Impressive with more than 1,000 rooms, four restaurants, three pools and a spa, the resort is popular with singles, couples, newlyweds and honeymooners and hits the bullseye for unlimited food, drink and fun in the sun. “We are the new kid on the beach and very proud of the rave reviews we’re getting from our loyal Riu guests,” said Till Koehler, general manager. “We covet our relationships with travel agents, and work with them often as they sell resort vacations to their sun-seeking clients.” Packages are sold by MLT, Mark Travel, Liberty GoGO, Travel Impressions and Delta Vacations. Agents can also register online www.riu.com.
Founded in Mallorca, Spain by the Riu family in 1953, what was a small venture is now an international chain of 100 resorts and hotels in 18 countries including Mexico, Jamaica and Dominican Republic. Owned by the family’s third generation and welcoming 4 million guests yearly, 70% of the resorts are all-inclusive and on the beach.
Opening new properties at a breakneck speed, 647-room Riu Plaza New York Times Square made a grand entrance in March and a Jamaica-themed Riu Reggae will debut in Montego Bay in November. In 2018, two private islands in the Maldives will be transformed into twin luxe hotels, and in Dubai, a 750-room resort will be the country’s first 24-hour all-inclusive.
Rooms in a four-story new-build with more than one thousand rooms (1,007 to be exact), are offered in four categories ranging from a garden view, to the two-bedroom suite that easily sleeps six. Sleek lines with nothing too fancy, the rooms are the same, apart from the views. Wi-Fi is fast (and free), balcony doors have screens (big plus in the Caribbean), mini-bar is restocked daily and staff is friendly; encourage clients to pack a Spanish dictionary or learn a few phrases before arrival. For fuss-budgets, amenities are minimal apart from a plush bathrobe and big floor mirror. Small bottles of shampoo and other toiletries are recommended carry-ons rather than buying them at the resort.
Seas the Moment
Known locally as the Fat Sand Beach, the sandy swath is wide (and fat) with gentle slopes to the calm sea. Early birds claim the shade of a palm tree or the serenity under a thatched palapa. Give the buffet a break and take your pick from windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, water polo and siesta-taking on one of many chaise lounges planted in the sand or around the pools.
Eat, Drink, Play. Repeat
The epicenter of all-you-can-eat, La Altagracia is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Surprisingly varied for a buffet, choices like scrambled egg whites and salads shaped like gingerbread men please calorie-counters and for those ditching the diet; roasted pig, juicy ribs and Spanish paella fits the bill. Plenty of outside tables catch the evening breeze while air conditioning cools the tables inside. For dessert, donuts dripping with chocolate and one-bite cheesecake squares are worth the splurge. Themed restaurants are fun to try, like Kaori for Asian-inspired sushi and noodles and Tagliatella for pastas, pizzas and antipastos. Quisqueya is poolside dining a la carte for steak and salmon. Adjacent to the big buffet; you can snag a salad or two while the chefs are expertly grilling your sirloin.
There is plenty of sipping at five bars, including the Sports Bar open 24 hours a day which works well with early morning departures back to the airport. Bartenders are masters at shaking and stirring heady cocktails like a breakfast-ready spicy Bloody Mary and the Doctor Funk blended with the local Ron Dorado rum, coconut cream, amaretto liqueur and orange juice . Swim-up bars are packed with party people while the lobby bar is relaxing for a glass of wine and a handful of Spanish green olives.
The modern gym opens early and the pristine Jacuzzi room stays open until 8 pm. Massage stand-outs in the Renova Spa run the gamut from an anti-stress rubdown to body wraps for couples. For fitness buffs, dance classes at the RiuFit gazebo and aqua aerobics in the pool are popular. When the sun sets, the open-air nightclub heats up with boogie bands, salsa beats and rounds of fruity cocktails.