Trip Advisor Report on the Riu in Guanacaste Costa Rica
My family of four stayed at The Riu from June 22-29. We had read almost every review before we went, so we knew what we could most likely expect. Here is my review, based on staying with our two children, ages 11 and 12 (almost 13). We are from NJ, 20 minutes outside NYC, and took a direct flight from Newark Airport.
We had arranged for a private transfer from the airport to the hotel. This was great. This driver was affiliated with Swiss Tours. Swiss Tours also operates excursions through the hotel. Our driver was waiting for us, and off we went in a large, air-conditioned van. It was about a half an hour drive, with a smooth ride, not too many bumps in the road. However, the drivers all drive pretty fast, and try to pass each other. When we arrived at The Riu, we were given a fruity welcome drink and promptly checked in. The front desk staff is welcoming and we were in our room by 2:00. It was a quick process. We booked a 2 bedroom family suite. This room was a mystery to us because The Riu’s website doesn’t show this room on its website. Why not, Riu? It was great because it gave my daughter and my son their own room, each with their own bed. They also had their own full bathroom, equipped with a bathroom where the toilet and bidet were separate from the tub/shower and double sinks. We were able to come back to the room, and shower in our room, while the kids took turns in their bathroom. I just want to warn you that if you have a back problem, this shower has a high step to get over to enter into the tub, and is very slippery. I always held onto the handle getting in. I almost fell once, and I am fairly young and in good shape! This was a great timesaver, as we would time our beach or pool time perfectly to leave enough time to get ready for dinner. It was a hike to get from the beach to our room on the second floor, so plan accordingly and bring with you everything you want for the beach before taking the walk down. I recommend staying on the second floor, just for the convenience of taking the stairs instead of waiting for the hot elevator each time. We bypassed the elevator on most occasions. I was always able to make a reservation for dinner, except for the couple of times I was out on an excursion. It was simple. I showed up outside of the Italian restaurant, La Toscana at 8:50 a.m. and waited for the girl to come and take reservations. By 9:00, the line would begin to form. It was even fine the day I arrived at 9:30, I still got a reservation. I want to let you know that you can eat at the buffet, Liberia for dinner each night, and the selections looked marvelous. But, personally, I needed to get into a new environment for dinner each night. I only ate at Liberia for dinner twice. The rest of the time, I took whatever specialty restaurant would seat my family for the 6:15 seating, which is when these restaurants open. You are allowed to book for the same day, and the following day, so plan ahead if you have an excursion the next day. I always booked for 2 dinners each time I made reservations. Just keep the ticket given to you, and know your room number when making the reservation. Bring the ticket with you when you go for dinner! They are strict, and unlike DisneyWorld, there are no records kept in a computer upon your arrival!! The Asian one had delicious Sushi. The avacado on top of the white rice was delicious! The miso soup was very good. I was impressed with the sushi here. I didn’t really try the other foods, because the sushi was all I needed. My kids and husband liked it too. If you don’t east sushi, there were lots of other options to select from. Please note that Furama, this Asian restaurant, is a buffet, only drinks are served to your table. I enjoyed the wine, but I am not picky. The red wine made me very tired. My husband enjoyed the Imperial beer. The Italian restaurant was very good as well. When you arrive for dinner, there will be a beautiful buffet all set up with lots of nice choices. But don’t fill up on them, because a menu will be brought to you after you visit the buffet, and you can order a meal that will be served to you! The seafood risotto was very good, but the clams were tiny! The fetuccine was not very good, (not like we expect it in NJ) although my child ate it with no complaints. I cannot understand why someone would say that any of the restaurants were bad. They are all good, especially if you are a mom who does all of the cooking at home each night! The steakhouse restaurant is the best place to eat in terms of service. However, it is outdoor dining. It is housed in Ocotal, the daytime buffet style restaurant near the pool and beach. This was a mother’s dream restaurant, because although we were all a little warm here, there is a bathroom in this restaurant! My kids could get up and go and be back at the table in a couple of minutes, versus being gone for at least 10 minutes or more during dinner in any of the other eating locations. There were large fans to help keep the restaurant cool. If I could have eaten here every night of the vacation, I would have. There are only about 15 tables here for each seating, and the entire meal, from appetizers to dessert are fully served to you! Plus, the food was by far the best in the entire resort. The filet mignon was very good. Even the dessert was good! I didn’t enjoy any of the other desserts at this resort, except for the icecream. They just weren’t tasty. I also only enjoyed the watermelon, avacado and pineapple. The other fruits were tasteless.
There were always chairs at the pool, in the sun or shade. There were many available chairs at any time of the day. The same applied for the beach. No need to rush out and claim your space, as we do when we go down the shore or on a cruise ship. Many people leave the hotel daily to go on excursions, so it never felt crowded. You are allowed to smoke on the beach. I am always baffled at how some people can smoke and not have concern for those around them. We are a non-smoking family, and didn’t appreciate how some people just light up with no concern for their smoke invading others lungs. There is some confusion to me regarding the hotel’s smoking policy. Although there are signs posted that say no fumar, there are ash trays on the balcony! And of course, our neighbor to our left lit up every time I stepped foot onto my balcony, even at 6 am. This was very upsetting, as I was trying to enjoy the morning air. Smokers, we smell your smoke! It’s not fun when your child has asthma. Riu, remove the ash trays! There were also thoughtless men walking on a clearly marked no smoking path who threw their ashes down while we were barefoot behind them. Really fellow guests? Please be more considerate! We stayed on the second floor, which didn’t face the construction. It was facing the entertainment area. It gets extremely loud between 9 and 11 pm. There is no way to describe it other than to say bring your earplugs if you want to sleep and are above or facing the stage area. It was fun the first couple of nights, but it does get annoying. We only went to one show. The Riu puts on the same kids show each night beginning at 8. It is for very small children. Mine found it babyish and boring. The real entertainment begins at 9. By then, it was 11 pm East Coast time, and we were all exhausted, so we went back to the room to rest. I wish the kids show would have started at 7, since it caters to pre-schoolers, and then the adult show could start at 8. The folklore of Costa Rica show was boring, and we left soon after it began. The beds are very hard. I requested a soft mattress cover four days into the trip, and it was put on the bed. It really didn’t help, though.
Wear your water shoes to the beach and in the water. My husband and son got stung by a spiny creature, possibly a sea-urchin on our last day there. There was noone at the Medi-center to help us on-sight early in the afternoon. Riu, where were you? There was a dye injected into the foot, and spiky little splinters were inserted. My son still has them a week later. We witnessed 2 others get stung during this day.
We were very strict with putting our money, or valuables in our safe. Nothing was stolen. The cleaning staff is so nice, the women are super sweet. Ours, Ana P. went above and beyond and folded my kids messy clothes for me! She made our room look so nice every day, adding fresh flowers. She always stocked us with new waters. We left her a tip daily, only 3 or 4 dollars, but she was so worth it to us. We tipped everyone. It’s not expected at all. However, fellow vacationers, this resort is not that expensive to begin with. The people who work here are so beautiful, kind and welcoming. They all kept it clean and in outstanding condition at all times. We left at least between 3 and five dollars each time we ate, even at the buffet, where they are constantly serving drinks and clearing your table, all with a smile. Tip your bartenders, too. They don’t even look for it. They just deserve it. Also, we brought our own cups after reading others reviews, but they were not necessary. There are huge bottles of water given out to you on the beach all day long, and the pool bar is always on hand with drinks.
The women who gave us our massages were great. They were on the beach, and were set up right near the little shops. My husband, my daughter and myself got an hour massage for as little as 90 dollars. We handed the woman a 100 dollar bill and she was extremely thankful. Carla, Marlen, and Juacuita were at Spa #3. I promised I’d put their names on tripadvisor.
We talked to Marvin of Costa Rica Amazing Tours (white shirts) on the beach. He sold us the tour to Palo Verde River excursion, and Rolando was our driver. We shared his van with a lovely family of three, (hi Diane, Dave and Amanda from NY!) and he was so much fun! If you have kids, try and get Rolando to take you on this tour. He will really make it special for them. Alex met us there, also from this same tour company, and he was a wealth of knowledge, pointing out amazing sights, teaching us so much! We went horseback riding at The Riu, and it was okay. Make sure you bring OFF bug spray and put in on before horseback riding. The horses don’t like it when you spray, and we had to get off of them to put it on. My husband and kids went on the ATV’s at the hotel as well. This is a strenuous excursion, and although my son loved it, I thought it was a bit extreme. They got to see lots of Howler monkeys on this excursion! We went to Miravalles with Tony. His son is Alan, and they have their own company on the beach. Tony was a good driver, however, he takes you out in his own car, which was bumpy. We gave him a good faith deposit the evening before, and although he was 20 minutes late picking us up on the beach, he got us to Miravalles, zip-lining and the Cortez Waterfalls. The reason we booked with him is because we wanted to go on an excursion the day after we arrived, and he was the only guy on the beach when we arrived. If you have to go with him, he is a very nice man, and will take lots of pictures of you and your family. We were the only people at our excursions, which I liked instead of going with a large group.
This is a beautiful hotel, but you need to take excursions if you have a young family. It is great to ride around and see the country. Pack at least a 60 sunscreen. My husband got burnt the first day using a 30. Be prepared to reapply at least 4-5 times a day if you don’t want to burn. Bring a hat for everyone, too! Make sure to pack your own conditioner, girls and ladies, as well as lotions. There are none here! Also, the kids club is not for kids, but for toddlers and infants. Don’t plan on dropping your child off there all day if they are over the age of three. It is also very small. I think it would be good for a supervised nap-time. Pura Vida!
PS....Feed the dogs on the beach with buffet food.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Opening winter 2009/10. Situated in northern Costa Rica, in Guanacaste. Located on Playa de Matapalo beach. Complimentary sun loungers on the beach. 6-storey main building. Surrounded by 35,000 m2 / 41,86 sq. yards of lush gardens. Closest village: Nuevo Colon. 13 km / 8.1 miles from various shops. 33 km / 20.5 miles from Liberia airport. Credit cards accepted: MasterCard, Amex, Visa ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Hotel Riu Guanacaste Costa Rica