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We just returned from a 2 week stay at the Costa Smeralda - Guanacaste
Province in Costa Rica (24 Nov -08 Dec 2003)!! We wanted to say it
My husband and I are frequent travelers from Ontario Canada - and this
was our first time to Costa Rica. We did a ton of web/internet
surfing before we left - so we were well prepared that this holiday
would not be the "Caribbean beach" holidays that we were used to. As
I am the one that is the adamant sun worshiper/lounger I was a bit
apprehensive as to how much I would miss just lying around on the
beach. Well I have to say that I didn't miss it one bit - and in fact
it was me who was planning and booking our next eco- tour. When we
finally did have our beach days - I actually found myself a bit antsy
about a tour that we should do instead so we didn't miss anything!!
We stayed at the Costa Smeralda all inclusive hotel during our stay
and were very impressed. We had a room with a FABULOUS view
overlooking the bay. Each morning there were approximately 15 - 20
different species of birds eating, singing and flitting around the
bushes and trees just outside our room. The rooms at the hotel were
very well kept - clean and spacious - with a full front wall of glass
windows that afford you a magnificent view.
The hotel itself was small - I think 120 rooms all together - and this
made it quite romantic. During the week days the hotel was probably
only 1/3 full and very quiet. On the weekends the hotel tended to
fill up with travelers and locals getting away from the city for the
weekend. Even at full capacity there were enough chairs, towels, and
staff to accommodate everyone.
The staff at the hotel - everyone from the manager on down were
extremely friendly and always helpful. We were received the same
even when we ran in to some of the staff off the resort shopping and
such. It was very apparent to us that they were being quite genuine
and that overall the locals are quite friendly and helpful.
We were pleasantly surprised by the food at the hotel - it was
excellent - with a variety of choices. The buffet was varied and the
food at the a la carte restaurant was fabulous. The service was very
efficient, and fast. If they were unable to meet your request
immediately they certainly went out of their way to get it for you as
soon as possible.
The beach at the hotel itself is ok - but we definitely recommend
taking the free shuttle boat across the bay to the beach club. It is
a much bigger beach and the beach bar is closer. (There is no beach
bar at the beach by the hotel - you have to walk back to the
pool/snack bar for your drinks.) The beach club has water
activities, snacks and lots of chairs. The days we went there, to the
beach club were always several howler monkeys "hanging" around. Very
good photo ops!!!
A couple of notes you need to be aware of if you are considering the
Costa Smeralda!! Everything - and I mean EVERYTHING is uphill!! (It
actually feels like it is uphill both ways - if you've heard that
expression before!!). It really wasn't a problem for us - and trust
me we are "couch potatoes" from way back!! - but it is definitely
something to be aware of. It is definitely not conducive to anyone
with any physical disability.
Also there is no internet use available at the Costa Smeralda Hotel.
It was not a huge problem - as it is easy to find in the towns and
cost about .75 - $1 US for 1/2 hour or part there of. We did find an
internet computer at the Nakuti Hotel next door - during our second
week - so that was a bit easier.
The only problem we had at the hotel was not promptly receiving some
urgent messages from home. We had a small family emergency while we
were away - and our family and Michael had left three messages with
the hotel. I found out about the problem, and the messages left via
the internet. We dealt with the problem and all was well --Upon our
return I asked at the front desk if there were any messages for us and
was told no. Two days later as we were walking by the reception area
- we received our messages. We addressed our concerns with the
manager and he assured us he would look in to it, and that there was a
system in place to ensure that did not happen.
Well on to the tours - we took some amazing tours, and there were none
that we would say were not worth it. We contacted Michael
Mills(Canadian - now living in Costa Rica!!) Allegro Tours/Century 21
before we left. http://www.costarica-realestate.com/Allegro%20Papagayo%20Tours.htm
I contacted him "SEVERAL" times - and each time he was very helpful
and friendly. By the time we departed we were friends!! - and had
some excursions set up. Michael met us at the hotel on the day of our
arrival and we set up an itinerary for a few excursions.
After doing some research - we opted to use Michael and his tour
guides instead of going with the larger hotel tours. We did some
price comparisons and the costs were relatively the same for a private
tour booked with Michael and Federico. We had never gone on a private
tour before but once was all it took and we were hooked. Federico was
an EXCELLENT tour guide!!! His english is impeccable, as is his
ability to impart history, cultural, and eco-system information
throughout the tours. The flexibility was also great - we could stay
a bit longer at one spot or move on when we wanted too. We didn't
have to wait for 20 or more people to make a decision - and if we
wanted to stop for coffee, snacks or drinks - Federico pulled in!!!
We were escorted around in a brand new Land Cruisers with more gizmo's
than I've ever seen. Another words it was quite a comfortable ride.
We would definitely say that the Palo Verde boat tour, Wild Cat
Refuge, and Los Inocentes Horseback Tour with Federico are MUST
do's!!!! We saw lots of monkeys, sloths, and tons different
-beautiful birds. The Canopy tours and Bird/Animal Tours are also
MUST DO'S depending on your time!! We also went to Arenal overnight
and were able to see the volcanoe - it was well worth the trip - very
Another spot that you must see is Playa Hermosa and the Puesta Del Sol
Restaurant!!! The location is right on the beach - the owners are
American and are just GREAT people!!! They have a big screen TV -
movie night, Monday night Football, oh and food, food, food!!
If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at
If you are going to Costa Rica - contact Michael Mills - he really
helped make our holiday wonderful!!! Tell him that Lori and Ken say
hello - and we will see him next year - same time - same place!!
Have a great holiday
Thanks to Lori and Ken for this trip report ...