We have been on our fair share of vacations and all inclusive vacations are typically not in my top five list, however this resort met all of my expectations. You just have to remember that it is an all inclusive and if you do your research and bring the things that you need to in order to make your stay more enjoyable you will have a great time here!
The rooms: they were beautiful, all the furnishings were in a dark wood, and looked very nice. Our room was on the outer edge of the hotel so we didn't hear the entertainment at night. We also had an ocean view without paying for it. I believe the Riu has cleared land beside the hotel and they are planning on expanding and building another portion of the hotel in the next year. Our hotel fridge was stocked daily with beer, pop, water. There were an abunce of liquor located in the room to make your own drinks, and they were refilled if they were emptyed as well. We always had fresh towels, didn't matter if you followed the sign and hung them up or placed them on the floor, we got new ones every day. Housekeeping was great, put your sign of if you don't want to be woken up (we forgot the first day) it is usually located in the closet somewhere. I didn't find you had to tip in order to get service the first day we gave $5 and the rest we either forgot or gave a couple of bucks. The safe is good, with a key code that you enter. Closet space in abundant, and lots of dresser space if you like. The beds are on the harder side, but we read that in previous reviews.
The roads: Many people complain about the drive out to the resort, yes the drive is approx 35-45 min depending on the driver and vehicle (the big buses go slower on the small roads). If you do your research and determine the resort isn't in the location you like to spend your time, then perhaps book a resort that is closer to the area you would like to be in. The roads are bumpy, but to be honest I expected alot worse by the amount of comments with the road conditions. We actually had quite a few detours due to a surfing accident and drove on alot of the roads in Costa Rica in order to get to a hospital that could do surgery and even the highway isn't the best. The only road that was similar to ours was the highway that just opened up about a month previously and there are toll boths (i think three) that you pay to use the highway. Don't expect the roads to be like home, because it is not! Also we have been to hawaii and done the condo experience there several times, and costa rica you could easily rent a car and not have any issues with driving, the beach roads are bumpy, and if you bring your rental car on the beach and get stuck many of the locals will help to push you out (we saw this numerous times!) If you don't like the idea of renting a car (we didn't know if it was safe) so we went through www.costaricaforeveryone.com they were great and took us everywhere we needed to go for a very good price.
The Resort: It is beautiful. The buffet was probably our groups favorite for choice of food. We went to both the chinese restaurant which is still a buffet and you go up to get your food. And we went to the Italian restaurant which is partial buffet you get your starters and order your meals, we care much for this either... there wasn't even any pasta at the italian restaurant and my salmon came back under cooked. When we first arrived the resort was half full, by the end of our stay it was nearing compacity I'm sure, service was still good, but they did do a better job prior to the influx of people. My one complaint is the disco tech, it is on the resort however you have to buy drinks from there, and occassionaly they don't let you bring in your own drinks. For an all inclusive resort this is one thing that I thought was silly. We checked out the casino, nothing special but if you like to gamble then it would suffice! The sports bar is where you go if you need a midnight snack... my warning is be careful. They have sandwhiches, burgers, and nachos with cheese. Everything is premade and located in a fridge where you heat up the burgers. The food in this fridge is not great, if your hungry you won't die from eating it but it is not good. Also the other thing is drunk people will come in grab a buger, sandwhich heat it up and place it back in the fridge... that would annoy me, I don't want anyone touching food that other people may eat!
The Pool: the pool grounds are great there is a couple different pools and the swim up bar. Bring a "bubba keg" or a coffee mug to hold your drinks and keep them cold. We had weather of 40 degrees celcius or hotter. There were times where we had to go back to the beach in order to get some breeze! When it was hot the pool was warm, but what do you expect when it is so hot outside...
The Beach: It is a dark sand beach. Like any beach it is sand so if you don't like getting dirty, head back to the pool. The waves are a decent size, and has a beach break. There are rocks, so pack some of those swimmer shoes if you don't like walking on rocks. The bar is about a five minute walk to get a drink, so bring your bubba kegs or coffee mugs to keep your drinks cold and you will enjoy the view! There is a white sand beach you can view from across the way, take the kayaks out and it is about a 25 min ride, to nice sand and lots of crabs. There are also lots of ladies giving massages on the beach if you like for around $20. There are vendors that come to the beach, remember to bargain with them because they charge more at the resort than they do at other beaches. There are the guys selling excursions on the beach as well, they sounded okay but we booked with www.costaricaforeveryone and Roy was great! There is also a photographer lady that comes around offering a photoshoot and you buy only if you like, we didn't have a chance to see if they were any good.
Hiking/Activies around the resort: So there are monkeys that are located right on the resort near the kids area they tend to come down at night and you can get right close and personal. You can also walk down the beach and there is a sign for three monkeys, there are a couple howler monkeys and a baby, that is neat to see. Keep an eye out for the iguanas, you will see a bunch on the walk to see the monkeys. There is also another path that you follow all the way down the beach and onto a road where there is alot of white faced monkeys, and a pretty walk. It takes about 45 min to complete, bring water because it gets hot away from the ocean. There are always games at the pool in the afternoon, there is ping pong table on the side of the pool, volleyball, etc
Entertainment: The nightlife is okay. The bar gets busy sometimes, depending on how busy the resort is. There is one night where they have a festival, which is similar to their bull riding fairs in town. The night shows are okay, there not awesome but I've seen alot worse so I think that it is good. The michael jackson show (I think every allinclusive is doing this show, we saw it in Dominican early on in the year and it was awful) Here it was GREAT, they did a very good Thriller dance. The comedy show was poor, they just got people out of the audience, the grease one was okay, and I don't really remember the other ones.
Spa/Gym: the gym is air conditioned but it did get quite warm in there. There are about eight cardio machines, two bikes, four treadmills, and two elipticals, they had subpar free weights (they could use some real ones) and they had a few other machines for use. For a vacation gym it works... who really works out on vacation anyway....
Excursions: We LOVED ours we went on a horsebacking riding, waterfall and volcano tour, and mud bath and we also did a white sand beach excursion which was great too. We booked through www.costaricaforeveryone.com and roy was our tour guide and owner of the company and he was great! We had the whole van to ourselves (there were 6 of us) and we basically decided how much time we wanted to spend at each location and if we wanted to go anywhere for stops, shops, etc. BE AWARE of the HOTEL EXCURSIONS we met a couple guys who paid over $600 to go deep sea fishing, when you could go for under 300. Do your research! Also I think that the hotel excursions are large buses that have over 20 people on the excursion, not my kind of idea of a relaxing vacation!
Health Care: Long story short I had a very serious surfing accident in Tamarindo. We had went to a surfing company and paid of lessons. It was a freak accident where I broke my finger in two pieces exposing the bone and it was bleeding everywhere needless to say I required surgery to fix it. Seeing as I am a nurse I was very cautious about hospitals in a third world country. We went to a medicenter in Tamarindo, the doctor there took dental xrays of my finger to ensure it was broken, gave me a few shots for pain and antibiotic, froze my finger cleaned it up and told us not to go to the hospitals that were close by because they wouldn't do the surgery right. The physician gave us the orthopedic surgeons cell phone number and setting us up with everything. We ended up missing the last flight to San Jose where the hospital was. Roy from costaricaforeveryone was an excellent translator to get everything organized, to figure out flight times, hiring us a car to drive us 4 hours to the CIMA hospital in San Jose, and getting everything organized. The hospital was great, CIMA was comparable if not better than Canadian hospitals, the Cuban doctor was amazing. They did do surgery, I was given general anasethtic and woke up later in a private room, my husband even had a full double sized cot to sleep in (at this time is was approx 2am). The Canadian doctors have told me several times, they would not have been able to do a better job. I ended up with internal and external fixation and 15 sutures to close the wound. I will have the scars for memory for the rest of my life, but it really wasn't that bad all in all!
Things to Remember to bring:
1) Coffee mug or Bubba keg to keep your drinks cold
2) Bring a floatie if you plan on hanging around the hotel
3) Swimming shoes if you don't like walking on rocks
4) Munchies for late night snacks
5) Always bring some form of identification with you... doesn't matter if you are just heading off to a day of beaches (we learned the hard way)
6) Always bring a credit card in case of emergency surgeries....insurances won't always direct bill!
I hope all of this helps your decision. Costa Rica is great and we plan to come back soon!!
- 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