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“Beautiful Hotel” 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
Lebanon, Virginia
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
“Beautiful Hotel”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 19, 2014

My best friend and I try to take a vacation once a year to a new tropical place. This was the first time that we ventured to Central America and really enjoyed ourselves. Beautiful hotel! We had a room on the side of the hotel and were able to see the howler monkeys one of the mornings from our balcony.

The beds are pretty hard and the pillows pretty flat, but it wasn't that hard to adjust to. We would call to have the refrigerator stocked more than every other day and it was never a problem.

The food was surprisingly good. I think that a lot of times, people expect US 5 star food when they go on a vacation like this. For a relatively cheap all-inclusive resort, the food was great. It was really annoying getting your reservations for dinner but most of the all-inclusive's do have an annoying process. The Italian and Asian restaurants do not require a reservation and you can just go up to the host and if there is a wait, they will provide you with a cell phone to call you when your table is ready.

The water was great! We did see a lot of fish and actually a group of us were feeding them ice cream cones. A lot of people in other reviews talked about how rough the water was...I would have to say that I didn't find it rough at all (if you have been to the Outer Banks in NC, you will think this is like a pool!).

I would definitely suggest getting a massage at the tents on the beach as they are super cheap! Carlos and Juanita were great!

There were a lot of kids/babies at the resort. The pool could get a little overcrowded with kids, especially if you were trying to relax on one of the water chairs.

If you ask for Smirnoff vodka or Bacardi rum they will give it to you. They also had a few other "top shelf" liquors that you could just ask for.

If you are a smoker of any kind, I strongly suggest bringing vapor/e-cigs. There is one designated area for smoking on the resort and if you wanted to have a cigar while watching the shows, you can't do that.

I think that the worst part for us was on our last full day, a company retreat came in and took over both the Riu and the Riu Palace, so it was insane with the crowds. If they had been there the entire week that we were and no one from the resort warned us, I would be pretty annoyed, but since it was one day, we figured we could deal with it.

We did the Mega Combo excursion and had SO much fun! If you plan on taking a lot of excursions, I don't know that an all-inclusive is worth your money as you could get a pretty nice hotel that includes breakfast and then just grab dinner after your excursions.

Also a group of us that met at the resort booked a cab and went to Coco Beach one night. It was a lot fun!

A lot of the locals hate the Riu group as they are probably one of the worst mega resorts when it comes to conservation... or so we were told.

Room Tip: I would ask for a room on a higher level so that you can better see the monkeys!
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  • Stayed June 2014, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 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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3,760 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 (1,197)
Date | Rating
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  • English first
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  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
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English first
Denver, Colorado
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 18, 2014

Stayed at the Riu on August 10th. This hotel was extremely crowded. Buffets were destroyed by parentless kids. The pool and pool bar were over run by bees. The 1hr I was at the pool I saw 3 people stung by bees. You could not even sit at the wet bar is was so hazadarous. Beach is nothing to write home about. One of my least favorite of Costa Rica. Then there is the 3am power washing of the sidewalks. I don't know if this happens every night but just figure if it does you will be up watching TV. Also our room bar/mini fridge was not stocked upon arrival and after several calls to the front desk I just gave up. House keeping is severely lacking. Found dirty socks in the night stand and a half drank bottle of soda in the fridge. For the amount of money you spend here this place is not worth it. Look elsewhere.

Stayed August 2014, traveled with family
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 18, 2014

Traveled to Riu Guanacaste Aug 8-15, and overall it was a fantastic experience. There seems to be a lot of negativity from a few reviewers, but a lot of these complaints can be avoided.

The food is decent for an all inclusive. As stated by some reviewers, the breakfast is the best meal of the day. Great pastries, fresh fruit, waffles, pancakes, eggs, etc. Lunches are fine as there is usually a large selection. Many seem to complain about reservations for 2/5 restaurants on the property. The reservation system is not uncommon and is actually not difficult at all- if you are going on an excursion and cannot make the reservation, book another night. You can also book the day of if they are not full. The other 3 restaurants do not require reservations.

Our hotel room was facing the jungle and very quiet. I can understand how people may be annoyed if they are ontop of the entertainment stage, but this can easily be avoided by simply stating that you would like to be far away from this at check-in. You can also simply ask the front desk staff about what type of room you have before checking in- a little bit of forethought goes a long way. The beds may be a little hard, but we both slept fine.

The grounds are absolutely stunning and the pool is fantastic. The pool bar does have bees around it, but you can easily grab a drink and head to a different area of the pool or back to lounging near the pool. The beach is black sand and does require you to wear shoes/sandals. A word of advice- if you are looking to kayak or paddle boat, it does require a reservation but that can be made at anytime. Snorkeling does not require a reservation. The people complaining about the pool/beach area most likely encountered a single bad experience which colored their entire trip. The music is completely fine- a mix of top 40 as well as Spanish songs. If you dislike it, just put in headphones and listen to your own music. As for lounging- there is absolutely no possible way someone can complain about not being able to get a chair. There is an abundance of chairs- granted the later in the day you wait, the less prime spots are available- however there are plenty available.

I would agree that the entertainment is lacking even though they do try hard. Your best bet is to grab a few drinks and take a walk, sit by the pool, casino, walk on the beach etc.

Many complain about the drinks and the 'bottom of the shelf' liquor, but all you had to do is ask for Bacardi, Smirnoff, etc. Just ask for whatever drink you order with it- very simple and the bartenders are happy to do it.

The last thing to mention are the locals on the weekend. Yes it is a bit more crowded, but even with the influx of people, the hotel does a great job catering to everyone. During the week they have drink service at the lounging seats near the pool, and a drink cart set up at the beach. They also have different drink tables set up during the week that feature things like sangria, coconut drinks, tequila, etc. It was a very nice touch.

Overall fantastic trip and I would definitely recommend the hotel.

Room Tip: Rooms not above the entertainment are quiter
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  • Stayed August 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Allentown, Pennsylvania
1 review
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 18, 2014

We, my wife and I, took our first trip to Costa Rica and stayed at the Riu Guanacaste All Inclusive. The resort, food and staff are all terrific. One thing, however, that was a big bummer was on Friday when the locals arrived which, we were told, happens every weekend. The hotel went from 800 to 1700 in the afternoon. Once they arrived many of the nice amenities mysteriously disappeared. No more servers coming around the pool. The portable beach bar went from serving mixed drinks and beer to water only. The coffee liquor bar in the lobby disappeared as did the snack sandwiches in the Sports Bar. It became very crowded. One employee told us that some double occupancy rooms now had five and that one of the reservation only restaurants had a booking for a table of 14. The pool became a complete zoo, trashed, and we spent our last two days there at the beach which was a little more tolerable.

On the plus side the beach vendors were all terrific, not pushy at all and very friendly. Every excursion that people we met went on had only great reviews. We went to Nicaragua for the day and it was terrific. Also, the beach massages are very affordable and also terrific. We highly recommend them. We went to Janet who is located next to the sister RIU next door. Also, for excursions we recommend searching out Maurice on the RIU Guanacaste beach. Five stars to him.

We would definitely go back here but recommend setting your trip up for arrival and departure mid-week. Do your excursions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday the local crowd should not be a bother

Overall, we had a great experience at the Riu Guanacaste despite the crowd!

Room Tip: Beautiful views of the jungle to the North or ocean to the West. Very exotic with the mountains.
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  • Stayed August 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 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.
Rockledge, Florida
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 17, 2014

I recently took a trip to The RIU Guanacaste with a group of friends. The problems started as soon as we arrived. When we arrived they gave us a room that had one queen bed and a child sized movable cot in the corner. There were three grown women staying in one room. We went downstairs to ask why we were given that room at the front desk. Daniela was who helped us. She was rude and didn't want to change our rooms. It wasn't until I asked for her name and went to call my travel agent that she decided to change our rooms. We were then given a much more suitable room for three adults; however the air-condition was not working in that room. We had to stay in a hotel room with no A/C for the entire night. We called for it to be fixed by no one ever came to fix it until I again went to the reservation desk to complain the next morning. Finally the A/C was temporarily fixed. I say that because it went out again 2 days later but they fixed it immediately and it worked correctly for the duration for the trip. The toilet would run for hours. Maintenance came to our room at least twice a day to fix the toilet which means we couldn't use the restroom a lot during the day.
One interesting thing happened. We heard a noise and it happened to be a crab in our room crawling across the floor. We had a good laugh at that. We were on the first floor so things like that happen on islands. We weren't upset about that.
The pool was nice although it closed quite early. The food was good. I didn't care for the Tucan restaurant. The service was poor in that restaurant.
The excursions and tours were amazing. We had an amazing time when we were away from the resort. The people were friendly and helpful.
I've stayed at RIU resorts in many different countries. This was the first time I have had an unpleasant experience. I was highly disappointed by the lack of professionalism by the staff. I was also disappointed at the number of things that went wrong with the facilities. I can only hope they retrain their staff with better customer service and get better working equipment in the rooms.

Room Tip: Rooms with a rainforest view are quieter but have more insects.
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  • Stayed July 2014, traveled with friends
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 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.
Harrogate, United Kingdom
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
35 helpful votes 35 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 17, 2014

Ok, we are British and spent a lot of money travelling 24h each way to get here and our last holiday was a 5* Hilton all inclusive so expectations were very high.

Airport - transportation@liberiacostaricainfo.com were great. 49USD each way, great vehicles, great drivers and prompt. The company is run by an American called Terry.

Initial impression - checked in smoothly and promptly, and when reception learned we were on honeymoon, they arranged a big plate of fruit and some other bits. Happy.

Food. Ignore any review that slates the food, it is excellent. There were many uneducated people who seemed unable to use any utensil other than a fork. This is used in a hunched position, shovelling the food as quickly as possible. Please, in a fine-dining restaurant this makes you look like a moron.

We booked Steakhouse once and Tucan twice (obviously impossible to book...) and ate once at the Asian and twice at the Italian. All was great, albeit a bit difficult for some who eat burger/cheese/hot dog. The beef carpaccio in the Italian was to die for. The beef fillet and cevicci at the Tucan simply amazing. Breakfast is a scrum some days, but only around the fried eggs and omelette. There are other things to try people. Top tip - if you like tea, cold milk needs to be procured from the cereal area.

Lunch is at the buffet, Steakhouse or actually grilled at the pool.

Pool. OK, the elephant in the room. The bees. Funnily enough, the majority of the reviewers neglect to mention this is in an amazing wildlife area. Lots of flowers, so lots of bees. And the fruit around the pool bar attracts them. They didn't sting anyone who I spoke with and there aren't that many. It's nature, get over it. The pool is lovely and loads of places to enjoy a drink. Loungers are over plentiful and whilst it does get busier with "locals" or to those of us who aren't packing some prejudice "other fee-paying guests".

The beach always has space and the music is never loud before the games at 3pm. Pool boys constantly clean any dead insects out. The worst contamination was courtesy of an obese teenager who was allowed to drink surgery drinks after packing in a massive lunch. That took some clean-up!

Drinks. These are not 'watered' - if you think they are then again, no knowledge. For beer, it needs to be done on a large scale, much bigger than one hotel to be cost effective and you can see if they are (again not). If you want a vodka and coke, that's what you get. If you ask for Smirnoff and coke, again what you get.

Wine was hit and miss, but the Red at the a La carte's was good. Learn some Spanish - it makes you seem like you are trying.

Beach. Great fun playing in waves, some Snorkeling and we walked off at 4pm one day to simply say that we had our own beach!

Trips - Nicaragua is a must, as is the adventure/zip-lining. We booked through Tam at the front desk and got similar prices to the beach.

Shows - didn't really watch much but done to a high standard of dancing.

Let-down. The house-keeping was not good enough. Our room missed twice. Reception arranged it sorted within minutes of my call.

Overall, this place is amazing. It's probably very cheap for some and that explains some reviews. We would come again. Riu - get direct UK companies on board tbh. Come here if you have an open mind and are looking for new experiences. Don't if you can't use a knife.

Stayed August 2014, traveled as a couple
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 17, 2014

My husband and I took a 10 day trip to Costa Rica. We stayed at the Riu for 4 nights and it was a great stay. It's all inclusive (food and alcoholic beverages). The only negative I have to mention is there were so many people staying there, very crowded. This is a place for those who like a party and meet new people. It's Not for someone who is looking for quiet and low key. The grounds were beautifully maintained. The food was good for an all inclusive place. The staff were very friendly and helpful. Our room faced the jungle so we were greeted with howler monkeys in the morning. That was cool! This hotel is like a little city with shops, a medical facility, clubs, and a casino. Definitely lots to do, not to mention excursions you can book. One of the best times at the Riu were the massages. My husband and I were approached by the many people selling stuff on the beach behind the Riu. One person in particular named Esteban, offered us a massage package of $65 for my husband and I! The hotel was like $80 per person. We took the deal and it was the BEST money we spent. Esteban's wife Marlene gave us the massage and she was awesome! The best we have ever had. We ended up booking another one the next day. I HIGHLY recommend anyone to get a massage with her. They are also the nicest couple! Overall, we had a great experience at the Riu despite the crowd (my husband and I prefer a quieter, more toned down atmosphere). I would definitely recommend it especially for those who like a fun and energetic hotel.

  • Stayed June 2014
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 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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