To begin our adventure we had booked our flight with Apple Vacations’ on their Frontier Airlines charter. We had booked a 4 night stay here using Riu Points. When we arrived into Liberia Costa Rica Airport, we had set up one way transfers with Central America Tours, which is only a 35 -40 minute drive from the airport to the resort.
Check in went quickly and smoothly. We had a junior suite room with a balcony facing the mountains and overlooking the back part of the resort, where the hotel’s shops were located. The room was very nice and clean, and had a contemporary style look to it – identical to the updated Palaces in Mexico and Punta Cana. I really like the new look that the Rius are converting to! They do have free Wi-Fi throughout the resort but due to the exotic location it’s very difficult to stay connected, which can be frustrating at times.
The Riu Palace Costa Rica has 4 specialty restaurants in which we ate at two- the “L’Antora” Italian Restaurant and the “Tokio” Japanese Restaurant. Surprisingly, the Italian Restaurant was our favorite, plus no dinning reservations were required to eat here. Overall, the food and service were excellent with several good choices on their menu.
The Riu Palace Costa Rica is set back from the beach area, so it takes a little walking to get to. We took a stroll and decided to walk down to the Monkey Bar, which is about 15 minutes up the beach from the property. Here, you could see bunch of different kinds of monkeys in the trees, such as Howlers and Capuchins. It was a very neat experience, but also nerve racking at the same time because they were all wild, and we could hear them howling and see them swinging in the trees. The best time to see all the active monkeys is early morning OR 4 to 6 in the evenings. At dusk, you will see amazing sunsets at the resort and on the beach- just gorgeous views.
The Riu Palace has a little shopping area that you have to walk outside and down a hill to get to. There were several shops where you could buy some souvenirs or any extra amenities that you may need. Across from the shopping area is where the disco, spa and the casino were located. We were very surprised by how large the casino was. Although it was not huge, it was still much bigger and nicer than the ones in Punta Cana.
During our stay we booked an excursion through TAM (Delta Vacations). We booked with their rep, Melvin, who was so helpful in trying to find the right excursion for us. We ended up choosing the Blue River Experience and hiking through the Rincón de La Vieja National Park. During our tour we got to see and experience so many things! We did about a 30 minute easy hike through rainforest area and saw a few waterfalls. We stopped for 20 minutes so we could take a refreshing dip in one of the main waterfalls of the area. On our way back we had stopped at the Blue River Resort and Hot Springs. We had about 1 hour to explore on our own, so we chose to take a look at the Botanical Garden. The garden had over 800 different plant varieties, orchid garden, humming-bird center, frog, fish and turtle ponds. There we also visited the butterfly garden with 15 different species of exotic local butterflies, including the Blue Morphis, Costa Rica’s famous butterfly. We also enjoyed the volcanic springs- which included four natural mineral green hot springs pools, and one large fresh water pool with a Bullet Water Slide. (The slide was fast and lots of fun!) For this excursion, you did have the option to zip line instead of hike. I would definitely recommend this excursion to others.
We booked our transfer from the Riu to the Dreams with Central American Tours. CAT gave us an excellent rate. The ride between the two properties was just over 2 hours, 30-40 minutes of which was on a dirt road leading up to the Dreams – not the best situation for someone with motion sickness. We were told by our driver that there are plans to pave this within the next year. The transfer was private, and our driver was so friendly! We were very impressed with their services.
As we approached the Dreams, I knew this would be what I had hoped for in an all-inclusive, Costa Rican retreat on the beach – completely different than the loud hot pinks and purples of the Riu. The resort is nestled in the hills, sprawling to the beach cove. It is contemporary yet traditional in style. The luxurious, authentic design was accentuated with dark tiki wood accents and an aesthetically appealing fusion of earthy tones.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted with a refreshing passion fruit cocktail and a cool, pleasantly scented towelette. Check in was a breeze and very personalized. It was not in a huge, oversized lobby, but a quaint, tastefully decorated, windowed room with two small check-in desks with comfy chairs. It almost seemed like what you would expect for preferred check in – but it wasn’t, this was for all guests.
We booked an ocean view, and it was on the top floor, so the vista was pretty spectacular, even though we were set back. Staying in the resort required a lot of walking, and it’s not flat because it’s built into the knolls. While our building was far from the beach, it was very close to the main buffet, most a la carte dining, lounges, the Coco Café and shops.
The property has a total of 447 guest suites, which each include a private balcony or terrace with either Jacuzzi or swim out access – (swim out rooms cost more, of course). The rooms definitely live up to the “Dreams” standard- spacious, beautifully decorated, clean, and comfortable. There is complimentary internet access and phone calls to the US and Canada!
Everything I ate was delicious and fresh! Buffets and menus offered a lot of variety – I really felt that even picky eaters could find something they liked. The property had 24 hour room service which we made use of a couple of times – once early morning before our Nicaragua tour, and once late at night after our tour. Guests can also choose from 5 specialty a la carte restaurants, the main buffet, a snack bar and grill, and a café – all of which are typical of the AM resorts brand. No reservations are required, except if you want the hibachi show experience at Himitsu. Now onto the AMAZING bars: : Top shelf spirits and refreshments are offered at their five bars/lounges. Pool and beach wait service were also available (AND FREQUENT! They work so hard, especially considering the heat! TIP THEM, PEOPLE!!!).
As with most Dreams, this property offered a wide variety of beach, land and water activities such as: Ping pong, board games, pool/beach Olympics, yoga, volleyball, non-motorized watersports, fun ‘classes’, live music and shows, movies on the beach, themed nights/parties, etc. They advertise ‘two’ swimming pools, but really there are multiple. There are several smaller infinity pools that are ‘connected’ with a waterfall wall.This property even had a waterslide! I was told it’s for kids, but I saw ‘grown ups’ enjoying it one day. Speaking of kids, the Children’s Club (ages 3-12) and Teen’s Club (ages 13-17) offered plenty of options to keep the youngsters busy throughout the day. The Kids’s Club is supervised by CPR certified staff members. Activities there include: hiking; children’s playground and pool; building sandcastles on the beach; arts and crafts; science, nature, and exploration; toys, games, and videogames; weekly camping; etc. The Teen’s Club offered: Euro-Bungee; table games, video games, and pool games; weekly bonfires; and a late night [non-alcoholic] Disco mixer. For the adults looking for rejuvenation and pampering, the Dreams Spa by Pevonia boasts a complete spa menu of body treatments, a full service beauty salon, indoor and outdoor therapy cabins, a hydrotherapy circuit, and a relaxation area.
I have no complaints about the service at the Dreams. I felt it was excellent and that the staff members went above and beyond to make our experience great! I would highly recommend this property as I feel it is the best all inclusive option in Costa Rica right now. It’s a resort that will appeal to the multigenerational masses. More often than not, this option will appropriately accommodate families, couples, and friends alike.
On one of our final days we booked a Nicaragua Treasures Tour. We booked this tour in advance because it was something we both knew we really wanted to do. The Dreams property is only 40 minutes south of the Nicaraguan border. The Morning of our tour we were picked up at the property at 7am and didn’t return until 9pm – so it was a long, exhausting day. I would not recommend this tour to families with small children- not only because it’s long, but also because I don’t think they would fully appreciate the experience. You have to go through customs and immigration at the border twice, there and back- and it’s not the easiest process. We also did a good amount of shopping in the local markets of Catarina, Masaya, and Granada. We each bought a cute pair of sandals for cheap! The highlights of the tour though were driving up hardened lava fields to the crater of the active, steaming volcano, Masaya, AND a boat tour around the islets of Lake Nicaragua, which is the largest lake in all of Central America and also home to an abundance of bull sharks. The experience was well worth what we paid for- and it’s another country I can now check off my bucket list! We were just paranoid the whole time we were going to lose our passports the day before we were set to depart for home! One last note- Nicaragua requires your passport to have a 6 month remaining validity, as does Costa Rica.