Riu Palace Punta Cana is an upscale all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana for families, couples and groups. The most unique features of Riu Palace Punta Cana are the beautiful beachfront location, unlimited reservation-free à-la-carte dining, a cool water park and free access to further Riu Hotels in Punta Cana. However, there are many other aspects to consider when booking a Riu Resort in Punta Cana. This extensive review of Riu Palace Punta Cana outlines everything you need to know about this wonderful all-inclusive resort and also gives a brief overview of the differences to the other Riu resorts in Punta Cana: Riu Palace Bavaro, Riu Palace Macao, Riu Bambu, Riu Naiboa and Riu República.
This is an extensive review of Riu Palace Punta Cana. If you’d like to know some general information about accommodation in Punta Cana, you can continue reading all the insider tips on how to find the best all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana and my recommendation on how to save money during an all-inclusive holiday in Punta Cana.
Where is Riu Palace Punta Cana?
Riu Palace Punta Cana is located in Arena Gorda, a part of Punta Cana with not much more than a beautiful stretch of beach, turquoise water and a couple of all-inclusive resorts. It is part of the large Riu property with 4 other resorts: Riu Palace Bavaro, Riu Palace Macao, Riu Bambu and Riu Naiboa. See below for further differences between those all-inclusive resorts.
It is a 16-mile drive from Punta Cana International Airport, which takes around 25 minutes. It is recommendable to book your airport transfer to Riu Palace Punta Cana in advance as airport taxis are more expensive.
When leaving the resort, there is not much you can do walking. Your only transport options are the official taxis, a public bus route connecting to the capital of the province, Higuey, or a rental car (check prices here*). Check out this article to know it is a good idea to rent a car in Punta Cana.
Furthermore, you can also explore the entire property of Riu which covers a considerable amount of acres, so you won’t get bored.
Overview of the entire Riu Resort: Riu Palace, Riu Bambu, Riu Naiboa, Riu República
Before digging deeper into the services and amenities of Riu Palace Punta Cana and continuing this all-inclusive resort review, let’s have a look at its position within the entire Riu complex.
Riu in total has 6 hotels in Punta Cana:
- Riu Palace Bavaro
- Riu Palace Macao
- Riu Palace Punta Cana
- Riu Bambu
- Riu Naiboa
- Riu República
The first 5 mentioned are all located within one complex, the one we are talking about in this Riu review. Riu República is located around 10 minutes’ driving away and a separate all-inclusive resort, so we won’t consider it here further.
The other 5 share the same entrance and the modern and popular Splash Water World. They also all have access to the Riu Party area, the Riu disco and the Riu casino, which are all currently closed due to the impact of Covid-19 in Punta Cana and the hygienic protocols of the Dominican Republic.
Riu Palace Bavaro is the highest tier of all the Riu all-inclusive resorts. Guests enjoy access (pools, bars, activities and lunch) to 3 other hotels, Riu Palace Bavaro, Riu Bambu and Riu Naiboa.
Riu Palace Macao is Riu’s adults-only resort in Punta Cana and does have access (pools, bars, activities and lunch) to Riu Bambu and Riu Naiboa.
Riu Palace Punta Cana is the lowest tier of the Riu Palace Resorts, but guests still enjoy access (pools, bars, activities and lunch) to Riu Bambu and Riu Naiboa. However, in terms of quality, there is not much of a difference between all three Riu Palace hotels. They all have their advantages, which might be the topic of a separate article in the future here on Punta Cana Travel Blog.
Riu Bambu is the club hotel of Riu and features a lot of entertainment and fun. Riu Bambu guests do have access to Riu Naiboa.
Riu Naiboa is the lowest level tier and usually also the cheapest resort among the Riu Resorts in Punta Cana. It doesn’t have access privileges to the other properties.
All resorts are located directly at the beach, except Riu Naiboa, which is located behind Riu Palace Bavaro and has beach access through a short 4-minute walk along “Calle Caribeña”, a resort-owned street within the property.
Overview of Riu Palace Punta Cana
Even the Riu complex is one of the biggest all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana, Riu Palace Punta Cana is a rather small hotel where everything is walkable in 3-4 minutes. From the lobby, it’s just 850 feet to the beach and no room is further away from the ocean than 800 feet. This makes Riu Palace Punta Cana particularly suitable for travelers looking for a compact resort with shorter distances. However, those who’d like to explore more can do so at the neighboring Riu resorts.
Riu Palace Punta Cana is also very suitable for handicapped travelers, of which we saw a few during our stay. The main walkways between the beach, restaurants, main plaza and rooms are all equipped with ramps and the hotel does offer a couple of wheelchair-accessible rooms.
When you arrive at Riu Palace Punta Cana, you are immediately greeted by an impressive white building that fully lives up to its name “Palace”. The lobby continues this impression with its classy design and a historical touch. It is not your typical Caribbean open-air lobby.
Riu Palace Punta Cana is dominated by a U-shaped building that hosts most of the hotels’ amenities: the lobby, the restaurants, the entertainment area and the rooms. It is quite a huge 3-story building, but thanks to the well-maintained garden in the interior including its pool with fountains and springs, it still features a very tropical feel.
All the restaurants (except the beach restaurant), the open-air theatre, the live music stage and the coffee shop are located around the lobby, which makes it a great area to hang out at night, as all facilities are close.
All 3 pools of Riu Palace Punta Cana are located next to the beach, where you can also find a huge beach bar, the swim-up bar and the lunch restaurant, which turns into the steakhouse at night.
The beach at Riu Palace Punta Cana
Talking about the beach, there is not much you can ask more for when planning a vacation on a Caribbean beach. Finest sand, turquoise water, lots of palm trees, a few waves – Playa Arena Gorda, the beach where Riu Palace Punta Cana is located, does have it all. It can easily be counted as one of the best beaches in Punta Cana, even it does have tough competition by Playa Bavaro and Playa Juanillo.
As there is a beach bar and waiter service right at the beach, you can also enjoy a steady flow of drinks. Thanks to the high amount of palm trees, there is also enough shade for everyone and no need for the typical beach huts, which gives it a more natural feel.
If you enjoy beach walks, you are definitely in the right spot as well. In both directions, you can walk (literally) forever without your feet leaving the sand. In both directions you can walk more than 5 miles one-way, passing a couple of other all-inclusive resorts first before finding a particular virgin stretch of beach to the north (after passing Hard Rock Hotel) and a couple of public beach clubs (in El Cortecito) to the south.
The rooms at Riu Palace Punta Cana
Riu Palace Punta Cana has a total of 676 rooms, all located within the same building.
Riu Palace Punta Cana makes it easy to pick your room as there are just very few categories:
– Junior Suite
– Junior Suite Superior
All of them are renovated and feature a king-size bed or two small double beds, a modern bathroom with rainfall shower, a living area with sofa and table, a small “bar area” with a minibar (daily restocked with water, soft drinks and beer), coffee machine and liquor dispenser (in-room liquor currently not available due to Covid-19 safety regulations), digital in-room safe, air-conditioner, flatscreen TV as well as a balcony with furniture.
The room, a Junior Suite, had everything we needed and there was absolutely nothing to complain about. Everything worked well, the bed was comfortable and the shower with lots of pressure and hot water was super relaxing.
What we particularly loved most about our room at Riu Palace Punta Cana were two things:
1) The balcony had a mosquito sliding door, which means we could leave our balcony open the whole time without that any kind of tropical animals could enter. Sleeping while hearing the ocean breeze and the waves crashing is priceless!
2) The view from our balcony! We were lucky to get a Junior Suite with an ocean view, which we absolutely loved.
Booking and Prices at Riu Palace Punta Cana
If you are reading this review of Riu Palace Punta Cana, chances are that you are also looking to book this all-inclusive resort. So let’s have a look at how you can book the Riu Hotels with the best value for you.
Interestingly enough, some Riu resorts, for example the Riu Palace Punta Cana, are not bookable through some of the major online booking websites. However, I have found a few websites where you can get the best deals on Riu Palace Punta Cana:
Please note that a couple of search engines are still showing (very!) old photos of this all-inclusive resort. The room photos seem from 20 years ago. If in doubt, please refer to the photos here in this article (all photos were taken in February 2021) or on the hotel website.
Riu is an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, so it doesn’t matter where you book, you always get the full all-inclusive amenities.
Restaurants and bars at Riu Palace Punta Cana
Riu Palace Punta Cana has a total of 6 restaurants, among them 5 à la carte and 2 buffet restaurants (one buffet turns into à-la-carte at night).
The buffets are straight-forward and with the kind of quality I expect from a resort in the medium to upper price level. There are many delicious options to choose from, including Dominican and international specialties. Remarkable buffet items were an Asian food station incl. sushi for lunch, a Guacamole for breakfast (which tasted much better than the typical hotel Guacamole), one of the best sweet plantains I ever had (I am saying this with more than 5 years living in the Dominican Republic 😉 ) and a station for breakfast which offered lots of (unsweetened!) natural juices – perfect for a healthy lifestyle.
Both buffet restaurants of Riu Palace Punta Cana had outdoor seating areas to enjoy the tropical breeze. If you prefer to eat in an air-conditioned surrounding, you can do so for breakfast and dinner at the La Isabela buffet (and all the à-la-cartes for dinner).
What I loved most about the (lunch) buffet was the immediate beachfront location. Eating while enjoying a view of the beach and the turquoise ocean tastes so much better and feels like 100% Caribbean.
Of course, a Riu Palace Punta Cana review would not be complete without a word on the à-la-carte restaurants.
The entire Riu complex surprises with a no-reservation policy, meaning you can have as many à-la-carte dinners as you want. Just head to the restaurant of your choice and get a table. In peak periods you might have to wait a couple of minutes, but the next bar is just a minute away, so it’s easy to bridge this time gap by just sipping on a delicious drink.
Riu Palace Punta Cana is home to 5 à-la-carte restaurants:
- Italian restaurant “Luigi”
- Asian restaurant “Yokohama”
- Steakhouse “La Altagracia”
- Gourmet restaurant “Krystal”
- Spanish restaurant “La Bodega”
All of the restaurants are included in this Punta Cana all-inclusive resort.
During our vacation at Riu Palace Punta Cana, we visited three of those five restaurants, with Yokahama being our favorite one. The sushi was top-notch and certainly way above the typical resort sushi, the main dishes were nothing short of either.
The Italian restaurant particularly impressed with its delicious antipasti buffet (besides a good à la carte menu of Mediterranean specialties) and the steakhouse is a must-try for Lobster lovers, as this is included here. While the Tapas-style concept of the Spanish restaurant was interesting and manifold as well, its presentation has some room for improvements as most of the Tapas were just served buffet-style.
When talking about food and drinks, the bars are still missing in this Riu Palace Punta Cana review.
While other all-inclusive resorts with close to 700 rooms easily have 8 bars, Riu Palace Punta Cana “only” features 4 bars – one in the lobby, one at the beach/pool, a sports bar and the theatre/plaza bar. While this sounds not much, those 4 bars are absolutely sufficient as they are well-stocked and strategically located, so you never have to walk more than 2 minutes to a bar. Furthermore, they are very well-staffed and -serviced, so drinks get prepared quickly, you don’t have to wait long and you can enjoy personal waiter service in most areas of the hotel (pool, beach, plaza, theatre, lobby).
The quality of the drinks is good, without setting new standards in the Punta Cana all-inclusive industry. They have fresh Mojitos, a couple of prepared cocktail mixes, a wide range of long drinks and a decent selection of international brands, such as Martini, Campari, Johnnie Walker, Canadian Club, Beefeater Gin and Tia Maria. Barceló Imperial, a very good Dominican rum, is also included in the selection.
Entertainment and Service at Riu Palace Punta Cana
When having a drink and enjoying some good entertainment is one of your premises, Riu Palace Punta Cana is a very recommendable option for you. Not only that you get your drinks served right on your table, but you can also take advantage of some decent night shows. While I am usually not too impressed with the typical hotel shows (because I am simply not interested), surprisingly enough I got fascinated by the shows from Riu Palace Punta Cana. Probably this is due to the unique layout of the resort. As everything is so close together, you literally stumble upon an empty table at the main entertainment plaza when leaving the restaurant for dinner. If you decide to dine outdoor at La Isabela restaurant, you can even watch the show and eat at the same time. That’s probably the reason why nearly every guest was present in the evening, opposed to other all-inclusive resorts, where you have to walk a couple of minutes to reach the theatre or the show area.
Further night entertainment options include the sports bar with pool, the Riu Casino and disco (both closed right now due to the travel restriction of Covid-19) and some live music throughout the evening.
Of course, Riu would not be Riu if there wouldn’t be any day-time activities. Pool games, dance lessons, beach entertainment, sports competition and much more all took place while we were there.
There was always something going on at Riu Palace Punta Cana. The vibe easily can be described as active and social, without having a too crazy party atmosphere, always keeping in mind the quality approach of Riu Palace Punta Cana. If you are looking for even more entertainment, you should head over to Riu Bambu (free access from Riu Palace Punta Cana), which usually is even more lively.
On the other side, please keep in mind that during the ongoing pandemic Covid-19 in Punta Cana, party activities with close social interaction are still very limited. Once everything is back to normal again, there will be more entertainment and it is likely that the big Riu party area in the center of the Riu complex opens again with its regular themed parties.
For sports lovers, there is a range of activities to choose from, among them, tennis, darts, beach volleyball, beach soccer, a gym, non-motorized water sports and 1 introductory dive lesson in the pool.
Splash Water World: the waterpark at Riu Palace Punta Cana
The Splash Water World is one of the most amazing amenities for families staying at Riu Palace Punta Cana and all the other Riu resorts (Riu Palace Bavaro, Riu Bambu, Riu Naiboa). It is just around 4 years old and therefore one of the newer waterparks in Punta Cana and among all the all-inclusive resorts.
The water park at Riu Resort Punta Cana is located in the center of the entire complex so that it is easily reachable from all the different hotels. Riu Naiboa is located right next-door, Riu Palace Punta Cana is around 700 yards away, which is a 10-minute walk with children. Entrance is free for all Riu guests and there are no outside guests allowed.
The most important feature at Splash Water World, especially for older children and for teens, is the tower with many different water slides, among them a kamikaze slide, a 4-lane aqua racer with water mats, 1 closed and 1 open slide as well as a Twister slide with a free fall at the end. All slides were great fun and you could feel that it was not as old as other water parks in Punta Cana.
Besides the slides, there is a playground with several other water splash games, particularly for smaller children. The Splash Water World water park in Punta Cana also features sun loungers as well as a self-serve bar with coffee and soft drinks.
Safety Protocols and Hygiene Standards at Riu Palace Punta Cana
Like all the other all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana, Riu Palace Punta Cana has also implemented a long list of safety measures to ensure the guests’ health and to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. These measures are following the official hygienic protocol of the Dominican Republic against Covid-19. As Rius’ Coronavirus protocol is extremely long, I am just listing some excerpts here. You can download the full Covid-19 health protocol of Riu here. Some of the Covid-19 measures from Riu are:
- Preventative Covid-19 measures at the hotel entrance such as taking temperatures, controlling hand disinfection and giving masks to guests.
- Avoid information in paper form by using Riu’s app.
- Hydroalcoholic gel dispensers in the reception area of Riu Palace Punta Cana.
- Room allocation criteria to ensure social distancing during the time of Coronavirus.
- Tape and markings to ensure correct distancing when queuing at the reception bar.
- The implementation of specific Covid-19 rules for the use of public transport, including social distancing, personal hygiene and personal protection equipment, complying with the Coronavirus hygiene protocol of the Dominican Republic.
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of company buses.
- Additional hygiene rules upon arrival at the hotel facilities of Riu Palace Punta Cana.
Maintenance and Supplier Chain:
- Supplier’s staff temperatures will be taken.
- Delivery staff and drivers are required to wear a mask and gloves.
- Fruit and vegetables will be disinfected before being stored.
- External suppliers will be asked for details of all COVID-19 hygiene and safety measures.
- No supplier will have access to the interior of the facilities.
- Cleaning and disinfection of high-risk areas.
- Reinforced personal hygiene procedures.
- Protocols for constant ventilation with natural air.
- An air purification system will be installed in closed areas to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Punta Cana.
- Extended breakfast, lunch and dinner hours.
- Staff of Riu Palace Punta Cana will manage entry to the restaurant and show guests to their allocated table.
- An information panel, located at the restaurant entry, will display access rules for guests to read before they enter.
- Guests must undergo a temperature control check before being allowed access and disinfect their hands.
- Guests must use a mask and gloves and use hydroalcoholic gel.
- Clear directions to show the one-way tour of the restaurant, buffets and show cooking stations.
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures during and after each service.
- Removal of communal items such as oil, salt and pepper shakers, etc.
- Guests must rub the hydroalcoholic gel onto their hands and use a mask and gloves to gain access.
- Screens will be installed on the bar counter.
- Drinks menu printed on posters and available in the Riu App.
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures during and after each service.
- Removal of drink dispensers at Riu Palace Punta Cana.
- Removal of seating stools from the bar.
- Improved procedures in response to the Coronavirus.
- Increased frequency of cleaning and disinfection during and after each service.
All chemical products are considered to be effective against COVID-19 in Punta Cana.
- Gloves and masks for all staff according to the Covid-19 hygienic protocol of the Dominican Republic.
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures for cleaning each room, with special attention paid to hand contact areas.
- Some items were removed from the rooms. Amenities now include a hand sanitizer dispenser and hygienic bags.
- Gloves and masks for all staff.
- Typical all-inclusive resort activities will be carried out whilst maintaining social distancing, limiting capacities, keeping materials sanitized and having disinfectant gel available.
- Activities for children will be adapted to maintain social distancing and capacities will be reduced.
- There will be no adult or teenage sports activities involving physical contact.
- Activities that cannot be carried out following social distancing have been removed.
- Some activities will be repeated several times a day so that all the clients who want to do them can do them in turns. There will be a registration list.
Spa, fitness, pools & laundry:
- A strict protocol has been implemented for the changing of towels, for the spa and the gym.
- Swimming pool capacities will be limited to prevent large crowds during the time of Coronavirus in Punta Cana.
- Sunbeds will be 2 meters apart for clients from different family units.
Even this sounds like a super extensive Covid-19 protocol (which it is indeed), Riu Palace Punta Cana is a perfect getaway if you are already a bit sick of all the “corona hype” worldwide. The hotel takes care that you disinfect your hands and wear your mask properly when approaching any food-related area, but besides this, they take it rather inconspicuous. Warning stickers on the ground advising to keep social distancing of at least two meters are present just in the most important areas (check-in, waiting areas, etc.) and temperature checks are kept to a necessary minimum. Of course, all staff members of Riu Palace Punta Cana are wearing face masks (and you should do so too to show respect and keep everyone safe) and plexiglass protection was installed in all conversational areas such as bar counters, check-in and excursion desks, but in general, we felt that the hotel is trying its best to let you enjoy your vacation as much as possible during this Covid-19 pandemic.
If you want to know more how it is to travel to Punta Cana during Covid-19, you can continue reading here.
Excursions from Riu Palace Punta Cana
When planning your holiday in Punta Cana, we assume that you also want to have some fun on different excursions when leaving your all-inclusive resort. Talking about Covid-19, you can find the best Covid-19 safe excursions here in this article. All of those are possible from Riu Palace Punta Cana.
Of course, you have plenty of other options for amazing activities when staying at Riu Palace Punta Cana. If you are visiting with the entire family, excursions to one of the tropical theme parks such as Scape Park Cap Cana or Bavaro Adventure Park will bring joy to the entire family. Alternatively, you can go Ziplining or have fun while being on a catamaran cruise (make sure to pick a family-friendly one).
It doesn’t matter what you decide to do, Riu Palace Punta Cana is a centric starting point for your excursions and activities in Punta Cana. And if you decide to explore the area on your own, make sure to check out the best day-trips in Punta Cana and read more on if it’s worth renting a car in Punta Cana.
You can also find a comprehensive overview of the most amazing things-to-do in Punta Cana in this article.
As you can see in this review, Riu Palace Punta Cana is a perfect selection for a relaxed, comfortable and well-balanced all-inclusive vacation in Punta Cana. There is hardly anything super spectacular at Riu Palace Punta Cana, but all services and amenities are well taken care of and offer superb quality. Food, rooms, service, drinks, activities, beach, general design, excursion options – Riu Palace Punta Cana has it all; there isn’t anything to complain about.
Riu Palace Punta Cana is the perfect all-inclusive resort for those who are looking to vacation in style with certain amenities, but who don’t need high-end luxury. Families will be happy with the compact size of the resort and the modern water park, while adults enjoy the various entertainment and dining options, including access to neighboring Riu Bambu.
Taking all of this into consideration, we are happy to recommend Riu Palace Punta Cana, especially for those looking for an attractive price-value ratio among the upscale all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana. To see the most current Riu Palace Punta Cana promotions, you can check out the following page*.
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Author, Travel Coach & Punta Cana based digital nomad
Hey, I am Chris, a born and raised German, travel-addictive and Caribbean Soul. Since 2011 I have been living in the Caribbean, among them 5 years in the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is my home-base here in the country and I’d love to tell you more about how to experience Punta Cana off-the-beaten-track and give you all the advice you want to know for your vacation in Punta Cana.
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