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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)

Return to CONUS

Fifty-two great days of adventure

sunny 38 °F

We returned to the continental United States (CONUS) on March 2nd, landing in Houston and immediately clearing customs to make our connection to Denver. It was a long travel day, starting in Panama City, then a four hour layover in San Jose, Costa Rica and finally our connections to the US. Departing Panama it was 85 degrees F, arriving in Denver it was 19 degrees F. This is/was the weekend that United Airlines and Continental Airlines are merging their computer systems and we heard warnings about possible travel problems. Nothing happened that effected our flights. We've spent two nights in Denver and today we pick up our dog and head to Fruita. Home by sunset.

We've taken over 5500 pictures, met an incredible number of wonderful people, seen some beautiful sights, experienced a tremendous variety of foods, enjoyed the noises of the jungle, the beaches, and the cities all of which have helped make this trip exceptional. Over the next few days/weeks we'll post a few more photos, write a few comparsion and final thought articles for the blog. Please check back once and a while.

Posted by rhislop 05:46 Archived in USA Tagged beaches costa rica panama denver fruita Comments (0)

Only the best...

Wilson the man

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When we arrived in La Fortuna, we needed transportation from our hotel to town. As good luck would have it, Wilson Elizondo (8388 2332) picked us up in his cab. This charming and personable young man took us into town. He recommended quality restaurants, the best attractions and advice on the La Fortuna area. One of his excellent recommendations was the Don Rufino restaurant. He was absolutely correct in his assessment. The photo is of their Tuna Tartar which was as delicious as the presentation you see. After dinner he took us back to our hotel and arranged for another day of sight seeing and town meandering.

We needed a ride to the San Jose airport for our flight to Panama. We hired Wilson. He made us a deal we couldn't refuse. He got us to the airport safely and in a timely fashion. His eagerness to practice and learn English and to help us with our Spanish, made the 2 and a half hour trip extremely enjoyable. We wish for him only the best.

If you ever come to Costa Rica and have plans to see Arenal volcano call Wilson and tell him Bob and Kryss sent you. He will take good care of you.

We arrived in Panama City after an uneventful flight. At our hotel, the Magnolia Inn, we learned that the Indigenous people of Panama have gone on strike against the government. Travel has been disrupted in certain areas. Water and eletricity in other areas. Our hotel is 2 blocks from the Panamanian Presidential palace so we may demonstrations Panamanian style. So the
adventure continues......

Posted by rhislop 17:41 Archived in Panama Tagged taxi san la costa rica panama jose fortuna arenal wilson Comments (0)

Arenal

Super Bowl in Espanol

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After the initial posting of yesterday's blog, I realized that some additions and corrections needed to be made. The changes were made after the first thirty readers had already read the blog. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Yesterday we got some good views of Arenal and hiked to the La Fortuna Waterfall. An incredible sight. The steep hike down and up from the valley floor cost me five pounds, maybe more. Kryss was like an olympic champion up and down the hill. After the climb it was cerveza time at one of the local restaurants. While we were enjoying a late lunch and beer, two water buffalo were being lead down the main street. Needless to say, this stopped traffic. Not a common site in La Fortuna. I took the restaurant owner's picture on one of the beasts and he bought us a round. Pura Vida!

We watched the Super Bowl with Spanish speaking broadcasters. Learned a few more words, [i]el passo incompleto, passo perfecto, completo.[i] Other than that it was pretty much greek. Kyrss picked the winning team and won our bet.

For those of you that know "flat Stanley", (google him if you don't know about him) he has made an appearance on our trip for one of our grand nieces. Every so often he will be seen in various places in our photo file. If you need him for your kids, grandkids, etc., feel free copy the pictures.

Tomorrow we are leaving for Panama. A 3.5 hour drive in the morning to San Jose and then a short flight to Panama City. We will be staying in Casco Viejo (the old section of Panama City) for about three days while we figure out where we want to go. Bocas del Toros is on the list but nothing else at this time. We are considering renting a car since the roads in Panama are much better than CR roads.

The pictures are of the La Fortuna Waterfall, Arenal Volcano (one from our patio the other from in town) and flat Stanley in the jungle.

Adios Costa Rica....Hola Panama!

Posted by rhislop 12:52 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged waterfalls costa rica arenal Comments (0)

Ylang Ylang to Arenal

from the beach to the mountains

overcast 80 °F

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Adios to healthy food, hola big steak...that's my story. Kryss on the other hand didn't want to leave. As the Range Rover bounced along the beach taking us to a van in Montezuma Kyrss said, "I love it here, I just love it here". If you only had a week for a vacation and needed to totally chill out this would be the place. The peacefulness will make you forget the pressures at home. However, the last couple of nights the sounds of the crashing waves were like cannons going off.During the day we watched surfers running passed our beach to another beach about 20 minutes away to ride the wild surf. Even the waves hitting the beach in front of YY looked pretty huge to me.

We rode a van from Montezuma for about an hour to the ferry. We walked on the ferry carrying our bags along with at least another hundred people, Ticos, Americans, Canadians, and a few intitled children from who knows where. Their parents probably sent them to CR so they wouldn't have to put up with them for the winter. The ride was unadventurous and we read our Kindle's. A young Tico mother had never seen a Kindle and between my elementary spanish and sign language she understood that it was a "biblioteca" library with many "libros" books in it. She was totally amazed and it was fun sharing with her.

Another van picked us up in Puntaranes and took us to Arenal. We stopped before we left town picked up a few cervesas for the road. Drinking beer at 10am, we are on vacation. Four hours later,as we approached La Fortuna, the town Arenal towers over, there was a break in the clouds and we saw the top of the volcano. The tour books say that only 50% of the visitors to La Fortuna see Arenal. I guess we are lucky because we've been able to see it yesterday and today.

The buzz in La Fortuna is that Will Smith and Bruce Willis are in town to film another MIB 3 movie. We haven't seen them but I'll put them on my wildlife photo list if we spot them.

As for the pictures. The spider is a Golden Orb. They are all around on the jungle plants, we watched one the other day eat a nickel size butterfly. They are about 3 to 4 inches in diameter. The lizard is just one of many we saw every day at YY. The jungle picture, if you look close, you can see the roof of our dome "colibri" which is hummingbird in espanol.

Oh yeah...last night I had a NY Steak, rare, with baked potatoes, plantens, and JW Red. Kryss had gazapacho, a raw cold soup, and a salad with vino roja! Always the carnavore and the vegatarian.

More on Arenal later...hasta luego amigos!

Posted by rhislop 12:10 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged mountains volcano costa rica montezuma arenal ylang Comments (0)

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