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Costa Rica: Love at First Visit

Updated: Feb 28

What can be said about Costa Rica? I feel words always fail to describe the immense beauty of the country and its people, one must visit to truly understand.

We travelled to Costa Rica every summer for five years, between 2013 - 2017, and plan on returning again. With the first visit, we fell in love with the Pura Vida lifestyle and attitude. Costa Ricans (Ticos) are for the most part, hard-working, friendly people who love life and truly appreciate the natural world.

Matapalo Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

The first year we stayed at the Hotel Riu Guanacaste, and for the following three years at the neighbouring hotel, the Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica. Both hotels offer great room options, great service and great food on the same amazing plot of beach. The Guanacaste is the least expensive of the two, and is more geared to family and/or party vacations. The resort offers more activities and entertainment, plus games and music by the pools. It feels alive, pulsing with the excitement of never-ending entertainment. The Palace is a little more pricy, but geared to a more laid-back, romantic crowd. Though there is also pool-side music and entertainment, it is more subtle and spread out. The atmosphere is one of relaxation and space. Staying at the Palace also gives you access to the Guanacaste, so if you feel the urge to party, you only need to walk next door. Last year we ventured out on our own and rented an amazing house in Tamarindo through Pura Vida Luxury Rentals. The pictures do not do this rental justice. It is phenomenal.

Between the two RIU resorts, the Palace is more our style. The following is a small sample description for the Palace. If you need more information, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help.

Riu Palace, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Riu Palace, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Hotel/Rooms: The hotel is spacious and beautiful. The grounds are lush and they are constantly working to keep it lovely. The design, like other Palaces, is modern and colourful, with a sea theme in the lobby. The lobby is air conditioned, but since it is huge and has doors that keep opening and closing, it’s not as chilled as the buffet or your room. The standard room is big with a huge shower and jet tub. Yes the tub is in the open, not tucked away in a separate room.

Spa/Services: There is a small gym attached to the spa that is free. All guests may use the steam room and hot tub located in the spa, also for free. The steam rooms are in the individual change rooms but the hot tub is unisex and shared. It is a large circular tub in a huge semi open room with a Grecian theme. The tub has many jets with a giant urn in the center than spills water on each side. When you’re had enough of the hot tub, no need to leave right away; the room has loungers to relax on and they offer cool water and warm tea free of charge as well. It’s so pretty and relaxing, especially because it is a little off the main resort path and many don’t venture further than the restaurant or the pools.

Customer Service: We recommended the Palace to friends of ours, who traveled there one year a few months before we did. I simply emailed Customer Service and asked if there was anything that could be done to make their stay special, and they arranged for a welcome bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to be left in their room for when they arrived, along with a note from us. On another trip, Customer Service arranged for the room to be beautifully decorated with balloons and flowers to celebrate a birthday. All free of charge. Seriously, all you have to do is ask. If you want a king bed, or a certain floor, or certain side of the hotel or anything, just contact Customer Service before you arrive and they will do everything in their power to make your stay magical. They really are great. Pools: The pools are big and open, surrounded by tall palm trees. These trees are not yet fully in bloom and soon the branches will provide more shade, but for now they only provide some. That being said, there are a ton of chairs under canopies for shade, plus the swim up bar has some cover and the seating area behind it. Speaking of the swim up bar, try a Howler Monkey. I can only describe it as a mojito-daiquiri; a sumptuous example of heaven in a glass.