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Traveling with kids a mission. Where to go, what to do, and when… is all time consuming. Before the pandemic, we tried to take our kids on some type of vacation at least once a year. We've done overnight road trips to Utah, to full blown cross country flying trips. Regardless of the destination, traveling with kids is a lot of work.


Being that the kids celebrated some major milestones this year, we opted for a beach resort vacation. We deserved some R&R. I knew I didn't want to worry about meals or stress about a budget, so we went the "All Inclusive" route.


We first did all inclusive when we went to Cancun in 2018. We stayed at the RIU Palace Peninsula. It's beautiful there. We left with great things to say. The beach, the pools, the restaurants, we enjoyed it all. For this next visit, I knew I wanted to try another RIU property. We almost went back to Cancun but opted for Puerto Vallarta instead. The Hubs wanted to see something new. Plus, it was a shorter flight for the kids.


RIU has three properties in the Vallarta area.


RIU Palace Pacifico would have been the equivalent to RIU Palace Peninsula in Cancun. I opted for RIU Vallarta though. It fit our budget and it appeared to be more of a family friendly resort (based on photos). It has 4 large individual pools, direct beach access, a kiddie pool, plus volleyball, and ping pong tables. The other two properties gave me casa blanca vibes.


Although the website claims to have family suites, they were not available for our booking dates. We booked two rooms for the 6 of us. We requested neighboring rooms to keep the kids in close proximity to us. We have older teenagers and felt safe doing so. Luckily, our rooms were corner rooms. Only members of our family had any business being there.


Location


RIU Vallarta is technically located in Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, about 20 minutes from the Puerto Vallarta airport. The resort is directly on Playa de Flamingos. It's a beauty for sure.




Cost


It cost us approximately $725 (US) per room for a 5 day/4 night stay. We booked 2 months in advance through RIU directly. By booking with RIU, the hotel provided airport transportation. This I learned the hard way in Cancun. We used a hotel app for that booking and had to pay airport transport separately. I highly suggest researching transport options and hotel booking amenities before committing to a hotel. Save money wherever possible. That's my number one traveling rule for myself.


What's Included


RIU Vallarta is an "All Inclusive" resort. Meals, beverages and cocktails are included. That's the basis of most all inclusive resorts. They stock mini fridges with a variety of drinks and usually have a mini bar. Due to covid, the mini bar was not stocked, but the bar was open 24/7. In addition to nightly shows, fitness activities, gym access, and a kiddie pool, this specific property also includes beach boogie board rentals, morning kayaking and volleyball. The website suggests golf course transport and windsurfing as well, but we did not do those things. I cannot confirm. The resort also has entertainment themes throughout the week in which they provide certain extras. Twice during our stay they had fruit stands on the beach with fresh coconuts and mangos. This was unique to me because in Cancun the beach vendors sold coconuts for $10.



I had a moment with my coco. I felt so summer.


Special activities like horseback riding, jet skies, and tours are extra. You'll need to pay out of pocket for those. Keep in mind, there will be multiple horse vendors and vendors period. Prices vary. We paid $60 for 3 people to horseback ride on the beach. It was about a 30 minute ride - 15 minutes each way. Our guide (vendor) was very attentive and kind. He asked us our level of experience prior and offered to walk the horse carrying my inexperienced son. This was a bucket list moment for me. I truly enjoyed sharing it with my boys.




Dining/Restaurants


The resort offers a buffet style breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you miss breakfast, the Steakhouse opens for an additional hour with reduced continental style breakfast options. Pancakes and huevos rancheros is what we had every morning. Oh, and if you have a late sleeper like we do, you can ask for to-go plates. You can load up a plate and take it to your room at any meal!


For lunch; in addition to the lunch buffet, there is a poolside grill. They serve hotdogs, burgers, fries and a few other basics like fruit and chicken. The kids had fries and burgers every single day. They loved having lunch by the pool.


For dinner there are also 4 themed al la carte restaurants available; Italian, Asian, Steakhouse, and George's (fine dining). We tried all but George's. Al carte restaurants operated on a first come, first serve basis. We were ready for dinner by 7:00 PM every evening and didn't experience wait times. In my opinion, the buffet was as expected. It mirrored the buffet in Cancun. The restaurants on the other hand, do not compare to Cancun. Simply put, the food wasn't the same. It's a lot more bland at Vallarta. Unfortunate, but honest. Looking back, we probably would have eaten at the Italian restaurant every night had we known how disappointed we'd be. We enjoyed the mussels and seafood linguine there. That's about it though. My two cents, try a little of everything your first day to find something you can enjoy all week. The flavors found at the buffet continue at the al carte restaurants.


You can also purchase sunset beach dinners. They have a romantic dinner couple option and a large party option charged per person.



Other Details


Late check-out is available per request. You can request via the RIU app or in person at the counter. It cost us 300 pesos (about $16 US) to check out at 2:00 PM instead of 11:00 AM. This was the fixed rate for one room that day. We moved all of our belongings into one room and paid for one room late check-out. This allowed us to go for a morning swim, take our time getting ready and have lunch before we left the property.


If you're paying with an American credit/debit card for your stay or at the gift shop, inquire about international fees with your bank. This caught my husband off guard but it very much varies by bank and card.





Overall, I loved the location. There was plenty of space and the views are gorgeous! I loved the beach too. WE love the beach! We are definitely going back. I don't think we'll be back to this RIU property though. I rate it a 7/10. It ultimately comes down to the subpar pillows and the food. They didn't meet my expectations. I expected what we had in Cancun. The difference is noticeable to me. I think the next time around we'll go up to Sayulita or Punta Mita, and stay within walking distance to local eateries and restaurants. I'm a foodie at heart.




Xx Dee











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