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“Remote Resort with Amazing Views” 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
New York City, New York
1 review
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
“Remote Resort with Amazing Views”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 22, 2014

For our one year anniversary, my boyfriend and I decided to travel to Costa Rica for an exotic vacation. Having stayed at various RIUs, I suggested we stay at the RIU Guanacaste.

First Impression: The resort is grand and beautiful to look at. Large lobby with sculptures and fountains; lush gardens; ample pools; amazing views of the ocean and mountains.

Our Room: The term “ocean front” was used loosely in the hotel’s description, as our room had only a partial view of the beach. If you book an ocean view room, I’d suggest asking to be on the far left or right corners of the hotel since they have full view of the sea. Otherwise, our room was clean, spacious, fully stocked, air conditioned and comfortable.

Restaurants: Food has never been RIU’s strength and this location was no different. Your best bet would be to go to the buffet for dinner as there’s more variety for picky eaters. If you choose to make a dinner reservation, make sure to get there early since spots fill up QUICKLY.

Pool & Beach: The beach is HOT. Walking on the sand was no joke and the sun is strong, but the water is warm and the view of the mountains made everything worthwhile. You’ll find plenty of local vendors on the beach to buy souvenirs from and for $25 we booked an hour long massage which was EVERYTHING. If you prefer to lounge during the day, the pool is the place to be. With two large pools at the resort, you’ll have plenty of space to swim, drink lay out and relax. The only downside is the pool bar which is overrun by bees. Ordering a drink at the bar was daunting and sadly it’s not something you get used to. You’re better off ordering a drink before entering the pool.

Nightlife: There are only three options for nighttime entertainment – the nightly show, Pacha and the casino. Both the show and disco were mediocre in terms of entertainment value, but since there isn’t much else to do; I’d suggest checking both out.

Excursions: After weighing our options, we chose to use the local beach vendors to purchase our excursions. For $135, we swam in a gorgeous waterfall, went horseback riding, zip-lined through the rainforest, viewed inactive volcanos, and relaxed in a volcanic spa. Also for $135, we traveled to Nicaragua and visited local towns and markets, went on a boat ride, and toured an active volcano. Though the majority of our time was spent in the van driving to the various locations, overall, both excursions, money well spent!

Final Impression: Costa Rica and RIU have a lot to offer. Whether you prefer to relax by the pool all day or go out and explore the country, RIU Guanacaste provides all of the luxuries and conveniences you need to have an enjoyable vacation. Would I go back? Fo’ sho!

  • Stayed July 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 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.
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Rating summary
  • 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)
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English first
New York
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 22, 2014

I am writing this review to dispel or agree with all of the other reviews ive read before my vacation.

Airport - If you book your hotel on the RIU site or any other site for that matter. Purchase the 90 dollar hotel transfer (for 2) beforehand and NOT at the airport. We ended up paying 75 dollars from the airport and then 50 dollars back (purchased in the hotel lobby). Also pay the extra 3 dollars and pay your exit taxes in the hotel lobby(32 dollars card only), it will be worth the time you save in the airport. Also bring a pen with you, seems simple but we made that mistake and it was very annoying asking people as you will need to use it at least 3 times.

Hotel - The resort is beautiful, they take very good care of the grounds and lobby areas. Hotel lobby is wide open with over 30 ceiling fans and we did not have a problem with being uncomfortably hot(as other people have said in reviews) Its Costa RIca, expect to be hot and expect for there to be bugs/animals. Just make sure u pack bug spray and suntan lotion. If you buy it at the resort it is 30 dollars but something we noticed, in the far store theres a section in the back that sells natural products(i.e volcano mud mask, facial cleanser etc) there's sunblock spf 50 and 30 in a green bottle that i believe was 12 or 15 dollars. If you need sunblock i suggest you go with that.

Room - We had a oceanview room in the middle of resort, if possible we would have called before hand and ask them to put us on the far side or the right side. From there you will get a better view of the sunset. From our room the side of the resort blocked the west view but it was amazing nonetheless. Also people complain about a kind bed being 2 twins pushed together. Its only 2 twin box springs pushed (and secured together) with a king mattress on top of it. honestly if you dont look you most likely wouldnt be able to tell. there wasnt any dip in the middle of the bed that made me aware of that it was 2 twin box springs.

Food - The food for me wasn't good. This would be my main complain, you can tell the food prep and delivery was rushed due to the large scale of the hotel. The flavors lacked although we did find something to eat every night. Also bbq night was our favorite where the beef steak and grilled chicken was very delicious. On our anniversary we made reservations at Ocotal (make sure you make reservations early as they book up fast) The steak was good but everything else was poor, we almost walked out and did not even wait to the dessert came. This wasnt totally due to the food but also there are like small bat sized moths that get trapped in the outdoor area and are to dumb to get out. It made our eating experience very uncomfortable.

Pool - The pool was always warm and nice to be in. There are ALOT of bees by pool bar and dead bees in that area but after a couple of days you kind of get used to it. They dont sting u or buzz by your ear..They are just prevalent in large numbers which could make it stressful waiting for your drink. I wish the staff did implement more hygienic ways to organize their fruit and syrupy sugar drinks to avoid bees.

Beach - It is the darkest beach Ive ever been on and it does get very hot at times. Also there are ample seats for everyone as i know in some other resorts you HAVE to go out early to reserve a seat. Here it actually seems like more people hang out by the pool than beach. The locals selling souvenirs do tend to get annoying as most of them are selling the same exact thing. Also bring water shoes, there are alot of small rocks and pebbles towards the shallow end of the ocean and it makes it annoying being in the water at times. The views are what makes the beach amazing not so much the sand and water.

Entertainment - The entertainment is very hit or miss, they have some talented dancers but coming from NYC our standard for organized choreography is alot higher than the average person but even with that aside the performances weren't very engaging. The most fun entertainment experiences Ive been involved in at other resorts are when they have the men doing silly stuff etc on stage. Here they are more like performances with horrible lip singing attempts and female dancers who are at various levels of expertise. I truly feel that RIU can afford to bring in expert teachers atleast to put together a show and train these dancers on the basics enough to have a strong dancing routine. Their club 'pacha' was also interesting to say the least. It does get crowded since it does serve both the RIU Guanacaste and the RIU Palace but one of the nights there were no AC and you have to pay for drinks there and not for bacardi/smirnoff but for the 'cortez' brand that they serve in the actual resort. I truly dont get the logic in that, if you are going to sell alcohol on a all inclusive resort, then you might as well make it a liquor that you wouldnt normally get in your room/lobby. They probably would get more sales that way, i would have def paid for some grey goose. Also please be wary of the local male staff hitting on you at these clubs. Most if not all of the day to day staff on the resort live in a near by RIU staff quarters so as would any 20-30 year old male would do is go out at night. But being a guy myself even i could see what they were after, if you are single and there for fun then this may be right up your alley but if you are a parent and decide to let your 18 year old daughter go out to dance then just be aware of that. The music is subpar but i am also very biased and the 3 nights that we went to the club it seemed to have the same soundtrack, with different small variations. If they play the electric slide, then the wobble and finally cha cha slide then you will know what im speaking about.

All in all it was a beautiful resort and along with our excursions we had a great time. Im in no rush to travel back to Costa Rica, as there are a lot of other places id like to visit but i would definitely recommend it to any of my friends or whoever reads this review.

  • Stayed July 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Athens, Tx
Contributor
15 reviews 15 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
22 helpful votes 22 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 22, 2014

The Riu Guanacaste is a fairly new, very large AI resort. Rooms were nice enough and the resort itself was pretty (kind of a Mediterranean feel to it). Beautiful area, nice beach, with a rocky hillside that comes down to the ocean on one side that adds to its seclusion, although its smaller sister resort Riu Palace is immediately next door. The food was fresh and varied on the buffet and there is a mild dress code for the evening. There are three restaurants that require reservations; a steak house, Italian, and Asian. We missed the steakhouse, and liked the Asian the best (we were very disappointed in the Italian fare). It was crowded the week we were there because of a large number of Costa Ricans there for the World Cup in which their national team had advanced, but we were still able to get right in to the restaurants without a long wait. The staff was very friendly and most spoke English. We heard Howler monkeys in the distance but didn't see any. It has a large winding pool area with a bar of course (again very crowded while we were there) and spa and fitness center nearby. The evening entertainment was by a very energetic and athletic dance troupe (but you may not want your young children to view because of the skimpy costumes!).

  • Stayed July 2014, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 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.
New york
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 22, 2014

First time in the place nice looking view lovely to stay...
Very good service and clean place.
Accomodation is very good too. Me and my wife celebrates our anniversary and this is my gift to her and she loves it.

Highly recommend

  • Stayed July 2014
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 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.
Toronto, Canada
Contributor
15 reviews 15 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed July 21, 2014

The Riu Guanacaste is listed as as five-star resort, but it's pretty average on the scale of all-inclusives. We were there for a wedding and had a blast because we were with awesome people and the wedding was beautiful, but I doubt we'd go back to this resort on our own - although we'd come back to Costa Rica in a heartbeat.

The positives: absolutely beautiful beach, weather is fantastic (although it said it would rain every day it only rained twice and for a short period of time), rooms are pretty nice for an all-inclusive, food at the a la cartes is pretty good. Service staff is awesome - everyone's really nice and helpful. Casino across the street is really fun. Awesome paid excursions and activities (renting a car to drive to Tamarindo or Coco Beach, ATV-ing, seadooing, tons of day trips).

The negatives: shows are cheesy and what you would expect at a typical all-inclusive. Impossible to make reservations for the a la cartes - you have to go a day in advance and they're always booked up, and the walk-in restaurants (Italian and Oriental) are always half-empty yet you have to wait 30-40 minutes for a table. Although our room was pretty nice we had a big ant problem in our bathroom. Disco doesn't have free drinks. Like other all-inclusives, you have to get a pool chair early or they're all booked up (but plenty of chairs on the beach). Free Wifi in the lobby is spotty at best, especially during peak hours.

Excursions: We did two excursions. The first was to Nicaragua, which was amazing but extremely long. We visited the old colonial city of Granada, which is really charming and historic. We also went to the active Masaya volcano, which was stunning, and a local crafts market. Well worth the trip but a long day (5am to 9:30pm), with about 3 hours of driving each way and a long stop at the border. Second excursion was an adventure tour to the Buena Vista lodge, and it was the highlight of our trip. Horseback riding, hiking to a gorgeous waterfall, mud baths and hot springs, and zip lining. Well worth the $90. We booked the Nicaragua excursion through the hotel, and the adventure tour through the guys in pink shirts on the beach (we were able to get a private tour because we had enough people).

Tips:
- Get massages on the beach rather than through the hotel (just walk down to the beach to the right, past the souvenir stands). Massages there are $25-$30 each for an hour, and are absolutely amazing.
- Bring cash with you, American bills in small denominations - there's no ATM on the resort (although there is one at the casino across the street)
- Walk down the beach to the monkey bar - expensive drinks, but fun to get off the resort, and they say the monkeys come out around 3-4pm (we didn't see any there, but did see a bunch on our adventure tour)
- You can buy a coconut on the beach for $2 - delicious. Near the souvenir stands and massage tables

Overall this is a pretty standard, basic all-inclusive - the beach and local culture/activities are what makes it amazing and sets it apart from other resorts we've been to in Dominican Republic and Mexico.

  • Stayed July 2014, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 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.
Columbus, Ohio, United States
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 21, 2014

The wife and I had a great week at the Riu, very beutifull resort, the scenery was great with a goregous beach, the mountains on either side, plants on the grounds was great. We were on the rain forest side and were greeted each morning with howler monkey;s outside our balcony.
The staff were very polite, worked hard and had no issues, the bartenders do a great job. The pool was very nice and the beach was great, we fed the fish bread every day. The food was average, not bad but not breathtaking, but we do not vacation for the food. We really have nothing bad to say about our week, we would go back. love Costa Rica

Room Tip: We liked the forest side because of the birds and monkeys
See more room tips
  • Stayed July 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 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.
New Jersey
Top Contributor
51 reviews 51 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 19 cities Reviews in 19 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 21, 2014

My family and I, 4 adults and 2 kids (ages 8 & 12) had an amazing vacation at the Riu. The location was beautiful and everything about Costa Rica is amazing. Here's the Pros and Cons:

PROS:
Right on the beach, ocean was great!
They have a few vendors set up on the beach with amazing souvenirs, really nice guys.
Massages on the beach are $30 for an hour!! Check it out!!!
Rooms and grounds were very clean.
The buffet was great!! We're not big buffet people but that ended up being our favorite restaurant. There were tons of choices and everything was yummy. Italian and Japanese restaurants were good too and you didn't need a reservation.
Manicures and pedicures at the spa were great!


Cons:
The sand is black so it's hot. Just wear flip flops and you're good.
Beds were hard as a rock but most places have the same problem. Just have a few drinks and you won't feel a thing!
You need to make reservations the day ahead for the steakhouse and the gourmet. Honestly didn't love the steakhouse but the gourmet was pretty good. Kind of a pain to make the reservation the day ahead if you're doing an excursion or just relaxing by the pool.
The spa massages were not that great.
More machines needed at the gym. Every time we went it was packed.
Wifi for 90 minutes a day but only in the lobby.

Tips:
Do excursions- Costa Rica is gorgeous!!
We did the zip lining tour to Vandara Springs.....simply amazing!! It included transportation, zip lining (10 lines), horseback riding, water slide (could have done without that- it's concrete), mud bath and hot springs. Also got an absolutely amazing organic lunch. Our group all got beef or chicken and it was hands done, best we've ever had! They also have a photographer and it's only $25 for a CD with all your pictures. Great day! The adults and kids all loved it. Make sure to bring bug spray!
We also did the Canyon zip lining tour and it was fun but the zip lining at Vandara was better. Although the canyon tour had white water tubing and that was a blast in itself!
We did a Catamaran to the different beaches with snorkeling at the end. Food, drinks and staff were fantastic and the catamaran was very nice. They pick you right up at the hotel beach. We got to see the sunset also. Snorkeling wasn't that great though but we still had a great day.
The hotel also has shuttles to Coco Beach and Tamarindo. We wanted to check out Tamarindo but didn't have time (we've heard great things though). Took the shuttle to Coco Beach for $20 per person (round trip). Coco Beach was cool for the beach part but we really didn't like the shops. Stopped for lunch at Z Bar and had a nice time there but found the shops to be pricey and not willing to negotiate.
Went on the day trip to Nicaragua and we all absolutely loved it. Beautiful country. Very long day, 5am to 8pm but totally worth it. Stopped in the old Spanish influenced city of Granada, got to see an active volcano and enjoyed the shops and food (included breakfast and lunch). At the end of the tour, our guide surprised everyone with maracas that had our names carved into them. Really great day!!

All in all my entire family really enjoyed the Riu Guanacaste and we would recommend it!

  • Stayed July 2014, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Hotel Riu Guanacaste

Address: | Playa Matapalo, Sardinal, Costa Rica
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Guanacaste > Gulf of Papagayo > Sardinal
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Casino and Gambling Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 3 Hotels in Sardinal
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Hotel Riu Guanacaste 4*
Number of rooms: 701
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Opening winter 2009/10. Situated in northern Costa Rica, in Guanacaste. Located on Playa de Matapalo beach. Complimentary sun loungers on the beach. 6-storey main building. Surrounded by 35,000 m2 / 41,86 sq. yards of lush gardens. Closest village: Nuevo Colon. 13 km / 8.1 miles from various shops. 33 km / 20.5 miles from Liberia airport. Credit cards accepted: MasterCard, Amex, Visa ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Hotel Riu Guanacaste Costa Rica

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