JW Marriott

Trip Start Jun 26, 2009
Trip End Jul 12, 2009

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Guanacaste,
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Day 12 – July 8, 2009 – The Drive to Tamarindo and the JW Marriott – Dining Disaster – We got up to another beautiful morning in Manuel Antonio. We spent the early morning packing, and we had to meet with Juan to pay for our prior tours (we pd with CC and Juan did not have his machine with him the day before).   Breakfast this morning included pancakes.  The only trouble was the cook was cooking pancakes for all of the guests at one in a small skillet.  It took over 40 minutes to get everyone a pancake.  If we had not been leaving, I would have just come back later, but since we had to get on the road we waited.  It all worked out and we got our breakfast.  Unfortunately, the girls from the night before were at breakfast without as much as a hint of supervision from their parents (their parents were at breakfast, but they weren't supervising their kids).  It isn’t that big of a deal, but there are some wild deer that come in from the jungle to visit at the La Posada and these girls were hanging on them and being a bit too aggressive with them.  I think it was lucky that they didn’t get hurt (at least they didn’t while we were watching).

Oscar arrived on time as always, and got us loaded up.  We paid the hotel bill.  This was a little interesting as La Posada is a little more laid-back Jonathan went through what he remembered we had purchased (dinner, sodas from the fridge, and laundry) and added it up and asked us if we thought it was right.  He had missed a few loads of laundry, so I had him add them to the bill (laundry is $5 per loan – not per item- I would send all of our laundry out for $5 per load at home).  We paid the bill in cash $US to save the 16% tax on the bill, and were on our way.  For those of you thinking of going to Manuel Antonio, I would strongly recommend La Posada.  The owner is great, the workers are great, and it is a very relaxing and affordable place.

Oscar told us it would be a long ride and grandpa was worried his legs would get too cramped if we didn’t make some stops along the way.  So, we had several stops planned between Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo.  The first stop was at a fruit stand just on the outside of Quepos.  We had been looking for a place with fresh local fruit and this was the first one we had seen.  We stopped and bought some passion fruit and some leechee nuts (I know they have a different name, but I can’t remember it).  We ate several of the leechee nuts while we were on the road.  We went over the rickety one lane bridge on the way out of town (it will be nice when they get the new bridge built as the old one is pretty bad).

The next stop was the crocodile bridge.  This time Oscar let us out on one side of the bridge and told us he would meet us on the other side of the bridge.  It is quite a walk with pretty heavy traffic across the bridge, but it was much better on a sunny day than it was in the rain on the way to Manuel Antonio.  The crocodiles were our sunning themselves and they were big.  I think there were more than 20 crocodiles in total around the bridge.  I would not want to fall into the river.  We got lots of good pictures and everyone made it across the bridge safely (there were lots of people on the bridge and there is a small walkway on both sides of the bridge – some of the safety rail is missing so caution needs to be exercised when crossing the bridge).

We met Oscar on the far side of the bridge and we were off again.  Our next stop was at the nice restrooms we had stopped at on the way from Monteverde to Mal Pais.  Parker bought a bow and arrow at this store that he had been looking for the whole trip.  The only problem was the bow and arrow was pretty big and we didn’t know how we were going to get it home.

The next major landmark we saw was the friendship bridge.  The bridge was a gift to Costa Rica from Taiwan.  Since we are from San Francisco, Oscar told us it is Costa Rica’s Golden Gate Bridge.  We took pictures and video as we crossed the bridge.  It was a very nice bridge (nothing worth stopping for, but nice to see).   It made us a little homesick for the cool summers of Northern California though.

It was starting to get to be lunch time and we asked Oscar where we should stop for lunch.  He said there wasn’t much close to where we were, but that there was a Burger King up in Nicoya.  I hadn’t Nicoya on the map and I wondered how big Nicoya must be to have a Burger King.  Well, we finally arrived at the Burger King (there was nothing else really around it that I could see).  The Burger King was an outdoor eating establishment, with a tin roof and two bathrooms.  There were some fisher-price style plastic slides in the dining area (the kids play area I guess).  There were about 10 tables in the restaurant – maybe seating for 25.  The cooking area was in an old bus.  The order taker was in the cab of the bus (you could see the steering wheel and seats).  The pickup area was a window at the back of the bus (all the cooking was done in the back of the bus).  I guess if they want to they can drive the cooking area away each night (and maybe they do for security purposes).  Grandma and grandpa got their picture taken under the sign at the pick-up window that says Retire Aqui .  They thought it was funny as they are getting ready to retire any time now.  The food was good (Burger King is Oscar’s favorite).  It was a unique experience.  One final thing, this Burger King had a guard.  The guard was armed which seemed strange for a Burger King (even stranger in a country that prides itself on having no army).

We were back in the car and on our way to Tamorindo.  I really wanted to go to Guanatil (sp) where they make the pottery, but I could tell Oscar did not want to go that far out of his way, and everyone was getting tired of riding in the car.  Luckily, we passed a store on the road where they sold the pottery they made in Guanatil (maybe it was made there maybe it wasn’t, I couldn’t tell and the prices were right).  We all loaded up on pottery for very good prices and were on our way again.  (While we were buying the pottery, we could hear howler monkeys fairly nearby.)

It took us just a few more minutes in the car until we arrived at Hacienda Panilla where the JW Marriott is located.  When we arrived at the guard shack, they asked are name and told Oscar how to get to the hotel.  It was 6KM from the guard shack to the hotel.  It looks like the Hacienda is a very large real estate development.  I am sure it was very expensive.  It is mostly empty right now, but there are a few houses on the drive to the hotel.  According to Oscar there is another hotel nearby in the Hacienda, but I can’t remember the name. 

We pulled up to the hotel and wow was the hotel impressive.  It had a beautiful courtyard with a very impressive fountain in the middle. There were hammock hanging everywhere and it looked very desert southwest in its styling.  I would expect to see a hotel like think in Tuscon.  It did fit in well with its surroundings in Guanacaste. 

As we pulled into the circle drive, we were stopped by and attendant and I was asked may name.  Then when we arrived at the circle drive another person with a walkie-talkie met us as we got out of the car and asked me my name.  I thought to myself this is going to be good – they are going to be ready for me when I get to the front desk and we will be on our way to our rooms in minutes.

I was shown to the check-in area (which is a nice little room with two large desks and seats to wait in).  Unfortunately, the first thing I was asked when I sat down is what was my name.  Hmm, why did they have to ask me my name so many times if they were just going to ask me again at check-in.  Oh well.

Check-in went as you would expect at any hotel (this was disappointing because this was the JW Marriott and I expected something else).  There was not special greeting, no welcome drink, no cold towel (all were given at the Royal Corin)…bummer.  The hotel was beautiful, and the people were very nice, but the not so special check-in had spoiled it for me.  They did upgrade us to a pool view room which was very nice.

We went to our rooms.  The rooms were great with a very nice balcony.  There is a table and couch on the balcony.  There is a sunscreen on the balcony and a ceiling fan.  The bathroom was huge with a separate shower, a soaking tub, and two sinks.  It was a very upscale room, and the A/C worked great.  You could see the ocean if you stood on the correct corner of our balcony.  You could also see the ocean from the walkway to our room.

Shaeleigh, Malesa and I went for a walk around the hotel.  We just wanted to see everything and find our way around the hotel.  The walkways around the hotel are a little confusing.  We had to go down to different elevators to get from our room to the pool (the hotel is only 5 stories tall).  The pool was so pretty.  It has lots of walkways around it, and the edge of the pool near the ocean is an infinity pool which makes for an impressive view of the ocean from in the pool.

We decided we were going to eat at the hotel, so it was my job to scope out restaurants and decide which one would work for us.  I looked at all the restaurants and we decided to go to the steak restaurant (Sabanero) as it was the only one that would work for everyone in the group (so I thought).   All of the restaurants on property are very expensive, but I think this was the most expensive.  Our expectations were pretty high when we went to get seated.  The first thing we were asked when we arrived was if we had a reservation.  We didn’t have one which wasn’t a problem (especially since the restaurant was empty).

The first thing we were asked by the server was whether or not we wanted cocktails or wine (since we don’t drink we didn’t want any, but we did order some strawberry drinks for the kids).  The next two times the server came past the table he asked us if we wanted cocktails or wine ..this was done in a pushy manner.  We said no very politely each time, but wondered why we were asked so many times.  No one was sure what they wanted to so we told the server we needed a minute to make up our mind.  Unfortunately, the server gave us about 20 minutes without coming by to see if we were ready.  This made us all feel bad.

When the server finally came to take our orders he was very pushy insisting that only the beef from Argentina was good..the beef from Costa Rica was very bad according to our server (note the Argentine beef was about 2x the price). Oh, well.  Without going into any more detail this was the very worst meal we had in all of Costa Rica.  The service remained pushy, the food was not cooked as requested, and the food had very little taste.  My steak was the worst stake I have had that I can remember.  This was also the most expensive meal we ate in Costa Rica.  I would not recommend this restaurant.  It was a real downer.

After dinner we went out to go swimming.  It was raining a little, but we went into the hot tub for a few minutes.  It was very relaxing and we enjoyed the time together.

I took the kids down to the Lobby Bar for some ice cream (as we didn’t have dessert with dinner).  The Lobby Bar was fantastic.  The atmosphere was relaxed, and the server was so nice.  We told her we wanted to order dessert and she said we can have anything from any restaurant on the property even if it was not in the menu.  She took very good care of us and the ice cream was great.  I had a banana split which was very good (also very different).  It was a good end to a long day.

Day 13, Thursday, July 9, 2009 –  Hair Braiding – We started the day with breakfast at Mansita.  They had a breakfast buffet that was included with our room.  We were seated by a very nice lady.  We were seated inside near the buffet.  It was a very a grand buffet with all kinds of bread, fruit, omelets, waffles, juices, cereal, etc.  The food was great.  My favorite was the passion fruit.  I had never had it before.  It was very unique and good.  After a very relaxing breakfast, we were picked up by Oscar and we went into Tamarindo.  We were looking for several things: 1) a place that would braid the girls’ hair, 2) a swimsuit for Shareleigh (her old one was still in Mal Paid), 3) a laundry place, 4) a place to ship a bow and arrow Parker had purchased, 5) a grocery store for grandpa to buy gifts at for the people back home.

We first found the laundry.  It was not too hard of a task (Tamarindo is a fairly large town).  It took us awhile to find the swim suit.  We shopped in most of the stores along the main street near the beach.  We finally found a swim suit that Shaeleigh liked (the lady we bought it from spoke very little English, but she did tell me that I was too young to have a 15 year old son.  The lady had a 2 year old daughter that was the love of her life).

Having been successful with the swimsuit, we started looking for a place to do hair braiding.  After looking for awhile, we determined we just were not going to find it in Tamarindo.  We decided to go to shell beach to see what it was like.  On the way out to shell beach, we needed to stop for a restroom.  Oscar stopped at a very nice shopping center on the edge of Tamarindo.  There was a grocery store in the shopping center so we went in to pick up some drinks, etc.  The grocery store was so nice, it was nicer than our Safeway at home.  We bought grandpa a "Big Cola" to see if he would like it.  We also got everyone else a drink.  As it turned out, grandpa did not like the “Big Cola”.  I think it tasted more like cheap cola, but I am not sure.

The drive to shell beach was nice.  In order to get to the beach, you had to drive across another beach.  I had never been in a car that was driving on the beach, but it was an adventure.  Since it was low tide, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  There was lots of room on the beach.  When we got to shell beach, there were all kinds of vendors on the beach selling your standard tourist fare.  We looked around at the stuff and then we walked on the beach.  It was an amazing beach, the surf was calm, and there were all kinds of shells on the beach.  It seemed like if you could walk out into the water a little, you could find a lot of really good shells.

As we were getting ready to return to the car, Parker saw a place on the beach where they did hair braiding.  So, we took the girls there and negotiated a price (really they just told us the price and we paid it).  They said it would take about 2 ˝ - 3 hours to get both girls’ hair braided.  Necia said she would stay with the girls and the rest of us could go back into town for lunch.  So, we headed back to town and went to Pizza Hut for lunch.  Once again, it was an outside Pizza Hut.  The food was good, but you really have to watch the people as they ring up the order.  They charged us for an extra pizza (which wasn’t cheap).  Luckily we realized the error before the food got made.

While we were eating our pizza, another family came in wearing BYU clothing.  We said “Hi” to them.  I think they were from Utah.  As we sat eating our pizza, we saw lots of interesting things.  We saw two girls ride by the restaurant on horseback in bikinis (not something you see every day).  Not only did they ride by once, but they rode by a second time.

We ate very slowly.  I think Oscar was starting to go crazy.  So, he said he would go get the laundry (Parker went with him).  While they were gone, we order another pizza for Necia and the girls.  When the pizza was ready, it was raining.  We all thought it was going to be a long afternoon in the rain waiting for the hair braiding.  As it turns out, it wasn’t raining when we got back to shell beach, but it was muggy.

Oscar, grandpa, and I sat in the car and talked for quite awhile.  Parker and Grandma went shopping at the various beach vendors.  When it had been about 3 ˝ hours, I went to check on the girls.  They were finishing Shaeleigh and Malesa was half way done.  I waited with Necia the rest of the time.  It took about another hour to get everything finished up.  We bought a few souviners from the place where we had the braiding done.  Parker did the negotiating.  The seller told Parker he was giving him a good deal, and Parker told him that he wanted a “Great Deal”.  The guy knocked $1 off the price and Parker was happy.  We were all worn out from waiting for the braids.  I felt bad for Necia having to wait so long, but she said she had enjoyed hearing the guy at the braiding place negotiating with tourists.  She said he had deals for honeymooners, couples, birthdays, anniversaries, last day of vacation, etc.  Very funny!!

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the grocery store again.  We bought some of our favorite drinks and chocolate covered nuts (from Brit).  Then we went back to the hotel.

We made it to the hotel just in time to see the sunset.  It had been such a nice day, the sunset was spectacular.  The only bad part about the sunset was I lost my friendship bracelet that matched ones of Shaeleigh and Malesa that we had bought in Manuel Antonio

After sunset, we got ready and went swimming in the pool.  The water felt so nice after the long day at the beach.  We swam for a pretty long time.  Even grandma came and got in the pool.  While we were playing in the pool, we noticed that there were a lot of bats around the pool.  The bugs and the lights drew them to the pool.  The bats were pretty big and they totally freaked out Necia and the girls.  We stayed for as long as we could, but the bats finally got to the girls.  We went back to the room, but grandma and grandpa stayed and went into the hot tub.

We weren’t supper hungry, but we were a little hungry so we went back to the Lobby Bar for dinner.  Once again, it was great.  The service was perfect and our server was very nice.  He told us we could have anything on property.  We order some hamburgers for the kids and Necia and I shared a tomato and mozzarella sandwich.  It was a great meal.  (We did have dessert  - same as the night before).

It was then time for bed.  Another great day in paradise!!

Day 14 – July 10, 2009 – Beach and Pool Day – This was the last full day for us in Costa Rica.  It was time to start thinking about the long journey home and what was waiting for us when we got home.  However, we had left today as an empty day in our itinerary.  We planned on enjoying the resort.  We did not get up as early, and we went to breakfast later.  We sat outside on the patio at breakfast and enjoyed the lovely grounds of the Marriott.  The buffet was much busier than the day before, but as always the food was great. 

Parker decided he would like to go into Tamarindo with Oscar to drop off laundry and to do a little last minute shopping.  Shaeleigh, Malesa, grandma and I went to the beach.  It was very sunny so we had to put on lots of sun screen.   The beach was a nice size.  It was not too big, but there were not very many people on the beach.  We waded into the water, but didn’t go into the water all that far, we built sand castles, and looked at the tide pools.  It was very pleasant.  Once we were done at the beach, grandma went back to the room and the girls and I went into the pool.  We played in the pool for a couple a few hours and then we went to lunch.  We ate at the poolside café called Café Azul.  It was great.  They serve you a basket of homemade chips (banana, taro, and potato) served with salsa.  We all had hamburgers and enjoyed being by the pool and watching the ocean.  About the time we were done eating, grandpa came down and joined us and then a few minutes later, Necia came and joined us.  It was a very long lunch, but we had a great time visiting.

After lunch, everyone, but Malesa and I went back to the room.  (Grandpa went to get a chocolate wrap and massage at the spa – which he loved)  Malesa and I stayed and swam at the pool until it looked like it was going to rain (it rained most afternoons).  When the rain moved in, it was an impressive lightning storm with lots of rain.  We sat in the room and watched the rain for a little while.  After a while, Shaeleigh and I went down to the kids club.  The kids club was nice with lots of activities for the kids, Wii, PlayStation, games, books, arts and crafts.  Shaeleigh and I did some painting and made some crafts.  The person running the kids club was busy the whole time visiting with one family and didn’t spend much time with us, but since I was with Shaeleigh, I was not worried.  I also though the place looked like it needed to be cleaned up a little, it was very messy.  All in all, it was a nice place to spend some quality time with your kids on a rainy afternoon.

When we got back to the room, it was still raining, and the power went out for a few minutes.  I guess it is just part of being in Costa Rica.  We spent some time packing and made a trip to the gift store to buy some last minute items.  We bought 3 little orchids in bottles to bring back home with us.  We thought they were super cool.

We planned to go to Tamarindo for dinner, and we had Oscar pick a place for us.  Oscar came out to the hotel to pick us up and we went into the city.  It wasn’t a very busy night at the restaurant, but we may have been a little late.  We went to a place called El Coconut, and it was right on the main street near the beach.  The food was great, the server was nice, and we all enjoyed dinner.  We were glad that Oscar could come to dinner with us.  We always had a good time talking to Oscar.

After dinner, it was back to the hotel to finish packing for the trip home.  It was a great last day in paradise.
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