Written on: 03/05/2004 by johnnash (1 review written)
My wife, 12-year-old son, and I stayed at the Fiesta Premier Resort in Guanacaste, Costa Rica for 6 nights in early April 2004. We loved it so much that we've already made plans to return for a week in August. The resort itself comprises low-rise buildings --- mostly 1-story bungalows, but with some 2-story buildings -- sprawling across some very hilly terrain. This is why some reviewers have complained a bit that it is difficult to get around. But the resort has shuttle service, and in our experience, the shuttles came very quickly after being called. Also, we concluded that for us, it was easy to walk along the beach to get from our unit to the restaurant and entertainment complex, so my wife and I generally didn't use the shuttle much. But our son liked to ride the shuttle -especially the ones that were like over-sized golf carts -- so he usually preferred this mode of transportation. Our room was spacious - the sleeping area had 2 queen beds and a small table, with plenty of room left to move around. There was a reasonably sized bathroom, and a separate area for the lavatory. Air conditioning worked well and quietly. Our son was a little disappointed in the limited selection of channels on TV, but who wants to go to Costa Rica to watch TV, anyway?
We loved the food. Buffet selection always included some Costa Rican dishes and some seafood, plus an assortment of international stuff. The outside bar and grill offered a pretty wide selection of food items for a grill, including appetizers set out before dinner hour every night. Sometimes this included ceviche, much to our delight. Nachos were actually prepared from scratch, ie, tortillas were fried fresh for each batch. Fruit was always excellent also. And we were extremely impressed by the sit-down restaurant. We thought the food quality there was head and shoulders above that of other resorts in this price range where we've stayed; it was more comparable to much higher priced resorts, like Breezes or even Grand Lido. There was only 1 white and 1 red wine included in the AI plan, but these were good choices - Concha y Toro's Frontera label from Chile. You could buy other wines by the bottle for a pretty reasonable extra charge, but we never bothered.
Water offshore of the hotel was nice and warm and calm, good for swimming, EXCEPT that on some days there were jellyfish in the water. I forgot to bring our lycra skins for snorkeling, and as a result my wife got popped pretty good. I spent a long time in the water snorkeling 2 days (about 2 hours each day), and only got a couple of relatively minor stings. I was told that we were there at a bad time; usually jellyfish aren't a big problem. Moral I guess is that you should wear skins if you have them or else just go in and test the water. Snorkeling was fun, although the visibility was not good by Caribbean standards. But it was interesting for me because I'm accustomed to the Caribbean, and there were very different fishes to see here. Some coral heads, but not big reefs of it. Best snorkeling is around the rocks, mostly to the left of the beach (if you're facing the ocean) and to get to the more interesting part, you need to snorkel around the point for a couple of hundred yards. There were also some interesting rocks a few hundred yards to the right of the beach, but I never got to try them. I had the impression from talking to the dive shop that diving would be interesting here if you did some of their long trips to islands offshore. They said they saw bull sharks and mantas. But these are pretty long trips and we did not want to leave our son that long, plus had a lot of other things to do .
Speaking of which this is the best part. We had the greatest time on the 2 days when we took tours. One day we went on a river cruise, during which we got up close and personal with LOTS of crocs (!) and monkeys, which were more fun than a barrel full of well, you know. Some even climbed in our boat, and one almost refused to leave! Another day we went on the "mega-tour", which included a hike through the forest, a trip to the mud baths near a volcano, a zip-wire expedition through the forest canopy, and a VERY long and hairy water slide. The zip-wire was a bit daunting for those of us who are height-challenged (ie, my wife and myself, but definitely not our son), but after a couple of wires, even we relaxed and enjoyed the ride. Don't expect to see much wildlife on the zip-wire ride, but you'll see plenty of wildlife elsewhere. We even saw a coati mundi (looks like a cross between a cat and raccoon) ambling around the beach at the resort one morning! This was the dry season, so not much problem with bugs. We never put on any off, and the only time we got bitten was in the forest, and even then not much. We were told, however, that it's a different story in the wet season.
We made our local tour arrangements through Michael Mills, a Canadian expat (email: email@example.com, website: http://www.costarica-realestate.com/Allegro%20Papagayo%20Tours.htm), who was extremely helpful both before and during our trip. I got his name from other trip reports written by very satisfied clients. He was eager to give us lots of information even when he had no assurance there would be business in it for him. (In fact, he called us the morning after we arrived to warn me that there had been recent reports of jellyfish, because he knew I was especially interested in snorkeling.) I got the impression he really loves Costa Rica and his job. He set us up with Ricardo Vargas (Vargas Tours, firstname.lastname@example.org), who was a fabulous tourguide - with long experience, tremendous in-depth knowledge of the wildlife, history, and culture, and a nice, nice guy. Also, he speaks flawless English. Our tour groups were small - no more than could fit in a mini-bus, about 8- 10. I'm not sure about this, but I got the impression that tour groups with other companies - at least the other one that we saw picking people up from the Fiesta -- were considerably larger. One warning about the tours - they involve long rides, 1 - 2 hours each way, although this isn't as bad as it sounds since there are things to see along the way. Also, bring cash to pay for them. But all in all, we would highly recommend doing some tours, and in particular with Michael and Ricardo.