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Author Topic: Costa Rica Master Thread  (Read 63129 times)

Offline flyer1836

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #60 on: January 21, 2014, 09:31:38 PM »
We stayed at Westin Playa Conchal 3 nights in Feb 2012, total 4 of us (kids were 9 and 12)
Used points, yes very expensive
Rates were about $450/night + $110/$120 PER KID, PER NIGHT.
I have to look up the spg points rate, it was something like 22,000 points per night, + $110 PER KID PER NIGHT and the 12 year old would have been higher if I didn't tell them 11
We decided on 2 rooms, 22,000x2, we were not hit with any taxes, no extra charges
we are spg gold and got treated well, Had concierge level check in, we truly enjoyed it
Would I use points again, not sure.. while rates were $450 a night, there were some pre-paid non-refundable rates with costa rica travel agents in the $325-$400 range, but we wanted to keep our options opened in case of any changes. I think the spg points rate had a 3 day cancellation policy
During off season, locals have seen rates in the $200-$250 range (these rates are per room), so total 2 people
As for the resort, it was beautiful. beach not so much



Offline Dan

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #61 on: January 21, 2014, 09:37:58 PM »
Did you ask about kosher food?
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline daganster

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #62 on: January 22, 2014, 09:04:27 PM »
We stayed at Westin Playa Conchal 3 nights in Feb 2012, total 4 of us (kids were 9 and 12)
Used points, yes very expensive
Rates were about $450/night + $110/$120 PER KID, PER NIGHT.
I have to look up the spg points rate, it was something like 22,000 points per night, + $110 PER KID PER NIGHT and the 12 year old would have been higher if I didn't tell them 11
We decided on 2 rooms, 22,000x2, we were not hit with any taxes, no extra charges
we are spg gold and got treated well, Had concierge level check in, we truly enjoyed it
Would I use points again, not sure.. while rates were $450 a night, there were some pre-paid non-refundable rates with costa rica travel agents in the $325-$400 range, but we wanted to keep our options opened in case of any changes. I think the spg points rate had a 3 day cancellation policy
During off season, locals have seen rates in the $200-$250 range (these rates are per room), so total 2 people
As for the resort, it was beautiful. beach not so much
Isn't it  a category 7? shouldn't it be 30k  a night?

Offline momo

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #63 on: January 24, 2014, 12:09:37 AM »
TRIP REPORT: COSTA RICA (JOURNALIZED BY THE WIFE OF MOMO)

THURSDAY: TRAVEL DAY

- We left NY the day after the snowstorm, so our flight was delayed by 2 hours. Our flight was direct via Jet Blue to Liberia Airport.

Customs:
A lot of people have questions about customs in Costa Rica: What they do and do not allow. I still don't know, but on the customs form, they specifically ask about FRESH foods. We checked of “no” because all our foods were frozen. We had meals frozen from pomegranate, and I froze all the bread. The guy at customs was not really looking at the screen while we went through. We just grabbed our bags off the end and ran.

Car Rental: 
We signed up for the “Costa Rica Discount Card” for $40, which allowed us a 20% savings at our car rental place- which ended up saving us about $75, so it paid for itself already! (It also gives a discount at many attractions). We rented a 4 wheel drive SUV from Vamos.

Hotel
 Its around a 35 min drive from the airport. There are a lot of signs most of the way, but we got lost towards the end for a few minutes. Check in was a wonderful experience. There are no formal lobbies or counters. A hostess greeted us by our car, sat us at a couch with cold towels and drinks, and then checks us in from an ipad. The same hostess took us in a golf cart directly to our room- all the while our luggage was unloaded and brought there as well. We were given a suite in building 3- which has 2 disadvantages: the view of the bay is partially obstructed by trees. The other, is that people on the hotel path can see onto the porch- while some of the other rooms have totally private porches. However, there are pull down screens surrounding the porch, which affords privacy.
- Overall, the look and feel of the hotel is funky and modern, with a little bit of jungle feel because of all the bamboo and earth tones. It is composed of a few little buildings- which mostly consist of outdoor covered spaces.
- A really awesome feature of the living area is that the walls looking out to the bay are retractable glass panes so that the living room can turn into a outdoor space! The ceilings are at least 15 feet high, and they are bamboo- which is also found all over the hotel to create private nooks.
- A big problem is that a lot of the lights are motion sensored, and we are still working on a solution for shabbos. They will be sending in someone tomorrow to try to override the system. We will keep you posted about that!
- The bathroom is awesome! the soaking tub is massive and the shower is an open rain shower at least 10 feet long. There is a second ½ bath in the living room.
- There is a swing seat hanging from the ceiling in a nook in the living room= amazing!!!!

 Food
 We ordered the meals from pomegranate packed, frozen, and labelled by day with instructions. They arrived still frozen and our hostess took them from us when we arrived. We ate in our room tonight, but our hostess mentioned that we can be served our dinner elsewhere on the property as well.
- The hotel snack bar includes nature valley granola bars, coca colas, and kosher boxed milk! They were really nice and provided us with extras of everything.

Offline Ergel

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #64 on: January 24, 2014, 01:29:55 AM »
Which hotel?
Did they charge to heat up meals?
Life isn't about checking the boxes. Nobody cares.

Offline Fan of Dan

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #65 on: January 24, 2014, 02:00:51 AM »
Which area? Guancaste?

Offline momo

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #66 on: January 24, 2014, 09:41:59 AM »
Sorry the Andaz. They do charge to store and heat up the food, but after much back and forth prior to arrival, they waived the fee for us.

Offline Ergel

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #67 on: January 24, 2014, 01:38:11 PM »
Sorry the Andaz. They do charge to store and heat up the food, but after much back and forth prior to arrival, they waived the fee for us.
How much do they charge? Why did they waive it?
Life isn't about checking the boxes. Nobody cares.

Offline lechaim2life

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #68 on: January 24, 2014, 04:13:12 PM »
Trip Report: LIR Airport and Andaz Papagayo

LIR: A few people already discussed their airport experiences but I'll share mine. Our luggage didn't come on our flight and was sent the next day. There were people at the hotel who said they had no problem bringing in homemade, cooked food but when someone at the Andaz called his friend in customs and we described/showed pictures of the Pomegranate meals, they said they would confiscate it. We rented a car and drove to LIR from the hotel and managed to convince an AA supervisor to arrange for us to go behind security and back to the baggage claim area. My food got stopped by customs and I had to beg with them not to take it away. It helped that they couldn't read or understand a word of English so Meatballs and Corned Beef became Pasta via a translator. Another family wasn't so lucky and had a lot of their food taken away. Bottom line is that you need to get lucky and try to move out before they realize what is going on or get the guy that let everyone else go. They seem very disorganized and unprofessional so even packing your food in a toy box or with more official packaging can also work.

Andaz: The hotel is very nice and modern while trying to give the feel that you are in a jungle-type atmosphere. We stayed in a suite (Room 521) and had the same issues @momo described with privacy and the view. You can see into pretty much every suite from the path and the views of the bay are all somewhat obstructed by the trees. The room decore, lighting, and amenities were described perfectly above so no need to elaborate.
The hotel is very spread apart and the entire property is very hilly. We were there with less than 25% occupancy so they were driving people up and down the road to the pools, Spa, and dining room for breakfast. There are 3 main "family pools," all infinity pools that wrap around the area behind the main restaurant. They aren't overly large but they were all very nice and we always had at least one pool to ourselves due to the limited crowd. There is also an adult pool at the end of the road (also an infinity pool) which is also very nice. All the pools overlook the bay but the views are obstructed (like the rooms) by the trees.
The hotel is on the top of a hill and if you hike down the path behind the pools, you will get to the black sand beach. This beach is the activities beach where you can rent kayaks, snorkel or paddle board for free for an hour (or more depending on demand). You can also rent Jet Skis and boats at this beach. We actually saw whales breaching when we were there and some people rented jet skis to go see the whales up close. From their reports back, it was an amazing experience. The other beach is behind the rocks and over to the right. At the hotel, they call that beach the white sand beach and it is just intended to be used for relaxation (no activities are offered there). We didn't make it out to that beach as the black sand beach was empty and didn't want to do the extra walk. I should add that the beach is on a bay which is really nice because the water is much calmer and you can just go out and swim without any resistance from waves.
Finally, some points about the food. We are Hyatt Diamond and had breakfast for free. At this hotel, breakfast is offered at the main restaurant and we chose the buffet option every day. They had fresh fruit and delicious fresh squeezed fruit juices (I recommend both the mixed fruit and watermelon juice) which we ate every day but were charged different amounts. The way it works is that you get billed then and it gets taken off (besides for tip) when you check-out. Our last day there, two plates of fruit and two cups of fruit juice came out to $86 (not including tip). I don't know how they get these prices (our first day, the same thing was $41) but I would advise to be careful tipping off the final bill without understanding it because you actually pay for that. As far as the food we brought, I went back and forth with the manager Michael Schmid via email and he wouldn't agree to waive the $25 per person, per meal charge to freeze and store our food. I ended up buying a cheap toaster oven from Target the night before I left and I cleared out my mini fridge and was able to store 18 Pomegranate meals. Luckily for us, another family was upgraded to the Presidential Suite with that had a full fridge and freezer and let us store our food there so it all worked out. We even had a mini DO our last night there where we pooled our food with a third family and ate on their amazing deck overlooking the pools and bay. Again, my advice would be to deal with Michael over the phone as opposed to email because people seem to have had better luck with negotiating the cost of storing/heating and upgrading to better suites (with plunge pools) over the phone.
I know this was long but wanted to cover as much as I could. If anyone has any questions, please let me know.

Offline lechaim2life

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #69 on: January 24, 2014, 04:16:57 PM »
I should add that I used Herson Segura (herson03@yahoo.com) who I found via The Point Guy's blog to pick me up from the airport and take me on tours. The hotel charges $140 each way (he was less than half price for 2 people) and was a great tour guide on the one trip we took. A lot of the roads are unmarked and Google Maps doesn't work so it was great to have someone that could drive us around and show us a lot of cool stuff. He is very knowledgeable and speaks very good English and I highly recommend him. Also, I have a brochure of the tours the hotel offers and Herson is also significantly cheaper to use than the in-house options.

Offline momo

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #70 on: February 03, 2014, 07:32:02 PM »
TRIP REPORT: COSTA RICA (JOURNALIZED BY THE WIFE OF MOMO)= CONTINUED…..


FRIDAY/ SHABBOS

- The engineer was able to override the sensor systems in our rooms for shabbos, and turn off the electronic lock on the doors. So our rooms did not lock automatically. The outdoor lights around the hotel are not motion sensitive, and there are no other electric doors.

- The Andaz has live music every saturday night in one of its restaurants.


SUNDAY

- The pools here are really amazing! They are all infinity edge pools with beautiful views of the water. One pool is for adults only, while the other two allow children.
- We drove out to Canas, which was about a hour and a half drive away. Mileage wise, it was not that far, but even the main highway that goes through the entire province of Guancaste is one lane in each direction. So it takes a while, especially when there are trucks on the road. Also, there is always a section of the road under construction, because they are trying to widen the highway to include two lanes in each direction.
- In Canas we went to Las Pumas, which is a wildlife rescue shelter. I believe they have two sets of entrance tickets: because the one we received had a printed price of $10 on it- in dollar amounts. ( I found out about the place from a local woman who worked at the hotel who told me she took her kids there all the time- so i think they must have another ticket with local currency prices.) It was a really small place- overpriced for what they had to offer, but we had a good time. Our 3 year old enjoyed seeing the toucans and parrots. The monkeys were entertaining, but what was really great, was that there were some wild monkeys hanging out on top of the cage of contained monkeys! The best part of the place was the leopard and tiger. Unlike the typical zoo you would visit in the states, these animals were not drugged or lazy looking. The tiger was jumping from tree to tree, and running up to the cage edge trying to pounce on the people.
- On the way back to the hotel we drove off road to a local swimming hole under some falls, also referred to us by a local. It was called LLano del Cortes- Cataratas. You cant really make the drive unless you have four wheel drive.  Of course, in typical Costa Rican fashion as we have come to find out, we were solicited for funds. First, when we turned onto the road, a guy was sitting and blocking the road with a “donation receipts” pad. Once we paid that toll, and tried to park our car, a guy approached us and said the parking was free, but he would watch our car and make sure nothing happened to it in exchange for a donation. We hiked down a five minute hike to a really pretty pool and falls. A lot of locals go there to swim.


MONDAY

- The hotel has a free child care service called Cambi. Its a small building with a TV/ computer games room, an art room, a general playroom, a nap room, and a kitchen. They also have a backyard with swings and slides. They have water bottles and apples on hand for the kids.

- We left our daughter in Cambi for the afternoon, and we went on a canopy tour, which is a series of zip lines extended over canyons, rivers, and valleys. It was absolutely incredible!!!!!!!
- At first, we went to a place called Witch’s rock to do the canopy tour. However, they were unable to start a tour for another hour after we arrived, and it would be with 17 other people! They charge $75 per person, and the tour is about an hour and a half long. They also offer horseback riding and  ATV’s.
- We could not wait around that long, we we continued driving a little further down the road, and we saw small painted signed for another place. The signs pointed us down a dirt road, which would not have been accessible had we not had 4 wheel drive. It was a pretty long drive down that road, about 15 minutes, and we encountered some wild cows. When we finally arrived, we were the only people there. They charged us $35 per person, and we also paid for them to take pictures of us with their “professional photographer” while we were on the zipline, and put it in a frame. The course consisted of 17 zip lines of varying lengths, speeds, and views. We flew across a snaking river and a craggy canyon hundreds of feet in the air. It was absolutely breathtaking. At one point they offered for us to do a line upside down, but we were way too chicken for that!!!!
- THE PAPAGAYO FLOATING & CANOPY:  papagayocanopy@gmail.com phone 506-2665-8458


TUESDAY

- We started off our day at the beach, which is about a 4 minute walk down to the water. We went on those standing surf board type things with paddles ( I really don't know what they are called) which look much easier than they really are. Basically, you need to balance in the exact center the whole time, especially when you are attempting to make it past the waves. The water is really clear, and we were able to see fish and a stingray even in the deep waters. Some kayakers at the hotel reported seeing whales in the morning, and they were able to get close enough to hear them whining to each other!
- The hotel has 2 private beaches- a black sand and a white sand one.

- In the afternoon we went to Rio Carabaci safari water tours, which is located next door to Las Pumas rescue shelter. Once again, I got the feeling we were ripped off, because there are no printed prices. We paid $40 each, and and our child went free. I think it was worth it though. They drove us to a spot a few minutes away where they pushed the raft into the water, and we got in. We had a guide rowing the raft and pointing out the wildlife. We began our tour at 3:30, and it was a 2 hour tour. The timing was perfect because the heat of the day was over, and the rock face surrounding the river blocked the sun. The weather was actually quite comfortable. We saw tons of iguanas, which seem to be like the squirrels of NY- not very exciting for a local, and all over the place. We also saw lots of wild howler monkeys really close up because they were dangling over the river eating some leaves. There are many different species of birds, and we even saw some bats in the rocks. Best of all, we saw some Crocs!


WEDNESDAY

- We wanted to go horseback riding on our last full day, and we wanted to bring our 3 year old with us. We spoke to the host, and he made a few calls for us. Witch’s rock, which is right near the hotel, did not allow children under the age of 7. The host also called a tour company, and they were willing, but they charged $110 person- which included luxury transportation, and lunch.  Since we had our own car, we decided not to opt for that. The host ended up finding a place about a hour and a half drive away near Playa Conchal, which is near the Westin Hotel.
- About 45 minutes into the drive, we saw a painted sign on the road for Horseback riding, ATV, and Canopy Tours (It seems that most places do all 3 activities). It was called Hacienda El Roble and it was amazing! Especially since it was half the distance to where we were prepared to travel. Their prices were really good as well. It seems that this is the destination for a lot of the luxury tours. This place charged $35 per person for 2 hours of horseback riding, which is really cheap! They charge $60 per ATV for 2 hours (which can seat 2 adults) and $35 for the canopy tour- which has the longest zip in the country- 600 meters long.
- They did not charge for our 3 year old daughter, and she sat on the saddle with the guide. We went riding through swampland, and fields full of wild cows. It was absolutely great, and the guide allowed us to gallop for as long as we could handle the ride. It was amazing, because my the guide was galloping along side us with our daughter bouncing along- something that would NEVER be allowed in the states.
- HACIENDA EL ROBLE & ADVENTURE CENTER  (www.canopyhaciendaelroble.com) 506-8505-8666 or 506-8884-4788. located on Coyolito de Belen in Carrillo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.


THURSDAY

- We spent the morning by the pool.
- Mid Afternoon flight


GENERAL INFORMATION

 (We stayed in the Hyatt Andaz in Guancaste)
- During our stay, the hotel was at 9% occupancy!!! It was basically us and the staff.
- The hotel is in a really secluded area. Once you turn off the main road, you drive for about 15 minutes in wilderness. We do not recommend driving this road at night, and it is very twisty, and there are no lights.  One day we were late getting back from a trip, and there was a car flipped over on the side of the road. There are also no signs for the hotel once you leave the main road. We got lost looking for it during the daytime. If we were checking in at night, we never would have found it.
- The hotel stored our food in their freezer, and pulled out our meal every morning to defrost in the fridge. We called them every evening an hour before we wanted to eat. The instructions on the food said it only needs 20 minutes, but we found that the food was not hot unless it was in for an hour. Even if it was previously defrosted. The hotel normally charges a storage and heating fee. We were able to negotiate, and the fee was waived.
- Breakfast is served every morning in one of the restaurants overlooking the pools. It is from 7:30 to 10:30. The following items were kosher from the buffet: sliced fruit, fresh squeezed fruit juices, coffee, cereal, and milk. As a diamond member, breakfast was free. The food there is really expensive, and the prices fluctuated every day, even though we basically ate the same thing. One morning, our breakfast of cereal and fruit cost $80!  We did receive the full bill at the end of the meal, but only the tip posted to our account.
- The staff is overall attentive and friendly. I think the staff are trained here to put an emphasis on the friendliness, because even the gardeners and cleaning staff stop on the road to greet you as you walk by. However, they did not know a lot of information about the local activities. In fact, we ended up supplying them with information about where we went each day, so that they can advise future guests.
- The hotel includes one free hour of water sport activities a day. This includes kayaking, snorkeling, and this board that you stand on and paddle.

- There are very few gas stations in the Guancaste area. In fact, they are so far and few between that they are all marked on the map. The closest one to the airport is 15 minutes away.
- The major grocery stores are also far and few. There are small bodegas in the towns, but the closest one to the hotel is about 20 minutes away.

- In general, where ever we went we got the feeling of being ripped off. No one has printed prices. Its like they look at you and calculate how much they can get away with asking.

- We were planning to buy a sim card for our phone, but we found that we just did not need to. There is wifi all over the hotel, so we were able to access our email while spending the day at the pool. As for local calls, i believe locals calls are free from the hotel, although we did not try. The hosts made calls for us and spoke spanish whenever we needed.

- A GENERAL WARNING: WE HAD A BAD REACTION TO THE LOCAL WATER, AND WE HIGHLY SUGGEST STICKING TO BOTTLED WATER- EVEN IF YOU INTEND TO BOIL IT.

- The vistas are unbelievable!

Offline efflpetzel

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #71 on: February 04, 2014, 03:08:21 PM »

- In general, where ever we went we got the feeling of being ripped off. No one has printed prices. Its like they look at you and calculate how much they can get away with asking.
Did you try haggling or bargaining with them

Offline momo

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #72 on: February 04, 2014, 05:23:11 PM »
Yes we did. In most places they were willing to negotiate a bit.

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #73 on: February 04, 2014, 07:46:56 PM »
Great TR! Costa Rica is one of my favorite places.

Offline flyer1836

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Re: Costa Rica Master Thread
« Reply #74 on: February 04, 2014, 07:48:00 PM »
Regarding Westin Playa Conchal at 22,000 points. booked in May 2011, went feb 2012, website showed 25,000 or 27,000 points, when I called they said 22,000 and I did not argue
now it may be cat 7, and I am sure more points