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“Brand new so some kinks to work out” 4 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
Wausau, Wisconsin
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
23 helpful votes 23 helpful votes
“Brand new so some kinks to work out”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 5, 2013 via mobile

As always, we were once again wowed at the opulence of a Riu Palace. Although the trees need to fill in considerably, and due to that there is very little shade to be found anywhere near the pool, it is still an amazingly beautiful resort. I am a big fan of the new look in the Riu rooms. Great colors and very clean lines and look. Again, major props there. We never had an issue sitting down to eat. The food was excellent as always and tons of choices to choose from. You ca. Never beat the dessert bar. :)

The pool area has to go down as my favorite of the Riu's we've stayed. Absolutely huge with numerous areas to sit and it never seemed crowded. They just need more personality working in the swim up bar. (See next paragraph)

Couple negatives and the first ill attribute to newness and growing pains, but the staff at this resort was not nearly as helpful or courteous as we've experienced over the years with Riu's. they seemed to not know what they could do to help with questions we may have had or what they were supposed to do to be generally courteous. One thing I've noticed staying at Riu's every year is whenever I pass an employee in the hall out outside, they always say hello. Not here. Head down and keep walking. We also had a couple of minor requests for the front desk that they made no effort to assist or even try to find a way to assist. The second item was, this is not a smoker friendly resort in any way. To smoke you must walk halfway down to the beach. Nowhere in the patios or in the resort. Although I found that this may be more of a Costa Rica thing than specific to this resort or a change in Riu's policies.

I am on the fence whether I like Costa Rica as a whole. The black sand beach is rough on the feet, especially when it's 98 degrees every day and the water isn't quite as clear as I prefer. But walking down the beach and seeing the howler monkeys every morning was awesome. As well, beyond what we experienced in the report, the people of Guanacaste are amazingly nice. They never seem to he putting on a fake smile and greeting just for the tourists sake. Genuine smiles and greetings everywhere. We were there during the dry season so looking out across brown dead grass and trees wasn't appealing at all. I realize we could have taken a 3 hour bus ride to the rain forest, but that just wasn't on our agenda.

Overall, great resort, iffy customer service and nice country.

  • Stayed April 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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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 (421)
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English first
Houston
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 4, 2013

I stayed a Riu Palace for six days with my wife and two small children (8, 5). The staff was very helpful in finding us a room that was not near the performance stage (as our children go to bed while the venue is still active.) This is a very family friendly hotel and staff. The distance from the hotel to the pool and beach is unimportant. It is an easy walk.
The staff was spectacular. In particular, our server Steven at Arenal greeted us every morning like we were family and when he learned our kids were cautiously bilingual, he went out of his way to engage them in Spanish. He was friendly and attentive without being overbearing. Many great hotels and restaurants should take lessons from the staff at this hotel.
The hotel also has a crew of personnel who check in with the guests around the pool area and grounds and who put on things like pool aerobics and pool games. At 8PM they pull many of the kids on stage for a dance performance before the performances geared for the adults kick off. Our kids loved these folks. They all work on the dance crew that puts on the nightly performances as well. These guys deserve triple of whatever they are making.
This hotel is big for costa rica. The room is modern style, which sees a bit out of place but is comfortable and very functional. One issue this hotel must address was that there was a strong odor with the water in the toilet which the hotel is aware of. It went away after 2-3 days. They need to address this as many guests noticed it. Without it, this place would be 4.5-5 stars.
The food was great at breakfast and pretty solid at lunch and dinner. Skip the Italian restaurant. I would encourage the Hotel to scrap the menu and start over.
One valuable note: Based upon a prior Tripadvisor comment, we tracked down Carlos Campos on the beach to help us arrange day trips and tours. We found him the first day ( ask any of the guys on the beach, they know him). We booked all private tours and he was awesome. While it may be possible to cobble together some of these excursions on your own, we felt that the local knowledge was well worth any cost. We loved each of the things we did-- including jetskiing with wild dolphins. Highly highly recommend him. And ask for George as your driver. We used him for four days and he drove us to our next hotel. He was like a part of the family. Carlos is a great resource who can totally simplify your excursions so that you can focus on important things like remembering the sunscreen...
In sum, phenomenal staff and very good hotel. And don't miss Carlos.

Room Tip: If you have kids, stay away from the stage side of the hotel
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 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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United States
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 3, 2013

My husband and I traveled to Costa Rica last week for the first time. This was our second all-inclusive stay at a resort. We were celebrating an anniversary! We had a fabulous time! Our room was stunning with an AMAZING view of the beach, the staff was very welcoming and nice, the entertainment from noon til the evening was A+. We could not check in until right at 3 (which is the time check-in was, but we had to wait for a bit after arriving from the airport). Just gave us an excuse to check out the bars, pools, and beach. I suggest booking your excursions with the people on the beach, cheaper and smaller groups of people. The bartenders were wonderful, would fix ANY drink you could think of. The food was nice, lots of different types to choose from. 24 hour lounge was also nice to have, hungry...get a snack! Souvenirs are available in shops within walking distance from the resort, also at Coco Beach (a short van ride or boat ride from the resort). We went on an all-day FUN adventure with Alex on the Beach. We had a great time... we tubed down a river for 3 miles, zip-lined, had a Costa Rican lunch prepared for us, rode horses, and had a mud bath in the hot springs of a volcano! AMAZING! I highly recommend it. Beautiful country! Enjoy!

Room Tip: Definitely get an ocean view room, worth it! The higher, the better the view is.
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 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
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 30, 2013

We visited the Week of June 9-15. My husband, two teenagers, my parents and some friends with children. The other couple had an issue at check-in but they worked it out. They needed adjoining rooms and they were given rooms side-by-side with no shared door. The staff ended up moving them into a room with an outside door. We had a suite room with no issues whatsoever.
Everyone in the group had a fabulous time and would definitely go again! The buffet was fabulous, we only ate at three of the restaurants and really loved the buffet the best. With so many of us, there was always something we liked on the buffet.
The people were so incredibly friendly and helpful, everywhere! The entertainment folks were hysterical, the cooks were so helpful, the cleaning staff friendly, the gardeners were hard-working, the dive shop was quick and did a great job with my son who wanted to learn to scuba!
I really was worried with some of the reviews but I will tell you, not one person in the group of eleven had a bad time!
We walked during low tide to the right of the beach to a coral white beach one day and found some locals fishing and a grove of monkeys watching us! I'd save my money from the water taxi to Coco Beach(unless you just want to see pretty scenery) and spent the $15 each with the local tents down by the beach.They have souvenirs for the same price.
We did our big mega-excursion with Luis Solutions(white shirt) and was more than pleased! What a nice family! Carolena gives massages(my mother did two while we were there) and Luis set us up on a private van tour to the zip-lines-waterslide-volcanic mud-lunch day and we loved our guide! He spent extra time showing me birds and plants when he found out I enjoyed that.
I really loved Costa Rica and would go back to the Rui palace in a heartbeat!Lots of chairs at the pool, the workers helped me set up a chair each day under a tree by the ocean. It really couldn't get any better for me than that!

Room Tip: we had a junior suite that had two bedrooms. Apparently there are no adjoining rooms.
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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CHARLOTTE
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 29, 2013

First let me say that I actually booked at the Riu Guanacaste but was moved to the Riu Palace due to some kind of mix up. I booked the vacation through US Airways. US Airways only flys into San Jose CR and arranges the travel via van to the resort. The US airways website inplies that the van trip is 2-2.5 hours; be aware it's closer to 5-6 hours. I wasn't mentally prepared for the long van ride. I will say that the van ride was interesting and took you through the countryside. The local company US Airways used ( Swiss Travel) is 1st class and extremely professional. I would recommend them for local travel and excursions.

My friend and I got to the Riu Guanacaste at about 9:30 pm. We went to the front desk and I gave them my name. I began to get that sinking feeling when they couldn't find my reservation and asked for my intinerary. A few minutes later they came back to me and said they were upgrading us to the Riu Palace and proceded to drive us over there. I got the room key, went to the room and opened the door only to find the room was occupied. I went back to the front desk and they immediately gave the room across the hall and tried to figure out what happened. I never asked since we were tired after traveling 14 hours. Within 10 minutes we received a knock on the door and given an apology, a bottle of wine, and a couple of small gifts. Their action quickly defused my irritation and I had a good night sleep. We arrived on Thursday night and it appeared they were getting a lot of last minute local traffic. I suspect they gave up my room for some extra revenue. I didn't really mind cause I had read the info on the Palace and knew it was a newer hotel with a higher rating. They also gave us a room with a jacuzzi, unlimited in room internet and away from the show stages. By the way, if you are given a room next to the stages, either relocate or get a deep discount. The show noise from 7 to 11 will make the rooms unusable.

I agree with other reviewers that the resort is closer to four stars. However, I found it clean, the staff was extremely friendly and the restaurants were in general excellent. The only disappointment was the Steakhouse. It is open air only by the ocean and requires reservations 24 hours in advance. The service was on the slow side and the evening we went was extremely hot and humid. In fact, many people left before dessert; probably due to the heat more than anything else. They really should try to address this issue in some way. Also the mosquitos were in full force that night which didn't help the situation.

Contrary to other reviewers, I thought the food quality and variety was very good, much better than some cruises I've been on. The shows left a lot to be desired. The staff tried hard but the productions were lacking. They did not equal what I've seen on cruises. The last few days they had a gentlman playing sax (mostly jazz) at the buffet. He was excellent and we even extended our dinners just to hear him play. The Riu band was okay but a number of instruments were overdubbed during the live performances and I began to wonder just how much of the music was being performed live.

We did an excursion booked through the vendors at the hotel. I knew I was paying a premium but I don't like taking chances with offsite vendors since I use credit cards. We did a full day of zipp lining, horseback riding, water slides, and a mud bath at the hot springs. If you like adventure, definitely take this one. I felt very safe with the zip lines and had much fun. The horseback riding is not for the faint of heart. The horses are guided through a hilly, rocky and sometimes narrow trail. Some of the horses had minds of their own and would try to push through other horses to get to the head of the pack. A few people were so unnerved that they got off the horses and opted to be taken along the trail by tractor. A couple of times I almost felt like I was going to get thrown off the horse due to my horses contiuous need to push through the pack. I didn't hear any of the 40 people in my group say they were ready to try this again.

In conclusion, I was very satisfied with the resort and the experience. I try not to get stressed when things don't go 100% right (unlike many people these days). I will probaly go back to Costa Rica some day to other parts of the country but I would return to the Riu if the opportuniy arose.

Room Tip: Don't book a room near the stages; opt for an oceanside room.
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 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.
Calgary
Top Contributor
57 reviews 57 reviews
19 hotel reviews
Reviews in 32 cities Reviews in 32 cities
57 helpful votes 57 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 29, 2013

When we arrived I guess the first thing I noticed is that nobody met us at the doors to help with luggage. It's a do it yourself deal. Not that I'm that lazy, but I expect a bit more from a 5 star Hotel.

Check in is at 3:00pm but don't worry if you show up early. They won't check you in, but they will give you your All Inclusive (AI) bracelet. Then you can stroll around the grounds which are quite large and enjoy taking photos, dining, snacks and of course drinks. I recommend the bars by the pool more than those by the lobby. Especially for slushy drinks. They make them fresh from the blender outside. Really great drinks.

The snack bar (right of the lobby) has sliders, nachos with cheese, popcorn, hotdogs, and more (24/7). There is free wine and liquor so drinks are no problem (self-serve). Has a great view of the grounds. There are two bars located to the right and left of the lobby. You can get drinks to go or stay here.

Also to your left of the lobby near the entrance to the rooms, is the Italian restaurant (and boy is it good). This is a must do. Pasta, Pizza, deserts, breads, and more. 5 Star restaurant!

Down the main staircase and you have the Japanese restaurant (Tokyo) to your immediate left. Beyond that is the buffet which has an excellent selection any time of day. We never ate here but it looks good.

We never made it to the steak restaurant. You have to make reservations between 10am and 2pm or you can't get in (fyi). The steak restaurant is located outside to the far, far right (close to the beach).

There is also the Krystal restaurant which is located at the bottom of the main stairs to your right. They make you wear long pants (dress it up a bit). If their busy they make a reservation and hand you a small cell phone. When your table is ready they call you to come in. This way you don't have to just stand there. That being said... The food was excellent in presentation but for actual taste... don't waste your time. Good for pictures though. The service was terrible and the bread was so hard you could hurt yourself trying to eat it. This place was so bad my wife wanted to rate the whole resort a 1 out of 5. This was the first restaurant we tried.

If you're a smoker you're going to have real trouble. There are only like two smoking areas and they are far. One is by the beach (right at the edge) and the other (more comfortable one is on your right side as you approach the spa. At least you can sit here. A lot of people smoke from their balcony (though I don't think it's approved of and you won't have an ash tray so you'll have to dispose of your butts yourself in a discreet manner). Nowhere to smoke in the pool area and it's not permitted out on the beach.

The pools are amazing and they have many, many activities from swimming to volleyball to others. They have built in lounge chairs in many of the pools which are perfect for keeping cool while relaxing. They also have a waterfall from one pool (upper) to another (lower). At night they light up beautifully. There is plenty of space for everyone. You can pull shades across the lounge chairs if it's feeling too hot. It was June (24) when we went (green season) but it never rained when we were in Costa Rica (7 days). Well it may have at night. I'm sure it did at night. It sprinkled a bit once in the day, but it felt nice. Nothing bad. Beware of the rays though. You need sunscreen even on cloudy days. You can burn really, really fast. You can get drinks from servers in the pool area but they have a lot of ground to cover and it will take quite a while to get your drinks. Better to just go get them unless you don't care how long it takes.

The drinks at the swim up bar (in the water or on the upper dry section) are fantastic. Try the Pina Colada or a Dirty Monkey. Mmm Mmm. Of course they have whatever you desire.

Fun Tours: They offer Scuba, Seadoo, Paddle boards and gear, Paddle boats, horseback riding and more (no parasail).

The beach is public and you will be approached by tour independent operators (not associated with the hotel). Don't book with them is what we were told. Go to the Scuba shop and you can book with the hotel there. Why? Example: You can get a massage for cheaper on the beach with them but it doesn't look too appealing. You get what you pay for right. Plus they charge different prices for everyone. The RIU spa is gorgeous and first rate.
This hotel includes kids but you won't hear a bunch of screaming babies if that's your concern.
Lot's of eye candy though (for both sexes).

If you're looking for multiculturalism, you came to the right place. There are people from everywhere here. No matter where you're from you'll feel right at home.

The entertainment is excellent for this venue. The show starts at 9:00pm but I advise getting there at 8:00pm and drinking until 9:00pm. This way you can get front row seating. It's worth it and makes for better pictures. The dancing, singing, and musicians perform nightly (but it is all different routines/shows). After 9:00pm you'll be sitting in the nose bleed section because a lot of people come out to see this. It's hard not to as you can hear it from just about everywhere. There are two bars in the entertainment area and several servers. A little tip goes a long way here. I noticed that almost nobody did tip for anything. But when you do, they really show their appreciation and you'll get fast service.

They have room service 24/7 and at first you assume that means a decent selection. Not so. There are a few choices and they are fairly good. The cheese cake was quite stale. I'm a cheese cake buff so I guess I was disappointed a bit. And the quality of the overall room service food was (not so good). But at least it was something available. You might as well walk to the snack bar. The food here is just as good if not better lol.

The beach... Well it's not white sand and it's not quite even brown sand. Almost black and very, very hot. The beach area is not very appealing once you get down there. And I think you'll find the pool area your number one choice for swimming activities. Overall they keep the grounds and the hotel quite clean.

The room was decent but not quite up to 5 star standard. Had alcohol and mini fridge. Nice balcony and I gotta give them credit for the shower which was top notch. The pressure was perfect. Here's something you should know. There is a sensor on your patio door. If the door is open or not 100% closed, or if say your curtain is pinched in there and the door is closed, your AC unit will stop working. Hmm. Good tip* It is comfortable and clean so that's a plus. But if you're used to other 5 Star resorts I think you'll find it a little lacking.

There is a casino and a disco located outside the RIU palace hotel (but still on the grounds) between RIU Palace and RIU Guanacosta. There are also several souvenir shops here and you can hire a photographer to record your highlights if you don't want to do it yourself.

Room Tip: Ask for one of the pillars. They have a 320 degree view, whereas the regular ocean front suites have...
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 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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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reno, Nevada
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 28, 2013

My wife and two kids age 15 and 8 spent four nights at the Riu Palace in June 2013. The lobby, pool area, and grounds in general are stunning. (Five-star is a bit of a stretch, but it's a nice four.) The rooms were very nice as well. Ours had a great view (fourth floor, centrally located facing the ocean), but other rooms clearly did not. The breakfast and lunch buffets were very good, and the Italian restaurant was nice as well. The Japanese restaurant was just OK. Check on the nights that the others are open --- some nights they aren't, which we found out the hard way. (Buffet again anyone?)

The beach was exceptionally clean. Not a trace of debris anywhere (which was kind of amazing, really). It's not Hawaii, or even San Diego though as far as the breadth or the sand. Most people seemed to prefer the pool (which personally, I didn't understand --- it's the Pacific Ocean! --- but to each their own).

We had just spent four nights at the Mountain Paradise Hotel near the Arenal Volcano, a much smaller property where we had gotten to know most of the staff by name and spent a lot of time getting to know them and the area. Exceptionally nice people. After that experience, checking in to the Riu was a real change: The staff was polite and professional, but with such a big property and so many guests, we sometimes felt like we were on a conveyor belt. That sentiment dissipated after we were there for a couple of days, but if you want to know your waiter or bartender by name and shoot the breeze about the Costa Rican soccer team, this isn't the place.

We snorkeled while we were there, which at $25/each was well worth it. We also took a transport to the nearby town of Coco Beach, which had a really nice view from the beach (lots of sailboats and nearby islands), but was lined with souvenir shops and not much else. I'd take a pass --- unless of course you need souvenirs in which case there are much better deals there than at the hotel shops.

I would note that the older Riu Hotel is right next door. We didn't discover it until the day before we left, but it has a beautiful lobby / common area and a nice pool area as well. More of a '60s Havana look compared to the modern look of the Riu Palace.

Overall, a really nice place if you want to do the all-inclusive thing.

Room Tip: Ask for an ocean view, and the higher the floor the better.
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 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.

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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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