by Stephen Jermanok
Jamaica has more than its fair share of fine white sandy beaches that ring the mega-sized island and they never disappoint. The problem, especially for families with young children, is the strong surf once you step foot in the ocean. Young children may prefer to swim in the pools to avoid the constant barrage of waves. Yet, at Riu Palace Tropical Bay, the kids wisely choose to spend most of their day in the soothing waters of a sheltered bay. The shallow ocean floor gently slopes out to sea, so the kids could swim and walk as far out as they wanted. Children of all ages swim in the warm water, not having to worry about waves.
The Riu chain, a Spanish hotelier, makes an effort to include the indigenous food and culture of the country their resort resides in rather than simply offering a generic all-inclusive experience. In Jamaica, that means listening to live Reggae bands and lining up at noon to get a plate of jerk chicken at the jerk hut on the beach. The grounds of this 416-room property is far more intimate than most all-inclusive properties, so it won’t take you 15 minutes to walk from your room to the restaurants and beach.
That’s not to say there aren’t a slew of activities to keep families busy. Youthful entertainers engage the children with a variety of activities during the day, from volleyball games to dance contests to treasure hunts to games of bingo. Virgin pina coladas are waiting at the swim-up bar in the pool. The water sports facility offers kayak and Hobie cat rentals, and, for an extra charge, takes families on sunset Catamaran cruises to snorkel and see the cliff divers at the famous Rick’s Cafe. At night, after dinner at one of the five restaurants, there’s a nightly show of dance and comedy on the main stage. A week’s vacation goes far too quickly at this resort, the reason why many European families choose to spend two weeks at this Negril gem.
Our Editor Loves
- Two pools
- The selection of good restaurants
- The warm ocean waters found in the sheltered bay
- All Inclusive Rates
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Rooms have one king-size or two double beds, a large sitting area with desk, ample closet space, air conditioning, ceiling fan, flat-screen cable television with HBO, mini-fridge with beverages. Balconies overlooking the quiet beach are available as well. The bathrooms have two sinks, shower, tub, and hairdryer. Upgrade to a corner suite and you'll get a Jacuzzi tub and a guaranteed ocean view.
The daily maid service cleans up all the sand in the room and leaves an animal-shaped towel sculpture on the bed. If you have young children, ask for a room on the ground floor since the three-story buildings that house the rooms have no elevators.
2nd visit! We just love this hotel! First went in 2017 and fell in love with the resort, so much so we came back in 2019. It is e most magical place, the hotel is stunning, the location amazing and the people first class. The staff are wonderful, the food is varied and very good, especially the jerk chicken hut. We will always return here. It deserves its 5 stars and is simply outstanding
This was my first visit to the Riu Tropical in Jamaica. I found the staff very friendly. They always greeted you with a smile and would ask if you was ok and could they do anything for you. They made you feel very special. The rooms are very clean and modern and security staff patrol throughout the night. The food was plentiful with a wide range to choose from. The only thing I would say is that selection of food in the 24 lounge could be better, apart from that I had a brilliant stay and will defiantly be booking my next holiday there soon.
Pools & Beach
The two pools on property are small, so most of the action centers on the beach. The Riu Team of entertainers lead guests in water aerobics in the ocean (yes, it's that shallow), a competitive game of horseshoes, beach volleyball, darts, or whimsy like creating the best sand sculpture. Mid-afternoon, it was time for one more glorious swim in the ocean or perhaps a paddle in the kayaks. By late afternoon its back to the beach for the spectacular sunsets, where the reddish-orange orb melted into the aquamarine waters, providing an unparalleled light show that no one will want to miss.
There are also two tennis courts on site, so bring your racquets if you like to serve and volley. Scrabble, bingo or card games are nice to play under the shaded roof of the large lobby. Every evening after dinner, there's a dance performance on the main stage.
This being lush Jamaica, a land of jagged mountain peaks and rolling streams, you should definitely leave the property and see the surrounding countryside. Horseback riding high up in the hills, past centuries-old plantation walls and under the shade of tall palms, with glorious vistas of the surrounding sea is an option. Or a tour with the reputable Jamaican outfitter, Chukka Caribbean Adventures, or rent dune buggies that crossed streams and sped up the hills past fields of sugar cane and trees brimming with ripe mangoes.
The resort also offers Catamaran cruises on a large sailboat that leaves from the property. Take the afternoon jaunt and you'll spend time snorkeling with neon-colored fish, sail past Negril's Seven Mile Beach and the rugged shoreline by Rick's, where teenagers jump off the cliffs along with a handful of daring out-of-towners.
Parents of young children will appreciate the short walk from the rooms to the restaurants. We started each morning at the large buffet, which included an omelet station, French toast, bacon, sausage, yogurt, cereals, fresh fruit including small, sweet bananas, and pastries. There are both indoor and outdoor tables to enjoy breakfast with a sea breeze. Waiters serve orange juice to the kids and strong Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee for the adults. The lunch buffet is also good, especially for grabbing a bowl of pistachio ice cream.
The buffet worked best at night when they offered a specialty dinner. On Jamaica night, they featured ackee and salt fish, oxtail stew, tasty curried goat, yams, and breadfruit. A seafood dinner offered as much lobster and shrimp as you could possibly eat. Otherwise, the specialty restaurants are far superior.
This grill and steakhouse serves large cuts of rib eye that are scrumptious. Don't miss lunch at this jerk hut restaurant. You can top the meat with spicy Scotch bonnet sauce or a sweet barbecue sauce. The chicken is paired with rice, beans, and often grilled vegetables and fish.
Guests must book two days in advance to dine on tender Chilean sea bass at this fusion restaurant.
This is an Italian restaurant that specializes in pastas and pizzas. A la carte menu items and buffet starters are available. Advanced reservations are required.
The fresh sushi and salmon at Hakuchi Japanese restaurant are a must for seafood-loving families.
There's also the option of 24-hour room service if you have young children who tire quickly after their hot day in the ocean.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Unlike the hustle and bustle of Seven Mile Beach, where there seems to be a constant flow of people selling you everything from hair braiding to handmade souvenirs, the locale of Riu Palace, on Bloody Bay, is a bit off the beaten track. Sure, there are guitarists working the beach, wanting to sing you some Bob Marley tunes, and the occasional hawker selling cigarettes and Cuban cigars, but not the constant hassle that has often given Jamaica a bad rap.
The Riu Team of entertainers go out of their way to keep people active during the day. The waitstaff at all of the restaurants is attentive, too. Rarely, did you wait to have your water refilled or order taken. This is one resort that is not on Jamaica time!
Complimentary Wi-Fi access is available throughout the hotel.
Babysitting services are available.
The Art of Smart Timing
After April 15, like most of the Caribbean, prices are dramatically reduced from the high season rates of winter. Jamaica has been hit by hurricanes in the past, but only rarely and usually in August or September. It might be worth the splurge to visit Jamaica during Christmas or February school vacation weeks. Unlike Florida, you're guaranteed temperatures in the mid 80's. As the man selling cigarettes chanted on the beach, "It's going to be hot, hot, hot!"
The airport is less than a 10 minutes drive away from this hotel.
The resort is easy to walk around and families will love have to walk miles to reach the beach or restaurants.
For Mom and Dad
It's hard to resist the couple's massage in a shaded hut down by the beach.