“Someone’s always cleaning something,” a Toronto-based travel agent quipped as we sipped local Pacifico beer in a bubbly swimming pool of the Hotel Riu Emerald Bay in Mazatlán, Mexico.
The agent was referring to the resort's main lobby, hallways, poolside and oceanfront rooms and how staff work round-the-clock to make these spaces sparkling clean despite a solid flow of guests coming and going.
The high level of cleanliness at the Riu Emerald Bay would make Mr. Clean coo. The property shows few signs of wear and tear either, despite opening almost 10 years ago.
“Upkeep is a priority,’ Sylvia Hofmann, sales director, Mexican Pacific Coast, Costa Rica and Panama for Riu Hotels and Resorts, told PAX on a recent site inspection of the lush property, which sits about 12 km away from downtown Mazatlán on the Pacific shore on the southernmost tip of the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico's Sinaloa state.
Since the 20-storey, dove-white hotel opened in 2009, there hasn’t been a big increase in hotel capacity in Mazatlán on the all-inclusive front, Hofmann said, making the RIU Emerald Bay a viable option for Canadians seeking some Mexican sunshine.
One stand-out feature: it’s one of few hotels in the tropical region where you can get a family with 3-4 kids into one room.
“They’re very rare,” Andrew Dawson, chief operating officer at Sunwing Travel Group, told PAX, which toured a selection of the resort's 716 wood-furnished rooms, all of which face the ocean (another big selling feature).
Standard guest rooms come in double, duplex, triple sizes; there are junior suites with large balconies and for the splurgers, there’s the whirlpool bath suites, which include a bathroom equipped with hydromassage bathtub, shower cabin and bidet, an integrated lounge area (separated by a step) and a sprawling terrace with a built-in whirlpool bath. (If you want to feel like royalty, it’s here).
All guest rooms come with travel must-haves, such as an iron and ironing board, hairdryer, free wi-fi, satellite TV and, hallelujah, fully-loaded liquor dispensers.
The one item we had on our wish list was for more elevators and faster elevators. The wait to get from the main lobby up to our room dragged on at times, especially during peak hours. While a proper mindset is everything, (You're on vacation! What's the rush?!), taking the stairs can sometimes be faster if your room is lower to ground level.
Major renovations are in store for the resort next year, but what wow’d us most was how much beachfront the property has at its disposal. Located on soft Playa Las Brujas beach, guests are entitled to several hundred metres of wide open beach space in each direction, occupied by nothing other than sun loungers, crashing waves and the occasional wanderer hawking a Mexican hat.
The string of resorts located along Mazatlán’s popular Golden Zone strip have beaches. However: “They’re no comparison to the beach we have here,” Hofmann told PAX.
In other words, if you’re looking for seclusion, it’s here, as the Riu Emerald Bay doesn’t have many neighbours.
There are four on-site restaurants: Las Tres Islas (the main restaurant), Bamboo (Asian), Tabasco (Mexican) and Las Gaviotas (poolside/Italian). All are buffet style except for Tobasco, which is à la carte (save for a buffet for starters and dessert). There’s also a 24 hr sports bar on site that offers late night snacks.
There are three swimming pools (one with an adjoining whirlpool bath), including a pool for children. The Playa Bruja poolside bar with swim-up bar is a poppin’ spot during the day as vacation-mode guests get their margarita on.
What’s more about staying at the RIU Emerald Bay is its close proximity to downtown Mazatlán, a laid-back, untapped port city - known as "The Pearl of the Pacific" - that serves as a gateway into authentic Mexico.
From the RIU Emerald Bay, an inexpensive Uber ride to Mazatlán’s colonial Old Town will introduce you to brightly-coloured 19th century buildings and historical neighbourhoods that house gems such as The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the Plaza Mechado and Angela Peralta Theater, a restored performance space (built in 1869) that showcases the region’s top opera and ballet.
Mazatlán’s eight-kilometre-long malecón (boardwalk) is the oldest boardwalk in Latin America, and is also just a 10-15 minute Uber ride from the Riu Emerald Bay.
“Mazatlán is a hidden jewel,” Hofmann told PAX, noting how the city of more than 650,000 people is rarely crowded.
It’s the kind of place that makes you want to take a deep breath and dig your feet deep into the sand, which you may, incidentally, trail across the floor of the Riu Emerald Bay’s main lobby upon returning to your room.
It's a fact of resort life, but at least you'll know that somebody is going to clean it up.