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Trip Report (Dec 4-9 2005) Grand Papagayo

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Baton Rouge, LA
posts: 8
Trip Report (Dec 4-9 2005) Grand Papagayo

Hello, all. Below is a trip report of the trip my wife and I got back from jsut this past weekend. We were in Costa Rica's North Pacific area from Dec 4-9.

Day 1 - Arrived in the evening to Liberia airport. If you are a couple, we recommend just taking a taxi to your hotel/resort. It will cost around 40 dollars. If you are able to hook up with more people, you can arrange a minibus for $55-60 for the whole group, but I think you need to arrange that beforehand. The airport was very easy and quick, but maybe that was because we were one of the first ones off the plane. The ride to the Occidental Grand Papagayo resort was pleasant... the roads weren't too terribly bad. When we arrived at the resort, we were struck by how quiet it was. Grand Papagayo is a fun place, but the evenings were very subdued right from the start. To us, that wasn't a bad thing, but I figure there are some readers who may put that in the "minus" column. Like many posters to this forum, we had an initial mixup with the room. We were patient and not irate, and they fixed the problem immediately.

Day 2 and 3 - Enjoyed the resort. In the morning, we explored the beach, which was very nice. There were plenty of soft sandy spots for people who want to get in the water. My wife and I were having a lot of fun exploring the tidal pools among the lava formations/jettys that jutted out into the water during low tide. All sorts of fun sealife to examine. The hermit crabs of all sizes were a lot of fun. We also had breakfast at the buffet. The food was pretty decent, and the coffee was delicious, of course. Then, mid-morning, the hotel activity coordinators started organizing fun stuff. First, they did an aqua-aerobics session. They followed that up with pool volleyball, which was extremely popular all during our stay (I played just about every day). Lunch at the "snack bar" by the pool was a real meal... I had been expecting limited snacks like chips and salsa, but what we got instead was a full fledged buffet. This was my favorite place to eat, since it was right by the pool. We tried the buffet one night and the Italian restaurant the next. The buffet was good, but the dining room wasn't as fun as the snack bar or the more elegant rooms of the Italian and Oriental restaurants. The Italian restaurant gets high points for presentation. The food wasn't Italian enough (the chef needs to watch more Molto Mario), but it was tasty. The ceasar dressing was authentic, though.

We also went on the sunset walk, and the morning nature walk, both of which explore the area around the resort. It was fun to have the option of hiking and beach-bumming so close together.

Day 4 - Our first tour to the Arenal Volcano. We arranged this tour through the TAM representative in the hotel lobby. The tour was an all-day adventure, and we enjoyed it thouroughly. Giovanni was our tour guide, and he was extremely charismatic and well-spoken. He took us on a nature walk in the rainforest where we visited a local indigenous tribe. Then we went into town for lunch, followed by a luxurious stop at a volcanic hot springs lodge (Ahhhh!), then dinner at the lodge. When it got dark, we drove to a nearby country road away from the lights so that we could clearly see the lava flows coming down the volcano's sides. I wish we could have gotten closer, but it was truly awesome to see that. The ride home was almost 4 hours, so this tour is an all-day affair if you go from Grand Papagayo, Paradisus, or other nearby resorts.

Day 5 - Sailing and snorkeling in the morning arranged through the Diving company situated on the resort grounds. We sailed aboard the Kuna captained by Yann Riou, a frenchman, who was an extremely gracious host. He served us homemade pate, rum punch, fruit, sandwiches, quiche... a wonderful little French picnic. My wife and I loved it! And the boat was amazing. We did some real sailing, too, since it was a windy day. He took us to a fantastic snorkeling spot. We weren't expecting much, but there was plenty of sealife to see. There were a few minor jellyfish stings (tiny, tiny jellyfish), but even my wife (a scaredy-cat usually) was able to overlook that fact. We also explored a secluded beach with a neat little cave.

Other notes: The hotel staff at Grand Papagayo were very nice and I would say even a little shy. They seem to detest confrontation. I saw some really obnoxious guests (not Americans - can you believe it?) getting irate about something stupid, and the staff tend to just tune them out. You will really get a lot farther if you're super sweet in trying to get some problem addressed. Also, I enjoyed the resort a lot, but I wouldn't describe it as luxurious. The focus is more on the environment and the ecology of the place, which gives everything a little bit of a rustic edge. I loved it, but I want readers of this forum to have the right expectation... and to know that there are a few undefinable qualities of Costa Rican resorts that aren't really like beach resorts in other areas around the Carribean. It truly is a beautiful ecological wonder of a place.

Air conditioner note: The Grand Papagayo has air conditioning units mounted near the ceiling on the wall. Some, if not all, are mounted right above the thermostat. If you allow the cold air to blow right on the thermostat, the unit will turn on and off in quick succession. This is both noisy and inefficient. We wedged the vent in a different position so that it was not blowing on the thermostat.

Feel free to ask questions... I'll be checking back to see if anyone wants any clarifications.

posts: 41
reviews: 6
1. Re: Trip Report (Dec 4-9 2005) Grand Papagayo

Thanks for your report. How was the weather while you were there? Did it get cool at night? Any specific suggestions for what to wear on trips? My wife and I will be traveling Dec 17-24.

Baton Rouge, LA
posts: 8
2. Re: Trip Report (Dec 4-9 2005) Grand Papagayo

Hey, jayrose.

The weather was amazing!! And I'm from Louisiana, so I'm used to warm weather. It was so temperate in the Guanacaste region. The sun is intense, but if you're in the shade, it is neither hot nor cold. Nighttime was in the 70s, I would guess. It was just extremely comfrtable temperatures all the time.

If you go to the jungly area near Arenal, then you will need a windbreaker or sweatshirt, but even there it is warmish in December. I would suggest packing one long-sleeve shirt or jacket. If you stay in Guanacaste, you will likely not need it at all.

posts: 41
reviews: 6
3. Re: Trip Report (Dec 4-9 2005) Grand Papagayo

thanks for the info! can't wait!

Roanoke, VA
posts: 29
4. Re: Trip Report (Dec 4-9 2005) Grand Papagayo

I am thinking about going here on my honeymoon. Do you think it would be a good place to go for that it seems like it would be. Also my wife-to-be really wants to see monkeys, Did or do you have a good opportunity to see wildlife? And one last thing how did you arrange for tranportation to the hotel and then back to the airport?

Thank you much.


Atlanta Ga
posts: 3
reviews: 1
5. Re: Trip Report (Dec 4-9 2005) Grand Papagayo

Hi Oakfish,

We too had a great time at the Grand Papagayo. We were visiting over the holiday. I had set up in advance a minibus through J and C Tours (www.jandctours.com). Our flight was over one hour late and they were still there waiting for us. They only charged $45 and we had the van just to the four of us.

When we arrived we had no problems checking in and our rooms were ready. For the price I thought the rooms were very nice...not luxury. Our AC worked fine and the noise did not bother us...but we are pretty sound sleepers.

We didn't think the beach was that great by the hotel but I guess we are more pool people anyway. It was nice for the kids to go down and explore a bit though.

I had booked along with the transportation some tours with J and C Tours and am so glad I went that route. We did the Buena Vista Combo that we read so much about and it is a full day and very enjoyable. Juan and Carol also took us into Coco Beach which isn't far from the hotel and has some shopping and restaurant options. They made everything so easy and I will use them again if we go back.

We thought the food was great at the hotel and especially loved the variety from the Italian and Oriental restaurants.

Check out was hassle free and I think you are right about the staff being a bit shy and timid. However, we did become quite friendly with a few of the bartenders who seemed to want to practice their English.

Overall my family had a wonderful vacation and I would recommend this area to anyone.