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.
If you’d like to know more about the parties at this hotel, check out the separate article about the Riu Party venue.
For other reviews about Riu Hotels in Punta Cana, have a look at Riu República and Riu Palace Macao.
Completely UPDATED: May 2023
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.
There is no free Riu Palace Punta Cana shuttle service, at least as long as you’re not booking a package with a tour operator who includes transfers (see below in this Riu Palace Punta Cana review (in the section “Booking and Prices”) for the best package deals). Therefore, you need to find your own airport transfer to Riu Palace as indicated above.
However, if you are just looking for a shared Riu Palace Punta Cana shuttle service to save money, there are group shuttles from Punta Cana Airport to Riu Palace, which can be booked here*. Those shuttles group passengers with the same arrival times and bring them quickly to their resorts, including the Riu Resort in Punta Cana. Prebooking is essential.
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 if is a good idea to rent a car in Punta Cana. You can also order a Punta Cana Uber, but in most cases, they can only pick you up at the front gate which is a 15-minute walk from most hotel lobbys within the Riu Punta Cana complex.
Furthermore, you can also explore the entire property of Riu which covers a considerable amount of acres, so you won’t get bored.
If you are interested in the exact location of RIU Palace Punta Cana, you can check out its location on this detailed map with all Punta Cana resorts.
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:
The first 5 mentioned are all located within one complex, the one we are talking about in this Riu Palace Punta Cana 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 all have reopened in 2021 and 2022 after the Covid-19 pandemic in the Dominican Republic ended.
Riu Palace Bavaro, Riu Palace Macao and Riu Palace Punta Cana are the highest tier of all the Riu all-inclusive resorts. Guests enjoy access (pools, bars, activities and lunch) to the other hotels, among them Riu Bambu and Riu Naiboa.
Riu Palace Macao is Riu’s adults-only resort in Punta Cana and does also have access (pools, bars, activities and lunch) to the other Riu hotels on the property.
For more information about access rules, check the section further below about “interchanging facilities” in this Riu Punta Cana review.
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
– Ocean View Suite (new in 2023)* (suite and junior suite)
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, 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.
One important thing to mention is that since our last visit, Riu Punta Cana added the Ocean View category to their rooms – this is new for 2023 and 2024. This means you can now get a guaranteed ocean view room at Hotel Riu Palace Punta Cana.
This being said, if you manage to book an ocean view suite (either the suite or the junior suite), you can get guaranteed stunning views for a pretty low price, as the surcharge already starts at around 20 USD per person per night. But, if interested in ocean-view rooms at Riu Palace Punta Cana all-inclusive, book early, as there aren’t many available due to the design of the building.
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.
A couple of years ago, Riu was mainly bookable through their own website and this has changed in recent years. Now, as of May 2023, the Hotel Riu Palace Punta Cana is bookable through Expedia*, Priceline* and Agoda*, among others. Just Booking. com still doesn’t work together with this resort in Punta Cana. On the following websites you can get the best deals on Riu Palace Punta Cana:
At the time of writing this Riu Palace Punta Cana review, prices in the low season start at around 250 USD per double room per night on an all-inclusive meal plan, while high season prices are available from around 350 USD per night.
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.
You also should check the prices for a package for Riu Palace Punta Cana All Inclusive, as this might be cheaper than booking flights and hotel separately – but it is not always. There is no general rule if a package is cheaper or more expensive, hence it is worth comparing the prices. At the time of writing this Riu Palace Punta Cana review, competitive package prices can be found here*.
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 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.
Talking about entertainment in this Riu Palace Punta Cana review, the Riu Party venue is probably the most important amenity if you’re looking for a full party atmosphere. Actually, Riu Party hosts the most massive parties in Punta Cana. But don’t be afraid if you don’t like the noise. Riu Party is a separate venue a few hundred feet away from the rooms and resort grounds so that you won’t hear any noise at the hotel.
Events at the Riu party venue are currently (as of 2023) hosted 4 times a week. It is a 4-hour pool party event with great show acts, a super social crowd, free-flowing drinks and changing styles of music. Those are some of the best events when it comes to parties in Punta Cana. But again, the venue is a bit hidden in the jungle, hence you won’t feel any influences on the actual hotel. You can read more about the Riu party events here.
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.
If you’re interested in further water parks, check out this article with the best water park resorts in Punta Cana.
Interchanging facilities between Riu Palace Punta Cana and other Riu Resorts in Punta Cana
As mentioned Riu Palace Punta Cana is located within the large Riu property in Punta Cana. This comes with certain exchange privileges, which means you can (partly) visit other Riu hotels as well.
As a recap, Riu Resort Punta Cana consists of the following hotels:
– Riu Palace Punta Cana
– Riu Bambu
– Riu Palace Macao
– Riu Naiboa
– Riu Palace Bavaro
Riu República is NOT part of the Riu Resort, it is approximately 2 miles away.
As a guest of Riu Palace Punta Cana, you can use all the common areas (pool, theatre, beach, etc.) as well as have lunch, snacks and drinks in all the other Riu hotels within Riu Resort (hence all of the above-mentioned except Riu República). However, breakfast and dinner are only allowed at Riu Palace Macao.
The same is valid for other Riu Palace hotels. If staying there, you also have lunch, drink and activity access to all the other Riu hotels at Riu Resort, but breakfast and dinner are only possible in your respective hotel.
Please note that not all employers are aware of this rule and sometimes it is implemented a bit inconsistent. If in doubt, just walk to the next bar/employer or ask to speak to a supervisor.
Furthermore, it is important to know that you have access to some of the amenities at Riu Resort which are shared among all Riu hotels, such as
– the Riu Splash Water World (water park with slides)
– the disco “Pacha”
– the Riu Party venue
– the Caribbean street with shops and stores
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.
Of course, you have plenty of 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). Please check out this article about the most exciting family activities in Punta Cana here.
If you are looking for stunning nature, you shouldn’t miss Los Haitises National Park, Montana Redonda and Isla Saona.
And if a romantic getaway is what you are looking for, you can book a cruise to Isla Catalina or book a professional photoshoot at the beach*.
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.
If you’re looking for further Riu Punta Cana excursions, make sure to register for our newsletter. Here we’ll share the best-rated excursions in Punta Cana and also reveal the best-kept secrets in terms of activities and tours. By registering for the newsletter you also receive a free e-book with the best free things to do in Punta Cana.
Riu Palace Punta Cana compared with other Punta Cana resorts
When looking for the best Riu hotel in the Dominican Republic, you might wonder what is the best hotel: Riu Palace Punta Cana, Riu Palace Bavaro or Riu Palace Macao? For sure it is not Riu Bambu or Riu Naiboa as they are the lower tier resorts of the Riu Punta Cana hotel complex, but let’s have a closer look at how Riu Palace compared to the other resorts in Punta Cana.
Riu Palace Punta Cana vs. Riu Palace Bavaro
When comparing Riu Palace Punta Cana vs Riu Palace Bavaro, there are not that many differences to find. The main one is that Riu Palace Bavaro has much more contemporary rooms as the design here is more state of the art. Even though both hotels, Riu Palace Bavaro and Riu Palace Punta Cana, have been remodeled around 5 years ago, the rooms at Riu Palace Punta Cana seem older as they use a more classy design.
Besides this, the quality in terms of service, food, amenities and drinks is very similar when comparing Riu Palace Bavaro vs. Riu Palace Punta Cana. There is hardly any difference. Riu Palace Punta Cana is slightly more compact than Riu Palace Bavaro, while it is a bit further away from the centric Riu Splash Water World, the huge water park of the Riu Resort in Punta Cana. Both hotels are located directly at the beach and the distance from most of the rooms to Arena Gorda Beach is similar, between 2- and 5-minutes walking.
Riu Palace Punta Cana vs. Riu Palace Macao
Comparing Riu Palace Punta Cana and Riu Palace Macao, both hotels are even more similar – but this could change in 2023. Between April and September 2023, Riu Palace Macao is undergoing renovations and it is expected that the old rooms of Riu Palace Macao will be the newest ones in the entire resort. I’d also assume that the huge buffet of Riu Palace Macao with its pretty outdated design gets a major upgrade.
Besides this, Riu Palace Macao will remain an adults-only resort which is the biggest difference from Riu Palace Punta Cana, a family-friendly resort in Punta Cana. Same as for Riu Palace Bavaro, the difference in the quality of food, drinks, service, amenities, etc. is super similar or even the same when comparing Riu Palace Macao vs. Riu Palace Punta Cana.
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 and the unique Riu Party events.
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.