king oceanfront on the opposite side of the resort, which was more of an adult-oriented area (we were told our side was the family side).
That afternoon, we relocated our room and they brought in a rollaway bed for our 4-year-old. Honestly, it was a much better arrangement than what we had initially booked. My husband and I were planning on sharing a double bed for a week. Haha!
Moving on to the room itself, I was impressed with how spacious it was. However, the counter space in the bathroom was limited, and the random tub in the middle of the room was a bit odd. I would have preferred a tub on the balcony, especially with the spectacular view we had. Overall, the room was modern and had plenty of seating. Even with the rollaway bed, we still had plenty of space and did not feel crowded.
While the oceanfront upgrade was not costly, it was still worth the money! The views were breathtaking. Once we moved to the “adults” side, we had no problems with noise, except for the occasional drunk guest walking to their room at night.
As mentioned above, the Riu Palace Costa Mujeres features 5 swimming pools, including 2 with swim-up bars. We enjoyed spending our mornings on the beach and then moving to the pool just before lunchtime. There was always plenty of space and loungers available for us.
The waterpark was a fantastic addition, especially for the 3 toddlers we were traveling with – they had a blast! However, the adults’ side of the waterpark was a bit smaller in comparison to the one we visited a few years ago at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar property in the Bahamas (review available here).
The beach at the Riu Palace Costa Mujeres was stunning! During the first part of our stay, the water was incredibly calm, but as the wind picked up towards the latter half, the waves became a bit choppy. It was nothing compared to what I’ve experienced in Cancun, but still noticeable. Nonetheless, the beach was free of rocks and seaweed, and there were plenty of loungers available for guests to relax on.
The beach itself is lined with numerous palm trees, which provided ample shade. Although they didn’t have beach huts, we were still comfortable, even with young children. The water was also pleasantly warm for April, and we were fortunate to have good weather for most of our stay.
The hotel’s food quality and variety were impressive. The buffet was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and featured rotating food stations including Mexican, American (pizza/burgers), Chinese/Japanese (daily sushi for lunch and dinner), fish, meats and cheese, cold salads, salad bar, 2 soups per meal, and a dessert and fruit section. Breakfast included several egg stations, cereals, fresh juices, and a pancake/waffle station that served delicious fried bananas. The buffet was always stocked with fresh food and we never had a bad meal.
In addition to the buffet, the hotel offered 5 specialty restaurants including Steakhouse, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, and American Fusion. We tried all of them except for American Fusion (long wait time) and they were all good.
While we usually have low expectations for all-inclusive food, the Riu Palace exceeded our expectations with a solid 4/5 rating. However, our recent favorite food experience was at the Live Aqua in Punta Cana (review here).
Food was my biggest concern going into this trip due to my sons’ milk and tree nut allergies. I reached out to the hotel in advance to inform them, and they assured me that they could accommodate us.
On our first night at the buffet, I noticed that each item was labeled with allergens included, such as dairy, soy, nuts, fish, and wheat. However, I soon discovered that the labeling was not always reliable or accurate. For instance, a Greek salad with blue cheese did not list dairy as an allergen, and the couscous with nuts was mislabeled. This was concerning and frustrating. When we spoke to a manager, we learned that they couldn’t guarantee cross-contamination at the buffet and that it would be best to have the kitchen prepare separate meals for my son. We were grateful for this and ordered custom meals for him with Danny and Diego at the buffet for the rest of the trip. They even made him lunch on our last day, so we could travel to the airport with allergy-friendly food.
At the restaurants, when you scan to view the menu on your phone, you immediately get to mark any allergies you have before seeing the full menu. Again this was super exciting, but we found out that the menu was not always accurate. The waiters had to double-check with the chef, and we were often told that even though there was no dairy listed, there was actually dairy in the dish.
Overall, I’m on the fence about recommending the Riu Palace to those with food allergies. While we appreciated the staff’s efforts to accommodate us, the labeling and menu options did not accurately represent what was being served. This caused us a lot of stress and effort. The hotel has good intentions, but they need to improve their follow-through on allergies. Hopefully, they will improve in this area over time.
Otherwise, I highly recommend the Riu Palace Costa Mujeres to families, friends, or couples looking for a fantastic resort. It’s important to note that there are many kids around, as it’s a popular family destination. However, the resort provides great entertainment options for both kids and adults. We had a wonderful experience with the service, as the staff was quick to assist and very accommodating. The property itself is stunning, and the accommodations are outstanding.