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What was the best?

Rating our hotels and overnight stays

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Since we have been home, many friends have asked us what was your favorite place, the best place you stayed, had the most fun or where would you stay again. Considering the fact that we had a phenomenal time, met some incredible people and made many new friends this question has been difficult to answer in a short statement. So, we created a rating system, using the educational grading systems (A-F) with a 4.0 scale. The criterion we used included price, quality, food (if available, not all places had their own restaurant), the staff, the management (this includes owners if they were involved with the day to day operations) and other (amenities in room, giftshop, nearby attactions, etc). We stayed at nine different hotels or rental properties, each of their positives and negitives were all taken in consideration for our grading system. So here goes...

MI_grunge_1_copy.jpgabstract_p..dited-1.jpgMagnolia Inn, Panama City Panama This was our number one place to stay. It is a brand new hotel and youth hostel in the Casco Viejo district of Panama City. Only a friend's recommendation brought us to this hotel, otherwise we would have been staying in a chain hotel in downtown Panama City. The MI received all A's and A pluses in our evalution, even though they don't have a restaurant but they have a kitchen that guests can use to prepare their own meals. The New Orleans French Quarter like environment, the absolute graciousness of the staff and owners, and the excellent quality of their beds placed this Inn at the top of our list. In the short time they have been open they are already the number two place to stay in PTY according trip advisor. We can recommend the Magnolia Inn quite highly. Be advised if you need the sterile atmosphere of a chain hotel this Inn isn't going to appeal to you. Final Grade A (4.12).

Drake_Bay_view_4.jpgToucan_b.jpgDrake Bay Wilderness Resort, Drake Bay, Costa Rica A very close second. Another place that was also a recommendation by a friend brought us to this resort. An hour boat ride down the Sierpe river, across Drake Bay bouncing over ocean waves, and into a small cove will bring you to this family run resort. You can also fly in and and out from San Jose to the Drake Bay airport and then a four wheel drive transport to the beach, a boat ride across the bay and into the cove and to the resort. We came here with my brother and sister-in-law after spending a week in Quepos, Costa Rica. This resort is a family run affair with many of employees and staff related to the owner. They are very hands on and go out of their way to make sure all your needs are met. The rooms are airconditioned and have hot water showers. Most places in the Osa peninsula don't offer either of these features that many of us take for granted. This is an all-inclusive resort with all the meals served family style in a very relaxed dining area. Eventually, you will meet all the other guests whether you want to or not. Included in the price of the resort besides your room and meals are a number of tours. We ended up going on six different ones. Our personal favorite was the mangrove boat tour, which was featured in an earlier blog. If you visit the Drake Bay Wilderness Resort, the best guide for the tours is Tico. Try to make all his tours. You don't need to over pack for this resort, shorts and t-shirts are the only fashion statement you need to make. Final Grade A (4.0)

Sunrise_ne..uma__CR.jpgYY_beach_view_2.jpgYlang Ylang Resort and Spa, Montezuma, Costa Rica We had a long discussion about this rating, and I changed my mind after Kryss made a very strong statement about our stay at YY. We were here for six nights and especially for Kryss this was her favorite. The resort focuses on healthy foods, yoga, and the tranquility of the area.I consider this resort a semi-all-inclusive spot. Breakfast and dinner were included in the price, but no lunch. Also, some foods on the menu were extra. If you are a carnivour this isn't your resort, no cheeseburger in paradise here. Plenty of fish, chicken, salads, sushi, and interesting fresh fruit drinks. Additionally, they do have a fully stocked bar that you can make as unhealthy as you want. The rooms are very comfortable, have very cool outdoor and semi outdoor showers. The wildlife in the area, monkeys, birds, spiders, and coaties(cat like animals with long noses) are plentiful. Tiny little ants are also in abundance. The staff is very friendly and helpful. YY has a nice beach, lots of area for hiking and exploring the coastline. The nearby town of Montezuma has a reputation of being very ganja friendly, it's true. Final Grade B (3.3).

day_view.jpgnight_view.jpgThe Peace Lodge, Poasito, Costa Rica This was our first stop on our great adventure through Costa Rica and Panama. It was also the most expensive. This is a beautiful resort with it's own nature park and wildlife refuge. If you only have a short time in Costa Rica this would be a resort to consider. The rooms are exquisite. King size beds with canopy mosquito netting, gas fireplace, waterfall bath showers, patio hottubs with a waterfall and beautiful views of the rain forest. The wildlife park and refuge is outstanding. You can see many of Costa Rica's native wildlife at this park. The biggest downside to the Peace Lodge is their restaurant. This is a "got ya" place. There is no where else to go. A menu that starts at $20 bucks for pasta and goes up, with a very poor selection. We only ate their twice. A member of the hotel staff took us into Poasita and we bought a few groceries to make our own dinner. Additionally, the buffet lunch at the wildlife park is very good for 12 bucks. Lunch became our main meal while we where at the Peace Lodge. The staff at the lodge and the wildlife park were very good, knowledgeable about their product, spoke English and would help you with your Spanish. Final Grade B (3.2).

Pedasito_Hotel.jpgPedasito_bedroom.jpgPedasito Boutique Hotel & Spa, Pedasi, Panama This is a quaint little hotel and bed & breakfast in a coastal area of Panama. There are seven hotel rooms that are functionally appointed, clean, and have a non-commercial quality. The rooms facing their courtyard are the ones to request if you ever stay there. They have a small patio for relaxation and enjoying their pool. Breakfast is included the price of the room and we considered it very good. On Friday nights they set up a sushi bar in the courtyard and make great sushi that is fresh and tasty. The manager of the hotel was always there, we wondered if she ever slept. She was hard working, customer oriented, and always open for suggestions and comments. The service in restaurant was always good. We practiced our Spanish with them and they practiced their English with us. Final Grade B- (2.6).

Arenal.jpgArenal_from_airplane.jpgLos Lagos Hotel, Spa & Resort, La Fortuna, Costa Rica When we decided to extend our trip to Panama, we needed a few extra days in Costa Rica to make all our flights work. This was our first stop on the extention. La Fortuna is the home of the Arenal Volcano which attracts tourists from all over the world. We used the Costa Rican tourist board to make our reservations at Los Lagos since making last minute reservations was very difficult. We only had three choices and this was the best of the lot. Los Lagos caters to large groups and bus tours. Everything at the resort is average, food, staff, rooms, etc. Only their view of Arenal was better than average. Walking out the patio door of our hotel room was the volcano. However, there are probably other hotels in the area that have a similar view and provide a better than average hotel service. Final Grade C+ (2.5)

Playa_Blan..t_night.jpgPlaya_Blanca_beach.jpgPlaya Blanca Resort, Playa Blanca, Panama A true all-inclusive beach front resort. If you only have one week to vacation at the beach this is a place to consider. The front desk staff were so arrogant and condescending that I was ready to leave right after we checked in. However, we need somewhere to stay for the next three nights and we were miles from anyplace else, so we stayed. As it turned out, we enjoyed our time here. The beach was great, lots of chaise lounge chairs, palm trees for shade, two great pools, three places for meals, plus a sushi bar and the bartenders know that a heavy hand got better tips. The front desk staff should take lessons from the bartenders on customer relations. The place was filled with Canadians and Panamanians. Over all an average resort. The cost per night was similar to Ylang Ylang, but no where the same value. It probably would have gotten a better rating from me if the front desk staff didn't have such an attitude. Final Grade C (2.3)

Las_Olas_beach_4.jpgLa_Barqueta_sunset.jpgLas Olas Resort, La Barqueta, PanamaThis resort has the most unused, beautiful beach we saw on the whole trip. We spent ten days here and their beach was one of the best. Sunsets were colorful and every night we took time to watch it. This resort is 30 kilometers west of David, Panama. It opened in October of 2001, as an all-inclusive resort, but two years later it stopped being an all-inclusive. The resort is owned by a local family, who are also building condos, single family homes and a golf course in the area. All of this sounds great at first blush, but when you stay someplace for ten days the cosmetics start to come off. The resort is badly in need of a facelift. The potholes in the drive into the resort and at the entrance will snap your neck and damage your car. The grounds are poorly cared for, the beach and pool chairs are probably the same ones since the resort opened. The towels in the bathroom and for beach use are frayed and thin. The facade was clean, but a close look and there was a lot swept under the rug. The staff was hit and miss, some seemed helpful and caring, while others were sleep walking through their day. To me, the biggest disappointment were the owners. They live at the resort, can see the poor conditions of the driveway, the worn out furniture, the ragged towels and they don't do anything about. The resort is the flagship of their development and it doesn't say much for their future plans. Final Grade C (1.9).

Sal_s_sail..dited-1.jpg13_of_14.jpgEscape Villas MA-37, Quepos, Costa Rica When you look at this place on the internet it looks fantastic. A seven bedroom house, with a pool, a whirlpool on the top floor, parking, etc. Fourteen of us stayed here for a week, there was no trauma drama, everyone had fun fishing, eating, drinking, and chil-axing. However, for the price of the house, the neighborhood it was in, and the lack of care by the management; next time we're in Quepos, we're staying somewhere else. The internet worked once and a while, only on certain floors, the laundry room was disgustingly dirty, our kitchen was marginally clean and I never saw the 24/7 security. Truly a case of renter beware of what you get on the internet. Our trip coordinator has no dog in this hunt, it is all escapevillas.com, what they promise and what they deliver are definitely two different animals. Final Grade C- (l.5)

The best two places we stayed during the trip can't be measured. The JanKB's house and MLT's house before we left Denver and when we returned. Without these wonderful accommodations our trip wouldn't have started and ended on such a positive feeling. Thank you both!

Posted by rhislop 15:49 Archived in Panama Tagged beaches birds sunset volcano las la costa rica panama hostel costa_rica playa fortuna montezuma david inn drake arenal blanca magnolia playa_blanca drake_bay sierpe ylang casco barqueta olas pedasi escape_villas Comments (0)

Boquete, beaches, and carnival

Fat Tuesday...Panama style

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When we arrived in Panama City one of the first things we learned was to get out of town for Carnival weekend, Feb 18-21, 2012. This huge pre-lent party disrupts Panama City and anyone who can goes to the beach. We had a little difficulty finding a place to go because of the carnival. Our search took us to the northwest edge of Panama, almost back in Costa Rica, to the Playa La Barquete area, about 30 kilometers west of David, Panama. However, the carnival is country wide and each town, city, village has some sort of celebration. For the first time since we've been here the beach was busy, not in front of the hotel, but at the public area. Fireworks were set off, quads are driven up and down on the beach, people getting away from the city heat for the beach. A little bit of 4th of July and Marti Gras rolled into one. 92bobh_001.jpg

We drove up to Boquete, Panama yesterday. This mountain community is about 1.5 hours from our hotel and a nice drive in the hills, not real Colorado type mountains. This town is home to many, many, ex-pats. Mostly Americans and Canadians. We heard more english being spoken in this town than anywhere we've been. For a wee bit I thought we were in a Del Webb retirement community. The town is in a very pictureques area, so it is easy to see why so many gringos live here. 8bobh_002.jpg

Because of the carnival celebrations around the country there were police road blocks and check points everywhere. In Panama, if a tourist doesn't have ID and passport on demand by the police you could end up spending the night in jail, this just doesn't mean the driver but all passengers too. This requirement should be in bold print in all travel guides. We were stopped four times on our round trip to Boquete. 00bobh_003.jpg

The sunsets here continue to be absolutely beautiful. Each night has been different, colorful, and always worth watching. Tomorrow we check out of Las Olas and head to Pedasi, Panama for four days. Looking forward to the change of venue.

Posted by rhislop 10:28 Archived in Panama Tagged mountains beaches sea sunset las panama david boquete barqueta olas firworks Comments (0)

Blue Skies & Seas, Sherbert Sunsets, Starry Nights

Welcome to Las Olas @ Playa La Barqueta

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Surround yourself with beauty, very few people, blue skies & seas, nights full of stars and sunsets that change flavors every evening you will love this place. The beach is black sand. You can walk it for miles and only see a few people. There are no peddlers with junk hencho de mexico. You will spot a few shells, sea gulls, pelicans, dolphin, some very nice homes built right on the beach and the nearest McDonald's is 25.6 kilometers away.
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Setting on our patio each evening we watch the sky change from blue to orange or raspberry or firey red and then twilight to dark. As the sky darkens the stars start popping out. First only a couple bright ones and then the explosion starts like fireworks. By 8:30pm so many stars are in the sky and constellations that we haven't seen in years come into view. We have yet to watch TV since we've been here.
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Today we visited some of the single family homes for sale or rent and some condos next to Las Olas. Lots to consider for next winter's getaway.

We visited the mountain community of Volcan yesterday. A rain forest area, everything is very green. Volcan reminds me of Estes Park, CO in the 60's. Lots of small farms, hillside terraced gardens, and incredible fresh veggies and fruit. Six dollars bought us a bag of each. Great healthy munchies. We read in one of the travel guides about Arte-Cruz, a local artist that is famous for his wood work and glass etchings. A very talented man, he made a special gift for us and loved showing off his skills. A good non-tourist trap stop.

Tomorrow is all beach day!

Posted by rhislop 15:06 Archived in Panama Tagged sky sea sunset ocean las la panama playa scenic barqueta olas Comments (0)

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