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El Tucano Resort & Thermal Spa
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in San Carlos
Reviewed February 25, 2011

We spent a week with just the right amount of relaxing and exploring. This is an older hotel that is nestled in the remains of a jungle that is now surrounded by farm land. There are two small rivers running through the property, but most people will only see the one that runs beside the dinning room and the pools. The outside has recently been updated and they did an excellent job with the grounds and overall ambiance. The rooms were nothing spectacular, in fact the art work in the rooms was not worth hanging, but there was no reason to be in the room except to sleep.

Franks Tours is one of the best aspects of the hotel. Frank is a high energy young gentleman who lives to help guests enjoy his country. He is unfailingly courteous and does everything that he can to make your trip interesting and enjoyable, including stopping to check out a sloth, colorful poisonous frogs or for ice cold coconut milk on the way back from an adventure.

The two drawbacks to the hotel are the inconsistency of the dinning room and the language limitations of the front desk staff. Some meals were great, others mediocre. It helps if you can speak some Spanish. They do cater to guests from San Jose and on the weekend we were almost the only people who were not locals. We did meet some very friendly and interesting families, both from Costa Rica and other countries.

  • Stayed: January 2011, traveled as a couple
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Thank freeddee
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed September 23, 2010

First, let me say that this was my fourth trip to Costa Rica in 10 years. I have been almost everywhere in the country and stayed at all levels of hotels and hostels there.

This hotel is definitely at the higher end, but not the highest. However, I don't know of any that has a better cost-benefit ratio. We were there on honeymoon, and got flights at hundreds off regular price (2 months prior to trip), making the room work out to about $85 a night. One note on their in-house bookings: DO NOT book Lacsa or Taca for first class flights. They don't exist, even though Occidental lists them. They only have business class, as I found out at the airport, when our "first class" turned out to mean nothing at all. The Taca people didn't seem interested in helping, and we were stuck in coach. All Taca has is business class, which is class C, instead of class A, which makes no sense whatsoever.

Getting there from the airport is a trial unless you have a private car take you (which runs about $100US). Taking the bus puts you in a nasty area of San Jose, where even San Jose residents don't go unless they have to, then on a trip that adds 2 hours because the bus can't go as fast through the winding roads. Just pay the 100 bucks.

The hotel itself is gorgeous. No other words necessary. The rooms were equipped with modern air conditioning, nice bathrooms, nice beds, etc. You won't get the water pressure you want out of the shower, but this is simply how things work there - not the hotel's fault. Also, the basket of fruit they put in your room will attract ants, but not any type that bite. Yes, you're really in a rainforest.

The best aspect of the hotel is Frank. He's their guide/tourman/de-facto taxi. You get fantastic value out of any service he offers. While he does the 'touristy' stuff, he will also take you places where only someone who lives there usually goes. Instead of Tabacon proper, he took us to the volcano-heated river just past it, where local families gather on weekends (having spent a lot of time in this area, I was pretty surprised I didn't know about this place). I couldn't get a decent piece of meat at El Tucano, and he took us to a place that had steaks that will make you weep tears of joy, with an owner/chef who personally greeted each person and inquired after everything he cooked to make sure you liked it. Frank will also talk to you like a real person, instead of someone he's being paid to be around. He'll keep lookout for wildlife while you're in the van, stopping for anything interesting. You wouldn't believe what a good eye he has for that. He spotted howler monkeys 50 feet up in a thick tree, while going 90kph. And, compared to the usual tour services, he's quite inexpensive, especially considering that everything you do is private - no groups. He also let us pay for everything at once, at the airport as we were leaving. Really helped the atmosphere of the activities.

Though, you'll want to make sure you understand exactly what you're paying for up front with Frank: I thought we were going to Tabacon the resort, but he told my wife after we'd agreed to pay where we were really going. We also wanted to go on a horseback trip without minding helmet regulations, as my wife is a very experienced rider, but he could not deliver on his promise to make it happen. None of this was malicious or intentionally misleading. He's just a very jovial person who enjoys his job, and he can get ahead of himself trying to make people happy. Sometimes you need to slow him down to make sure the business end is taken care of.

Suffice is to say that everything was top-notch, in context of the country...unless you wanted something related to food.

The wait staff, with a few notable exceptions, are extremely inattentive and often incapable of any other language than Spanish, which can be a big problem for non-native speakers. Even after 3 days, and being two of 10 total guests, they couldn't seem to care less that our water glasses were constantly empty, despite repeated requests to bring more at every meal. The food itself was hit or miss. And the misses were way, way off. They couldn't cook a steak to order. We got "fajitas" that didn't come with tortillas. There was so much salt in my "seafood with rice" that I, very literally, may have had a heart attack if I'd finished it - in that instance, no one even bothered to apologize for the terrible food, even as we walked out after telling the waiter that the food might as well have been poison for someone like me. Luckily, they didn't make the mistake of trying to get me to pay for it.

At the same time, they have incredible breakfast and few other very good meals to offer. There was just so little in the way of options that you were stuck eating the same thing at every meal unless you felt like rolling the dice on something new - after the seafood of death, I know I wasn't going to try my luck.

Drinks at the bar were another problem, as the person staffing it is not necessarily a bartender. One guy didn't know how to make a rum and coke. Not 'he couldn't make a good one'. He couldn't do it at all, and had to go get help. If you're someone who doesn't like beer or drinks with notable alcohol taste, you're not in the right place. Being from NYC, they were relatively cheap, but not cheap at all in context of where we were - the only exception being domestic beer, which was a fairly standard price.

Unless they change the food situation, I will not be staying there again. Maybe it was the off-season aspect, and the staff on hand was a fill-in crew, but it was bad enough to make me look elsewhere for any further trips. I still rate it a 4, because you can just as easily make other arrangements for eating - for instance, there is a restaurant about 1.5km down the road, and anyone not specifically intending to spend a lot of time in the hotel itself will be just fine with the breakfast and maybe one dinner. But it is not a honeymoon/lie-around-friendly place given the kitchen situation.

  • Stayed: September 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank TheKm
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 6, 2010

We won 7 days on Sky Auction but decided to cut our stay to 3 days in order to see more of Costa Rica. We were travelling with our adult children ages 20 and 26. The hotel is situated on a beautiful property with hot springs right next to the restaurant. I had done quite a bit of research on this board, so I contracted Frank to pick us up at the airport and drive us to El Tucano. We arrived late, and Frank was pressed into service to help us with our bags. We were tired from a long day of travelling so we were quite disappointed that there was no bell boy in site and we had to haul our bags down about 50 steps to our rooms. We had 2 rooms , and both were conveniently located and clean. There is no A/C but the temperature was pleasant so we just kept the windows open. The rooms could use some updating but the grounds more than made up for that. We enjoyed swimming in the pool and soaking in the hot springs. One of the highlights was breakfast on the restaurant balcony every morning (included in price). We saw tucans and other unusual birds flying over the stream and the Morpho butterflies were beautiful. The food was great and plentiful. We had fresh fruit and pancakes, omlettes (a little undercooked) fresh juice and great coffee. The staff was friendly and attentive.
We treated ourselves to massages and were pleased with the spa services.
the hotel also has a little mini golf course and giant chess game that we did not use. FrankTours is locate in the lobby. Frank, our driver/tour guide drove us into Fortuna and took us to the hot springs, and up to Arenal. He stopped at a friends house to spot Howler monkeys, found little poison frogs under rocks and stopped at Muelle to show us the iguanas. He introduced us to Patacones - a local dish made with fried plantains and served with black beans. He also took us rafting one day with Aguas Bravas. The one problem with staying here is that it's a 45 minute drive to Arenal and all the activities in Fortuna. There were only about 20 guests there. It's very relaxing and quite a contrast to the crowds in Fortuna.

  • Stayed: July 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Patrice607
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 4, 2010

Frank, of Franks Tours, is the reason my husband and I had such a great time in Costa Rica at El Tucano Resort and Spa. Our flight came in at 1 am, 4 hours late, but thankfully Frank waited at the airport and got us to the hotel in about 2 hours (no traffic). Because of him, our first impression of Costa Ricans was friendly and serving. We also felt very safe with him. For the remainder of the week, we booked Frank for our tours. We went on a tour of the Volcano Arenal, which included a waterfall hike, and day trips to repel down waterfalls and go white water rafting. Frank was always prompt to the hotel and made all the driving worth it. The hotel is located at least an hour away from these activities but the travel was always enjoyable thanks to the beautiful scenery and weather. El Tucano staff is friendly, serving and professional. The hotel is located near hot springs of mineral water, which is used to fill the pool and create steam for the steam hut. The room amenities and the pool furniture could use an upgrade but it was clean and served its purpose. El Tucano is a great place to stay if you want to be in the rainforest in Costa Rica and enjoy its natural wonders with Franks Tours!

  • Stayed: May 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank HoneymoonersSantaAna
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 23, 2010

The hotel is very comfortable. The food is average (at best) but Rubio's nearby is very good and reasonably priced. The rooms are clean and the grounds are beautiful---the thermal seeps in the river are like a natural hot tub. The reviews you read about Frank's tours are accurate---Frank is an exceptional guide who is knowledgable and obviously focused upon the quality of the experience enjoyed by his clients, plus he is a decent guy who has a good sence of humor---I HIGHLY recommend taking one or more of his tours. He also offers transportation to and from the San Jose airport for those who do not wish to rent a car. Tom

  • Stayed: June 2010, traveled with family
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Thank FarmerTom53
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 21, 2010

Great place for a quiet and relaxing time. Nice sourroundings with animals (Tucanos, Monkeys). At night you can hear the sound of the river.
The spa is great plenty of options and packages.
Just make sure to do not stay more than 3 days because can be borried

  • Stayed: June 2010, traveled with friends
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Thank crislab4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 7, 2010

Never ever in my hole live a hotel charged me "EXTRA" when I checked out - because the changed the rules over night! Muy, muy mala nota!!!!

  • Stayed: June 2010, traveled with family
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2  Thank MichaelHelmut
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about El Tucano Resort & Thermal Spa

Address: Aguas Zarcas | Alajuela, San Carlos, Costa Rica (Formerly Occidental El Tucano & Spa)
Location: Costa Rica > Province of San Jose > San Carlos
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in San Carlos
Price Range: $71 - $151 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3.5 star — El Tucano Resort & Thermal Spa 3.5*
Number of rooms: 87
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
El Tucano Hotel’s main guest is Mother Nature. The hotel has 87 rooms, including two luxury suites, though the real luxury is the chance to take a bath in its thermal waters. Featuring a 500 people capacity restaurant and conference halls for 200 people, both areas are surrounded by the primary forest housing a countless variety of flora and fauna. El Tucano Hotel has one of the most complete spas in Latin America where all the visitors renew their body and soul thanks to the communion received by the gifts of nature. In its extension of almost 7 acres of land and 9000 m2 of construction are produced 80 liters of water per second flowing from the 7 springs of thermal waters. The hotel has three hot springs pools recently remodeled and a hot water river with wonderful waterfalls and natural pools (surrounded the whole property), guests can swim in and let the river take all its problems while they get renew with its powerful energy. There is also a tennis field, several trails through the forest and mini golf area, though the best activity to practice at El Tucano is relaxation while contemplating the great masterpiece that surrounds it. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
El Tucano Resort & Thermal Hotel San Carlos
El Tucano Resort And Thermal Spa
Occidental El Tucano Hotel
Occidental El Tucano Resort
El Tucano Resort & Thermal Spa Costa Rica/San Carlos

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