We arrived at Makanda By The Sea on January 28, 2009 for the last week of our 2 week long Costa Rica honeymoon. After spending months planning our trip, we decided to spend a few days in the central and northern parts of Costa Rica (at the Arenal volcano and Los Angeles cloud forest) before relaxing for 1 week in luxury at the Manuel Antonio beach area. After very careful consideration, and mostly due to the high praise Makanda received from Fodors and other guide books, I booked a week at Makanda through Luxurylink.com. We LOVED the first 3 hotels we stayed at in Costa Rica (Costa Rica Marriott in San Jose, Lost Iguana in Arenal and Villa Blanca in San Ramon). These hotels averaged half the price of Makanda By The Sea - and all 3 were more updated, more luxurious and had more of what we were expecting for our honeymoon. I have traveled a lot - around the US as well as Latin America, and I know what quality I should expect from a $400/night hotel. Makanda is not there. It was a grave disappointment to me, as I wanted my honeymoon to be perfect. And for the amount of money we spent on our week at Makanda, it should have been perfect. I'll start a the beginning.
We were dropped off at the gate of the hotel from the Quepos airport shuttle ($5 per person, each way. No reservation needed. This is the best way to get to and from the airport. Just ask for the hotel shuttle at the Quepos airport.) We were told to check in at the reception. No one showed us the way, no signs indicated that we were walking towards the reception desk. The ground we were walking on was a very rocky driveway. We managed to find the reception desk - a small, dark room with one person sitting a desk. We checked in, and the receptionist showed us to our room. I had confirmed Villa 1 twice before our arrival. However, we were given Villa 6 with the explanation that someone else was staying in Villa 1. Disappointed, we checked into Villa 6. The good points: GREAT view of the ocean, as the hotel is on a hill overlooking the water. There is a terrace with a dining table and chairs, 2 wicker chairs with cushions, and a hammock. The monkeys sometimes played in the trees next to our terrace, and even stood on top the our terrace roof. Cool. You get to eat breakfast outside on your terrace, delivered to the room each morning. The room is rather large, and has a small kitchen with full size refrigerator, and even an oven (though we only used the kitchen for ice and keeping drinks cold). The staff at the hotel is very nice, as most Costa Rican people are. The people alone are reason enough to visit this beautiful country. We especially liked Marvin, the gentleman who delivered breakfast almost ever day, and Jason, our waiter at the pool. Finally, the best thing about this hotel is the infinity swimming pool. It's pretty big, very deep, clean, and the monkeys play in the trees overhead as you can look onto the ocean below. There's a (not so hot) hot tub. The chairs are comfy after Jason puts a cushion on the pool lounge chair for you.
Now, the parts we didn't like: The hotel room, described by the hotel as "contemporary" was contemporary is the 1980s. 80's turquiose sconces and 2 ceiling fans that shook and clinked when there were on were the major light sources for the room. No romantic lighting was possible - there were no lamps except for 2 small bedside reading lights. The couch was made out of: (ready?) CEMENT!!! It had cushions, but was not cozy. The king size bed was alright, and looked romantic with its canopy and mosquito nets - except that you needed the mosquito nets because there were no screens to the terrace doors. We had a bug in our room one night the size of a bird or bat. Scary. Instead of sliding glass doors to the terrace that you could easily open, there were doors made of 12 panels, and each panel had 2 locks that had to be individually locked (as the hotel recommeds for your safety). And there were NO CURTAINS!!! We awoke with the sun each morning between 6:30 and 7 am (happy honeymoon, right? Just what we wanted - to wake up early.) And at night, I was afraid to get dressed in the room because there were no curtains to maintain privacy. Yes, the villa stood alone, but no, I couldn't be sure no one could see in. It was a joke for the rest of the trip. We would see a cheap hotel on the beach advertising $50 per night, and state: "well, at least they have curtains!" The bathroom was completely outdated. There was one towel rack, and no place to hang hand towels. The only towel rack was coming unglued, and there were chips and cracks in the outdated 80s "retro" black and white cermaic tiles. No bathtub. No luxury in this bathroom. Mu husband got an electric shock plugging the hairdryer for me. My bathroom at home is nicer. The "closet" is a tiny, dark wooded room with a place for hanging clothes and some shelves. No drawers. So yes, you have to pile your clothes on shelves and then dig though them to get what you want. Not cool. The air conditioner worked 4 out of 7 nights. The TV worked 6 out of 7 nights. We lost power once for several hours before the (very loud) hotel generater kicked in. Breakfst in the morning does not include coffee. They leave a packet of coffee in the kitchen witha juicebox of milk on the counter, and you make your own coffee each morning. It's too bad because one of the best parts of most hotels in Costa Rica is the great Cafe con leche that you get with the breakfast buffett or in the lobby each day. Instead, we had to drink Mr. Coffee's finest American brew. When I told Melissa, the manager that I was unhappy with the hotel - that it was my honeymoon and I was disappointed in the lack of modern updates and amentites, and I wanted to change hotels, she told me I could not have a refund. I cried. She never addressed it with me again. Not even to check on us to see if things had improved. Not even to fix the broken air conditioner. What a huge disappointment for my honeymoon.
I had heard about the great restaurant at the hotel. I brought a pair of heels to wear, being my honeymoon and all, and wanting to look nice. Remember the rocky driveway? Unwalkable in heels, even for me, and I never miss a chance to dress up. As my husband and I love to walk and explore during the day, we had no trouble walking to the beach, though we learned after a few days that the hotel would take you in a golf cart down the rocky dirt road to the beach - you just have to walk up later.
There is no lobby. No bar. No gift shop. No chairs where you can sit and talk to other guests. No common space for the hotel except the pool. No lounge chairs or umbrellas on the hotel beach.
The rest of Manuel Antonio (the beach, the waves, the restaurants - esp. Kapi Kapi) is amazing. Despite our bad experience at Makanda, we had a great trip - we loved every second of being on the beach. Next time, I think we'll stay closer to the beach in a cheaper hotel. I think Fodors and Lonely Planet need to make another visit to Makanda - it's gone downhill since they last visited propabaly 10 years ago. Other guests at the hotel voiced similar complaints to mine. Maybe in 1989, it was a spectacular hotel. Now, in 2009, we want crazy things like screens, curtains, bathtubs and lamps. For your special trip, choose another hotel.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Makanda By the Sea is 12 acres of wildlife sanctuary, 100 meters above the ocean. Our fully equipped Villas and Studios are carefully placed in rainforest gardens with spectacular views of the sixty mile coastline. Hotel Makanda is the ideal location for guests wishing to experience “romance in nature”, dazzling sunset views and our personalized boutique hotel ambiance. Offering gourmet cuisine, first class service, and close to Manuel Antonio Park, Spas, Restaurants, Tours and Beaches. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Makanda By The Sea Hotel Manuel Antonio National Park
- Makanda By The Sea Costa Rica/Manuel Antonio