I have been on two separate trips to the Royalton Riviera Cancun Mexico Resort and Spa. The experience was unique each visit. My husband, Chad, and I took our first trip to this resort in April of 2018. Our second trip was in February of 2020.
Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort
Think of a resort as a small town. Large resorts have multiple bars, restaurants, gyms, tennis courts, swimming pools, shops, and beach areas. A bad review for one area doesn’t always reflect that of the entire resort. This is one of my favorite places to go, but it’s not all sunshine and fairy tales. The Royalton Riviera is a pretty big place with a lot going on. Guests can be rude. Staff can be overworked and underpaid. The food isn’t always perfect.
The Booking Process For The Royalton Riviera
In 2018, we an amazing time in the Hideaway section of the Royalton Riviera Cancun resort. We imagined there would be a certain beauty to knowing the layout. The Hideaway section was completely booked during our 2020 timeframe, so we booked a room in the Diamond Club section of the resort instead. A bulk of our travel arrangements were made through Expedia.
In 2018, we booked a luxury suite with a balcony jacuzzi. Upon arrival, we got lucky landed a room with its own rooftop terrace and large jacuzzi. We found out that when booking a suite with a balcony jacuzzi, you get the rooftop terrace when staying on the top floor.
Royalton Riviera Cancun Rooftop Terrace Secret
The Royalton Resorts have a neat feature on their website – the online room selector. Once your room is booked and processed (3-5 days from booking) you are able to use this tool to choose your building, floor, and room. It cost approximately $116 USD. I happily forked over the cash to secure our rooftop! Select a top floor jacuzzi room with an ocean view. You will love it. The terrace is like having a whole other private outdoor space of your own! It’s really nice to escape from the crowds of the resort on the busy weekends.
Cancun Airport & Amstar
We exited the doors of the airport to find our Amstar rep holding a sign with our names directing us to our private transportation to the resort. I booked private transportation independently through Amstar, because they were super reliable for our 2018 trip. We chose private transportation, because in 2018 it took 45-50 minutes to get to the Royalton. The long trip was because we had to stop at 3 other resorts to drop off other passengers. This time was a 15-20 minute Corona filled breeze!
Arriving at The Royalton Riviera
Please brace yourself. Our 2018 arrival could spur some jealousy. It all felt like a dream.
April 2018. We step out into the Mexico heat to see tons of people with luggage standing around. A gentleman with a clipboard approaches us and asks for our names. He scans his sheet and signals someone else to come over to us. The woman that comes over says “this way please” bypassing all of the people standing in chaos and are whisked away to the far south end of the resort. We enter a beautiful air conditioned low-lit room where we are happily greeted “Welcome to the Royalton, Carriers!” Guest services hand us cold towels for our face, offer a cold drink and snacks, then seat us at a desk to discuss our check-in. There we talk about food allergies, we are shown different pillows so we could choose our preference, and we were shown menus for the different restaurants.
At the end of our check-in we were introduced to our private butler who escorted us to our room, where our bags were already waiting. Talk about feeling like royalty! We enter our room with our butler who shows us around and explains how everything works. She showed us the activities listed on the TV, documented our drink preferences and went above and beyond to make sure we were settled in comfortably. Later we find out that this royalty treatment is part of their “Diamond Club Hideaway” experience
Check-In Two Years Later
I couldn’t secure a room in the Hideaway section this time and we had very specific travel dates. We were able to get a room in the Diamond Club Section. This time around the check-in-process was not so intimate. We did have a separate check-in lounge than the general check in line, but it was full of people and way less personal. Now keep in mind, there are basically 4 different types of experiences/sections at this resort:
- General Royalton Riviera Cancun
- Royalton Riviera Cancun*Diamond Club (our 2020 experience)
- The Adults-Only Hideaway at the Royalton Riviera Cancun
- Adults-Only Hideaway at the Royalton Riviera Cancun *Diamond Club (our 2018 experience)
Check in is quick at the Diamond Club lounge and our butler takes us to our room. No pillow talk or cold towels. He asks us if we would like to make dinner reservations and that’s it. I didn’t care that it was a little less personal than the last time, both of us were just happy to be there. We start to settle in to our room, check out the view and waited for our bags to arrive 30 min later (a little different than last time). Once our bags arrived in our room we changed into swimwear and went to the beach to check out the ocean where we notice a significant change in the upkeep from 2018.
The Royalton Riviera Cancun Beach
In 2018, we had to step over a foot of seaweed just to put our feet in the water. We noticed this time in 2020, they made a more of an effort to up-keep the beach which seems to me is quite the battle due to the location of the resort in the Maya.
The beach conditions at The Royalton Riviera Cancun location vary from hour to hour. There were times when the water was clear, the beach was free of seaweed, and we could swim with no problem. Sometimes the seaweed was too heavy to even think about swimming in it without getting covered by it. But hey, it’s the ocean, can’t control it.
Drinks in Our Room
We decided to go to our room one afternoon to unwind and have a drink from our stocked in-room mini-fridge. All of the drinks in it were room temperature. There are a few things I am able to tolerate at room temp, but a beer isn’t one of them. We called maintenance to tell them our refrigerator was broken. Maintenance comes (20 min later), and tells us there is nothing wrong with it. He tells us to think of it less as a refrigerator and more of a cooler. It is meant to keep drinks cool for only a while. We were like “okay, umm… can we get some new cold drinks for our cooler then?” and just laughed it off.
They brought some later that day. Whatever. Not a big deal. Just keep this in mind if you are thinking you’re going to have an ice cold drink in your room, you’re likely not. Best chance for a cold beer in your room is to grab one right after they re-stock that day. I don’t remember this being an issue on our 2018 trip.
Drinks At The Bar
The Diamond Club beach bar was by-far the worst place to get a good drink. They were so busy there that the bartenders were careless making each drink. Everything we got that was blended was extremely watery and the beer – not even close to ice-cold.
The coldest beer on the resort is served at the Sports bar, but the evening that we went there, there were some pretty loud and obnoxious people in there killing the good vibes, but Hey.. it’s a bar! What do you expect? Martini Mix, in the middle of the resort, could have great potential and the bartenders are kind, but in the evenings, they get slammed with so many orders that quality starts to go downhill fast. Your best change for a tasty Tequila Sunrise and ice-cold beer is at the Lobby Bar.
One thing that makes me sad but really isn’t a deal breaker: As I sit in this Midwest severe cold weather I visualize myself on a beach in Mexico with a cold Corona in my hand. You think you would be able to get a Corona in Mexico, right? Wrong. The Royalton Riviera Cancun does not serve Corona, and even 4 out of 5 bars on 5th Ave. in Playa Del Carmen do not serve Corona. One of the bar owners claimed that it was hard to come by because it all gets shipped to the US. Who knew?
My Solution To The Problem
My overall recommendation about drinks: Definitely bring your Yetis or whatever kind of Hot/Cold cup you have with a re-usable straw. Here is a link to a straw and lid for a Yeti that we bought for ours. Head to the lobby bar for your first drink of the day have them put it in your cup and go on your way to the pool or the beach. The lobby bar will make it so delicious and strong that you won’t care as much about quality for the rest of the day. Try and stick to the drink of the day (quality).
There are absolutely no disposable straws at the resort, which my husband and I support 100%, but mixed drinks can get tricky with no straw so either bring your own metal straw, cup with a straw, or purchase one for $2.99 USD at their gift shop.
Attn Midwest US folks: they do not understand what a red beer is at this resort. No matter how many times I tried to explain. Here’s what you have to do: order a beer, a glass of tomato juice, and a third cup. Make your own.
Coffee at The Royalton Riviera
If you are the kind of person that needs a cup of coffee before you can function, put some thought into this before you travel here. The Hideaway Section of the resort, is the furthest from the main lobby area. This is where you will find a coffee shop that a lot of people really like. It may help you to appreciate my coffee review if you understand that I own a coffee business and half of my life has revolved around finding the perfect cup. Here are some coffee options for you:
Take a hike: The coffee shop on this resort is designed for pumping out large quantities of coffee for over 2,000 people. It is cheap syrup for the lattes and overall cheap coffee but it satisfies the masses. Some guests rave over this coffee… so you may like it. Keep in mind it could be quite the walk from your room depending on which area of the resort you are staying in.
Bring your own setup: If you are a connoisseur like me, bring a bag of your favorite coffee, an aero press, and a kettle. Make your own coffee in your room, and watch the sunset come up over the ocean from your balcony.
Room Service Coffee: My husband’s preference is much different than mine and he enjoyed the coffee that room service delivered each morning at 7:30am. You can order from your TV or set this up with your butler.
The Pool Situation
Aw man, I’m going to open myself up to a gigantic can of worms here, because I think we all come from different viewpoints on this, so just try to make it through this section without hating me, okay?
I’ll begin in 2018 with one afternoon at the hideaway pool. We messed around the resort for most of the morning shopping and booking an excursion. My husband and I showed up to the hideaway pool at around 11:30am. After finding a couple chairs, we put down some towels, secured our bags, and got in the pool. Everyone was partying and having a blast! Delicious drinks made in coconuts were being served at the pool bar. The ambiance was social enough to make a few friend. It was here that I found my new love of pool volleyball. Boy, is it tough after a few drinks.
Taking a break from the pool, we enjoyed some sushi that was being served all day just on the other side of the pool bar. I later spotted a couple looking for somewhere to sit, so we got out and moved our things from the chairs because we weren’t using them. A deal was made between us, that they could lay-out in our chairs if we could keep our bag there. They promised to keep it safe and they did. Later that evening we went to dinner on the beach with the some couples we had met in the pool.
Infinity Pool Fiasco
So now it’s 2020. We’re not in the Hideaway anymore, Dorothy. One morning, we decided to go hang out at the infinity pool. We head over there (9:30am) to find that all of the chairs had the resort towels on them. Not a soul was there. We assumed that at this pool, perhaps the staff placed fresh towels on all of the chairs. Noticing that some had people’s things like magazines or flip flops to “reserve” their spots, we chose two chairs with nothing on them. I was confronted 30 minutes later by a couple that said these were “their chairs.” I was annoyed by the fact that they said they had reserved basically 6 spaces by the pool, did not leave bags or anything on them, and demanded that we leave.
It’s now 10 am, there is still hardly no one at this pool, and we are being confronted. I turn and glance at the sign (ironically 4 feet away from us) that says “Guests shall not leave personal items on lounges to reserve spots, if you do items will be removed by staff” My husband and I laughed, made a few comments, and decided to leave the situation.
The “reserving” of chairs by the pool at this resort has gotten ridiculous, and maybe it’s like this everywhere – I really don’t know. We observed the situation over the the next few days and came to this conclusion.
Our Pool Observation & Recommendation
Someone from a group will head down to the pool around 7:00 am to save chairs for the day. Those chairs will sit with no one at them, usually until around 10:00 am and on some occasions the group never even shows up. They are securing their spot by the pool, just in-case they decide to spend the day at the pool. I do not agree with this at all, but Royalton staff does not enforce the pool rules here. If you want a spot, I guess send someone down to save it.
We headed back to the diamond club section where we found 1 chair to share for about 30 minutes and it started pouring rain. Our pool dreams were shot for the day, so we caught a cab and went shopping. The rain stopped about an hour later. No big deal. Shopping in Playa Del Carmen was so much fun and I got my hair braided for $10.
Rooftop Terrace After The Rain
Later that same (pool fiasco) evening, I went to hang out up on our private rooftop terrace, and it was beyond buggy. The bugs were attracted to the wet artificial turf. Other than that, we never had a problem with bugs or mosquitos! One afternoon we both took a nap up there. It was so nice.
Royalton Spa Experience
The Royalton Riviera Diamond Club experience includes 1 hour of Hydrotherapy per day at the Spa (based on availability). Our butler told us that there were only two available days (out of our 7) that were available at 9am. We booked those dates; however, we had a spur of the moment excursion come up, so we headed to the spa the night before to see if we could move our time. Their schedule was wide open and they were able to move us to 8am. I’m not sure where the disconnect was between our butler and the spa schedule but they seemed to have many available times to choose from when we went there in person.
Our hydro-therapy session was really neat, and we both loved it. It does take more than an hour though, so for planning purposes – allow yourself 1.5 hours. As our session began, the men and women were separated and taken to opposite sides of the spa where we were given our own lockers for our things and slippers to wear. We were taken to a steam room where we were offered an exfoliating scrub, then taken to a shower, a sauna, then a hot jacuzzi. This was a fun opportunity to connect with the other women enjoying the same treatment.
From the jacuzzi, we were then taken to a common area where spouses were re-connected with each other to enjoy a variety of hydrotherapy in a large room-temp pool. After exiting the large pool, we were taken together to a cold-water shower (think: “ice bucket challenge”) from there, we were taken to a hot water jacuzzi and a cold-water plunge pool. The session was needed by being escorted to a comfy lounge chair where we were offered clove water and enjoyed a head and shoulder massage.
There were a few activities in the large pool that we didn’t care for, but overall, we would both recommend a hydrotherapy session. We had no idea this was included in Diamond Club during our 2018 visit.
In the spa, I noticed that they do offer hair braiding, waxing, massage, nails, hair styling, facials, and much more. If you have any interest, it may be worth a shot to check it out the spa is by far the most Zen and clean space at the entire resort.
Water Activities & Snorkeling
The resort has paddle boards, canoes, and two-person catamarans available first come first serve. You do have to pay a $5 Reef Fee, but this is good for your entire stay. We had fun in the canoe and my husband gave a paddle board a go. It was really windy most days and tough to paddle board with the waves. The water activities can be found right at the Nexus stand on the far north end of the beach.
At this stand we were able to book a snorkeling trip for $60 USD each that picked us up right from the beach. We had so much fun on this trip and got to spend a lot of time snorkeling the Mayan Reef. This was both of our first experience snorkeling in Mexico. A small boat picks you up from the beach, escorts you to a large catamaran where you are served drinks and a snack, taken to Puerto Morelos, and put back on the small boat to travel to the reef for snorkeling.
Restaurants & Snacks
Not much has changed at the restaurants from 2018 to 2020, so I will generalize here.
Hideaway Pool Sushi Bar
I believe they opened the sushi bar around 11am each day. It was fantastic, and there are tables and chairs in-case you’re not hanging out by the pool that day in a lounger.
Hideaway Pool Grill
I happen to notice one day that they were cooking burgers by the hideaway pool about 12. We wished at that time we would have known because we spent the morning in the pool then got dressed and went to a restaurant for lunch.
Diamond Club Grill By The Beach
I can’t remember what they called this little stand, but we ate at it twice. Starting at 11am, they serve burgers, quesadillas, nachos, and hotdogs with plenty of topping options. It made a pretty good snack/lunch for a day on the beach. Ps. Your waiter at the beach will bring you stuff from this stand if you ask for a food menu!
Grazie (Italian Cuisine)
We were told the wait time would be 30 minutes with no reservation. We took the wait time to walk around the pool outside of the restaurant. This is the area where all of the kid’s slides are. They also have a shop for pool toys and such in this area. 20 minutes later and they were ready to seat us. The food tasted amazing. We eat a lot of Italian food and this restaurant was at the top of our list. When you order appetizers, keep in mind they are appetizers for one. Everyone should order their own appetizer and don’t be afraid to order as much food as you want. It is very small portions here.
We had lunch here one day, and it was excellent food! I had some sort of grilled chicken taco and my husband had some nachos. We were both really happy with our choices and the quality of the food.
TAJ (Indian Cuisine)
We made a reservation for this one. I can’t say much about this, because we discovered either a. we don’t like the flavor or b. it’s not that good. It was our first go at Indian food and Unfortunately, probably our last try.
SCORE Sports Bar
They have done an excellent job on décor in this place. As I mentioned before, it is one of the best places to get the coldest drink – including water. For us, the drinks here were ice cold, so was our food. Nobody likes cold chicken wings unless it’s 2am, you’ve had a lot to drink, and they are left-over from BWW. We’re not in the business of sending food back to the kitchen so we just ordered room service that night.
Gourmet Marche (The Main International Buffet)
The staff here did a great job keeping everything clean, switching out food, and enforcing the use of hand sanitizer before entering. I must say that out of all of the food at the resort the buffet here remains our favorite. There is such a variety, and even a kid’s section for those picky eaters!
Agave (Mexican Cuisine)
We had breakfast here on our last day at the resort. It was good quality. Typical bacon, eggs, hash browns, pastries, a cereal bar, and pancakes were served as a small buffet. We never made it over to this one for Mexican dinner, but a lot of people we met said it was really good.
Hunter Steak House
We waited a long time (during our 2018 trip) for a table with a reservation. The food was decent for a resort attempting to feed thousands of people, but it wasn’t phenomenal like some guests claim. Listen, if you want good steak, come to Iowa. Perhaps this is a biased opinion from a mid-westerner who has endless access to good steak? Maybe, if we were there for two weeks or longer, we would have eaten here again for some variety. If you live in a big city where the steak is overpriced and very tiny, you may love this place.
Zen (Japanese Cuisine)
On both occasions we dined at Zen with no reservations. For our first trip we were walk-ins and got seated at a two-person table right away. We enjoyed tons of good sushi and salmon dinner. On our second trip we didn’t make a reservation either, and we were asked if we wanted to do the dinner show. They had two more spots available at a table. We were seated right away. The dinner show is basically your typical Japanese restaurant show where the food is cooked in front of you by a very entertaining chef.
Dinner Show At Zen
We loved the experience at the Zen dinner show, but missed out on all of the good sushi the restaurant has to offer. The food you are served is all part of the show and you’re not offered a menu. You are served 3 pieces of sushi as an appetizer, but not of your choice. If you are with more than two people, I would recommend making a reservation. It is also worth going to Zen twice in one trip for both experiences. Visit once for the show. Go a second time just to indulge at the sushi bar.
Resort Entertainment & Activities
We were unable to locate daily activities on a few occasions. Planning to attend the latin dance lesson, we went to the main pool to find nothing happening. We had the same thing happen with a language lesson activity too.
On one of our trips, the day we were leaving, I seen the Yoga instructor setting up class next to the main lobby area. That was the single time I actually found the yoga class. I may be missing something important. There were so many occasions where I couldn’t find the morning yoga. I quit trying to find the class and just did my yoga on my rooftop terrace. Sometimes the schedule would say “by the main pool” and I would go, and no one was there.
The main entertainment starts at 9pm and goes until about 11pm every night. On this resort, we have seen the shows with American star look-a-likes such as Justin Bieber and Beyoncé. We have seen their Michael Jackson show twice (Both Trips). One night we were entertained by a light & fire show. Friday night (the All In White Party) they had a pretty decent DJ and a lot of dancing. Most nights (after waking early for the sunrise and spending the day in the sun swimming and drinking cocktails) we were simply too tired to enjoy the fun like we wanted to.
Mexican Fiesta & Market
One afternoon we took a cab into Cancun for some shopping. When we returned, we found that night, they were setting up a Mexican market at the resort with all of the exact same stuff we had just seen in the city. Watch your calendars when you are there. It’s the same market, but on the resort, you will be safer. They had a mariachi band playing. Guests (that probably found the Latin dance classes earlier that day) were showing off their moves! It was a really cool night at the resort.
My Entertainment Recommendation: Plan a nap between your daily activities and the evening activities and you will have a blast! Don’t plan on snoozing before 11pm. Music is playing throughout the resort.
Will There Be A Third Trip To Royalton Riviera Cancun?
I know I had a few negative things to say; however, it’s so nice to go somewhere knowing what to expect. After two trips, I feel like we really know the ins and outs of this place. Overall the Royalton provided two very fun trips! If we stay without kids at his resort, from now on it will only be in the Hideaway section. The guests are far more relaxed and friendly and the staff is more attentive.
Royalton Riviera Excursions
It is easy to book an excursion at the Royalton Riviera. There is an office with several reps, along with 2 Nexus Tours locations on the resort. One is located in the main lobby, and the other is on the beach. Don’t let yourself get roped into a “Free trip” to a jewelry factory. I hear its not great. Read about our 2018 excursion to Isla Mujeres.
I am not being paid for mentioning Royalton, Amstar, Nexus, or Expedia in this post. This post is my own personal opinion about our trip. I have included a few affiliate links to Amazon products that could make your stay more enjoyable. You may also see ads on this site. I do get paid by google if you click on them, but I’m not affiliated with the companies.