Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mexico 2019 - The Resort

message beach hat pool photo

I can't stop thinking about Mexico. That trip was very well placed in terms of timing and very much needed. I realize we do a fair bit of travel, but one FULL week? That's pretty rare. I was really good and turned off my work email, too, so I was 100% fully committed to relaxing and detoxing my mind. My last post was post 1 of 3 in my Mexico installment posts and it was all about the wedding day! Today's post will give you a little bit more info about the resort itself, so let's get started!

The resort we went to was RIU Dunamar in Costa Mujeres which is about 15 miles north of Cancun. For comparison, the resort we normally go to (and by "normally," I mean we have gone to 4 times) is the Barcelo Maya resort in Riviera Maya which is 45 miles the other direction, south of Cancun. I was excited that the resort was so much closer to the airport! But! In reality, the transfer time from the airport to the hotel ends up being about the same because you are taking back roads, hit lots of stop lights, and the speed limit is much slower going to Costa Mujeres vs. Riviera Maya. Just something to keep in mind if you're debating on a location.

As I mentioned, we've been to Mexico plenty of times now, but this is the first time that we were able to take advantage of the husband's Southwest points and companion pass and fly Southwest vs. a charter. This meant we booked direct with the resort for our rooms and the flight separately - again, the first time we have done this as we normally book this all as a package deal. I wasn't sure what this meant for the airport transfer, but I guess when you book with the resort, your transfers are already included. Normally when we use Southwest points, you still end up paying a whopping $5 in service fees. Booking this international trip, we had to pay taxes, so it ended up being $75 each way. Still though, $150 round trip per person for direct flights to Cancun is pretty darn good.

riu dunamar costa mujeres mexico resort cancun
View of hotel room buildings coming from the pool

Our flight was at 11am, which was also nice because we didn't have a super early morning. But, we did lost an hour. Normally Cancun is the same Central Time Zone as us, but since Mexico does not participate in Daylight Savings, they ended up being an hour ahead. So, we lost an hour, landing about 3:00pm Eastern Time and by the time we got to the resort, it was a bit after 5pm. So, no pool time on day one, but I was still ok with that!

If you're looking at the photo above, this was taken on a path from the pools walking back to our room. Our room was a corner suite on the third floor, closest to the foreground to the far right of the photo. One thing I appreciated about this resort was that everything was very well contained. You will still do a fair amount of walking, but as compared to the Barcelo Maya resort we usually stayed at, restaurants, theater, pools were all significantly closer and more accessible no matter where you are on the resort.

Photo credit: RIU Dunamar home page

This is a great overview of the resort. A "zoomed out" version of my own photo right before this, if you will. Our room is in the right "wing" of the resort to the right in this photo. The theater is the building bump out in the middle of the resort and all of the restaurants are in the left wing facing the center courtyard. There are four different pools - starting from right to left is the activities pool (with swim up bar), the "family" pool (no bar), a small swim up bar with a covered bar behind it facing the beach), another family pool (no bar), and then a waterpark to the far left.

riu dunamar cancun mexico resort view from room 3159
View from our room #3159

The view from our balcony was amazing because we had a corner suite with ocean views. There was a time in our trip when the husband wasn't feeling great, so he went back to the room mid-afternoon. I didn't want to leave him by himself, so I sunned myself on our balcony. The balcony chairs reclined which was very convenient!

View from our room #3159

Photo credit: RIU Dunamar website

I failed to take a good photo of the room myself, so here is one from the website. We had a kingsized bed with a small sitting area that had a couch and a desk. There was a jacuzzi tub separating the bedroom area from the double-sinked vanity and walk-in shower. (The shower was amazing, BTW, with a rainfall shower head.) The toilet was in its own room enclosed behind a door. The suite was perfect for us, but what's funny is the groom and groomsmen all used our room to get ready. Well.... the shower is behind a glass door and while the toilet is in its own room, the shower opens right to the vanity which opens right to the bedroom and living area. So if you plan to share a suite with someone other than your significant other, just be prepared to be exposed! (The groom ended up showering before all the other guys arrived...)

View from pool area looking towards beach

While we love the beach and the sounds of the ocean, admittedly, the husband and I spend the majority of the time laying by the pool. We did venture out to the beach a couple of times though! We've always been to Mexico in September, never in January/February. The water (both ocean and pool) was a bit chilly, but towards the end of the week, we welcomed the cold water as the outside air temperature and humidity increased. It was in the mid-70s during the beginning of our stay and more like mid-80s towards the end of our stay.

riu dunamar cancun swim up bar
Swim up bar located at the "activities" pool

I mentioned there being 4 pools at the resort. This is the pool we would hang out with when we wanted to chat and mingle with the other people there for the wedding. The swim-up bar and bar style seating made it easy to hang out and just talk. The bathroom was also right around the corner, which was obviously convenient  Our room overlooked this pool, and it was funny because if I was looking out our window or standing on the balcony, our friends and family below could see and wave at me. I swear I could even hear them talking from my room - voices definitely carried!

There is another pool to the right of this one where all the activities would take place - volleyball, water polo, water aerobics, etc. They had a DJ at this pool as well, so you could enjoy some music while you socialized. I would say this pool area was definitely more for socializing verses relaxing because of everything going on around you. The husband and I tried to relax, laying by this pool on our first full day there, and the resort crew constantly kept trying to recruit us to participate in the water games. If you want more privacy, I would choose another pool for the day.

riu dunamar mexico pool lounge

This is the pool that is closest to the waterpark. It's larger, but more quiet as a result. This is the pool we spent a lot of time at when we were hanging with the husband's family (who had two small kids.) There wasn't a bar at this pool, but there were always servers walking around with a cart making drinks upon request. In general, we were at the pool from about 10:30am to 1pm. Took a quick break for lunch then back at it from 2pm until about 4-5pm. That said, we never had any issues finding chairs or places to lay. There were plenty of people at the resort, but it was not overly crowded at all, which was nice. I've been to resorts where you have to be by the pool by 8am if you have any hopes of finding a chair. That certainly was not the case here!

Ok, so onto the beach! Like I said, we do definitely prefer the pool over the beach, but you can't not walk on the beach at some point in time. I really wanted to walk out on this pier. They were offering massages in huts on this pier, but otherwise, it was not open to the public. Bummer! How great would those photos have been!

riu dunamar beach mexico monogram beach hat
Bathing suit: Target (top option, similar bottoms) | Hat: Made by my friend Courtney!

The beach was pretty great - easy to walk on, not rocky! And it didn't hurt to walk on it! Sometimes there are so many sea shells you feel like you're walking gingerly to avoid land mines! Some of the guys came back from the ocean with a ton of seaweed in their shorts, but the seaweed on the beachfront did not seem bad to me at all! The husband and I tried to find chairs by the beach to lay and it was definitely harder to find chairs here as compared to the pools. There were plenty of palm trees to provide shade if you wanted to lay on the beach! My one thing I missed at this resort was a good hammock! There were no hammocks anywhere on this resort and nothing beats taking a nap in a hammock!

riu dunamar beach coconut drink mexico

So... drinks. Because of my laryngitis, I had to really watch my alcohol consumption (and really anything that would dehydrate me.) I'd say there were more days that I didn't have a drink vs. days that I did. On top of that, my belly seemed extra sensitive on this trip. Normally, my belly does end up hating me towards the end of my trips to Mexico, but this time, I was bothered by the end of the first night. You can't drink the tap water, but the ice should be totally fine. For normal people anyway. I was convinced that my belly was super sensitive to the ice. Why? 

Well, the first day and a half, all I drank was ice water. No alcohol. But my belly was very upset. I had to take immodium and TUMS like they were going out of style (TMI, sorry.) I decided to refrain from even the ice, so I asked them to fully stock our fridge with bottled water. I solely drank bottled water. If I drank something else besides water, it was wine, or pepsi no ice, or vodka water with no ice. Once I eliminated ice from my diet along with anything on the cold buffet bar (fruits, veggies, salads), my belly was fine and I didn't have to take any immodium again for the balance of the trip.

If the ice was truly harmful, yes, there would definitely be masses of people getting sick, so please don't take this as me telling you to not eat the ice or fruits and raw veggies. I just think my stomach may have been extra sensitive, so I chose to avoid those things. Could it be coincidence that I felt better when I did? Sure! Could it have been the placebo effect? Of course! But regardless, I was happy to feel better once I adjusted my eating and drinking habits during our stay.

Coconut water and coconut rum drink

On our last full day there, they were serving drinks in coconuts! It wasn't raw coconut milk - they hollowed out the coconut shells and served you coconut water with either gin or vodka or just the coconut water by itself. I had never drank coconut water before ever, so that was a fun experience and good photo op! I had a taste of my mother in law's drink and it was not that great at all. But the husband got me my own and it was sweeter and delicious enough for me to finish it! Not sure what they did differently between the two drinks?

Each day there was a photographer walking around for different photo opportunities. Randomly there were a couple of days they were walking around with people dressed up as pirates. This day happened to be the chili pepper, and well, you should never turn down an opportunity to take a photo with a chili pepper, duh! They were definitely posing people without any props or characters, so if you wanted a mini photo shoot, I'm sure they would gladly oblige. They do want your money after all! The prints are not free - you save more the more you buy, but it's $20 for one photo which includes one printed version and the digital copy.

pilates open leg rocker beach photo toesox

Admittedly we used the beach for photo ops more than we used it for recreation and relaxing. We did spend the entire wedding ceremony and reception on the beach, so I don't feel beach deprived at all! And how often am I going to be able to wear my Toesox on the beach??!

Ok, so now food! The buffets were just what you would expect an all-inclusive buffet to be. My little trick for breakfast is that I would always ask for tortillas, so each morning I would eat a black bean, scrambled egg, and bacon breakfast taco... or two. For lunch, there is a grill out by the pool area that serves burgers, hot dogs, nachos, chips and salsa/guac, and chicken on the bone. Otherwise, you can do the buffets like normal. There was an air-conditioned sports bar that served snacks 24/7, and the snacks consisted of hot dogs and nachos. There were also sandwiches and fruit in a fridge you could grab as well. One secret we learned is that you can ask the lobby bar and the sports bar for popcorn and they will give you a small bag. This isn't 27/7 though, they stop making the popcorn late in the evenings. (I heart popcorn, so this was an extra special good tip I learned!)

Ribeye at the Steakhouse

Like other all-inclusive resorts, there are sit-down restaurants in addition to the buffets. The downside to the sit-down restaurants at this particular resort is that you cannot make reservations - they seat only on a first come, first serve basis. It wasn't a huge deal since the resort wasn't overly crowded, but it usually meant that the husband's parents were waiting outside the restaurant holding a spot for everyone around 6pm before the restaurants officially opened their doors at 6:30pm. During our stay, we went to the Italian restaurant, the steakhouse, and one called the Kulinarium, which was more like steak/seafood.

The Italian restaurant was probably my least favorite. I had the lasagna, and it was just ok. Luckily, they did have a salad bar, too, so I still had plenty to eat even though my meal didn't leave me satisfied. The steakhouse wasn't in its own space. Buffet seating was indoors as well as in a large open-air area. The steakhouse seating was basically just located on one end of the open-air buffet seating. The food was pretty good, but I ended up enjoying the Kulinarium the best.

riu dunamar mexico theater bar
Theater bar area

As far as entertainment, there was usually something going on every night in the theater. We saw karaoke, a Michael Jackson show, some contemporary singers, and a "Rock Station" themed show. We were there on Super Bowl Sunday and they had the theater set up with typical Super Bowl food like burgers, hot dogs, nachos, and ribs, and they aired the Super Bowl on a large movie screen. That was pretty nice though the game itself was announced in Spanish! The theater was open-air, and I usually prefer it to be air-conditioned, but during this time of year, it was still very comfortable. It was pretty cool in the evenings, actually, I wished I had brought a light jacket or cover up. 

Phew! I think that about covers everything! This turned into a way longer post than I originally anticipated, but I find it helpful for myself to be super detailed and figured I should capture everything while it was all still extra fresh in my head! Bottom line is that it was a GREAT time and I would certainly go back! This was my second time at a RIU resort and they do not disappoint! 


  1. I've never been to Mexico and I'm dying to go , this resort looks amazing.


  2. Wow, the view from your room was incredible! This really does look like an amazing place. And who would have guessed ICE was the (likely) culprit for your issues?!? Hope you are doing well and your voice situation is continuing to improve!
    Gina || On the Daily Express