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“Fantastic!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Hotel Riu Guanacaste

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Hotel Riu Guanacaste
4.0 of 5 Resort (All-Inclusive)   |   | Playa Matapalo, Sardinal, Costa Rica   |  
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Ranked #2 of 3 Hotels in Sardinal
Level Contributor
36 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 13, 2012

This hotel is one of my favourites by far! The hotel is extremely clean with larger sized rooms and all marble baths. The buffets offer a great deal of variety and qualtiy food. I especially liked the special pool side lunches offered daily with a new theme each day.

Beach is dark sand which appears to look like muddy water that is until you get in! It is crystal clear and warm... and to make it even better you are surrounded by beautiful tropical forests making you feel like you are in seculded paradise.

The pool life is super fun and the bartenders are freindly and quick to make your favourite drink.

One point that I feel is important is that the pool bar at this resorts is very much a party atmosphere and some of the pool side shenanigans are definitely not PG. I do not think this is the best resort for young kids and definitely would keep them out of the pool bar area. For adults this is resort is a blast!

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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4,172 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (1,320)
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English first
Level Contributor
194 reviews
52 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 124 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed November 13, 2012

We arrived 5 Nov for a quick one week getaway, booked on Sat on plane Monday. .
The occupancy level was very low - so hotel seems to have run a special for locals as they made up the largest group there. We were booked into 'superior room with ocean view".
All-Inclusives are generally not my thing, this confirmed why.
Out of the way location; bus, taxi or tour to see anything.
Restaurants, the openings were rotated so always 2 were closed in the evening. Food was ho-hum generally warm to cold laid out buffet style - so cold cuts, etc were a worry - going bad quickly? Veg and fruit were excellent. Beer, etc was mediocre.
Rooms clean, staff very helpful. Wi-Fi - 'free 90 min every 24 hours' in the lobby.
Beach was dark/black volcanic sand, at times a dangerous undertow (flag warning system in place but not used) = shade was at a premium. Grounds in good shape.
Tour operators within the hotel offered a variety of outings. Operators on the beach were not officially recognized by the hotel. My wife enjoyed the reasonably priced massage by one of the beach women.
Oddly we could hear faint noise as though the walls were groaning when the couple were walking around in the room next door..
Door key - was old key style - not mag card and it became a chore to get the key/door to open. Toilet took a long time to refill.. so time yourselves ..LOL.
As an aside - Riu Palace next door opening while we were there\ with construction still going on.

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 11, 2012

We arrived on Oct 29th for a weeks stay. The hotel was beautiful, no signs of any earthquake damage. We stayed on the 5th floor, overlooking the jungle. I found this to be a quiet and peaceful room. Although I was worried with previous comments on how hard and uncomfortable the beds were, I found them fine.

The hotel was very clean, we had no problems with the staff. Only part that bothered me was the internet (free Wi-fi) went down on the Tuesday. Hotel kept saying they were looking into it, but you could purchase internet use if you wanted?? Then on Friday afternoon - as the locals started to arrive - the free Wi-fi was working again, just a coincidence - maybe???

Food was good - no reason to go hungry here. We liked the Steak House and Asian - the Italian was only so-so.

Costa Rica is a very beautiful country. We booked tours with Costa Rica Best Trips (guys on the beach with beige shirts or check out their web site). Their tour guide is Alex or "Crazy Alex" as he calls himself. This is the BEST tour we have ever taken on any of our trips. Alex is knowledgable, friendly and very accommodating. He makes sure you are happy, and will go out of his way for you. If you want to book a memorable trip, at a great price - Use COSTARICA BEST TRIPS - you will not be sorry you did.

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Flemington, NJ
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed November 9, 2012

After staying at previous Riu Palaces, I was a bit disappointed in the service my husband & I received here. I found the workers to be rather rude especially on the weekends when the "locals" come in. And when they come in, they come in. I guess when they are offered a room for the weekend for $80 a night and can bring their whole family to eat and drink, they take advantage of it. The kids were jumping all over people in the pools and they don't say anything. At 12:00 on Sunday they are gone and it's so much better.

We were totally ignored at the bars. They would wait on their own people and then turn and walk away. The first day we were giving tips to all the workers but stopped after getting horrible drinks and service. I did not find Costa Rica to be "pura vida". Alcohol is like water here. They do have Absolute and Bacardi but you have to ask for it. I am a real lightweight when I drink and never even got a buzz in 7 days.

As far as the rooms go, the only complaint I had was that the maid was not cleaning my tub properly (it could be the cleaning products that they use). Loved the hard bed and pillows.

The beach was beautiful and very well kept but we did not swim in the water due to the murkiness. That was a first for my husband who always goes in the water. My husband had a massage by Elia for $30 US dollars for an hour (I did bargain her down). He enjoyed it very much. She was really sweet.

We found the food to be pretty good. There was plenty to choose from and I'm sure everyone could find something that they would like. The wine was horrible. No champagne like at the Palace.

I thought Costa Rica was a beautiful place but because of the way that we were treated, I would NOT go back. Maybe they don't need our tourism dollars.

Room Tip: Ask for the jungle side if you want to not hear the shows at night.
See more room tips
  • Stayed October 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
9 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 9, 2012

We arrived on Oct. 26th at approx 2pm for our week long stay. I was concerned after reading the numerous reviews about having problems getting into the room but upon checking in we were told we were lucky as our room was ready. Enelson was very friendly and gave us all the info we needed for our stay.

The room was nice and the a/c worked fine. We were in the building on the right when standing in the lobby facing the ocean. Our room faced the jungle side and we were on the second floor. The beds are quite firm but was fine with me. The pillows were a little hard but manageable. We had excellent maid service our entire stay. We left a tip each day. I always do when I stay at any hotel or resort as it's just my way of saying thanks, especially knowing how little they get paid for what they have to do.

It was very crowded when we arrived as the locals get special promotions for weekend stays. We did not go to the pool on Saturday so I don't know if it was crowded. However, it was virtually impossible to get a drink at the pool bar on Sunday unless you yelled your drink order to the bartenders as the locals were doing. I was finally able to get some service after I yelled 'Excuse me can I get some service please'. Literally, 3 different people came up after I did and stood next to me and were waited on before I finally resolved to yelling. Upon Sunday's checkout time arrival, it was less crowded and acceptable service wait times.

The food was fine, nothing gourmet but tasty and enjoyable. I was disappointed in the salmon in the Italian restuarant as it was poached, not grilled or baked, but the menu did not say this. It was good just not cooked to my preference. Sunday night they had a 'special' filet mignon in the steakhouse and it was really good. I tried the ribeye later in the week but it was not to my liking. It was quite thin so very well done and had quite a bit of fat to it. I asked for shrimp only on my kabob and it was excellent, probably the best of anything I had at the resort. We experienced ice cold spring rolls one evening in the Asian but the other evening they were hot and good. The buffet was good at all meals. Regardless of the restuarant/buffet, the desserts were awesome. Kudos to the pastry chef. The cheesecakes, chocolate mousse desserts and cakes were awesome.

My biggest complaint about this resort was the lack of the complimentary 90 mins. of WiFi in the lobby daily. They had problems with their servers and there was no WiFi service Tuesday evening (didn't try earlier in the day), all day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It was up and running on Friday around 2pm. We had heard you could get to the paid one but later heard that it was not working either. Everytime we asked about it we were given the 'don't know when it'll be fixed, they're working on it, hoping tomorrow'. Oddly it was working again Friday afternoon in time for the weekend. Surely that made the locals happy.

The bartenders were excellent. Thanks to Henry (aka Chuckie :)) at the Pura Vida bar, and Jaitec (sp?) and Danny in the Sports bar, Manuel at the swim up bar and Larry at the pool bar, for the great service. Henry, you were the best and I'll always remember you finding that martini glass for me! There are no 'top shelf' (i.e., Grey Goose, Makers Mark, etc) liquors but you can ask for Smirnoff, Jim Beam, J&B, Gordons and Jose.

Yes, there are vendors that come around at the beach but they accept 'no thank you' and do not continue to bother you. The beach is black sand (very hot to the feet!) and the water is not real clear water, and lots of tiny minnow type fishes.

All in all we had a fun and very enjoyable time. If we return to Costa Rica, we'd stay at a different resort only to be closer to the sights and things to do. Most everything was 1.5 to 2 hours away from the resort.

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 8, 2012

RIU was beautiful, natural, and a great value. Costa Ricans are very friendly and the country is still raw and stunning and not overly touristy. We were there shortly after the earthquakes, and they had done a nice job getting everthing back in order. My only complaints (and they are not terrible) are that the food could be a little ho-hum (BUT some was delicious, and breakfast was yummy ... lets face it - they are cooking for huge crowds, its not going to be life changing cuisine) and the weekend got a little wild with the locals coming in. No biggie.

We took 3 excursions with 3 different companies. We were approached on the beach by Lifetime Tours. I was leary at first, but after another one inside the hotel was cancelled for lack of interest, we booked a private tour with Lifetime. I feel foolish for ever doubting them. What an amazing adventure! We went on a nature boat tour down the Tempisque River, watched indigenous people craft pottery the old way, and were amazed by our very own tour of a coffee cooperative. It was our favorite day by far. Alex who arranged the tour was a sweetheart and our personal guide Erik was brilliant and entertained and educated us all day. He got us drinks and snacks, poured us wine when we stopped, and treated us to a lovely authentic Costa Rican lunch. The price was also good. Highly recommend checking them out. They will cater to you completely.

We took a tour with Swiss Travel in the hotel for an all day trip to Arenal. It was also good. Less flexible, more corporate feeling, but comfortable, beautiful, great food and information. Our guide, Dennis was a nature lover which warmed my heart. The hike through the rain forest was incredible.

On Saturday, our last day, the resort got pretty crowded, so we joined another couple on a whim for a beach tour with Alex on the Beach. It was neat. Went to 4 beaches between RIU and Tamarindo. It was fun to watch the surfers and have lunch with new friends at another yummy local place.

I was reading other reviews from people who didn't like RIU or Costa Rica or the people ... I don't know what country they visited, but it couldn't be the Costa Rica I went to. The warm, beautiful, friendly place that I'm already planning my next trip!

  • Stayed October 2012
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 8, 2012

I was very worried staying at the hotel - because i looked at tripadvisor at least twice a week - I was getting mixed reviews. I was more concerned because the hotel suffered three earthquakes!

Here is my experience:
Vacation duration: 7 Days
Booked via Bookit.com
Stayed in a Deluxe Room with two beds - really liked the room because we travelled with another party and the rooms had a connecting door - so it felt like a 2 room suite.

The views - look out into the jungle - really enjoyed the view - was able to see Howler Monkeys from the room - you do have to searcg for them because they hide in the trees. I do hear that during the dry season you can see them better. We stayed in 3030 & 3029.
There are no bathroom amenties besides the soap on the wall in the shower so word to the wise make sure you HAVE everything because in the guft shop toothpaste (I saw was $15.00USD)

The resort it self was beautiful - i did see some cracks in the wall on one wall - I am assumingits was left over and not fixed from the earthquake - but honestly I was not going to stare at the wall the whole trip so it didnt bother me.

As we checked in they handed up a cocktail and was a nice touch. The check in went smoothly or room was not ready yet but we were able to enjoy the amenities that the hotel had to offer. **** Make sure when you check in you ask the receptionist to make a copy of your passport - if you do an tours you can carry the copy and lock the passport in the safe located in your room (safe in room is free).

The pool is huge - It is true what some people have reviewed here on Saturday and Sunday there are ALOT of locals that go to stay at the hotel - It is very hard to get a seat so my advise go early. There is a swim up bar that is great - if you ask the bartender to create something for you that is not on the menu they will. Do tip - it goes along way with the workers. And as you walk by them smile and say hello to them - if you are going to be rude to them trust me they will not take care of you. I am not saying you have to tip them but they probably make pennies and work really hard so it would be nice. Some workers start at 9am and are there until 10pm - i know because i saw them and spoke with them.

The food:
Blah just really blah
You have to make reservations for the Italian and Steak House. I tried everyday to make a reservation but the steak house was always booked so i can really comment on this one.
The Italian Restuarant - was awful
The Asian - was REALLY AWFUL

The best bet was the Buffet - I cant complain the food was pretty good.

Tours -
We did two tours - Ricon de Vieja Adventure ($110per person) & Verde Echo Park ($89.00)
we went with Vic tours - he is located on the beach - he wears an orange long sleeve shirt (not short sleeves becasue there is another tour company that does the orange short sleeves and are so much more expensive.
What can I say we LOVED Vic(Victor) tours. He took us to a local restuarant and holy cow was the food better than the resort - my husband did ask if they can delieve everyday to the resort the food that they cook. If you need his contact info jsyt send me a message I can provide it to you. HE WAS GREAT !! I would not steer you wrong. The history and knowledge he has of his country proves great service.

The beach;
HOLY COW does the sand get really hot - you can not walk on it you have to run to the water. Its a nice quite beach. Great place to take pictures. There is no bar so you'll have to walk up to the pool which is a nice hike.

The Entertainment:
KUDOS to the Riu team - they did a great job with entertainment by the pool side - almost an icebreaker to meet with other people there. The entertainment at night was great - the shows were funny and made me laugh.

If i do return to Costa Rica (which I will) I will stay at the Riu!

Thank you for making our vacation a great one!

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Hotel Riu Guanacaste

Address: | Playa Matapalo, Sardinal, Costa Rica
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Guanacaste > Gulf of Papagayo > Sardinal
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Casino and Gambling Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 3 Hotels in Sardinal
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Hotel Riu Guanacaste 4*
Number of rooms: 701
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

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