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“Not what I expected” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Hotel Riu Guanacaste

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Hotel Riu Guanacaste
4.0 of 5 Resort (All-Inclusive)   |   | Playa Matapalo, Sardinal, Costa Rica   |  
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Ranked #2 of 3 Hotels in Sardinal
Cartago, Costa Rica
12 reviews 12 reviews
5 hotel reviews
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
“Not what I expected”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 9, 2014

The parking space is ridiculously small, so cars have to park on the street and sidewalks.
Check in is a mess, long lines, it is hot, smelly. The staff is ok.
Internet is not really free. Mobile coverage is inconsistent.
Food is OK. For breakfast there is a good variety of food, one nice thing is the juice station, fresh juices are made everyday. There is also fresh fruit, breads, eggs, pancakes... Lunch at the poolside is fast food, the place is infested with flies. Dinner is ok, but I feel food is greasy, desserts are the same everywhere, not really good. Well I guess that is what you get for an all inclusive resort.
The pool is so crowded... One afternoon they decided to have a bear drinking contests at the poolside where all the kids were (not appropriate), another afternoon they decided to do a kayak race and it got a somewhat dangerous with the families that were in the pool.
There are also a lot of bees which makes it dangerous.
Our room had a weird layout. One king size bed, one full bed. It was a family room. The water is not drinkable so you get bottled water in your room. There is "free" alcohol in every room (a bottle of vodka, rum, wiskey). There are no local TV channels.
Customer service not good, although the cleaning lady was very pleasant.

Room Tip: Our room had a weird distribution. It had a king size bed and a full size bed
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  • Stayed May 2014, traveled with family
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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4,113 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (1,308)
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A TripAdvisor Member
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 8, 2014

Clean resort but room ac wasnt very good. Ive stayed at better riu's and this wasnt my favorite. Beach wasnt what i expected and i liked the one at the westin better. Recommend alex on the beach for a tour. Wouldnt stay here again as this wasnt the best riu

Stayed May 2014, traveled as a couple
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Moline, Illinois
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 7, 2014

We took a family trip to Costa Rica. The people in our group were two adults, two teen age boys and my parents who are in their seventies. The hotel grounds are very pretty. The room was large. It faced the jungle, so we could watch the monkeys from our room. The beds were comfortable enough, but the pillows were very thin. It took two to make an average pillow. If you inspected every inch of the room, one may find a corner that could be cleaner. Overall the TheI stocked mini fridge was a great convenience. Staff will bring extra bottles of soda, if requested at the reception desk.

If you are coming to this hotel for the food, you may be disappointed. I am picky, and I found enough to eat at each meal. I didn't love the food, but there were many choices and I always found something to eat.

The pool was nice. Many chairs and areas of shade. It was busy, but large enough to accommodate many people. The beach is also nice. Chairs also provided there.

The main highlight of the trip was the excursions!! We used Gustavo of Erick and Gustavo tours (light blue shirts). He is a friendly young guy, with good English. He explained the trip options well. He also gave a list of needed item for each trip. We went quad riding through the jungle. They vary this adventure by your ability. There were six of us, so all our excursions were private. We also took a boat ride to Tamarindo beach for surfing. If you are wanting to learn to surf or are an experienced surfer, go with Gustavo. He is a great instructor and will take you where the locals go. Every body was able to get up and surf for short distances with a little help from Gustavo. I would recommend this excursion for teens and active adults. It is very fun but hard work also. We had lunch on the beach and did some snorkeling on the boat ride back. We were planning on fishing also, but a storm rolled in, so we decided to go back. We also did a trip to a waterfall and a volcanic activity center. We saw volcanic activity (mud pots, steam vents, ect.) There was a sauna, mud bath and mineral baths. Also a cement water slide was an option for the young and young at heart. Christian was our guide for the volcano. With Erick and Gustavo tours, You are the boss. They try to give you the trip you want, stopping when requested. We took side trips to the super market and a roadside stand. There prices were cheaper than the vendors in the hotel and are all about making you happy, " you are the boss".

I would go back here. We all had a great time. I wished we had more time there. So much fun to be had. As my dad said, " I loved every minute of it".

Room Tip: We really liked facing the jungle, so we could watch the wild life from our room. We were on the th...
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  • Stayed June 2014, traveled with family
    • 4 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
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 6, 2014

The Riu Guanacaste is a wonderful resort nestled in the rainforest. The rooms are spacious. The food is excellent. You only have to book for 2 of the speciality restaurants and no long pants required. The staff are friendly and helpful. The coffee is really good in the Sports bar open 24 hours also has food there. Need a massage go on the beach past the Riu next door and the woman is on the left $35.00 amazing massage.
Definitely book your tours on the beach go with Tropical Dreams Tours look for Daniel and ask for Alex as your guide. He is so knowledgeable and is full of interesting information regarding Costa Rica. Pay the extra to have him as a private guide so worth it. There was 4 of us all adults. We went on the River Tour amazing up close and personal with monkeys and crocodiles. Also had delicious breakfast in one of the villages. We also went zip lining, visited waterfall and went in the crystal clear water. Also the mud baths, the natural springs, sauna, amazing experience included lunch at lovely restaurant surrounded by volcanos and beautiful countryside.
The beach is lovely the sand is very hot wear shoes. The ocean is warm but it has strong undercurrent. Need some umbrellas on beach. Lovely trees for shade on beach but need some more shade.. Wasps around bar at the pool. We spent most of the time on the beach.The market on the beach is good value.
There is a disco and a casino there at resort. The entertainment is well performed.

Room Tip: We had an ocean view room. It was lovely
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  • Stayed May 2014, traveled with friends
    • 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 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Las Vegas, Nevada
2 reviews
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 4, 2014

I just got back from Riu Guanacasta. There is a lot I didn't know before going there, so wanted to write some useful things.

First of all there are two Riu hotels side by side. Riu Palace/ Riu Guanacasta. Riu palace is high end it seems than Riu Guanacasta. Atleast the hotel staff treat you like second class citizens if you are in Riu Guanacasta. RG doesn't provide shampoo, conditioner or moisturizer in their rooms. If asked about it, they will tell you it a privilege for only Riu Palace customers and you don't get one. Its hard for us to understand that because even a cheap motel In US provides them, and while claiming RG a 5 star hotel, I don't know what the problem is. If you approach and management and tell them that this is something they should have mentioned in their website, they will tell you that you can leave if you don't like the place and with no refund.

Secondly, if you reach there after 10 you basically have no food to eat. The so called "sports bar" with snack is all about frozen burgers and hot dogs, which is very disgusting. You would imagine a better food considering the 5 star tag. But sorry you are out of luck. All the restaurants in the premises are closed and you can't even go out because it build far away from everyone. So sleep hungry. I approached the ASSISTANT manager "MARIA" and asked her about the food situation and instead of getting my suggestions and attending to my concerns she asked me to leave if i have a problem and she can do and talk what ever she wants to. At the end of the conversation I left calling her an "idiot". Because I am on a vacation and I don't have time to teach hospitality and manners to idiots.

For people, who enjoys drinks, more than food, you get drinks through out the hotel. The drinks are pretty good, but I feel that they use some local brands of alcohol versus our smirin off or jack Daniels. If thats fine with you, its all fun! The mini bar in the room gets restocked every two days. It has couple of water bottles, fanta, and couple of cokes. It has four different bottles of liquor in a tapped manner on the top of the fridge.

Coming to the food situation, there are 3 restaurants and one buffet. The buffet is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The buffet for breakfast and lunch is more like Golden Correl standard. For dinner, it looked pretty good but we didn't have dinner there. There is one chinese and italian place which doesn't need reservation and there are first come first serve basis. They are open from 6-9. They are ok. There is one Steak house place and sea food one. They have pre fixed menu and I ate in the sea food one named "Tuscan" its good. I haven't had dinner in the steak house place but it has a ocean view. During the afternoons this place serves lunch buffet and it didn't appeal to me at all because of all the flies on the food.

The room are kept very clean. The beds are hard and moreover if you ask for a king bed they will combine two full beds and give you. Its pretty uncomfortable, so my and my hubby slept on one full and left the other one alone. The showers are bit rusted. The rooms are in the OK location. because some of them has a side view of ocean from the balcony. The towels are ok! Pool has some entertainment. The shows are pretty time pass. The Micheal Jackson one is good. The guy did a pretty awesome job.

Overall, out of all the vacations we took from past 4 years, This one is the most expensive and least quality. I have been to better hotels nice restaurants and nice location. The beach is more black sand beach, but its not dirty. I guess it gets the color from the mountains around it.

Weather, The rainy season started and it rained in the evening almost every day. But it was ok!

Room Tip: If you can afford it, take Riu Palace VS Riu Guanacasta.
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  • Stayed June 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jenks, Oklahoma
1 review
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 3, 2014

We recently returned from RIU Guanacaste, where we stayed a 7 days (Sun-Sun). On arrival the grounds are very nice and the staff is friendly. We got in early and had to go to the pool while we waited for our room to be ready. That was fine. The pool was nice and a little crowded. After Sunday passed the resort became very scarce and unpopulated. Actually very nice. The service was prompt and it was easy to get drinks by the pool and on the beach. Mon/Tue/Wed all the same. On Thursday we saw a distinct difference in the service and clientele. We finally figured out that on Thursday the locals began to check in for a long weekends. It became much more crowded and suddenly the pool and beach service stopped. So if we ever go back (we may) we will stay Sunday through Thursday.

If you want to zip line and have adventurous kids I recommend talking to Erick on the beach. Very trustworthy and will bargain for larger groups. His tour was $100 pp, and included Zip line, Tarzan Swing, water slide, lunch, horse back riding, waterfalls, mud bath and steam room, and natural hot baths. The drive to the Zip line is about 1.5 hours, so the guide stopped us at a grocery store for food and beer. After the tour we actually felt like we ripped these guys off, because the tour was so long, fun, and well put together. Well worth more than $100 pp. Very physical.

Bring sandals of water shoes. The beach is like walking on the sun.

Another thing to know before you go.... Wi-fi is only offered 90 minutes a day. If you are a Facebook junkie, you will need to tone it down. It was great for us because it kept the teens off the phones the whole time and forced them to interact.

Room Tip: Ocean views are not worth it. Save your money for excursions.
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  • Stayed May 2014, traveled with friends
    • 4 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
    • 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.
1 review
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
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
Was this review helpful? Yes 10
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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