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Tamarindo – Costa Rica – More travels!

June 3rd, 2008

My wife swears she did not ask for this!Two travel posts in two days. I promise I am not going to turn this in to a travel blog!

A couple of weeks ago, ML and I took one of our long weekend trips, this time to Tamarindo, a popular beach in the province of Guanacaste about an hour south of Liberia and about 4-5 hours from San Jose, the capital and where we live.  I especially wanted to visit as Tamarindo has been plagued with problems, namely high crime, drug use, overbuilding, and of course pollution of the Pacific Ocean.  I found the area to be expensive, terribly overbuilt, and generally not all that great.  I decided to forgo a dip in the ocean.  Say no need to do that much research.  We were not affected by the alleged crime problems, so nothing to report there, but we pretty much stayed in the hotel venturing out only two or three times.

In general, I loath all-inclusive hotels. However Luisa loves the damned things and after we spent a few days in an all-inclusive in Cancun on our honeymoon, and had a fine time with good food, I thought “Why not?”. We stayed at the Barcelo Langosta Beach, Langosta Beach being a few hundred yards south of Tamarindo.

Taiwan Bridge Costa Rica

Rather than driving to Liberia, once the only easy way to get to Tamarindo from San Jose, I decided to cut south and take the new Taiwan Bridge. See photo right.

This bridge was finished a couple of years ago and was a gift from the country of Taiwan totally free of charge… except of course for providing Taiwan with fishing rights that hurt badly the local sport-fishing trade and really screwed a ton of Ticos trying to earn their livings as fishermen.

The bridge was built to cross the Rio Tempisque River, that runs north-south above the Gulf of Tambor. See photo below left. Photo stolen from http://www.nicoyapeninsula.com/tambor/ a nice web site of you wanna know more about the Nicoyan Peninsula.

Gulf od NicoyaBefore the bridge, the Liberia route was the only option. They say taking this bridge saves time getting to beaches around Tamarindo, but It really does not. What is is though is a very pretty drive and beats the Liberia route for that reason alone.

Barcelo Play Langosta

Arriving in Tamarindo, we made our way south to the Barcelo. About a ten minute drive past lots of North American fast food restaurants and US cloths stores. UGH!

Within one minute, I am now reminded why I hate all inclusives!

First, the lobby is jammed with 485 noisy teeny-boppers aged 15-20 (maybe), all waiting to check-in sans parents. Not a good sign if you too will be waiting to check-in in the 96 degree heat (lobbies are almost never air conditioned in all inclusives!).

Second, as I am getting out of my car in front of the lobby, I am told by the guard I must move. HUH? “I am checking in.” says I. “Then you cannot park here. You must go to the parking lot”, say he. He points. Now I am not blocking anyone and there is plenty of room for other cars/vans to get by. Why would a hotel ask the guest to park in a parking lot to check in? I decline and decide to get a place in one of the lines so we can check in. The guard says not a word… probably makes no sense to him either.

ML gets tired of waiting in the car (she’d have been a ton more tire if she had to wait in the sun for 30 minutes) and joins me as we get to the front desk. Reservations have been made for a ocean view room, king size bed. As you who have had the fun of going to all inclusives know, they do not guarantee anything… so I grovel. I am married and have experience in groveling! The desk clerk finds us am ocean view with a queen bed. Compromise! Fine say we… we’ll take it.

We register, get our bracelet IDs, and grab a bellhop to take our luggage. He tells me he is very happy not to have to go the opposite direction to the car park to get our luggage. I smile, but not for long.

The online photos of this hotel sort of indicate that they are on the ocean. Well they are I guess, but there is a lot of stuff between the hotel and the beach. Ocean view rooms are on the top floor (no elevator), so we clime the stairs and make our way to our room. The electronic key does not work. He looks at my wifes ID bracelet. “Wrong room, I am so very sorry”, says he. We head down one flight to another room and the key works fine. Nice queen bed, but the view is into the rooms of another part of the hotel. No ocean here!

He asks if we want to return to the lobby to get this problem fixed. ML and I trade glances, “No, we’re fine”. No ocean view and no king bed. Air conditioning works great, We’re tired and hot. We’ll make do.

So ML unpacks and gets into her bathing suit. I unpack and remove my cloths just in time to have our door open with the rightful owners of this room. Happily, I have sufficient cloths on to avoid a nasty surprise for the other guests who I am sure would not prepared to see me sin ropa when expecting the beauty of Costa Rica. Apologies are yelled, the bellboy (not ours) is having a panic attack, and they leave. I lock the door and immediately the phone rings. Front desk asking why we are where we are. I explain the bellboy put us here. They hang up. They call back. Why are we not in our room? We are! Not the room we assigned you. OK this is goofy. ML walks in, and sure enough we check the bracelets. We were assigned two different rooms! See photo top.

After more yacking, we decide to stay where we are. The hotel says nothing. No apology. Nothing. Have I mentioned I do not like all inclusives?

We head down to eat. The food is OK. A bit better than most all-inclusives, maybe C or C+. The deserts though are GOOD!

The pool is really huge and contains maybe 300 of the 485 teeny-boppers, another 327 children, and (I am only guessing here) a urine content of no more than 20%. No swim-up bar. I can tolerate just about anything if there is a swim-up bar! Oh well.

Evening! All inclusive hotels love to have “shows” at night and truly some of them (like the ones in San Andreas and in Guadeloupe, are first rate. This one was not. We are treated to kids playing a game. Later there was some dancing which was OK. A standout was a sax solo by one of the band members and THAT made the whole evening worth it.

Next day we traveled into Tamarindo with friends. On the beach I met a couple of Costa Rica’s newest weapons, tourist police. As mentioned, Tamarindo has a bad rep these days, and Costa Rica in general has been getting bad press because of crimes against tourists. Tourists who had problems were frustrated because of too few police and almost none who spoke English. Thus I was really interested to meet these guys in their distinctive uniforms and see how things really are in Tamarindo. The goverment promised that all tourist police woould speak English!

Well, the good news is that they were right their on the beach and their presence was likely reassuring to all. The bad news is that neither officer spoke 5 words of English. “I thought all the tourist police spoke English” asks I. Shrug.

Guess not!

I will say that during our trip, I saw NONE of the crime or problems that have been covered so throughly in the Spanish press here in Costa Rica. Qualifying this, I was not on the streets or beaches at night, but our friends were and they mentioned seeing nothing. Might be good news for Tamarindo!

Hotel Rating: Food: C Front Desk and Service: D-


7 Responses to “Tamarindo – Costa Rica – More travels!”

  1. Debbie on June 6, 2008 6:37 pm

    I truly love your country… But I won’t be back for a while and probably never be back to Tamarindo until the nasty taste leaves my mouth.

    We went to Tamarindo for 2 weeks in March, Yes it was my own fault, I had forgotten Easter was coming so early this year !
    Some friends of ours rented a “Gold Coast Villa” up the street from the first pharmacy on the right as you come into town from Liberia, right past the Monkey Bar.

    I could not believe how we (Americans) have ruined it. Prices are more than in the states.

    You talk about the crime in Tamarindo…We found the ones you really need to watch are the ones hired privately to protect you, i.e. Hotels,Condos & Private Homes.
    This so called “Villa”(Compound) had a alarm system,block walls,iron gates with razor wire and 24 hour security guards. A little over kill if you ask me but I didn’t rent the place. You couldn’t get in or out unless you had a key. Wasn’t fun, I got locked “in” one day. We were told all the security was because of some “crack addict” stole a 42″ plasma T.V. a year earlier.

    Anyway, One nignt a iphone came up missing that had been on one of the patio tables most of the afternoon, no one in our party of eleven had it… We asked the security guard, He said we most likely left it at a bar ! NOooooo…..Someboby was playing with it about an hour ago !
    “Then maybe a Crack Addict came while the gates were open” NOooooo…..Someboby saw you walking around in here a little while ago ! “Yes, I found a gate open”.
    We stopped arguing and gave this poor guy the benefit of the doubt…maybe we were wrong because by now the accusations were pointed at him.

    Meanwhile, we called the states and had someone email this iphone stating there was a GPS tracking device on it and processing its location to the authorities at this time and to please call this number XXXXXXX.

    Well guess what… Our Security Guard called the number on the iphone…he said some guy at a bar near where he lives some 15 km away was trying to sell him a iphone for 40 Colones. He said “I just yanked it out of the guys hand and said this doesn’t belong to you and I know who the owner is”.
    At least we were smart enough to email the iphone and tell who ever had it about GPS stuff and he fell for it. And yes, Thank You God, we did get it back !

    Other than that episode, most everyone was very plesant and nice. My husband has medical problems and I had to use the help of the pharmacy a couple of times because he had forgotten one of his medications and had a seizure (first and last I hope,really scary for me) while in C.R., they all went out of their way and even had me speak to the doctor once.

    We spoke to several Officers and all spoke very good English, one even helped me try and locate a speciality store I was trying to find in one of there strip malls.

    A word of caution… Renters beware ! Be very careful and shy away from “Gold Coast Villas” and any other property that advertises security up the ying yang, if it has to have that much security, you shouln’t be there in the first place and never take stuff with you on a vacation that you have to worry yourself sick that it might get stolen. Jewelry ! Your just asking for trouble. If you insist on wearing your weddind ring, go to wal-mart and get a 10k band or costume jewelry.

    Save all the impress people stuff for home.
    In all the years we’ve traveled,only once has my husbands size 11EEEE New Balance Tennis shoes been stolen 25 years ago in Fiji and that’s because they have no shoes and big feet ! (they didn’t need the money or camera on the night stand above the shoes)

    They need to rename Tamarindo to TamaKIDSGO !

  2. paul franco on July 20, 2008 1:55 pm

    this story really put a bad taste for our plans. to gp to tamarindo, and check it out for apossible move. there will be no inclusives, or maybe nothing. i guess we will have to do more research, i was very surprised to hear something negative about the beaches wow.

  3. Playa Samara on September 10, 2008 4:37 pm

    Samara Costa Rica is in the growing phase moving from dirt roads to our surf schools. Seriously though, every playa town has it’s ups and downs just keep an open mind and do the research.

  4. Carol on February 5, 2009 4:41 pm

    This in NO way is a true representation of Tamarindo or Costa Rica….

    The beaches are fabulous – the surfing is wicked – the food in the town is out of this world – there is nightlife and loads of fun to be had

    A all inclusive experience is NEVER a true representation of any culture…

    It is completely unfair to judge this place so harshly especially knowing that you didn’t have the true experience to know what the area is all about and what good it offers….

    Tamarindo is a small surfing town – there are three beaches to surf at – depending on your level of ability. There is shopping, tours, fishing, diving, horse riding. Luxury condos and homes to rent and a huge grocery store – just like home! This is a favorite of mine and many others from Northern America.

    This area is full of beutiful people – thats because surfers can’t help but look awesome 😉 and VERY FEW KIDS!

    For those of you who havn’t been to Tamarindo you are truely missing out!

  5. James on April 14, 2009 6:38 pm

    First of all Costa Rica is a beautiful place and this wasn’t my first time to the Costa Rica. My first trip was to Jaco and loved every minute of it. However, Tamarindo on the other hand is a place I will never consider again. The price of everything is the same as in the states or twice as much. Drug dealers and working girls are everywhere. The food is great, beaches, and views. However, for a true Costa Rican experience go somewhere that’s not so Americanized. Also, for the quote above “if you haven’t been to Tamarindo you are missing out” that’s not a legit statement. Pictures, hotel reviews, etc.. are just a hugh marketing tool used to bait, hook, and sucker you in. By the way I’m a very open minded person, respect all cultures, and thier customs. However, the majority (not all) of the people here look at Americans as $$$$ and will find any way possible to get as much out of you as they can.

  6. Concerned adopted tica on June 10, 2009 12:31 am

    I agree with you James! Tamarindo used to be VERY beautiful before it became so Americanized and now more of the scum or semi locals(not true locals) only want to see what they can get ($$$$) out of you, much more than EVER before and harass you til you do-is that a way to spend a vacation??? Away from the rat race? And now that they have chased tourism away by this behavior,….they are now stealing from the nice long time locals! Who state that it is usually druggies stealing from everyone. And the police? If things were enforced do you think there would be this huge problem? The police are ticos and should love and respect their country…but they are paid very little. I have friends that grew up in one of the towns close by …. local Ticos and THEY don’t even like to go to Tamarindo anymore, too dangerous. Jaco is really nice as the local government/chamber too has made great strides to clean up the area…Tamarindo needs to do the same- as the word is out, and when they realize how much they have lost without tourism, maybe they will realize they cut their own throats and will then clean up their act and tourism will then return. I agree… about all you had to say about Tamarindo James!

  7. Laura on May 18, 2010 9:24 pm

    I feel like the people who are saying negative things on here are the people who ENJOY being negative. Or maybe it’s me. I just can’t understand how anyone could be miserable in one of the most friendliest (and yes poor, so you need to be smart) and most beautiful places in the world. If you can’t be happy and pleasant here, where would you be? Just asking..

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