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“Two big problems this year.” 3 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
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
“Two big problems this year.”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed February 13, 2013

We visited the Riu Guanacaste from Feb. 1 through Feb. 8, 2013. Last year, we made the same trip in Jan. (2012). Last year I would have given the resort 5 stars. This first complaint may not have been under the control of the Riu properties, but this time we arrived on Feb. 1 to dense smoke from purposely set brush fires in the surrounding hillsides, and heavy smoke remained a problem the next day, gradually improving as a problem during the third and fourth days of or vacation. I am not a smoker, but I felt like I was chain smoking for 2 days, and the ash was a terrible problem for the housekeeping staff, with heavy and blowing ash in the corridors of the hotels and ash on our room's lanai and ash in their lovely, big swimming pools. The second, and even bigger, and unacceptable problem was that for the first 4 days of our stay, there was a severe sewer smell in our bathroom, so bad that it made you choke and run out of the bathroom right after a flush. Our particular room and maybe our wing of rooms in this hotel might have been more severely affected by the sewer problem, but I heard comments that people staying on the other side of the hotel also experienced this. I complained soon after we unpacked and hung up our clothes, and the front desk sent up two employees who cleaned the inside of our toilet tank for 20 min., but of course this did nothing for the problem. On the 4th day of our week's stay, the problem suddenly cleared up, and we no longer had the smell. We got no explanations for this sewer smell from the front desk.

We returned to this resort for a second time because our first experience was so good. On the positive side, the food and drinks were always dependable. The best specialty restaurant we thought, was the Italian, which didn't require a reservation, and the Asian was also good, but the level of noise in that room was very high... The Tucan restaurant (you must reserve) has a striking decor, and better wine than in other bars and restaurants on property.

The pools at the Riu Guanacaste are perhaps the hotel's best feature. They are beautiful and the surrounding landscaping is very nice. (The new Riu Palace next door does not yet have established plantings, so doesn't look as lush.) The only problem with the pool area is that they need at least one more set of bathrooms around the pools, for convenience of guests and certainly to not give another excuse for all those pool bar drinkers who sit there for hours in the afternoon, and may be making that water warmer, if you know what I mean.

The Riu's beaches are nice, black/brown sand, and also some sea turtle nests marked there by wire. The better stretch of beach for swimming (with finer sand and less rocks) is in front of the new Palace next door.

Make sure to ask about the sewer problem before you book, and ask about the fires.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 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.
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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 (1,164)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Toronto, Canada
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
17 helpful votes 17 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 13, 2013

Had a fantastic time at the Riu Gaunacaste in mid November at the end of rainy season. Only had one very brief bit of rain, otherwise the weather was perfect. Here is my breakdown of the rest of the trip:

Food: There was lots of variety, even for vegetarians (like me). Tons of stations, plenty of options. Best breakfast buffet possibly in the entire world! They had stations at every meal with staff waiting to customize your eggs or pasta etc. You will never go hungry at this hotel! There is an absolutely delicious fruit selection if you want to skip the fatty desserts :) Had the best breakfasts I have EVER had while I was there. Got up early, grabbed a cappuccino at the sports bar, grabbed a plate at the buffet and had amazing breakfasts on our balcony.
The downside to the food is that while there was a HUGE selection, it was very repetitive. Every lunch selection, breakfast selection, dinner selection (aside from themed dinners) was very similar every day.
The A La Carte restaurants, aside from the Tucan (which is hard to get a reservation at), are not true a la cartes. They all contained buffets, which served the same food as the main buffet, from which you filled a plate with your "appetizers" and desserts. You ordered your "entree" from a menu but everything on the menu was something you could have gotten at the main buffet, only difference being that the staff plated and served it to you rather than doing it yourself.

Pool: Is huge and beautiful with tons of lounging space. We never had a time when we could not find somewhere to lounge. The pool is also large enough to have a loud party zone (near the bar) as well as a quiet lounging/relaxing zone without the two overlapping.
Staff also provide drink service at the pool so you don't have to stand up and find out how drunk you are until you decide to leave, they just keep bringing your drinks right to you! By the way, the bar tenders are NOT stingy on alcohol and rest-assured the drinks are not watered down :)

Beach: The beach belongs to the resort and is private property so you do not have to deal with a ton of solicitors constantly trying to sell merchandise. The hotel does allow a select few sales people on the beach but they are obviously under strict rules not to harass the tourists and generally keep a respectful distance, when they do approach they are not at all pushy.

WARNING - the black sand on the beach gets VERY hot. I walked on it in my bare feet on the way back from snorkelling (not worth purchasing the package from the resort) and had blisters on the soles of my feet literally within seconds - ALWAYS wear sandals or shoes when walking on the dry sand during the late morning and afternoon.

Grounds: Are the most beautiful and well kept I have seen at any hotel EVER. There seemed to be staff working on the grounds 24/7. The interior decor was also beautiful with painted ceilings, and tons of sculptures and fountains.

Rooms: Nice, modern, well kept, clean, spacious. Beds are comfortable. Not that you spend that much time in the room anyway!

Staff: Friendly and very attentive with great English skills. Unlike other hotels I have been to where staff can make you feel uncomfortable with aggressive advances, the staff at the Riu were respectful and while a couple of them did test the waters they were not at all unpleasant in their approach and backed off gracefully.

TIP: Standard rooms face either a forest or the Riu Palace (which is also beautiful). Request a room with a view of the forest, you can see and hear howler monkeys in the morning and it sure beats staring at the hotel next door!

Room Tip: Standard rooms face either a forest or the Riu Palace (which is also beautiful). Request a room with...
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  • Stayed November 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
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cambridge, Canada
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed February 13, 2013

We stayed at the Riu Guanacaste for one week (Feb 2013), for our first visit to Costa Rica. This is the second resort that I've been to, and it was a first for my spouse.

Most of the people I spoke with really enjoyed the hotel, but we prefer a quieter, more quaint, traveling atmosphere. We both work long hours at work and were hoping for some down time. The loud music and "party" atmosphere during the evening was a bit much for us. We found it difficult hearing one another when we tried to chat in the evening over drinks.

I found the food good (not excellent), but my spouse was disappointed. The variety of food is great, but the quality is mediocre. Notably, the meat was tough at all the Riu eating areas. The fruit is excellent!

My biggest complaint would be the toilets. The room had a very strong sewage odour. When I spoke with other travelers, many had the same complaint. We asked to be moved to a different room and this helped a lot. We also learned to keep the bathroom door shut at all times.

I enjoyed the nature around the resort. Lots of birds, monkeys, and reptiles. You don't need to travel far from your room to see wildlife.

Room Tip: If you like nature, request a room on the "jungle" side.
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
43 helpful votes 43 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 13, 2013

My husband and I stayed for two weeks ( Jan 20th through Feb 3rd). This was our 18 th , 5 star all inclusive.

I will give info. I feel was not touched on enough in the reviews.

We stayed in a beautiful suite at the pool bar side , 4th floor ( 4031) ocean view with side view of jungle. Noise was not a problem there from the theatre.

We did not find it to be problem with the locals on the weekends.

These are the things I wanted to know more about:

Water: not a problem to drink , everywhere throughout resort. There is a notice in the room stating that the room water is not drinkable so use bottled.

Gym: the gym is pretty much most of the time, open air , which becomes like a sauna. There is not enough equipment. Only four sets of dumbells starting at 5 lbs - 15lbs. Cardio equipment is limited also, so be prepared to wait if you go after 9am. There is 1 machine each for chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps and abs.

Casino: you can take drinks into the casino and they do not charge for drinks if you are gambling.
It has some tables: black jack, poker, roulette and slots ranging from 1 - 25 cents.

Casino: Usually best days are Fri and Sat. If you are seated and get up to dance be prepared to loose your seat.

Entertainment: The pool entertainment is the best of the resorts we have been to. Always something going on to add to the fun.! They are located next to the towel shack if you want to be close to them. If not , choose the opposite end of the pool from the bar. ( the end closest to the ocean). They entertain on the bar end in front of the rock waterfall. Evening entertainment is about the same as most other all inclusives. It's entertaining enough to stay and watch. Get there early if you want a decent seat. People start to get seats about 8 for the 9pm show. Michael Jackson, carnival night and Grease were the most memorable.

Food: I gave a 4 instead of 5 rating for this reason only. The food is by far the worst, of all 18 resorts we have stayed. With that being said. The best food at , any all inclusive we stayed, is the Riu in Aruba. So they do have the capability. Not sure why they don't use it??

Tips:
If you need information for pool activities. Prince speaks fluent English. They do come around several days at the pool and ask you , if there's anything the resort can do to improve itself. So use the opportunity.

Gerry Rivera (PR) guy who frequents the pool and entertainment areas, also speaks fluent English and can help with any resort issues, directions or information you may be seeking.

Howler monkeys: they tend to be out 1st thing in the morning like 7 am and around 3-4 pm across from the pool bathrooms.

Sea turtles: the turtle release program works sporadically. We could never get an exact time or day as to when you can go help release the babies. It does usually happen early evening at the beach when they hatch.

Drinks: the drinks are great, if you are clear about what you want. We asked for double shots (forte), which means strong in spanish, and specified exactly what we wanted in our mud slides and margaritas, they were awesome! We also gave a $1 tip as incentive on occasion.

Riu Palace: the new hotel next door is very modern and quiet. We were originally booked to stay there and we switched at the last minute. So glad we did! Most of the people from there, spent their time at this resort. It would of been a pain to have to trek back and forth daily. We did go look at it one afternoon and the pool was virtually empty. If you like quiet and nothing happening. This place is more for you.

Reviews: they do read trip advisor so write a review.

Hope this is helpful!

Room Tip: Room 4031 is a beautiful suite with a large balcony, ocean view with side view of jungle and far eno...
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  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 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 8
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hopewell Junction, New York
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
14 helpful votes 14 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 12, 2013

Riu Guanacaste was more than expected....Rooms great, mountain views, howler monkeys, birds great ot wake up to....Staff was better than most..helped with excursions, wi-fi etc...food was always well pressented, buffet always a experience...specialty restaurants good as well.
Pool was great and well run..very clean with easy acess to the swim up bar....beach was clean , not too many venders (well controlled)..dark sand was unique..water warm and not crowded at all....overall, a great trip......recommended...
2/5-2/11 travel management does a great job....(Big Mike and Sandy) Tom H...

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Milwaukee
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 12, 2013

We stayed at the Riu Guanacaste from January 29 - February 3. The resort was beautiful and we loved our room. The service was top notch at the front desk, restaurants and bars. Maid service was good too--she would make us towel animals and leave fresh flowers in our room. We left a small tip each day for the maid and we tipped the bar staff at the pool and they really seemed to appreciate it.

They have a HUGE buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner so unless you are a super picky eater, you will find something you like. We enjoyed the Italian and Asian restaurants too. The pool at this resort is beautiful. If you want to relax, there are plenty of places to get away from the music/noise by the pool bar and lots of shady places to sit too.

We had a room on the 4th floor facing the mountains/jungle and our balcony was huge. There is a family of howler monkeys living in the trees and we could see and hear them calling to each other from our balcony. It was so much fun to watch! The bird watching from our balcony was amazing too--so many colorful birds. The Riu also has a "Save the Sea Turtle" program where they collect the eggs that the female turtles lay on the beach and then protect them with wire baskets until they hatch. We got to see baby turtles that had just hatched and they let us hold them too! After a couple of days, they release them into the ocean right in front of the resort. The beach is very nice, although it's dark sand so it gets hot in the afternoon. I'm an early riser so I walked on the beach for an hour each morning and it was perfect. There were plenty of other walkers so I always felt safe.

We booked the Palo Verde river boat cruise with Sergio from Costa Rica Amazing Tours. You will find him on the beach every day in a white polo shirt. The tour was wonderful and the service we received was excellent. I would highly recommend this tour company--Sergio will take good care of you.

Room Tip: Rooms facing the mountains/jungle are quiet and you have a great view of the wildlife.
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  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jonesboro, Arkansas, United States
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 11, 2013

My wife and I spent the thanksgiving holiday at this beautiful resort. Was our first Rui. The rooms were first class with a mini bar and alcohol on tap. We found the food to be in the good to excellent range. Tucan was excellant and the steak house very good also. The breakfast buffet had a huge offering of anything you could want. The lunch buffet was satisfying as well. Very pretty beach with plenty of chairs for every guest. We enjoyed the casino although it lacked some basic table games. The most fun we had was with Falcon tours. We ziplined in the morning and rafted the Tenorio River in the afternoon. One word to describe both was awesome.
Our main complaints have already been aired here but will anyway. The lack of waiters or bar on the beach was very evident. Standing in line to get a dinner reservation was a joke . It opened at 9am and there would be 80 people in line at this time. Has to be a better way. Overall I would highly recommend Costa Rica and the Rui Guanacaste.

Room Tip: The views at sunset were worth the extra price for the ocean view.
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  • Stayed November 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 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.
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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
Amenities:
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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