The Hotel Riu Palace Tropical Bayis a 416-room all-inclusive resort in Negril, Jamaica. Accommodations, meals, sports, entertainment and drinks are all included. The pay-one-price option gives families the chance to engage in a variety of activities, without experiencing sticker shock when it comes time to pay the bill
Despite the large number of rooms, the resort feels manageable, thanks to its compact layout. The Hotel Riu Palace Tropical Bay stands out for personalized service and a staff that is genuinely friendly. It takes just over an hour to get to the resort from the Montego Bay airport, so you’ll be on the beach soon after clearing customs.
Beautiful beaches in Jamaica are as common as cabs in New York City, but the beach here is particularly suited to families. The resort is located on sheltered Bloody Bay and the shallow turquoise waters are usually calm enough for even the tiniest swimmer to plunge right in. The ocean floor slopes very gradually, so school-aged kids can wade very far out and still touch the bottom. Parents can keep an eye on their kids from the comfort of a reclining lounge chair as they wiggle their tootsies in sand as soft as talcum powder. The entire property is surrounded by lush gardens, adding an extra spoonful of tropical beauty.
The large pool area, with its side-by-side pools, is the resort’s hub. The enthusiastic staff works hard to engage guests of all ages in poolside trivia, water volleyball, aqua aerobics and reggae dancing. The swim-up bar is fun, and the bartenders are happy to prepare festive alcohol-free mocktails for children, paper umbrella included. For toddlers, there is a kiddie pool and a shady playground right on the beach.
There is no drop-off kid’s club, but young guests are catered to by the energetic staff who plan icebreaker activities and games and crafts throughout the day. If you want a resort that allows you to drop the kids off all day, look elsewhere. With a bit of notice, the resort will find a qualified sitter to mind your children for a few hours while you enjoy a romantic dinner.
Non-motorized watersports are included in the rate. Try your luck at windsurfing, kayaking or snorkeling. There are two floodlit tennis courts on-site, so you can play in the evening, when the temperature cools down.
Each evening, there’s live music and G-rated entertainment for the entire family.
The Renova Spa offers a variety of pampering treatments, but of course you’ll pay dearly for them. All guests are welcome to indulge in the sauna without charge.
The 416-rooms are spotless and spacious. They are not fancy, rather cozy and comfortable. All rooms have a flat screen television with cable channels, free Wi-Fi and private terrace or patio. Some rooms have a pull out sofa bed. For larger families, adjoining rooms are available. The fridge is stocked with water, soft drinks and Red Stripe beer, replenished each day. There is a bar with a range of alcohol dispensed for in-room cocktails. If hunger strikes in the wee hours of the night, a room service menu is available 24-hours a day, included in the rate.
If you think food at all-inclusive resorts is synonymous with bland and boring, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. The Riu Palace Tropical Bay offers a good mix of culinary options, from buffet dining to sit-down restaurants. Adventurous eaters will have the opportunity to sample classic Caribbean specialties. At the breakfast buffet, our palates were treated to authentic Jamaican dishes like callaloo, a leafy green veggie seasoned and sautéed until tender. There was an entire table of fresh tropical fruits, including sliced mango, papaya, star fruit and pineapple. These locavore treats were in addition to the more standard morning fare such as bacon, omelets cooked-to-order and house-made doughnuts and pastries. Finicky children have a dozen cold cereals to choose from. Caffeine addicts will be pleased with the piping hot coffee brought to your table in a jiffy.
Indigenous food options continue on into lunch at the jerk shack, located beachside. Jerk is Jamaican-style barbecue, with the meat, fish or chicken slow-cooked over wood from the allspice tree. It is flavorful but not too hot, so open-minded young eaters may want to give it a try.
No one goes hungry at dinner, when guests have a choice between a buffet with live cooking stations or eclectic a la carte options. Krystal’s menu is fusion, Hakcuhi features Japanese food and Bloody Bay is a steakhouse. Rimini is the Italian restaurant that offers buffet starters and a la carte selections for main dishes. The non-buffet restaurants have a dress code that prohibits shorts.
The Riu Palace Tropical Bay is part of a cost-conscious Spanish hotel chain that is known for its excellent value. While this sort of all-inclusive vacation doesn’t come cheap, the Riu keeps the price modest considering all that you get. Tips are included in the rate, but savvy travelers know that additional gratuities are appreciated. The property is big and has lots going on, but its straight-forward layout makes it easy to navigate and keeps the spirit mellow. You'll be spending your time at the beach or pool, not searching for your room.
In spite of the premium liquor being generously poured at the swim-up and lobby bar, the vibe here is family-friendly as opposed to spring break rowdy. For families seeking fun in the sun who don’t require a dedicated drop-off kid’s club, this place is pretty close to paradise.
For information and reservations, visit Hotel Rui Palace Tropical Bay. For information on planning your next Jamaican Vacation, head to www.visitjamaica.com