RIU Guanacaste (An awesome all-inclusive in Costa Rica)

RIU Guanacaste is one of numerous all-inclusive resorts in the western region of Costa Rica. It is one of two RIU resorts in Guanacaste, a province often considered one of the best places to visit in Central America. The other, RIU Palace, is directly adjacent to RIU Guanacaste. For those looking for budget-friendly, all-inclusive accommodations in Costa Rica, RIU Guanacaste is the less expensive option between the two resorts. We found it offered all the amenities we needed at a price that didn’t break the bank.

Costa Rica was our first trip abroad with our daughter. Since we were not quite sure what to expect as new parents, we decided to stay at an all-inclusive resort for our first few days in Costa Rica.

This was a multigenerational vacation, so my parents were also traveling with us. We felt an all-inclusive resort would offer something that everyone would enjoy. All-inclusives, like RIU Guanacaste, can be a great way to travel with children or with extended family.

Parenthood and Passports - RIU Guanacaste

RIU Guanacaste accommodations

The rooms at RIU Guanacaste are nice and spacious. The furnishings were attractive, although the bed could have been a bit more comfortable. If you are looking for something more luxurious, you can upgrade your room for an additional charge. Some of the higher-priced rooms even have a private hot tub overlooking the resort and ocean.

Hotels with a baby

If traveling with a baby, the resort also offers pack n plays, which I usually prefer over hotel cribs. The resort staff will likely have the pack n play set up in the room when you check in, if requested in advance. This is extremely beneficial after a long day of traveling or dealing with a jet lagged baby or toddler. They do provide sheets for the pack n play, but I always recommend bringing your own bedding when traveling with babies.

The water that comes out of the faucet in the hotel rooms is non-potable water, so it is not drinkable. I wouldn’t even recommend brushing your teeth with it. Use the bottled water in the fridge instead. This was my biggest issue about the hotel.

Also, the walls are thinner than I would prefer in a hotel. We heard our neighbors doing things that may be embarrassing to try and explain to older children. Thank goodness our daughter was only 6 months old! But that also meant our neighbors probably heard our baby crying at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m. and so on… (She did not sleep well on this trip.)

Restaurants and Dining options at RIU Guanacaste

Parenthood and Passports - RIU Guanacaste

The buffet has plenty of food choices for picky eaters, and without reservations required, the buffet offers families the flexibility of eating whenever their children get hungry. The food was much better, however, at the restaurants that required reservations, so I would recommend visiting at least one or two of them.

Most of them are open-air restaurants which means noisy kids won’t be a nuisance to other diners. Reservations do have to be made in advance the day before and spots fill up, particularly during high-season. Since we were only there for a short time, we were able to speak with a manager and secure a reservation at the steakhouse despite it being booked solid for the night. It was also a great way to practice my Spanish!

RIU Guanacaste Pool

While there isn’t a kids’ pool, the swimming pool was still great for children. The water was a good temperature, and it was big enough that kids could splash about without disturbing the childless travelers lingering at the swim-up bar. Our baby actually napped in the pool on her grandma’s shoulder, which allowed my husband and I to enjoy some much needed child-free time.

(Side note: if possible, traveling with grandparents, extended family members, or friends is always a good idea when you have children. The extra sets of hands and eyes are a huge bonus!)

Beach at RIU Guanacaste

Parenthood and Passports - RIU Guanacaste

RIU Guanacaste sits right on the coast, so it is just a few footsteps from the ocean. The beach, however was a little disappointing. Right in front of the RIU Guanacaste Hotel and Resort, the beach is very rocky. It’s a black sand beach so in the afternoon the sand is also extremely HOT. Pool shoes are a must! We have a complete packing list for beach trips with babies and toddlers to help you pack for your trip.

There is no way around the hot sand, but to avoid the rocky beach simply go 20 yards down the shore.  Directly in front of the RIU’s sister resort, RIU Palace, the sand is smooth. At both resorts, there are plenty of lounge chairs and Palm trees offering shade from the sun.

Entertainment at RIU Guanacaste

Parenthood and Passports - RIU Guanacaste
The Pura Vida bar/stage area is where you will find kid-friendly evening entertainment.

The kids’ area at the resort really isn’t worth visiting. It’s small and doesn’t offer much entertainment. However, I will give this resort a B+ for family-friendly entertainment. Each night, they have kid-friendly, one-hour shows starting at 8pm, so the kids can watch a show and still be in bed at a decent hour.

Location of RIU Guanacaste All-inclusive in Costa Rica

Parenthood and Passports - RIU Guanacaste

The RIU Guanacaste is approximately a 45 minute drive from the Liberia airport. The drive is fairly easy and the road was well maintained unlike many of the other roads in Costa Rica. However, the resort isn’t really close to the rain forests, so if you are planning on doing excursions such as ziplining or hanging bridges tours or visiting any of Costa Rica’s awesome waterfalls, you will have a long drive ahead of you.

Parenthood and Passports - Riu Guanacaste Costa Roca

Overall, we enjoyed our stay at RIU Guanacaste. For the moderate price, it is a good all-inclusive in Costa Rica. The staff was friendly, they spoke wonderful English, and the food and rooms were good. Although we typically don’t stay at all-inclusive resorts when we travel, we did have a pleasurable experience at this one.

Looking for more information on things to do and places to stay in Costa Rica? Check out our guide to Costa Rica here.

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2 comments on “RIU Guanacaste (An awesome all-inclusive in Costa Rica)”

Can you give me any insight into kid friendly (super) picky water food options at the resort? I don’t think breakfast will be a problem, but are things like pbj and chicken nuggets at all available for kids? Ketchup? Milk?

You’ll be able to find some lunch/dinner foods for picky eaters. They have things like pizza and hamburgers on the buffet. I can’t recall if they had chicken nuggets, but I’d guess they have something like it, too. Most all-inclusive resorts have some basic or bland foods to appeal to kids or less-adventurous eaters. And yes, they have milk and juice for kids, as well.

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