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Hotel Banana Azul
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Reviewed December 9, 2010

This was my first trip to Costa Rica. I really didn't know what to expect, but was absolutely thrilled with our decision. The Banana Azul, was quite possibly the best accomodations I've ever had in my life. The hotel and its grounds alone were breathtaking. SO clean and well kept, the rooms were BEAUTIFUL. We stayed in both a lower level room (which had a gorgeous garden tub and very private sun-room, and because of the lack of cross-breeze that the upper rooms had - an air conditioner for comfort, which was barely used) and an upper level, or Ocean Room (which was amazing with vaulted ceilings, and a balcony to end all balconies, overlooking the beautiful landscape and ocean. Falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves would lull anyone to sleep.)
The hotel offered bicycles that would get you into the quaint little sea-side town of Puerto Viejo. We had rented a car, which I highly recommend, and drove from San Jose', which gave us the option to make a quick 5 minute drive to town. Many other people thoroughly enjoyed riding bikes all around the area. The hotel also offers many different excursions to partake in, which I personally didn't utilize, as I was parked on the beach, or by the pool the vast majority of my stay.
Last, but certainly not least, is the people that made up the very best part of our trip. The people that make up the staff of the Banana Azul were the most amazingly sweet and wonderful people I could have hoped for. Any needs were met with enthusiasm and grace. The food was delicous and the bar was fabulously stocked with anything I could have wanted. We also made some amazing friends that I have no doubt we will remain in contact with for many many years to come.
In regards to the negative post regarding this hotel, I have to add; Yes, there are dogs that roam around that area. These pets, however, are extremely sweet and very well behaved. My advice would be this: If you have any kind of aversion to dogs and cats, I would avoid Costa Rica as a whole, as it is not just this hotel that has dogs, but the entire country has dogs running around, all of which were very friendly and fun.
I literally have not one bad thing to say about my trip. If you have any questions, I would encourage you to email the hotel. Since our initial interest, they have consistently been very prompt about replying to any emails that we had sent them. Every suggestion they had given us was spot-on. I would stay at this hotel again in a heart-beat, and would suggest that anyone who wants a relaxing vacation surrounded by natural and breath-taking beauty with gorgeous secluded beaches, warm caribbean water, amazing food and drinks and AMAZING people surrounding you, to book a trip to Banana Azul as soon as humanly possible!

  • Stayed: December 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank ErickR1980
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 5, 2010

As first time travellers to Costa Rica we thought we had found a piece of heaven. Roberto, Frederick, Erika and all the wonderful staff provided an experience everyone should enjoy. It is not for everyone however, you must enjoy nature, enjoy great service, enjoy spectacular beaches, enjoy great food at at a reasonable cost, enjoy the private massage in the grass hut on the beach and most of all meet other interesting travellers. Puerto Viejo offers many other restaurants for varied tastes from many countries, Italian, French and seafood alike. It is hike to town and not really advisable to walk after dark. Banana Azul offers the best value and variety for reasonable cost. We are already planning our return trip.

  • Stayed: December 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank KC4595
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 23, 2010

The first night children yelling in the parking lot kept us awake. The third evening there were three boys in the gazebo and we asked management if they were guests. (Neither owner was in residence.) We were told that although their parents were staying at Banana Azul, the boys were sleeping elsewhere, but that they were allowed to use the facilities. If the children can use the pool, gazebo, etc. then Banana Azul should not advertise as "adults only." It was one of the main reasons we made a reservation there.
Otherwise, the food was fantastic, the service was excellent, the grounds and beach were magnificent. Towels and pillows could be improved on, but those were minor complaints. The only real problem was the kids.

  • Stayed: November 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank CostaRicaChica53
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 19, 2010

We started our first trip to Costa Rica in Quepos, and then headed over to Banana Azul in Puerto Viejo. My fiance and I painstakingly researched out of paranoia that we didn't know what we were doing! So after reading great reviews of Banana Azul, we picked it.
We arrived in the evening after a nice long bus ride from San Jose, and the evening was very comfortable. We were greeted by a lovely Jennifer (I think?) who showed us around and took us to our room. We were in a good mood from the beginning of our trip so in general good spirits. So we got settled in and felt satisfied with our room. I thought it would have air conditioning since the cheaper rooms did, but it didn't, and being from San Francisco it's nice to have a cool room to recuperate in after being in such heat and humidity that I'm not used to. But since it was comfortable enough at the time I didn't think much of it.
So we headed down to have the dinner at $11 + service charge + tax per person. While the beans and tortillas were very tasty, it was a bit over priced. I know with the price a lot of chicken and beef was available, but honestly I don't like paying for food I don't eat. Not all food is worth the same in cost and preparation. We had our free welcome drink and went to the room after dinner. All was well enough, but a tad boring and the WiFi kept failing. It'd be available, we'd connect, then load a new page and it'd have failed again. Constant loading and re-checking for WiFi to be available. No TV. What else do you have in an evening in a hotel room? I totally like not depending on TV, slowing down, relaxing, but I just didn't feel like I was staying at a hotel as time went on.
We woke up to bright sunshine and the sounds of the free breakfast being made and were excited to do some excursions, etc. Went down to breakfast, ordered the gallo pinto and were not forewarned that the usually vegetarian dish had chunks of meat in it. It was irritating that this establishment caters to American expectations of meat being in everything and assuming that it's okay with everyone. It's rice and beans, people. Must we cater to every American who can't live without bacon (yet not cater to the Americans who'd like some A/C without giving said American major attitude, but I'll get to this later)? It was gross picking through little pieces of flesh in something that is otherwise easily vegetarian... At least let people know before they order it.
So it was starting to get hot. Which is expected, but I'm just not used to it so it's nice to get ready for the day in a cool room. Which we couldn't. The way these rooms are built are with fiberglass on parts of the ceiling, so sunlight is beating on the roof all day and let into the room, and the heat is trapped in. We were on the 2nd floor as well so the heat rises, is trapped, etc. The fans barely cut it. I mean barely. I'd shower and as soon as I got dressed would have trouble breathing and be sweating immediately. It just felt so heavy in the room.
So we head to the sloth sanctuary and come back to a hot room, shower in the open-air bathroom with other fiberglass greenhouse type ceiling, and sprawl out in the bed with the two fans provided pointing directly on us. I knew I was in CR so I was trying to get used to it. But I couldn't move without feeling more sweat seep from my pores. I was always hot and sweaty and it's just to uncomfortable for me to deal with 24/7, and when in Quepos I was able to recuperate in an air conditioned room. But anyway, I digress...
We had dinner with them again because we wound up falling asleep trying to get through the heat that built up in our room. The choices were meat or cheese, or pesto. Being in a tropical place I expected a little more diversity in the food options. The pesto offered was "ok" really... I ate it, but didn't like it very much. And the stuffed tomato my man got was tasty, but certainly not worth the $11 + 10% service charge + 13% taxes, which is also a lot to pay for a small bowl of angel hair pasta with pesto... The night after we had the pesto again (that seemed to be the most creative they can get with a non-meat non-cheese option) and the eggplant with cheese. It was a tiny double layer of thinly sliced eggplant that was lost in all the cheese they put in it. I didn't taste the eggplant at all. At least I think there was actual eggplant in it, I saw the eggplant skins floating in cheese. Grrr... I ate around the cheese as much as I could but it was everywhere. With some steamed vegetables, lacking in creativity and flavor. Offering the same pesto two nights in a row, but they got creative and offered different meat dishes every night. There are so many creative and wonderful (or simple and very yummy) things that are better for the environment and the people to serve. In environmentally conscious Costa Rica I expected more. Arenas del Mar was a lot better in many respects, but of course they still cater to American tourist palates as well. But I had more options at Arenas del Mar and more people willing to play around with the options and get creative to provide something tasty for the pesky vegan trying to stay vegan on vacation. At Banana Azul they didn't care to think beyond the blackboard menu when I hesitated and asked for other options.
So we're moving along with our stay, we are generally used to the daunting task of eating out without consuming animal products, so it wasn't ruining my stay to a major degree or anything. So the next morning watch the owner (who never smiled at us or said hi when we crossed paths, but he likes our $80/night thank you very much) mow the lawn during breakfast. Who the heck has a lawn in Costa Rica? It's a rain forest! What a waste of energy and resources to care for a lawn. Let it be all the plants and natural, sustainable plant-life growing around... The money and time spent on that could go to improving the rooms so they all have air conditioning. The tops of the rooms where the walls meet the ceiling are all open, which could easily have been sealed off so A/C would have worked in the upstairs rooms where heat rises and the sun beats on the partially fiberglass roof...
So now we're getting to the "fun" part that made me really love the fact that I chose Banana Azul... It was so hot. I couldn't shower without immediately sweating afterward. And I'm sorry, if you are going to cater to your tourists, you gotta actually do that. And maybe not get rude when someone expresses discomfort. Expect cold-weather people to come down to explore the world on which we all live and have a comfortable room to come back to. Is it really awful to expect that? So get this: the cheaper rooms have TV and A/C. The more expensive rooms do not. Um, why?
So I'm just too hot, it's making me unable to actually relax in my $80+13% tax hotel room. I thought there would be A/C, being that I was paying more than the cheaper room which had A/C. I thought I was paying more to get the "ocean view". Let me also mention that the "ocean view" isn't worth the extra cost. I just thought it's our first big trip together, let's do it up! So I didn't select the cheapest room... Got a hot "ocean view" room for more money. You can see the ocean through the trees, yeah. You can lean over the balcony (oh the balcony, just wait...) to see the ocean.
And yes, there are people who smoke all over the property and it wafts into the rooms. It's warm, so doors to guest rooms are open. Don't smoke close to the rooms! That smell is awful if you don't smoke. Have some respect. It was disgusting to lay in bed at night and suddenly this awful smell comes into your room.
Okay the balcony: It's shared. Anyone from any room can slip by the dividers and come on into your room. And leaving the doors open is a must to get some sort of draft in these hot upstairs rooms. After our third morning there we were still in bed sleeping, and someone from housekeeping Walks Into Our Room From Our Balcony. We Were Asleep. No one knocked. They just figured it's quiet, sure go on in. I'm laying naked in bed with my man, asleep (with sheet thankfully), and in they walk. They didn't apologize, just asked if they could water the plants... And I can't say how many times in a day housekeeping would knock and ask this during the first two days there. Wow. Zero communication... Even after someone just straight up walked into our room from the balcony, not 30 minutes later we get a knock! Asking if we need our room cleaned! If they did this without getting caught a few times, things weren't stolen, so at least that.
I was getting more irritated on the third day. It was all piling up on me. I couldn't relax at all. I asked for the 3rd time if one of their A/C rooms became available. Not until two weeks later. And the guy didn't smile at me at all this time, I could tell he didn't like that I kept asking if an A/C room was available... Um, tip: If you don't want me to ask more than once, then right away tell me if and when it will be available. I'm asking for a reason. So I ask if there's any chance that I could leave our last night, not pay for the fourth night and just go find a place with A/C, I mean I was getting a heat rash and couldn't breathe. I know I'm sensitive to it, so what. He just shook his head and said sarcastically, "Um, NO" and just looked at me. Wow. Just looked at me with a smirk. Not giving a crap I was so uncomfortable. And I'm a nice person at first, I just got pleading and said "But I'm so hot in the room" and he gets attitude and says "You're in the Caribbean Honey!" It was a very snotty tone and he even raised his voice. Unacceptable to talk like that to someone shelling out $80+ plus expensive sub-par food and a bar that closes at 10pm. So yeah I got angry. I said "Well, I'm paying extra for a room that's hotter than the cheaper ones that come with A/C." and he smirked and said "What do you mean you're paying extra" So I outlined the obvious for him: "The rooms with TV and A/C are $69/night. I thought I was getting an upgrade or a step up adding the "ocean view" for $79/night." He said "It's a matter of opinion what an upgrade is." I looked away and thought about how this was going for a minute. I was shocked this guy was getting so sassy with a customer who was obviously having difficulty with heat (which ya know what, I'm not sorry for! I'm allowed to explore the world a little with some expectations for hospitality). So I just said "Okay" in my "I'm really angry now" tone and started to walk away. He called me back, and asked me to explain again the difference in the rooms and cost and comfort level that was getting to me. He then nodded and said "Okay, I won't hold you responsible for tonight, I will set you free." Yeah, thanks.
What attitude. Awful customer service and I was so glad to be "set free" from that place. People just walk into your room. The food was sub-par and too expensive for what it was. The bar closes at 10pm. Some of the staff have bad attitudes. Have some courtesy, some empathy, for your customers and how some may be uncomfortable. Don't cop attitude. And housekeeping checks in too often, either knocking several times a day or coming in whenever they feel it's "safe" to just waltz on in. Oh, and yeah without a knock another housekeeper stuck the key in the door and came in. Saw we were there and was all "ooh!" and left. Um, DUH!?!?!?!? So I think during our 3 nights there we were walked in on at least three times, not counting the numerous knocks per day.
But the bartender rocked, he was friendly, made a drink ad hoc for us that was awesome. Most of the staff were nice.
So we got out of there and went to Cabinas los Almendros right in the grid of Puerto Viejo. Easy to walk to everything and come back to Air Conditioning! In that heat, there's nothing wrong with wanting to wind down in a cool room. Sure, it's a luxury in Costa Rica, and if you are totally cool with and used to the heat then all the power to ya! And Cabinas los Almendros doesn't offer the "atmosphere" that is boasted on Banana Azul's website. We did like the natural wood look of Banana Azul, and when it was cooler and easier to deal with it was nice to sit out in the big Adirondack chairs and relax, but it doesn't cover for the bad points enough. And there are ways to keep that charm without sacrificing comfort.
I'm disappointed that the normal assumption that an "upgrade" in price would include the amenities in the lower-priced rooms doesn't apply with this hotel (that's just weird), smoking isn't restricted to areas away from guest rooms, privacy is seriously compromised, and I got attitude for how I felt and my comfort level, which was the last and very short straw by the time that occurred.
If you do still choose to stay at Banana Azul, just expect hot 20 minute walks to town or a cab ride every time you think you might want to do something, or a bike ride, they offer bike rentals. Stay in the $69 air conditioned rooms unless constant heat and sweat doesn't bother you (and the doors to those are right in the middle of the lounge/dining area and the check-in desk, so you walk out of your room to everyone having breakfast).

We'll come back to Puerto Viejo but not this hotel. Hope some who have seen this review have better luck or at least are more aware of what to expect in the way of room structure, etc. All the wood is very pretty and has a great feel to it, there's a long thin koi pond with turtles along the entire reception/lounge/dining areas, the pool and plants are pretty. There are pretty aspects, but just not enough in my experience.

  • Stayed: October 2010
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13  Thank thewarmth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
colinsito, Owner at Hotel Banana Azul, responded to this reviewResponded November 24, 2010

You are absolutely right when you say you can not judge a place by the reviews alone. A quick browse on our extensive website and some research into the area and country you were traveling in might have saved you some grief.

Banana Azul accommodated over 2000 people in the last 12 months and while we try our best, we can not please everyone. The overwhelming majority seems satisfied that AC and TV's are not needed for this type of vacation. We have all these details clearly outlined on our website in effort to avoid having disappointed guests.

Given that you much preferred Cabinas Almendros over Banana Azul, I can clearly understand why our hotel would not resonate with you as Cabinas Almendros offers more of a typical American motel experience. I don't mean that negatively, just want to clarify the difference in accommodation and experience.

As for your comment about me, the owner, cutting the grass and not ever smiling at you. I am sorry, but I was not in the country during your stay. You are referring to our gardener, I will speak with him. He tends to be one of those people who is better at relating to plants then to people he does not know.

Thanks for your extensive comments and also for pointing out to TripAdvisor members reading this, It's all about your own experience. Yours clearly was unique.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 17, 2010

We stayed here for 3 nights on our honeymoon. It was a charming place - cute room, great cocktails and right on the beach. They gave us a fruit hamper and wine on our arrival because it was a special occasion which was very sweet.

Would definitely agree that the dinners are overpriced ($11 plus tax for fajitas and ice cream seems a lot for Costa Rica!) but the breakfasts are good and staff (and dogs) are friendly. Cocktails really are special (especially the mojitos) but the bar was pretty quiet (... bit boring) when we stayed. Although the lamps make it feel very romantic.

We used the bikes for a day (old... but totally free!) to cycle to some local beaches and also arranged a local tour (it was to the sloth sanctuary but wouldn't recommed it... have heard that Jaguars is better).

  • Stayed: November 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank Victoria F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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