Recent posts by steelmooch | Debbie's Caribbean Resort Reviews Forums

I’m hoping that Debbie’s community might lend its expertise in giving me a “starting point” in researching my family’s next vacation. My wife and I (early thirties) wish to take our children (4 and 2), along with my parents (late fifties) to an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean/Central America. We’re somewhat experienced mid-tier “A.I.” patrons, having visited Costa Rica, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica…but I’m having difficulty getting started in my research. Ideally, I’m looking for a mildly “upscale” A.I. resort that I can be confident that my parents, who are not experienced international travelers, will enjoy. A nice beach and blue water are highly desired, and legitimate, non-exploitative eco-tourism opportunities would be a bonus. Of our experiences/observations thus far:Costa Rica: We loved the natural excursions we were able to take…but my parents & children would not do well with the all-day nature of the trips. It takes hours and hours of winding through the mountains to take most excursions (Arenal, Tabacon, Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, etc) no matter where you stay. In addition, most of the A.I. resorts are on the Pacific coast, with unspectacular beaches and dangerous riptides. Dominican Republic: A generally nice stay for us…but the beaches are all public, which means constant, aggressive “vendor” bombardment. My parents would find that to be a major turn-off, as did we. In addition, the “eco” opportunities were very zoo-like and distasteful to us. Mexico: We enjoyed Riviera Maya greatly, as well as the Playa del Carmen area. The beach/water were wonderful…it was great to get out and mingle in “Playa”…but the current violence and unrest in Mexico concerns me. Cozumel would be a possibility, but I don’t quite understand the “setup” there…are the resorts actually out on the island? Or are they on the mainland and classified as “Cozumel”? Do you typically fly into Cancun and then ferry across to the island? Jamaica: My parents would not be amused with the prevalence of marijuana and other recreational substances that we encountered there. Small Islands: Many of the small islands are (a) out of our price range, (b) too geared toward golf/gambling/shopping/money for our purposes, or (c) too much of a beach-only destination for our purposes. Most of the very upscale, small islands are out of “contention” for us. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Besides going on a cruise, this would be my parents’ first “real” trip to the Caribbean/Central America, and I want to err on the side of a nice resort and conservatively “enjoyable” area. Thanks and happy travels!
Deputy,Thanks for your feedback. I’m definitely leaning toward C.R., as my wife and I consider it a potential retirement destination on top of all the family-friendly things that we can do there. Jaco looks like a pretty central area…reasonable daytime trips up to Arenal/Tabacon, down to Manuel Antonio, up to Monteverde, and in to San Jose.

Tabacon is wonderful. I learned a lesson, though, about the quality of the hot spring places. I had been to a gorgeous one the size of a small ski resort several years back. When my wife and I booked an excursion a few years later, I erroneously assumed that the "Tabacon Hot Springs" was one location…and that we would return to that same location…but we did not. One of the resorts is lush, vast, and has tons of cozy nooks and crannies where couples and families alike can enjoy some privacy and quality time. The location we were taken to was nice, but amounted to a single hot trickle making its way down into a 20′ x 40′ rectangular swimming pool. It was fine, but nothing like what I had hoped to enjoy with her.

Anyway…how would you compare the Playa Hermosa area to Jaco…with respect to beach characteristics/quality, accessibility, magnitude of commercial development, etc…anything that might help us to decide between the two areas.



Just wondering if any other users of the online "plan-it-yourself" companies have encountered this or not…3 years back these same services identified for me a host of "All Inclusive" resorts to choose from.I keep fiddling around with the to/from dates and other trip criteria, and cannot get any of these services to identify a single "All Inclusive" resort in their packages. Bizarre…are they already "booked up" during the "busy season" (the fall/winter here in North America) and not yet accepting reservations for next Spring/Summer? Are these services for some reason no longer associating themselves with the all-inclusive resorts? Please share if you have encountered a similar issue. I’m finding a host of nice $1,000/person hotels for 8 nights/9 days…but excluding food, beverages, and activities, this could easily turn into $1700+ USD…which is more than I had hoped to spend before excursions, taxis, etc are factored in.


My wife and I are trying to plan a very special vacation for our children for the summer of ’10, and would greatly appreciate your knowledge in this matter. Our son has struggled with health problems for his first 2 years, and now that he’s doing better we want to show him a great time in Costa Rica! I’m fairly knowledgeable about Costa Rica, having stayed in San Jose for a month during university studies and then having returned for a week-and-a-half a few years back with my wife. We stayed at the Fiesta Resort in Puntarenas and had a really nice time. We enjoyed the "paseo de turistas" shopping area, Arenal Volcano, hot springs, and Manuel Antonio national park. Upon our return visit, we consider the Tabacon hot springs/Arenal and a visit to the Manuel Antonio national park to be essential daytime excursions. However, we’d like to stay in a slightly less post-industry area than Puntarenas and be on a nicer stretch of beach than that which we experienced on the central pacific coast. Any suggestions? I’m surprised at the lack of "East Coast/Caribbean" resorts and information available…besides the "Limon" area purportedly being not the most tourist-friendly in the region, is there a reason for this? We’d be interested in staying on the Caribbean side, but can’t really locate any information about it! We’d love to find a family-friendly resort with a decent beach and pool…from which we could do some nice excursions, see wildlife, and enjoy ourselves. Nothing too casino-ish, not big shoppers, no longer into the "nightlife" scene…just looking for a great week with our little ones.


Hello everyone. First off, I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the message boards. I have used them for several years in planning vacations and found them to be a wealth of great, unbiased information! I am in the initial "research" stages of planning a special vacation for the Summer of 2010. My son has spent the first 2 years of his life plagued by health problems, and I want to show him a great time next summer now that he is doing much better! My wife and I are an active couple transitioning one-by-one from our late 20’s into our 30’s. We’d probably classify as moderately adventurous, but would like to plan something child-friendly and "reliable" for next summer. We’ve been to Costa Rica (Puntarenas) and loved it. We would love to visit the Manuel Antonio preserve again to see the capuchin monkeys, dine within view of Arenal, etc. The "Jaco" area seems to be a viable option, as it is fairly centrally located along the western coast. We’d kind of like a nicer beach, though, than the one along western CR. We enjoyed a trip to Maya Riviera, but it seems comparatively "couples" oriented compared to other areas we’ve seen. Same goes for Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Jamaica (MoBay) was a great time but not remotely family-oriented. Many of the islands are almost purely shopping-and-gambling oriented and not really suitable for a family trip. Any recommendations as to where we could/would enjoy a trip that will be of very special significance to us? We enjoy some time on the beach, having a nice pool, love off-beach snorkeling if possible, family activities, eco-tourism, etc.

Any insights would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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