Dispelling ‘all-inclusive’ concerns with a stay at the Riu Tequila in Mexico

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” (Mark Twain)

As travellers we all class ourselves as open-minded individuals, willing to try most things as long as they are morally correct and often ecologically sustainable. However, what I do also find is that frequent travellers are also very vocal about their particular travel style, easily dismissing others and their choices – we may therefore, class ourselves as open-minded, but I challenge everyone to think about this; are we not all narrow-minded in our own distinctive ways.

I will openly admit that the thought of sharing a dorm room with at least five other travellers no longer appeals. That’s not to say that this is not a good travel option for others, and potentially would work for me if I was travelling with a group of friends; however, the late night disturbances caused by high revelry causing me to have sleepless nights is not something I relish.

Would I recommend hostel accommodation to others? Yes, if it suited their travel needs.

What I do notice though, is that others are not quite so open-minded to other travel ideas. I often hear, from frequent travellers, that by staying in an all-inclusive resort you miss out on the true nature of a country and that the only reason people visit such resorts is to partake in sunbathing and drinking. Forgive me if I am wrong, but could I not also have the same in mind if I am staying in a hostel or an apartment?

With this in mind, we decided to experience an all-inclusive resort for ourselves. Is it really as bad as the naysayers make out or are there positives to this type of holiday?

Let us introduction you to the Riu Tequila in Playacar, Mexico.

hotel Riu Tequila in the Riviera Maya, Mexico

MYTH #1

By choosing a resort-based hotel you loss the traditional look gained by booking local accommodation.

I can’t say that every all-inclusive is traditional in style but I don’t think you could say that about any choice made. Looking on sites like AirBnB and Flipkey, I agree there are some lovely looking properties, some that we have booked ourselves. However, there are also some very bland looking rentals that I would never choose to stay in. Inside, they replicate a white box, going for the sterile hospital look, with limited features and a lack of interesting outlook.

We chose the Riu Tequila in Playacar specifically for its design. Set in beautifully tendered grounds, with a circular driveway when you wander through into the open lobby you automatically feel like you have walked into a large Hacienda. Dressed in gold, regal blue and sunburnt orange, crowned with attractive, opulent-looking chandeliers this portal into the resort welcomes you with open arms.

Lobby area of the Riu Tequila in Playacar, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Lobby Area

Smaller in size than many other all-inclusive hotels, especially along the Riviera Maya, you will not find any hideous high-rise monstrosities here. Instead, spread out around the grounds, shaded by the tropical grounds you will find small, two storey accommodation blocks. Coloured in rustic reds and calming creams these delightful areas are spread out around a large swimming pool and restaurant coating with a palm tree leafed roof.

Accommodation at the Riu Tequila, Playacar, Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Accommodation blocks

Inside the large, lemon toned rooms, the character continues. With two large beds and a dressing area as standard, each room also has a balcony where you can while away the hours with a relaxing complimentary drink from the minibar before heading out for dinner.

Bedroom at the Riu Tequila, Playacar, Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Riu Tequila, Playacar, Riviera Maya Mexico

Part of the drinks selection offered in each room

Whilst not located on the beach, there is a beautiful sandy expanse only 800 metres away from the entrance, offering you a place to lounge around, listening to the waters lapping at the shoreline, in the early afternoon sun – and after all, a few days of relaxing on any break is a welcomed addition.

Playacar beach, Riviera Maya Mexico

Playacar Beach Front

MYTH #2

The range of All-inclusive food offered consists of fries, fries and more fries and everything is over-heated and dry.

No matter how you travel or where you end up for a meal everything is a risk. You may not enjoy your meal, it may not be cooked to an accepted stand for you or you may end up at a traditional ‘American’ or ‘British’ diner even when visiting a foreign land simply because you fancy a taste of home.

At the Riu Tequila there were several dining options including a traditional Mexican affair, an Asian restaurant and a Steakhouse. For us, however, what stood out was the vast selection of offerings in the buffet. Never before have we had such a great choice, regardless of the time of day.

Asian Restaurant at the Riu Tequila in PLayacar, Mexico

Asian Restaurant

Food at the asian in riu tequila mexico

Asian food at the riu tequila mexico

Fresh fruit and Vegetables were in abundance along with several different meat and fish options. Every day there was a different theme and the menu complimented each one perfectly. Whether you wanted a paella, meat and mashed potato or quesadillas – the choice is there.

Salad options at the buffet restaurant in Riu Tequila mexico

A small selection of the salad options available

Vegetables at Riu Tequila Mexico

Selection of veggies available

Chocolate and fruit at riu tequila mexico

Selection of fruits (note the chocolate fountain aswell!)

Beginning a vegetarian I am often concerned about the selection and variety of food available and also the way in which it is cooked – yes I am one of those people who do not want to know that the spoon stirring my sauce has not also been used on a meat alternative. I had no issues with either the options or the standard of food here. Each evening had a large variety available with a whole section labelled up for vegetarians, from spinach cannelloni to Lentil stew something new was always appearing to try. Add to this the large selection of salads and there is simply no way anyone that anyone could go hungry here. We ate there over a two-week period and not once did we walk away thinking that there was nothing to eat.

Finally, as for the fries – in 14 days I did not have any. Yes they were available if I so desired them but with the abundance of fresh produce on offer the thought of a plate full of them never crossed my mind.

lunch time buffet at Riu Tequile Playacar,  Mexico

Lunch time options

Other than the traditional look of this particular resort, the reason for choosing the Riu Tequila had been the food. Of all the reviews we read, the food at this particular hotel stood out, with many people commenting that it was outstanding, offering both traditional Mexican treats and other diverse foods to try.

MYTH #3

Those that go on an all-inclusive holiday never leave the resort.

This may be true but it may also be the case for those that book into a nice villa somewhere or an apartment complex, so I don’t really agree that this is a reason on its own to disregard the all-inclusive option.

Playacar, is a town based on the outskirts of Playa Del Carmen. I beautiful area, with many luxury homes some directly on beach. Yes, this is an expensive part of Mexico to live in but when travelling sometimes a little luxury is appealing.

From the Riu Tequila walking just five minutes down the road will bring you to a shopping complex full of all those traditional gifts that you may wish to take home for others. Continue on a further twenty minutes and you will find yourself on the edge of Playa Del Carmen, a large commercial hub full of attractions for both the tourist and the local.

PLaya Del Carmen in Mexico

Playa Del Carmen

Here you will find yourself surrounded by boutique clothes shops, restaurants, bars and street entertainers. Once again, you have a choice – head to an authentic Mexican bar for Happy Hour where two margaritas could cost you between 40-80 pesos (about £2-£4/$3-5) or head into one of the bars that Mexico has become known for, e.g. Senor Frogs, where a beer will cost you between 80-125 pesos (about £4-5.50/$5-8.30).

Street Entertainment playa del carmen mexico

Street Entertainment in Playa Del Carmen

Likewise, just outside our hotel we found several waiting taxis ready to take you wherever you wanted to go – the key is to always remember to ask the price before getting in, as soon as you sit down you have lost your bargaining power. If you don’t want to pay for a taxi then wander into Playa Del Carmen and head for the bus station where you can pick up a ‘colectivo’ like a local. (Costs – taxi – short journey is about 100 pesos (£5/$6.70) or the bus costs between 20-40 pesos (£1-2/$1.50-3) depending on journey length.

Finally, there are many trips that can be arranged, either independently or via a tour operator. Known for our independent approach by friends and family, on this occasion we decided to opt for the excursions offered by a tour operator. We were intrigued to see whether you do really get a second-class experience by booking as part of a group, which is the perceived case of many long-term travellers.

Honest answer here, and it’s not often I say this, but we really enjoyed our pre-arranged trips. I didn’t have to spend hours on the internet beforehand searching for guides, transport or sources. I didn’t have to worry about pickups or no shows. In short, it was actually quite refreshing. On top of that, no tour that we went on (which included trips to Coba and Isla Contoy) had large groups. That doesn’t mean that people from our hotel didn’t visit these locations but they simply limited the numbers so that we each gained the most from our experiences; you had to book early in your trip to get the days you wanted. On each of these trips there were a good mixture of people, all mixing well and generally enjoying our days out, plus, on several we were the first ones to arrive, missing the larger tours and often the last ones to leave. This being the case, I have to ask myself, why we often judge those that do arrange their trips in this way harshly.

Now for those that do not wish to leave the resort, and there were several days where we fell into this category, you have the choice of a large pool area or beach to relax on, an entertainments team to keep you entertained and an all-inclusive bar to keep you hydrated – is all that such a bad thing?

Swimming Pool in the Riu Tequila Mexico

One of the bars at the Riu Tequila, Playacar, Mexico

One of the bars available for you to relax in

For those that enjoy their morning dose of yoga, this was included. Want to play a game of water polo or volleyball? Again, included. In fact, any imaginable activity was pretty much on offer. You even had the opportunity to learn Spanish should this be on your list of things to do. Let’s be clear here, I am saying that it is ok to stay put; everyone needs down-time in order to relax and rejuvenate themselves, after all for many this will be their many break for the year.

The pool area at night at the Riu Tequila, Plaacar Mexico

The pool area at night

MYTH #4

It’s more expensive to go on an all-inclusive holiday.

Looking at Airbnb I can see that some apartments are available for around £30 per night, whilst many show at £100 per night. So let’s work on an average nightly rate of £65. Looking into hotels, the rate is very similar for room only. This means that for 14 nights I would be looking at a minimum of £910. Add to that the cost of two flights from the UK at £379 each (which was the cheapest I could get at the time of booking) and I am faced with a bill of £1668 for 14 nights. This does not include food or drink, or the flight upgrade that we opted for. So could we really gain an all-inclusive hotel for less? Yes, is the simple answer. For 14 nights at the Riu Tequila we paid £1632 for the pair of us – making a saving of £36. On top of that, we didn’t have to pay for any food or drink whilst there. Should we go out for the day, we had a minibar full of bottles of Pepsi, 7up and water to see us through.

So from a cost perspective this all-inclusive was a no-brainer. Even if we had eaten out every evening we would have still saved money. You have to question why you wouldn’t look into this as an option when money is concerned.

I had food and drinks on tap 24 hours a day should I want it – for no extra cost. Surely, this is important especially at a time when so many people are looking to save money.

Taking all of this into account, we sincerely believe that by choosing the Riu Tequila as a base for our break away we had the best of all worlds. An authentic-looking, cheap option that still allowed us the freedom to wander and do as we please.

But, don’t just take our word for it – look at the reviews and you will see that this is the reason that many people return to this particular hotel time and time again. They also crave the freedom that we do and everyone we spoke to had chosen this particular hotel for its design – even in the resort it felt like you were in Mexico; it was a hotel with character.

View from a room at the Riu Tequila Playacar, Mexico

View from our Room

Would we return to the Riu Tequila?

Definitely. We don’t often visit the same location twice but we would make an exception for the Riu Tequila.

For all those that would still argue that going on an all-inclusive trip cannot be classed as actually visiting the country, I challenge you to rethink. It may not be your preference but if you complete your research, as many of us naturally do, I guarantee that, whether you prefer large or small, high-rise or low-rise, remote or situated in an accessible area, there will be a resort suited to everyone.

Grounds of the Riu Tequila in Mexico

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42 Comments

  • Toccara says:

    Nice to have an honest review of an all-inclusive resort. For many of the reasons you’ve listed, I too, have stayed away, but you made some valid points; thanks for the price break-down, too. I also like how spread out this property is, as opposed to many of the high-rises I see advertised. Smaller, more intimate resorts are more my speed.

    • Toccara, the price seemed a no-brainer after we sat down and discussed it. Even if we only used it as a place to sleep, it worked out cheaper. I couldn’t stay in a large complex but that is why this particular one appealed. 🙂

  • I agree some resorts can look and feel exactly as you have described but I have also had experiences when booking through companies like AirBnB where I feel very isolated and don’t actually get to see any more than I would do in a resort environment. I have a strong belief that if you are drawn to talk and mix with local people you will do that wherever you stay. 🙂

  • kami says:

    oh my, this place looks incredible! I’m still more of a hostel person but leaning more and more towards better accommodation and I really wouldn’t mind staying in the place like that! and all these myths about all inclusive you’ve mentioned are so true!!

  • Alli says:

    I enjoyed reading this as I am a traveler who normally always dismisses the idea of resorts! The facts you mentioned are very bang on.

  • Beth says:

    Sounds like a fun all inclusive! I try to fit in one per year as my *actual* vacation 😛

  • MillionAcreFarm says:

    We stayed at this resort in the spring of 2014 with three other couples. We loved it. Yes it is a smaller resort and the walk to the beach is across the road and down and tree / flower lined walkway will take a few minutes (or take the ‘limo’ golf cart that arrives every 10 minutes or so), but the food is never ending and the variety is amazing. Playa Del Carmen is only a 5 minute taxi ride away! A great place to do some shopping and take the ferry over to Cozumel. Thanks for the pics, they brought back lots of wonderful memories!

    • Glad you enjoyed the photos and your break at the Riu Tequila. We had a fantastic time during our recent break there and would definitely recommend it to others. We didn’t make it to Cozumel on this occasion though – perhaps that’s an indication that we need to book another trip! 😀

  • I *have* also been All Inclusive before now, buuuut I found that I didn’t leave the resort. That said it was a massive group of us (15) and it worked for our purposes- my cousin was getting married. It was fun, but…. it’s not for everyone 🙂

    I’m glad you had a good time, tho’ 🙂

    • I can appreciate that people visit all inclusive resorts for different reasons and sometimes staying put is what people want to do. We had a few days where the sunbeds were calling us, and relaxing by the pool was what we needed but I also liked the fact that this particular resort was close to the larger towns for us to be able to explore on our own. 🙂

  • I agree Sky, everyone has there own preference and we can, unintentionally pass that bias on sometimes. I like the social element of dorm rooms but I also need peace when sleeping – actually, I am such a light sleeper I prefer to be in complete silence, even earplugs don’t work for me! 😀 We do still look at the hostels with private rooms though (not worried about sharing facilities) because we do want to mix with others in a way that only hostels offer. Personally, I would choose this type of break to allow for a bit of downtime before heading out on more travels and more camping trips.

  • Jenna says:

    Sounds like a great spot! I’ve never stayed at an all inclusive resort, but I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to it! Nice list of reasons to look into it one of these days!

    • We normally always book independently but our travel plans changed very last minute so I didn’t have the hours of planning I normally like. Opting for a break this way took that planning element away to a certain extent.

  • To be honest I’m not sure if this would be my kind of vacation, but since they can usually be quite cheap I might give it a go one day, just for the sake of it and laying down my bum on a beach for a week 🙂

    • Normally we prefer the activity type of holiday ourselves, and to be honest we were still very active most days but it was nice to have a couple of relaxing days – we often forget to do this when travelling. Even when catching up on work and the blog it was nice to be able to do so with coffee on tap without having to worry about the bill at the end! 😀

  • That’s an awesome deal! 14 nights plus airfare plus all you can drink and eat? Take me there!!! 😀

    • Raphael – it was a great deal, especially considering we were not stuck in the middle of no-where. We still have the opportunity to explore, eat out and wander but also had the opportunity to take up the benefits in the hotel – at night this was a definite positive with the cocktails flowing freely!!! 😀

  • That’s great that you managed to avoid the whole french fries and American food thing abroad! I stayed at an all inclusive and unforuntately that was the experience. But it was still good food!

    • There are a lot of ‘all-inclusives’ that do overload on the fries but not being a big fan, preferring fish and salad, we wanted to stay somewhere that was known for its food. This was the prefect place for us; I have never seen so much fresh food in one place before. It was very impressive.

  • Mary says:

    Great post! I have stayed in all inclusives and for certain times it’s absolutely the best way to go. It is not the way I typically travel but for vacations it can be wonderful, especially for a mom of 3 growing boys! All inclusives save me money where the food is concerned, lol. And I love the convenience of not having to have cash or even a wallet on hand while in the resort!

    • Mary, we found that to be a real benefit as well. I loved the fact that I could lock up my purse and still eat and drink what I liked. Would I do it for every trip – no, I don’t think so and two weeks was definitely long enough but when you are travelling all the time, occasionally it is nice to be able to have a bit of down time before the next adventure kicks in. 🙂

  • Valerie says:

    I love this post! The Riu Tequila looks really beautiful and authentic and what a great price! There definitely isn’t just one ‘right’ way to travel and this post shows that. I’m going to pin this post so I can use it as a resource for when we are needing a relaxing vacation!

    • Thanks for your comments Valerie. As you say, there is no right way to travel, we all have different preferences and whilst we do love our independent travel, on this occasion we just wanted some down time before a heavy schedule of travel kicks in and this was the perfect way to do it. The Riu Tequila was definitely the most traditional looking that I could find in this area and I wasn’t disappointed once we arrived! 🙂

  • Brianna says:

    This resort looks like it has a wide vareity of options to suit everyone. I certainly wouldn’t mind spending a few days at that pool right about now.

  • I’ve always been intrigued by all inclusives as a way to relax, but I’m afraid to miss out on the rest of the country/city. Thanks for your take on it!

    • Don’t get me wrong, I can imagine some people do literally turn up and the hotel and then spend the next to weeks on a sunlounger next to the pool or on the beach, but this isn’t us. We tend to get a bit frustrated after a while of sitting around so this was the perfect location for us. Many all-inclusives can be quite isolated so you definitely need to research the location but as travellers I think we naturally do that. likewise, we knew we wanted to visit certain parts of Mexico whilst there and being at this hotel did not stop us. 🙂

  • Sue says:

    Glad you were able to debunk the all-inclusive myths. I myself didn’t think I would have a favorable experience at one until I tried one.

  • Tracie Howe says:

    What an incredible place! I agree that you have to be open-minded about all aspects of travel. I try to refrain from saying I only do this or only do that, because there are so many possibilities out there. The world is so full of intriguing options, why limit yourself to one type?

    • Exactly Tracie. Preferences also change across time as well and sometimes we are loathed to move with those changes. I still enjoy my camping breaks, in fact, I know that these will still make up the majority of our trips, but there is nothing wrong with a bit of luxury from time to time.

  • this place looks lovely. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Natalie says:

    You make some excellent points here! I know that I have avoided all-inclusive stays at places like this for many of the same reasons–it’s always seemed to be to be the place where a tourist might like to go, kick up their heels for a few days, and just be in a duplicate version of their favorite resort back home. Seems I’m wrong, and that I’m going to have to look into an all-inclusive place now! 🙂

    • Natalie, I agree that some people will literally go away for a two week break and spent it within the hotel grounds but, being a individual that can’t seem to sit still for more that a day or two, this was never going to be the case for us. The reason we choose an all-inclusive – we wanted the best of both worlds. The opportunities to explore are still there; you can still plan trips out independently arranging the itinerary to suit you but you also have the opportunity to relax for a day or two as well. Even as travellers, sometimes we just want some downtime and this resort definitely offered that. I also loved the fact that I didn’t need to worry about costs whilst we were in the hotel. 🙂

  • Gemma says:

    Oh wow that hotel looks incredible! The lobby area is truly stunning. We’ve been playing with the idea of going to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or Cuba (despite it being completely different to our usual style of travel) and this has really helped convinced me. I especially appreciated your comments on the food as I do not eat meat either. The selection at the Riu Tequila looks really good – there is hope after all! Also impressed by the drinks selection in your room!

    • Being a non-meat eater it does put me off many all-inclusives especially when I read reviews that mention I could get a burger any time of day. It has also stopped us from booking a couple of places – I really liked the look of one in Brazil but when looking at the food choices I would have been so limited it would not have been worth it. The Riu Tequila had such a great choice I never ate the same thing twice – which is quite surprising in a two week period. The staff are always looking to please so if there was something you really wanted they would go out of there way to achieve it for you. 🙂

  • Eileen says:

    First of all, love those loungers right inside the pool, looks fantastic! But those spigots of hard liquor worry me a bit! Still, what a charming all-inclusive, looks like a dream to experience.

    • Eileen, the loungers were great for a little while to help with cooling off without disturbing my book reading! 🙂 We are not heavy drinkers ourselves, yes I enjoy a couple of red wines with dinner and the occasional cocktail but I don’t like the taste of spirits on the whole. We only used the drinks selection in our hotel room a couple of times, often opting for the soft drinks in the fridge instead! 😀

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