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“Riu Palace, Costa Rica : A destination not to miss!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica

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Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica
4.0 of 5 Resort (All-Inclusive)   |   Playa Matapalo, Sardinal, Costa Rica   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #1 of 3 hotels in Sardinal
Toronto, Canada
1 review
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
“Riu Palace, Costa Rica : A destination not to miss!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 27, 2013

A group of 12 of us recently stayed at Riu Palace in Costa Rica March 14-24 2013. We found the hotel beautiful, the rooms clean, and the food good. The beach was nothing special, but the pools certainly made up for it.

We were worried that going during spring break we would have issues with seating by the pool and issues with seating at the specialty restaurants with such a large group, but we didn't encounter either issue.

We travel all over the world and we have stayed at many all-inclusive resorts. What made this resort and location stand out from all the rest was Emiliano Rodrigues, the Public Relations Manager. Emiliano helped tend to all of our needs, including fabulous restaurant recommendations. Emiliano checked on all of us throughout the entire trip and made us feel like we all had our own personal concierge.

For this reason, we will make sure the Riu Palace is a destination we travel to again in the future. We will also be passing this recommendation on to all of our friends and family. On behalf of everyone in our group, I would like to thank Emiliano for going above and beyond our service expectations and for the great memories we now have of Costa Rica. It's something we won't stop talking about for months to come. For the service alone, this is a place not to miss!

Steve & Friends

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 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.
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (412)
Date | Rating
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English first
Baltimore, Maryland
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
28 helpful votes 28 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 26, 2013

I was at the Riu Palace last month in Costa Rica along with my girlfriend and a large group of people. We had a fantastic time and truly enjoyed this resort hotel. The employees are fantastic and will go out of their way to keep you happy. I agree with many of the postive reviews, but will offer a few tips from my own experience.

When we were there, you still had to make reservations a day or two in advance for all of the restaurants except the Italian restaurant. I went to all of them with the exception of Krystal, the gourmet fusion restaurant, as it seemed to be a tough reservation to get (and my girlfriend wasn't impressed by the eclectic menu). The filet at the steakhouse was fine, though the halved lobster was a bit overcooked. The Japanese restaurant had very tasty fare, but small portions and not a lot of true raw fish. For raw fish and endless portions, I'd look for the ceviche at the Arenal buffet, or the sushi they occasionally offer there for dinner and at the steakhouse for lunch. The Italian restaurant features a nice appetizer buffet and very good main courses. Prior to choosing any of the specialty restaurants, I'd check the board outside the buffet in the morning to see the theme for the night, as it may be more to your liking. The variety there is always good, so long as you take notice of the special offerings each night. The breakfast at the Arenal was always a treat as well, whether eating light or making a big meal of it. The room service menu is limited, but we never tried it having all the other options available. The 24 hour self-serve in the lobby was nice for draft beer, early morning juice and/or fruit, but much of the food provided seemed to be buffet leftovers.

The gym is very nice for a workout for those who wish to stick to a fitness routine. You can also reserve time in their hot tub at no cost. During the day, there are pool aerobics and other group fitness activities. If you like to swim laps, the pools on either of the ends are long enough to do so and so long as you get there between eight or nine in the morning (till around ten am), you'll have plenty of room before it gets crowded. No buses filled with locals on the weekend, as some complained about earlier. Perhaps they confused the Palace with the lower priced Riu next door. We did go over there to check it out, and it was a lot noisier with more kids and a younger crowd. I would say the only reason to go over there from the Palace might be to catch a game at the sports bar (which the Palace doesn't have). Oh, and for sports fans, there is no ESPN of any kind on the room televisions.

Now as for those complaining about a long walk to the bathrooms from the pools... it amazes me. The steakhouse bathroom is maybe a hundred feet or less from one of the pools, and not far from the other pools. Though signs say not to wear wet clothes or bathing suits in the restaurant, they mean for lunch or dinner. The bathrooms are on the far end of the restaurant by the pool just outside and separated from the seating/serving area and you can certainly use them while in just a bathing suit coming right out of the pools. I would imagine the complaints in this regard are from those who either did not know they could use the steakhouse bathrooms or, judging by the girth of the average vacationer on site, are put out by walking an extra hundred feet.

We used the Gecko tours on the beach for a private tour catered to what we wanted to do. Our guides were most helpful and patient taking us to the volcano park where we swam in the waterfalls, had a hot spring and mud bath and visited other tourist attractions. Don't be afraid to negotiate. Now if nature is your thing, right on site of the resort however, you can see monkeys in the trees in the early morning or late afternoon (near the "Monkey Bar" off the trail from the beach), and if you're lucky (as we were) you may catch a sea turtle digging a hole on the beach to lay eggs. You don't have to go zip-lining through trees, taking a boat through the further off rain forests or heading up north to Nicaragua. There's plenty to do on site and near the hotel to stay active and see the sites.

If you are a U.S. cigar smoker and crave real Cuban cigars, bite the bullet and buy them at the duty free shop when you get off the plane at the airport prior to arriving at the hotel. The Cohibas sold on the beach are all 100% counterfeit no matter what the box looks like, with some containing what can best be described as moldy banana leaves. Many sold at Coco Beach and other tourist shops are counterfeit as well. If you don't know what to look for in a legitimate Cuban cigar, you're probably not going to find one anywhere else but the airport. And while we're on the airport in Liberia, though souvenirs aren't overpriced, all their food is. Seriously, you will pay thirty bucks for a small wrap, a soda and a cup of coffee.

As for tipping, it's not required. This was my first all-inclusive and I was reluctant to tip at first. However, I brought a wad of single dollar bills and left a buck on the nightstand for housekeeping each morning (and sometimes in the fridge for the mini-bar stocker) and tipped bartenders and favored meal servers a buck or two when it felt right. They were most appreciative and I only spent about thirty bucks doing this for the week. A small price to pay and the bartenders will get to know you and go out of their way a bit more to get to know what you like and have it ready for you without even saying a word. They'll even slide over one of their favorite concoctions at Drunk Pool (which is how we affectionately referred to the swim up bar). Of course you don't have to tip... and again, I was reluctant out of principle for the "all-inclusive" price... but I'm glad I did; even on such a small scale.

I hope this is helpful and that those who vacation at the Riu Palace enjoy themselves as much as we did.

Room Tip: We were on the top floor near one of the ends of the hotel (third floor) facing the hills. It was v...
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  • Stayed February 2013, 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brooklyn, MI
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 25, 2013

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!

Room Tip: Higher floor with an oceanfront view was BEAUTIFUL!
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled on business
    • 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Denver, Colorado
1 review
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 23, 2013

We had read about Diego on trip advisor reports from people who stayed at the RUI in Guanacaste, so when we got down to the resort we decided we wanted to do a tour. So I gave Diego a call on Monday and we setup a tour for Thursday to go do a spa/zip line tour. He picked us up at 7:30 and took us to a supermarket to get some snacks and drinks. After loading up, we took off for our tour. The entire time he was chatting all about Costa Rica, the animals, plants, economy, everything. If he saw something interesting on the way, he would pull over and discuss whatever we were looking at. The place he took us (name escapes me) was a lot of fun. We were at a spa resort on essentially a volcano. We first got a tour of the place, and then did a volcano mud bath, relaxed in hot springs and a really cool steam room. Then they had a pool to relax at until lunch was ready. After a pretty good lunch, we took a 45 minute horseback ride up the volcano to where the zip line workers were waiting for us. After doing 10 incredible zip lines we were pretty much beat for the day. We had some drinks, hopped in the car, saw and learned even more stuff about Costa Rica and arrived back at our resort around 7pm. Thanks again Diego Issys tours, you are an asset to the entire country of Costa Rica. You won't find a better tour guide or friend in the country!

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with friends
    • 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wauconda, Illinois
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 21, 2013

My husband and I and three other couples were just at the RIU 3/8/13 - 3/15/12. It was amazing from the food, employees and room. They really made our stay wonderful from the time we arrived to the time we left. The only issue was no bathrooms by the pool had to walk back to the hotel area. Would return same time of year weather was amazing every day.

Room Tip: stay in an ocean view room the view is excellent....
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with friends
    • 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 20, 2013 via mobile

Last year We stayed at the review next door and had a wonderful time. We decided to come back this year and try the new Riuand were very pleased with the services and atmosphere this Riu provided! The food was excellent! No septic or food poisoning… The vegetables and fruits were incredible everything was wonderful! The only suggestion I would make is to offer up more variety in the evenings during the entertainment. Maybe add a comedy night or karaoke night. Do something to break up the dance routines, which are great as well! Just add a little variety. This Riu was much more relaxed, and we didn't have to wait in line to get drinks service or food. The staff was always pleased to accommodate any requests you want. We definitely will return!

  • Stayed March 2013
    • 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 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Windsor, Canada
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
16 helpful votes 16 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2013

Costa Rica was a wonderful experience. I rely on these reviews to ensure my vacations are well-spent, so I made sure to take notes and detail out all of our experiences. This is my pay-it-forward review:

The temperature was 35 degrees and sunny every day we were there. We arrived at the airport around noon and caught our shuttle van (TAM) which was pre-arranged by our travel agent. It's the dry season in Costa Rica, so all of the surroundings are dry and brown, often without leaves on the trees. This is because the vegetation goes dormant much like in our Canadian winters. The resort is lush and green however. I should mention that there weren't any timeshare sellers at the airport which I appreciated - which is more than I can say for at the hotel.

Although timeshares weren't being sold, we were "reminded" repeatedly by our travel liason who is stationed at the hotel to book a session to learn about the excursions. We had already decided to book our trips with the beach vendors (thanks to other reviewers), so the constant nagging was a bit annoying. It stopped as soon as there were new people to pester.

The decor of the hotel is modern, but we didn't mind it so much. The lobby is an 'under the sea' theme and yes, there is a bathtub in the middle of your room. Corners are sharp as other reviewers have suggested. The toilet is in its own room and separate from the shower and sinks. As the week went on, I began to wonder if this was on purpose as a way to minimize noise from other rooms as I never heard another toilet flush (could have been that we didn't have neighbours). We would close the door to the toilet but leave the light on as a sort of nightlight which helped avoid sharp corners and bathtubs if you needed to get up during the night. Everything echos in the hallway which is unfortunate, but probably unavoidable. We did have a problem with our shower drain, but maintenance fixed it right up.

Privacy could be an issue since the room is open-concept. We travelled with my 15-year old son but made it work by changing in the shower or toilet area when necessary. I should mention that when we arrived we had two double beds and a single 'cot' for my son. We asked for a king and they offered it to us, but in the end we decided to forego moving rooms and had them just push the doubles together. It worked out OK for us. Bring your own shampoo and conditioner - again a great tip from other reviewers.

Reservations are now only required for the Steakhouse restaurant and it was pretty easy to get in. Riu is listening to suggestions and making changes which is awesome! Each day at lunch they would setup a food station by the pools and dish out some pretty amazing fare. Restaurants were good, but having tried them all if I were to stay another week I'd only eat at the buffet because of the selection and live food stations. I ended up not having a great appetite the entire week - likely because of the heat.

There didn't seem to be any locals anymore on the weekends. Wifi signal was awesome and had a very wide range! Your code will expire after a few days and you will need to get a new code. Again, not a big deal.

We booked our excursions with Carlos Campos of Sweet Dreams Destinations (I hope that's exactly right) who wears a yellow shirt and can be found at the end of the path by the pool bar leading to the beach. Such a sweet man. We booked the combo tour and ATV tours with him. I want to point out that after we had agreed on price a situation changed last minute that gave Carlos the opportunity to charge us more than discussed. This man not only gave us the price reduction, but gave it unsolicited. Very honest and upstanding - I highly recommend using this company for your trips. On the combo tour, Ronald and Alonzo were our tour guides. Very patient and pointed out all the things that make Costa Rica unique. When doing the waterslide and ziplining, Ronald held our cameras and took all kinds of pictures for us (I'm in the pictures for ONCE!). Tips for this tour are to bring a set of dry clothes, water (from the hotel), running shoes and socks along with your sandals, and bugspray. I found that anytime I was off the resort I became dinner for the bugs. We ended up buying some bugspray at the resort store for $17. We also did the ATV tour which my son loved. VERY dusty - wear old clothes!! Gustavo was our guide on this excursion and he was a gentleman through and through. We may have had some money taken (or my husband dropped it), so just keep your bills close. If anyone took it, I would argue against it being our tour guides. My gut tells me it could have been staff at the places we visited. Again - we have no proof.

OK, now some random pointers and observations. Winds can be very strong - just to keep in mind. Wear sunscreen no matter what! You are 10 degrees from the equator and it doesn't matter that you don't burn in Mexico - you will here. Bring extra - it's very expensive at the resort store ($30-$40). I am a runner so I sought out the gym. There are only two treadmills, but they also have bikes and ellipticals. Sometimes I had to wait for a treadmill.

The sand on the beach is dark and very hot during the day so you will need something on your feet. It's soft though and nice to walk on once things cool off in the morning or evening. Next door is another Riu resort that you can visit and enjoy all the amenities (except dinners) and it seems to be much more lively than the Riu Palace (although things picked up somewhat once March break was in full swing). We preferred the quieter atmosphere at the Palace, but my son often skipped over next door and I never felt like his safety was in jeopardy. An item of note is that their pools are not saltwater like at the Riu Palace. We retrieved some lost items of clothing and sandals periodically as I can't chain these things to my teenager (but would have liked to).

If you walk on the beach away from the other Riu, you will eventually come to a little road with a sign for the Monkey Bar. Go here around 4 p.m. if you want to see monkeys - there must have been two dozen when we were there.

A few other things. . . The Cappucino bar in the lobby is fabulous. Don't forget to try it! The bartenders are great - Freddie and Edual in the lounge bar kept us entertained, but all the staff are great. Photographers circle the resort and take shots of you and your family which you can purchase near the resort store - very talented individuals. We found that the staff around the Riu were so accommodating and always cleaning. Tips don't necessarily improve service, which is refreshing. I kept my room key in the back of my cellphone case, and found this very handy.

I would suggest that you bring Tylenol or Advil with you. I never take anything like that - avoid it like the plague. However, I came down with body ache and chills that I couldn't attribute to a cold coming on. Others at the resort said they experienced the same and when I briefly googled it I found reference to extreme environment change maybe contributing to these symptoms. Seeing as we came from snow to 35 degree weather, I can justify why this may have happened. My son had something similar, but it was short-lived. My back got the brunt of this affliction so I tried out a massage on the beach to try to alleviate it. The massage was amazing and I would recommend you try it (I've never had a massage before). When I still was feeling sore I asked the front desk if they might have a hot water bottle. There was a language barrier but they were so sweet in trying to address my issue and checked up on me more than once.

Bring lots of ones for tips, but you can also get change at the front desk free of charge. Keep your valuables in the safe at all times - one couple we met with had things gone through and some money taken. A complaint to the front desk assured them that this staff member could be tracked through the door cards and would be terminated. You'll get that kind of stuff anywhere though. We had no problem and often left things out that I would have missed had they been taken. My final bit of advice is that the airport offers a vast selection of souvenirs which is great, but load up on food at the resort before you get there! The food is incredibly expensive at the airport. . . we bought two bottles of water ($10) and one bag of plain lays chips ($9). I can only imagine what lunch would have cost. And beverages are not allowed on the plane even though you bought it in the airport.

Costa Rica was beautiful and we'd go back. Read up on the country! Did you know they abolished their army? Did you know that they are one of the most environmentally conscious countries in the world? The people and experience were one to remember. We met so many awesome locals and fellow travellers - lots of memories. Pura Vida!

Room Tip: We took the garden view. It was nice and quiet when the shows were on.
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 16
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica

Address: Playa Matapalo, Sardinal, Costa Rica
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Guanacaste > Gulf of Papagayo > Sardinal
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 3 hotels in Sardinal
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica 4*
Reservation Options:
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Also Known As:
Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica Guanacaste

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