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“Good, but victim of theft - and it was our honeymoon! Nothing special was done for it though!” 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
Toronto, Ontario
1 review
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
“Good, but victim of theft - and it was our honeymoon! Nothing special was done for it though!”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed December 22, 2009

We stayed at the Riu for 12 days for our honeymoon. It was our first trip to a Riu and we had heard such good things. It was a let down for sure. In spite of being told by our travel agent that it was our honeymoon, nothing special was done and our room was in the remotest and least scenic area in the hotel - at least it was pretty quiet there! I also followed up with the desk to see if anything would be done for this speacial event andy they told me to talk to the travel company rep. Unfortunately, the Sunquest Rep was never at the hotel. They had another company acting as their rep at the hotel and they didn't know about anything other than excursions.

We unfortunately had a camera stolen from our hotel room near the end of the stay. The staff did very little when the theft was reported. Lots of people were the victims of theft at this hotel, including having their safes robbed and reset.

Bring bug spray if staying at this resort - we were constantly being bitten by bugs, including flies and mosquitos. If you eat at the steakhouse in the evening - be prepared for bugs all over the tables (and your dishware).

One of our biggest problems with this place (other than the theft) is the lack of control over the behaviour of children at the resort. The kids were running wild, engaging in dangerous behaviour and staff (including managers who witnessed such behaviour) didn't say a word and allowed them to continue. For example, they were diving off of the upper level of the pool into the lower level without regard for other swimmers, the shallowness of the pool and the risk of slipping off the wall or the rock wall. Kids were using the bar pool as their personal play ground, taking beach balls and floating beds into this small area, jumping and splashing into this pool area etc. There are water fountains in the middle of the pool that kids were using to spray everyone in the area, including those trying to read around the outside of the pool on the beds. Parents - a hint - a vacation is not a vacation from parenting. Riu - you need to step up when parents won't so that other guests are not detrimentally affected by such behaviour.

At this time - until the problems are solved - I would not recommend this hotel if you are looking for a 4 or 5 star hotel.

P.S. the spa was nice.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 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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3,666 reviews from our community

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  • 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
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English first
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 21, 2009

quick 5 night getaway along with our 23 yr . old son. we are seasoned travellers who do not usually do large all inclusive hotels. were pleasantly surprised. we dove 5 times with the affiliated dive operation - very good.
booked the suba & other tours before leaving toronto.
XPLORECOSTARICA arranged our scuba + a great beach/cantina tour - highly recommend them.
MEMO TOURS took us on a guided hike & was also excellent.
as mentioned the buffet food great, staff very friendly & facilities great.
outside dining attracts the smokers as does the swim up bar, nice!
beware - theft of belongings reported around the pool & also from the room safe.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 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.
Western Nebraska
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
35 helpful votes 35 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 21, 2009

My husband and I just got married at the Riu last week and we had a wonderful time.

Location: Secluded and a little far from the airport, however i am told that most resorts are a ways from the airport. It takes about an hour to get to the hotel from Liberia and part of the road is dirt. (FYI-When you pass the power plant you are almost there!)

Lourdes (The Wedding Coordinator)-She made everything so easy! All we had to do was show up. The ceremony location on the beach is just beautiful. The flowers and cake turned out great. We definitely recommend this place if you’re thinking of getting married in CR.

Roads: All the roads in CR are very bumpy. We were not expecting this. Even the highways are rough.

Staff: The staff was great! Very friendly and attentive. We noticed that we were the only ones tipping though...not sure why. When we go to all inclusives we always tip the staff a couple dollars per meal. Rubin and Oscar at the buffet were extremely pleasant and hardworking.

Food: The food was descent, and you will not starve. If you want high quality food, I wouldn't suggest an all-inclusive, but we always found something to eat. The fresh fruit was spectacular. The dinner buffet had sushi rolls, which was an added bonus. There are 3 specialty restaurants and we liked the Asian one the best. However the Italian place and the Steakhouse were fine all well. The buffet actually had a ton of choices, and you'll be fine eating there every night!

Beach: The water is dark and the waves can be rough, but what do you expect from the Pacific side.

Pool: The pool seemed like the place to be. They have games throughout the day (volleyball, polo, etc) if you're interested in that, otherwise there are plenty of chairs to lounge in.

Rooms/Hotel: The hotel was very clean and nicely decorated. Given that it’s brand new you would expect it to be. The rooms were nice. We had a huge suite that overlooked the pool and ocean and had a Jacuzzi tub, so we couldn’t complain.

Entertainment: The nightly shows were entertaining and gave you something to do. The dancers work very hard to impress, and that they do. If you want Broadway quality, go to Broadway.

Massages on the beach: You can get an hour’s massage on the beach for $30 vs. $90 at the massage.

Tours: There are several tour operators on the beach that offer the same tours that you’ll find in the lobby, but at a fraction of the cost. I would definitely check out these before booking a tour. There are also ATVs and jet skis that you can rent on the beach.

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our time in CR. We enjoyed all the wildlife, including the howler monkeys (which you can hear at night and see during the day if you walk down the beach a little ways.) We also saw several species of birds and insects, a sting ray and lots of crabs. There is a white beach that you can walk to from the hotel (it’s down a little ways and somewhat challenging to get to) but it’s covered in sea shells and is a very cool sight to see.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 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
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 21, 2009

Just Returned! (Dec. 20th) My husband, two children (10 & 8) and I.

Our past travels - Dominican (Riu Bachata) and Mexico (Riu Vallarta). The Riu Guanacaste is my favourite and probably because I enjoyed the country and it’s people so much. Our experience was wonderful and that’s because we went for the adventure and not to hang out at the pool bar.

The hotel is clean including the rooms. The bed was not as hard as previous travellers wrote and the bathroom was a great size with double sinks.

The staff where professional, pleasant and organized.

The entertainment staff are great! It’s evident they enjoy their jobs of entertaining travellers all day long.

The food at the buffet was delicious with lots of choices. We did make it to the Steak House one night and the service was great while the food was ok.

The locals on the beach in front of the hotel are pleasant and the merchants ask fair price for the souvenirs.

We did the mega combo Canopy Tour through Swiss Travel and it was worth every penny. My husband and son did the snorkeling adventure through the Scuba group and very much enjoyed it.

We accepted a private tour off the grounds from one of the entertainment staff who talked about the country, the people and the wildlife. This tour took place daily at 5:00 pm and I recommend it those who want to learn about the hotel surroundings.

Some of the wildlife we saw on and off the hotel grounds where, snakes (one small one on the hotel grounds and a large boa in a tree off hotel grounds), krickets 12” in lenght, turtles on the beach in front of the hotel, reptiles in the wild, beautiful birds and butterflies, large spiders, small scorpions, tiger ants and howler monkeys.

Costa Rica has the most amazing looking trees and foilage, be sure to walk the hotel perimature to see for yourself.

The bad – other travellers who expect everthing on a silver platter. These are people from all nations who can never be pleased, complained about a 10 minute construction delay, the sun being to hot, the sky being to blue, the staff having to much fun... These people where so annoying and rude, one traveller even thought Costa Rica was on an island, even argued with a local about it!

If you’re going to Costa Rica to visit the country, taste their food and get to know their culture you’ll have a wonderful time. Costa Ricans are amazing people and I can’t wait to go back next year!

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled with family
    • 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 6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed December 21, 2009

A very large resort, remote, beautiful, and well appointed. The pricing couldn't be beat, $850.00 flight and all, 5 nights, direct from Toronto. We loved the trip, food, staff, lodgings, and entertainment all exceeded our expectations for such a new resort. In short, we got more than we expected in this location.

We did run into some people who had complaints, few seemed justified to us, some were just petty. 98% of the people we met had a great time with all aspects of thier stay, with the following being an exception......

The only true issue that needs to be addressed is the theft. We didn't hear of any problems poolside or on the beach, but the level of theft that occured to people from thier rooms could harm this resort long term. No theft over $500.00 occures, as that seems to be the price that involves the local police. So the thieves take some each day until you are almost broke. If you are going to take alot of cash, expect it to be taken and that management will not help you.

We were immune as we didn't bring much with us, and didn't leave it in the safe. I would suggest the same, if not bring a nanny cam.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 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.
17 reviews 17 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
51 helpful votes 51 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed December 21, 2009

Just returned from a week at this new hotel (myself and my teenage daughter). We are very seasoned travelers (several trips yearly) and usually stay at 5 star resorts although have stayed in lesser places as well. I research all vacations very thoroughly – this new resort was having an opening special that was very reasonable- we paid $200 per night for the two of us all inclusive. At that price it is hard to find fault with anything however, in reading this review keep in mind that the pricing for this hotel is going to be considerably above what we paid and some of the problems that it is easy to laugh off at $200 per night will be harder to ignore if paying $400-$600 per night! Overall, I would say that this hotel gives the appearance of being a 5 star (and I am very well aware that there is a different expectation for 5 star in the Caribbean/ Latin America vs North America or Europe) , but if you look below the surface I would say that this is actually a 3 or perhaps 4 star hotel at best. I used reviews on this site extensively and felt it would be helpful to summarize some of the things that would have been helpful to me in making a decision about whether to stay here.
The Good
- The hotel really is quite beautiful. It sits on a very picturesque beach with hills surrounding it and is quite majestic looking. The lobby area is quite attractive as is the pool area. The vegetation is new but will be quite beautiful when grown in
- The rooms are attractive but small. Bathroom a very decent size. Large balcony. We stayed in a basic room and it was fine- actually preferable to us as it did not front on to the evening entertainment and we still had a nice bit of ocean view.
- The hotel is spotlessly clean- there was always someone cleaning every public area. The public bathrooms were also spotless
- There was an abundance of lounge chairs around the pool and beach areas. We never had difficulty getting a chair at any time of the day. There were approximately 1500 people staying at the hotel, so not full capacity, but I was impressed with the availability as lack of availability of pool chairs is one problem many all inclusive seem to have.
- Pool bar- great service and selection. Although no pool or beach bar service
- Pools- very nice and never felt crowded
- Staff- most of the staff at restaurants and bars were wonderful . Many had limited English but they were very attentive. The management is another story (see below)
- Wifi- this was a good thing while it lasted! Free wifi in the lobby but after 2 days it was not working. We were told it would be up the next day and were told this for 3 days straight- finally one of the front desk staff admitted that it was not going to be fixed at all. This meant that for any type of communication you had to use the hotel telephones or pay to use their internet (not bad at $5 for 30 minutes but machines often not working) There is absolutely no cell service anywhere near the hotel.
- The boat ride to Coco beach was fun (although a little bit difficult getting in and out of the baot from the beach given the waves). Prepare to potentially get very wet! This ride was supposed to be $10 but after the weekend (coincidentally the same time as a large number of Canadians arrived) the price went up to $15. This is also true of the hotel snorkeling trip- arbitrarily increased mid-stay from $15 to $25. By the way the snorkel trip is not really worthwhile- not a great reef and very little to see
- The beach- long and very nice although be careful of the intensity of the surf and undertow. A few people did get injured

The Bad
- Food: This is a difficult thing to characterize as everyone has different expectations when it comes to food. The food is certainly plentiful and well presented generally. I will say that my general bias is against buffets and try to stay at hotels that offer sit down meals so this may influence my take on the food. Both myself and my daughter are quite adventurous in terms of trying new things and we eat out at restaurants extensively ( one of the best meals we had on this vacation was on one of our excursions when we were taken to a small local restaurant and served authentic Costa Rican home cooking- nothing fancy but absolutely delicious and far better than anything served at the hotel!)
- The breakfasts at the buffet were very good although after a week it did get a bit monotonous as every day was exactly the same. Although there was considerable choice available. The lunches were the weakest offering- lunch was only available at the poolside buffet restaurant. Although we always found something to eat, and you will never starve here, this is not 5 star food. Much of it was bland and overly sauced or over cooked. Yes there always was fish available and some of it was good but seeing the same things day after day was monotonous- especially when the lunch offerings were often recycled from dinner the night before
- Dinners were hit and miss. I was not overly impressed by the dinner buffets- again, lots of food available and considerable variety but nothing really great. There were 3 restaurants available- of the 3 the steakhouse was not good at all ( and I was trying to be generous in my assessment as it was nice to not have to go to the buffet). The Italian restaurant was much better and the Asian restaurant was pretty good. However these restaurants did not change their menus so to eat there meant eating from the same menu each time.
- The process of reserving the restaurants was tedious- stand in line to get a reservation in the morning (although could reserve up to 2 nights at a time). This is not what I want to spend my time doing on vacation- also there were 2 meal times- 6pm and 8:15 pm so felt very cruise ship-like (although many cruise lines have moved away from this rigidity)
- In the rooms the shampoo was supplied in 1-use foil packets- this is NOT environmentally friendly as another reviewer suggested and is really just designed to save the hotel money. For 2 of us this meant throwing out 4 foil packets daily ( 2 of shampoo and 2 of shower gel). A small bottle of shampoo and shower gel would be preferred. There was also no hair conditioner or Body lotion ( a necessity after long days in the sun and standard everywhere I have stayed) supplied.
- Restocking of the mini bar was hit and miss- in the week we were there ours was restocked once as opposed to every other day as was supposed to occur. This in spite of polite requests and a generous tip on the first and only day it was restocked
- This brings us to the management. There was a sense that the front desk had been told to agree politely to any request and then promptly forget about it! A number of people we met seemed to feel that any small request (ie please restock mini bar, repair a/c, etc) was agreed to and then nothing done about it. The upper management seemed to have an almost arrogant attitude towards the guests (see the really bad section below)
- Beds- the beds were VERY hard. Not comfortable at all- we were told that a foam bad could be supplied but then this never happened. Our sheets were not changed once during a 1 week stay- I know this because I spilled some diet coke on the sheet one day and the stain was there the full week! The beds were remade daily with the same sheets- this is environmental friendliness to the extreme!
- The hotel rooms were not very sound proof . Could hear conversations and movements from surrounding rooms and especially from hallways. One morning at 4:30 am the hotel staff decided to have the surrounding areas fumigated. Everyone on the south side of the hotel was awoken to the sounds of loud machinery from 4:30-5am-front desk staff laughed- more evidence of the attitude of the hotel towards its guests
- On the day we left to go to the airport (a Saturday) the hotel decided to pave the road leading to the hotel (this was done by the hotel, not the government). This resulted in taxis and vans being delayed 45 minutes to and from the hotel- we had allowed 3 ½ hours to get to the airport but were almost late because of this decision on the part of the hotel. Our cab driver , along with many other that were literally parked on the road for an hour trying to get out to the airport, said the workers told them that the hotel was supposed to notify all guests checking out so they could leave more time but this was never conveyed to any of the guests I spoke with
- Towel service- you were given 1 towel card per person. This is fine if a bit of a hassle- the problem was that the towel service staff would not allow you to exchange your wet towel for a dry one! Given the extreme heat we spent a lot of time in the pool but had to return to a wet towel! They took “one towel per person per day “ quite literally and pointed to this sign when we asked to exchange for a dry towel. I can understand one towel at a time per person but have NEVER been required to use a wet towel all day at any other resort. We asked on 2 separate days to exchange our towels and were told no each time
- This hotel is very isolated. This is OK for a few days but many people were feeling a bit stir-crazy after a week! There is entertainment in the evening starting at 10 pm but not much to do in the evenings between dinner and the show. (although we did not go to the casino)
The Really Bad

- My biggest concern about the hotel was its absolute refusal to allow outside tour operators on site. I travel extensively and always arrange my own tours as I prefer a smaller, more personalized excursion. I had pre-booked airport transfers, a Palo Verde tour and a sailing tour from home after extensive research. This hotel refused to allow my tour guide/driver to enter the premises. I spoke with the PR manager of the hotel who told me that this was a new hotel policy (apparently new that week) but she agreed with me initially that it was not really fair to guests and that she would speak with her boss and get back to me. I thought the problem was solved until she got back to me the next day and told me that the driver would not be allowed onto the grounds but I could walk to the exit (a 10-15 minute walk in blistering heat) and meet him there. This was even going to be true for my airport transfer (ie walk to the exit with my daughter and our suitcases!) I spoke with the hotel manager, Ricardo, who confirmed that my tour operator could not pick me up for excursions and that this was for my own good and my safety (ridiculous as all the other hotels in the area allowed private tours in for their guests- this was more to do with the commissions of the onsite tour operators I am sure). However Ricardo told me he would do me a favour (??) and allow my driver in to pick me up for a transfer back to the airport. His attitude was very arrogant and condescending and others at the hotel felt the same way about their interactions with him. This policy would be enough to prevent me from ever staying at this hotel again
- Theft- this became a big problem while we were there. I initially felt quite safe at the hotel with my items locked in the in-room safe. I also don’t take anything of significant value down to the pool or leave it unattended. However, we began to hear about numerous items being stolen from around the pool- particularly cameras and cash and very little concern by hotel management. We then heard of people having items stolen from their safe (and the safe code being reset so they could no longer open it). One couple had all their money stolen from the safe and the hotel would not even assist them in getting a ride to town to go to a bank! On our last few days items went missing from our safe as well- not sure how they did this- I set the code and every day counted my cash and each day felt a bit was missing but shrugged it off as a counting mistake on my part. On the last 2 days however I counted and wrote down the amount of money in the safe and $10 was gone each evening. On the last night we left the TV on and the Do Not Disturb sign on the door to deter anyone from entering the room- when we got back to the room at 11 pm the TV had been turned off and money was again missing! My daughter did not want to stay in the room any longer- luckily we were checking out the next day
Overall, I feel we got our money’s worth at $200 daily all inclusive for 2 people. However, once the hotel is charging full price I would certainly stay elsewhere. I also feel that even at $200 per night we would have preferred to pay more and stay at a better run hotel (in spite of the beauty of this one). Would we go back to Costa Rica- most definitely. Would we stay at this hotel again- most definitely not and I , like many people we met, would not stay at a RIU hotel again.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 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.
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 19, 2009

The hotel was lovely and Owen did a great job making us feel welcome. The excursions were more lengthy than told. Take your raincoats to the rainforest and be prepared for a long and rough trip. Might need draminie for motion sickness.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 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
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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