Opened in November 2009, the Riu Palace Paradise Island brings all-inclusive near-luxury to a Bahamas destination long dominated by the pricey pay-as-you-go Atlantis complex. Everything feels fresh and new here -- even though the Riu property is a renovation of an older hotel, you’d never know it. Rooms, service, and dining options are nearly all top notch, and the proximity to the Atlantis guarantees that you’ll never be bored even if you run out of things to do on-property.
Riu Palace Paradise Island Rooms
Rooms are sometimes an afterthought at all-inclusive properties -- the theory being that guest won’t spend much time there, anyway. At the Riu, however, the 379 guest rooms are a revelation -- among the best of any hotel in this class we have seen, all-inclusive or not. We loved the fact that the designers were bold enough to eschew traditional tropical patterns and pastels and went for a bright, fresh look with white linens, dark wood, and rich purple furniture and bedcovers.
The resort has a handful of suites with separate living rooms, but the majority are junior suites, and most of these have balconies, typically with indirect ocean views and/or overlooking the pool. Either way, there’s plenty of space to lounge around in.
Oddly enough, we found the minibar the most eye-catching room amenity of all, doubtless because of the wall-mounted liquor dispenser stocked with four mid-shelf liquors like Smirnoff vodka and Bacardi rum.
The fridge below is stocked with cold water, soft drinks for mixing cocktails, and cans of Kalik beer. For new arrivals, all this is a nice reminder of Riu’s commitment to a truly all-inclusive experience, with no annoying roadblocks to getting a drink or bite to each when you want one.
Riu Palace Paradise Island Dining
The Riu offers five restaurants: the main Atlantic dining room and terrace for buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinners; the Bahamas steakhouse; the gourmet Sir Alexander restaurant; the Tengoku Japanese restaurant; and Krystal, a fusion restaurant focused on fresh ingredients, with a menu designed by Michelin-star Spanish chefs.
Most guests will eat the majority of their meals at Atlantic or the Bahamas steakhouse -- the other restaurants have more limited seating -- but a meal at either of these linked restaurants is hardly slumming. In fact, the quality and diversity of food is quite impressive. Breakfast at the Atlantic features a mix of items designed to appeal to both European and American palates, with a smattering of local Bahamian and Caribbean breakfast items thrown in for more adventurous diners (fish for breakfast, anyone?). The Atlantic also charms with a sunny terrace ideal for an al fresco breakfast -- just be careful to leave someone at the table or you’ll find your meal picked over by seabirds when you return.
Lunchtime and dinnertime diners can pour beer from a bottomless tap of cold Kalik and dine on burgers, pizza, and a variety of other hot and cold dishes served from chafing dishes and off the grill.
Krystal is only a modest step up from dinner at Bahamas, but both chefs and servers strive to create a gourmet experience, and we enjoyed a nice dinner of Chilean sea bass here. The wine and champagne flows freely with dinner; just don’t look too closely at the labels -- Vendage and Andre, respectively, don’t quite cut it in a restaurant with haute cuisine aspirations. Twenty-four hour room service also is available, with a pretty extensive menu even for dining in the wee hours.
Hotel Riu Palace Paradise Island Amenities
We visited during the 2010 FIFA World Cup and found the hotel’s spacious sports bar a hub of activity, with fans of various nations clustered around the big four-sided bar to cheer or groan depending upon the action on the flat-screen TVs. The bar also has foosball, pool and other games, and you also can get nachos, pizza, or other (admittedly less appetizing) microwaved sandwiches.
One thing we really liked about the Riu was that you always felt like a paying guest at the bars, even though you weren’t paying for drinks. Smiling bartenders make drinks to order, and waitresses appear at your shoulder just as if they were working for tips (they’re not; all gratuities are included at the Riu).
The hotel gym is really not much more than a room with some fitness equipment; adequate for a morning workout but not a place you’ll want to linger. The spa also is small but welcoming; we had a brief but relaxing massage here -- spa services are an additional charge.
The only place where the resort falls short of other all-inclusives is with its watersports activities -- basically, there aren’t any, whereas most comparable properties at least have a few kayaks or Sunfish for guest use. If you plan to do more in the water than swim you’ll have to pay for equipment rentals at one of the vendors located along the three-mile beach.
Hotel Riu Palace Paradise Island Activities
The Riu’s spacious pool area seemed to have plenty of loungers for everyone, and the popular swim-up bar serves up cold libations all day long. Staff organize daily beach and poolside games from aerobics to beach volleyball, horseshoes to beer pong. Bands perform poolside and in the hotel’s nightclub, which draws a pretty good crowd most night even if the acts on stage are sometimes a bit cruise-ship hokey (trivia, magicians, karaoke, among others).
The Riu’s proximity to the Atlantis should not be overlooked: guests can simply walk next door to the nearest Atlantis-affiliated hotel and follow indoor corridors to the expansive casino, shopping, upscale restaurants, a comedy club, the Dig exhibition, the Aquaventure waterpark, aquarium, and dolphin encounter programs, and other Atlantis attractions.
You’ll never feel unsafe on Paradise Island, so in that sense it’s an ideal vacation destination for novice travelers and families. On the other hand, the island can feel a bit isolated from reality, and you will be hard-pressed to meet any actual Bahamians who don’t work at the hotels or restaurants unless you drive or walk over the bridge to New Providence Island and downtown Nassau. For a little taste of local culture (along with some fresh seafood and cold beer), check out Potter’s Cay Dock, a fishing village lined with seafood shacks located at the foot of the Paradise Island bridge on the Nassau side.
Hotel Riu Palace Paradise Island Information
Hotel Riu Palace Paradise Island
Casino Drive Paradise Island
Paradise Island - Bahamas
Phone: (+1) 242 363 3500
Fax: (+1) 242 363 3900
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.