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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)

Ylang Ylang to Arenal

from the beach to the mountains

overcast 80 °F


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)

Ylang Ylang

more on the turtles

overcast 77 °F


Our friend David N.in NC recommended YY to us. A very nice place, probably the most relaxing spot we've been to so far. The tours and activities at the this resort are many that we've already done, so lots of beach time, hammock tours and chil-axing. The healthy food menu has been excellent and I've made it five days without a cheeseburger. Tomorrow night or during the Super Bowl it will be on the menu.

We walked the beach the other day and stopped at the turtle rescue hatchery. While speaking with the volunteers we learned that they had one more release before a new season of egg planting begins. This month turtle will come a shore at night, bury their eggs and return to the sea. The volunteers watch the beach, rescue the eggs and bring them to hatchery were they are protected until they hatch. I think they said 45-60 days later. The day they hatch they're returned to the sea. One of the volunteers a young woman from Boulder, CO (another CO connection) is spending a year here before going to college at SDSU. Good for her.

What is interesting to me is that my brother John is volunteering his time in NC to stop the commercial gill net fisherman that are killing all the turtles along the coast of NC. NC is the only state on the eastern shore that permits gill net fishing along it's coastline. Here in CR volunteers are working 24/7 to protect the turtles from their natural enemies, CR poachers, and the giant commercial fishing ships that spread nets five miles wide across the oceans and take everything. When you eat canned tuna, you could be eating dolphin, turtle, etc. No politics here just an expression of concern. If you feel like donating to an organization that is fighting the gill net commercial fishing in NC and helping the group in CR go to www.asvocr.org/english. Click on the appropriate links. They are also on Facebook.

Today is our last day here at YY maybe a hike to a waterfall....

Posted by rhislop 04:55 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged turtles costa rica montezuma ylang Comments (0)

Drop outs and Capitalists

counter-culture & beach weddings

sunny 80 °F


This little place of heaven, Ylang Ylang Resort, is about half a mile down the beach from Montezuma, CR. There are more dreads, tats, tie dyed rags, and body punctures than in a carnival phreak show. We are told that at night the burning of the ganja weed floats the whole town. There seems to be a collection of Ticos, college drop outs, burnouts, and temporary tourists living here. Not much to see or buy. However, we have to go there tomorrow to replenish our adult beverage supply and get a few room snacks.

The macaws and monkeys are all around our dome. We can hear the call of the macaws but they remain unseen in the tree tops. The monkeys on the other hand show up in the morning and around cocktail hour, entertaining us with their swinging and running through the trees. We spotted at white nosed coati yesterday, no picture yet. It looks like a house cat with a long white nose.

Yesterday afternoon there was a wedding on the beach, a young couple from Vermont. A beautiful sight, the resort really made a nice presentation for the newly weds. Shortly after the wedding a turtle rescue group released about 24 baby turtles back to the ocean. Costa Rica is working with volunteers and various wildlife organizations to help save the turtle population. There is a black market in CR for turtle eggs and many Ticos would rather sell the eggs than sustain life. The baby turtles released yesterday have a 1 to 1000 chance of making it to reproduce more eggs. Thank you to the volunteers.

And a special thank you to all of you that are taking the time to read our blog. We are averaging about 85 hits per day. Your interest inspires me and keeps my mind creative. The current photos are from cell phone, unable to download from my camera from here. The towel monkey is a creation of the room service crew, hanging from a fan cord. The other two are the pool view and a beach view from Ylang Ylang.

Todo Tuanis

Posted by rhislop 05:28 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged turtles costa rica montezuma ylang Comments (1)

Drake Bay...reflections

Ylang Ylang...first impressions

overcast 80 °F

The Drake Bay Wilderness Resort is truly off the beaten path. A special thanks to our friend Steve G. in Grand Junction, CO for recommending this resort. The tranquility of the surroundings with mother nature´s extra added touch makes this place a very good memory. The staff was outstanding, mostly related one way or another, our cabins were always clean, the food delicious, the tours outstanding and of course a great place for chil-axing. If you need Vegas this is not your venue. If you want to get away from the everyday world, forget about everything, this is the spot. We'll be back.

After a water taxi ride to a taxi on the beach, to the Drake Bay airport,we boarded a eleven person single engine plane to San Jose. After a short wait we transfered to a 22 seat twin engine plane for our flight to Tambor. Another taxi and a hour later we were checking into Ylang Ylang.

When we got to our dome, Kryss cried. In Fiji it would be called a bure, here it is a dome. Sightly up a hill, about 50 feet above sea level, through the jungle looking to the beach. A beautiful view. YY specializes in natural healthy foods, chicken, fish, vegan, raw, sushi and no beef, but they´ve got a full bar. No Famous Grouse, but I´m getting by on Johnny Walker Red Label. If I need a cheeseburger, it´s just a ten minute walk into Montezuma.

Last night at sunset there were at least a dozen white faced monkeys swing and scampering on the vines and palms surrounding our dome.

A few issues with the local internet spot getting pictures loaded. Will try again on the next posting.

Pura Vida!

Posted by rhislop 12:05 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged costa rica bay montezuma drake ylang Comments (0)

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