Friday, January 29, 2016

Costa Rica–Days 7 and 8: Bahia del Sol (and, unintentionally, House of Summer Sand) and departure

Last year, when we planned our trip to Costa Rica, the idea was that we would begin our trip at La Carolina Lodge, a rustic working farm deep in the rainforest, and end it at the very luxurious Bahia del Sol Resort at Playa Potrero, stopping at Azul Ocean Club Hotel in-between.

So when we arrived at Bahia del Sol, we were looking forward to settling into their 2-bedroom luxury suite and then relaxing amid the beautiful grounds of the resort. 

It didn’t quite go that way.

After a quick stop for lunch in crowded, touristy Tamarindo (thank goodness we didn’t decide to stay there!)…



…we arrived at Bahia del Sol. Elisabeth arrived at the front desk before me and was immediately greeted by, “You must be Carol…”

Hmmmm – that’s either great, or a bit foreboding!

Within a few minutes, the manager, Maik, had been called to talk with us, though we didn’t know why.

“I am so sorry…” Maik began.

Oh shit. Really? What are we in for?

“We don’t have a room for you at the resort today.”

Seriously? I had a confirmed reservation for a two-bedroom suite, made back in October, in my hand. Needless to say, we were NOT happy – and had no problem saying so. We were so looking forward to staying at the Bahia del Sol, especially after seeing photos like this on their website:


Maik mentioned that he had secured an oceanfront condo for us just a few hundred meters away and that we could use all the amenities of the resort – AND that he would personally see to it that we were happy with every aspect of our stay.

Needless to say, we remained dubious, and pissed, but agreed to follow Mike to the condo, called House of the Summer Sand.

It was, as promised, true oceanfront…




…unlike, it turns out, the suites at Bahia del Sol, which are very nice, but not actually waterfront.


Once we saw the condo and realized that Maik wasn’t full of hot air and really was committed to complete customer service, we softened and thanked him.

He remained absolutely true to his word and we did have in him what felt to be our own personal consierge service! He even visited us on his day off to see if we needed anything and to make sure our experience continued to be a good one! In fact, Maik became a trusted friend in our two days at – and near – the Bahia del Sol resort!


We really did get the best of both worlds. Sometimes a dismal situation really can turn into a positive one!

Maik secured for us a beautiful oceanfront table for dinner, but before dinner we enjoyed the grounds and the amazing sunset.




The food at the resort’s restaurant, Nasu, was phenomenal – especially the fresh spring rolls and the tuna (ahi!) tartar. And the accompnying live music was wonderful too.

The next day we spent some time at Playa Flamingo which, like Tamarindo, felt too crowded and touristy for us, but it did boast a beautiful beach.


On the way back, we stopped at a beachfront, “neighborhoody” restaurant for lunch which included, as always, rice and beans.


Back at the resort, we enjoyed watching a Costa Rican wedding on the beach. (Costa Rica, it turns out, is also huge for American “destination weddings.”)


The next day, our last full day in Costa Rica, we just relaxed and soaked up the sunshine, knowing that it would be months before we’d feel the warmth of the sun in Seattle again.



Knowing that we had a flight to catch later in the afternoon and that we’d already checked out of the condo, Maik, remaining ever true to his word, offered us a key to the suite we had originally reserved so we could shower before heading to the airport. It was very nice.


But we all decided that we were just fine with how things turned out.

We got to the airport a few hours early and returned the car – for which we were charged a late fee (grrrrrrrr – full story here). In spite of some annoying glitches, scams, and snafus (National Car Rental, I am talking to YOU!), the trip was a resounding success. 


Now if I could just sleep on planes. Sigh.

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Costa Rica–Days 5 and 6: Azul Ocean Club Hotel

After the first four jam-packed days in the hot, humid jungle of Costa Rica, we headed west to the hot, dry beaches. Our first beach stop would be Playa Azul.


While we expected there to be some dirt road driving to reach our hotel, we didn’t expect almost 25 miles of bumpy dirt roads to reach a resort hotel! Remembering that many of the roads in Costa Rica are dirt, though, we should have known.

I don’t have a single photo of our drive through the countryside of Costa Rica, but it was beautiful.  The cities of Nicoya and Santa Cruz, though, struck me as somewhat dirty, crowded, and unorganized – and then I read that Nicoya pretty much leads the world in longevity! That just goes to show how distorted and unrealistic the “tourist experience” can be.


After a very long, bumpy, dusty drive, we neared Playa Azul, where we had reservations at the Azul Ocean Club Hotel. The place looks absolutely incredible on the website – and it IS incredible. But before you get to the resort, you have to pass a few of these.



Abandoned building projects, victims of the 2008 recession. It seems that the region was in the midst of quite a building boom, when everything went bust. In addition to abadoned projects, we also saw a LOT of for sale signs. I must admit, I was concerned about what we were getting ourselves into. But then we came to this…


…and my concerns pretty much evaporated into the soft, warm ocean air!

Yes, the resort is isolated. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain to get to. No, there’s no night life to speak of. But all those things also contribute to what makes this place wonderful!

Our accommodations were very comfortable. We had our own two-story townhome! It’s obvious that these were originally meant to be sold as vacations homes (the master closets are huge!), but that plans changed at some point. But that was fine with us. Look at this place!IMG_1208


(The mattresses and bedding are extremely luxurious and comfortable!)


(Yup, that’s an outdoor, private lava shower, right next to the indoor shower!)


When we first arrived, late in the afternoon, we explored the grounds and the beach and enjoyed a gorgeous beach suset.


(What? You expect people way out here?!)


There aren’t many (as in, any) real restaurant choices, other than the resort restaurant, but fortunately the food at the resort is excellent!

On our first (and only) full day we enjoyed the (included) breakfast – including phenomenal Costa Rican coffee…


…and then set out for some pool time – and swim-up bar time!


There might not have been crowds of people at the pool, but we were joined by some natives…


I expected the iguanas to be a bit disconcerting, but they were more like timid dogs – hanging out with us, but not letting us get too close to them. They were actually even kinda sweet!

In the afternoon, we drove a few kilometers further on the dirt road to San Juanillo beach which, like Poipu beach in Hawaii, boasts a tombolo – a narrow stip of land between two beaches.



(The neighborhood bar sits on the beach!)


While our animal friends at the resort were iguanas, our animal friends here were vultures! Seriously. I’m not sure what they were waiting for, but they were definitely gathering as the sun went down.



And the sunset was far prettier than the vultures.


Michael, who seems to befriend people wherever he goes, had met a man who lived nearby. He led us to the home of a local fisherman who sells fresh fish from his home, so we bought some fish from him and went back to the condo where Suzie made the most delicious dinner in our small kitchen!


The next morning, Suzie and Michael headed back eastward to do some filming in the Monteverde rainforest, while Tom, the girls, and I set out north to Bahia del Sol at Playa Portrero. Although we had gone camping as families with Michael and Suzie, we had never actually traveled with them, and it was sad to say goodbye!


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