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.
Arriving in Guanacaste Province and on Playa Matapalo 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.
A Review of Playa de Matapalo, Costa Rica
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.
However, when the opportunity came around to go on a reasonably prices all inclusive to Costa Rica I jumped at the chance.
Playa de Matapalo
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 and the beach is still a very typical Costa Rican wonderland.
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.
Playa de Matapalo Weather
Costa Rica is located in the tropics. And the thing about the tropics is, you can always expect good weather. Although there will likely be torrential rain, humidity and that unmistakable smell that only happens when the sun scorching the ground the weather will more or less be warm and humid during your time at Playa de Matapalo.
Due to its unique geographical make up Costa Rica is a little different to the rest of Central America, 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. 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.
Riu Guanacaste Resort Review, Costa Rica
If you plan on staying at either of the Riu resorts on Playa Matapalo (Riu Palace and Riu Guanacaste) you’ll have exclusive 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.
The room and amenities
Our room was large with a balcony and great air con – essential for the tropics. The room is fully stocked with a mini-bar and optics perfect for afternoons spent on the balcony just before sunset.
The rooms are cleaned daily and beds made daily. 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 the outdoor spaces and communcal spaces within the hotel are some of the best I have ever seen with large cool hallways perfectly decorated to combine Latin culture and the elegance of a luxury hotel.
Food and dining facilities
As for the food, where do I start? With multiple restaurants and locations to eat throughout the hotel you are very much spolit for choice. The traditional buffets run at breakfast and lunch with an evening option also available.
With this, there are also a couple of other restaurants on site to eat at including an Italian and Chinese restaurant. Some require pre-booking but are all included within the all inclusive package. This is the same for all bars.
If you aren’t on an all inclusive you may want to find out how to eat in Costa Rica on a budget with Costa Rica Vibes.
Other important amenities
There is a 24 hours reception and tourist information available for guests of the hotel. Each day tour operators and providers also set up within the hotel so you can easily book tours and excursions.
Outside of the hotel there is a main street with a Gelato shop, dive shop and a few small souvenir and clothing shops. There is also an onsite club and casino, however these are not included within the all inclusive.
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.
Diving at Riu Guanacaste
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.
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.
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.
A 20-something travel blogger based in Liverpool. Covering all things from Latin America to Liverpool local guides and everything in between.