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“Costa Rica is amazing, Riu Guanacaste has some good and some bad” 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
Certificate of Excellence 2014
1 review
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
“Costa Rica is amazing, Riu Guanacaste has some good and some bad”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 3, 2014

This trip was great for my GF and I (we are 25 years old) because of the country and the excursions; we had mixed feelings about the hotel but it was good. Not sure we'd stay at it again, but it is a safe and well maintained place.

FYI, it did not rain for most of the week that we were there (May 26 - June 2nd), but it had started raining more frequently on our last 2 days. Rainy season warning!

The Bad

- The Asian restaurant. The food sucks and it got me sick (diarrehea) so I may be biased.

- Our room had bugs on the wall on the first and last day of our trip. We had to get them to bug spray the room (which they were very prompt about)

- FRUIT FLIES EVERYWHERE. The food is rarely covered since it is buffet style, so get ready for an enormous amount of fruit flies if you decide to get some fruit.

- BEES IN THE POOL BAR. So. Many. Bees. I avoided drinking there as every time I got a drink, a bee would be dead inside it within 5-10 minutes unless I clutched on to it for dear life.

- When it rains, the resort is excruciatingly boring

- The gym sucks (unless you just want to do cardio)

- If you arrive at the hotel in the morning (like we did), you are screwed because you can't check in till 3. That leaves you with 3-4 hours to kill with a carry on when you just want to shower and feel fresh after your plane ride. So if you're coming in the morning, I highly recommend packing some beach/swim wear.

- The beach here isn't that great. Extremely hot sand, random guy named Victor trying to sell you stuff, pissed off looking kayak operators. Head to Coco Beach using the shuttle instead.

- No one is kidding when they say this place is in the middle of nowhere. The roads getting to it are narrow and bumpy (as is most roads in the Guanacaste province, even in the highways)

- DO NOT do any hiking excursions (esp. the one of Rincon to see the volcano). It isn't as cool as it sounds. Its an exhausting hike and you see 2 small volcano crators while trying to avoid being bitten by a snake the entire time. Ditto for the Rainforest hike...spend your money on cooler excursions like whitewater rafting.

The Good

- The country is amazing and extremely green. It is a sight to see.

- The staff response is prompt and they are very friendly.

- Attractive women (esp. when you see the locals)

- The resort nightclub ("Pacha") is cool because a lot of locals come by and partake in salsa dancing. If you are looking for a "North American" clubbing experience, you won't get it here.

- Wi-fi is slow and only available for 90 minutes in the lobby. To be honest, I loved this because you're not sitting around on the internet for too long.

- Excursion leaders are extremely smart, knowledgeable, and well-spoken.


- Tip your room maid; it makes a huge difference. We tipped her $3 USD one night and it looked like a totally different room when we came back.

- Book excursions AT THE HOTEL (I would recommend Swiss Travel but I'm sure the others are good too....compare prices). I say this because a lot of times other people will recommend excursions that you had no idea about that are a steal.

- Avoid the pool bar unless you want dead bees in your drink.

- our favourite excursions were the Sunset Catamaran ($85 through Swiss Travels), which takes you on a boat through the pacific and allows you to go snorkeling. They also provide an open bar and a lunch. This was probably the highlight of the trip for us.

- Another excursion that you should definitely do is the megacombo tour. Well worth it.

- Take the shuttle to Coco beach and check out the local scenery. BUY YOUR SOUVENIRS AT COCO as you will get it at cheaper prices than the hotel. Highly recommend eating at Coco Beach as well as you can eat at local prices.

- If you want to buy Costa Rican coffee, get the "1820" brand (local favourite) and buy it at the duty free ON YOUR WAY OUT OF THE COUNTRY. You can get about 500g for $8 (no tax), which is cheaper than anything you can get from the hotel or even locally.

- Check out the Michael Jackson show put on by the hotel. Its amazing. In fact, almost all of their shows are.

- If you are a younger couple that loves adventure, I'd reccomend booking excursisons pretty much every other day. There is too much to see and do in Costa Rica to spend it sitting around a pool bar with bees.

Great trip!

Room Tip: We faced the Howler monkeys. It was pretty cool.
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  • Stayed May 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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    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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Greeneville, Tennessee
4 reviews 4 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 2, 2014

Just returned from one week stay. Hotel is beautiful and staff is very friendly. However, the food was just average, even the places you had to make reservations for. This place is in the middle of NOWHERE. Be sure you rent a car so you can get away for a while. If you can get to Coco you can do some shopping and eat at Pacific Lobster, great food. If you are looking for a tour go down to the beach and look for Jose and Erick with Costa Rica Best Tours. Jose is great, we booked a private day tour and had the best day of the whole vacation!

Room Tip: Ask for a quiet room on either side facing outward.
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  • Stayed May 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 2, 2014

stayed from the 4th of May to the 18th May,and really enjoyed our stay, the staff at the Riu were very friendly and helpful . On arrival we were given a room on the 2nd floor, but we had originally booked a wheelchair accessible room and on query the people at the desk realized the error and changed us straight away with no problem. On entering the room we could smell the drains like many reviewers have mentioned, but it really was not as bad as others have mentioned, the slight smell is because the whole site is eco friendly.
We took the advise of other reviewers concerning the beds so we ordered the bed toppers and they arrived within 10 minutes of us being in the room. The room was very good to get around in a wheelchair , but the one thing i would advise is to get a plastic chair for the shower if you cannot stand in the shower. The toilet has not got a seat raise, but it does have a grab bar to help you on and off.. The hotel itself is very good for a wheelchair, but the same problems apply to most hotels with access to the pools and to the beach, a person in a wheelchair on their own would not be able to get onto the beach and would need help to get in the pool.
Our room was on the jungle side, so every morning from about 4-30 the howling monkeys start howling,( imagine rottweilers barking ). There is a fenced off walkway all the way around the jungle side of the hotel and if you take this walk it will lead to the beach, but keep your eyes towards the fence to see the monkeys, different varieties of birds, squirrels , wild horses and other animals that we cannot name and also at night the giant frogs that liked visiting the hallways.
Outside the hotel out towards the main gateway that is a lovely walk on its own with humming birds, butterflies and iguanas of various sizes and also the trees and flora. If you go through the main gate way and turn right you can walk to Monkey bar, and pass monkey bar you can find some beautiful views and more wildlife and find yourself a secluded part of beach ( in a wheelchair with care and hard work and a helper you can do this).If you do this walk take plenty of water with you Costa Rica is very hot and humid.
The food was in plentiful supply and good quality and if you have any dietary requirements the chefs are only to happy to help (i.e.veggie etc..)in the buffet area where we had all our main meals,we did not feel the need to use the other restaurants.
Trips are easily bookable either in the hotel or as lot of people have used from the the beach, we did 2 trips- the Palo Verde boat safari and the all dayer to Nicaragua, both with Swiss Travel booked inside the hotel and were spot on with everything, in our opinion if you only do one trip, do the Nicaragua its a long day but the sights you see will be with you for a long time.
All in all we had a great holiday and would like to thank Maria and all the staff and entertainment team at the Riu .
At the weekends the locals do come in it can be crowded and more noisier around the pool area and at meal times but this just adds to the ambiance to the Costa Rica experience, majority of the locals we met were respectful and friendly.

Room Tip: if you want wildlife views go for the jungle side rooms.
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  • Stayed May 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Beverly Hills, Michigan
Senior Contributor
33 reviews 33 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 2, 2014

My wife and I were looking for something different and found a deal on Cheapcarribean.com. We stayed for 6 days in May, the 13th through the 18th. We were a bit concerned that this is the beginning of the rainy season but we were extremely lucky and did not get a drop of rain. We had requested a higher floor with an ocean view and were granted our request. We were also lucky in that we arrived at 12:15 and our room was available. The room was great, 3077 as well as the view over the grounds to the ocean.

Staff: Very friendly and very accommodating. If you need something, just ask. They will make all of the efforts to get you what you need.

Food: We at mainly at the main buffet that did not require reservations. Each night there was something different, and it was very tasty. We ate at the Japanese restaurant, very good as well, and also at the Italian restaurant, which had great steaks and great lasagna. We ate all of the fruit, all of the salads and neither my wife or I got sick once. The breakfast was very good, there was a little bit of waiting at times in line, but never more than a few minutes.
Seafood: We went on the fishing charter and caught mahi mahi. We took it to the chef in the main buffet area and asked to have it prepared for our dinner. We asked to have some blackened, and some pan seared with butter and garlic, some however he thought best. This dinner was amazing. They set a special reserved table for us, and presented the fish on palm leaves with some truly amazing homemade sauces. It was delicious.

Drinks: Plan to acquire a taste for a local beer called Imperial. Its a lager and is very easy drinking. Liquor: Most of the liquor is Rum and Whiskey made in Costa Rica. They do have other bottles, all you need to do is discreetly ask. I was able to get the well known Rum my wife likes and have her drinks made with that, as well as being able to get a couple of Johnny Walker Red labels, on rocks. We didn't dive into all the fruity slushy like drinks but a couple of times.

Rooms: The rooms are great, our bed was a King and it was firm but not hard. Shower and everything worked properly. I have heard of others complaining about the beds and the pillows but we did not have this problem. We also heard of some of the king beds down there that were two mattresses pushed together, but we did not experience this issue at all.

Beach: The beach has dark sand. Its really quite beautiful. At 10 degrees north of the equator you have to realize the sand will be hot. Make sure to wear shoes and at a minimum sandals to the beach. The sand is really, really hot. The water was great, we were there and were able to experience calm surf and really great waves. The day we planned to go to Coco beach via water taxi, it was too rough so we just stayed. Hint: if you like to snorkel, on the calm days, looking out into the water there is a rocky point to the left. Go at high tide, and its truly amazing. There are rock formations under water teaming with fish, a few corals its absolutely beautiful. Go when its calm and it will be clear as well. Puffers, damsels, Moorish idols, triggers, wrasses and a ton of other fish. We spent a few hours out there and we did not feel the need to go on a snorkeling excursion. We brought our own masks and snorkels and borrowed fins from the resort. The currents are VERY strong. Use caution. If you just float out in the surf, you will be moved 50 yards in a matter of no time. If the surf is strong, use caution with kids because they will get tossed about and knocked over. My wife was "May-Tagged" and we were fortunate enough to get it on video.

The Grounds: The grounds are extremely well kept and employees are working on it diligently at all times. No matter where you looked, someone was trimming or cleaning or scrubbing.

Casino: Not very big, but if you are playing table games they will bring you drinks complimentary.

Excursions: We used Jose and Eric (Pink shirts on the beach) and saved quite a bit of money by doing so. We took the Buena Vista Combo tour and it was amazing. Pay the extra for the "extreme" package. The zip lines are longer, faster, and higher. There was one run where we went through a tunnel cut into the canopy and then the ground just dropped out from under you and you were suspended hundreds of feet up in the air and could look down on an amazing waterfall. After zip lines and the horrifying tarzan swing, was lunch at the lodge. Then horseback riding, followed by a jungle hike to a waterfall, then a hike out to a spa in the jungle. Great time. The tour ended with a crazy waterslide made of cement on the hillside that is quite fun but frightening. We also used Jose and Eric for booking our fishing excursion. We were scheduled to be out for a half day in a smaller boat, but they were booked and for the same price we were taken out by a much bigger boat. Much more comfortable and much more room. 11 Mahi-Mahi in just a few hours. They were somewhat small (24-36in") but oh, so tasty.

Monkey Bar: We loved it- but remember where you are. You are in the middle of nowhere next to the jungle. It is a jungle bar in Southern Central America. It was great, they were very nice but not cheap but look where you are. A guy that hangs out in a hammock will take you to see howler monkeys hanging out in the jungle. He does this for tips. Very worthwhile.

Overall we had a great trip, spent quite a bit of time on the beach, and some time in the Pool. The pool was good and the swim up bar was fun and we didn't see anybody get rowdy at any point. The weekends were a bit more crowded with some local traffic but we were not inconvenienced in any way.

Room Tip: Face the ocean, if you face the mountain howler monkeys will wake you up every morning.
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  • Stayed May 2014, 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 8
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Fort Myers Beach, Florida
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
40 helpful votes 40 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 1, 2014

Very nice resort, hotel is far from ocean so u can't really get ocean front, other then that I found place really well maintained, workers don't fight over tips in fact is kind them to be hesitant to pick up tips, so we left wallet in room, a lot of reviews talk about monkey bar, let me tell you it's getho and beaten, they serve drinks out of coolers, and the guy who claims that he is the owner is actually not, he tried to sell u excursions for cheaper then hotel prices, but u can see through him easy he is full of it, dont forget the excursions u buy from hotel lobby, the hotel will stand behind them if u have an accident and hospital bills, if u buy outside resort hotel will not stay liable and u will be responsible for all fees, I know this because couple with us bought excursions from outside hotel and she fell of horse and broke her wrist and hotel rep said that hotel will not pay for any bills because excursions were bought from outside hotel, so to be honest I feel better knowing there is little insurance behind me in case anything happens. I honestly think te guy from monkey bar is putting nice reviews on sites himself cause place honestly looks like crap. Any how back to hotel, Nice thing about this resort is that they have 24 h sport bar u can get beer anytime u don't hve to wait till 10 am to start drinking, and they have a small fridge with wraps, pool table, and more , flat screen TVs to watch sports. If u go here make sure u do the atvs, zip line, waterfalls, river and volcano, take bug spray

Stayed November 2013, traveled as a couple
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Chicago, Illinois
Senior Contributor
40 reviews 40 reviews
17 hotel reviews
Reviews in 22 cities Reviews in 22 cities
28 helpful votes 28 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 1, 2014

Arrived on Saturday, and what a nightmare.Lines for check in were long, and since they do not give you your room until 3pm, if you arrive earlier, you have to deal with the lines twice. I agree with others, weekends are awful here because of all the locals. You can expect little to no service on the weekends, and the place just gets too crowded.

Rooms- Beds were hard, pillows were flat, towels and sheets were rough. I hear the accommodations are better at the Palace. I would def. stay there next time so I can get a better night's rest.
Food- Buffet was large and always had good options. We had no trouble getting reservations for specialty restaurants- Ocotal(Steakhouse) was good, Tucan (gourmet) was good and the most consistent, The Italian was decent, but service is slow, and the Asian place had slow service and bad food. Note: Try all the pork dishes, as this was the best pork we have had. They do not expect you to tip, we tipped a few times, but the service was still mediocre, so we decided to keep our singles.
Alcohol- Selection was not very good, even for an all-inclusive, very low end brands. We have stayed at several all-inclusives. Every night there was a specialty drink stand, and that was a lot of fun. The bartenders took pride in making fun and tasty drinks.
Entertainment Staff- Very energetic, and did a great job. All of the shows were good, and you can tell how hard they worked. MJ, Grease, and the Vegas show were our favorites.
Beach/pool - Lots of chairs and shade, never had a problem, but if you expect drink service by the pool, don't as we rarely saw someone come by. Beach was beautiful, beware the sand is hot.
Excursions - We booked through the beach, no problems, it was a small group and we were able to zip-line, visit a waterfall, volcano, hot springs, and eat authentic Costa Rican food.

I would return to Costa Rica, it truly is a great place with a lot of natural beauty, however I would not stay at RIU Guanacaste, I would look to stay on the carribean side, or at the RIU Palace.

Room Tip: We had a standard room and it was just fine. Save your money for the excursions or stay at the RIU P...
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  • Stayed May 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
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5 reviews 5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 31, 2014

My husband and I spent 10 nights at Riu Guanacaste and had an amazing time!

Riu Guanacaste was very very clean! People were always cleaning!

The servers were excellent- those walking around for drinks, at the pool, the sport bar, all the restaurants. Gratuity is included in the trip but we always bring a extra singles & fives for tipping- it is really appreciated, and they remember you!

Only the Tucon (sp?) place and the steak house required reservations. We never ate at the Tucon place (I'm too picky) but the steakhouse (which is actually down by the pool) was incredible! There was an Asian restaurant w/ drink service, although the food was buffet (delicious) and the Italian restaurant was buffet for salad/appetizers & served drinks/main course. The Italian place was my favorite! Caution the plain pasta actually has shrimp in it! The chicken, the filet, the lasagna... YUM! The main buffet also was excellent, with several types of food- this was where breakfast was served. Appreciated having our own little pot of coffee too.
Lunch generally was by the pool or at the main restaurant/buffet. Overall I liked the main buffet best for lunch- cooler w/ less bugs!

Speaking of bugs, overall we did not have a problem BUT we brought bug spray & used each night before dinner. And beware of bees if you have a fruity drink at the pool!

The pool was awesome! I enjoyed the "Photo Shoot" photographers- they would do a little photo shoot of people in the pool or around the resort/beach if you wanted. The main store was 5 minute walk out the front door, across from the Casino, and the pictures were there indefinitely. They did a great job, of course a little $, $75 for 5 pics on a CD. Important to maybe have after the first few days so you have a little tan and beware of red lips after strawberry daiquiris! We found it best to go to the pool early (8-830) to get a good spot plus it wasn't as hot.

I was recovering from ACL reconstruction so we were not able to swim at the beach and we were only able to walk it a few times. It is beautiful. Sunset is around 6- a must see! And if you are looking at the ocean, the Monkey Bar is down to the left- maybe 10-15 minutes. It is a bar/restaurant. We learned the monkeys are usually out after 3 so we went at 3:30. It was super cool- we had drinks under the trees with the monkeys above us! They played great "old" American music (Girls Just Wanna Have Fun for example). We also ate an early dinner there- delicious! The chips and salsa were also amazing!

The activity staff were all very very good- we loved watching water aerobic, and we especially thought Daniella did a great job! Very professional staff, with great personalities who also participated in many of the shows too. The shows- see other reviews- MJ was awesome (Fri)! We missed Grease (Sat)(also supposed to be good). The Sunday night one was pretty good and then the others were just okay- all the performers were very good.

My husband did like the Sport Bar- they put on the basketball playoffs if there was a game. I also got coffee there before 5a.m. twice and they had a grab and go food cooler- hamburgers, sandwiches, etc. They also had GREAT popcorn!

My ACL limited us to 3 excursions- Palo Verde boat tour- recommend through Guanacaste viajes, Nicaragua Day trip to Catarina, Masaya Volcano & Granada- great pics, recommend through Viator, and then our favorite was the aqua combo offered by the guy at the pool. The boat trip was awesome, snorkeled in a private cove (in Nicaragua), bottom fished & then went back to the beach in the cove for a cookout/fun free time. Guys did a great job! Just a note they did not have beer or diet pop (alcohol was included but had OJ, regular pop & tonic water maybe as mixers).

Free wifi for 90 consecutive minutes every 24h in the lobby, which was good- forced us off our phones! Initially my husband checked in the morning & me in the evening, but eventually we both were on in the morning.

We used the workout facilities most days- not bad- maybe 3-4 bikes, 3 treadmills, 4 elliptical & some weight machines. We initially went after breakfast then to the pool. It worked out better to go to the pool after breakfast & gym around 1. (We often napped first) :)

Never stayed up for the discotheque. Went to the casino for a few hours one night- very small. I played different slots & roulette, my husband played roulette. Drinks were free if you were going to be playing. Was okay- lost my $ and wasn't really in a gambling mood. Now if they had Craps it would be different!

They have a water taxi to Coco Beach for $15 roundtrip from our beach- wish I had known that earlier in the trip- would have been nice to go.

I haven't even been home a week & I miss beans & rice for breakfast!

Room Tip: We stayed in room 2001- the end unit on the 3rd floor of the mountain view. We really enjoyed this r...
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  • Stayed May 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 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
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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