Costa Rica - hotel questions (Arenal/MA)

Old May 14th, 2008, 05:31 AM
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Costa Rica - hotel questions (Arenal/MA)

We are going to Costa Rica in January 2009, and I am looking into hotels in Arenal (Arenal Observatory Lodge or El Silencio) and Manuel Antonio (Mango Moon or La Mansion).

It seems all of the hotels require you to fill out a credit card authorization form and e-mail and fax it back. I am not comfortable doing either with my credit card info so I am wondering if this is a requirement everywhere in CR? Do you typically e-mail or fax? Will they take my info via phone?

Secondly, does anyone have any experience with Mango Moon? It seems to get good reviews here and on Trip Advisor, but their credit card form has a note about prostitution being illegal on the premises which makes me nervous that they have issues with that. Or, again, is that normal to have that on the reservation form in CR?

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old May 14th, 2008, 06:03 AM
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Everyone I dealt with wanted the written authorization form. Sorry, but if you want to book in advance, you'll probably have to do it. I asked if I could give info over the phone at a couple of places, and all wanted the written form. If it helps, I had no problems. Check out my "Part I" trip report posted yesterday for my feelings on El Silencio vs. AOL.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 07:54 AM
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Hi Sessa,

Most people don't seem to have any issues booking directly with the hotels and providing their CC info, but if this makes you uncomfortable, you could always look into having a stateside travel agency/wholesaler do it for you.

I had Pat Hewitt (who posts here from time to time) make my hotel and rental car arrangements last year because I was short on time to deal with it myself. I had specific hotels in mind and he was able to quickly set everything up for me. If I remember correctly, I gave him a deposit up front and then paid the balance a few months before the actual trip. We took care of the transactions through his PayPal account. He sent me pre-paid vouchers for each hotel and the car, and everything was all in order once we arrived in CR.

For our first CR trip, I had used a travel agency called Tico Travel (based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL). As with Pat, I picked the hotels I wanted and they set up all the arrangements. The only downside to using them was that I had to pay for everything in full up front.

There are no additional fees for having an agent set things up. I had checked the prices of our hotels independently online, and there was no extra cost associated with booking this way, rather than doing it myself.

I don't think I'd feel weird about booking directly with any of the hotels you mention. They all have solid reputations. For me its about the convenience as well as any nervousness I would feel in faxing/emailing my CC info.

Good luck with your plans. January sounds far away, but time has a way of flying!
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Old May 14th, 2008, 09:51 AM
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Thanks for your replies. I have no issue doing it if it's the norm, but just wanted to make sure since there is so much fraud and identify theft happening these days. It sounds like these hotels we are looking at are reputable so I am sure we won't have any problems.

alw1977 - As I mentioned on your trip report, you def. sold me on AOL with your description!

Hopefully some fodorites have had experience with Mango Moon as the property looks great, but I am just worried about the warning on their cc form. Makes me think they have a lot of issues with prostitution on the premises.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 10:48 AM
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I have seen the odd prostitution warning at a couple of hotels, I think including Si Como No. There also were big warning signs at the airport about sexual exploitation of minors.
I suspect there's some kind of law or legal situation behind this. Maybe somebody else on the board knows.
In any case, I wouldn't think the warning reflects negatively on the hotel.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 10:51 AM
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Check out this notice on the Si Como No Web site -- it looks like some kind of legal protection notice for the hotel. Maybe they face closure if the authorities think they knowingly allowed prostitution, so they cover themselves with a warning?

http://www.sicomono.com/reservations/prost_notice.php
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Old May 14th, 2008, 10:57 AM
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I know there are some Mango Moon reviews on the forum. Have you done a search on it? I remember reading some positive things about the hotel.

I haven't seen evidence of prostitution in CR myself, but know that it is widespread in the country, and some visitors do seek that sort of thing out. Hopefully, MM's warnings are meant more to discourage that sort of thing on their premises, rather than being indicative of a real issue that exists there. I didn't encounter anything seedy like that when I visited MA; or Arenal for that matter. Hopefully, you won't either!
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Old May 14th, 2008, 11:03 AM
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Well, we certainly missed the warning when we made our reservations at Si Como No last year. It's certainly not a shabby place, so I am assuming like the others that this is a general warning and doesn't reflect specifically on the hotel. I wouldn't let it sway me one way or the other.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 11:13 AM
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Dear sessa:

I have always felt uneasy about sending CC info, but it has always been OK. Many of these hotels have strict cancellation policies, so be sure of your dates and where you really want to stay. If you decide to cancel too close to your arrival, you will be charged for all or part of your stay, so be aware of this.

We really enjoyed the location of AOL and got to see the "hot rocks" on our last night.

Good luck,

MY
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Old May 14th, 2008, 11:32 AM
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I always fax my hotel information and haven't had any problems. I feel more comfortable doing that than e-mailing just because an e-mail can get passed on more easily, but that's probably fine as well. We stayed at Mango Moon on our first trip to CR. It's nice boutique type hotel; the rooms vary a lot. We didn't really love our first room - the bedroom had a view of the street, and we didn't have a private balcony which is important to us. They upgraded us for free, and we got a beautiful suite upstairs with a private balcony. The hotel has very pretty views of the water, and they serve a nice breakfast in a pretty open bar area that has great views. Also lots of capuchin monkeys around eating off the mango trees.

The one thing that we thought was odd was that you could not flush toilet paper, so they just had a little trash can in the bathroom. It was fine once we got used to it. It's in a great location - easy to walk to restaurants like Salsipuedes, Barba Roja, and Cafe Milagro. The hotel has recently been sold, so I'm not sure if the new owners have made any changes. Also it has a "trail" that leads down to the beach - steep and muddy when we were there and took us about 20 minutes to hike down. Be sure to check when high tide is because there was very little beach there at the time of day we hiked down. Feel free to ask any more questioins. I'd stay there again but I'd be picky about my room.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 12:03 PM
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I thought it was you who had stayed at Mango Moon, VG, but couldn't remember for sure!

The fact that the hotel has been sold is one thing to consider, I guess, although that doesn't mean anything would change for the worse...
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Old May 14th, 2008, 12:15 PM
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I meant questions - can't type today - lol.

Yep, it was me, c! I think if I went back I'd probably check out Buena Vista Villas and Tulemar. Those seem to get pretty consistently good reviews.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 03:03 PM
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I figured it was just a warning, but I hadn't seen it anywhere else in my research thus far. There was one place on Trip Advisor in MA (I can't remember which one) that seemed to have good reviews, but a guest mentioned something about prostitution on the premises during their stay. Guess that can happen anywhere, though. Anyway...thanks again for all of your responses.

volcanogirl - We did request a room on top with a view so hopefully we get a good one. Weird about the toilet paper. I will have to check out some recent reviews since the owners have changed...thanks for the heads up.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 04:52 PM
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I never email CC info, because email is not encoded or protected in any way. Any hacker can intercept your message and get the numbers out of it (according to my techie husband). Faxing is better.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 08:12 PM
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That's so weird about the prostitution warnings! I had only seen those on the websites of hotels in Jaco - seems so weird that they'd have on on the Si Como No site. Seems so family oriented.

Prostitution is legal in CR - so they probably have those notices up to make people from countries where it's illegal feel more comfortable. That's my guess.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 08:43 PM
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We were surprised by the signs in the airport "It is illegal to have sex with children" - we kind of thought that goes without saying. I guess we've been lucky and haven't seen too much of the seedier side of CR. I'd be shocked if Mango Moon or Si Como No had any problems like that - we visited both and didn't see anything obvious going on.
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Old May 16th, 2008, 01:21 PM
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The prostitution disclaimer is becoming more common. Adult prostitution is legal here, as it is in many parts of the third world. Most of the time, it is pretty discreet. The guys meet the girls in bars that are known for this type of thing, and take them back to their rooms. So you probably don't have to worry about your kids being exposed to it. You would not know it is there if you weren't looking for it.

But just because it is legal, does not make it respectable. Most hotels don't want it on the premises, so they let the guests know up front.

Regarding the signs about sex with children? Any time you have legal prostitution, you have sex tourism. They are just letting the guys know that this does not mean "anything goes", and to keep their hands off the minors. The government takes this very seriously. (As they should!)

You are expressing interest in some extremely different types of hotels. All four you mention are dissimilar, and not what I would recommend for the same traveler. What kind of place are you seeking?

Hope this helps! Let me know if I can offer more advice (preferably not about hookers).

Warm Regards,
Pat Hewitt
(Travel professional)
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Old May 16th, 2008, 03:25 PM
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Thanks, Pat. In regards to the hotels, my husband wants to stay somewhere in MA with great ocean views and above average accommodations (without breaking the bank) which is how I came up with Mango Moon and La Mansion. Mango Moon quoted $195/night plus tax and La Mansion quoted $250 plus tax (both are for deluxe rooms).

In Arenal, I want to be close to the volcano and hopefully be able to see the lava at night, hence AOL. But Silencio has gotten such great reviews and seems much more convenient to the town. If AOL ever responds (I e-mailed over 3 days ago) we are going to go ahead and book there, but I welcome your thoughts on that as well as Mango Moon vs La Mansion.
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Old May 17th, 2008, 05:25 AM
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sessa - I had to resubmit my reservation request for AOL for next year. I used the online reservation form the first time, waited 4 days, then sent an email to their contact address asking about it. I heard back from them within a day, and they told me they hadn't received the request and asked me to resubmit it. You may want to follow up with them.
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Old May 17th, 2008, 09:34 AM
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Sessa I too am going in Jan2009. I chose los lagos for my daughter who is 15 this is the one hotel I was a little unsure of. they too had be fax my info I did it but was leary.I contacted Aol and they were full for my dates but got a responce in 2-3 days
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