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“Nice, not perfect”

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Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica
Ranked #1 of 2 Hotels in Sardinal
Certificate of Excellence
New York
Level 3 Contributor
17 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 117 helpful votes
“Nice, not perfect”
Reviewed November 26, 2012

I took my entire family, 5 adults 2 children down to the Riu Guanacaste over the Holiday, and it was great for all. The Hotel is a beautiful property, located out of the way on a brutual stretch of road. Although most get a shuttle service we rented a car at Liberia Airport, which was fast and easy. It also allowed us to explore Tamarindo and Cocoa Beach two cool local areas that are worth day visits escpecially if you surf (Tamarindo).
There are 5 restuarants and candidly the reservation system is quite annoying. You need to book early in the morning and if you don't you will be left to the buffet, which is probably your best choice regardless. I have stayed at many RIUs and the food at all of them is typically 7/10. It is designed to serve the masse, we all agreed the buffet is the best bet.

There are loads of activities to do not only on property or off, we participated in several excursions over 8 days and can recommend the diving, the snorkeling, the arenal tour, and the horseback hot springs tour.

So now the good and the bad:

Good:
1) Value - was well worth it.
2) Room Size and views - very nice and clean
3) The pools and grounds - are amazing
4) Family friendly or solo/romantic
5) Noise - hotel was quiet
6) Entertainment - the entertainment was generally pretty good
7) Beach location - (private, but see below)
8) Service - very good and consistent
9) Refridgerator - Fully stocked daily with beer, waters, and drinks.
10) Kids - very family friendly

Bad:
1) The Alcohol - Horrible. So bad we went to another RIU in Cabo, but decided we would not go again. We are a family of wine drinkers, the wine was beyond horrible, the cheapest most vinegary we had experienced at any resort.. This help up at the the RIU Cabo as well. If you love skip all RIU properties. We have stayed at the Occidental and Guanacaste Hilton their wine was amazing and included. The mixed drinks are aslo of the cheapest quality with poor mixers, expecially the margaritas and horrible pina coladas.

2) The Beach, it is a rough, hot, small, disconnected volcanic (read dark dirty sand) beach. Thankfully the amazing grounds and pools compensate for an absolutely dissapopinting beach .

3) Food - The restuarants are ok, but the reservation system is annoying and frustrating. The Buffet is absolutely bet, would be an 8/10 with the rest of the restaurants 6/10.

4) Pool Seating - it fills up very quicly and as with your typical resort towels are dropped at 6/7 am and people dont show unitl 9/10am.

5) Lots of locals on the beach selling goods, some got aggressive.

6) Internet needs some work.

Room Tip: Wine is absolutely horrible, enough to keep us from returning.
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  • Stayed December 2011, traveled with family
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Helpful?
7 Thank vivrelemonde
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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NJ
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed November 25, 2012

This was my first visit to Costa Rica. It was a beautiful country with mountains along the beaches. The sunset was glorious. The people were friendly and mostly fluent in English. I've been to many All- inclusive luxury resorts on several islands but this was my first Riu resort and my last. Not to sound snobby but I usually stay at 5 star hotels so I had high expectations. I know the hotel was opened only 4 weeks ago, but many things were inexcusable.
Let start with the lobby - bad taste - it looked like a circus-crazy colors- bad design. The reception personnel were very nice and professional. My room had a wonderful ocean view but I felt like I was in an operating room- the walls were white with white fluorescent lights through out the room. There was a bathtub in the middle of the room -No curtains No privacy. There was a purple glass wall separating the double sink from the front door but the sinks were also open to the room. There was nothing serene about the room. They could of at least put robes in the room. The bar was sparsely filled with beer and soda. Room service was bad- I called several times for hangers,towels floor mats etc, usually we did not get a response. We had a major bug problem especially at night the bug crawled under the door and infested the bathroom. I called the front desk several times asking for an exterminator but did not get a response . I personally went to the front desk and complained-- they said it would be taken care-Nothing Happened. The food was lousy, the meat was over cooked and poor quality. -Not to mention the ridiculous system set up to make dinner reservations. Every two days at 9am you go wait on line to make dinner reservations. When I finally got to the front the only reservation available was the steakhouse. I did not go on vacation to wait on line. The entertainment was at 8:30 pm which conflicted with dinner time- who ever thought of this system was not thinking of the hotel guests.
There were four pools so there was plenty of space except on the weekend because it open for locals to stay at a discounted rate. The beach was beautiful with grey sand. The pacific Ocean(really Papagyo gulf) was warm. The wifi service was hit or miss. The gym was nice. The casino was laughable. After staying at luxury All-inclusives like Iberostar Grand. I would not recommend this resort.

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Jacqueline M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Tennessee
Level 5 Contributor
66 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 63 helpful votes
Reviewed November 25, 2012

We were at the RIU Palace Costa Rice the week of Thanksgiving, November 19, 2012.
Restaurants –There are 5 restaurants, 1 is the come-whenever buffet, Arenal, one is the Italian, L’Anfora, the other three you need reservations – Tokio, Japanese; Papagayo, steakhouse; Krystal, Fusion Gourmet, where the dress code is a little more strict and you can’t wear shorts. The line to make reservations started a little before 9:00 am. You can make a reservation for the same night and the next night, but you can’t make reservations beyond the next night. It’s a good idea to bring your ticket for your reservation to the restaurant, as on our first night the restaurant didn’t have our reservations and she had to go back to our room and show the ticket receipt as proof that we had a reservation, then they did seat us.
The food is okay. I was most disappointed by the Krystal as it was supposed to be “Fusion Gourmet”, but it was just okay. The only restaurant we went to more than once was the buffet for breakfast and lunch everyday, and steakhouse for dinner. But I’m from the mid-west and get much better steaks at home.
Weekends – it is much busier starting Friday noon and through the weekend due to the locals coming for the weekend specials. It is much busier, hence noisier, too. But the good news is if you are there Friday, you can make reservations for dinner for Friday and Saturday night and avoid the busier buffet restaurant.
RIU Palace vs. Guanacaste – at the Palace RIU we were given white bracelets, at the Guanacaste they had blue bracelets. We were able to go to the Guanacaste pool and restaurants no problem. But we didn’t notice many blue bracelets on the RIU palace side, so not sure if they have full reciprocity between both properties. The RIU Palace pool was much more subdued, quiet, and more broken up between the many pool areas. The RIU Guanacaste pool seemed like the pools flowed seamlessly between all of them and much more party atmosphere at Guanacaste pool.
Beach – is a very dark color sand so the beach sand is HOT!!! I didn’t wear my flip flops the first time I tried to walk to the ocean, and regretted it. The sand is very hot, so bring your sandals to walk on the beach.
Rooms – we had a Jr. Suite with sea view. It was a very spacious and nice room. Large spacious shower, which I appreciate. The view from our room over the ocean and the mountains was beautiful and glad we upgraded to the sea view. They had four different liquors in the room along with variety of mixers, coke, diet coke, tonic, club soda, orange soda. They have 24 hour room service too. They give you 2 large bottles of water as the water in the room is not potable.
Bugs – only at the steakhouse restaurant, Papagayo, which is closest to the beach, at dinner did we have any problems with bug bites.
Airport Liberia – When departing you first need to pay $28 US dollars cash for a departure tax. This is NOT made clear by our shuttle driver to the airport. So first pay the departure tax, where you will receive a form. You need to fill out the back of the form before going to the check in gate of your airline, also NOT made clear when we received our receipt form for the departure tax. Once you fill out the departure tax form THEN go to check in with your airline.
Excursions – There are a few options when booking an excursion – through customer service at the hotel which include the “Scuba Caribe” company that you find has a hut in between the two RIU resorts and also by the shops area, through excursions companies that hang out at the lobby bar (purple bar), or the guys hanging out on the beach. The resort “Scuba Caribe” wanted $45 dollars for a 2 hour boat ride for snorkeling that just took you to the closest reef by the hotel. We had heard a lot about “Monkey Head” and other places so wanted to go farther. We booked a 3 hour snorkel excursion through CAT tours (Central American Tours) the representative was in the purple bar in the lobby area. There were 6 total of us at $45 each for 3 hours. We had a great trip! We were taken to two different snorkel locations, got to do some fishing for tuna, saw dolphins and turtles. We had a great guide and wonderful trip.
Service – we felt the service was outstanding. At the restaurants and bar we were always greeted quickly and always very friendly. Our room was cleaned quickly and our fridge refreshed. Trying to speak a little Spanish goes a long way, just a friendly Hola and asking Coma Esta goes a long way to getting a smile and repeat good service.

Overall - beautiful resort, good food, great service, great room, okay beach (better than no beach) would go back.

Room Tip: The sea view room was worth it to us.
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  • Stayed November 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
7 Thank Lorann H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ormond Beach, Florida, United States
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
Reviewed November 25, 2012

Just arrived home from a weeks stay at the Riu Palace Guanacaste. We have stayed at many Riu Palaces and as much as I would recommend the others, I can not recommend this resort.
Being a newly opened resort, we were anticipating "some" service issues, not the "several" we actually experienced. Hopefully in time the service will improve.
Positives: the property and resort is beautiful, there are 5 different pools, the beach is black sand however it is a fine sand so it does not hurt your feet. The quality of food in the main buffets overall was very good for an all- inclusive The alcohol was all top shelf. We ate dinner one night at the Steak Restaraunt, the quality of the food was horrible, the service was even worse. The wait staff never came over to check on us after our order was placed. When I noticed other patrons had already left, some were eating desert and we had not been served our entrees yet, I went up and questioned a staff member. Apparently our order was never placed, they scrambled around and eventually brought us a poor quality meal- there were 11 people in our party so it's hard to comprehend how they couldn't notice our table had not been served. We ate dinner at Krystal one evening, the food was great but, once again the service was terrible.
The decor is not that of a traditional Riu Palace, it is more modern. The rooms are nice, the only negative about the rooms is that there is a stand alone bathtub in the room, there is a private shower and toilet area but, there are no walls surrounding the bathroom so there is no privacy for getting dressed. We were traveling with children so we would get dressed inside the walk in shower.
Not so good: as referenced already, the Service was horrible, that being said, there were a few good servers. On Friday at lunch time, bus loads of locals arrived at the resort, I had to ask 3 times for tables to be cleared so my family could have a clean place to sit and eat. It wasn't until my husband went over and spoke with the manager until our tables were cleaned so we could be seated, the buffet area was crazy, as referenced previously, the staff were more concerned about taking care of the locals than they were those of us that paid thousands of dollars to stay at the resort. Apparently, both the Riu Palace and the Riu next door charge the locals next to nothing to stay at the resorts for the weekend, they over took the pool areas, were loud and several got very drunk, this totally cheapens the experience, we have never experienced anything like this at any of the other Riu Palaces we have stayed at. Riu needs to decide who their target market for this resort is- the locals, or visitors from other countries. I would only recommend this resort if you are staying Monday through Thursday. If you are looking for a Costa Rican resort that entails a Friday through Sunday visit, I would not stay here. My teenage children couldn't wait to leave the resort after it was overtaken by the hundreds of locals that were busses in.
Costa Rica is a beautiful country, we will return to Costa Rica and will stay at a different resort.

Room Tip: The stage for the entertainment area is directly below some of the rooms so they can be very loud. T...
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  • Stayed November 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Susan G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Tennessee
Level 6 Contributor
215 reviews
34 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 71 helpful votes
Reviewed November 25, 2012

We stayed here with two other couples and we had a great time. The best experience was the helpful and friendly staff. We had many interactions with the staff at reception, bars, and restaurants and we found everybody to be well trained and helpful. We were worried that having just opened there would be some problems, but we found that the Palace exceeded our expectations. I share the opinion of others that it gets very crowded on the weekend as the hotel gets full.

Food - We enjoyed the variety of all the food. Most of it was very well prepared and we were able to try some new things. We are foodies so we very much enjoyed eating at the specialty restaurants in the evenings. Reservation times are 6:15 and 8:15. We never had trouble getting a reservation. To do so you need to queue up at 9am and get on the reservation list for up to 1 day in advance. I found this system to be very fair as we would not have been happy to arrive mid week and find that all the reservations have been booked by others. We liked the Steakhouse the best. We found the buffet to be excellent. There is NO WAY anyone can go hungry here or not be able to find something they like to eat as there are so many choices.

Bar - You won't die of thirst here. We spent a good amount of time at the swim up bar(s). We though the one at the older RIU had a bit more character, but they're both fun. Service was mostly good. Drinks were made quickly. We had the occasional problem communicating our drinks. If you order something custom don't be surprised if you don't get it the first time. We had trouble getting grapefruit drinks (sky breeze and salty dog) and laughed about it. If you prefer a call liquor or double shot just ask they'll get you whatever you want.

Room - we had an ocean view on the 3rd floor and our room was great and so was the room service. Maid service came twice per day for daily cleaning, fresh towels, stock the mini bar, etc and then again at night for turndown service. The staff here is exceptional. The rooms are spacious and very clean. We had no problems. The wifi worked most of the time. Better in the afternoons and by the pool. We had spotty connection in our room sometimes.

Beaches - the beach sucked. There are much better beaches in other parts of Costa Rica. If you want to surf, go south 1/2 hour and you'll find much better beaches. We were planning to SCUBA dive, but decided to go on a fishing/snorkel trip as the water visibility is generally poor in the Pacific side of Costa Rica.

Excursions - there are many tour companies that set up in the lobby each morning from 9 to noon. We talked with a few of them and booked a 1/2 day trip. We had a great time There are also people who walk the beach and give you their sales pitch. I found this to be annoying at times so I recommend going with the companies that the RIU allows to set up in the lobby. The trips and the prices are all the same so just book with whomever you like best.

Room Tip: Stay up on a higher floor for a better view and at the end of one of the wings, away from the stage...
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  • Stayed November 2012, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank GroovyM
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York
Level 3 Contributor
16 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
Reviewed November 24, 2012

Let me preface my review by saying that I travel to Mexico or the Caribbean at least once per year so my review is in comparison to other resorts (large resorts like Iberostar in Dom. Rep. and Mexico, midsize resorts in Mexico like Dreams and small/boutique resorts like Ladera in St. Lucia). I have never been to Costa Rica before so my review doesn't take that into account.

Food - I never have high hopes for these all-inclusive resorts. This is the 6th one I have been to and the food was by far the worst. Everything is over-salted and over-cooked. We found the buffet at the other RIU hotel was better so we went there every day for lunch and breakfast (you can't use their resort for dinner). For all the restaurants except Italian there are only two seatings, one at 6:15 and one at 8:15. The buffets are open at all times. In order to get reservations you have to wait in line at 9am and can only make reservations for the next two days, unlike other resorts where you can make reservations for the entire week.

Bugs - as I mentioned I have travelled throughout the Caribbean and Mexico so I realize there are insect issues (I brought two full bottles of repellant). However I was not prepared for the amount of bugs inside the rooms. There is a wide gap under the front door which allows bugs in. We put a towel down at night but they still got in. We even found a bug in the bed one night. I just travelled to an open-air resort in St Lucia that had no walls and the bug amount was almost the same. The couple we were with asked the hotel is come spray insecticides but they never came.

Service -
A) room: the service to the room (housekeeping and guest services, not room service) was terrible. I called two days in a row for more hangers, called 3x in one day for more water since they say they restock the mini bar but don't, called once for more towels which never came and ended up stealing from the maid cart. Reception rarely answered and I was never able to get housekeeping on the phone. I am not sure if they are understaffed or just don't care about guest requests, but the service is a joke.
B)With regards to service at the restaurants, it was better but they were definitely understaffed. I would ask multiple waiters for the same thing in hopes that someone would bring it (most times I would go up to the maitre d and then finally would get some service). I am a very patient person but they need to hire more people. They are definitely over working their wait staff.
C) pool drink service was hit or miss. They either brought drinks fairly quickly or completely forgot (even after writing it down). It doesn't seem like a staffing issue. Pool bartenders were great.

Wifi - there is one router for the entire hotel which means wifi is spotty at best. Also you need to get an access code from reception which only allows one person per room to use wifi.

Entertainment - as with most of these resorts the entertainment isn't great but at least this resort has a casino and disco. There is only one show at 9pm so if you sit down at the 8:15 seating you will miss it. There is also a sports bar at the other RIU hotel.

Activities - every day there is water aerobics and bingo at the pool. There is also kayaking, wind surfing and paddleboards. The latter three activities are dependent on weather conditions. The nice thing about the activities staff is they don't pester people to join and the pool area is pretty quiet most days. There is a swim-up bar for those who like to just relax.

Decor - one word: sterile. They rooms have white walls accented with grey. The entire interior of the resort looks like a doctor's office. See pics (also included pics of the beautiful RIU resort next door).

Bathrooms - when you walk into the rooms there is a bathtub in the middle of the room. There are no walls separating the bathroom from the bedroom which leaves no privacy (see pics).

Beaches - the beach is great. The sand is black from the volcano so the water isn't clear as it is in Mexico or Carribean but they are clean and the water is warm. Since you can't see through the water it makes it hard to snorkel. This isn't true of all places in CR but this beach was on a small bay so there isn't much water flow to the open ocean. The water itself was very warm.

Pros:
-Nice staff and really friendly locals (not pushy either)
-full gym
-Plenty of pools and chairs
-Beautiful scenery and view from the room
-Beaches were clean and spacious
-relaxing pool area (music wasn't too loud and no one really bothering you)
-pools very clean
-access to RIU Guanacaste hotel buffet for breakfast and lunch (which was better)

Cons:
-Food/restaurant reservation system
-Insects in rooms
-Service
-Decor/bathroom in rooms

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank Danielle K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Virginia
Level 6 Contributor
101 reviews
33 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 45 helpful votes
Reviewed November 24, 2012

My family wasn't happy staying at the new Palace. We have stayed at numerous riu palaces and this one had the worst service by far. It was tough getting a table at many meals and the service at the specialty restaurants was very slow. Although the The employees are nice, they aren't well trained yet. We waited an hour and a half at the steak restaurant for our meal and it was poor quality steak. The food at the buffets was good and they had a nice selection.
The rooms were nice but the bathroom is open and the tub is in the middle of the room- it lacks privacy. The pools and beach are very nice and weather is great. The country and views from the hotel are gorgeous. Glad I came but wish we arrived 6 months from now as it really isnt ready for crowds yet. Also, one of our biggest complaints was that they offered local Costa Ricans a nightly rate o $80 and the weekends were overcrowded and a bit crazy. This was a very different experience than what we are accustomed to at riu palaces. My mother is angry I brought her here.

Room Tip: Stage is loud at night , so try to stay away from it if you go to bed early.
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  • Stayed November 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank seaandski4us
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

Property: Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica
Address: Playa Matapalo | Sardinal Carrillo - Guanacaste, Sardinal, Costa Rica
Phone Number:
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Guanacaste > Gulf of Papagayo > Sardinal
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Casino and Gambling Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 Hotels in Sardinal
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica 4*
Number of rooms: 538
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The hotel lies directly on the beautiful, fine-sandy Matapalo beach, next to the hotel Riu Guanacaste. * The guest of Riu Palace Costa Rica may use the facilities in sister hotel Riu Guanacaste, except dinner meal * Main Building 6 floors 538 rooms * Next City Liberia 42.0 km approx. * Airport Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR) 33.0 km approx. * Next ATM / Bank: 200 m * Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica Guanacaste

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