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“A trip to remember for a lifetime!” 5 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
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Edmonton, Canada
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
“A trip to remember for a lifetime!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 23, 2010

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!!

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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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
  • French first
  • German first
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English first
Manchester, New Hampshire
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed April 23, 2010

1. Great Pool (water temp was a little too warm) but, big and beautiful. Not too crowded
2. Rooms and Hotel were clean.
3. Beer taps available to you w/out having to bother staff.
4. Pool entertainment staff was cheerful and goofy.


1. Maids have safe's master code and will steal from you. My son had his IPOD stolen. Management denies responsibility. You are down and out!
2. Bees swarm the bars. My son got stung.
3. Food is not available 24 hours. unless you count old sandwiches and stale nachos in the sports bar.
4. They make you wait until 7am for breakfast and COFFEE. Some of us like to eat earlier and get our days started. Sports bar has some coffee, served in a drinking glass.
5. Terrible long road to get to resort.
6. $32 aloe at their shops if you get a burn. Bring your own or don't get a burn.
7. Beds are HARD and the maids do not change the sheets so you sleep in beach sand from the first night. I guess it does exfoliate as you sleep (maybe a pro:-)
8. only two restrooms (besides the ones in your rooms). One in hotel shared by 3 restaurants and 2 bars. one restroom by pool and both never work!
9. Besides the entertainment staff, nobody smiles or makes you feel welcomed. Angry cranky bitter culture!
10. Bar staff makes you feel guilty for ordering drinks and sometimes ignores you.

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled with family
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Edmonton, Canada
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 22, 2010

Both my husband and I found this resort to meet all of our needs and then some. Before departing we had read some of the other reviews and I was worried, however we went in with open eyes and minds and enjoyed every minute! I am not one for tropical places I much prefer Europe however I enjoyed Costa RIca immensely. As for the people complaining about the bumpy roads, come on its a third world country.... seriously people! I find the roads in Edmonton rough, full of potholes and especially horrible in the winter. Yes it does take a long time to get places in Costa RIca however it takes me an hour to get to Ikea... it certainly doesn't have nearly the scenery as does the drives in Costa Rica but I still go because it somewhere I want to go. The staff were extremely polite, hard working individuals and worked a lot harder then half the people in the service industry that I have encountered. Of course most of the staff aren't going to speak english this is a spanish speaking country! The people that you absolutely have to deal with speak plenty enough english to go around. The food was fantastic and there was plenty of variety, I have severe allergies and I never once had any issues with an attack or getting sick. I think that if you want everything to be perfect and exactly the way YOU want them to be STAY HOME!!!
I have nothing but positive things to say about this resort and would go back in a heart beat! The one negative thing I did find useful was that I had read was that they don't have wash clothes so I brought some from home.
PS Be sure to go and meet "Rocky The Squirrel" down at the scuba hut on the beach and bring fruit!

  • Stayed January 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 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
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11 reviews 11 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 22, 2010

I just got back this morning from Costa Rica...we stayed @ the Riu for 3nights. The hotel is beautiful (i mean it is brand new) we had a nice ocean view suite very spacious room. The view was GREAT But the hotel is deserted as hell! I mean there is absolutely nothing around for miles and miles and miles! One of the biggest downfalls because i like to be able to walk to other places but this is where my BF wanted to stay but next time we will try someplace else.
..... I loved the free drinking part although after the 1st night or 2 i was ready for some cognac which they dont have in stock lol
The food if you made reservations @ the Asian or Italian place was great but those other 2 restaurants for breakfast and lunch was not great @ all oh and if you go to Ocotal thats the one by the pool and beach there are dead flies and bees galor by the fruit and you have to fight with the bees to get a some juice or soda because they stayed right under the spout.
......I HATED the internet situation. Whenever you needed to get online you had to go to the lobby to use your computer! this was the worst! i wanted to be able to chill in the room on the balcony esp when it got late but no i had to go all the way down to lobby to use. they need to get this situation fixed like asap! Even though i wasn't on the computer all day but the few times i did it was a total pain!
...The boat trips to Coco Beach was reduced to one time a day because boats were broke WTF so we had to get on the one 9am boat ride that was offered...although i didnt enjoy get;n up early i did enjoy the ride and shopping over there (btw those ppl run a hard bargain no to much negotiation going on with them LOL)
....The Pools are lovely and warm and they tried to have a little entertainment which was nice but the pool closes @ 10pm which i thought was too early
....Overal Beautiful hotel but when i go back i want to stay someplace a little less deserted

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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Willow Grove, Pennsylvania
Senior Contributor
43 reviews 43 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
28 helpful votes 28 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 22, 2010

We traveled with a group of 18 to celebrate milestone birthdays. I was a bit nervous after reading other reviews that the food might not be up to snuff and that the staff would not be friendly or helpful. We experienced the opposite. All of the food was terrific. A scrumptious breakfast buffet was set each morning and we always topped it off with fresh fruit. The sliced mango and mellons were a real treat. We were never hungry or thirsty since there was always a buffet or bar close by. Evening meals were booked at the steakhouse, Italian and Asian restaurants. All were good as well as the standard buffet. We had fun by the pool...hot sun, volley ball, drinks etc. The crazy games that kicked off every afternoon were a little hokey, but fun. We read reviews that suggested bringing Bubba Kegs for our drinks....GREAT recommendation. They kept or drinks cold even in the hot sun. The staff was very friendly and hooked us up with extra beverages. It helps to leave a couple of bucks for the maid and fridge stocker. Beds were neat and clean and always made up duirng the day (other reviews stated beds were not made or were sandy). We booked an excursion for canopy tours, water slide, horseback rining and hot springs. Well worth the price and the trip. Lots of monkeys, birds, lizards etc. I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone traveling to the Guanacaste region.

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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Washington DC, District of Columbia
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 21, 2010

I think it's important to have perspective on the larger picture here. This is a third world country. The Pan American Highway, which runs across the entire continent, is only a two lane road through this section of Costa Rica. Of course the roads to the hotel are bad. Of course the internet is spotty. Yes, our At&T phones didn't really work. But this hotel is gorgeous, clean, and has a beautiful setting, the service people work very hard, and the food, while simpler than you might expect at a major all-inclusive, was fresh and delicious. We all had a wonderful time here on our visit March 26 through April 2.

The hotel is brand-new, and the rooms are spotless. My teenage boys did have a room with a strong cigarette smell, so be wary of this. They refused to request a switch, but I certainly would have. The air conditioning in the rooms worked very well. The beds are very firm, but I consider that a good thing. The lobby is cavernous, and pleasantly breezy, and the wifi is decent there if you are patient. The staff works constantly to keep everything clean. The bathrooms by the pool were literally continually serviced by a woman, and she worked hard. We did wish we had brought some DVDs to play on our laptops at night. The night shows are standard all-inclusive fare, meaning they get a little repetive, and there are lots of TV channels, but naturally most are in Spanish.

As mentioned in other reviews, the noise from the night-time shows can clearly be a problem if you have a room on the inner section. The hotel is shaped like a large U, with the pool sitting at the top of the open end. If quiet is important, insist on a room on the outer sides of the U, but not directly facing the ocean. We had a room on the fifth floor on the right-hand side of the U, and we never heard a peep at night. Plus, on that side, the black-faced monkeys (not howlers, as people keep saying) become active in the trees, and you can get some marvelous photographs.

We thought the food was great. We live in DC and are used to sophisticated food. This food was simple (no nouvelle cuisine here), but we loved it because it was all so fresh. We ate home-made guacamole 3 meals a day (yes, even breakfast sometimes -- it was that good), and they did a marvelous job cooking their several varieties of fresh fish. The breakfasts include very nice pastries and cakes, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, yogurt, granola, cereals, as well as the European style breakfast -- cold meats and cheeses, and grilled tomatoes and mushrooms. They do have Costa Rican food available every day, but it was certainly a minority offering. Don't miss the candied bananas, though! We only ate at the Asian restaurant, but were disappointed with it. It is also buffet, but we have much better Asian food at home. We had other reservations, but gave them up because everyone was quite happy with the buffet.

The tours available in Costa Rica are fascinating, but I agree with others who encourage you to use services beyond the hotel. We used Costa Rica for Everyone (www.costaricaforeveryone.com), and were thrilled. We arranged the trip ahead of time via the website. We paid only about $20 more than we would have through the hotel, but the hotel operators take a large group on a tightly scheduled tour. We had a private air-conditioned van with guide and driver, water, soda and beer, and they would have taken us anywhere we wanted to go. We were able to add some shopping in Liberia to our day of zip-lining, delicious local lunch, horse-back riding to the rainforest, and volcanic mud bath. Our guide was Mario, and he was top-notch. Ask for him! The guides at the zip-lining knew how to work my camera better than I did, and they took wonderful photos and even video of us throughout the morning.

We did use the hotel shuttle service to go to Coco Beach for dinner one evening. You get about 3 hours in Coco Beach, which is plenty of time for souvenir shopping and dinner. We had hoped to go to Tamarindo, but it turns out the roads are so bad that the time involved was discouraging.

Not sure what to make of this, but we saw few young children during our stay. The facilities for day care seemed a bit small to me, so perhaps this is not the hotel's strength. At the same time, we did not have any outrageous partiers either. I think that kind of thing is luck of the draw at these large all-inclusives, and I guess we got a good week.

In summary, if you want the height of luxury, stay at the Four Seasons. But expect to pay dearly for it. We thought the Riu was a marvelous bargain for the price we paid. If you buy through a consolidator website like we did (bookit.com), do spring for the transportation add-on. It was a relief not to have to think about this aspect of things, and if the taxis were truly $50 like others have said, you'll be saving money too.

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Baltimore, Maryland
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 21, 2010

the resort itself is very nice but too many negative experiences made us rate this place on the low side. The food is plentiful but after about 2 days it all seems the same. The "special" restaurants weren't and the Steak house served meat that none of our party could eat as it was too salty and damn near impossible to cut with a knife. We had a room on the opposite side from the entertainment. The noise from across the way made me feel very sorry for those who were above it. There is no way they could have gotten to sleep till past midnight. I do wonder how people got so drunk seeing how the booze is watered down, the beer is 3.2 and the bartenders have attitudes.

There was always a "wake up" call around 2 or 3 AM as people would stagger out of the bars and yell at the top of their lungs. This happened every night so I can only assume the resort management felt this was acceptable. While other reviews commented on the cleanliness, it is true they mop the floors frequently. However, that is all they cleaned. Walking around the resort at 7 or 8 am and it looked like the morning after at a fraternity house. There were glasses, cigarette buts and other evidence of a wild night lying around everywhere.

The worst experience was with the diving. I have been diving for 30 years and have experienced all levels of dive operations. This one rates right at the bottom. The boat we went out in was nothing more than a row boat with an outboard. There wasn't room to put your gear, no cover from the sun and without a ladder, getting back into the boat was difficult. The worst thing however was 2 people in our group got separated from the rest of us and the dive master didn't seem to care. With the visibility only being 10 feet, they could easily have been lost.

We will not be back.

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 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.
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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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