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Finally- Trip report for 8 wonderful nights in CR- Peace Lodge, Tabacon, Paradisus

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Nov 29th, 2004, 07:54 PM
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Finally- Trip report for 8 wonderful nights in CR- Peace Lodge, Tabacon, Paradisus

Finally, I am able to post a little bit from my first trip to CR from Non.12-Nov.20. I travelled with my husband and parents. We flew from NY to San Jose via Miami on AA. We returned from Liberia airport.

I am pressed for time but wanted to give a few highlights of our trip and answer some questions you may have, so here goes....

I planned my entire trip and then consulted a travel agent to critique my itinerary and help me with logistics. This worked out ok, but by planning myself, calling CR myself, and getting great rates from CR transfers and the various websites, my prices were much better than any travel agent quoted me, although the agent I worked with matched my rates. Next time, I will book everything myself, since it would have worked out the same.

Anyway, after arriving in CR, we filled out our forms and were first on line. No problems at the airport, went right through customs, which was a joke. Our bagagge came out fast- very organized, courteous, and prompt.

When we arrived outside, I clearly saw my name on a placard from CR transfers. They were great throughout the entire trip- very prompt if not earlier than expected, and courteous drivers that provided histtory of surrounding areas, etc. We were on our way to Peace Lodge for 3 nights.

We arrived at the PL in less than an hour and it was breathtaking. Our room wasn't ready yet, even though we arrived at 4 pm. so we just waited. We did check in and got all the pw out of the way. Then we ordered a few drinks, which were complimentary when we went to pay for them. In about an hour, our room was ready- granted we were waiting for 2 of them to be ready.

We stayed in 2 connecting deluxe suites on the second floor. The rooms looked just like the web site- no exxagerations. The bed was high and my mom and I joked about needing a rope to get on to them being about 5'2". It was hilarious. The fireplace, contrary to other posts warmed our room nicely. Also, running the humidifier in the floor cainet helped warm the air and reduce the moisture, especially in the mornings.

The PL was just what we expected. There is construction on a man made lake for trout fishing, which you can see from the farthest rooms the most. There is also costruction next to the welcome center, which I belivev is going to be the hotel's reception area. But the construction was non- intrusive and we hardly heard the work, although we could see the workers at the sites. The construction was not an issue for us at all. It did not bother us nor did it impact our decision to return in 2006.

The food is different but inovative. Cindy, one of the owners, did mention that they recently hired a new chef who seems to be "mixing it up " a bit. I found that some sauces were extreemly salty, but some were good. No meal was ruined since sauces are usually served on the side. My favorite meal was a shrimp meal with a "fusion of tropical flavors". It was shrimp in a coconut sauce with sauteed pineaplle, papaya, and melon- delicious.. My husband loved the filet mignon and chicken that he ate. y parents were content with the soups and salads. There was a variety of choices and for 3 nights, you could find something different to eat.

We had dinners in the upstairs dining room and lunch in the park restaurant and at a great place in a town called Fraijanes. The rest. was called Freddy Fresas and of course, specialized in strawberry shakes, shortcake, pie, etc. (Fresa is sp. for strawberry). On the way back from the Poas volcano and Doka Coffee plantation tour , our guide from the PL, Allan, recommended this restaurant. We were the only ones on the tour, so it was our private tour and we "hijacked " him for the day, leaving at 8am and returning at 5. Let's just say he got a great tip. We stopped to buy strawberries, ate lunch, went souvenir shopping, and took our sweet time. It was great. He was so knowledgable and friendly.

We saw the Poas crater as clear as possible. It was surreal- looked like a turquoise jewel. At Doka, we bought tons of coffee- much better than Cafe Britt, although Cafe Britt tastes great too.

We hiked the PL grounds as well, seeing the waterfalls, and taking part in the hummingbird show, where they eat from your hands. It was amazing- I loved it.

When we left the park, we saw a pizote, which is the equivalent of a racoon. She was eating rice that had been put out for her. Very cute.

Everything at PL, was wonderful. I feel that it was worth the price and all my requests were acommodated- connecting rooms, second floor, great views, etc.

Three nights were perefct for this stay since we were ot doing any more day trips. Our next stop was Arenal and a 2 night stay at the Tabacon.........
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Nov 29th, 2004, 07:59 PM
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Sorry for all the typos- I am literate, haha. I am trying to type fast and also a little tired.

I will post about Tabacon tomorrow.
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Nov 29th, 2004, 07:59 PM
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So glad you decided to go for it at Peace Lodge - sounds like the decision was definitely worth it. Sigh...another place added to my long list . Looking forward to the rest of your report.
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Nov 30th, 2004, 02:41 AM
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Wolifiesmom--thanks for posting, I'll bet you're still on a post-trip "high"!! Looking forward to reading about Paradisus Playa Conchal. Awaiting your report is like one of those old cliffhanger movies--very suspenseful.
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Nov 30th, 2004, 02:52 AM
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Wolfiesmom--thank you for posting. Bet you're still on your post-trip "high"!! Looking forward especially to reading your report on Paradisus Playa Conchal. 'Til next time....Pura vida!
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Nov 30th, 2004, 05:14 AM
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Thanks for posting, Wolfiesmom--I enjoyed reading about Peace Lodge. Agree with Tully! Good luck posting--there have been a lot of problems lately as you know. So frustrating to put your heart into a "report post" only to lose it at the last minute!
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Nov 30th, 2004, 06:50 AM
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Thanks for the report so far-- and very glad you seem to have had a great time. I'm still wondering abt the construction presence at PL. We'll be there only 2 nights, but we hadn't particularly intended to take trips away from the property. Would you say there's enough to keep one busy right there for one full day (and the afternoon we arrive)? I'm somehow not awfully interested in the coffee plantation trip (perhaps would be if we were self-driving, but we won't have a car). If there's construction in several places around the property, I can't believe it won't be obtrusive-- if not the sound of hammering, etc. at least visually. Anyway, a few other questions if you don't mind: did you use the jacuzzis in your rooms? Are they the kind that stay filled, or like a jacuzzi tub that one fills each time? I'm not usually comfortable using public hot tubs-- i.e. where the water stays in it-- bec. my husband once got a wicked skin rash from an improperly sanitized tub (and our dermatolgist urges us to avoid them like the plague). A question abt drinking tap water: My guidebook (Lonely Planet) advises strongly against drinking tap water in CR. I don't think of Lonely Planet as being a "scare" type book-- quite the opposite in fact. So I'm curious to know how you and your family did the "water" thing in CR. E.g. the several times we were in Mexico, our hotels put out bottled water so that we could brush our teeth with it also. Is that the case in CR-- or does one buy the water?
Thanks Wolfiesmom. I look forward to hearing the rest of your report. (We're supposed to stay at Observatory Lodge at Arenal, and probably will not visit Tabacon, though I'll be interested to hear what you have to say about it and what other activities you enjoyed in the area.) Very good of you to take the time to do this....
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Nov 30th, 2004, 01:47 PM
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Poss, the water in Costa Rica is fine. We have been to one area where the water was not potable--on top of Vulcan Irazu. There was a sign stating the fact. For those of us who have spent weeks in Costa Rica studying Spanish and have lived in the homes of Costa Rican families, I can promise you the water is fine!

Have also been to Mexico and yes, I wouldn't even think of not using bottled water to brush my teeth. Many restaurants in Costa Rica serve bottled water out of courtesy simply because this is an issue for many tourists. Do whichever you feel comfortable with! Bottled water is very easy to find.
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Nov 30th, 2004, 08:53 PM
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Poss, I think that if you are staying on the Peace Lodge grounds that there is enough to do in 2 days. The day that we arrived we enjoyed watching the birds and the view of the mountains. We were on vacation so after travelling, our arrival consisted of the above and then relaxing in the room with the jacuzzis and fireplace.

The second day we started the entire tour of the grounds: butterfly observatory, hummingbird gardens, hiking to see all the waterfalls.

If we had wanted we could have also gone the opposite way on the fern trail, which was scenic as well.

It depends on what you enjoy doing and what you want to experience. The property is very peaceful and tranquil. The noise you hear the most is the birds, i.e at exactly 5:30 am every morning a bird landed on our balcony and sounded like he was playing the flute. It was wonderful and I am not an early bird, haha- no pun intended.

As far as the water, we had no problems washing our teeth with the water at the PL and Paradisus. I chose not to use tap water at Tabacon because when I first turned the hot water on, it smelled like sulfur, so I just didn't want to try it. PL water tasted fine- no illnesses from anyone I travelled with.

You are in control of the jacuzzi water. You fill it up and keep it full or empty it. It did take about half hour to fill up so when we were done, we left it half full and would just add more hot water so as not to waste water and also to save time. We made a habit of bathing before though so that the water would be clean. However, when we would leave the room and housekeeping cleaned, we noticed that they did drain both jacuzzis and clean them out as well.

Also, I want to clarify that I stated that there were two areas of construction and that it was not rampant throughout the property. It was not intrusive for us, but you sound like it would really bother you. I also don't know if it is going to get worse with the dry season or not.

If it would really bother you, perhaps you could e-mail them and express your concerns to Cindy. Or you can wait until it is all done. We (32, 42, 70, and 74 y.o) all enjoyed and were not phased by whatever construction we saw. The birds, flowers, waterfalls, butterflies, views, and overall environment took center stage over all the rest annd I would highly recommend.

I understand your concern though and can only offer my experience.
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Nov 30th, 2004, 09:11 PM
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Our next stop was the Tabacon and hot springs resort. Before we left PL, I purchased a phone card to call family in NY. I had trouble getting it to work and the other owner, Lee, offered me his computer so that I could send out an e-mail. He left us alone in the office and disappeared. It was a nice gesture and he wasn't hovering over us.

Well, 15 minutes prior to our pickup, our CR Transfer driver met us in the lobby. We were off to our next adventure after a wonderful 3 nights at the PL.

The roads to Arenal weren't that bad. It was very rainy though and sometimes hard to see. Since we left at 12 pm, we weren't hungry, so we didn't stop anywhere and arrived at the Tabacon in about 2 hours.

Check in was very chaotic, primarily because the arriving guests made a horizontal line instead of a traditional one. They were out of control . It looked like a NYC bar.

I decided to stand behind the person who looked most organized and soon arrived at the desk. Check in at this point was a breeze. We were soon driven to our rooms. Our requests again were accommodated- upstairs suites, next to each other, king size beds with a clear view of the foggy arenal volcano.

The rooms looked like a suite in a Best Western or Holiday Inn. Very clean, spacious, nice fabrics, balcony, etc.

When I first turned on the hot water it came out black and smelled of sulfur. Of course, from previous posts, this was due to the water coming from the springs. After less than a minute, everything cleared up. My first shower consisted of a trickle of water until my husband unscrewed the showerhead and discovered several little rocks. After cleaning this out, we had a great showere with excellent pressure. (His bill is in the mail, haha)

The suites had a jacuzzi on the balcony which filled up fast and was great. There was a minibar with wines, liquor, sodas, and snacks. I thought that the prices were fair.

Overall, I liked the Tabacon and figured that although it was pricey, we visited the springs a lot since it was rainy, therefore saved a lot of money in admission.

If you are looking for a base so that you could explore Arenal and are not interested too much in the springs, then I would stay someplace else.

Well, I am tired now so I will write more tomorrow about the restaurants, the springs, and gift shops........
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Dec 1st, 2004, 05:01 AM
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Wolfiesmom,
Thanks for taking the time to write of your experiences. You are giving excellent and very informative information. Hope you are slowly catching up and resting up!
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Dec 1st, 2004, 07:28 AM
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Water--when we were waiting to check in at the Fonda Vela in Monteverde, there was a German couple ahead of us. The man asked if it was OK to drink the tap water. The desk clerk replied, "Of course, this is not Mexico."
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Dec 1st, 2004, 09:51 AM
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Pretty well sums it up!
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Dec 1st, 2004, 12:47 PM
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I also wanted to address poss' concerns regarding the Peace Lodge. We were there for three nights last week and had a wonderful time. We never heard the construction. It is such a great place!
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Dec 1st, 2004, 02:57 PM
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What wonderful, helpful folks Fodorites are. Thank you all!!
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Dec 2nd, 2004, 08:59 PM
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Well- overall we enjoyed our stay at the Tabacon resort. When we settled in, we went to eat at the bar/cafe located in the lobby. It has drinks, desserts, and a few salads and sandwiches from which to choose.

We all wanted a chicken sandwich for some reason, and it was the one menu item that they didn't have available.

But after informing us and taking our drink orders, our waiter called up the other restaurant on the property and had them send the ingredients for 4 chix sandwiches. They were chicken salad made with pineapple- would have been plain but the pineapple gave them a unique flavor. We were impressed that he went through the trouble to accommodate us. We had a nice meal and great drinks.

Since it was now about 5 pm and getting dark, we decided to visit the springs and check out what all the hype is. Well, we loved them. It was not crowded at all and although we didn't go in, there were at least 5 areas where we could have soaked privately, especially at the back of the property.

We found the bar at the far end of the property and decided to have a few drinks, but we were early for happy hour which was from 7-9. The deal is buy 1 get one for $1. We had some nachos and cheese for a whopping $2. They were delicious.

That night, we ate dinner at about 8 pm at the hotel restaurant. It was ok. The meal was very good but I felt it was very upscale and expensive for the location. I believe it came out to $150 for 4 of us with a bottle of wine and drinks. Really not expensive for what we ordered, but just for the location. Imagine Holiday Inn????

Service was ok, nothing to write home about though.

The next day we headed to the springs at 7 am. They do not open to the public until 10 am so we figured we would get a prime spot. We had to walk down to the springs which was a down hill 5 min. walk on a paved sidewalk with steps- no problem. The shuttle starts running after 8 am so we didn't want to wait. We walked in through a security post entrance instead of the main one.

Well, talk about empty- there was no one around- it was heaven!!!!

We had first choice for any area that we wanted until about 12pm. That is when it started getting busy and by then we were hungry and left for lunch. Today we ordered room service and it was fast and wonderful. It came to about $50 for a caesar salad, club sandwich, 2 chix finger platters, and 2 soups. Of course most of the prices are cheap but then you have to add a 13 % tax and 10 % tip, that is where most of the prices go up.

This was a very nice meal which we had on our balcony while looking out at the rainforest- Arenal was shrouded in fog-no luck in seeing while we were there.

It poured for the rest of the day so we took a nap and stayed inside reading. At night we decided to eat at the buffet rest. at the springs and it was so much better that the main rest. by the hotel, although there were some items that may not appeal to all, such as a beef stew, chicken in tomato sauce, many "ethnic" foods. We paid $18 each and enjoyed the meal very much. Service here was very prompt and more of what I expected from this type of hotel.

The next morning we went to the springs once again- it was great.

Tip: definitely bring foot protection such as water shoes. The bottom of the pools are sometimes rocky and rough so be careful. Even flip flops may fall off with some of the currents.

There are areas where you can leave a small bag with towels, shorts, etc. if you do not want to use a locker or don't need to. Since we stayed at the hotel, we walked down in our swim wear with covers on top. We got our towels and then just left it all in a pile on a chair or in a tree nook. This may have worked for us since it was empty, but it is something that you can decide when you get there and see the "crowds"

Finally, our check out was very smooth. Charges were accurate, service was courteous, great stay overall.

We heard a few complaints while we were there and they were mostly about the speed of service at the reception desk. The workers seemed very relaxed and laid back and I guess some guests wanted express check in- I felt that after the initial chaos, it was cordial and that they were attentive to one person at a time.

Another complaint was from a woman who left a personal item in a robe at the spa and was upset that they lost it. Not sure of the outcome but clearly it wasn't their fault.

Gift shop: I had the best experience everytime I visited. I was interested in CR music and the only thing that they had out, I could buy at Barnes and Noble, so I asked if they had any typical music and they recommeneded a cd entitled" La musica mas linda de CR" by Luis Castillo. It is a beautiful cd with guitar, violin, and instrumental music. Not only did they recommend it but they dug up an opened copy and popped it in their store cd player so I could hear a sample of all the tracks before buying. Talk about customer service.

I honestly do not have any complaints about the place. The grounds are lush and so green. The birds are beautiful- there were 4 wild turkeys in the trees outside our room. Service was friendly and prompt. Very accommodating.

Like I said, if the hot springs are on your itinerary, I would stay here since admission is included, if not then there may be other alternatives that are cheaper, but I can't reccommend those.

Well, the next installment will be the 4 hour trip to the Paradisus, a stop at an animal refuge in Canas and a great meal at a rest. on the way......
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Dec 2nd, 2004, 09:06 PM
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Just wanted to add that we had a lot of rain while we were in Arenal so we didn't do some of the things we wanted- Cano Negro tour and Arenal hanging bridges. However, if it had been hot and humid, we would not have enjoyed the springs as much . Therefore, it's kinda a 50-50 chance of what you can enjoy based on the weather.

If I returned I would like to do these things and less hot springs so that would be my next trip, but again it depends on the weather. The rain while we were there was torrential.
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Dec 3rd, 2004, 04:57 AM
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I'm glad to hear you enjoyed Tabacon Hot Springs. To me, it is a place of great beauty and I consider it a "don't miss" while at Arenal. I've been surprised at the few people who have commented that it is too touristy, etc. Of course, it attracts tourists. However the 3 times we've been there, it has never seemed crowded. Even this time last year on December 26, I wouldn't have called it crowded. We still had parts of the property to ourselves. Enjoying your report!
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Dec 3rd, 2004, 05:26 PM
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Dear Wolfiesmom, The suspense is "killing" me. Please write us about your time at Paradisus Playa Conchal . Grasicas!
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Dec 3rd, 2004, 11:07 PM
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Oops. Excuse the typo. I meant "Gracias." Pura vida!
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