Riu Guanacaste Reviews – Costa Rica Hotels – Riu Guanacaste

Riu Guanacaste- The good , the bad and the really bad-long

Just returned from a week at this new hotel (myself and my teenage daughter). We are very seasoned travelers (several trips yearly) and usually stay at 5 star resorts although have stayed in lesser places as well. I research all vacations very thoroughly – this new resort was having an opening special that was very reasonable- we paid $200 per night for the two of us all inclusive. At that price it is hard to find fault with anything however, in reading this review keep in mind that the pricing for this hotel is going to be considerably above what we paid and some of the problems that it is easy to laugh off at $200 per night will be harder to ignore if paying $400-$600 per night! Overall, I would say that this hotel gives the appearance of being a 5 star (and I am very well aware that there is a different expectation for 5 star in the Caribbean/ Latin America vs North America or Europe) , but if you look below the surface I would say that this is actually a 3 or per! haps 4 star hotel at best. I used reviews on this site extensively and felt it would be helpful to summarize some of the things that would have been helpful to me in making a decision about whether to stay here.

The Good: – The hotel really is quite beautiful. It sits on a very picturesque beach with hills surrounding it and is quite majestic looking. The lobby area is quite attractive as is the pool area. The vegetation is new but will be quite beautiful when grown in – The rooms are attractive but small. Bathroom a very decent size. Large balcony. We stayed in a basic room and it was fine- actually preferable to us as it did not front on to the evening entertainment and we still had a nice bit of ocean view. – The hotel is spotlessly clean- there was always someone cleaning every public area. The public bathrooms were also spotless – There was an abundance of lounge chairs around the pool and beach areas. We never had difficulty getting a chair at any time of the day. There were approximately 1500 people staying at the hotel, so not full capacity, but I was impressed with the availability as lack of availability of pool chairs is one problem many all inclusive seem to have. – Pool bar- great service and selection. Although no pool or beach bar service – Pools- very nice and never felt crowded – Staff- most of the staff at restaurants and bars were wonderful . Many had limited English but they were very attentive. The management is another story (see below) – Wifi- this was a good thing while it lasted! Free wifi in the lobby but after 2 days it was not working. We were told it would be up the next day and were told this for 3 days straight- finally one of the front desk staff admitted that it was not going to be fixed at all. This meant that for any type of communication you had to use the hotel telephones or pay to use their internet (not bad at $5 for 30 minutes but machines often not working) There is absolutely no cell service anywhere near the hotel. – The boat ride to Coco beach was fun (although a little bit difficult getting in and out of the baot from the beach given the waves). Prepare to potentially get very wet! This ride was supposed to be $10 but after the weekend (coincidentally the same time as a large number of Canadians arrived) the price went up to $15. This is also true of the hotel snorkeling trip- arbitrarily increased mid-stay from $15 to $25. By the way the snorkel trip is not really worthwhile- not a great reef and very little to see

– The beach- long and very nice although be careful of the intensity of the surf and undertow. A few people did get injured

The Bad I: – Food: This is a difficult thing to characterize as everyone has different expectations when it comes to food. The food is certainly plentiful and well presented generally. I will say that my general bias is against buffets and try to stay at hotels that offer sit down meals so this may influence my take on the food. Both myself and my daughter are quite adventurous in terms of trying new things and we eat out at restaurants extensively ( one of the best meals we had on this vacation was on one of our excursions when we were taken to a small local restaurant and served authentic Costa Rican home cooking- nothing fancy but absolutely delicious and far better than anything served at the hotel!) – The breakfasts at the buffet were very good although after a week it did get a bit monotonous as every day was exactly the same. Although there was considerable choice available. The lunches were the weakest offering- lunch was only available at the poolside buffet restaurant. Although we always found something to eat, and you will never starve here, this is not 5 star food. Much of it was bland and overly sauced or over cooked. Yes there always was fish available and some of it was good but seeing the same things day after day was monotonous- especially when the lunch offerings were often recycled from dinner the night before – Dinners were hit and miss. I was not overly impressed by the dinner buffets- again, lots of food available and considerable variety but nothing really great. There were 3 restaurants available- of the 3 the steakhouse was not good at all ( and I was trying to be generous in my assessment as it was nice to not have to go to the buffet). The Italian restaurant was much better and the Asian restaurant was pretty good. However these restaurants did not change their menus so to eat there meant eating from the same menu each time.

– The process of reserving the restaurants was tedious- stand in line to get a reservation in the morning (although could reserve up to 2 nights at a time). This is not what I want to spend my time doing on vacation- also there were 2 meal times- 6pm and 8:15 pm so felt very cruise ship-like (although many cruise lines have moved away from this rigidity)

The Bad II: – In the rooms the shampoo was supplied in 1-use foil packets- this is NOT environmentally friendly as another reviewer suggested and is really just designed to save the hotel money. For 2 of us this meant throwing out 4 foil packets daily ( 2 of shampoo and 2 of shower gel). A small bottle of shampoo and shower gel would be preferred. There was also no hair conditioner or Body lotion ( a necessity after long days in the sun and standard everywhere I have stayed) supplied. – Restocking of the mini bar was hit and miss- in the week we were there ours was restocked once as opposed to every other day as was supposed to occur. This in spite of polite requests and a generous tip on the first and only day it was restocked – This brings us to the management. There was a sense that the front desk had been told to agree politely to any request and then promptly forget about it! A number of people we met seemed to feel that any small request (ie please restock mini bar, repair a/c, etc) was agreed to and then nothing done about it. The upper management seemed to have an almost arrogant attitude towards the guests (see the really bad section below) – Beds- the beds were VERY hard. Not comfortable at all- we were told that a foam bad could be supplied but then this never happened. Our sheets were not changed once during a 1 week stay- I know this because I spilled some diet coke on the sheet one day and the stain was there the full week! The beds were remade daily with the same sheets- this is environmental friendliness to the extreme!

– The hotel rooms were not very sound proof . Could hear conversations and movements from surrounding rooms and especially from hallways. One morning at 4:30 am the hotel staff decided to have the surrounding areas fumigated. Everyone on the south side of the hotel was awoken to the sounds of loud machinery from 4:30-5am-front desk staff laughed- more evidence of the attitude of the hotel towards its guests

The Bad III: – On the day we left to go to the airport (a Saturday) the hotel decided to pave the road leading to the hotel (this was done by the hotel, not the government). This resulted in taxis and vans being delayed 45 minutes to and from the hotel- we had allowed 3 ½ hours to get to the airport but were almost late because of this decision on the part of the hotel. Our cab driver , along with many other that were literally parked on the road for an hour trying to get out to the airport, said the workers told them that the hotel was supposed to notify all guests checking out so they could leave more time but this was never conveyed to any of the guests I spoke with – Towel service- you were given 1 towel card per person. This is fine if a bit of a hassle- the problem was that the towel service staff would not allow you to exchange your wet towel for a dry one! Given the extreme heat we spent a lot of time in the pool but had to return to a wet towel! They took “one towel per person per day “ quite literally and pointed to this sign when we asked to exchange for a dry towel. I can understand one towel at a time per person but have NEVER been required to use a wet towel all day at any other resort. We asked on 2 separate days to exchange our towels and were told no each time

– This hotel is very isolated. This is OK for a few days but many people were feeling a bit stir-crazy after a week! There is entertainment in the evening starting at 10 pm but not much to do in the evenings between dinner and the show. (although we did not go to the casino)

The Really Bad: – My biggest concern about the hotel was its absolute refusal to allow outside tour operators on site. I travel extensively and always arrange my own tours as I prefer a smaller, more personalized excursion. I had pre-booked airport transfers, a Palo Verde tour and a sailing tour from home after extensive research. This hotel refused to allow my tour guide/driver to enter the premises. I spoke with the PR manager of the hotel who told me that this was a new hotel policy (apparently new that week) but she agreed with me initially that it was not really fair to guests and that she would speak with her boss and get back to me. I thought the problem was solved until she got back to me the next day and told me that the driver would not be allowed onto the grounds but I could walk to the exit (a 10-15 minute walk in blistering heat) and meet him there. This was even going to be true for my airport transfer (ie walk to the exit with my daughter and our suitcases!) I spoke with the hotel manager, Ricardo, who confirmed that my tour operator could not pick me up for excursions and that this was for my own good and my safety (ridiculous as all the other hotels in the area allowed private tours in for their guests- this was more to do with the commissions of the onsite tour operators I am sure). However Ricardo told me he would do me a favour (??) and allow my driver in to pick me up for a transfer back to the airport. His attitude was very arrogant and condescending and others at the hotel felt the same way about their interactions with him. This policy would be enough to prevent me from ever staying at this hotel again

– Theft- this became a big problem while we were there. I initially felt quite safe at the hotel with my items locked in the in-room safe. I also don’t take anything of significant value down to the pool or leave it unattended. However, we began to hear about numerous items being stolen from around the pool- particularly cameras and cash and very little concern by hotel management. We then heard of people having items stolen from their safe (and the safe code being reset so they could no longer open it). One couple had all their money stolen from the safe and the hotel would not even assist them in getting a ride to town to go to a bank! On our last few days items went missing from our safe as well- not sure how they did this- I set the code and every day counted my cash and each day felt a bit was missing but shrugged it off as a counting mistake on my part. On the last 2 days however I counted and wrote down the amount of money in the safe and $10 was gone each e! vening. On the last night we left the TV on and the Do Not Disturb sign on the door to deter anyone from entering the room- when we got back to the room at 11 pm the TV had been turned off and money was again missing! My daughter did not want to stay in the room any longer- luckily we were checking out the next day Overall, I feel we got our money’s worth at $200 daily all inclusive for 2 people. However, once the hotel is charging full price I would certainly stay elsewhere. I also feel that even at $200 per night we would have preferred to pay more and stay at a better run hotel (in spite of the beauty of this one). Would we go back to Costa Rica- most definitely. Would we stay at this hotel again- most definitely not and I , like many people we met, would not stay at a RIU hotel again.

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