Playa de Matapalo, Costa Rica and Riu Guanacaste Review

Playa Matapalo
Playa Matapalo is located in the popular Central American tourist favourite of Costa Rica and is attached to the equally as popular Riu Guanacaste and Riu Palace resorts.

Matapalo isn’t your typical beach for the reason that it’s only accessible by boat, through the thick jungle or through the entire length of two heavily secured Riu resorts. Playa de Matapalo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica is the exclusive beach of these two luxury all inclusive resorts and where I’d spend 8 days of during my first ever all inclusive holiday.

If you’re thinking of planning an all inclusive holiday to Playa Matapalo or the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica then you’ll certainly want to know about these two resorts.


A Review of Playa de Matapalo, Costa Rica

The beach itself is of Playa de Matapalo set in an encroaching jungle backdrop with brown volcanic sand, it’s easy to see why this location is a perfect habitat for most of Costa Rica’s wildlife.

Despite the tourist presence here from the two Riu Resorts monkeys still swing and turtles still nest every year. The beach of Matapalo became the tropical wonderland setting for my first ever all inclusive resort holiday. Therefore, this post is actually a little unfitting for a budget travel and backpacking blog.

My First All Inclusive Holiday to Costa Rica

I arrived on the secret and secluded beach of Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica in the Guanacaste region in early November, not that that really means much in the Central American climate.

I’d have 8 days in the stunning resort of Riu Guanacaste where I’d explore the Arenal Volcano National Park and enjoy the perks of eating and drinking myself into oblivion everyday. After all, that is what most do on all inclusive holidays.
To give you a little background the words all inclusive and resorts holidays are concepts that are actually quite foreign to me. I’m utterly obsessed with the idea of travelling on a budget and enjoying the simpler side of travel in the form of backpacking.

Although the idea of a resort style all inclusive holiday isn’t very new to me, it’s not something I’ve ever actually done. So, when the opportunity came around (as they do) I jumped at the chance to break my budget travel blogger mold and travel to Costa Rica to have my first all inclusive holiday experience.

I travelled to Costa Rica with a good friend of mine and despite the luxury element of this trip I still paid a more appetising budget friendly price. My travel companion is a travel agent and the discounted rate of our time is just one of the many perks of having travel agent friends.


Travelling to Central America

I’ve been to Costa Rica before, in fact I travelled all of Central America (minus Belize) but if you’re a regular reader of mine you’ll already know that.

Arriving in Guanacaste Province and on Playa Matapalo (aka. Matapalo Beach) I was instantly transported back to the Central American dream I lived, travelled and explored this vibrant and exciting segment of the world for over 10 weeks and my love for this tiny Latin region is infinite.

The humid air, volcanic sand and constant hiss of the jungle meant my nostalgia from our Central American backpacking trip was ever present during my time in Costa Rica and Playa de Matapalo.
Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
The jungle backdrop and volcanic sand of Playa Matapalo

Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
A room with the view – The 5th floor of the Riu Guanacaste hotel overlooking Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica
Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Sunsets from Matapalo Beach, Costa Rica

A Review of Playa de Matalapo and The Riu Guanacaste Resort

Playa de Matapalo Weather

Here’s the thing about the tropics – you can always expect good weather, torrential rain, humidity and that unmistakable smell that only happens when the sun scorching the ground.

Costa Rica, like all of Central America, has a rainy season and a dry season. But due to its unique geographical make up Costa Rica is a little different. Costa Rica as a country is split down the middle by the great continental divide that splits the America’s in half. This means Costa Rica has two different climates.

The weather in Playa de Matapalo is driven by the climate. This area sits in the Pacific Coast side where it’s mostly dry, whereas areas on the other side of the continental divide are more wet and tropical. These areas sit in the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. The weather and climate in this area is far different to the Playa Matapalo’s weather.

Riu Guanacaste Resort Review

The tranquil setting of Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica is not unlike the other Pacific coast beaches of Central America, although it’s access points make it very untypical in the perspective of my usual travel style.

Situated in a deep bay with imposing rocky headlands to the left and more to the right. This Pacific coast beach is unusually wind free most of the time. Playa Matapalo isn’t spared of the usual Latin hustle, the same hustle that can be found on almost any beach anywhere in Latin America.

The sellers are ever present on the private beach of Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica despite its seclusion. Handbags, pottery, jewelry and more you can find the same goods on any beach up this coastline in Costa Rica right down to Peru and up to Mexico.

If you plan on staying at either of the Riu resorts on Playa Matapalo (Riu Palace and Riu Guanacaste) you’ll have exclusive (along with the sellers) access to the beach. For the benefits of tourists you will find many amenities on the beach. Sun loungers, jet skis and massage therapy are all available. Sun loungers are free of charge on Matapalo Beach, the latter two will come with a price.

The Guanacaste resorts are luxurious, organised, clean and safe. Although I very rarely review hotels and accommodations in this detail it’s worth noting that the Riu Guanacaste Resort aims to please and that it does.

Our room was large with a balcony and great air con – essential for the tropics. I cannot fault the cleanliness or maid service of the hotel. At no point during my stay did I meet a rude or unhappy member of staff. The pool areas and public spaces are groomed within an inch of their life and as for the food. Well, that’s on a whole other level.

I’d recommend this hotel for couples, groups of friends travelling and also families as it is a very secure and family friendly environment.

Things to do in Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica

Thanks to the rocky headlands that enclose the bay of Playa Matapalo the beach is relatively quiet for a Pacific coast beach. The waves rarely reach the typical heights that can be expected of the Pacific.

Unlike similar beaches in the area you’ll see no surfing on Playa Matapalo, instead you can try kayaking, paddle boarding or if you prefer you can board one of the ‘food and drink inclusive’ snorkel boat trips that can be booked from both Riu resort receptions. Also known as the sunset cruise.

Despite the lack of crazy surf here there are plenty of other things you can do from or on Playa de Matapalo, things to do in Playa de Matapalo include excursions and of course utilising all of the incredible hotel facilities along with beach itself.


Things to do in Playa de Matapalo, Costa Rica 
  • Snorkeling – Try your hand at a spot of snorkeling here, the bay shields the beach from any large waves so Matapalo Beach is the ideal location for beginners to try their hand at snorkeling however, the water isn’t the clearest here so visibility might not be great. 
  • Paddle boarding – Rent a board and enjoy some fun paddle boarding. Sunset paddle boarders can be seen regularly on the shoreline. Try it, why not. 
  • Kayaking – Like paddle boards you can rent Kayaks from the resort. 
  • Jet Skiing – Jet Ski’s can be rented from the resort of from alternative vendors who sit further up the beach that isn’t occupied by the Riu Resorts.
  • Diving – ScubaCaribe has it’s own dive school on Playa Matapalo in Costa Rica, it’s certainly an activity I’d recommend when in Costa Rica. 
  • Sunset cruises – Boat trips leave from Playa de Matapalo to Playas del Coco (the next bay along) why not tempt yourself to a sunset cruise. Usually food and drinks are included in the ticket price. Tickets can be purchased from reception.

Costa Rica is a country filled with endless adventure if you love travel filled to the maximum with adventure you’ll want to read about all the adventurous things to do in Costa Rica.

Both of the Riu resorts in Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste share a dive school. The ScubaCaribe is a well known and reputable dive school/brand offering local dives in Central America and The Caribbean. ScubaCaribe operate from a small dive shop in between both of the Riu resorts slightly set back from the beach itself.

They offer PADI certifications and dives off the coast of Costa Rica from this school. Guests at the Riu resorts can book here during their stay. The dive boats leave from the centre of Playa Matapalo and all equipment can be rented from the dive shop.

Like any resort holiday some of the greatest activities in Playa de Matapalo are the simple ones. Enjoy the sunset or a beach stroll at sunset but don’t forget your insect repellent.
Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
The sunset cruise retuning
Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Divers waiting to head out onto the water – Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica

Find out how to eat in Costa Rica on a budget with Costa Rica Vibes

Sunsets in Playa de Matalapo, Costa Rica

Pacific coast sunsets ignite the sky over Playa Matapalo and turn the holidaymakers into silhouettes against the headland back drop as the day turns from light to dark. Playa Matapalo becomes the ideal setting to spend an evening and a sunset stroll is recommended.

Note: Sand flies are prolific on this beach and a mere 15 minutes on Playa Matapalo will have you itching for days. Always wear insect repellent with DEET or even better, cover your legs before arriving on the beach for sunset.

Is there anything more tranquil than a Pacific Coast sunset along the shores of a Central American beach? Matapalo Beach/Playa Matapalo is no exception.

Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica


Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica


Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Photos of Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica

Tips for your All Inclusive holiday to Costa Rica

If you’re planning on booking an all inclusive trip to Costa Rica I’d seriously recommend the Guanacaste area. Check out the Riu resorts, which are the popular Riu Guanacaste and Riu Palace Guanacaste before booking and have a browse of what each offers.

I’d be happy staying at either the Riu Palace, Costa Rica or Riu Guanacaste, Costa Rica they are a million times the upgrade from my usual backpacker accommodation.

Costa Rica is a tropical location and the Playa Matapalo weather can sometimes be just that. During the wet season you can expect high humidity and occasional rain and thunderstorms. But if you are prepared and know this in advance that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the majority of the hot weather you’ll experience.

My time in Playa Matapalo was in an all inclusive resort at the Riu Guanacaste was a first for me, as I’ve never actually been on an all inclusive holiday. Initially I was worried that I’d be bored or experience cabin fever, but thanks to the mass of things to do within the resort I didn’t once find myself getting bored.

When you’re planning an all inclusive trip make sure you review all the activities and facilities first and the local transport options available along with excursions to ensure there will be enough for you to do.


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  1. Sounds like a magical experience! I only spent two days in Costa Rica on my way to Nicaragua but I sure want to spend more time there! That hotel sounds awesome.

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