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“More like a Contradiction Lodge than Eco”

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Mar y Selva Ecolodge
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed January 12, 2010

What we learned: when it's the only or last place with availability for travel over the peak holiday week, there's a reason.

We liked the remote location, wild life (monkeys, birds, butterflies), the view and the quality of the food we had; both the fresh fruit for breakfast and the vegetarian Indian food at dinner.

What we didn't like were the contradictions, thin towels, thin walls, no electricity twice, incongruent information, excessively chlorinated pool, demanding requests for cash for dinners and excursions after arrival, and our experience of passive-aggressive behavior from the guy in charge.

If you go, I recommend taking your own 4WD transportation. We had no vehicle and it was regrettable. Our taxi to the place literally could not make it up the steep hill... well, it would have since he got as far as he did, but there is this one place in the road that made it impossible for a regular Toyota yaris to conquer. The hotel staff came half way down to meet us, do the bag swap and drive us up the rest of the way backwards on the narrow road.

Deepak (Not the owner of the hotel, but self-described as the owner of the Restaurant) was very helpful via multiple emails in setting up our stay, organizing our tours & the driver back to the airport. During the planning time, we knew we would need to switch rooms due to their holiday schedule as we got the last room available. However, since I know that people and plans change, when we arrived, and since it affects how we unpack, I specifically asked him if we would still need to relocate or not. He said we would not. Two nights later, a friend of theirs who was staying at the property and "helping them out" came to our room at bedtime to tell us we needed to have all our things out in the morning as we would have to go another place... it was not just another room on the property, it was to an entirely different property. It would have been nice to have phones in the room to communicate this instead of having someone show up at our door unexpectedly, when we were in pjs or less.

When I made an effort to understand Deepaks's incongruency the next morning, I was met with a very argumentative spirit, ignoring his own error in telling me upon arrival that we would not have to move, simply & angrily citing the emails telling us we'd have to relocate. We didn't care about having to move, we booked late and are flexible. We simply want accurate & congruent communication and don't like being told one thing one day, planning accordingly, then being argued with as a person dances around their error when I seek to understand what happened. He could have simply said, "oops, I made a mistake." Trying to make sense out of non-sense was my mistake.

So that day, since we were going on an excursion, we very reluctantly left our belongings in his office which I observed was often left unsecured, and with no safe for our few valuables (wallets/passports). We were left with no other choice because the other place wasn't ready as early as we needed to leave. Deepak was clearly disturbed and demonstrated this by bringing us half the amount of fruit for breakfast as he did the previous morning. He argued about this too and when we asked for papaya, seeing it left over as trash from other people's plates, he told us they didn't have any that day.

We should have figured this place was going to warrant a story since our first night there struck us odd as the contradiction regarding the term "Ecolodge" emerged . We came with grander ideas as Raw food was mentioned and other than fruit, only one soup was offered as raw. If you want to be Eco-friendly, why are you serving carcass? ($ is always the answer ) And using paper napkins?

We enjoyed our delicious vegetarian/vegan Indian food surrounded by the curious Christmas lights (eco-friendly?) and music which drowned out the sounds of nature; the monkeys and birds.

The pool was so chlorinated-smelling, we had no desire to swim, even at the hottest time of day. The heavy use of a highly toxic chemical, chlorine, at an "eco lodge" is also a big contradiction to us. Clearly we had no idea what "Eco lodge" really meant. It seems the requirement to be an eco lodge is to recycle and to put notices out about washing your towels if they're on the floor or hang them up if you wish to reuse... same as anywhere. The towels were well used, paper thin and rough as I recalled from a desperate one-time stay in a Motel 6 over 20 years ago.

Both mornings we were up for breakfast, there was someone smoking. One went "outside the gate" and the smell still drifted in to the eating area and the other person was just outside the open-air eating area. The No Smoking on premises advertised on the web site was one of the primary draws for us so this was quite disappointing. Yes, the helping friend told the 2nd person to move or stop smoking after we pointed it out, but that misses the point. Just another contradiction.

In fact, the girl who was staying there and helping, was the person who was the most friendly and helpful in our experience. We didn't use any of the massage or spa services mainly because we want to pay Costa Rican prices when in Costa Rica. I can get my $90-$120+ massage in the US anywhere, anytime.

The electric going out isn't their fault, of course... it made for a nice candle lit dinner with limited options and melted ice cream, just the way we like it! Being able to easily hear the conversations through the walls of our room, as if we're in the living room with the couple and their small and vocal child, was not ideal either so we were quite glad to move. (And we liked Many's House much better.)

One excursion day, we were apparently on our own to get to the location but didn't know it. There was a French family that had their own 4WD and going to a very nearby location. Deepak asked them if we could join them. They were very kind and took us, 2 of us sitting half on laps of others. (And no one was over weight!) It just wasn't right or fair to the French folks... or us that the transportation wasn't organized or that we weren't told that this was an issue before.

Another thing that came up that was not mentioned before arriving is regarding cash. Deepak was no less than demanding, arguing and insistent the 3rd day into our trip that we bring him cash to pay for the excursions, 2 dinners and transportation to the airport. He offered to take us to an ATM and described in detail how the hotel business charges and the complications with charging these other items although they have a completely separate business and charge machine for doing so. On the morning we returned from the other property to settle our bill for the 4 nights, we agreed to pay cash for the driver and stood our ground for charging meals and excursions, not trusting his motives for some reason.

The morning of departure, Deepak also told us of another incident with a group of travelers who didn't want to pay their dinner bill, thinking the food was part of their deal. So he described the event and told us that all those people ended up leaving and that because they didn't stay, we could have ended up staying there the whole time after all... (but we were SO grateful that didn't happen as we wouldn't have wanted to.) To us, his experience with the group is no surprise given the communication skill set that needs much improvement, both on the web site and in person.

There was clearly tension between Deepak, Irma, the spa gal and their helping friend; all this going on in front of a couple who said they are friends with the owner who lives in VA/D.C. area. The tension was such that even the helping friend wanted to leave and nearly did so, on the spot, as we offered her a ride back to San Jose with us as we had plenty of room and understanding of her plight.

The place definitely has potential... but that's not what we look for when choosing a place. A peaceful, tranquil Eco Lodge, it was not., a Drama Lodge or Contradiction Lodge, yes. After this experience, we even joked about forgetting about the environment altogether and sticking to the comfort and kindness at the big chains!

  • Stayed: December 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Dee J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
buelita2, Owner at Mar y Selva Ecolodge, responded to this reviewResponded February 22, 2010

Mar y Selva Ecolodge has been known for going out of its way to please its customers. We regret that you did not find the accommodations to your liking. What you found here is correct – we are surrounded by wildlife and provide good food. The towels we use are the Deluxe Klassic brand which are not thin but are not as plush as you may find in a five star resort, our walls are not insulated but are standard code for any home, and six of our rooms are individual bungalows two are double bungalows. The walls separate the room from the outdoors; the pool is kept at the Ministry of Health’s mandatory health level of 3 and is always allowed to lower to less than one when a backwash is needed, thus the water that re-enters the environment is not harmful to the environment. You may walk all over our 8 acres of land and you will not find any harm to the vegetation surrounding us. The excursions and tours that our guests take are not provided by the hotel, and each tour operator expects payment directly from the client. We are not involved in anything other than arranging the reservations as a courtesy to our clients. We act as your concierge. The restaurant is rented out to a well known Indian Chef (whom you commended for his excellent food) and his policy of cash only payment is not unusual for many restaurants in the area. The napkins he uses are non-chlorinated 90% recycled paper.
Our Administrative Office and all the bungalows have each a Safe. The Administrative Office is often used to keep luggage for our clients and it is locked at all times if not occupied by our staff.
As to our Christmas lights – we do use them around Christmas and we are the only Ecolodge in the area that has purchased enough trees to be carbon neutral for 2009-2010. We are efficient with our use of our resources, give discounts to clients who don't use the air conditioning, we refuse to use articles that increase wastage or contamination of our environment, we reduce the use of resources, we reuse most articles and fix things rather than replace them when possible, and recycle all our glass, metal, aluminum, cardboard, paper, plastic bottles and plastic bags and encourage all our customers to do the same. We conserve water and have the only LaundryPur washing system in Costa Rica to avoid putting soap into the surrounding forest.
Our spa services are priced competitively with all the surrounding hotels and they are excellent and often used by the locals of the area.
We do in fact recommend a 4x4 vehicle in our literature as well as in our letter of confirmation of all reservations. I am glad that the hotel staff came to your rescue when your vehicle failed to make it up the hill.
We regret that we fell short of your expectations and wish you well. We apologize for the staff’s behavior and have provided guidance to them as to how to handle difficult situations in the future.

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42 - 48 of 107 reviews

Reviewed January 5, 2010

The reasons for this title is: christmas lights wasting energy and air conditioning units were used because there wasn't any circulation of air in the rooms.

But overall, we enjoyed the stay. Depak and Irma, the current owners, were really nice and friendly when they weren't stressed out about something with the hotel. I wish the road up to the hotel wasn't in such a rough and steep condition. It made for a very tough walk to the beach...but good exercise. The beach was very nice and just across the road from the hotel street. But again, there were monkeys and birds and all sorts of other flora and fauna around the hotel and it made for a great experience.

Oh and it doesn't say it on the website, but Depak runs a restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is mostly Indian. The fish was the best with the Indian spices. It was a bit overpriced considering, but it was the only thing to eat in the near surroundings. Especially since we didn't have a car.

  • Stayed: January 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank foodlover76
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 20, 2009

The lodge is isolated and perfect for nature lovers. Very clean and neat. The staff was helpful and friendly. I would definetely go back.

  • Stayed: August 2009, traveled solo
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Thank CostaRicawasfun
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 18, 2009

Hello everyone.
Just want to let you know that during a two week stay in the dominical area of Costa Rica a group of five friends and I had an amazing stay at the Mar y Selva eco-lodge. During our trip we stayed in five different hotels and Mar y Selva was surely the most accommodating and exuded genuine kindness for our needs. The owner, Martha, is an amazing woman. A retired nurse practitioner, Martha helped my friends and I get through several very difficult situations and she did so with uncompromising hospitality.

Things Martha helped us with: 1.our car broke down in the middle of the night at the bottom of a the 1.5km dirt road that leads up to her hotel- Martha immediately disengaged from some work she was doing on her computer very late at night to rescue us. 2. Organized an amazing boat trip for us at a great rate where we journeyed through sea caves, saw humpback whales and dolphins, snorkeled, and surfed a remote river mouth. 3. There were two incidents in our two week in which we needed medical attention; one friend busted open his face on a surfboard and Martha was there to fix him up in a jiffy; another friend became very ill and Martha was their with a unique and practical remedy. All in all, Mar y Selva is in a beautiful location, has a plethora of exciting animals to view on the property, has a huge swimming pool, very clean and new rooms, and maybe the best hospitality I've ever experienced...and that's the industry I work in! Cheers to Martha and the staff and Mar y Selva and best wishes from the group from Central California. This place has earned my highest recommendation.

  • Stayed: August 2009, traveled with friends
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Thank nzantho
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 27, 2009

An awesome ecolodge with owners who are very involved, can see the time and love they've put into it. I saw the most crazy insects here in this lush jungle ecolodge than all of Costa Rica! Very relaxing, nice accommodations. Very clean and comfortable. A great experience for someone looking for a bit of remoteness and beauty.

  • Stayed: May 2009, traveled solo
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Thank onlyadventure
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 10, 2009

Mar y Selva Ecolodge is a little jewel along the southern coast. From our cabin in the jungle, we watched capuchin monkeys. Only a short walk up to the main house gave us a view of the ocean. We hiked behind the lodge and saw all kinds of wildlife.

The whole staff was friendly and helpful. Martha, one of the owners, gave us great tips about tours and restaurants. Marvin, one of the groundskeepers, changed a flat tire for us. Angie, the massage therapist, drove us down to catch a bus. Everyone was terrific.

Highly recommended!

  • Stayed: January 2009, traveled with family
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Thank Colo123
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 2, 2009

So, this review needs a preface. I can certainly see how this place would be a great vacation for some. The property is beautiful, the rooms are very nice, and the view from the Ecolodge is one of the best in the world. If you are looking to sit by a nice pool in the sun, enjoy. That being said, there were some significant problems with our trip that may make this a place to skip when planning your next trip to Costa Rica.

The Ecolodge is very remote. The small towns nearby are about 8km either direction - a rental car or numerous taxi rides will be required for your stay. The Ecolodge is about 1km straight up (not exaggerating) the side of a mountain, so be sure that if you are renting a car, it is a manual transmission with four-wheel drive. If you are not in pretty good shape, then walking up or down the mountain is out of the question. The owner did offer to drop us off at the beach or a few other places, and also offered to rent us bicycles for $30 each per day... almost as much as the rooms cost.

The tours booked through the Ecolodge are questionable and expensive. We signed up for what was sold as a half-day snorkeling package and got on the boat at about 930am. At 1230pm, we had yet to get in the water. Turns out, it was a half-day snorkeling AND whale-watching tour. Since we actually did see whales and dolphins, it was nice, but the snorkeling was relatively poor and much shorter than we had expected. Also, we had a very serious issue when trying to book a SCUBA tour. The owner of the Ecolodge made a few calls and told us that no one was running SCUBA tours because of high waves and a boat had recently capsized. However, in checking with each and every SCUBA shop we came across while exploring the area, none of them had heard anything of the sort and would have been glad to take us out. With the limited time we had at the Ecolodge, we missed our chance to SCUBA because of the misinformation. It is strongly recommended that you book all of your own tours without the assistance of the Ecolodge.

The meal options might not be suitable. Breakfast is fine, served buffet-style with fruit, bread, and coffee. Other items like eggs and hot cereal were available a la carte. Lunch and dinner are served at a specific time, with reservations required at the beginning of the day. Portions are very small - in fact, when I was being served my first lunch, the owner took a look at my plate as she was delivering it to my table and returned shortly with about half the portion she was originally carrying. The food was good, but simple, and expensive. Lunch is $10 per plate, dinner is $15. That is more than you would pay for just about any meal at local restaurants. On our last night, the owner joked with us that she was tired of cooking and asked if we were eating out. Our group plus the other group sitting with us were pretty much on our own for dinner that night. If you are expecting an order-off-a-menu type restaurant with service when you are ready to eat, you will not find it at the Ecolodge.

Finally, we had some issues with the management and operations of the hotel. At breakfast one morning, we asked politely for our room not to be cleaned. When travelling, especially internationally, we pretty much have the "do not disturb" sign on the door from our arrival to departure. However, we were told, rather sternly, that our rooms would be cleaned each day whether we wanted them to be or not. The owner also told me about a guest that had stayed recently that she charged for towels that were extra dirty because they had mopped the floor with them. She prided herself on only using eco-friendly detergent without bleach, and said the towels were ruined to her. Number one, I don't need to hear badmouthing of other guests by the owner. Number two, I started to wipe up a water spill on the bathroom floor and it was filthy. Not wanting to pay for my towel, I let it be. So either the "forced housekeeping" needs to be done better or the owner needs to get some dark-colored towels.

The Ecolodge is attempting to be a resort, but turns out more like a motel. The restaurant could have been a big plus, but was lacking. The tours could have provided a great variety of activities, but they were lacking. Above all, the isolated location of the Ecolodge could amplify those and any other issues you may have. We will not return to the Ecolodge.

  • Stayed: December 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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2  Thank beatsrockin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
mibuelita, Owner/Manager at Mar y Selva Ecolodge, responded to this reviewResponded January 5, 2009

Although I regret that our client was not completely satisfied despite our efforts, I feel compelled to respond to the following:
1. We use 3 reputable tour operators for Whale and Dolphin Watching and snorkeling tours. They are independently owned and operated and the hotel simply looks for their reputation of safety and knowledgeable bilingual staff. They set their own prices independent of any hotel, and each client accepts the price prior to using their services.
2. On December 13th, 2008, Crocodive Diving’s boat capsized and sank. The divers on board were not harmed and were rescued. When I called them for diving reservations, they responded that they would not have a new boat until February 2009. The sea had been very choppy due to unusually heavy rains at the end of November and the other major diving company – Mystic Dive Center – said they would not take any divers out until the end of December as a matter of safety. There are diving companies further south in Osa and also closer to Manuel Antonio in Central Pacific, but these are your best in the area and I listen to them for safety. Two other tour operators offer diving in the area but have not offered the safety or PADI experience of the two we use. The client was free to call other companies while here and did not choose to do so.
3. Meals at a local restaurant when you include the generous amount of juice and desert included in our prices are actually more expensive. We used organic produce and home made ingredients. Due to the fact that our costs were higher than our revenue, we no longer offer meals outside of breakfast. The client was free to eat at any local restaurant of his choice, and many clients who come without vehicles regularly use a taxi to dine out. The fact that he chose an ecolodge while arriving by bus was his personal choice and we tried our best to accommodate his needs by providing some basic transportation at no cost. It was a well known fact that we do not have an open restaurant and the client insisted on meals for most days at the ecolodge.
4. Whenever a client asks for the room not to be cleaned, it is not cleaned. Fresh towels are offered as requested. We were not bad mouthing another client, although I apologize for the interpretation of a comment that the towels should not be used for mopping floors and that we would be happy to mop the floors at any time should that be required because of mud or sand brought in by the clients. The floors were dirty because they were not cleaned per client’s request. A Do Not Disturb sign will be added to each room.
5. If 4-5 miles from a town with full services is too far when looking for an Ecolodge surrounded by nature with rich flora and fauna everywhere, then an Ecolodge is a poor choice for this vacation client. Although we have facilities for wheel chair access – and happily will provide care for those requiring special assistance, we are clearly an Ecolodge in the middle of the jungle and a certain level of fitness is required to enjoy all our facilities.
6. We do not call ourselves a “Resort” – we are an Ecolodge attempting to provide the best service possible while respecting nature and doing our best to not contaminate it with our presence.

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Additional Information about Mar y Selva Ecolodge

Address: Costanera Sur Highway | Marker Km 170 go 500 south and 1100east, Ballena 60504, Costa Rica
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Puntarenas > Ballena
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 4 Specialty Lodging in Ballena
Price Range: $94 - $150 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Mar y Selva Ecolodge 3*
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Eco-style elegance! Mar y Selva Ecolodge is immersion in the jungle with all the comforts of home. Close to pristine beaches including Punta Uvita - famous Moses Pass and Whale’s Tail; Semi-Olympic pool, and personalized service. We overlook the Ballena Marine National Park; near Corcovado National Park; Caño Island Biological Reserve; the mangroves of the Sierpe and Terraba Rivers, Manuel Antonio National Park and several waterfalls, including Nauyaca Falls. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Mar y Selva Ecolodge Hotel Ballena
Mar y Selva Ecolodge Costa Rica/Ballena

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