Barcelo Amapola Resort and Casino, Best Western Jaco Beach – Costa Rica – Debbie's Caribbean Travel & Resort Reviews

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Reviews posted on this page
Barcelo Amapola Resort and Casino – Jaco Beach Reviews Posted – 1
Best Western Jaco Beach Reviews Posted – 3

Barcelo Amapola Resort Debbie and Steve – Ontario

March 2004

My husband and I (ages 50+) visited this resort from 1 to 15 March, 2004. Despite the fact we did not see any reviews on this resort, we decided to wing it, and discover this jewel ourselves! As far as resorts are concerned along the Jaco Beach area, this is a jewel compared to other hotels in the area, and was much more affordable than the Best Western was. We wanted to stay on the mainland as opposed to going to Playa Tambor so we would be more convenient to the many day tours offered in Costa Rica. The extra five-hour trip from San Jose airport to Playa Tambor did not thrill us, so Amapola seemed perfect. Nevertheless, the trip from the airport to the resort was more than the travel brochures indicated by about an hour, because we had to drop off tourists at Punta Leona and some small resorts in Jaco Beach, so count on 3-3 ½ hours from the airport. What would have made the trip more interesting would have been a commentary from Arturro, our tour guide, telling us points of interest. After a 5-hour flight from Toronto, we were anxious to start our vacations, and this would have been a nice touch. I will talk about Arturro later in my review!

The Resort
Amapola is a fairly small resort (52 rooms) which was quite different from what we were used to. Most of the resorts we have stayed at (Royal DeCameron in Panama, Casa Del Mar in Dominican and Grand Marival in Puerto Vallarta) are 500-600 rooms, with three pools, five restaurants, and entertainment. So we weren’t sure Amapola would offer the kind of service we were used. Lo and behold, they exceeded our expectations, and we were delighted with the beautiful grounds and buildings. We had originally requested a king-size bed when we booked the trip in November, and inevitably, we ended up with two double beds. When we visited the reception desk to ask about a king-size bed, they ended up putting us in a junior suite consisting of a livingroom with pull-out couch and two arm chairs, and a separate bedroom. (By the way, the bathrooms also include a bidet for anyone accustomed to using that facility!) We tipped the receptionist generously!!

The Food
The staff at the buffet restaurant was outstanding! Special thanks to Ronald, Aisa, William, Alonso, and July! (July makes an amazing mango daiquiri!) There was a good variety of food, although not too exotic. Basic chicken almost every night, pork, beef prepared in various recipes. Occasionally, fish would be served, and especially if someone went fishing and caught a dorado (as I did) or some other edible fish, the chef would cook it up to your specifications. There was always lots of fresh fruit and ice cream. (We talked to some people that stayed at Punta Leona and they complained that they didn’t get their quota of fresh fruit and ice cream, although we did find out later that all they had to do was ask for it!) Especially good was the “white” pineapple – it was not as acidic as the yellow pineapple we receive in Canada.

Arenal Volcano
We visited the Arenal Volcano and saw lots of Blue Morpheus butterflies and various wildlife species on our way to Punta Leona to pick up passengers (it seems Punta Leona was an everyday part of our lives down there!) Be warned, the trip to Arenal Volcano can be long, but Arturro and our driver used every opportunity to point out new and interesting things. We stopped at La Fortuna to have a very nice lunch – we had a choice of about 15 entrees so variety was good. Arturro pointed out that some of the “puffs” of dust on the side of Arenal Mountain were actually rocks being thrown down the mountain from the volcanic cone so anyone with binoculars could see them clearly. We also stopped at the hot springs and had a lovely relaxing swim before we headed back to the mountain for dinner. Once nightfall arrived, however, the cone of the volcano was complete fogged in, and we didn’t get to see the lava flow. This condition, apparently, happens 60% of the time, so if you are absolutely determined to see the lava flow, you may have to camp out in La Fortuna and wait for a clear night! Since the mountain was fogged in, that meant that the road back to Amapola was also fogged in… this meant we were on a narrow, winding mountain road, and it was foggy! These mountain roads have no more than a two-foot shoulder between you and a 2,000-foot drop to the bottom of the valley! Needless to say, our bus driver had been through this more than once, and handled it expertly. However, we did not arrive back at Amapola until 1:00 a.m., so we were all extremely glad to be back “home”! This is where I have to congratulate Arturro, because we found out he had taken another group on a different tour the very next day, and was alive and well at 7:00 a.m.! How many of us can survive on less than 6 hours sleep and keep on going??? These guys work 7 days a week!!

Deep Sea Fishing
For four years we have been trying to find the ideal fishing destination, and we think we have finally found it! We so seldom see “fishing” mentioned in reviews, that we pretty much had to discover for ourselves what was available. We had fished each of our previous destinations, but never caught anything really exciting. We thought we might be out of luck again, because we had checked on the internet for fishing charters before we left Ontario and they were all priced way out of our league! When we arrived at Amapola, we started checking with the staff to see if they knew of any charters that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Lo and behold, Daniel at the swim-up bar had a friend with a boat. We agreed to go for a half day, at about half the cost of the internet fishing charters. Enrique (the fishing guide) has a decent sized boat and fairly good equipment, and appears to know a lot about fishing! We went out about 13 miles from shore, and he started rigging up the equipment. Within about an hour, the first sailfish hit. My husband took the rod, and 45 minutes later, landed a beautiful 120 lb sailfish!!! This was his first sailfish ever, so he has absolutely overjoyed! Since Enrique doesn’t have the fancy chairs like the larger boats, my husband used only a belt with the cup to haul in the sail. Thus, his arms were falling off, and he had no feeling in his figures!!! After shaking his muscles loose, and re-establishing circulation in his hands, he once again had to repeat the exercise, because #2 hit about 45 minutes later! (There was no way I was going to tackle one of those guys!) The second sail took about 30 minutes to bring in and was slightly smaller than #1 – probably about 100 lbs. At that point, my husband said, “I’m sorry, I can’t fish anymore today!” That’s the first time I have ever heard him say that! We still had an hour or so of fishing available to us, so Enrique downed the rods again. When another fish hit, it was my turn, no matter what it was! It turned out to be the dorado I mentioned earlier in my review that we ate at the restaurant! At that point, we decided to call it a day! We felt we had received our money’s worth, and booked a second trip for later that week to do some inshore fishing. Again, Enrique did everything the “larger” charters would have done, and more! This time, my husband hooked two huge rooster fish, but didn’t land either of them – #1 broke the line and #2 got off the hook! I, however, landed my first rooster fish – maybe 15 lbs – but we let him go so he will be much bigger next time!!! At any rate, if you’re looking to do some fishing, talk to Daniel at the swim-up bar.

Manuel Antonio Park
This trip was also guided by Arturro. Again, he was a wealth of knowledge, and it was an interesting and enjoyable trip. Saw lots of white-faced monkeys, lizards, a three-toed sloth and even a boa constrictor. In Quepos, we lunched at Le Gran Escape which is a shrine to fly fishermen who have landed huge marlin, sailfish, etc. Very impressive.

El Hicaco
This was a seafood restaurant – there were two sites – one on main street Jaco, and one down the street on the beach. Very nice décor. Every Wednesday, they have all you can eat lobster – tails only!!! – for $35 US per person. That price also includes all drinks, coffee, etc. The lobster bisque is to die for! A marimba band showed up around 7:00 p.m. and added to the ambience!

Other Notables
Costa Rica is almost anal about maintaining the pristine condition of the jungles and vegetation, but the air pollution will have to be dealt with in the near future. Although most vehicles seemed to produce little pollution from their tailpipes, we did see several vehicles (and especially buses) spewing out black smoke. They have an emissions testing procedure similar to Ontario’s, but it seems the authorities down there are unable to enforce penalties. It’s too bad some of the local people don’t take pride in ownership and maintain their vehicles properly. If they can’t, they should ride bikes like everybody else!

Despite the fact that Costa Ricans are more affluent than, say, Mexicans or Dominicans, I was surprised to see that downtown Jaco Beach still had broken and uneven sidewalks and many other pitfalls that a clumsy person would find in no time! Every Friday, up the street from the Amapola, local farmers would set up a “Flea Market” with their fresh fruits and vegetables. However, when it was time to close up, a lot of the vendors would remove damaged or rotten items, and just throw them against the back fences. The next couple days would smell like a garbage dump walking past that area. Their theory is, if it’s biodegradable, it’s okay to throw it away.

What can I say… hot, hot, hot! Mid- to upper-thirties every day! But, hey, that’s what we were there for! We had rain for about 10 minutes one day! It was slightly cooler in the mountains, away from the ocean.

US Dollar is widely used, but locals deal a lot in colons. If you go to a bank (there are about 4 banks available) to withdraw money, it is given to you in colons. We received 425 colons to the US Dollar.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. We found out that this resort may not be there next year, as they were selling off the units as time-share. Stay tuned… maybe they won’t sell them all and we can still visit this fantastic all-inclusive resort in 2005!!

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Best Western Jaco Beach Bruce ~ Canada

January 2005

My wife and I (50+) have just returned from a 2 week (Jan 5-19 2005) stay in Costa Rica, the second week of which was spent at the Best Western Jacó Beach (BWJB) Resort. Interested readers can check this website for my review of the Flamingo Beach Resort where we stayed the first week.

The BWJB is about 20 years old(Jacó didn’t exist until 1980) and is located at the north end of town. All retail and commercial services are a short walk(5-15 min) either by beach or on the main street of town. Jacó is a bustling tourist town loaded with gift shops(all of which seem to sell bikinis–that should tell you something), hotels, restaurants by the dozens and other amenities. Construction is booming!

At the hotel rooms are located in a 3 story building and a 5 story building. Only those in the 5 story building have balconies so if you want one be sure to ask in advance. The rooms in the 3 story building (where we were) have a covered outside walkway. There is no external ventilation(screens), but the air conditioner is more than adquate. If you need to dry a bathing suit, the railing outside your room will do just fine. I found the walls a bit thin and the noise from adjacent rooms noticeable but not annoying. There were several power interruptions during our stay and these did become annoying after a while. The rooms was in good repair and of normal size. They even had wash cloths The beds were comfortable, water pressure was good but hot water was, at times, scarce. The toilet water was a bit "colored" so we chose not to drink from the tap. Refrigerated bottled water was available free in the lobby.

It was evident by the number of staff that the hotel was well managed. The grounds crew, pool guys, painters, cleaners, and housekeeping staff were always visible, wore name tags and were very friendly. Most spoke some English. As I am studying Spanish I was able to practice with literally dozens of staff on a daily basis.

About 50% of the guests spoke English(mainly Canadians)– the rest seemed to be Costa Rican families on vacation. Very pleasant! Costa Ricans are so polite and their children especially teenagers were very well behaved.

The hotel pool is about 60 feet in diameter and just less than 4 feet deep. Water temperature was 33 degrees C.–bath water! More lounge chairs are needed for the busy season but there really isn’t room. It would be nice if they built a new larger pool to the north of the existing pool in an underutilized area of the grounds.

The hotel beach appears to have been artificially created as the sand is a much lighter color than the "real beach" which is a very fine dark brown sand which gets quite hot for bare feet. I found that the brown sand was particularly difficult to wash off. Several kilometers long, Jacó Beach is a surfer’s beach not a swimmer’s beach.

Four wave breaks are present, the largest at about 100 feet offshore routinely had 4 foot waves while I was there. Virtually no hotel guests were observed in water above their waists. Undertow/riptide warnings were posted and a red flag was the norm. Water temperature was also very warm. The shoreline at low tide had quite a few good sized pebbles and some shells. No jellyfish were observed although I was told that July was jellyfish season.

As we were on an all inclusive plan, all meals, snacks, and drinks were included although the drink list was rather small I thought. Meals were buffet style, served in an open air restaurant with a teak ceiling. To be honest everything is teak in Costa Rica. Maybe next time I’ll bring an 8 foot suitcase and visit the lumber yard. But I digress–Meals were buffet style with a cooking station also available for such things as omelettes for breakfast, pasta or fajitas for lunch and fish for dinner–something different every meal. There were also theme nights i.e., Mexican, Oriental, Seafood etc. There was a good selection of juices, smoothies made to order, vegetables, salad items, usually 3 choices of meat or fish and desserts such as cakes, flan, or ice cream. The flambe bananas were delicious. In general the food wasn’t bad for a 3 star hotel–just a bit bland for North American tastes. For those guests who were not all inclusive the buffets cost $10 for breakfast, $12 for lunch and $14 for dinner.

With so many restaurants in town one could have eaten out, but other than a quick pizza one night from the Pizza Hut across the street from the hotel we did not.

Another positive feature of the resort is the in-house Grayline Tour office open 10 hours a day. It was convenient to book excursions to Manuel Antonio and Carara National Parks as well as to the Waterfalls Canopy Tour. All were excellent. You can really benefit from having a knowledgeable guide who will point out things you would otherwise miss.

As for money exchange there are lots of options. The hotel’s rate (465 colones/ 1 USD) was nearly identical to the bank across the street(467colones/1 USD) but you can get either Costa Rican or U.S. money at the bank. At the supermarket bank machine you can use your debit card to get colones. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted but I’m not too sure it’s easy to get cash advances on them.

In conclusion we had a great trip to Costa Rica and enjoyed our stay at the BWJB. It has a great location for beach walks, shopping by foot, and local tours. Getting around is easy, taxis are cheap, people are friendly. It’s just not a swimming beach–try Manuel Antonio for that–it has the warmest water I’ve ever been in @ 35 degrees C.

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Best Western Jaco Beach Vic — Canada

October 2004

January 2004
NB: all prices are indicated in American funds

Jaco is a small tourist town on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. Its principal attraction is for surfers, and you’ll find many hotel and motel-like accommodations. My wife and I left from Montreal and arrived at the San-José airport in the evening of December 26, 2003. The trip from the airport to Jaco Beach takes about 2 hours, but fortunately the transportation is comfortable and includes air conditioning. We arrived at the Best Western around midnight, and didn’t have to wait too long to get our room. We required changing rooms, which couldn’t be done immediately, but it was all settled in the morning to our satisfaction.

Sunscreen lotion: Costa Rica is right on the Equator, which means that sunlight hits with full force. I tan easily and can count the times I’ve gotten sunburned on the fingers of one hand, and one of those is in Costa Rica on the spot where I forgot to apply sunscreen. The sun is strongest between 10am and 2pm, so stay in the shade, wear a hat, and trust me on the sunscreen 😉

Getting around and Roads: A word of advice about roads, they were built directly over ox-pulled carts, and thus twist and turn all over the place. San-José and Jaco are geographically close-by, but the long and winding roads don’t allow for speeds over 60Km/hr. If you get easily carsick, bring anti-nausea medication and take it before you board your ride. Taxis are expensive, and you’ll get a better price through Grayline Tours, the tour agency in the hotel’s lobby, because they’ll arrange for taxis that are reserved for tourists (these are not called ‘taxis’ but ‘tourist transport vehicles’). Buses are cheap but run at determined hours. We went to Rio Tarcoles to see the crocodiles by bus, and it was a pleasant adventure. Renting cars is a good option, but make sure to take the full insurance package, my wife worked for a car-rental agency and considers that it’s worth it. It is generally not recommended to walk along the highways for security reasons, as cars might not see you in a bend of the road (did I mention that roads twist and turn a lot?).

Safety and criminality: Criminality in the tourist areas consists mostly of petty theft, so don’t leave valuables unattended and basically don’t take risks that you wouldn’t in your home country. Jaco is quite safe and people went to bars and the discotheque without incident. We heard that more caution has to be taken in San-José, as in all big cities. A common scam in many countries is itinerant vendors offering tours at a much lower rate than bone fide tour companies. They’ll generally ask for full-payment in cash, and then never show up. We haven’t heard of this particular con in Costa Rica and we stuck with the service offered at the hotel, but as general rule, purchase tours from reputed guides.

Funds: You will get a better rate of exchange on American than on Canadian dollars (during our stay $1 American = 415 Colones, whereas $1 Canadian = 215 Colones). I recommend that you bring traveler’s checks in American funds, even if you have to purchase them with Canadian dollars you’ll end up getting more for your money. Tours’ prices are indicated in American funds, and can be paid with traveler’s checks. In town most shops won’t take traveler’s checks but will accept either American currency or Colones (Costa Rica’s currency). In some shops it’s better to pay with Colones because they won’t give you as good an exchange rate as the bank or the hotel. A word of warning: we heard that at another hotel in Jaco someone was given a counterfeit $50 bill, and the management refused to reimburse the client. I don’t know which hotel it was, and it seems to be an isolated incident, but I made sure to check my money carefully 🙂

Jaco Beach Best Western: The personnel at the Jaco Beach Best Western were polite and helpful, and made our stay a pleasant one. The hotel consists of two wings, totaling 125 rooms, which is big enough to have good service but small enough to our liking. There were organized activities every day, we didn’t participate but other guests commented that they were satisfied with the animators. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, request a room opposite the pool, as that area is more active and there is music in the bar, but it isn’t that loud and things quiet down around 10pm. Also try to get a room near the beach side, because those towards the front of the hotel are a lot noisier due the ice machines and the air-conditioning units.

The rooms are comfortable and clean, and we had a good-sized balcony. The bathroom had a shower/bathtub combo with hot water, and there were always fresh towels available. The maid made towel-sculptures in the form of swans or boats on the bed, which was a nice touch. The TV in the room was a pleasant surprise, as it allowed us to view a decent variety of channels, many in English. We actually spent a few evenings watching documentaries 🙂

There is a souvenir shop in the lobby, but prices are noticeably higher than what you’ll find in town, especially at the masXmenos grocery store. The hotel didn’t give out free water bottles, but instead they have a fountain in the lobby where you can get drinkable water. There are a few videogames and pool and ping-pong tables in the lobby; to use them you’ll have to buy tokens at the main desk. There is also the possibility to use the internet for one hour per room per day, but the computers are Pentium 2s and very slow, plus you’ll have to wait if they’re already being used and you can’t print documents. There are Internet cafés in Jaco that I used to check my emails.

On New Year’s Eve, the hotel organized a party with a pirate theme, including buffet well garnished in seafood. We heard that in Jaco it was THE party to be at. Since we had the all-included package the event was also included, otherwise it cost $50 per person. The food was good and the hotel hired live singers for the occasion, and those guys knew how to liven things up. It all culminated with a fireworks display to salute the New Year, and the dancing continued until 2am or so.

Pool & Beach: There is a circular pool and direct access to the beach. The sand on the beach is coarse and gets incredibly hot, so I recommend wearing footgear. The hard thing is to get a chair, as they’re always occupied because they’re not reserved to hotel guests. Unlike the Dominican Republic, you can’t just reserve chairs by putting your towel on it early in the morning, it’s a sure bet that your chair, and probably your towel, will be gone by the time you return. We usually went to the beach after lunch and found free chairs. There are no salesmen on the beach and it’s very safe to walk along it.

The waves are quite strong in the ocean, and that is why Jaco Beach is a popular destination for surfing. I am an average swimmer and had no problems, but I was careful not to venture too far out. The water was very warm and clean, though not suitable for snorkeling because of the waves and the sand in suspension.

You can get beach towels from the hotel, but if you lose it they’ll charge you $20. We recommend you bring your own and keep and eye on them, the same as you would do on a beach or pool in North America. Also, don’t leave valuables (digital cameras and such) unattended. Criminality in Costa Rica is low, but don’t do there what you wouldn’t do back home 😉

Safe: There was a safe in the room that costs about $3 per day to rent, and if you rent for 5 days or more you get a better price. Inform yourself well about this, as some employees weren’t aware of this policy. You can also get a safe-box at the lobby, which is free of charge and secure. Make sure not to lose the key or you’ll have to pay for the services of a locksmith and the replacement of the lock.

Tips: We had an all-included package, so tips were part of it. In the rooms the maid leaves an envelope with her name, and if you want to leave a tip it’s up to you. I don’t think you’ll have a different service whether you leave a tip or not, but take into consideration that the average income for hotel employees is between $300 and $400 a month. I left a $1 tip every morning for the maid, as I considered that not having to clean up and make my own bed was well worth it. We left a few tips at the restaurant and bar, which we learned were distributed equally among the staff. Avoid using coins because Costa Ricans can’t exchange them.

Food: Meals are buffet-style served at a restaurant above the lobby. The food was good, there was variety, and during our 2-week stay nobody complained of digestive problems. As with all buffets, we recommend that you don’t sample a little bit of each thing, or you’ll soon be fed up. A few times for lunch, when we didn’t feel like big meal, we went for hotdogs, sandwiches, pizza, nachos, or hamburgers at the bar (situated between the pool and the beach). If you don’t have an all-included package, then eating at the hotel is quite expensive. Fortunately there are many restaurants in Jaco, and they are reasonably priced.

Jaco town: Turning right when exiting the hotel, Jaco has one main street where most of the restaurants and boutiques are situated. You don’t go to Costa Rica for shopping, so there are no bargains to be had here, and there is little room for haggling. Remember that Jaco is a tourist town, so you’ll get tourist’s prices, but we purchased a few souvenirs reasonably priced so look around before buying. There are many bars and restaurants, and even a discotheque nearby. There is a cigar shop at the beginning of the commercial area, on the right hand when you come from the Best Western, the owner was a friendly and nice guy and I bought good-quality cigars as gifts for friends. Beside the cigar shop there is an Internet café that is inexpensive, with reasonably fast computers, and the possibility to print documents. If you walk farther you’ll find the masXmenos on the left side of the street, which is the main grocery store in town. There we found the best prices for coffee, local liquor, and bottled water.

Tours: Costa Rica may be a small country, but there are a wide variety of things to do and see. We bought our tours from Grayline Tours at the hotel lobby, you can get slightly better prices in town but we were satisfied with the service offered by the people at the Grayline Tours counter. Here’s a summary of the tours we went to.

– Arenal Volcano & Hot Springs: The tour guides will tell you that from Jaco to the Arenal Volcano it’s a 2-hour ride or so, BUT that’s only to get to the area of San-José. In fact you’ll be in for a 6-hour ride, which means that you’ll spend most of the day in a bus, a fact tour guides don’t advertise so they won’t lose sales. Due the winding roads, getting from one place to the other is always time-consuming. If you don’t mind the 12-hour commuting, then the Hot Springs are a great experience. Don’t expect to see the volcano, as most of the time it’s hidden by clouds, another fact that the tour’s salespeople don’t warn you about. If you are in San-José, then it’s a 3~4-hour ride, and well worth it, but we found the trip from Jaco to be tiring and unpleasant. We heard that it’s possible to stay overnight near the volcano, but it costs extra.

– Horse ride and sunset on the mountain: There are two different groups of people who offer this activity. They’ll ask for $40 for starters, but if you talk first to the people at the Grayline Tours counter, and hire the guy they recommend, you’ll end up paying $20 to $25. We organized a small group of 6 people (us included) and paid $20 each. The horse guy drove us to the nearby mountain and we were introduced to the horses there, then the horseback ride starts to the top. On the way there are many beautiful views of the beach and the town of Jaco, but the ‘pièce de resistance’ is when you reach the top, where the view is well worth it. The sunset is pure beauty, and we took many wonderful pictures while the sun slowly plunges in the ocean, setting on the distant horizon. The return was somewhat less pleasant, as there is little to see in the fading daylight, but riding along the beach in the quiet of the evening makes up for it. Our advice: the return trip can be tiring if you’re not familiar with horse riding, and we wouldn’t recommend it to someone with chronic back pains, but the sunset and the view from the top make for an amazing spectacle that we are glad to have experienced.

– Manuel Antonio National Park: A great place to admire the amazing ecological variety of Costa Rica. Beware of the monkeys, they like to steal things, especially cameras and whatever shines. It’s also forbidden to feed the monkeys, and it’s for their own good, so please respect that regulation. There is also a nice beach of soft white sand, and the ocean here is perfect for snorkeling (fish are used to tourists and I saw a few from up close). Don’t forget your camera for you’ll take memorable pictures here, provided you keep it safe from the monkeys that is 😉

– Crocodile Safari: A nice tour on a boat, which will allow you to see many species of birds. And what about the crocodiles you ask? Well, we saw a small female close-by, and two youngsters from afar. We found out that it’s crocodile mating season at that time of the year (early January), and that most of them are away from that part of the river then (they all hang out under the Rio Tarcoles Bridge, which we visited by ourselves using public buses). Another bit of information that the tour salespeople won’t offer (don’t blame them, they’re just trying to make a decent living). They also advertise a crocodile-farm in the brochure, but it no longer exists. We still enjoyed the tour, but if you want to see crocodiles make sure that mating season is over 🙂

– Canopy Tour: This is the activity my wife and I most enjoyed, and it was too bad we did it on our last day in Costa Rica, because we’d have returned for sure. Here too we went through Grayline Tours, and were pleased to realize that the tour guides are professional mountain climbers that have your safety as their main concern. Note that it’s not recommended to pregnant women, young children, and people with a heart-condition, poor health, or overweight. You don’t need much physical strength or to be in top condition (God knows I wasn’t at the time), but the guides are very professional and don’t take chances. If you want to a professional photographer can accompany you, we did and paid about $30 for four 4×6 and two 5×7 prints. The photographer uses a 5dpi digital camera (great resolution), makes you select the pictures you want on a computer, and you get the printouts right away (payment in cash and we got a small rebate by buying 6 pictures, so make sure to bargain a little). Sliding from tree to tree, sometimes 20 meters above ground, feels like flying and the experience is a memorable one that we wish to repeat.

Leaving Costa Rica: I don’t know why countries like Costa Rica and Venezuela take a sadistic pleasure in making tourists pay 2 departure taxes at 2 different counters (totaling about $30 at the time). To top it off airport employees seemed confused about the procedure themselves, with the predictable result that it delayed people unnecessarily. We were lucky because we arrived at the airport early, thus avoided the long wait to pay said departure-taxes, but had a long stretch of time to kill before boarding the plane. On top of that the second counter demanded that you had a receipt from the first one in order to proceed. This was definitely the unpleasant event of the trip, but as with all illogical regulations it had to be endured. If you are traveling with a companion, inquire from the travel broker’s agent whether it’s possible for you to line up for one tax and your friend for the other. I don’t know if it’s allowed but it never hurts to ask.

In conclusion: Costa Rica is a beautiful country, with friendly people and amazing sights to enjoy. Next time we’d like to stay a week in San-José, go back to the hot springs, visit the city, and then spend a second week on the Pacific Ocean side of the country. We greatly enjoyed our stay at the Jaco Beach Best Western, and would certainly return 🙂

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Best Western Jaco Beach James Smith — Canada

July 2003

James Smith
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me but the term Best Western Beach Resort seems a contradiction in terms. I connect the name Best Western with nice comfortable mid range business hotels. You know those usually located in a strip near the airport for extra convenience. In fact there is a Best Western in San Jose the capital, near the airport.

That said there is a Best Western Beach Resort in Jaco on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. I spent four days there in March of this year and actually to be honest it’s one of the better value places I’ve stayed at in the last little while.

The resort has 130 rooms in two three-story buildings. A third building contains the administration area, front desk, main restaurant and other similar facilities. The three buildings form a loose U shape surrounding the pool area. The open end faces out onto the beach, which the hotel sits directly on. There is also a small pavilion that contains the main bar.

The grounds are all nicely landscaped and well laid out with everything close at hand. Naturally the place is enclosed and patrolled by security but they are fairly discreet. A nice touch is the large number of iguanas that seem to live on the property. They are harmless and for the most part seem quite used to the attention they receive.

The admin. block includes a tour desk and gift/convenience store. The gift shop has a wide selection of good souvenirs, where surprisingly the prices compare well with other places in town. There is a small area with pool tables and video games for those so inclined. Fantasy Gray Line Tours has a desk where a variety of day trips can be booked. Theses are also available at several places about town, but here one can use major credit cards.

The front desk offers an exchange service for guests only and there are four three banks and four ATMs in town including one across the street. There is a free safety deposit box service available at the front desk. Alternatively you can use the in room ones for $3.00 per day. There are also some limited facilities for conferences and conventions including a meeting room that can hold 50 people.

Hotel guests have the use of free bicycles available near the main gate, and a gym in town. There is a tennis court between the pool area and the beach. The beach area has chairs and umbrellas in a reserved area for guests. Surfboards, boogie boards and other such items are available either free or for a nominal charge. Beach towels are also available for guests.

The pool is rather small but it is nicely appointed. There is a separate wading pool area for children. The area around the pool has a plentiful supply of deck chairs and tables with umbrellas for those who just wish to laze the day away.

The rooms are small, simple but comfortable. Each has one single and one double bed, and alternative arrangements can be made including bunk beds if needed. There is a full bathroom with a generous supply of towels and complimentary toiletries. Each room has a good air conditioner, which is essential here, and direct dial telephones. There is satellite TV and here that actually means a good selection of local and North American channels. Maid, laundry and room service are all available.

There are no balconies or patios for any of the rooms, but the hallway is an open balcony, with views of either the pool area or the gardens. There are deck chairs in the room that can be dragged out onto this balcony to enjoy the evening breeze. Best bet is to get a room on the third floor on the side facing inward towards the pool as a partial view of the beach and ocean can be had from here.

The hotel offers both an all-inclusive plan and a pay as you go for meals and drinks. For the later one can sign for items, negating the need to carry cash. A credit card is needed to establish an account at the front desk for this. The main restaurant serves good buffet style meals. Three nights a week there are theme nights, Italian, Mexican and a Hawaiian BBQ on the lawn near the beach. The bar also serves light snacks such as nachos and hamburgers daily until 8:00 p.m.

I was on the all-inclusive plan for my stay but to be honest it’s not really needed. The hotel is conveniently located at the north end of town. A wide variety of bars, restaurants, and cafes are literally a few minutes walk away. In Jaco you can find something to suit any and all tastes and budgets.

One point worth noting for those contemplating a stay here, Jaco is the closest beach resort to San Jose the capital, only two hours away. The hotel incidentally offers a free shuttle service for guests daily to the airport and to its sister property the Best Western Irazu. It is also one of the few "nice" large hotels right in town.

For this reason it is a popular spot for "Josefinos" looking for a weekend getaway at the beach. The place tends to become crowded Friday evening, and stays that way until late Sunday afternoon. Those who might not enjoy a pool full of noisy children and/or bar full of their equally noisy parents might keep this in mind when booking. Alternatively those staying on a weeklong package may consider using this time to book the daylong excursions and reserve the midweek days for some quiet longing around.

Rates start at $86.00-$89.00 US double per night, and of course there are a variety of air/hotel packages available from various tour operators. The lobby has information bulletins from several Canadian and European Tour companies.

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Last updated: January 27, 2005

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