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It was already dark by the time I arrived at my Costa Rica resort, slightly quelling the anticipation I had felt all day during my travels. But as an excited bellhop led me down a long white hallway at the Riu Palace Costa Rica, he revived my spirits with his promises that the view from my room would amaze me in the morning. He was right.
The new all-inclusive Riu Palace in Guanacaste is situated right along the coast, offering a beautifully-designed property within steps of a stretch of beach — all of which I could see from my room. My balcony overlooked the property’s pool area, a major draw of the resort which includes four pools, extensive lounge areas in both sun and shade and a swim-up. Snacks are served poolside in the afternoons, a time of day which also features entertainment, such as dance lessons and games, run by the staff in both Spanish and English.
The 538-room resort, which opened last November, is adjacent to the slightly older and bigger Riu Guanacaste, but features a totally different design aesthetic. This property is bold and modern, painted white with bright accents of pinks and purples. The large, open lobby centers around a silver sculpture, and is filled with lights — a scene that was quite striking upon entering the property after dark.
Rooms maintain similar color and design themes and feature a lounge area with a couch, a bathroom with a hydromassage bathtub and a shower cabin, air conditioning, free WiFi access, a balcony or terrace, a minibar and a wall-mounted liquor dispenser. Both the dispenser (which holds four full bottles of alcohol) and minibar are included in the price of the room and refilled whenever necessary.
Though guests can opt for a Junior Suite with two beds, clients traveling in groups may find that the standard rooms are better suited for couples, as the bathtub is situated openly in the room and the shower partition is made of colored glass and only semi-private. The Riu Guanacaste is the more family-oriented of the two properties, but family suites are available at the Palace which include two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Couples should definitely consider one of the property’s Jacuzzi suites, which feature a private Jacuzzi out on the balcony for a romantic retreat.
Dining options at the resort include one buffet and four specialty restaurants. The buffet serves breakfast and a rotating menu of themed dinners, and the a la carte restaurants include the Japanese Tokio, the Italian L’Anfora, Papagayo grill and steakhouse and the modern Krystal restaurant, which serves the most unique food on the property. Though they require advance reservations for dinner, all the specialty restaurants are included in the stay and are an experience worth having. At Tokio, the waiter brought over a plate of assorted sushi immediately after we sat down (prior to a three course meal we chose off the menu) and, at Krystal, we were met at the door with a glass of champagne before even being shown to our table.
Options are more limited for lunch on the property, but Papagayo (located near the pools) serves an extensive buffet, while L’Anfora is open (no reservations necessary) for a hot and cold appetizer buffet and a menu featuring a selection of entrees. Those in need of a midday snack can also visit the Capuchino patisserie, which serves coffee and tea beverages as well as pastries and small snacks — all at no additional charge. A limited room service menu is also available 24-hours a day.
Alcohol is also included in the rate, and there are five bars on property as well as waiter service on the beach — and yes, I did happily enjoy a frozen pina colada at 11 a.m. while lounging on the warm sand.
In addition to the poolside activities, the Riu Palace also features nightly entertainment, including live music at the outdoor Stars lounge and bar. Sports and activities are also available, including one introductory scuba diving lesson in the pool and some sports equipment.
Additional facilities, shared with the Riu Guanacaste, include Renova Spa, a small casino and Pacha nightclub, all of which can be entered for free but cost extra for drinks and most services.
The entertainment and relaxation options here are truly extensive, making it easy for all ages to stay busy on the property. It should be noted, however, that those looking for total tranquility may not enjoy the frequent noise that can be heard throughout much of the property during the day and until the nightly show ends at 11 p.m. This certainly won’t bother everyone, though — my travel companion spent every evening dancing alone on our balcony to the live music rising up from the lounge.
Rates for the Riu Palace Costa Rica vary depending on the dates of stay and room type.