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“We'd go back in a second!” 4 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
Montgomery, New York
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
27 helpful votes 27 helpful votes
“We'd go back in a second!”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 24, 2013

We just returned home from an wonderful stay at the Riu Guanacaste Resort. We were there from March 7th - 16th. When we arrived at the airport we had a transfer booked with Swiss Travel (who we also did 3 excursions with), and they were waiting for us with our names on a sign. The trip from the airport to the resort is just over 30 minutes. It was late when we arrived, and check-in was a breeze. Our room was an ocean view, and we thought it was a really good spot. The safe was easy to use and caused no problems. The air conditioning worked great. The bathroom was very spacious, and the maid service was spot on. We did not have a problem with any noise like we read about in other reviews. They do have nightly shows that go on until around 11, but the sliding door on the balcony keeps out much of the noise.

The restaurants were phenomenal. Every morning the Liberia is open for breakfast. From 6-10 was a buffet and from 10-12 a continental. They have practically anything you can name. You can also maintain a special diet you'd like even if you just want to eat raw. They have an incredible bread station, local fresh fruits, a fresh juice self serve bar, an omelet station, a salad bar, all different cereals, yogurts, spreads, meats, and typical Costa Rican food. This restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating. For lunch they open the Ocotal (which is the steak house). Here you will find a buffet style setup starting at noon. Again you will find practically anything you can imagine and typical Costa Rican style lunch foods. There are 5 restaurants total and every night 4 open for dinner. The Liberia stays open as a buffet, with a different theme every night. When were were there they did Mexican, Caribbean and Costa Rican just to name a few. The specialty restaurants are an Asian, an Italian, a Steakhouse and a placed called The Tucan which we never ate at. The only one that requires reservations is the Steakhouse and that must be made a day in advance. Lots of people have negative remarks about the food on here, but let's be for real, they are cooking for probably 500 - 600 people at a time. While you might not find the fanciest cuisine, you get to eat a lot of fresh locally produced food and you will not go hungry. I believe dinner runs from about 6PM - 9PM. After that you have to get snack foods at the sports bar if you are hungry. This is something that I would not suggest. It's basically just left over sandwiches and some chips and popcorn. We wished they had room service after 9 so we could eat a decent meal after coming back late from excursions. The drinks were not bad at all. I'm kind of a beer snob so the local beer didn't really excite me. It's called Imperial. They also stock your fridge with another Costa Rican beer called Bohemia. It gets seriously hot here (95 -100 degrees F everyday) so drinking a lot of beer isn't the best thing anyway. We enjoy the cold and slushy cocktails. They make pretty much anything you can ask for and some of the bars even use fresh fruit in their blenders instead of just syrup mixes. The alcohol served is from all over Central America so it was nice to be able to try some different things than what we can get in NY. If somehow you can really be as miserable as some of the other people on here while in such an amazing place the bar near the stage does serve U.S. liquors if you ask for them. In addition it's actually very impressive what they manage to do at this resort considering it's located far from an major city in a developing country.

Okay time to talk about the excursions. There are so many options of totally awesome adventures to be had. In the lobby there are 4 or 5 different companies that book a wide variety of excursions. Honestly, they all offer the same things. We went with the company called Swiss Travel because they were referred to us by our travel agent before we left. Traveling in this part of the world can be dangerous so it's really essential that you book with a reputable agency. The Swiss Travel desk is located closest to the check in counter. The guides were really great and informative. We never felt in danger and the transportation was top notch. We don't want to make this review about our excursions, but in case anyone is curious we did the Mega Combo (Zip line, water slide, horse back riding, hot springs), a rain forest volcano hike and the Nicaragua day trip. These excursions literally changed our lives. There are also people on the beach that try to sell you excursions, but they leave you alone if you just tell them you're not interested.

The beach. This is a very different style beach than what we were use to. The sand is volcanic so it's black. We found that if you walk for a minute or two down the beach to the left, this is the prime swimming area. Here they have some trees and you can grab a chair in the shade. There is also a great massage place near by. This is a public and locals come on the weekend with their families to have a nice day but by no means does it get crowded. People walk around selling things and I got a nice hat and me lady got some nice bracelets. There are also a few stalls at the far end of the resort on the right side of the beach where locals sell shirts and other crafts for cheap. If you keep walking down the beach to the left for about 5 minutes there is a trail that goes into the woods to a place called the Monkey Bar (look for a sign.) Here, if you go early, you will see monkeys everyday.

The pool was pretty epic. It seems to go one forever. The entrance near the swim up bar is more shallow and there are tables and chairs located all around. You can also swim under a cool bridge. This is an infinity pool and it empties out into the deeper section over a rock wall that cascades like a waterfall. We never had a hard time finding a chair and there is plenty of shade. If you go to the fitness center spa they have a jacuzzi which we did not find out about until our last day. However, the pool also has a hot tub which is a good place to view some of the "crazy games" that start everyday at 4PM.

I hope you have as great a trip as we did in lovely Costa Rica!

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 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
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Location
    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 (1,157)
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English first
Crystal Lake, Illinois
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 24, 2013

Went to this resort with 2 other couples...our first time in Costa Rica. This resort was very nice, I had never stayed at a Riu before.
The rooms were very large and very nice. You really have to like the color purple. They were very clean and housekeeping was very good. Every day they made a swan out of towels or something cute with our blanket. Our rooms were ocean view opposite the entertainment stage so not so noisy. I would not suggest staying on the other side for the music is loud if your room is above it.
We found the food best in the buffet. The best waiter of them all was EDWIN. He saw to our every need and always greeted us with a smile. His English is very good and he has a great sense of humor and was helpful with the many questions we had. The other restaurants were just o.k.
We took a few tours and they were great. Our favorite was the sunset boat tour we booked through Apple.
Bathrooms were far from the restaurants.
The shows were good but HOT. Not much of a breeze were they are.
Lot's of kids so if they are not your thing...another resort may be for you. Most other resorts we have stayed at have had at least 1 pool for adults...this one does not. We would have really liked that.
Did not care much for the art deco decor in the tropics. The Riu next door had a much more Caribbean feel...very lush, jungle like and ornate.
We might stay there again when we go back...we will for sure but might try something new. For families it is awesome and since our kids are grown and gone we might explore something new.
Also...next time we might travel there in a different month...everything was brown for it is there summer. Green would have been amazing. Loved the monkey noises every morning on our balcony!
Agree with the comments about the pillows...they could be bigger and fluffier...beds were good.

Room Tip: Ocean view opposite the entertainment for noise...also for the afternoon shade.
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 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 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Denver, Colorado
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed March 23, 2013

I love going to new places and was so excited to honeymoon here but it was sadly disappointing. The resort is billed as a 5 star hotel but that does not apply to food. I think that means there is a casino, tennis courts, pool, beach, and restaurants. None were exceptional.

The restaurants were a joke. Restaurants were routinely closed without notice. To get into anything other than the buffet or the 'steak restaurant' (reservations a day earlier at the desk), you had to be there for the 'first seating' at 6:15. Frequently you were waiting and they never opened. There wasn't a sign or any notice until you sat there with a bunch of other couples until 6:30 and realized that it wasn't going to open. The italian place was closed 3 nights during our 1 week stay. At Toucan, the first night we tried to go there it never opened. The second, we arrived 45 minutes after the first seating and asked to get on the list. The manager (black tux) was extremely rude and when I asked if we could get on the list he said they already had a list and it was full. "No room for you." I couldn't believe he didn't even exchange kind words with us and invite us back the next night or give us tips to get in. When we finally made it there, everything tasted like it was prepared in advance and sat in a refrigerator. The entree I had seemed like it was scooped from a buffet in the back. The food was disappointing. The buffets were boring and uneventful. The lunch restaurant had a nacho bar but the chips were always broken crumbles. The fruit was terrific and it was the best pineapple I had ever had. Other than that, the food was very much like you would find on a cruise ship. The food would only rate 2 stars.

When we checked in the resort didn't provide any information about the area or the hotel. The room was lacking of any book on Costa Rica or information to help guide us. Other guests directed us to the process of looking for turtles on the beach, watching out for the deadly yellow snakes, and how the Palace guests can use the Guanacaste property but not vice versa. They also pointed out that if you flip your wrist band over it looks white so you appear to be a Palace guest and can dine in their restaurants. We didn't try it although we notices several underage kids 'flipping' their wristbands to appear 'of age' and then drinking in the pool bar all day.

Our room was nice and attractive. We had a jungle view on the far end of the property. It was nothing special but nice and private. The furnishings were nice.

The resort chairs at the pool were a joke. People placed towels on the chairs early and never came back to them. The entire second row in our section the first day was 'reserved' with towels while people were out on excursions. No one came to sit down but one by one the towels were picked up buy guests that walked by later to collect their towels. The resort does not care that people reserve chairs and never show. On days were weren't at excursions we went to the pool early to get chairs. Usually the first row was about 50% occupied during the day although all of the chairs would be reserved. The pool bar was always packed and appeared to be a young crowd. The first two days of our trip there wasn't any drink service by the pool and we had to walk to the bar. After that we had waiters that walked by at random to get drink orders. We tipped very generously both when we went to the bar and when waiters came by and it always brought a smile but not exceptional service. Their drink cups are small 8oz juice cups so be sure to bring your favorite tumbler. The staff works hard but the resort does not appear to be managed well.

Overall, this place is trying to be too big and does not provide a great experience. The Costa Rican people are great and the staff gets an "A" but they are limited by the constraints of bad management. They need to serve a better quality of 'call' alcohol, treat the Guanacaste guests as good as the Palace guests and focus more on quality of food and individual service. Riu is disappointing at best and I will not return.

The great points of the trip:
Alex on the Beach (with Sergio) had fantastic, small group, excursions that were a terrific value and the massages on the beach were great for $35 for an hour.
Loved that part.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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Vinton, Virginia, United States
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 23, 2013

We were at the Riu from March 15-22nd. We had a great time and would like to share our experience for people who are considering a trip to the Riu. We went with another couple and were celebrating my 40th birthday.

This place is beautiful and very clean. There are people cleaning here at all times of the day. The people here are extremely friendly. Never met a person who worked here who was not smiling or who would not say hello despite them working 10-12 hour days. The food was a little monotonous but they did try to change it up with different theme nights and overall it was pretty good, considering how many people they are serving. The Asian restaurant was very good but the Steak restaurant was a waste of time. The bartenders at all of the bars were fast and friendly and we never felt like they were choosing to serve anyone faster than another. Gerald at the poolbar was awesome. The afternoon entertainment at the pool was always fun. We especially enjoyed Scrappy Doo, Otto, and Prince. We had an ocean view room (3034) and it was never too loud for us. The only thing that ever kept us from sleeping were the Howler Monkeys and that was cool. Make sure to bring sandals because the concrete is hot hot hot and so is the sand on the beach. We left a couple of dollars for housekeeping and always had beautiful decorations left for us.

There were very few cons that were worth mentioning. The steak at the Steak House was awful. It was the fattiest piece of meat you could imagine. In fact, anything they made using beef was not good. Stick with chicken and pork. They know how to cook that. Another disappointment is that we upgraded to an ocean view room and there was a palm tree partially blocking the view of the ocean from our balcony. We asked the front desk if we could be moved to another room and they said no.

We took a trip through alexonthebeach and had a fabulous time. It was reasonably priced and we were able to take the tour in a private van with our party of 4. Our driver, Rolando went out of his way to show us a good time. We took a tour of waterfalls, zip lining, volcano, hot springs, and lunch.The funnest part was the zip lining but the neatest was the waterfall. I would like to mention that I dropped my camera at the zip lining tour from the second platform which is very high but did not realize it until we were already on to the next destination. The people at the zip lining searched until they found the camera which I felt was way above and beyond excellent service. Rolando also took us on a trip to Coco Beach for dinner and shopping. It was worth the $15 pp round trip. We ate at Los Olas for dinner and had amazing tuna steaks and Mahi Mahi for a reasonable price.

The wildlife was fantastic! We saw howler monkeys, white-face monkeys, iguanas, a sloth, many birds, puffer fish, and a big toad! The sea turtle eggs hatched on Thursday and we got to watch the baby turtles make their way to the ocean from the beach.

Overall our stay at the Riu Guanacaste hotel was fantastic and we would love to come back here again some time!

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 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.
Knoxville, Tennessee
Top Contributor
86 reviews 86 reviews
19 hotel reviews
Reviews in 41 cities Reviews in 41 cities
34 helpful votes 34 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed March 23, 2013

We started in the real parts of Costa Rica and ended our trip here. We wanted to relax and lay around for the end of our trip. Riu is nice, the drinks were great, the staff is friendly. It is loud by the pool, which is expected. Some nice things:
-good staff
-activities daily (although finding some was an issue, and we asked multiple staff members who didnt know before finding some who did)
-if you walk to the end of the beach, you might see horses on the beach and monkeys in the trees (we saw 1 white-faced and 1 howler, but you should also beware of crocodiles as there is a freshwater stream right near the beach)
-good drinks
-amazing steakhouse (but make reservations in advance, it fills up quickly)
Not so great:
-The other restaurants arent that great, and have limited selection, and they close promptly, so be there on time or early
-the rooms are just okay (compared to another cheaper all inclusive ive stayed at)
-making a reservation here was difficult in the first place, they promised free shuttle to the airport, but when we asked about it, they said we didnt request it, so we ended up paying a company $50 to take us instead
-it's just more expensive than it needs to be
Overall, it can't really be too bad at an all-inlusive with plenty of food and free alcohol, but my experience at a Barcelo was way way better, so I think my expectations were set high because of that

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 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.
Dubuque, Iowa, United States
1 review
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 23, 2013

Nice public areas: open air lobby, pools, bars and restaurants. Had a two bedroom family room that was comfortable and quiet (after the evening show).

We chose Costa Rica for its variety of tours and were not disappointed. Highly recommend Gekko tours down on the beach. Look for Green shirts and talk to Roberto. He sent us on a private river tour with Jenri that was so great we requested him for two other excursions and consider him a true friend. We did one excursion with Sunwing and regretted it.

Service at the Riu was good. Prince and Otto with the entertainment staff were friendly and made us feel a part of the fun. Housekeeping keeps all areas very clean.

Food was okay. Breakfast buffet was the best. Asian and Italian restaurants were good. Couldn't get reservations to the steak house because the times to do so are limited and we were always offsite. That should be changed. Lunch and dinner buffets were disappointing.

Overall, if you like to get out and see and do things I highly recommend Guanacaste and the Riu.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 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
    • 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.
Kenora, Canada
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 23, 2013

My husband and I stayed at the RIU Guanacaste resort from March 13th to 20th,2013. The rooms were very clean and spacious, included a open bar. The weather was beautiful. The staff, PR person and Manager at the resort was very friendly and helpful when needed. Pool bar staff excellent and quick at serving drinks.
Excursion warning: Trip to Coco Beach, there is Coco Sunset Vacation Club trying to sell timeshares. They have recruiters on the street offering scratch tickets, of course there is always a winner. It leads to an invitation to a timeshare presentation. Brent Welch fraudulently misrepresented HSI( Holiday Systems International), he actually works for the Coco Sunset Vacation Club selling timeshares. They are professional con artists. I reported to Sunwing rep and they are going include the excursion warning to there presentation upon arrival, I definitely won't go back to Coco Beach on my next travels.

Room Tip: Room facing the forest #1022. Very quiet. Loved the sound of birds and monkeys first thing in the mo...
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  • Stayed March 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 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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