Xandari Hotel in Alejuela

Sep 12th, 2000, 11:10 AM
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Xandari Hotel in Alejuela

We are planning to stay at the Xandari hotel in Alejuela on our trip to Costa Rica in early 2001, and are thinking of staying the full 10 days at that hotel, taking day trips from there. It seems centrally located and there are many places within an hour or two. We are especially interested in bird and wildlife watching. Has anyone stayed there before? Any suggestions or comments are appreciated.

Joni Ciarletta
Sep 12th, 2000, 03:52 PM
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We are staying there for our first night in Costa this November. I'll post a report when we get back. I've heard nothing but good things about Xandari and Vista Del Valle, both in Alajuela.

Sep 13th, 2000, 06:38 AM
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We stayed there for a couple of days in August of this year. The place is absolutely beautiful with excellent food, service and atmosphere. I can highly recommend it.
However, given that you have 10 days, I would suggest that you pick one or two other places to travel to and spend a few days. A lot of places in Costa Rica that seem close by take a lot of time to get to because of really poor roads! Consider driving or flying to and spending a couple of days at other places like Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Osa Peninsula. Have a great trip!
Sep 13th, 2000, 11:02 AM
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I agree with Iza, you will not get a chance to fully appreciate Costa Rica if you spend all your time driving to and from Alejuela.

We did spend our last night in Costa Rica at Xandari and it was great! Be sure to go hiking down to the 5 waterfalls!

Sep 15th, 2000, 06:54 AM
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Thanks for the comments about Xandari, and Mitch, I look forward to seeing your posting upon your return from Xandari in November.

Unfortunately my husband really wants to stay in one place and go out on day trips, to feel centered somewhere.

We are thinking of going to places like La Selva, Bosque de Paz, LA Cloud Forest, Braulio Carrillo, In Bioparque, Zoo Ave, and Carara, and they all APPEAR to be no more than 2 hrs from Alejuela. We are especially into bird watching and could spend hours and hours just hiking around watching the birds. Does this sound doable or do you still suggest I try to convince him to stay in more than one place?

Thanks so much for your advice!


Sep 15th, 2000, 11:18 AM
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We did a day trip from Xandari that inluded Poas volcano, La Paz waterfall, Selva Verde, Sarapiqui River and a drive through Braullio Carillo, so all of these places are doable as day trips. We also spent 6 days on the Pacific coast in Guanacaste region mostly on the beach but also doing some day trips from there. We did not go to any of the southern destinations, but from all I heard and read if you are into birds and wildlife you should go south. One fabulous place I keep on hearing about (and that we strongly considered) is Lapa Rios in Osa Peninsula. People who stayed there rave about birds and other animals they were able to observe. Do a search in this forum for this place - a woman named Lisa posted a great, detailed report earlier this year that included that place.
I understand your concern about not wanting to tour too much. We were concerned about that too and that's why we decided to stay at two places only instead of moving from hotel to hotel. If you split your time between Xandari and one other place you should be fine. Internal flights in Costa Rica are brief (1 - 1 1/2 hours at the most) so you can easily travel from one end of the country to another. From our experience, if you leave your hotel in San Jose/Alajuela mid morning you can be at any other place in Costa Rica by early afternoon. Again, we enjoyed Xandari tremendously, but ,IMO, staying there for 10 days will not really give you an opportunity to see the best that Costa Rica has to offer.
Sorry about the long post, please feel free to e-mail me with any questions.
Sep 18th, 2000, 10:49 AM
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Hi Joni. I did not respond to your original question because I have not stayed at Xandari (we heard good things about it though, but we stayed at Vista del Valle in Alajuela and loved that). However, now that you have posted a second question about whether you should try to persuade your husband to stay in more than one place, I will vote a strong "yes!" If you are interested in bird watching and wildlife viewing I can't imagine a better place for it than the Osa Peninsula in the south of Costa Rica. It is a short flight from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez, less than an hour, and pretty inexpensive (there are two airlines -- TravelAir or Sansa -- we took TravelAir and would recommend it). There are lots of accommodations options on the Osa Peninsula which you can find in any guidebook, from camping all the way up to luxury ecoresorts. We stayed at Lapa Rios, which was a once in a lifetime experience. We saw scarlet macaws, toucans, arcaris, blue morpho butterflies, four kinds of monkeys (spider, capuchin, squirrel, and howler), two kinds of tree sloths, leaf-cutter ants, many varieties of lizards and iguanas, coatimundi, and many more birds and animals. Go to www.laparios.com for more information. It is pricey but worth it (and it includes three excellent meals per day). Guided hikes and excursions with their staff of local experts are extra, but most are inexpensive and well worth the money. In my opinion it would be a shame to have 10 days in Costa Rica and not spend at LEAST 3 days at Lapa Rios. You will be so close to all that beauty, much of which you simply cannot see in Alajuela. Alajuela is lovely and I'm sure you will like it, and yes, it is centrally located for daytrips. But with 10 days you could certainly spare at least 3 days in Osa and still have a whole week to spend in Alajuela which is more than enough. We spent three days out of our 14 in Osa and in retrospect wish we had spent 5 or 6. There was simply no comparison. We also went to Manuel Antonio National Park on the central Pacific coast and it was wonderful too, but we still saw far more wildlife in Osa.
In addition, I will recommend one other spectacular place to stay in Costa Rica, which is Villa Caletas, on the Central Pacific Coast near Carara Biological Reserve north of Jaco. It is probably the most beautiful place to stay that I have ever seen in my life. It is perched high on a cliff above the Pacific ocean, and has the most gorgeous sunsets. We stayed there 3 nights, in one of their ocean-view villas with a private balcony, and it was perfect. Upon arriving and opening the french doors onto our balcony, our first sight was of a toucan sitting in the almond tree in front of us. The food and service were unbelievable. And it is easy to do a daytrip to Manuel Antonio National Park from Villa Caletas -- it's only about an hour's drive away. If I had 10 days to spend in Costa Rica and wanted to spend part of the time at Xandari, I would probably do the first 3 at Villa Caletas (about an hour and a half to two hours drive from the San Jose international airport), followed by 4 at Lapa Rios (you can fly down to Puerto Jimenez from either Quepos, an hour south of Villa Caletas; or from San Jose), followed by 3 at Xandari. By the way, the staff at Lapa Rios will make all necessary travel arrangements for you in terms of flights within the country and even finding you a driver if you need it -- they are very helpful and you can simply e-mail them using the address on their website and they will respond. Also, if you have any interest in Villa Caletas the website is http://www.hotelvillacaletas.com/specials.htm
Sep 20th, 2000, 11:39 AM
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We are actually considering Villa Caletas in addition to Xandari. Lapa Rios sounds AMAZING but it is way too adventurous for my husband. Maybe next time around once he feels comfortable with the country. Tell me more about Villa Caletas. What all did you see in that area besides Manuel Antonio? I saw something on a place called Rainmaker which is a private reserve near there. Did you go there? Is the road from San Jose to Villa Caletas pretty good? If we stayed at Villa Caletas last, would we need to get a hotel in San Jose on our way out of the country or would we be able to make the trip from Villa Caletas to the airport in the same day?

I hope you don't mind all the questions. Thanks in advance for your comments and suggestions. Your story about the toucan sounds just incredible! I would love that!


Sep 21st, 2000, 06:14 AM
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Hi Joni. We did not go to Rainmaker but it is owned by the same people who own another hotel we stayed at in Manuel Antonio called Si Como No, so we met a lot of guests at that hotel who did go to Rainmaker and enjoyed it very much. They said they did not see as much wildlife at Rainmaker as they did at Manuel Antonio National Park, but they got a totally different view of the rainforest canopy and really enjoyed it. Carara Biological Reserve is also near Villa Caletas and you can see a lot of wildlife there as well. Yes, the roads from San Jose to Villa Caletas are pretty good, and there is pretty scenery on the way (you drive through hilly coffee plantation areas, then it flattens out as you get closer to the ocean). We had a driver from Villa Caletas pick us up at the airport though because we did not want to have to deal with renting a car and driving in a foreign country immediately after a long tiring flight, and for us that was the right decision, because the roads are not terribly well-marked and we liked not having to worry about directions and driving. Villa Caletas charged $85 total for the taxi service from the airport (the driver had to drive there to pick us up and back, so the total amount of time it took him was just under 4 hours -- a little less than 2 hours each way). He was very nice and stopped along the way anywhere we asked, like at the Tarcoles river to see the crocodiles in the water, and in Orotina at a little grocery store to pick up some wine and snacks for our hotel room. He did not really speak any English though, but we had a Spanish phrasebook and managed to communicate OK. We did rent a car ourselves later in our trip though and that was fine, but I'm glad we waited until later in our trip when we were more acclimated and relaxed. In terms of whether you could spend your last night at Villa Caletas and make it to the airport from there, it all depends on what time your flight out leaves. For example, if your flight leaves at noon, you probably want to be at the airport by around 10 am since it is an international airport and lines at the airport can be long and you will probably have to pay your fee to exit the country and exchange any leftover C.R. money (and maybe return a rental car if you're renting one). So if you want to be at the airport by 10 then I would not leave Villa Caletas any later than 8am; in other words, leave Villa Caletas at least 4 hours before your flight's departure time.

You might also want to think about looking into staying in Manuel Antonio for part of your trip if you are interested in exploring that park and Rainmaker, because it is over an hour from Villa Caletas to Manuel Antonio and there is no way you could see both Manuel Antonio National Park and Rainmaker all in one day, in my opinion. You really need to spend a full day at Manuel Antonio National Park to see it, and to get the full effect and really see the wildlife you MUST do one of the guided tours -- we saw so much more that way and the guide pointed out 2 kinds of tree sloths, various lizards and iguanas, bats that were holed up in a tree, little orange crabs that lived in the forest, 2 boa constrictors, a green eyelash viper snake, and TONS of birds in addition to all the monkeys (you can see 3 kinds at Manuel Antonio). We stayed at Si Como No (www.sicomono.com) which was only about a $5 cab ride from the park and we liked it a lot -- it has a nice pool with a slide and swim-up bar, 2 good restaurants, gorgeous views, rooms with balconies, etc. It is not as pretty or unique as Villa Caletas and is more Americanized, but it is a great base from which to explore Manuel Antonio and has lots of excursions available and a very helpful English-speaking staff.
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