Trip Report - El Tamarindo

Old Feb 3rd, 2010, 12:58 PM
  #1  
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Trip Report - El Tamarindo

We just got back from El Tamarindo, North of Manzanillo. I must say I have mixed feelings about the resort. It is a beautiful place, set on 2000 acres of dry thorn forest, next to a calm bay. We saw a multitude of animals and birds, and the setting was very quiet and peaceful except for the weekend when the beach was invaded by locals and tourists visiting from across the bay. It is not for everyone, as it is isolated without much to do. But if you are into birds, nature, relaxing and spending time on the beach, this location is one of the best. We love places like this and have spent many vacations in jungle settings in Latin America. (i.e., Chan Chich and Chaa Creek in Belize, Gamboa Rainforest Resort in Panama, Tides Riviera Maya in Mexico, and Xandari in Costa Rica). In addition, the hotel only had 8 rooms full so upon check in they upgraded us to the next level suite.

Now on to the negatives, and I hope you will not think I am one to complain about everything, as generally I think I am pretty tolerant and understanding. But I had heard that the resort had changed hands several times over the past few years. This unfortunately was reflected in the lack of management, inconsistency of service, room condition, and erroneous information disseminated to the guests. I expect some degree of this when in a foreign country, but when the least expensive room is $750+ a night, with most being more than $1K+, you tend to expect a little more. Just to give you a few examples:
.It was difficult getting anyone to return my calls or emails in securing a reservation. When I finally did get a hold of someone, they quoted me a price which was much higher than the website. This should have been my first clue that things would not be perfect at this hotel.
.They did not provide services for tours, hikes etc., even though the website indicate as such. The information on the hotel website and in the room was completely incorrect and out of date.
.We had no hot water for several nights; it turned out a pipe was broken. (Weird that they would upgrade us to a nicer room that had a broken pipe!)
.We were told several times to ensure our doors were bolted to ensure the wild animals did not enter but one of our bolts was broken and the maid kept leaving the doors ajar whenever she left the room. (This indeed proved to be important as several times we did hear animals trying to enter the room, but we had pushed furniture up against the door with the broken bolt, and they didn't get in!)
.Food at the restaurant was excellent but service was very inconsistent. Most nights they did not ask if we wanted dessert, wine, etc. One night they gave us a dessert menu but they had almost nothing on the menu so after hearing "We do not have that" several times we finally asked what they DID have. One night we were given a wine list but I suppose it was a good thing we hadn't received it on the other nights because nearly all of the bottles were $2500 pesos and up (about $200 US).
.We had a friend meeting us at the hotel and cleared it through security, but we also asked if the front desk could drive us up to the gate to meet him, so he wouldn't get lost trying to find the lobby. (The hotel is actually about 20 minutes from the road, on a somewhat confusing maze-like path, and it was not easy for him to find his way in the dark). They refused, saying they could not spare the staff.


In general, I do think the staff try to please the guests for the most part, but they aren't really given any direction or supervision. There was one person who worked on the beach in particular, who was exemplary. He always had a smile on his face, greeted us when he saw us, and asked if he could do anything for us. He really went out of his way to try to be helpful and answer our questions. Thankfully, he was there to help us through the confusion exhibited by the other staff, and we rewarded him with an excellent tip throughout our stay and at the end of our visit. I only wish there were more people like him working there.

I really do hope the hotel succeeds as it is likely the only reason this large property has been left as a wildlife sanctuary. Even the golf course built there was done in such a way to minimize the impact to the forest. It is one of the few locations in this area where the birds and animals are able to roam freely without fear of hunting or illegal poaching.

I wonder if some of the problems are due to the bad economy. I imagine there are still high fixed costs in running the hotel and without many clients, they are likely not turning a profit and therefore have to cut back on staff and maintenance. It will be sad if this property fails as it truly is a beautiful place. Overall, I would not return but I wish them the best and hope they can improve in order to stay economically viable.

JoniC
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Old Feb 3rd, 2010, 03:19 PM
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Sorry to hear of the problems during your stay. We had a very different experience a year ago. As a matter of fact I remember being pleasantly surprised by the condition of the property and the service given that I'd heard rumors that it was closed. Sounds like it has gone downhill since then which is sad. Glad you were still able to enjoy the beauty of the place and I too hope that things improve.
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Old Feb 4th, 2010, 07:02 AM
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Any place in Mexico charging $750 a night for the cheapest rm. better get right back to me about a reservation. Actually, any place in the world charging $750 a night for the cheapest rm. better get back to me right away about a reservation. Or I'd be letting my fingers do the walking and finding a different place to take my $750 a night.
Your negatives sound bad to me. Did you ask them to fix the bolt on the door? I would not tolerate this for $750 a night, no matter the animals (which you had to bar from your rm. w/furniture!) or environment.

This review from 7/09 on trip advisor sounds like your experience:

"At a minumum $750 per night, this resort is far below what it should be. The resort lacks cleanliness and the resort rodents (including large animals that look like rats mixed with a pig) should be controlled so that they do not enter the rooms and urinate and poo all over the rooms or come to your table while you're eating.
This resort has tremendous potential, but not with the management that ignores, argues and makes you feel miserable."
emd3 is offline  
Old Feb 4th, 2010, 12:28 PM
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Yes I had seen the post about the animals but discounted it as I figured it was not unusual to be staying in a forest and have animals roaming around. You'd expect that. I just didn't realize that the doors would not lock and so it would be very likely you'd be sharing your room with them. Ha! I did tell the staff about the door and it appeared fixed the next day but then when the maid came, it was ajar and not working again. It seemed like the bolts were rusted out and you had to get them into the cement just right, and even then, they probably wouldn't hold if something pushed on the door.

Patty, I think it might have been your photos you posted last year that helped me out a lot. If I remember correctly you had included a map of the rooms and it really kept us from getting lost! I had asked the hotel if there was a map and they said no, so the one I found online was the only thing I had to go on.

For me the most frustrating thing is that this place is so incredible and could be so great. If they just had a few more staff like Martin who began working on the beach a few days into our trip, it would have been perfect. We began relying on him for more things as we realized he was one of the only helpful staff working there, and it DID make the trip so much more enjoyable, but it also made more work for him, although we did reward him for his efforts.

I really hope the management gets their act together and they improve because it really is a fabulous spot. On the other hand, I probably wouldn't have complained here if the price were not so steep to stay there. Tides Riviera Maya was less than half the price and the service there was heavenly.

JoniC
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Old Feb 4th, 2010, 12:41 PM
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Yes, I did include a map in my photos. I can't believe they didn't even have one to give you. I think they gave us one on arrival without prompting.
Patty is offline  
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