> Destinations > Costa Rica > Trip Reports > Trip Report
January 6 - 13, 2003
For trip pictures click on this link: community.webshots.com/user/karenn114
Just returned from our first (but definitely not last) trip to beautiful Costa Rica on Jan.6-13, 2003. We stayed on the Northern Pacific side at the Occidental Allegro Papagayo Resort on the Gulf of Papagayo in Guanacaste Province. Rated as a four star and it was a very clean, beautiful, relaxing resort. It was a comfortable 40-minute bus ride from Liberia and upon arriving at 1p.m. our rooms were ready and we hit the beach!
The rooms were spacious with ample closet and drawer space. Safety deposit boxes were available for only $1.00 per day. Our room was equipped with a coffee maker, hair dryer, phone, two double beds, balcony with 2 chairs & table, refrigerator, air conditioning, satellite TV and thermos pitcher for water. There were screens on the windows, room darkening shades, shower only, lots of towels, soap and shampoo.
As most information indicates it is a hillside property with beautiful landscapes and tons of colourful bougainvillea spilling down. At the top of the hill are the Reception area where you find the main check-in, El Mirador lobby bar, gift store where they sell yummy coconut bars, liquors, sundries & T-shirts and a spectacular view of the property and Gulf. From there the road weaves its way down the hill to the 12 or so hotel buildings. Shuttle buses drive up and down quite frequently for those who can't brave the hilly walk. (It was more strenuous during the heat of the day but we managed to walk up and obviously downhill was always a lot easier!) At each building area there was a bus stop and telephone so you could call for a bus if one wasn't readily available. These shelters also housed bottled water and ice. We were in building 3 (one hill below reception).
Down by the gorgeous pool (4 ft deep at most with roomy swim-up bar) and Jacuzzi was the Sight seeing Tower from which you get a bird's eye view of the entire property, beach and bay from four sides. Also in this main area are the two restaurants (one buffet, one by reservation), Theatre for night shows, Sports & Disco Bar, Pablo's Bar and The "Fun Club" which organizes many activities such as volleyball, hikes through the woods to see wildlife, bingo, children's activities. Beach towels are easily given and replaced daily. Lots of lounge chairs too. There was also a massage parlour where my hubby got a 40-minute relaxing massage for $40. They offered facials, foot therapy, mud wraps, acupressure and Aromatherapy too.
The main buffet restaurant was much better than any other all-inclusive we've stayed at. We didn't tire of the food as there was a good variety and it all tasted really good. Breakfast had made to order eggs, crisply cooked bacon, ham, sausage, potatoes, goulash, oatmeal, toast, cereal, French toast, pancakes, fresh pineapple, mango, watermelon, cantaloupe, pastries, potatoes, rice & beans. Lunch time often had pasta, pizza, sandwiches, salads, cheese, French fries, nachos, hotdogs, hamburgers (really good!!), fish, turkey, chicken. Dinner included all of the above and also leg of lamb, pork, beef, fresh pasta, bread, rice, beans, pastries, desserts.
Las Reses Steak House is by reservation. They book at 6:30 and 8:30 pm. We visited twice and enjoyed it a lot. Menu choices include Ribs, Fish, Chicken, Tacos, T-bone Steak, and Steak Medallions. A la Carte for an extra $15 you could have Shrimp, Seafood Platter or Lobster. There is also salad, bread, drinks, coffee, dessert and after dinner drinks. A lovely change from the rigors of "buffeting" it.
The Sports bar didn't open until after 5pm so we didn't really get much chance to work the pool table. Quite crowded and later in the evening quite loud due to the fact it is within the disco. There was a younger crowd enjoying the facilities and many who attended the evening's live entertainment at the Theatre. We didn't see too much of the nightlife as we were early to rise and enjoy the daylight hours!
Drinks: Delicious refreshments including beer, Mai Tai, Singapore Slings, Rum & Coke, Coco Loco, Pina Colada, Blue Lagoon, Sex on the Beach, Miami Vice, Tequila Sunrise etc. Bartenders were busy but pretty quick to fill our orders.
The Beach: From previous reports I think I didn't expect much of the Costa Rican beaches but was pleasantly surprised by what awaited us. Indeed the beach was black sand but it was sugar soft and great for beach combing. The tide went out quite far each day making for great walking. Here the sand remained cool but as soon as you reach closer to land be sure to have sandals as the powdery sand gets REALLY HOT in the high-noon sun. There were no jellyfish to speak of but lots of little clam and seashells. There were also lots of lounge chairs in the shaded tree area on the beach.
Private Beach Club (Playa Nacascola): I highly encourage guests to make shuttle arrangements to visit the Allegro's Private Beach Club. You make reservations at the Fun Club for a departing shuttle at 9:15, 10:15 or 11:45 a.m. A lovely 10-minute boat ride later brings you to the golden beach of Playa Nacascola. Lots of lounge chairs and plenty of room in the sun or shade. There are washroom facilities, a cabana hut with checkers and books, volleyball, kayaking, long beach, a bar (great LOCO Coco's - Fabio's specialty) and snack bar which served chips, French fries, grilled cheese and ham sandwiches, hotdogs, chicken wings, and nachos. There was also a pathway, which allowed us to see monkeys and iguanas. Departure shuttles start back from 1:15- 3:15. We had a glorious day here! If time permitted I would have gone back more than once!
Tour Excursions: There were many tours available from our hotel but having started an email campaign with a helpful Canadian transplant now living in Costa Rica we decided to make most of our tour arrangements through him. Michael Mills proved to be not only a wealth of information prior to our vacation but was also a true gentleman and all around great host. Our party of six had custom tours arranged so we didn't have to wait for anyone else and could also schedule our time doing what we liked. While many did book tours through the hotel and had a good time, I can only suggest that it was definitely worth the little extra effort to book your own and have your own freedom and save a bit of money too. (He can be reached by cell phone at Spanish Dancer Tours (506) 395-6090).
Coco Beach: Upon our Monday arrival we telephoned Michael and made arrangements to meet him in Coco Beach the next day. Reception was helpful in placing the call for me and in arranging a taxi for the next day. We told them we would be ready to leave at 1:00 and to be picked up at 4:30. Our driver got us to the beach within 35 -40 minutes. Return trip cost us $60 for a van of six people (or $5 per person each way). The hotel did offer boat shuttles to Coco Beach but it cost $25 per person and you had to be on their time schedule. We found the drive interesting, pleasant and inexpensive.
Meeting Michael was so much fun. He recognized us from email photos and promptly we were enjoying a cold drink at a local bar getting filled in on all the details of him, the country and the tours we were interested in. His friend (another transplanted Canadian) Richard of Gaviota Tours joined us to explain the tours he offered. We were then given the run-down of shopping at Coco Beach and a little tour of the area. By days end we had laid out details of the excursions we wanted to take and had shopped till we dropped in the little fishing village. It didn't leave much time for swimming on the lovely beach but we had a grand time getting Costa Rican coffee in the local grocery store ($1 bag), t-shirts, handcrafted pens, wooden boxes, bathing suit cover ups, post cards, hammocks, etc.
Spanish Dancer Catamaran Tour:
We set sail on a somewhat windy, but gloriously sunny day. Michael made cab arrangements for us which picked us up at the hotel and dropped us at Playa Hermosa. There we were greeted by "deck hands" Mychelle and Manuel and taken to the catamaran to begin our full day tour of discovering Costa Rica by sea.
As we sailed out into the Pacific they showed us the points of interest, gave history and information about the area, poured us drinks and sailed us expertly away on the open waters! Along the way manta rays were spotted but we weren't lucky enough to get a good close up view of them or dolphins as the winds kept them at bay.
Our rest stop was at the most beautiful, secluded beach called Playa Heuvos. Here we spent time swimming, beach combing, cave exploring, sunning and lunch. And let me tell you that lunch was not only delicious but also filling!
It was too windy for snorkeling that day so we just explored and swam instead. Met up with a boatload of tourists who booked a similar excursion through our hotel. They were on a regular boat, packed in like sardines and left long before we were even thinking about it! It was a blessing to have our own boat and attentive crew and not to have follow anyone else's agenda.
The sail back was a little choppy but really fun. The 36' catamaran was very comfortable with its trampoline deck, cushions, music, open bar, washroom, and swimming platform and the salt water breezes and hot afternoon sun made us totally forget that it was winter back home! More drinks onboard and afterward we socialized in a local establishment, took photos and exchanged addresses. Then too soon our cab arrived to whisk us back to the resort. It was our best day in Costa Rica!! (Cost $60 each)
Palo Verde National Park Tour: We booked this adventure through our new friend Richard (506) 672-0143 who, with his partner Louise, offers custom tours to groups of 4-12 - full and half days to Palo Verde, Canopy tours, Arenal Volcano and Nicaragua. Tours include roundtrip transportation from your hotel. They speak English, French and Spanish and will personalize tours to let you visit beaches, shopping, etc. (More info at www.spanishdancercharters.com/links.html )
This was a scenic two-hour drive to this protected wildlife sanctuary which scientists from all over the world comes to study. The ecosystem combines rivers, marshland, mangroves and dry forest. Our pontoon boat took us down the Bebedero River. Richard books so we are the first tour boat to go down the river thus there were a lot of animals to be spotted. Aside from the vegetation the guide was expert at spotting monkeys, alligators, iguanas, Jesus Christ lizards, and tons of exotic birds! The two-hour ride was absolutely fantastic. Richard has a wealth of information and was also a great translator and beverage server! Critters were so close that we captured lots of photo opportunities in a couple of rolls of film!
Afterward we stopped at the Restaurante Rincón Corobicí surrounded by the amazing nature of the Corobici River. Aside from the EXCELLENT food (we had the most delicious battered fish and chicken breast! As well as salad, buns, ice cream), the restaurant has lovely gardens and look outs and a souvenir shop.
Then we drove a few minutes away to go through the Wild Cat Refuge Farm. This is a refuge for monkeys, birds and wild cats which were either confiscated or injured and could not be returned to the wild for their own safety. This farm is a safe haven for the animals. The tour is free but you can leave donations in a donation box at the end. There is also a souvenir shop where we purchased some t-shirts and wildlife charts.
To end the day we drove to Kaltak - an arts and craft market. Lots of trinkets, jewelry, handcrafted mosaics, mirrors, hammocks, shot glasses, chocolate covered coffee beans, keychains, t-shirts, pottery, etc! They even had little calculators handy so that shoppers could make the conversions from colones to U.S. Dollars!
It was a wonderful day and gave us a ton of impressions and memories as well as a new appreciation for the virgin lands and wild animals of Costa Rica.
Again the hotel's Swiss Travel Service offered a similar package at a slightly less cost but we decided booking on our own was best. We ended up having our own private boat, being the first to leave dock, a terrific restaurant stop, addition of the Cat Farm, shopping stop and private English speaking tour guide. It was well worth the price! Richard was able to translate not only words but also the Costa Rican culture. He gave us much information on the flora and fauna, the country, its people & its customs. He was a terrific, knowledgeable host! (Cost $86)
Mega Combo Tour -Canopy, Spa, Horseback Riding: One tour we did book through our resort (Swiss Travel $117 each) was the Mega Tour. Best described as a full day of magic in the area of Rincon De La Vieja Volcano. We took a two-hour air-conditioned motor coach ride up toward the Buena Vista Lodge.
We experienced the forest from the top of the trees as we braved the excitement of doing the canopy tour. WOW what a thrill! We took a 15-minute hike up the mountain to the first platform. I wasn't sure I was up to the challenge but definitely don't regret working up my courage and taking the adventure! There were more than a dozen platforms to reach all by zip lines with one stop on a high swinging bridge. At that juncture the howler monkeys were right overhead of us! Fantastic! It wasn't as scary height-wise as I thought it would be. It was more just a neat thrilling ride through the trees. The experienced guides even took pictures with our own cameras! After about 1˝ hours we completed the canopy tour and could enjoy the waterslide ride down the hill. Afterward we went for a well-deserved lunch chowing down on salty chip-like plantains, rice, beans, vegetables, pasta, bread, chicken, fish and cold beer.
After lunch the adventure continued with a rigorous hour guided horseback ride through the forest and down the mountain. The winds whipped up a little dust and the hills whipped up a little challenge but the well-kept horses knew the trails and brought us to our next destination without incident. We opted to skip the 15 hike to visit a beautiful waterfall (let's face it we live near Niagara Falls!) so instead we went ahead of the pack and down to the Hot Springs.
After 15 minutes in the steamy sauna we applied a mineral-rich warm volcanic mud bath. We plastered ourselves with the mud from head to toe and once dried cold showered it off then dipped into the first of three thermal hot springs. OOOOOOh how relaxing and wonderful it was!
Other Tours: Obviously there just wasn't enough time to do everything we had wanted to. There are still a ton of other activities we can do when we go back to Costa Rica the next time! Other choices included Arenal Volcano and Rain Forest (about 3 ˝ hours away $110), Inocentes Horse Back Riding ($89.00), ˝ Day Shopping in Liberia ($17.00), Monteverde Cloud Forest ($105), Sky walk Rain Forest Extravaganza ($68), Rincon de la Vieja National Park ($70), Sunset Tour $35. We'd also like to take more time to explore Playa Hermosa and some of the other southerly beaches and the nightlife at Coco Beach.
We had a fantastic journey on our trip and do plan a return visit to Costa Rica. We'll likely explore a little further south down the coast, so will be keeping an eye out for other's trip reports as well.
Thanks to Karen for this trip report ...