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“Family gathering at RIU Guanacaste” 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
Godfrey, Illinois
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Family gathering at RIU Guanacaste”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2013

We stayed at the RIU Guanacaste on July 28 - Aug 2. There were 13 of us, ranging in age from 61 years to two months. Family members traveled from Chicago, St. Louis, Miami, and Madrid Spain to meet here for 6 days. I had looked for a place that would have something for everyone for this varied age group, and the RIU Guanacaste fit the bill. For the adults there was swim up bar, nightly entertainment, 4 reservation restaurants, tennis courts, spa and fitness center, discotique and casino. For the kids, swimming, beach, kids club, monkeys and iguanas. A piece of paradise. The RIU property was beautiful and we had a great time! The only restaurant that took reservations the week we were there was the Steak house. Everything else was first come, first served. You would show up and put your name on the list and wait. El Tucan was the only one that was an uncomfortable wait. We showed up at 6p and did not get in until 8:45. The kids were getting very restless and we had just decided to go to the buffet when we got in. The food was great, just a long wait -- but there were 13 of us.
One family of 2 adults and 2 kids room only had a king bed instead of 2 doubles, so the first two nights they had to all 4 sleep in one bed. When the family finally mentioned it, I asked the RIU to change them to a family room which has one king, one double and a roll away. The RIU gladly changed their room the next night, and did not charge an additional fee to us to do so. This being said, the family room, or even the 2 bedroom family room is well worth the upgrade when traveling with children. I makes your life so much easier, especially if the child is young enough to take naps in the afternoon.

The RIU also supplied a crib for our 2 month old, but that family's room was far away from the rest of us on a different floor. On check in, we requested that the rooms be closer, and they were able to get the whole party on the same floor, but other side of hotel. We had 2 rooms on the 5th floor down the hall from each other on the RIU Palace side, and 4 rooms on the 5th floor next to each other on the jungle side. This worked out fine for us, but we preferred the rooms on the jungle side. There the monkey's would be in the trees outside the balcony each morning.
We were there from a Sunday to a Friday, so missed the local weekend rush that I read about on other reviews.
The beds were hard, but were not uncomfortably so for us.

We really enjoyed the food. All of it. Our favorite was the Steak House. We had a BD celebration there and they even provided a cake. Our travel agent had tried to prearrange a birthday celebration at the Italian restaurant for us, but their contact was on vacation and we did not get the note about the reservation until 6pm on the day of the reservation. We had done a tour - ziplining, horseback riding, mud baths, and hot springs that day and didn't arrive back until 6p when the reservation was scheduled. We went down to the Italian restaurant to let them know we couldn't make it then, and they didn't know what we were talking about. I finally just told them to cancel. This was not a deterent as we had made our own arrangements for the Steak House the day before and arranged the birthday celebration. We had eaten at the Italian two days before anyway. Just a mess up and bad timing.

We had massages on the beach ($60 for a couple) that were fantastic.
We also compared the tours from the beach vendors and the ones offered in the hotel lobby. The ones on the beach are a better value. Although we did take one tour from CAT in the lobby that was very good, and ended up being a private tour for us since the had 8 adults and 2 kids. This was Ziplineing, horseback riding, lunch, mud bath, swimming pool and slide, and hot springs. They even arranged so the 2 year old and 5 year old could zip line with a guide, and have their own horses. Very accommodating! Only disappointment was that we misunderstood that there would be ATV's for one couple that were not interested in the horseback riding, and that wasn't there. The couple waited by the pool while we went horseback riding. This also included lunch which was excellent.

The reason the this review was not excellent, and the only real problem we had, was when we were leaving. The family from Spain had arrived right after us, and we actually met in the lobby, so the timing was great! The hotel took all the bags to our respective rooms after check-in and that all went smoothly. However, the Spanish family had not checked their bag when it arrived in their room, and when they were packing to go, they noticed one of the wheels was torn off of their bag. It was a large rolling duffle bag with four wheels. When we approached the manager (he would not give us his full name, but his first name was Santana) he asked if we had seen it happen. When we said no, it had happened when the bags were delivered at the room upon arrival, Santana stated that since we had not seen it happen, we could not prove that the damage had been done by the RIU. We heard them talking in Spanish (the Spanish couple are fluid in Spanish) about finding the wheel and throwing it away, but they would not admit that to us, and would not consider any compensation. I informed the manager (Santana) that we had spent a lot of money at the hotel -- there were 13 of us -- and I felt that he should make some kind of compensation to satisfy us, if for nothing else, good customer relations. He reiterated that we could not prove the RIU had done the damage, and that they would make no consideration. I insisted that an incident report be made out. Santana gave us a form to fill out and left. We filled it out and took a copy back to him to sign. Santana was no longer at the desk, and we had to wait for him to be called back. When he arrived, he filled out his portion of the complaint form (in Spanish), but did not sign it. Santana insisted the RIU was not responsible for the damaged luggage, since we had not witnessed the incident and could not prove it. We had to request, again, for Santana to sign the complaint form, which he finally did. We kept a copy of the form, and turned in to our travel agent when we arrived home. I agree that we could not prove the damage was done since the Spanish family did not find the missing wheel until checkout, but the attitude was very upsetting. It felt like he was accusing us. I will write a review on Trip Advisor and on the RIU website about this. I think it should always be assumed that the customer is right. This was not good customer relations! It also caused us to be 45 minutes late catching the shuttle to the airport. Luckily they waited as CAT knew what was going on and we were not late to the airport. Luckily he could still get the bag to the airport, but with an infant and one wheel missing (it was a big bag) it was not a good ending to the trip. The rest of the time and the staff were lovely. Too bad about this. We were hoping for a replacement of the bag - not that much. The Spanish family said they would probably will just forget it now -- it was the attitude that sticks with you, and not a great ending to a trip. Nor an easy transit home for the Spanish couple who had 2.5 hour flight to Miami, then a 9 hour flight to Madrid ahead of them, with an infant, stroller, and broken luggage.
Aside from this, the property itself is beautiful and well kept. We had a great time, although some challenges. Travelling with 13 people is a challenge in itself!
Too bad the bag incident left a bad taste in our mouths at the end of the trip, but it did not spoil the stay while there.
We have stayed in several other RIU properties, and the property itself was right up there, but the organization required to keep things running smoothly seemed somewhat lacking.

Room Tip: Choose 5th floor jungle side if you wish to see monkeys. If traveling with kids - get the family...
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 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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3,658 reviews from our community

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  • 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 (1,155)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
5 reviews 5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
34 helpful votes 34 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2013

My husband and I stayed here for 7 nights from July 18-25. I read many many reviews before booking this, so this will be an honest review of the place.

Overall, I was very happy with the place. The room was basic... nothing special, there was a king size bed, a balcony overlooking the jungle side, and a bathroom. I am not a picky traveler, so no... I did not smell any of the sewage problem that many people here talk about coming from the bathroom. We did not spend lots of time in the room, besides for showering and sleeping. The way I see it is that you pay all this money to enjoy the surroundings and the place and NOT spend time in the room. So yes, the room was ok, basic, nothing spectacular, but it worked really well for us.
The food was good... not great, not overly special, but it was good. We were there for 6 full days, and I never got sick of the same thing... there was always something to eat and not starve. I loved the breakfast and the lunch. For dinner we ate at the Asian restaurant, the main restaurant, and the Italian one. We are vegetarians so we didn't go to the steak restaurant. There is another restaurant as well, Tucan, but we didn't eat there... I guess we should've tried it at least once, but there were many options, so we never did. I enjoyed the food, again, nothing spectacular. If you expect 5 star restaurants, then I suggest you go somewhere else.
The beach and the pool were GREAT!! I loved it. Loved it! Most of the time we spent on the beach, which is a great size beach. It is black sand, but it was very pretty and I so loved it. The pool is great too... but I spent most of the time at the beach, since I could go to the pool without going to Costa Rica. The ocean was warm and calm most of the days. There are jellyfish, so be careful with that... but I never had any issues with them.
The staff and the people at the resort were nice, friendly, and helpful. The language was not a problem; most of them spoke fairly good English.
Be aware that yes, the locals do flood the resort on the weekends. I assume that they have specials going on for the Costa Rican people to come and stay at the resort. There are many of them and the pool and the restaurants get packed. I didn't mind them that much, but I was a bit surprised about this. We went to Rius before, but didn't experience this phenomenon before. I guess just ignore it and enjoy your time on the beach. By Sunday afternoon they are gone.
Overall, it was a great vacation! I love LOVE Costa Rica. We went on a one day tour to the Palo Verde national park and surroundings. Wish we would've done more tours, but only so much time within a week.

  • Stayed July 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
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
East Liverpool, Ohio
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2013

When it rains it really rains! and Costa Rica is NO CANCUN! only saw 1 howler monkey. The resort is very nice and clean. Went on the jungle cruise it was nice! Overall I just wasnt impressed.... food sucked too.... and the booze was HORRIBLE! I STAYED SOBER!

  • Stayed May 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 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.
north hollywood
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 9, 2013

We went to costa rica with a group of 15 people, we all loved it. the best thing about it were the activities, we booked them on the beach with a guy named Eric with The Orange shirt, He took the best care of us we booked 4 activities with him he had the best prices and treated us like family i highly recommend him to everyone who goes there. Overall it was great!!!!

Room Tip: go with the jungle view.
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 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 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles, California
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 9, 2013

Never ever written a review b/4 online but feel obliged to this time to warn all of you so as not to spoil your vacation. We had 14 in our group. 2 grandparents, 7 adults and 5 kids. BTW, we've travelled many ctries and places and are not picky travelers. What you pay is what you get. We understand this concept very clearly.
Room: yes, it could be a hit or miss. BUT this is true. Riu uses recycled water. When it gets crowded on weekends (due to them opening their doors to locals for cheap rates), the sewage stanch in the bathroom is UNBEARABLE!!! Made me gag many times. They attempt to fix the problem by cleaning the bowl but it did not help a bit. I had them come 3 times to fix problem. That brings me to my next point. It always takes them 1-2 hrs to come to the room. Asked for extra pillows... 1hr. Asked for bottle of water...1hr. Asked to fix sewage smell...2hrs. They offered to change room but having kids and tons of unpacked clothes hanging around, it was too cumbersome. Besides, my friends' rooms had the same smell and we had only a night left. Friend was smart. She read the reviews and brought a air freshener just in case. Helped a lot!
Reception: asked a guy there if he cld help me with the wifi on my iPhone coz I cldnt seem to get thru... He was soooo rude. Pointed at some pic on my phone and said "can you read?" OMG!!! He's lucky I'm a very nice person and swallowed his comments. I thought to myself "maybe it's a language thing." I was not in the mood to be mad was it is only the beginning of our trip.
Food: asian was the best. Food was nothing to look forward to. Steakhouse was ok. Ribeye was tasty but again it is a hit and miss. A few of my friends thought it was BAD. Whereas my hubby and I liked it. Toucan restaurant was not too bad too.
Entertainment: was enjoyable. Relaxing at the end of the night. I think it is the hotel's best selling point. Otherwise, service, room, food... All basically shld be 3star hotel.
You want a good, no sewage smell, all inclusive place, I heard from our tourguide that Ocatelle villa is fab. My spelling might be a bit off but do check it out. Westin is also a pretty gd hotel to stay. Just don't stay in Riu Guanacaste. Seriously. There are better ones out there. If you choose to stay in Riu, remember do NOT stay over weekend. AWFULLY crowded. Entertainers don't even bother speaking English coz they cater to the locals.
Bar: drinks were out to make us have diabetes. Super sweet. Alcohol watered down. Tip them good if you want more alcohol in yours.
Other than that.... we LOVE ATV, zip lines, tabacon hot springs, horseback, hanging bridges... Costa Rica is beautiful. Our stay wld be more enjoyable if we stayed somewhere else.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with family
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 1 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.
RiuHotelsandResorts, Social and Community Relations Manager at Hotel Riu Guanacaste, responded to this review, September 4, 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. We are deeply disappointed to find that our team did not turn around this situation to your complete satisfaction during your stay.

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 hope you will choose to visit us again, and give us a chance to demonstrate the high standards of Guest Service that are typical at our resorts.

With our best wishes we remain
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11 reviews 11 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
34 helpful votes 34 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 7, 2013

Visited the Riu Guancaste the period of July 15-22. I have to say that this was the perfect time to travel to Costa Rica (specifically the province of Guancaste). It rained only one evening (for about a couple of hours) and that was pretty much it.

I have visited numerous resorts (big and small) and have to say that our stay here was one of the best. Yes, the rooms have a typical Riu look and there is a strange smell due to the plumbing but how much of the time are you really going to be spending in the room anyway? You’re on vacation – go out and enjoy!

First off, the resort is beautiful. Its well manicured and you can find iguanas and monkeys if you look around. The resort is very clean, ceilings are fun to look at and overall it’s well managed. The workers are pleasant but you have to be pleasant to them as well.

We spent most of our time on the beach….what a glorious stretch of beach! We walked along the beach and found our own private area away from all of the crowds. It was amazingly peaceful! The waters were filled with millions of fish! We’ve never seen anything like it.

The pool was loud with a bunch of bees and bugs. We tried out the pool for a couple of days and the pool water was warm.

Massages are effective and cheap on the beach. You pay $65 total for a couples massage and they are quite good in form.

We could always find something to eat so I don’t understand how people can complain. We ate at the Italian, Asian, Steakhouse and buffet and all were really good.

Other than the smelly rooms, the only other thing to comment on is the weak drinks. We started ordering “Smirnoff” so if there’s a suggestion here, pick your alcohol!

We booked some excursions with the resort and one with one of the vendors on the beach. To be honest, they all offer the same thing but you can negotiate them down at the resort as well. We got a very similar price with the resort that we would have received from the vendors on the beach.

Overall, I would recommend this resort. We had a great time!

Room Tip: Jungle side will allow you to see monkeys.
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  • Stayed July 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
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 7, 2013

I just visited the RIU Guanacaste last week and was really disappointed. I will break it down into topics so this is easy to read.

Excursions 5/5 - I am starting with this because this was my favorite part! I had done a lot of research and read about doing excursions with Victor from Victours. I was so lucky to bump into him. He did not try to sell me anything. We walked by him and he just simply said hello and asked where we were from. He was very nice and I noticed his shirt said Victor and had Victours on the back and boy were we lucky to find him. He was FANTASTIC! He gives you an incredible price and goes above and beyond. We did the all day tour to Buena Vista Lodge and it was AMAZING! We rode horses through the jungle, zip lined down, went in a hot spring, got lava mud scrubs, did a water slide through the jungle (which is apparently ranked #3 in the world by travel channel), and had an exclusive lunch with just the 13 people in the tour and Victor. After Buena Vista, we drove over to Cocoa Beach (go to Cocoa Nutz! It's an awesome bar with great food! It's owned by a guy who went to Costa Rica on vacation from America and decided to buy the bar and stay!) to check it out too. NO ONE else that we spoke to offered this tour and got all of the things that we got in our package. Tour guides will tell you they go there, but what they don't tell you is that its 40 people and you only zip line and head back. People paid WAY more than we did and they got way less and were not happy with the amount of people on the trip. We also did the catamaran sunset snorkel cruise, which was nice. We decided we needed to do one more adventure and called Victor and told him we needed to. He told us he would take us to a beautiful waterfall. He rearranged everything and took the two of us privately to this waterfall to see it. Like I said...he is the man to go to because he is the best! I could not say enough great things about him. Send him an email before you go so you can be sure to link up with him. If you need his email address, let me know!

Cleanliness 5/5 - Our rooms were incredibly clean and so was the hotel.

Staff 5/5 - very nice and accommodating.

Rooms 3/5 - Our room was nothing special. The beds were hard and the pillows were terrible. Definitely as for more pillows. We had a jungle view and it was the best view you could have at the hotel! We woke up and drank coffee in the balcony while watching the monkeys and wildlife. Definitely request a jungle view. Also, they are stingy with giving water bottles in rooms. We had to ask several times for water because we were out and you can only drink the bottle water.

Food 2/5 - the buffet was not very good at all. Stick to the Steak restaurant (you need reservations and you need to make them between 9-1 the day before to get in) because it was the best. We wish we could of ate there every night. The Japanese was not bad either, but again it was a buffet. The Italian was ok.

Pool 1/5 - The pool is huge and looks gorgeous; however, someone puked in it the one day and it was shut down for a little to "clean" and another day there were two poop incidents. They obviously did not drain the pool and I was left wonder how it was clean?! I also found it very odd that there were children in and sitting at the swim up bar pool. They were jumping a splashing in there while there was plenty of other pools for them to go in. I was shocked that the hotel did not regulate this. The pool just skeeved me. I did not see one person skimming it.

Beach 3/5 - The beach is the place to go! The sand is blackish from the volcanic ash so the water does not look blue like the Caribbean. It is still gorgeous though. The downside to the beach is that they allow people to come up to you trying to sell things. It was constant and annoying. I had never experienced that because other places I went to did not allow that.

Other things they do not tell you - I read on here that they open the hotel to the locals on the weekend right before I left and everything I read was true. They did do this and it was AWFUL! They give them a HUGE discount from Friday-Sunday and they take over the hotel. The hotel was overly packed everywhere. The restaurants, pool, bars, elevators, etc. It was very disappointing knowing how much I spent and the fact that I couldn't be at the hotel (we planned excursions to get away) those days. For this reason alone (minus all the others), I would NEVER stay at ANY RIU again.

Room Tip: Get a jungle view and ask for more pillows!
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 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.
RiuHotelsandResorts, Social and Community Relations Manager at Hotel Riu Guanacaste, responded to this review, September 4, 2013
Dear guest,

We would like to thank you for choosing our hotel for your holidays and for taking the time to give us your constructive and valued feedback.

On the one hand, we would like to thank you for bring up your satisfaction regarding our beach, clean hotel and our staff.

On the other hand, in order to fulfill every guest expectations regarding food, our main buffet and specialty restaurants offer a great range of food options. We were concerned to note that we failed to live up to your expectations. But we can assure you that we strive to improve our service daily in order to offer all our guests in house and future clients a pleasant stay.

We thank you very much for your helpful and reasonable criticism. We would be delighted if you would honor us with another opportunity to convince you of our RIU service and quality.

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.
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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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