We stayed at the Riu Palace March 2 - 9, 2013 as part of a large (102) group and thoroughly enjoyed the week! The physical layout of the resort isn't as overwhelming as a couple of the Riu properties we have stayed have been and was extremely clean and well maintained given the kind of turnover that they have. A couple of folks in our group had shower issues but it wasn't anything that detracted from their stay at all (some leaking from rooms above into their shower areas). They attend to the rooms (both for cleaning and minibar) religiously and we were never without towels, bottled water or anything else we needed.
The staff is extremely friendly and helpful and we flat out never saw anyone who didn't greet us
with a sincere, enthusiastic smile. We had a birthday in our family while we were there and they arranged a special seating complete with balloons and confetti/glitter on the table and a special birthday cake for our twins (adults...but it was still a birthday!) after dinner. They dimmed the lights before they brought the cake (with candles glowing) to the table and everyone in the restaurant sang. This would've been extraordinary in itself, but the fact that we were almost an HOUR LATE because an excursion we were on got back late and they were STILL so hospitable and willing to extend themselves was really wonderful (and I felt AWFUL about being late!)
Food was very good across the board as well and we never had a bad meal. The only restaurant that you need a reservation for is the Papagayo Steak House and they do two seatings. Otherwise you can come and go as you please and the Italian restaurant is open for lunch as well if you want to dress for the occasion (but no swimsuits/flip flops in there!) The buffets were also very good with a nice variety of foods.
If you want to leave the property and venture into the little village of Playa del Coco (about a half hour cab ride and $15/$20 per person round trip) there are several REALLY good restaurants there as well with wonderful seafood brought in that day. The one we went to is also called Papagayo and was really (REALLY!) good and worth the trip! There's some fun shopping as well and a lovely beach down at the end of the strip.
We stayed on the other side of the Palace 2 years ago (Palace wasn't built yet) and found that lovely as well. You can go over to the pools/bars on the other side and can have lunch there as well but they want you back on the Palace property for dinner. The "other side" I think has a little more "tropical" feel to it with the Palace being pretty streamlined, contemporary and done in white, purple and chrome but both sides are equally well maintained.
We did the Palo Verde river trip again this time and it did not disappoint with an abundance of wildlife and interesting history/facts from the tour guide. This excursion is one not to be missed if you're interested in the local flora/fauna and want to see a nice variety of birds and animals.
Our family went deep sea fishing as well and brought back 25-30 red snapper and some small grouper that the chef in the main dining room prepared for us that night along with tempura vegetables, etc. Talk about FRESH and well prepared food!! What a treat that was!
Oh...AND...there is plenty of room at the pools and the bartenders are great! Lots of chairs, LOTS of different types of fun drinks and shade for the days when you've had enough sun!
We loved our week at the Palace and would highly recommend both Costa Rica and this resort as a destination for your vacation! We've been twice and wouldn't hesitate to return to this beautiful, friendly country! Pura Vida!