This was our first time to Cabo, went 30 Mar - 6 Apr, and bottom line, it was a great trip and the Riu Santa Fe is a beautiful, comfortable place, and excellent value.
We did our homework, and so there were no surprises.
Airport: Maybe I missed this little detail during my research, but when you go through the automatic double doors to run the "gauntlet", go RIGHT to get to the transportation svcs. area. We were so hyped up, ready to do battle with teeth gnashing, groping, screaming hoards trying to drag us down into time-share / excursion hell, that we couldn't figure out which of the 2nd set of double doors led to transportation Nirvana.....left or right? (even though there were signs in English that "Residents" go left (presumably to the parking lot?) and "Visitors" go right.)
After running around in circles for 30 seconds, ignoring the evil exhortations of the time-share demons, a bright ray of divine light brilliantly illuminated an angel sent to guide and deliver us out of Gehenna..........actually, once my anticipatory induced psychosis started to clear, I realized most of the "demons" were trying to give us helpful advice and point us in the right direction, so I listened to them and went out the right-side doors, met the very friendly Gray Line rep. immediately, and chilled with a Pacifico for about 10 minutes before boarding the shuttle van. As it turns out the "gauntlet" is really no worse than walking through a mall in Jersey at Christmas, where all the sundry kiosk operators spray noxious chemicals called perfume on you in hopes of getting your attention / dollars, and probably less "in your face" than some of the pan-handlers in Penn Station New York.
Gray Line: As mentioned, they met us immediately upon walking out to transportation svcs., and we were on the roll within 10-15 minutes after filling up the van. The rep at the airport gave us the name of the Gray Line rep on duty in the Santa Fe lobby (Ivan), and told us to check in with him when we arrived to confirm our return trip. The van was relatively new, clean, and had good a/c. None of the dashboard instruments worked (I rode up front with the driver), so I can only estimate we topped out at somewhere around 80-85 MPH as our driver expertly weaved around all the slow-pokes. Besides being a NASCAR wannabe, our driver was also a very friendly and informative dude: explained how the center median foliage stayed alive in the desert (a water truck drives by and hoses them down early mornings), how the Collectivo buses worked and where to catch them, restaurant tips, excursion tips, hometown, siblings' educations and lines of work, Mom's ailments, etc., all in all, a very thrilling and entertaining ride from the airport (he got a big tip!)
Check in: We arrived at the Santa Fe about 12:30pm ish (would've been more like 1:30 if we didn't have the good fortune of being chauffeured by Jeff Gordon.) As soon as we walked in, Ivan the Gray Line rep greeted us (the folks at the airport called ahead with a description of us, and told him we were on our way.) He pointed out his desk in the lobby, and invited us to stop by once we were done with check-in formalities.
We were met with the standard welcoming drinks, choice of margarita or beer (perfect timing as my airport Pacifico buzz was just starting to wear off.) Two parties in line ahead of us, so we only had to wait about 3 minutes to be told our room would be ready at 3pm, our luggage would be delivered to the room, and to come back for the keys at that time. We were directed to a small changing room off the right side of the front desk to shower and change, if we so desired. We skipped the shower, but did change into shorts & tees, then went out to meet with Ivan. We gave him our homeward bound flight itinerary, and he arranged for the airport return trip (the van arrived only a couple minutes late for the return trip, and we had a more leisurely ride ("Jeff" must have taken April off to train for Talladega), but got to the airport with plenty of time to check in and grab a light lunch.) Ivan wasn't at all pushy, but did offer to show us some of Gray Line's available excursions. We bought the "city tour", then went to lunch at La Mision (Mexican theme restaurant at night, buffet lunch during the day.) At 3, we went back to get our keys, and there was a line of about 30-50 people waiting to check in. The receptionist told us to bypass any line when we came back for our keys, which earned us a few evil-eye stares (guess those folks skipped the Pacifico at the airport), and we promptly got our keys.
Room: We were in building 7, second floor partial ocean view, looking out into the pool courtyard, very acceptable. Toilet was clogged up. One of our suitcases had already been delivered, but the other was MIA. After waiting in line at the building 7 reception desk for 15 minutes to report the balky WC and file a missing person report on the bag (the joint was really hoppin' by then b/c I guess the 3pm-4pm hour is prime time for arrivals), I got back to the room and the missing bag had already been delivered. It took another trip to the receptionist and about 2 hours, but maintenance finally arrived and waste removal functionality was quickly restored. Fridge was fully stocked, liquor dispenser bottles were at least half full, everything was clean and in good shape. A/C was a little anemic, but not really an issue given the dry air and relatively cool low 80 temps. I could see it would be a problem, though, in the dead of summer and/or higher humidity. Bed was two twins pushed together with a mattress pad on top, which was no problem for us. As per other reviews, the mattress is very hard, but I slept fine, and my wife raved that it was one of the most comfortable beds she's ever slepped in. With the concrete construction, the hallways do echo and carry sound quite effectively. We caught the tail end of spring break, and there were a couple of nights that we were awoken by hootin' and hollerin' kids stumbling back between 1 & 4 in the morning. But it wasn't just the yammering kids; even relatively normal & sober conversation out in the halls seems to be amplified and very easily heard inside the rooms. Whatever, we lost maybe 10 minutes of sleep over 6 nights because of it, so no worries here.
Pools: The building 7 pools are definitely more, shall we say.....lively? It's definitely the magnet for the under-age drinking crowd, but we're in our late 40s, and other than having no desire to hang with the teeny boppers right around the bar pools, we had no problem with it. Didn't see any fights, vomitus or other "organic" matter being discharged in or around the pools. Chairs around the building 7 infinity & bar pools start getting "reserved" around 5:30am. By 9:00am, they're pretty much completely taken. Some folks go so far as tossing a towel in the water to reserve the in-pool loungers.....classy. Around 3pm, chairs start freeing up, and with a little hunting around, you can usually find a couple, albeit not in the "prime" locations. So my advice is; if you want to be able to sit on a chair at the pool between 9am & 3pm, follow the old adage i.e., "when in Rome........." This works for the building 7 pools, but be careful with the freeform "quiet" pool: I had reserved chairs at 6:30am at the building 7 pools two days in a row, and we got to them between 8:30 & 9, no problems. We decided to try the "quiet pool" the 3rd day, and I set up our two chairs at 6:30, but then noticed two staff walking around and taking the stuff off unattended chairs. I decided to stay put and observe, and sure enough, the staff were "unreserving" all unattended chairs and putting the stuff in the towel hut. One guy must have seen his stuff taken after he started heading back to his room and came running back in a rage and berated the living **** out of the poor girl. When she told him that there's a no-reservation policy, his main argument was "...everybody else does it!!!!".....yeah.....see how far that excuse gets you with a NJ state trooper. So since my wife was still sleeping, and I had a book to read, I decided to hang and see how things played out. Low and behold, at 7:30am on the dot, one of the towel collectors came over to me and said flat out "It's ok for you to leave now." They circulated among my fellow chair reservers, passing on the same message, and there was a subsequent mass migration of the species chairus reserverus vulgaris from the morning watering hole, to their respective hibernation dens. We only stayed at the quiet pool one day, so I don't know if this is the daily routine there, or if it was a random enforcement effort. I never saw it happen at the building 7 pools. Maybe the staff knows they'd be risking true physical violence there, given that crowd's more hard-partying and aggressive demeanor.
Food: We thought the buffet food was fine for what we spent on the trip, and some of it was actually outstanding. I was at the concierge in the main lobby at 7am to reserve the specialty restaurants, and there was no line and I got my preferred restaurant and time. I thought you could book two reservations at a time, but she said only one, so by the time I got back to building 7, the receptionist was on duty (seems to show up between 7-7:30 am) and I made another reservation there for a different restaurant. We ended up getting reservations to Steak, Mex, & Asian, but cancelled 2 because of competing priorities, and only ate at the Steak place. Apparently other reviewers here liked it a lot, but both my wife & I agree the cuisine at a New York City lunch wagon is a cut above what we were served at the Steak place. To each his own.
I'm not much of a liquor connoisseur, so I can't say whether what's in the name brand bottles at the bars is the real deal, or rather the funky stuff that's in the room dispenser just masquerading as Bacardi, Smirnoff etc. Either way, we only drank vodka tonics & cuba libres, which we were able to get down without gagging, so all' good in my book. The beer's good, and it's true, the wine is swill.
Excursions: As mentioned, we did the Gray Line "city tour." Picked us up at the hotel, went to the marina for a boat ride to the arch, allotted 45 minutes to for trinkets at the marina, bussed us to San Jose, more shopping, glass blowing factory tour, Mex lunch at a decent restaurant, more time to wander around San Jose, then back to Santa Fe. Did the Ecocat sunset cruise (booked online before arrival.) Good value at internet prices, fun, clean boat. Did the camel safari ditto on value via Cabo Adventures online pricing. Nature walk was interesting, camel ride fun, and authentic mexican lunch outstanding.
Tips: Definitely do the Collectivo buses if you don't mind a slightly rougher mode of transport into and out of Cabo proper (the marina.) You have to walk out to the Santa Fe's main gate to get one, and they'll pick you up anywhere you waive them down. Be prepared, though, for a longer ride into town because unlike a taxi that immediately pulls a U-turn to head towards town, the Collectivos have to go several miles further away to complete their route, before turning around by the Home Depot to head back to town. And of course they make several stops all along the way. Hey, to save eleven bucks each way, I had no problem with it (one dollar or 10 pesos each way.)
The Walmart is about a ten minute walk (plan on more like 15 min if you're the moseying type) heading towards the marina (left onto the main street after the Santa Fe gate.) We decided to go get some decent wine, and hoofed it down there. What we didn't realize at the time is that it's on the other side of the highway from the Santa Fe, so you've got to play Frogger and get across six lanes of traffic. At first I almost turned around and headed back, but then I figured tempting death might afford a bit of a thrill, and isn't adventure and excitement what vacations are all about anyway? Needless to say, we made it and it isn't too tough to find a break in the traffic, just be patient and don't dawdle when you take that first step. Remember not to buy 50 pound of stuff because that much weight tends to slow you down when heading back. Also, it wasn't obvious to me that the Walmart is behind the Sam's Club, and not visible from the highway. We almost kept walking on past, but had an "Aha" moment at the right time. Just cross at the Sam's Club, and head to the left of it towards the circus.
We never went to the disco / nightclub, but I suspect, based on the odor emanating from it, the aforementioned vomitus that was lacking poolside found it's way here. They left the doors open all day long, presumably to air out after the previous evening, and we learned to give those doors a wide berth on our way to the buffet.
Finally, it's definitely true that the place is big, but it's only a 5 minute walk (maybe 10 if you stop to smell the cacti on the way) from the farthest two points in the resort i.e., the building 7 infinity pool, to the main lobby.) Unless suffering from physical disabilities, I can't see how anyone could gripe about having to walk 5 minutes along beautifully landscaped paths. True, I agree having to haul my luggage up 3 flights of stairs isn't appealing, so stay in building 7 with the elevators if that idea scares you. The pools there may be more rowdy, but all of the buildings have echo-chamber hallways, so I'm sure it's just as noisy in buldings 1-6 when the drunks come home.
Well, this is probably way too much info, so I'll quit now. Bottom line is if you want feather pillows, chateaubriand, and the sweet strains of Brahms lilting across the grounds as you quaff Courvoisier poolside, don't come here. For a reasonably priced, beautifully appointed, fully acceptable resort experience, the Santa Fe delivers on all points. A vacation is only what one makes of it.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC