Everything's better with monkeys. Even upscale Costa Rican resorts like the Parador. My first day at the luxury resort in Manuel Antonio I was hiking the hotel's Monkey Trail when what skitters by me - after the iguana, I mean - but a spider monkey going about his business. So whatever else you might say, you will never be able to accuse the Parador of violating any truth-in-advertising laws. I'm just glad it wasn't called the Poisonous Viper Trail.
To kill time during the slow check-in - I arrived at 12:30 and waited until 3 for my room to be ready (Their published check-in time is 3pm, and they stick to it like Moses made it the 11th commandment.) - I hiked the aforementioned Monkey Trail, and the expansive grounds studded with Ancient-Greek-style statues, which made as much as sense in a Central American setting as having kilts in the movie Gladiator, but my degree is in sociology not hotel design. Make no mistake, the 12 acres of manicured grounds are lovely and as relaxing as a deep-tissue massage followed by an umbrella drink: Overlooking the Pacific, the hotel offers a trio of adjacent pools angled to make it look as if you could leap off their edges into the ocean far below. Plus, the swim-up bar (open from 10:30am –6:00pm) allows you to stay sploshed while you get splashed. An adults-only pool about 50 feet away offers child-free swimming for those who like kids’ shrieks as much as they like scorpion bites.
My room was what I would describe as blandsome: plain, light yellow walks with some hotel-motel art, a garden view, and a small covered sitting area outside with a table and two chairs. Unpacking here was easy, with a closet supplying hangers and several shelves, and a safe for valuables. For those not sporting the rumpled-lined look of tropical climes, there’s also an iron and an ironing board.
The bed was at least more comfortable than the one in The Princess and the Pea. There was also a desk with adequate work space. Unlike the last 3 hotels I’d enjoyed in Costa Rica, the outlets were placed in a the pre-digital configuration - one under the desk, one between the TV and the closet, and two next to the bed. All of them were just a few inches above the floor. At the previous lodgings, however, the outlets were much higher - right over the desk’s surface while the ones near the bed were placed about parallel to where your head would be when you were lying down. Much more convenient that way, and it avoids that whole Gumby impersonation when you’re trying to plug something in.
The room also offered a coffee maker and mini-bar with snacks and drinks. The bathroom was spacious with a walk-in shower, average counter space for your toiletries, a hair dryer, and adequate lighting supplied by two overhead lights.
It was nice the way an Olive Garden is nice or Matlock is nice, but not nice-nice like The Bachelor Farmer restaurant in Minneapolis or Breaking Bad. Clearly meant to be a pooradise for the less affluent, the room was almost a disconnect from the lux pool, spa, and the sultry surroundings of 18th century dark woods, Spanish tiles, and antiques, not to mention the jaw-drop views of the ocean. The more upscale rooms at the Parador (i.e., the suites and the Premium Plus rooms), reachable by an outside elevator, are much higher up. Most come with ocean views and some have outdoor Jacuzzis. This elevated section also had its own pool and eatery, the La Fragata Restaurant & Tapas Bar.
Put it this way: My room was where Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Vacation would be staying; the high-end rooms were where The World’s Most Interesting Man would be lodging.
Now some of the bad. At registration the women who checked me in warned me the integer connection was bad. She was right: My connection appeared and then disappeared like David Copperfield. She assured me if I could lug my laptop down to the commons area, I would find a stronger Internet connection there. That was meant to be helpful but to me it’s like saying, We don’t have indoor plumbing but we do have outhouses that are a short schlep away on the beach.
Speaking of the beach, it's not the sandy idylls of Tulum or Hawaii. First you walk about 200-250 yards down the main road, then slog another 200 yards or so over a muddy, rocky strip. (It’s the rainy season now, so other months will offer dryer navigation.) There are no chaise lounges, ocean-side bars, or bathrooms. Think huts-on-the-beach in Lord of the Flies with flip-flops, and you’ll get it.
You can also take regularly-scheduled, hotel-supplied shuttles down to the Playa Manuel Antonio beach. The ride takes about 10 minutes to what is a half-mile-long crescent of white sand fronting an aqua sea.
The hotel has four restaurants and several bars (some of them close in the rainy season but their menus are absorbed into the others). The food in the main restaurant, La Galeria ranged from about $15 to $35 for an entree. Service was crisp, attentive, and friendly; the food fresh if not remarkable. I recommend the Azteca soup and the Indonesian rice. The wine list is also good.
The Happy Hour at the Don Juan bar runs from 6pm - 7pm with beers, liquors and cocktails (like Cuba Libra, Mojito, Caipirinha) for prices ranging from $3 to $5.50. That's not bad, but the drinks were so watery you could have started your own aquarium in them. Seriously, you could be in AA and not break your pledge drinking there. The chips I ordered for $6 came with about 15 chips and pico de gallo and salsa in containers so small, Thumbelina could have made her home in them. (Strangely, I ordered the same dish the next day in the La Galeria restaurant for an afternoon snack. This time it came with a enough chips and containers of salsa and pico de gallo to satisfy the binge part of a binge-and purge eating disorder –and all for the same price, $6.)
Breakfast, is included in the room rate and also served in the open-air La Galeria. Running from 6:00am – 10:30am, it was, in a word, lavish: Pancakes and waffles (accompanied by caramel and maple syrups), scrambled eggs, a design-your-own-omelet area, gallo pinto (i.e., rice and beans), two cereals and granola, yogurts (e.g., strawberry and plain favored),
fresh breads and pastries, tropical fruits (watermelon, papaya, cantaloupe), juices, and, of course, potent Costa Rican coffee.
A few other notes: There's a self-serve laundry, with two washers and two dryers. To use it, you buy tokens and laundry soap from the gift shop. Some of the covered outside seating areas have outlets you can plug your [phone, laptop, or tablet into. It’s a nice convenience that lets you hang there for extended period, contemplating the oceanic vista and basking in the soft-as-cotton breeze, while you read a book, surf the Net -or hang with a monkey.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Welcome to Parador Resort & Spa, Costa Rica’s premier eco-luxury resort. Sitting high above the Central Pacific coastline, this award-winning hotel is built on 12 acres of rainforest in beautiful Manuel Antonio, just minutes from Costa Rica’s best beaches.Known for its dedication to preserving and protecting Mother Nature as well as its first-class amenities, Parador offers a long list of activities for your enjoyment and a staff ready to accommodate your every need. Experience inspired cuisine. Take a walk along a white sand beach. Swing through the rainforest canopy. Or simply relax and take in the view from your splendid suite. It’s all about responsible luxury, pura vida style. Parador Resort & Spa… Where Green Is More Than Just A Color. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Resort Parador
- Parador Resort And Spa Costa Rica/Manuel Antonio