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“Family resort, typical all-inclusive” 4 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
Level Contributor
56 reviews
43 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 105 helpful votes
“Family resort, typical all-inclusive”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 26, 2014

I am a travel agent and have stayed at many all-inclusives and can give an honest review of the resort. We booked a 2 bedroom suite and our room was clean and housekeeping did a great job. The 2 bedroom suite is nice because the kids had their own room. The room with the King bed opened to the balcony. I did not like that we had to cross the foyer to get to the bathroom(which took away from privacy from the kids) and we also noticed that the bathroom in the second bedroom had a much larger bathroom attached to it with the toilet area separate. We could have traded rooms for more privacy and the better bathroom, but did not want to give up our King bed and balcony. The staff was very accommodating and courteous. The lobby bar had the best drinks. Night entertainment was typical all-inclusive. If you wish to dine at one of the 2 a la carte restaurants, plan on sitting and waiting it out with the crowd in the morning to secure a table for the next day. I feel that this process could be avoided by allowing guests to make reservations at check-in. There were many options at breakfast. The resort feels very safe and there are a ton of kids and families. It would not be a great option for honeymooners or for spring breakers. The beach is not overly crowded, black sand is hot. We were able to spot fish when swimming in the ocean. We were hassled quite a bit by vendors selling jewelry, massages, excursions. Overall, the food was OK, staff was wonderful and the hotel grounds and rooms are very nice. My advice is to get off the resort and enjoy Costa Rica and the many excursions you will have to choose from.

  • Stayed July 2014, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars
    • 5 of 5 stars
    • 5 of 5 stars
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Cypress, Texas
Level Contributor
18 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 26, 2014

We were at the resort with friends. It was our first all inclusive. The property is beautiful. Its downhill from there. I have slept on floors softer than the be in my room. By our last night I was unable to sleep through because everything hurt. The pool waiters were there for only one or two of the 5 days we were there. We had to swim or walk to the pool bar for drinks. The bar area was the center of a honey bee swarm that was insane. A few people indicated they had be stings. You always had to check your drink for bees before consuming. I had multiple bees in my drinks multiple times. The food was just OK. There are 5 restaurants on property and 2 of them require reservations. The have the silliest reservation policy I've ever encountered. They took reservations at a table in one of the bars from 9-12 noon. You could make a reservation for 1 of the 2 restaurants for the following evening only. This means that if you arrive at the resort after 12 noon (we arrived at 2 PM) you cannot reserve for the following evening. The next morning you can reserve for the evening after that. If you plan an off-resort activity on any day you won't be able to make a dinner reservation because you'll be gone. Really stupid. On the weekends they open the resort to the local community. I don't know if the pool war more crowded because of it but it was very crowded.... an no waiters. The booze was almost entirely local: locally produced gin, vodka, and beer. We had a good time doing excursions and really enjoyed the country and the trip but will not visit another Riu property anywhere on this planet.

Room Tip: I don't think there is a good room option. Everyone we spoke with had problems with the beds...
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  • Stayed August 2014, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars
    • 2 of 5 stars
    • 2 of 5 stars
Thank TexTim
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Acton, Massachusetts, United States
Level Contributor
5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 25, 2014 via mobile

Although we arrived late at the hotel, the front desk staff was courteous and provided needed information and guided us to our rooms. The room itself was not the best but was clean and located in the quiet corner of the hotel.

Some of the good points:

Nice food, easy access to the beach, live entertainment and courteous staff all round

Some of the negative points:

Poor daily room amenities, Internet access (90 min per day per room and only in the lobby)

I had a wonderful experience in staying at this resort however I was not impressed by the Internet service that was provided to us free of the charge. While I bought 1 day paid Internet, i was billed two times, one of 1 day and other for 3 days. Please pay attention!

I definitely recommend this resort.

Stayed August 2014, traveled with family
4 Thank Ali A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Tenafly, New Jersey
Level Contributor
13 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 54 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 23, 2014 via mobile

OUR GROUP: We traveled with 14 family members ranging from 9 y.o. to 72 y.o. We had four rooms in total -- three standard rooms and one family room.

CHECK-IN: We didn't arrive from the airport until 3:30 pm so we were able to check in and go into our rooms right away (within 5-10 minutes). Process was quick and smooth. The only annoyance was that you get only two keys per room -- yes, actual keys and not room cards -- so if you have more than two guests in a room you have to figure out who gets a key and who doesn't.

ROOM: Our room was on the fourth floor facing the jungle, which was fine with us because that side was quiet at night during the nightly shows and during the day. We had a humongous balcony overlooking the jungle but the other rooms in our party didn't have such huge balconies. We didn't see any monkeys but definitely could hear them from time to time. As noted by other reviews, the BEDS for a "standard" room are pretty small and, when put together, won't sleep more than three adults max comfortably. Mattresses were firm yet comfortable -- if you prefer soft mattresses that you can sink into, you won't like them. Then again, most hotel bed mattresses are on the firm side.  Contrary to other reviews, the AIR CONDITIONER worked well and kept the room nice and cool -- we even had to turn it off at night because the room would get too cold at night if we left it on. (We also had to turn off the ceiling fan too at night -- see the switch on the wall with a fan symbol.) The TV was a small flat screen with Spanish-speaking cable channels. We brought our own portable DVD player with our own hook-up cables and easily hooked that up to the TV to watch DVD movies we brought along for the trip. It was perfect for the kids at night, when there isn't much to do. The ROOM SAFE (simple four-digit code) was huge and it fit a large laptop along with an iPad, passports, etc. for safe keeping.

MINI-FRIDGE: Was stocked with big bottles of water and other beverages, including beer, which was replenished daily by the maids. Having plenty of water on hand in the room was very convenient to stay hydrated.

BATHROOM: Perfectly fine. Two separate sinks with a tub/shower combo that was spacious enough. I imagine that those who complained about the size of the tub/shower were expecting a jacuzzi? No bad smell whatsoever. I agreed with others' comments regarding SOAP/SHAMPOO -- there is a single dispenser in the shower for shampoo. Small bars of soap were provided and replenished on an as-needed basis. We brought our own big bar of Dove soap and bottles shampoo and conditioner -- no big deal (we also brought our own scrunchy). TOWELS were indeed pretty stiff/rough when dry -- must be the laundry detergent or something -- but once they were damp, they were fine.

POOL/BEACH: A very nice pool. Poolside service for drinks was slow but not a big deal. The RIU resorts are on Playa Matapalo, which is a lovely, secluded dark sand beach, not much different from the other beaches in the area like Playas del Coco and Playa Ocotal. Plenty of trees to offer shade from the hot sun. I wouldn't bother walking to the Monkey Bar that other reviewers have mentioned on TripAdvisor.

RESTAURANTS -- LIBERIA: Liberia is the resort's main buffet restaurant with plenty of space to be seated immediately upon arrival, even for large party of 14 like ours. There are a ton of different choices at Liberia and you wouldn't go wrong eating most of your meals there if you chose to do so. It also offers a themed section by the main entrance that changes every night so you get additional variety. It opens at 7:00 am for breakfast and closes at 9:30-10:00 pm.

RESTAURANTS -- LA TOSCANA & LA FURAMA: La Toscana (Italian) and La Furama (Chinese/Japanese) are first-come-first-served themed restaurants -- we never had to wait long for a table at either restaurant. La Toscana has a buffet for salad/starters with waiter service for your entrée. La Furama is 100% buffet with an Asian theme (Chinese/Japanese) that is different from Liberia. Each restaurant is worth checking out at least once during your stay.

RESTAURANTS -- OCOTAL & TUCÁN: Ocotal is a steakhouse down by the pool and Tucán is the resort's "gourmet" restaurant. Both Ocotal and Tucán require one-day advance reservations -- all you have to do is line up at 8:50-9:00 am at the special table they set up in the Bar Filadelfia every morning. If you arrive there at that time, you're pretty much assured of getting a table at either restaurant the next day and you won't wait long to make the reservation either. Note that Ocotal is outdoors with no A/C, so bear that in mind if you're dining there. Both restaurants are worth checking out if you can get to Bar Filadelfia to make reservations.

NO ROOM SERVICE: Not a big deal because our kids would simply bring back to the room big plates of pizza, fries, etc. from Liberia, which was pretty convenient since it's a buffet. After Liberia closes for the night, the resort's Sports Bar offers a small selection of snacks (sandwiches, hot dogs, popcorn, etc.).

EARLY MORNING COFFEE: If you cannot wait until Liberia opens at 7:00 am for your cup of Joe, they set up a coffee station in the hotel lobby at 5:45 am. Their disposable coffee cups are tiny so you might want to pack a travel coffee mug if you drink coffee in large quantities like I do.

ALCOHOL/DRINKS: Drank mostly draft Imperial beer and the house red wine during our stay, so can't really comment on the lack of top-shelf liquor at the resort. The red wine is passable and the resort astutely keeps it chilled so it tastes better (drink it quick before it reaches room temperature). Drank the Imperial beer in the room's mini-fridge on occasion, but didn't bother with the hard liquor dispensers in the room, which I'm sure produce nice hangovers. Most evenings the resort set up a table outside the La Toscana restaurant for that evening's specialty cocktail -- thoae cocktails got some favorable reviews from other family members who took advantage of it.

LOCALS STAYCATION CONCERNS: As noted in other reviews, we did notice a big influx of local families on Saturday-Sunday but it didn't bother us one bit. The locals weren't any more polite or annoying than the other tourists we saw at the resort. You just notice a lot more Spanish-speaking families, that's all. Frankly it gave the crowd more of an international flavor. Monday-Friday it's mostly Americans, which isn't necessarily a good thing.

EXCURSIONS: We booked 100% of our excursions with tour operators recommended by TripAdvisor so didn't use any tour operators at the RIU, whether in the lobby or out on the beach.

If your cellphone carrier is on a GSM network (like AT&T and T-Mobile) you can purchase an international data roaming package before you depart because there is good GSM cellphone coverage on the resort -- it cuts out a mile or two ourside the resort, but picks up again a few miles further inland. We also purchased a Wi-Fi package for $70, which gives you Wi-Fi coverage for up to four devices for an entire week throughout the resort (including in your room). Otherwise you're relegated to using the hotel lobby's free Wi-Fi for 90-minutes daily in a single stretch.

EVENING ENTERTAINMENT: Folks though Grease was eh and Michael Jackson was mildly entertaining. Otherwise we didn't check any of the other shows. Never found an opportunity to make it over to the Pacha nightclub.

MISCELLANEOUS: No ATM at the resort -- only at the nearby casino. Better to bring lots of cash with you from the U.S. and keep what you don't need in the safe. The resort is in a secluded area of Guanacaste far from anything worth visiting so be prepared to pay exorbitant prices for TAXIS. For example, it cost $40 one-way to Playas del Coco (25 minutes away) for three people -- that's an $80 round-trip. If you're taking a tour or excursion, most tour operators will factor into the cost picking you up at the RIU and dropping you off afterwards. It's worth paying the extra $3 ($32 vs. $29) to take care of paying the country's DEPARTURE TAX at the hotel instead of at the airport.

FINAL CONCLUSION: As far as all-inclusive resort goes (with that format's pros and cons), the RIU Guanacaste is a nice, bang-for-your buck resort and perfect for a family vacation in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. Just remember to leave the resort once in a while to check out all that Costa Rica has to offer! I would strongly consider returning to it on a future visit to Guanacaste.

Stayed August 2014
30 Thank ThomasY07670
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
East Orange, New Jersey
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 36 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 22, 2014

The hotel was very nice. In speaking to locals in the area I was told that this hotel is the best in the area. I was told that the difference between the Hotel and the Palace is that the Palace is very quiet. Some people from the palace even choose to visit the pool at the Riu Hotel because of the size, and the activities. You find many Americans or Costa Ricans on vacation (on the weekends) at this resort.

We did not book excursions online nor did we book with the Riu. Instead, we booked them there, and we were glad that we did. We discovered that the excursions offered by the hotel are the same excursions offered by the locals. However, the only difference is that it is cheaper if reserved by one of the locals on the beach , and the instead of going with a bus of 20 people your groups are smaller about 8-10. We enjoyed our tour with Miguel. He is a very nice person. We booked our excursions from a man on the beach named Erick (wearing a bright neon pink shirt - everyday ). He is at the beach around 6:30 in the morning or so and until around 7 pm (I think Monday-Saturday). We Highly recommend you using him. We felt safe and comfortable throughout our excursions. After reading reviews we went to Costa Rica looking for someone else we read about in the reviews and ran into this man. We went on a full day tour that incorporated all of these things (ziplining, horseback riding, mud bath, go into a hot spring, a water slide (which is great for anyone who loves rollercoasters), and a nice Costa Rican lunch. We enjoyed this excursions so much that we went back and booked another tour (rode ATVs to three different beaches in the country). Most people give the tour person at the end of the tour a tip about $7. Definitely, book with Erick... oh and he knows English so you can communicate with him easily if you do not know Spanish.

The rooms were comfortable. The beds were firm, but we got use to it. There is a frig in the room with soda, beer, seltzer, and water. There was also vodka and rum in the room that we stayed in... not sure if that is the case for all the other rooms. The frig is refilled daily. Each room also has a safe which you could use to keep your valuable items.

There were many different things to choose from at the buffet. They also had other restaurants that you could reservations for the day before. There is a seafood place, a steak house, an Italian restaurant, and an Asian restaurant at this hotel. There are many bars at the hotel. We enjoyed stopping at the 24 sports bar. There is a popcorn machine (which is popping fresh popcorn about every 30 minutes), a nacho machine, a frig with hot dogs and hamburgers and of course drinks. There is also a pool table and a ping pong table.

The beach was a little rockier than we would have liked it to be... probably because we are so use to the Caribbean. The beaches at the Carribean are a lot better, but most people go to Costa Rica for the adventures (excursions). The pool was beautiful. There were many people at the pool. It is a large. There were many activities during the day at the pool such as aqua arobics and competitions. The bar pool did have bees as some mentioned in the other reviews but what do you expect you are outdoors in Central America. It was only at the pool bar that we noticed them, but that is such a small part of the pool. If afraid or allergic just go to another part of the pool... it is large enough. We spent a lot of time at the pool.

Each night there is a show.Boy can they dance their butts off. It was entertaining. At night, there is also a Casino just outside the hotel and a dance club. The club is open until about 3 in the morning.

Outside of the resort there are also about 8 gift shops or so, but we bought our things from the locals on the beach because we were able to bargain some.

Additional Information
Almost everything is in dollars. We did not change any money and did not have to because this is a touristy place so everything is in dollars. Make sure that you have singles and fives because most places say that they do not have change.

We enjoyed our trip especially the excursions!

Room Tip: We stayed overlooking the Palace hotel and it was quiet (because the palace right next to Riu Hotel...
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  • Stayed August 2014, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars
    • 4 of 5 stars
10 Thank 531SAA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Peters Township, Pennsylvania, United States
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 21, 2014

Our family of five visited Costa Rica July 28th to August 8th, 2014. We stayed in a two bedroom family suite. There was plenty of room for all of us. Our housekeeper, Anthony, kept our room very clean. We always had enough towels, etc. (No conditioner at the hotel.) We found the beds to be hard but housekeeping brought us mattress toppers that I had read about in other reviews. There are no DVD players at the resort and only a few TV stations are in English. We brought along games and a portable DVD player.

This was our first experience at an all inclusive. The food was good and bad at times. Luckily, with a buffet, if you don't like what you got, you can go and get something else. We had dinner at the Italian restaurant twice. Great food except for the steak. If you have kids, I would skip the Toucan. The food was good but it is gourmet and not oriented to kids. The Asian and Steak restaurants were also good. We had not problems getting reservations.

We loved the pool area. The kids had fun playing ping pong and watching the silly games every day. The beach was great too. The water was so warm and the fish swam all around us. We fed them rolls and bananas. There was a drink station at the beach if you got thirsty and someone to carry chairs wherever you wanted them. The locals selling things on the beach were not pushy. Just tell them no and they walk away.

We did book our excursions with Jose and Erik on the beach. Jose helped us decide which tours would be best for our family. Private is the way to go. Christian was our first guide. He was great and taught us so much about Costa Rica and the customs while we drove to our boat tour. He also stopped at a store for us to buy souvenirs and took us where we could hold a baby monkey. Juan Carlos was also a great guide. He took us to the Mega Combo tour and led us through the jungle on horseback. We liked him so much we had him take us on a beach tour. He stopped along the way when my husband saw moneys so that we could get a closer look. He also stopped at the grocery store for us.

  • Stayed August 2014, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars
7 Thank Kris F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
30 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 21, 2014

This place was our last stop in our Costa Rica trip. After staying at small BnBs and enjoying local food/culture, this place was very American in atmosphere. Buffets, pools, etc. But the quality wasn't bad. There were tons of families/kids around, the beach was right there, they had activities in the pool area that you could do, there was an entertainment show at night and it was all included so that was fine. Their restaurants werew good too (Arenal and the Japanese place).

Room Tip: A room overlooking the pool area and the beach is preferred.
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars
3 Thank Amruta G
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

Property: 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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Hotel Riu Guanacaste Costa Rica

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