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“great vacation” 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
Braintree, Massachusetts
2 reviews
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
“great vacation”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 4, 2013

Beautiful location but far from parks and places to see. Hotel was beautiful, service in restaurants was excellent, front desk could use a little fine tuning. Great pool and entertainment. Beds were extremely hard and uncomforable. No bar or food service on beach.Plenty of lounge chairs on the beach. Rain forest all around you and we could see monkeys from our balcony. Beautiful country would go back in a minute

Room Tip: Would ask for a room closest to beach as hotel is a bit back fron the beach
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 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.
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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
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1 review
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed July 3, 2013 via mobile

While writing this review this is 3 hours after we left the ríu. First of all it took over an hour from the nearest airport. Next, We asked for adjoining rooms because we have 2 small children who cannot sleep alone we were separated my wife and I had to sleep in seperate rooms. Beds were hard, hallways filled with bugs and moths. Bees by both outside bars.lowest end of liquor you can buy. One man on staff walked into our room without knocking. Buffet has slop for food. Had to make reservations for worst restaurant on property. The reservation restaurant had only late and early seating, moths fly right into your face, steak was like rubber as well as raw/undercooked, waiter disappeared, steak was fatty, was not a family atmosphere as there was beer drinking contest, beer pong, booty shake contest. Not a family atmmosphere by my taste. Mini Mart down the street on the property had chip bags for 10 American Dollars, On the beach sand was not what we expected it was dark as well as the water being murky, overall we as a family would not go to the resort a second time or suggest friends to go.

Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
RiuHotelsandResorts, Social and Community Relations Manager at Hotel Riu Guanacaste, responded to this review, September 6, 2013
Dear guest,

Many thanks for sharing your experience with us. We appreciate the opportunity to respond.

We always welcome feedback from our customers, since it gives us the opportunity to make appropriate improvements and changes where necessary.

We regret that your stay at our hotel did not fulfill your conception in general. Our policy is to make every attempt to please and keep our guests content.

Please be assured that we have shared your comments with the respective heads of departments involved and actions would be taken to address all your concerns.

We look forward to the opportunity to welcome you back again soon.

With our best wishes we remain,
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Top Contributor
55 reviews 55 reviews
36 hotel reviews
Reviews in 34 cities Reviews in 34 cities
94 helpful votes 94 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed July 3, 2013

We stayed at the RIU Guanacaste for 4 nights after 7 nights in Playa Hermosa at a time share condo. This resort is Jekyll and Hyde. I will try and go through the different things, so it may be a long review. This is probably my 15th All Inclusive resort, but never a RIU.

Grounds/Looks: Great looking resort and resort grounds. Everything was clean, and always being cleaned.
Rooms: We had a 2 bedroom family room, with 2 bathrooms. Great room, had view of ocean. Refrig. stocked with 2 beers, 2 cokes, 2 large waters, 2 other sodas. Seemed kind of chincy for four people. We did not have the smell in the room.

Pool: Crowded, crowded, and oh yeah crowded. And the let's save the pool chairs early so maybe will sit on them for 15 minutes in the afternoon game. Lots of activities, lots of noise, drinking games, etc. One set of bathrooms to use, and often horrible. Too many people for two bathrooms. I have NEVER seen so many people missing with #2? You are sitting, how could you get it all over the floor? Had to tell management 3 times, bathrooms were horrible.
They did clean right away. Lots of young Costa Rican children(diaper age), in pool, BUT never saw one swim diaper, hmmmm?

Bars/Drinks: Busy, drinks were good. Pushy people trying to push to front of line for drinks. Yes, favoritism given to Spanish speakers, BUT their country so learn to speak Spanish. I don't drink hard liquor except in blender drinks, so quality was not an issue for me. Imperial beer was cold and plentiful.

Restaurants: Can you say buffet? It was decent quality, BUT still buffet. The only sit down meal we had was at the reservation only Ocotel Steakhouse. We had no problem getting reservations, went down at 9 a.m. waited maybe 1 minute, and able to get reservations. We all thought the service and food was very good at Ocotel Steakhouse. They say pants required but not enforced(which angered me, since I packed long pants ONLY because they said it was needed).

Fusion: Asian BUFFET again. Below average, sushi was poor quality.
Italian: Yep, BUFFET. Can order off the menu for main dishes, but buffet for salad/appetizers.
Breakfast buffet: Fine no issues.
**Keep in mind, that you can't order drinks at meals? I have NEVER seen this at ANY all inclusive. No beer, no drinks, just some bad wine. Soft drinks, water, juice only. Can't order any alcoholic drinks? Seemed VERY strange to me? They were very much trying to rush you and rush you out. Hence no coffee offered, etc. All other all inclusive I've been too, try to interact at dinner. Before dinner drinks, appetizers, dinner, after dinner drinks with "coffee" show, etc. NOT HERE!! It's about get in, shove food in, and GET out, out, out!!

I bought wine in Coco Beach and brought a bottle with me for dinners, and that worked well. Seemed strange I had to BYOB at an all inclusive?

SHOWS: bad, bad, cheesy. Unless you get there one hour before show, hard to get seats. Again, one person reserving 10 chairs over an hour ahead of time.

Beach: Good, yes, hot, and dark sand. Went snorkeling from shore to right and saw lots of fish. Had to swim out 100-200 yards. Massages available on beach were good. $30 for one hour.

Monkey Bar: No need to go to bar. Go down to beach where sign is for monkey bar. Go left, walk up about 200-300 yards(past the monkey bar) and you will find a T intersection. Go right and you will see tons of monkeys. We went at 8:30 a.m. and were alone, and already the monkeys were all moving in, so don't think they'd be there later.

LOCALS: yes lots, lots, and lots of locals on friday/saturday/sunday. It's their country, so I don't have an issue, but WOW, Riu needs to limit number of people. Not the locals fault, it's RIU's fault. They are trying to squeeze every dime they can.

Caribe Water Sports: Great. My son(12 years old) did the free dive class in the pool. The instructor said he could do an open ocean dive. FYI: my son is an advanced swimmer, and been in competitions for years. For $99 the next day, He went to a class, had another advanced lesson in pool, than out in the ocean. They let me ride in the boat, and my son went on a one hour open ocean dive 1:1 with the instructor. He loved it, and the instructor was great working with him.

SO, would I stay here again? NOPE. Too many small issues. I like to sit and enjoy meals. Drinks, conversations, family time. You will not get it here. BUT I got what I paid for. Next time will pay more for Hilton or Palace.

I also found a man for private tours: I stopped him in Playa Hermosa to ask questions, and he ended up doing all my tours: He's licensed, has a nice Turista Van. I used him for 3 tours, cabs to Coco Beach, and Airport transfers. I had already priced out everything with Mardigi Tours, and his initial quote was about 20% cheaper, so I did not even bargain. All his tours were private. His name was Mario, and if you want his number or e-mail, just message me, and I'll send it to you. He was great, he even called my cell phone(international call for him) to confirm my pick up to go to airport. Using him saved me $200-$300 than using Mardigi, and all my transfers were private.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
    • 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
    • 3 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.
Austin, Texas, United States
1 review
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed July 2, 2013

I recently spent a week here on my honeymoon. The property is nice, the staff are friendly and efficient, and the quality of food available was surprising. (The sushi and blackened marlin were my favorites.)

We had a 5th floor room with an ocean view, and the sunsets from our balcony were utterly amazing. If you want to be able to pour a few tall rum and Cokes with your sweetheart and see some astounding scenery, get an ocean view up high.

A few issues with the room, though. First and foremost was the peculiar smell. Our room constantly smelled like perm chemicals. As in the stuff they use to give someone's hair a perm. If you've ever wandered past a hair salon, you've probably smelled it before. I suspect it was tied to whatever cleaning agents or toilet bowl additives they use in the restroom. Regardless, it was not pleasant, though we did get used to it after a few days and it wasn't strong enough to make us sick.

The bathtub in our room was also of poor design. The granite trim around the tub wasn't leveled properly, and actually channeled all water spray around behind the curtain and onto the floor of the bathroom, causing a small flood. Not a huge problem, but a simple one to fix. Simply add a couple of trim pieces on the sides to direct the water back down into the tub.

One of the days we were there housekeeping forgot to clean our room (and restock towels and such) despite the "Please clean our room" sign on the door. We had to call the front desk to remedy the problem. I know it sounds nit-picky, but that's the point of these reviews. Extra details to fine tune your vacation.

The on-site doctor does not have Band-Aids. It should be expected, in my opinion, that a resort within an ecotourism hotspot like Costa Rica would have a Band-Aid or two available for its guests. After days of hiking, swimming, and walking, the occasional bad blister is going to rear its head. You have to walk out of the resort and down the street to the small on-site general store if you need them, and they cost $4. (Hey, sunblock is $30, so don't forget that, either.)

The variety shows at Pura Vida are absolutely terrible. I know, I know. After the sun goes down and it's pitch black outside, we need SOMETHING to keep us occupied until we pass out from too much rum. We can't exactly go walking through the jungle.

But my God, the variety shows were worse than any eastern European spectacle I've ever seen. I don't need to see a bunch of hispanic people clumisly performing Grease for crying out loud. I don't need a Michael Jackson tribute show. And I get it - white people from America suck at speaking Spanish. Do we really need to call a few on stage every night and laugh at them? How about some genuine Costa Rican music, or maybe a talent contest? It was just painful to watch. We usually ended up down by the beach anyway, just to get away from it all. With or without flashlights to see where we were going.

Which brings me to the central pool area. I went to Costa Rica to relax and escape. I ended up at a resort, which, while nice, churned out fist-pumping Spring Break music at full blast during the middle of the day. Some people want that. The intoxicated twenty-somethings that were bussed in shortly after our arrival sure seemed to. I think I saw Pauly D. It was just a shame, though. The serenity of the remote location and beautiful beach were in stark contrast to what unfolded at the resort everyday. If someone had hit the pause button every now and then we could have probably heard the howler monkeys nearby.

And now I know. It could have been great, and parts of it were. The rest was too nightclubby and Spring Breaky for me.

Room Tip: If you want sunsets, get an ocean view. The higher the better. You will not be disappointed.
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 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.
Denver,Co
Contributor
20 reviews 20 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
58 helpful votes 58 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 1, 2013

First of all, my wife, 8year old Grandaughter, and I just returned from a week at the Riu. We stayed there from 6/15 - 6/22. We had a wonderful time and highly recommend this hotel.

We arrived at 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon and check in was quick and easy and our room was ready. The front desk was efficient and friendly.

I have to say that this is the cleanest property we have seen by far. Always somebody cleaning, painting, or scrubbing everything from the elevator walls to the lattice work above the pool chairs !!

ROOMS

Our room was on the 5th floor facing the jungle side. We read a lot about the monkees in the morning but never did hear them. Maybe you have to sleep with the door open, I don't know. The room was of adequate size, A/C worked great and housekeeping was very efficient. We did see some other rooms that people we met were staying in and the ones on the end of the building facing the ocean had an incredible view. I think they are family suites, and from what I understand, it cost $ 80/night to upgrade to these. Pillows awful.

POOL

The pool is very large and has a lot of bridges etc. which gives it a lot of character. There are beds in the water and the water was very warm. On Saturday afternoon the pool was packed with the weekenders and the area around the pool bar was a bit overwhelming although you still could get a drink pretty easily. Just a lot of people having a good time, not a problem. About half way through the day on Sunday the whole property slowed down and there was a nice size crowd. Plenty of poolside chairs always available.

FOOD

I am a very picky eater and found the food to be very good. The buffet, although very crowded on the weekend, was well stocked with a good variety and we had no complaints about either the quality or quantity. We ate in the Italian restaurant twice and were quite pleased. We ate in the steak house once and were very pleasantly surprised after some of the reviews we read. The Filet special was good even though I think the sirloin that others had even was better. A very limited menu and other than picking your steak, everybody gets the same. A nice Baked Alaska presentation for a B-day at our table. Did not try the Asian or Costa Rica restaurant lthough we obtained a decent bottle of wine from the Costa Rican restaurant which strangely, can only be obtained there.

BARS

Including the sports bar, there are 4 bars within 100 yards of each other. One opens at 10:00 and the other two at @ 5:00. Sports bar is 24 hours and is a good place for a cappucino in the morning. Never anyone there ! Very easy to get a drink before dinne and during the shows. Don't expect table service except at the Filadelfia bar. Just get it yourself. No problem. The bartenders at the pool bar are very distant and just not very friendly or willing to just visit with you. They are efficient enough that you don't go thirsty but just not that friendly. Not a requirement on their part !!

SERVICE

The service is what you should expect from an all inclusive. Very unpredictable and not great. It was, however, much better than other places we've been in the specialty restaurants. Most of the time, evrything but the entree is self service and that speeds things up. Service at the buffet is very limited and you definitely get better service inside. If you sit outside in the morning, getting coffee is about it. This didn't bother us at all because when you eat this much, a walk is good for you. Would rather have good food than good service, which we did !!

CASINO

Very quiet !! There are a couple of blackjack tables, 2 Roulette tables, and approx. 40 slots. There is a $10 minimum at the tables which should be lowered and maybe more people would play.

TOURS

The good deals for tours are available at the Beach. We dealt with Allen and Eric who wear the Orange shirts. You can wheel and deal quite a bit to get the prices lowered. We went on the Buena Vista tour and because there was 11 of us, we got to stay as long and make extra stops as we wanted. Pedro was a great guide.
We also took the 4 hour ATV tour through Alex on the Beach in the white shirt. His price was the best and was really really fun.
These guys all approach you but are not pushy and you can just say no gracias !!
We were warned about the tour guys on the beach on our bus ride to the hotel. Can't remember the name of this group. I think they probably get something back from the hotel for pushing the hotel sponsored tours. Business is business I guess but we felt very safe and in good hands wih Alex and Eric !!

BEACH

The beach is very quiet and relaxing. Very few people there at anytime and plenty of chairs. Don't go barefoot as the black sand gets very hot ! Warm weather and a few shells, crabs, to look at. If you snorkel, go off to the right around the rocks and it was OK. The Monkee Bar up the beach was interesting but a disappontment as the Monkeys were all asleep at 3:00 PM. All in all, very strange. DO NOT go there without bug spray !!

KIDS CLUB

The kids club seems to be for very small children and not much activity at all.

ENTERTAINMENT

Nightly shows about what you should expect. They try very hard and they are generally OK but nothing too exciting. A way to kill some time at night.
Daytime entertainment staff work very hard and do a good job. JJ 69 very funny and fun to talk to.

  • Stayed June 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 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.
Newton, Massachusetts
1 review
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed July 1, 2013

We are still here and vacationing as a family but this is not what we expected. When we booked we were told it was a low season, in which we like to travel so the resort is not as crowded. What we were not informed of was that each weekend here they are packed to capacity with locals taking advantage of the all inclusive. The locals were not a problem as they were wonderful people but it was like being at an over crowded water park with food, drinks and tons of people all over the place. The property was fairly clean however the people who worked here were kind and wonderful. We usually travel to Club Meds and the rooms, service, and quality are overall better for families with children. My children did not need to see a beer chugging contest at the pool at 4:00 on a Saturday. Not awful but would pay a bit more to stay next door at the Riu Palace where it is a bit more upscale...not suggested as an option fur us when we booked.

Room Tip: Large hotel so stay close to the activities if you don't want to do too much walking
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 2 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.
Washington, Illinois, United States
1 review
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 30, 2013

We just returned from one of the most awesome vacations we have ever had! Riu Guanacaste is absolutely gorgeous! It is a huge resort with a breathtaking open air lobby and beautifully manicured grounds. The pool is large and beautiful and they have activities going on nearly all day long. We also spent time on the private beach. Also very beautiful! Both the pool and the beach have plenty of chairs and your choice of shady or sunny areas. On the beach and the resort grounds you will see iguanas running across the sidewalk or up a tree. The beach has huge trees scattered throughout so you can lay under shade or in the sun. There are all sorts of activities on the beach and we couldn’t miss the $30 beach massages! It was heavenly! We were wowed by the food at the resort. Several reviews had said the food was okay but we were amazed by the selection and found the food to be great! We went to the Asian restaurant twice for sushi and it was excellent! The buffets were huge with so many different types of foods. The rooms were very clean and comfortable. The bed is firm but not uncomfortably so. As you probably know from the other reviews, you cannot drink the water but the hotel supplies you with as much bottled water as you want. The staff is hard working and they will bend over backwards to make sure you enjoy your stay. The servers, bartenders, room service all appreciate and deserve tips for all the hard work they do!

When you decide to go for excursions we would wholeheartedly recommend GeckoTico Tours – they are in the Bright Green shirts on the beach (we booked through Alan). It is much less expensive to book with them than it is to go through the hotel to book the tours - you’ll get the same activities but be taken with a private guide rather than on a bus full of people. On two of our trips we ended up on the river at the same time as some of the hotel tours except we had a private guide, and we rode in a van rather than a large bus! Definitely ask for Crazy Alex for your guide. Not to be confused with Alex on the beach (who I have also read is good). I should mention that he is referred to as Crazy Alex because if he hears you say you would like to do something…he will take a quick detour to try to make it happen. He pulled aside one day to introduce our daughter to coconut water, another day he found a vendor of sugar cane juice because we had mentioned it in an earlier conversation. He is generous, thoughtful, and attentive! Another time, he stopped on the road to shoo a boa constrictor off the road so it wouldn’t be flattened by a car. After spending 1 day with Crazy Alex, we asked if we could keep him for the next two days for tours. The first day we did the Buena Vista tour which included ziplining, horseback riding, hiking, mud bath and hot springs bath…..On the second day, we took a river tour and we quickly realized that Crazy Alex partners up with the best when going on excursions. We had a wonderful boat guide and saw amazing wildlife….crocodiles, boa constrictors, all kinds of beautiful birds, different types of lizards and howler monkeys. Then Crazy Alex had each of us try handline fishing. He caught the first one to show us how to do it and then he made sure that each one of us caught our own fish. If you have never handline fished before it was so much fun and the fish bite quickly! We took a break and had lunch at a local restaurant (included in the tour). You had your choice of steak, chicken, pork or tilapia. We each ordered something different and shared. It was all great! Crazy Alex then took us to a beautiful waterfall and let us swim in and around the waterfall! The third day we did a whitewater rafting trip with Crazy Alex on the Tenorio River. We DEFINITELY had the best guide out there! His name was Daniel (but was jokingly referred to as “the terminator”) and he was the most skilled in maneuvering the boats through the rapids. At the time we went, the rapids ranged from Class I to Class IV. I would highly recommend this excursion as well. The scenery is beautiful and if you have Crazy Alex and “the terminator” you are very safe! Crazy Alex then invited us to his home to have a traditional Costa Rican soup called “black soup” which was delicious. We were very touched by the invitation and his willingness to open his home to some tourists. We feel like we definitely made a friend. Meeting his family was the highlight of the trip. I can’t emphasize enough that these guides work so hard and make maybe about 20% of the total fee for the day. Tips for all the guides will be very, very appreciated! We didn’t realize until talking with Crazy Alex that between a 1 ½ hour bus trip and several miles of walking…he had to anticipate spending at least 2 hours to get to work from home. This is true for most of the people that work at the resort. Yet Crazy Alex and his partners were all genuinely cheerful and very proud of their beautiful country!

  • Stayed June 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 4
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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