We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Great for families, not so good for couples” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Hotel Riu Guanacaste

Best prices for your stay
Enter dates for best prices
Check In mm/dd/yyyy Check Out mm/dd/yyyy
Show Prices
Compare best prices from top travel sites
and 4 more sites!
You added Hotel Riu Guanacaste to your Saves list
Hotel Riu Guanacaste
4.0 of 5 Resort (All-Inclusive)   |   | Playa Matapalo, Sardinal, Costa Rica   |  
Hotel website
Hotel packages
Hotel deals
Hotel amenities
Special Offer
Package Grand Sale!
Ranked #2 of 3 Hotels in Sardinal
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
8 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“Great for families, not so good for couples”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 9, 2014

I stayed at the Riu Guanacaste with my fiance from May 26 to June 2. We are young adults and travelled alone mostly to relax but also to sightsee. However, we did not get too much of the former done. Before I get into hotel details, I want to note that though it's "rain season" (which really scared us!), the weather is absolutely beautiful. Yes, it did rain during the latter half of our trip but it always cleared up fast. It's SO muggy and I recommend bringing lots of bug spray! Also, the ocean is wonderful for all ages to swim in up until around 1 to 2pm, which is when the tide comes in. At that point, it is extremely rough even for experienced swimmers! Families with young children will have to stay by the pool unless they want to combat undertoe. There are also tons of jelly fish, we saw many people get stung while they snorkelled... So I don't recommend snorkelling! The water is NOT clear at all so you won't be missing out on too much anyway! The beach is also blacksand, meaning your feet will literally fry on the sand.

As for the hotel, I will divide it into pros and cons:


Everyone is very friendly and willing to help you, however you will be extremely disadvantaged if you do not speak Spanish (kind of felt like Spanish-speaking guests got the royal treatment!). The buffet is by far the best restaurant, it offers so much food with options for EVERYONE. There's a vegetarian section as well as a kids section. The morning fruit smoothies were undoubtedly the best part of my day. The grounds are so beautiful and so well manicured. There wasn't a single blade of grass that looked out of place. Check-in and check-out was very speedy. There are a couple English/American TV channels to watch in the rooms if desired. My favourite thing about this resort is that it was so tropical, it felt like we were in the middle of a jungle. There were monkeys everywhere, toads everywhere, beautiful birds chirping all the time, and crabs. The beach has plenty of lounge chairs and is very clean. There are areas with shade and those without. There is also a little market from which you can buy souvenirs.


There are so many infants and abnoxious kids running around everywhere. These kids were cannon-balling into the pool/splashing dry guests on the patios, and it was chaos. To say the least, we spent minimal time in the pool because it was so loud and dirty with cups, straws, and sand by the end of the day. We came to relax and were hoping to not have to deal with crazy children whose parents cannot control them. But that's not the hotel's fault, all i'm trying to point out is that this is more of a family resort than anything else. It is NOT refined; it is loud and sloppy, but comfortable, to put it nicely. The drinks are definitely not their forte, however the Blue Hawaaian and mojitos seemed to be the best ones. The rooms were not clean, but then again, it was pretty standard for these kinds of resorts. Our sinks had hair and soap scum in/on them when we checked in, and the shower mat was slimy. The shower curtain was also stained and pretty gross to look at so we showered with it open. There is also a pretty big step to get into the tub, which might not be good for seniors or those with limited mobility. The lobby offers 90 minutes of free wifi every 24 hours (to the minute) but it works very slowly. Try to use it when no one else is in the lobby. The A La Carte restaurants are not even worth going to. "Toucan" is disgusting, in fact we watched about 3 tables get up half way through dinner service and leave. I felt bad because the servers were genuinely concerned with why these guests left. In addition, the green sofa chairs in Toucan are invested with ants so you'll also want to avoid sitting on them and opt for a chair instead. The steakhouse seemed better, however I do not eat beef so my opinion doesn't really count for much. When they say the sports bar has food 24 hours, they mean the left over buffet food gets put into plastic containers and shoved into a self-serve fridge. It did not look appealing. The nightly entertainment seemed cheesy from afar, but then again, we didn't watch a single show. There are several locals on the resort. The comments from others that say this are true. I watched with my own eyes as a van pulled up with a local liscence plate and unloaded a family that knew someone who looked like a hotel manager. They were then escorted into the resort. On that Thursday, the resort was at its limit because it must have been locals night. They invested the resort which is not okay with me, personally. The worst part of the resort is that NOTHING IS AIR-CONDITIONED except for the bedrooms. NOTHING.

***Please be advised: Do not forget to pack shampoo and conditioner because the hotel does not offer any. There are gift shops at which you can purchase sunscreen and other stuff, however they are SO expensive. For example, a small bottle of sunscreen is around $40 USD, while a big bag of chips is around $10. I cannot fathom spending money like that, so if you're the same way, come prepared!!!! I also highly recommend booking excursions through the hotel. We booked one through the hotel and the other through a company on the beach called Unique. The hotel trip to Nicaragua was probably the best thing I have ever done in my entire life. It was simply perfect, there are no complaints! The beach trip was really ghetto and overpriced. The guide barely acknowledged our existence and did not communicate with us. He took us to off-the-beaten-path places (which was nice) that was definitely not worth what we paid. In addition, he left us hanging at each place, out in the middle of nowhere!!!!! And lastly, there are kittens in the lobby by the jewelery shop. They come out at about 6pm... Please feed them! They loved the fresh chicken from the buffet. The poor things looked like bobble heads because they were so skinny.

In conclusion, if you are travelling with kids, this might be the place for you. If you are travelling with adults and are looking to relax, please spend the extra few hundred bucks and go next door to the Riu Palace. IT'S WORTH IT. TRUST ME.

Room Tip: Second or third floor jungle view is the most ideal room for monkey sightings!
See more room tips
  • Stayed May 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 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.
Write a Review

4,108 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
See reviews for
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 (1,307)
Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Simplified) first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Cartago, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
12 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
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
See more room tips
  • 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Moline, Illinois
Level Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 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...
See more room tips
  • 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 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
See more room tips
  • 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
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 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.
See more room tips
  • 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
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 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.
See more room tips
  • 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.
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
Price Your Stay
Hotels you might also like...

Been to Hotel Riu Guanacaste? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

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 
Reservation Options:
TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Expedia, BookIt.com, Caribbean Online Mgt Corp., Hotels.com, Travelocity and Priceline so you can book your Hotel Riu Guanacaste reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
Also Known As:
Hotel Riu Guanacaste Costa Rica

Owners: What's your side of the story?

If you own or manage Hotel Riu Guanacaste, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.