Spent the week of Christmas at Reserva Conchal and had a fabulous vacation. Here are important tips to know.
First, Reserva Conchal is a gated community which includes Paradisus Playa Conchal - the all inclusive resort. Reserva Conchal has it's own beach club separate from the Paradisus. By staying at Reserva Conchal condos, you do have access to the Paradisus golf course, but have to buy a pass to eat at the Paradisus restaurants. You can also walk to the large pool complex at the Paradisus, they never kicked us out.
We rented a 4BR/4BA Bouganvilleau unit very close to the resort entrance. The condo was fantastic - spacious, decorated with local art, full kitchen, great view of golf course, a tiny view of the ocean. It is a very long way to the Beach club - at least an hour walk over steep hills, maybe a 10-minute drive. You can call a shuttle, but we heard multiple guests complaining about how long the shuttle took. Do yourself a favor and get a car - otherwise you spend a lot of time waiting and you can go outside the resort to eat. We had some fabulous meals outside the gate.
The Beach Club is lovely - the work-out facility very nice and never crowded while we were there. The pool is unique - a long rectangle divided by a concrete "bridge". We regularly saw large iguanas around the pool. Wednesday night is sushi night - larger rolls for the same price - we all loved it. Skip dessert - small and not special. Other meals were a little pricey and we really wanted to get out and try the local food.
The golf course is very hilly. My husband and son are serious golfers and typically walk. A cart (included in greens fees) is a must - very hilly. They saw lots of wildlife while playing - Coatis (raccon-like with long tails), large iguanas. Made golf a different experience.
The beach (which is public) was nice and clean with shade trees. We are from FL so being near the ocean is not a big deal for us. For some reason, all the vendors seem to park themselves further down at the Paradisus and Playa Brasilito. You can walk down that way just a few minutes - they do massages on the beach for $35, or rent jet skis or kayaks.
Try to book your tours/activities directly - don't rely on the concierge. You can bargain and get a better price. I've listed a few next.
We did the ATV/canopy/zipline tour through Santana Tours (just outside the front gate to the left) - it was totally thrilling and worth it. You drive ATVs for about an hour, on the beaches, through small towns and up a mountain and then zipline. As a mom, I found driving an ATV terrifying, but eventually got the hang of it. My son said his fingers hurt from holding on so tight while I was driving. You pay per ATV, so we were not charged for the kids. It was very dusty and you get filthy, but is great fun.
I drove to Guaitil (village know for pottery) one day - you can do a tour, but it is a pretty easy drive - just past Santa Cruz (no reason to stop there). There is a little town square and most of the shops are stores in front of houses around the square. I was told to avoid Willy - lots of tour buses stop there and he is supposed to be expensive. There was a co-op in a large open air building right before the square that seemed to priced just a little cheaper (selection was more limited).
My older son and I took some surfing lessons in Tamarindo (20 minute drive). It is a fantastic place to learn how to surf. I would recommend Tamarindo Surf School (very small storefront, right before the "circle") - they gave the most instruction - our teacher, Elmer, really tried to teach us how to surf. They let us use the boards after our lesson was over too. The owner, Kimberly (?) came out and took pictures with my camera. We tried another surf school at the end of our stay (it was cheaper, you get what you pay for) and instructors that just wanted us to learn to stand - they give you a push into a wave - great fun, but then you cannot surf without them. Have lunch at FT's after your lesson - great casados (typical Costa Rican meal - meat, rice, beans, salad, fried plantains), burritos and smoothies - all cheap, very friendly.
Just outside Reserva Conchal is a restaurant called Il Forno - lots of locals eat there - great Italian food and huge portions. You can get enough for 2 meals. Up the road in Playa Potrero (up a gravel road) is El Castillo - good breakfast and cookies. We also enjoyed La Baula (pizza) in Tamarindo. Carlos Y Carlos in Playa Flamingo was pricey but good. Marie's in Playa Flamingo had an awesome banana bread pudding. Lots of good restaurants are off dirt roads - as you go, you think there is no way should be drinking the water in these places - I'm not sure how they do it.
When you leave, you can pay your departure tax ($26) at Reserva Conchal (saves you time at the airport). I think they charge you an extra $3 pp for the service. Make sure you allow a lot of time for the entire check out. The phone was ringing off the hook and they kept having trouble processing our departure tax - I think the whole thing took 45 minutes. Get gas after you go through Huacas or in Belen. The Exxon after Huacas is really busy and you have to wait (they were nice, though - fixed a flat tire for $3). All these extra waits can make getting back to the airport stressful.
We were fortunate in that most of our stay was before Christmas. I definitely noticed it getting more crowded and a little louder right after Xmas. Costa Rica is an adventure, yet still a charming place.
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- Also Known As:
- Reserva Conchal Hotel Playa Conchal