One of the reasons we chose to visit Costa Rica was for all her critters. We love all critters great and small and as a rule we practice “no kill”. We were blessed with many critter visitations, big and small. We had lots of crabs in our rooms. We devised a “crab remover” – a coffee cup and a piece of cardboard. When spotted we’d grab the crab cup and scootch him into the coffee cup with the cardboard and take him outside to his natural surroundings. The cleaning staff uses a germicide or something in the water to wash the floors so the little critters don’t last long if you don’t like their visitations. We scooted out a couple of spiders from our room as well. We were blessed to have the howler monkeys outside our room one morning, they hung around for about 45 minutes and the mothers had their little babies on their backs, they were so cute. There was a family of Coati’s that came to visit almost every night; they had little ones as well. The raccoons visited nightly – we had fun with them. I left the patio door open just a little too much one day and one came into the room, jumped on the table and then left. We all laughed! We had a special visitor one night outside our room – a tarantula! Now don’t get me wrong, we love critters and we have the no kill credo but this one had to go. We used a snorkel fin to scoot him waaaaay down the hallway. We also saw a stick bug, scorpion and praying mantis and leaf bugs. Really neat white squirrels in the trees too, they eat the peas from the huge pods that have all dried out. Say hola to the huge iguana who hangs out under the landing at the top of the stairs coming up from the pool, he loved to sit in the sun and watch folks stumble down the stairs. We were disappointed that we didn’t have a “room gecko”, we saw them everywhere but none entered our rooms. We would have loved to have one during our stay. We loved the flock of green parrots that flew from tree to tree around the pool everyday as well. Enjoy the bugs and critters people, that’s what Costa Rica is known for! The Occidental Grand was definitely the perfect hotel choice for us in Costa Rica. We were treated so well, as were the rest of the guests, the food was excellent, the customer service was outstanding, and the staff were like family members. The hotel grounds were immaculately kept. We highly recommend the Occidental Grand and we hope everyone who stays at your hotel gets the opportunity to experience exactly what we did – a fabulous 2 week vacation at the Occidental Grand in Costa Rica. Muchas Gracias mi amigos. Suggestions to consider: New bed pillows, a cold water dispenser in the lobby, serve yourself Cappuccino machines in the lobby, serve yourself virgin Daiquiri’s and Pina Coladas in the lobby and/or Buffet. Quiet time at the pool (so you can hear the birds – they are fantastic).
Our stay was November 22 – December 6, 2011 – our flight arrived in the evening so we didn’t get to see anything but the stars and passing lights as we were driven to the Occidental Grand via our personal transport. A big up to Eco Trans for the prompt service from and to the airport. Upon arrival we were the only ones checking in so it was a breeze. Jesou welcomed us to Costa Rica and to the resort and Mauricio (we dubbed him “autobahn”) shuttled us to our rooms. We had requested either building 14 or 15 – we got building 14 – up and down those hills everyday! We did our research, we read the reviews, we knew about the proximity of some of the rooms from the main lobby, we knew about the 73 stairs from the pool up to the lobby, we knew about all the hills. We loved building 14.
Rooms: We had two rooms, adjoined as we had requested. To our surprise, upon waking our first morning we had fabulous ocean views and sitting on our little patio we could hear the waves! We didn’t have any issues with our rooms at all; there was a safe in the closet – lots of closet space and space in the TV unit to store clothing and articles. The fridge had beer and water and we only had to call to get it refilled once, after that the fridge was always full. The bathrooms were always clean, we always had towels – fluffy & thick – always had hot water and the rain shower in the tub was fantastic. The power went out a couple of times but only for mere seconds, enough for the clock in the room to be reset. We had a great little patio which we loved to sit on and just take in the view which never changed, maybe the odd day there would be a sailboat or small boat but otherwise it never changed and we loved it. Loved the thick white bathrobes that were provided, they were so comfy. The bed pillows were a bit sparse – maybe that could be put on the wish list – thick new bed pillows.
Restaurants and Bars: The food was excellent in all the restaurants. The buffet had so much to offer for breakfast, lunch and dinner that I wonder how anyone could complain about the food. There was always an abundance of food to choose from at every sitting. A special thanks to Sharley for greeting us in the Buffet at dinnertime, it was a pleasure knowing you. Buffet Breakfast: there was so much to choose from at breakfast it was often hard to decide what to have. Scrambled eggs, omelet’s made to order, cereal, fruit, yoghurt, the odd days they had bacon, and there was sausage every day. The passion fruit for breakfast was delicious! There was always orange juice, mixed fruit, iced tea and sometimes there was pineapple juice. The Snack Bar for lunch: Mostly the same thing every day but we never tired of it – hotdogs, hamburgers, pizza, nachos and all the fixings, salads, fried chicken, pasta and sauce, always fruit and desserts. Lots to choose from. The white-throated magpie jays loved to steal the packages of mayonnaise. The Japanese restaurant: The food and the ambiance in the Japanese restaurant were excellent. We went twice, once the first week, again the second week. By the second week we asked for bigger portions as we found the portions the first week were very small – but the food was excellent. A big thank you to Roidy – you made our visits that much more enjoyable, we’re sorry we didn’t get to say adios. The Beach hut: The Aztec soup was spectacular – it was so good we had to have another bowl. The portions, once again, were small but the food was very good. We had the “Surf & Turf”, the steak was done to perfection and the shrimp was excellent. Only complaint? Only 1 shrimp with the surf and turf. The Italian restaurant: One visit to this restaurant. The food and service was excellent. The Pork Gorgonzola was tender and excellent. The customer service in all the restaurants was top notch – always attentive, water glasses always topped up without asking, servers were always very courteous and friendly. Can’t say enough about the quality and quantity of the food – starting my weight loss program January 1st!
Top notch liquor and drinks at this resort as well, sometimes they were too strong and we asked to have them re-made with less liquor. Not sure how anyone could say they were watered down, we never had to ask for more booze in our drinks! Loved the Pina Coladas, Daiquiri’s, and Mojito’s. The Imperial beer was good too, reminded us of Pilsner Beer from back home in Calgary.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Loved the black sand beach. During low tide the beach stretches on and on, lots of rocks, and tide pools to explore. High tide makes the beach smaller but it’s still beautiful and we loved it. Lots of hermit crabs, lots of shells, and at the time we were there, just enough jelly fish to get stung a couple of times. Be prepared; bring small packages of vinegar to reduce the sting. Tried to snorkel but the water was just too murky, until our last day there when we didn’t bring our snorkel equipment with us – you could actually see the seabed and lots of sea critters. On the weekends we found there weren’t enough lounge chairs so we just spread our towels out on the sand….. a bit uncomfortable but we made do. We were warned about using the tour providers on the beach and I’m glad we steered clear of them – the one fellow we considered booking with didn’t show up at all after our first discussion with him and we were there for 2 weeks. The pool was beautiful, clean, water is warm but refreshing, not too crowded but we did find on weekends when the locals visited the lounge chairs were a hot commodity. It would be nice if they had more chairs at both the pools and on the beach, especially on weekends. Or if someone decided to “save” the chair with their towel and they didn’t show up for hours, that you could remove the towel and use the chair – which often sat unused for hours – because it was “saved”. If you’re not in the pool or have your butt in the chair – please don’t save the chairs, there are others who would love to use them. A server comes around and takes drink orders which was very nice. We brought our own thermal mugs so we didn’t use endless plastic cups and straws. I would have preferred the peacefulness of the quiet and birdsong at the pool over the music blasting everyday at the pool – we’re there to relax, we don’t need music all day everywhere. We did spend more time at the beach to avoid the music.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: We participated in the Sunset Walk provided by the hotel, we met at the pool by the activities hut at 4:30, they leave on the walk at precisely 4:45 and walk outside the resort to the preferred sunset viewing spot – it was beautiful! Our guide picked up a huge beetle type bug, which I got to hold (and I named him Fernando), we saw some Howler monkeys on our walk and the sunset was out of this world. That’s one thing I noticed in Costa Rica, every night the sunset is spectacular. It’s almost like every night it tries to outdo the previous night. Absolutely stunning. And when the sun sets, it’s pitch dark. Just like that. But the good thing it’s still hot and you definitely work up a sweat on the walk back! Make sure you take a trip into Coco Beach for the day, there’s great souvenir shopping and a great beach there – $40 round trip and the taxi driver will wait for you as long as you need. Check out the supermarket there too for coffee, it was the least expensive and the selection is excellent.
Other Comments: Free Wi-Fi in the lobby – if there isn’t a power bump! Not quite enough chairs in the lobby/lounge area either, it was nice to visit after dinner but there wasn’t always a comfortable place to sit. Great rocking chairs outside the gift shop – maybe put more of those out! Some nights there was entertainment in the lobby, some nights it was nice not to have anything. Towards the end of our stay it was quite bizarre hearing Christmas songs in Spanish – our first time hearing all Spanish songs – in +30 degree weather – it was a treat.