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Uvita & Dominical, Pacific Coast – Costa Rica

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

I’m pretty disgusted with my blogging on Costa Rica. On most of our trips we travel around, visiting national parks, towns, various sights. We meet interesting people and I usually have something to write about. I find Costa Rica frustrating – everything is far to get to, transport is inconvenient (and taxis really expensive). I should have rented a 4*4 but I don’t drive manual. Anyway, I’ve been told by a few frustrated tourists that all the rental agencies were rented-out. I wanted to see the Nauyaca waterfall in Dominical but I was told that you can not go privately by taxi, you have to go as part of a tour group. I was then told that the tour was sold out for the day in question. This basically sums up our experience in the first ten days of this trip – it just seems for whatever reason we get stuck at a hotel or resort. I’ve never felt that before, everything feels so isolated here.

So this post contains my notes and tripadvisor comments taken from a few days spent at different resorts along the Central Pacific coast. I read it and cringe; I never thought I’d be on of those tripadvisor regulars (you know the ones – they usually complain about not having enough towels in the room or the lack of English spoken at the front desk). In Costa Rica we’ve had lots of time in the various resorts/hotels and that means plenty of time to either appreciate how well they run things or how badly some resorts screw up on the basics that travellers want when they travel. My comments are as much for other travellers as they are for the resorts/hotels; most of which are run by nice people who are too involved in their business to have an objective view of where they’ve gone wrong or how they can improve.

Oxygen Villas – Uvita

This European owned luxury retreat is a 15 minute drive into the hills behind the town of Uvita. There isn’t much to do here except relax, which is what we wanted after Manuel Antonio.

A beautiful place; villas all glass and white furniture, very minimalistic and modern. The grounds are beautiful and decorated by imported Balinese art. Restaurant serves meals all day and at night you can have their special ‘surprise’ meal which is a 4 course meal. Ok, it all sounds snobby and a bit pretentious (compounded by the constant lounge music in the background) but the staff was nice and friendly and didn’t act snobby or pretentious. We were told that it is a popular place for honeymooners and I can see why.

We give the place a 4 out of 5. We spent two days there and quite enjoyed it, it just beautiful and very romantic in many ways. The only thing is that the longer you stay here, the more you see the practical flaws in design, the little things that start to get on your nerves.

• Beautifully decorated villas, comfortable and romantic canopy bed.
• Beautiful grounds, love the Balinese touches, nice pool – room 3 great as there is a tree just in front that the toucans seem to enjoy landing on.
• There are only 12 villas and Oxygen is for couples only, which means only 24 people at any given time and no noisy little brats. We felt that the service was very personal, the staff went out of their way to get to know the guests.
• It was great having everything ‘on-site’ – we didn’t have a car and I chose Oxygen because we could eat here and not have to worry about having to cab it to town.
• On site food and beverages reasonable priced, including minibar and restaurant. Nothing pisses me off like going to a resort where they screw you on the little things like beer, pop, lunch etc, knowing you’ll pay it because you won’t drive all the way to town. They don’t do that here.

• Design flaws with bathroom. Other reviewers have complained about the bathroom situation; nothing says romance like hearing every bodily function of your partner reverberating within the glass walls of your villa. Believe me when I tell you that you can’t get away with even the smallest fart here. On top of the sound situation, you can’t flush your toilet paper away, they ask you to put it in the little white garbage can next to the toilet (the toilet is also a small confined space, so smell can become a problem). Considering that couples stay here for honeymoons I would think that the bathroom would be a major source of discomfort. I think the entire bathroom area should have been enclosed seperately from the rest of the space. This is absolutely the biggest drawback to Oxygen villas.
• The minimalistic décor is beautiful but is also inconvenient; no nighttables or other useful tables inside the room. A lot of the villa space is taken up by the outside lounge area, but this is not practical living space.
• The restaurant is convenient, service is good, food is good – but I wouldn’t call the food any better than good. Didn’t wow us. Nice wine selection.
• It is remote; which is good but also inconvenient if you want to go exploring.

Overall very good. We would come back if ever in the area, but I think 2 days here is sufficient for anyone.

Costa Paraiso, Dominical

Another stay on the Pacific Coast. This is the part of the vacation where were are meant to be relaxing, so we have been mostly sticking to walks around the places we are staying, sunbathing, and reading.

We stayed at this hotel, 2km down the road from the town of Dominical. The hotel is on a large, beautiful site and the owners have done a great job with the landscaping – lots of large trees, flower bushes, and potted plants. The swimming pool is nice and private. The property has lots of nice sitting areas with chairs and hammocks where you can sit and look at the waves breaking over the rocky shore. Really is quite beautiful. The Villas as also quite nice; colorfully painted and spacious. The natural beauty and physical facilities therefore are really top notch. The problem with Costa Paraiso lies in the maintenance and management of the hotel.

We booked Costa Paraiso because they had an onsite restaurant, a good one we read. 2 weeks before our trip we received an email from them letting us know the restaurant was closed for renovations. We were disappointed but as the reservation was during the Christmas/New Year period it would have been too late to change our reservations elsewhere. Luckily it was only for two nights. At least they advised us and were nice enough to change our room to one with a fully equiped kitchen.

We had two problems with the hotel. The first is with the maintenance of the rooms. We found the room dirty, especially the kitchen which had several layers of grime on the sink. The stove was filthy. Cooking appliances were in horrible shape and dirty. We didn’t have a pot in which to boil water. Since we were cooking for ourselves it would have been good to have a clean, functioning kitchen. The bathroom had a disgusting looking carpet in front of the toilet. Like I said, no problem with the physical facilities (although some updating in kitchen and bathroom would be good), the problem is with maintenance. There are several layers of grime over everything that have not been washed off in ages. We also noticed that both lounge chairs next to the pool were broken.

The second issue was with the couple who ran (owned?) the hotel. We felt an attitude the minute we walked into the hotel. The few things we had to ask them for (such as a pot for the kitchen or for some soft drinks that we bought) we were made to feel like we were a bother. The lady actually argued with me that there was already a pot in our room. I think they were more pre-occupied with the renovations going on in their kitchen than in the actual running of the hotel. We weren’t at all impressed.

We give this place a 3 out of 5. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed, and maybe we would have actually enjoyed Costa Paraiso had the kitchen been open. But between the poor maintenance and the unfriendly management we won’t be back.

Villas Alturas, Dominical

I’ll be truthful – after a week, nothing has impressed us in Costa Rica. No sights that have left us breathless, no place that we would say “wow, I’m sorry to be leaving”. Villas Alturas, on a high hill about 10km south of Dominical, changed that.

Firstly, the place is beautiful. The reception/restaurant/pool area is beautiful and the views over the ocean and coastline are gorgeous. It is worth getting up at 5:30 for the sunrise; absolutely amazing.

Our room was fantastic except for a few flaws (all easily fixed) which I’ll mention below. The Kitchen area was clean and modern and I almost wished that I could have done some cooking. The room had a very large living room/dining room area, everything looked clean and modern. The bedroom was also very large and clean. Immaculate.

The restaurant, where we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner, was very good. Scott and Russell, the co-owners, take obvious pride in their cooking which is Mediterranean influenced. Combined with the beautiful setting, it is a very romantic spot. We loved coming here for meals. Tiny critique; they could do better with the wine selection.

The other critiques I have have to do with the room. All are relatively minor. 1) every room except the bedroom had thin shades – we noticed that someone could see everything passing by at night. Felt a real lack of privacy. 2) room is immaculate but could use a woman’s touch, the lighting especially is cold as well as impractical. Everything is romantic about the hotel except for your actual living space. 3) We had a bed where the slip was badly fitted for the bed, it would pop off on every corner all the time. I hate when that happens. On top of that the blankets are skinny and don’t give any comfort. We found that we didn’t sleep well either night here due to a combination of these reasons. The owners should visit Oxygen in Uvita to see the perfect bed.

But I’m pointing out these things because Villas Alturas could be a 5 out of 5 (we give it a 4 1/2 for now). We loved everything else about it and we loved the two owners. We would definitely come back.

Hotel Review – Chiang Dao Nest (and a little bit about Chiang Dao)

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008


A beautiful spot with clean and modern bungalows – we had some of our best sleeps in Thailand here! Nights actually get cold here and we appreciated the shower (which generates very hot water at high pressure!) and the heavy blankets on the bed. No complaints at all about the bungalow.

Likewise, the whole infrastructure of Chiang Dao Nest is great; there’s an internet shack (with high speed internet!) and a very comfortable dining area. The grounds of the hotel are beautiful with a huge variety of exotic plants and flowers. Just gorgeous! The price is also very good (about $30/night).


2 things we didn’t like here: 1) We found Wicha, the owner, very rude. It started the minute we arrived and set the tone for the rest of the stay. I looked the hotel up on Trip Advisor and opinions vary – people either thought she was great or that she was really rude. My feeling is that it depends how she likes you, she’s obviously the queen of her kingdom and will treat you accordingly (very un-Thai, but everything about Wicha and Chiang Dao Nest in un-Thai). The following review made me smile because it was an exact mirror of our experience;     I agree with him – she should manage the details but stay away from dealing with customers.

The 2nd thing that disappointed us was the Western food. For all the talk about how the Western Food is so great here, we found it very disappointing! If there had been a Thai restaurant nearby we would have eaten there. I would really recommend that Chiang Dao Nest have at least one Thai plate on their menu (Chiang Dao Nest 2 has a Thai menu but it’s pretty far down the road…)

I would give this place a 3 1/2 out of 5 – my 2 negatives aside, this would be a pretty perfect place!


On Chiang Dao:

Chiang Dao is a lovely little town about and hour and a half north of Chiang Mai. We spent 2 days here; the first day we discovered the surrounding area including the Chiang Dao caves (quite remarkable, the cave complex actually goes 14 km into the mountain!) and the temple on Chiang Dao mountain (nice views!). The 2nd day was spent at the Elephant Nature Park (see next post). Chiang Dao is also a nice base for trekking activities. A beautiful spot!


Hotel Review – Lom’Lae Beach Resort (Ko Yao Noi)

Friday, March 7th, 2008
lom3.jpg We ended up loving this place; Firstly, this is not a luxury resort; the wooden bungalows are rustic with large windows. Bugs can get in (for those that are squeamish). I killed a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hotel review – Phranakorn Nornlen Hotel (Bangkok)

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008 This small "boutique" hotel is currently ranked 4th of 357 hotels on trip advisor and was where we stayed on our recent trip to Bangkok (February 2008). We loved some features of this hotel but also found a few things ... [Continue reading this entry]