Home Arenal Beach Borinquen Canopy Colorado River Cortez Waterfall Diving Fishing Golfing Horseback Riding Mega Combo Miravalles Monteverde Nicaragua Palo Verde Quad Tour Rincon Sailing Sunset Transfer Rates White Water Rafting Playa Hermosa Papagayo Vargas

 
Papagayo-Vargas Tours
 
 
 

March 2009

Hi - Just wanted to send you an e-mail and tell you what an amazing time my friends and I had on our Costa Rican adventure tour. We did the #4 Waterfall Canopy Tour in Miramar and it completely exceeding all of our expectations. We had a fantastic tour guide named Manny who really went above and beyond to make sure we had a good time. He talked with us the entire ride to Miramar, telling us about the local culture and economy and even teaching us some important Spanish words. Manny acted as our photographer as well and we have some really spectacular shots on the zip lines. Our driver Jon was great as well. On the ride home he spotted a tree full of howler monkeys and stopped so we could all take a look. Thanks again for helping us plan the highlight of our trip! I will definitely be recommending your company to anyone going to Costa Rica in the future.

Thanks,
Katie Swanson
 

March 2009

Hi there Josta and Michael and Ricardo,

My apologies for not contacting you all sooner. As soon as we came home from Costa Rica, it
was back to work, and school and life in the fast lane. We now have very many lovely memories
of our time spent in your beautiful paradise. I wanted to commend you and your staff on what a
difference they made to our stay. We had a lot of fun and really enjoyed the company of the
driver and tour guides. I will always mention your outstanding services to anyone that I know
is planning a trip in your part of the world. It was a pleasure meeting you and chatting with you,
Know that you have left a wonderful impression upon us with your kindness and hospitality. God Bless you.

Brigitte
(Carmen, Maya, Jeremy and Isabel)

 



“Vargas Tours- Highly Recommended”

Hilton Papagayo Resort Costa Rica

4 of 5 stars
 
Louisiana
Aug 2, 2008

We stayed at the Hilton the last week of July and I wanted to post a few things about the hotel before I get to the kudos about Vargas Tours...
The food was average at best, actually our family enjoyed the buffets more than the formal dining. The beach was black and tan sand which made for murky water for about the first 20 feet then the water became pretty to swim in. I heard reports about stingrays, but never saw them. I also read reports about racoons and monkeys begging for food during outside dining but never witnessed it. Ask Javier, the pool bartender, for a Dirty/Chunky Monkey--my wife's favorite drink while there. Bring your own insulated plastic cup---this way if you put your drink down somewhere pool side it doesn't get mixed up with someone elses. We stayed in a bungalow just behind the snack bar. A great location. Make sure to print the resort map before you go. I don't know if all of the rooms are this way but our room had 2 beds, but they were 2 double beds. In the US, we are used to 2 queen beds---just something to consider if you are traveling with 4 adults staying in one room. If you don't like your location as to change it. Go on a JetSki tour at the hotel and get Jerry to take you around...we saw dolphins, sea turtles, and amazing views.
Renting a Car-We were told not to pay Costa Rican cops (in cash) if we are pulled over for a ticket. A couple we knew was pulled over and was asked to pay $20 for their son not being seat belted in the back seat. (this is not a law). The dad refused to pay cash; instead asking to be written a paper ticket, then the cop said never mind and let them go.
Shopping-We rented a car from the hotel and went to Tamarindo and Flamingo. You don't need a GPS for this trip. It will take about 1.5 hours though and you don't need to pay extra for 4 wheel drive as all of these roads are paved. Good shopping in Tamarindo, not so much in Flamingo. We ate at Marie's and the food was ok. We had to send 1 entree back. Just past the restaurant about a half mile is a wonderful beach. I recommend it. Another town for shopping, Cocoa Beach is a fishing town, about 15 minutes from the Hilton and has even better shopping.
Vargas Tours- Absolutely amazing. Ricardo is the owner. He offered transfers to and from the airport. An extremely trustworthy businessman. On Saturday, I paid him the roundtrip fee to and from the airport and he confirmed pickup times via email and was there at 4:30am to bring us back to the airport with a smile on his face. We went on the canopy tours, and Manny and John were always on time and had the day planned to a "t". Manny was the tour guide and John was the trusty driver. Manny was extremely knowledgeable keeping us excited and engaged the entire trip. Manny is also extremely patient and wonderful with my two daughters. One of my daughters was afraid on the horseback ride and Manny talked to the horse owner and he asked him to "tow" my daughter through the trails on her horse. He made sure to check in with us regularly to ensure we were having the best time possible. The other family was looking for a special soccer jersey and Manny took time out of our tour to bring him to a soccer specialty store to locate it for them. Excellent! We took 2 trips with Vargas tours. The 2nd was a river tour. Not my favorite, but it was absolutely no fault of Vargas.' Living in the south, near swamps, I have seen similar scenery, but once again, Manny kept the excitement level high and ensure everyone had a great time. After the tour, he took us shopping. Manny went into the grocery stores with us, and pointed out things that he recommended were Costa Rican popular souvenirs. While we were shopping-John stayed back in the van with the A/C running while my 2 daughters slept. He also stayed back each tour and watched our valuables. Another nice thing is that on both tours we never went with more than 4 other people. That was nice and made the tour more personable. I would recommend that if you go on other tours (with other companies) that you ask that tour company how many other people are going.
I only hope that one day, if Manny makes it to the states that we can return the favor of playing tour guide for him.
I found out about Vargas tours through the kindness of a tripadvisor member that posted great things and I want to continue the POSITIVE news.

 
“Can't wait to go back! Thank You Vargas Tours!”
 

 

Costa Rica Roc's”

Allegro Papagayo by Occidental

 
5 of 5 stars
Miami
Aug 20, 2008
3/4 found this review helpful

The Allegro Papagayo was what I was expecting for the price.
It is an ideal place for money conscious families. The food was fine and the rooms and ground were very well keep. The employees all over the resort were extremely friendly and helpful. We choice this hotel because we wanted to put our time and money into the tours.

All of our tours where booked with Vargas Tours. I must admit I was a little nervous about booking everything with one tour company but turned out great. Vargas is a small tour company that only has tours in the Guanacaste Region. For this reason they are able to really custom fit the tours for you. Our driver and guide could not have been more knowledgeable and freindly. I really wish they offered tours all over Costa Rica. You will not be disappointed if you go with Vargas Tours.
Annette from Miami

 

 

 

Hilton Papagayo Resort Costa Rica

 
4 of 5 stars
Wisconsin
Apr 4, 2008
1/2 found this review helpful

We have both positives and negatives from our stay at the Hilton. First, the positives:
-room was attractive and comfortable
-nice pool
-good toiletries and thick towels
-beautiful views in the resort
-helpful and friendly staff
-stretching "class" near beach
-much of the food was tasty
Negatives:
-room was on small side
-food selection was limited and became somewhat monotonous
-severe lack of fresh fruit, available only at breakfast and often ran out of mango even though there was a large mango farm just down the road
-Italian restaurant was nothing special

On our first day our room flooded when a water pipe broke. The staff quickly helped to move us to a new room.

On our second night, we went to bed early because we were being picked up at 6am for an all-day excursion. However, we were unable to sleep because a live band was playing at the outdoor bar and the noise invaded our room. This was really annoying. The band was nothing special, just covers of American songs. The staff had no real response to our complaints that the noise coming in to our room was unacceptable. We were told that vacationers wanted to have fun. This went on until 11pm and we went off the next morning without a full night sleep. Luckily, this only happened one night and other entertainment was inside.

We booked our excursions through Vargas Tours and we highly recommend them. We went to Monteverde Cloud Forest, the Palo Verde River Tour, and Witches Rock Canopy Tour. The ride to the cloud forest was long (3 1/2 hours), but it was good to see such a different part of the country. Vargas took us in small groups (sometimes just our family) and the tour guides had a wealth of information to share. The restaurant we went to on the Palo Verde River Tour was authentic and good. The personal attention on the Vargas Tours really made this the worthwhile choice. Another family told us that the Swiss tour trip to Nicaragua was great too.

The hotel's location is good but once it's not an all-inclusive hotel they will need to bring up the quality of the food and some service for it to be worth it.

 

Loved every minute”

Occidental Grand Papagayo

 
4 of 5 stars
Halifax
Jun 30, 2008
4/4 found this review helpful

Despite some of the reviews on this hotel, my husband and I decided stay here and loved every minute. The hotel grounds were beautiful with a variety of different types of vegetation and animals. The views from this hotel were stunning.

We went during the off-season so the hotel was very quiet. We had the beach to ourselves almost everyday as everyone stayed at the main pool. At about 3:00 pm everyday the tide would come in forcing us to leave, as the beach would disappear but we could always find chairs by the pool. The food at the main restaurant was good. Although there was not as much variety as other resorts we have been too, there was something for everyone’s taste. Our favorite was the snack bar at lunch as the served hamburgers and hotdogs. The hotel rooms were clean and comfortable. The shower does not have a shower curtain so the water gets all over the floor however the floors are washed on a daily basis. By the end of our trip, the hills were becoming more tiring to climb but the hotel offers shuttles services that are constantly running. There is very little nightly entertainment but everyone meets at the lobby for a few drinks and a little socialization with new friends.

Tours- We decided to go with a local tour company to get a more personalize feeling. We booked three tours with Vargas tours and they were the highlight of our trip. I booked the trips prior to arriving in Costa Rica and then just had to confirm the times when we arrived. We went on the Palo Verde River Tour, white water rafting and on the Borinquen Combo tour where we did the canopy, horse back riding and then to the mud spa. We and another couple were the only ones on these tours so we were on our own schedule. I would highly recommend Vargas tours as the guides are very friendly and knowledgeable of the country. Our guide, Manni was more then happy to answer any questions we had and took the time to show us different types of vegetation and animals that we would not have notice otherwise.

My husband and I have been to many places around the world, but this trip was one of the best trips we have ever taken and it will be hard to top. Costa Rica’s natural habitat is unlike anything else in the world. Enjoy!

“Fantastic holiday”

Allegro Papagayo by Occidental

 
4 of 5 stars
Sleaford
Aug 19, 2008
4/4 found this review helpful
 

We have just returned from a two week stay at Allegro from the 2nd to the 15th August and have to say that all five of us had a fantastic time. The facilities at the hotel were great, providing everything that we could need. The staff were excellent - very friendly, speaking English and Spanish (tried to teach us some Spanish!), very helpful and accommodating to our every need. JB our rep from First Choice and a local from Lincolnshire really went out of his way to get to know us and help us with any queries that we had. Pura Vida JB! We took one tour to Nicaragua with the hotel and had a fantastic though long and tiring day, but well worth it! We did three other tours with Papagayo/Vargas Tours: http://www.costarica-realestate.com/Papagayo%20Tours.htm and can highly recommend them for their small, personalized, flexible tours with very friendly and knowledgeable staff. I provisionally booked three tours with them through email before we got to Costa Rica, no deposit has to be paid, and we gave them a ring from the hotel when we landed to chat about the tours and decide when we would like to do them - very easy, and nice to do the tours in a small mini bus with just our group rather than on a large coach. The rooms were good with fridge and coffee making facilities which were refreshed daily. Towels and sheets were changed daily also. We all received a towel token for a beach towel, which could be changed daily if you wished. There was a wide selection of food, with a different theme every night, and always food on the go with the snack bar in between meals. There are lots of extra activities available at extra cost, but the prices were reasonable. The fun club put on lots of activities throughout the day for everyone, not just the children, and were good fun! We decided to take cash to Costa Rica, mainly Dollars and a small amount of Colones and are pleased that we did as one of our party took travellers cheques, but had problems changing them for Dollars at the hotel. They would only exchange a small amount at one time and wouldn't accept one cheque as the signatures were not exactly the same, even though he had his passport with him! That was the only problem we had though. There is a hugh variety of wildlife at the resort (monkey's, raccoons, Iguanas, and lots of insects!) We saw something new every day - too many to list! I recommend booking the other restaurants and the private beach club - we only went to each once, and wish we had done them more, especially the private beach club.
Overall a fantastic time was had by all, and will hopefully go back as soon as funds allow!

Graham, Sarah, Josie, Chris and Charlie Thorpe

“Thrilling!”

Rincon de la Vieja Mountain Lodge Canopy Tour

 
5 of 5 stars
Orangeville, Canada
Nov 27, 2007
2/2 found this review helpful

We absolutely loved this experience! Probably the most exciting/scary thing I have done. We booked a tour to attend the lodge through Vargas tours, they picked us up at our resort and took us there.

It is a very rough and rocky road once you get up on the mountain and takes a while.

Once there we did a 2 hour ATV tour with the Lodge. Awesome ride, incredible views of the mountains, saw howler monkeys, white faced monkeys and a toucan while in the forest.

Then we did the canopy tour, rode horses to get up there (horses were in great condition! well looked after) then did the zip lines. What a rush the first one is 450 feet above ground! you go across the valley, trees way below you and a waterfall off to the side. Incredible view. You do 11 zip lines to get to the bottom. Our guide came with us and 2 employees of the lodge. If you're really scared you can ask the guide to "double" you across. We did the first time then saw home fun it was and did it ourselves.

A fantastic lunch followed, best food we had while in Costa Rica, much better than the resort food.

Then after lunch we did the hot springs/mud bath. Nice and relaxing.


We had the best time ever! I would recommend this tour to anybody looking for adventure and thrills.

This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor

 

Hilton Papagayo Resort Costa Rica

 
5 of 5 stars
tillsonburg, Ontario
Jan 7, 2007
100/100 found this review helpful

We stayed at the Fiesta Premier Resort and Spa from December 11-18th 2006. This was our 3rd trip to Costa Rica and I have to say that this resort was the best so far. We found that the resort was immaculate in the grounds keeping, restaurant, and especially the rooms.

We really enjoyed that the rooms are actually 2 room bungalows as opposed to the typical apartment complexes. We stayed there with our 12 year old son and our 13 year old god son. The 2 rooms were connected by a short hallway with one way doors at each end. This was perfect for us, as it allowed us to be right next to the boys, yet maintain some privacy. The rooms were well furnished, clean and spacious. Ver y comfortable. They had a mechanical safe in the closet which we really liked. You make up the code, so it is extremely comforting to know that our valuables were secure. Our bungalow was 306/307. It was right next to the adult area . Right next door to us was the spa pool, gym and the bar (which was the Italian restaurant at night). Very convenient for hopping over for a quick beer or munchies. Our room was just a hop-skip and jump from the beach. We really enjoyed the 5 minute walk up the beach to the main complex area.

The pool was quite nice as it is in 3 stages. One with the swim up bar, the next is a level down with the volley ball net, then down another level that was a wading pool for the kids.

The food was really quite good. The main buffet had a good selection of food and was well prepared. There wasn't any problems with finding something to eat. I have to admit that I really liked the beef stew that was served at breakfast. The Italian restaurant was excellent, while Eldorado was ok. They made an incredible ceasar salad, right infront of you at your table,, but the rest food was over done.. The service made up for that fact. The waiter came up and asked how things were going. When we explained that it was a little over cooked, he immediately wanted to get us another plate. That impressed me. The snack bar had a good mix of North American and costa rican snacks. They made awesome burgers, which my kids loved. The chimichangas were very good. The only down side was when it reopened at 10pm, By the time the grill/fryers heated up you couldn't get anything to eat until about 10:30 - but that wasn't really a big deal.

The grounds were beautiful. But if you haven't been to Costa Rica before, be warned that the resort in built on a hill side., so there are a lot of up and down walking. But don't worry, the resort provides "transporation" to pick you up and take you where you want to go on the resort. I think the longest I waited for a driver was 5 minutes at one of the stops.

If you wish to be decadent, I have to strongly advise that you take time to visit the spa. For $80US I had the Ancestral Hot Rock Massage. It was one of the best hours of my life . I do believe I melted into a puddle on the ground. I decided to have my massage in one of the 2 ocean front cabanas, It was heaven to listen to the ocean while receiving my massage.

I also recommend that you do the jet ski tour offered at the resort. It was a blast and lasted for about 2.5 hours. We stopped by The Allegro Papagayo private beach to watch a troop of howler monkeys then went to investigate a sea cave. It was well worth the money.

But I do have to say that what made our trip was the tours we did with Vargas Tours. We have used this company before when we were in Costa Rica 2 years ago. We decided to use them again and did not regret it for a moment. Ricardo was amazing paitent with us over 5 months of constant e-mailing and planning. He met with us the second day we were at the resort. We decided to pay for all our tours (4 of them) in advance so that we didn't have alot of cash on us at the resort. He provided us with vouchers for the week. I had to say it was great for finally meet him after so many years. He was very friendly and professional. Since we were doing 4 trips, he assigned Manuel and Flaco to us for the week. These two were absolutely fantastic as guide/driver. They were extremely knowledgable, friendly and most importantly completely bilingual. They did the best they could to make sure that we enjoyed every aspect of our trips. It was no problem at all for them to stop so that we could capture that Kodak moment, and when it came to shopping they were patient as can be. It was wonderful, because we explained what we were looking for and they must of taken us to a half a dozen places that they knew of that could have it.

We did the Palo Verde River Tour (saw monkeys, crocodiles, more iguanas and birds then you could shake a stick at.) Then we went to Monteverde. A very long day, but the cloud forest and the scenery was well worth it. The hummingbird and butterfly sancutaries were amazing. Next we did the Marivailles Volcano/Canopy tour. That was so cool playing on an active volcano vent and last but no least we went white water rafting on the Colorado River. That was cool. Class 1&2 rapids. The rafts were 2 man boats, so each of us was with an experience guide. These guys are great and very playful - expect a couple of water fights along the way.

I would recommend Vargas Tours to anyone who wishes to do some excursions. Like I said they are very personalized and the most people we had with us was 2 other couples and their vans are new and very comfortable. Lunches are usually provided and they always find the best little restaurants to eat at . Their prices are competitive, but the value they provide is exceptional.

We will definitely be coming back to Costa Rica, and we will definitely be coming back to the Fiesta Premier Resort and Spa.
 

  • This TripAdvisor Member:
    • Liked — 2 room bungalows, very spacious and well furnished
    • Disliked — really had no complaints
    • Tips/Secrets: — if you can avoid traveler cheques as they are a real pain to try to cash

 

On July 22, 2006... we chose Vargas tours and were incredibly satisfied. It was just me and my wife on the tour - incredibly private. We did the Buena Vista hot springs spa, horseback riding, water slide and canopy tour. Our guide for the majority of the trip, Marco, spoke fluent (and I mean FLUENT, and ELOQUENT) English as well as Spanish and pulled over during our ascent of the mountain to show us native plants, butterflies, fruits and rivers. We had an abundance of wonderful picture taking opportunities. I usually am not a fan out 'tours', most of them seem commercial - but on this occasion, it felt like we were being led through previously unexplored places. The roads leading to the mountain were incredibly worn and I was glad an experienced guide was driving instead of me.

At the top, we did the horseback ride and spa first (there were barely any people there at all). The ride was through the deep woods, through streams and dense vegetation, simply surreal. The spa was very relaxing and unpopulated. For lunch, we stopped in a local place (The Coate (sp?) restaurant) for some very fresh and flavorful food. At the end, we did the water slide (warning: very very cold water!), which was thrilling, and the zip line tour (again, we were the only two up there, with two local guides helping us along). We saw some howler monkeys, exotic orchids, colorful birds...

In all, this tour is a wonderful value and a great alternative to taking the big tour buses up the mountain. I highly recommend it!
Dmitriy Myshkin


Liberia: Grand Papagayo: "Missing it already!!!"
 gary.bracey@gmail.com, Surrey, England Jan/2006

We have just returned from a glorious 14 nights at the Occidental Grand Papagayo and as this site was so useful to me in making my original decision to go there, I thought it only right to make a contribution myself! Please feel free to email me any questions you might have.

The dynamic of our party was quite varied– 3 families comprising of 6 parents (in our 40’s), one child of 10, 3 teens of 16 and five 17-19 year-olds. 15 of us in all.
We are from the UK and go away together in a group every Christmas. Traditionally, we choose the Caribbean (all-inclusive resorts) but this year we decided to be a little more adventurous – so glad we did! As there is no direct flight to Liberia from the UK, we flew via Miami, which meant a stop-over each night outward and return.

Arrival – The immigration at Liberia is the fastest ever! We were out of the airport with our bags within 30 minutes of the aircraft touching down. However, Liberia is a very basic airport so don’t plan on spending too much time there when it is time to leave!

Resort- First impressions of the resort were mixed. It was a lot smaller than we were used to, but this actually became an advantage. It had a more intimate feel as a result.

The Rooms – Pretty good. 'The parents' had paid a little extra for an Ocean View, which was a spectacular thing to wake up to every morning.
Clean, spacious and comfortable. Let’s face it, this is not the sort of place you are going to spend much time in your room, apart from sleeping, showering, dressing, etc! We had no problems with ‘lumpy pillows’ as mentioned by another reviewer below. In fact, our king-size bed had a total of 8 pillows to choose from (6 more than we needed!).

The Beach – I am a keen snorkeller and found this aspect a little disappointing. At low tide, the beach is super, but there is very little of it at high tide! We did have some fun taking kayaks and paddling over to the next bay where there is a lovely beach bar.
For the first time on my vacation, I spent more time at the pool than the beach. However, contrary to expectation this didn’t seem to bother me at all. The pool volleyball was always great fun to be involved with, and allowed you to make new friends. The only cautionary point I would make is that you need to get down early to ‘reserve’ your prize position (preferably a place with a little shade!)

The Food – overall it was very good. The buffet always combined a fine choice with good quality. The Italian restaurant, as many here have noted, was excellent and the Oriental was ‘good’. However, it is the dining system that created our biggest complaint and problem. The reservation process is ridiculous, particularly if you are trying to accommodate a large party.
The first week we stayed there (pre-Christmas) it wasn’t particularly busy but, despite repeated requests, we were unable to persuade them to move a couple of the tables together so we could enjoy an occasional ‘group’ dinner.
However, the puzzling thing is that in the second week – their busiest of the year – they seemed to be happy to assist with two groups of a similar size to our own!
Every time we saw the Guest Relations desk, they seemed to be fielding complaints about the Reservations system from someone. It’s a shame as this was the only flawed aspect of the entire resort. Someone below mentioned a ‘rude man from Guest Services’ – I know exactly who you mean: he is still there, unfortunately!!

The Staff – Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Genuinely warm, friendly people who are rightly proud of their country and we were privileged to have been shown around by a couple of them on their night off! We found that if you treat the staff with appropriate respect, then it is reciprocated. Combine this with decent tipping and you have the ideal formula for an enhanced experience! Unfortunately, there seemed to be a number of people who believed giving a tip entitled them to treat the staff like lackeys…. This does not go down too well, believe me!
I reiterate – the staff are fantastic (with the singular exception mentioned above).

The Trips – I will say this once, but it is the most important point I want to make in this whole review: You MUST make the effort to see as much of this beautiful country as you can; therefore organising some trips is absolutely essential!
We did a little research beforehand and reserved our tours with Michael and Ricardo at Vargas Tours – so glad we did!
[------------] Not only were they and their guides phenomenal, the trips gave us several unforgettable experiences that the teenagers in our party will remember for the rest of their lives! I really cannot stress how important it is to do this.
The tours we attended were:
1. The Buena Vista Mega Combo. Despite the hype-ridden title, it certainly lives up to the description. If you only have time for the one tour, it should be this one! I won’t go into a description of these as they can be seen on the above site, but needless to say it fulfils (and probably exceeds) any expectation you may have… and mine were pretty high to begin with!
2. The Beach-hopping tour. We combined this with a Quad-Bike tour and some of the group opted for horseback-riding. We followed this with surfing lessons for the ‘younger generation’, which was one of the highlights of the vacation for them!
3. The Palo Verde River Tour. Monkeys, Crocs, Birds and a real flavour of the wildlife generally.
4. The Sunset Sail. What a way to end the vacation! Not only viewing the most spectacular sunset ever, but also having schools (shoals?) of dolphins swimming by our boat and then the actual sunset framing the silhouette of 3 whales jumping and diving into the Pacific! Unbelievable.
One final point to make about the tours is that the Costa Rican roads are not the best (understatement), so be prepared for some bumpy rides!

In summary, I would say that Costa Rica is up there with the best places we have visited (and that includes Hawaii, Maldives, Cuba). The resort itself I would suggest is a four-star rather than the advertised five. However, the minor foibles of the Grand Papagayo are more than offset by the warmth and charm of their staff. Very, very highly recommended.

Oh and one last thing – although it was the dry season and there were very few mosquitoes, we did get bitten many times by those ‘no see-ums’. Very irritating so make sure you take good bug spray and also a decent anti-histamine cream to treat the bites.

The motto of Costa Rica is ‘Pura Vida’ and that pretty much sums up the culture, attitude, beauty and people of this wonderful place. Can’t wait to go back!!!



Sol Playa Hermosa - Kathy
January 2006

Food here was very flavorful, not too hot and spicy. Lots of flavor though, nothing bland about it. No it is not a five star resort with two buffets and five a la cartes. But the food at the buffet was always a bit above average. The soups were always excellent. Fruit was great pineapple in particular. If you ever do get tired of the food great inexpensive chicken, pizza, escargot and cold beer etc at Pizza Love on the beach. Also for something different at night Ginger’s closed Monday evenings, kind of an Asian influence appetizer menu, very unique in this tropical setting. Rooms are plain but quite nice considering it is a three star hotel. All I saw were clean. Villas seemed to be not as maintained as the hotel rooms. New pool area is gorgeous, although they do need more deck chairs at both the pool and also at the beach. People here were extremely welcoming. Very honestly glad you came to visit their country. We were lucky enough to be in the country when it was time for their festivals, which include bull riding. We follow the rodeo here in Canada. So for us it was a great opportunity. We went to a neighboring town, can't remember name of it. Went to the bull riding. Every single person we recognized from the hotel came over and said hello and introduced us to their spouses and children. The tour driver we used for one tour we took through Mike Mills made us feel exceptionally welcome at this event. I am quite sure we were the only tourists at this event, and only felt very welcomed by all the people there. Bottom line food is good, rooms are OK, but the staff there makes the stay there great. I would not hesitate to recommend this hotel to anyone who wants to enjoy Costa Rica. Just keep in mind it is rated as a three star, personally I would give it a solid four as for what they lack in fanciness they make up for in their welcoming attitude. Lots to do in the area, we used a guy named Michael Mills to book all of tours through. Definitely one of our better choices. Unique, personal approach to your trip and his company will pick you up right at the hotel.

pukas@telus.net



Hi Michael,

Both my husband and I wanted to let you know what a great time we had while we were in Costa Rica and we wanted to let you know that all of the tours you organized for us were fabulous. Especially, thank you for organizing the surfing trip to Tamarindo........we had a blast and our tour guide was great. It was my husband's first time surfing and now we wants to go surfing in Tofino on Vancouver Island as soon as possible!!

Thank you so much for all or your hard work.

We had a great time and we will definitely come back to Costa Rica one day.

Thanks again,

Erin and Mike Munsie



July 2005
Michael,

It was hard to believe all the glowing comments by former travelers and the advertising hype of your web site BUT... it's not brag it's just fact. Every tour you set up for my family was first class and exactly as advertised. It's hard to imagine how incomplete our vacation would have been if we had missed even one of those adventures. The drivers, the guides, the people we met and the places we went added up to a simply fantastic experience for all of us. Small and private makes everything that much more unique.

Please keep in touch so we can plan our next trip with you.


Thanks again, Bob

April/2005
Hi Mike,
 I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for the wonderful tours you set up for us. We cannot say enough about your professionalism and attentiveness. I spent many years as a Promotions/Marketing Specialist setting up incentive trips for groups from 10 - 600 people. You are one of the best operators I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with.
 Our sunset cruise was the perfect way to end a great vacation. Again, thank you for knowing just what we would like. What a great experience! We enjoyed the company of Captain John and Edwin so much - we even had a private bongo show in the darkness of the bay before departing.
 Actually Mike, you would almost believe the cruise had been orchestrated down to the last detail. First, that beautiful boat all to ourselves.  Followed by champagne and the perfect amount of wind to set the sail and glide gracefully around the coast. An exciting moment when we were "pirated" by another thirsty crew wanting our beer....okay, we forgive you!! Then, the magical moment - - my husband landing a 22 pound Amberjack off the back of the boat right as the sun set....wow!!
 Mike, again, a sincere thank you for making our trip perfect. You are a true asset to the tourist industry in Costa Rica. God Bless and keep up the great work.
 Your friends,
 "The Laid-back Foursome"
Bob and Penny Newton
Mike and Lynn Koewler
 PS Lynn did the zip line. Isn't that fantastic? She never would have even considered had we not been in the hands of our wonderful guide, David. What a treasure he is too.
 June/2005
Michael,
I cannot thank you enough for setting us up with Bob and his group. We had an exceptional trip with Rafael and his crew. On our full day trip we caught about 30 fish including 4 sailfish and two of the biggest Wahoo I have ever seen. I have always heard of the the great reputation Costa Rica had for its fishing but going with Rafael proved. Him and his crew are so experienced in locating the fish and and making sure you get them in the boat. Out of all of the fish we had we only lost a couple. The resort prepared all our catches that we brought back and was by far the best meal of the week. We highly recommended booking the crew for future trips to everyone who heard about our fish stories at the resort. And let me tell you there were quit a few because I caught two of the sailfish and I have never been so thrilled so I had to brag allot into the wee hours.

Thank you again for all of your help in making our first trip to Costa Rica an unforgettable one. Costa Rica is a beautiful place and we are already planning our next trip so hopefully on the next one we can meet you.

We appreciate everything and thanks again.

Annie

 

 

 

 

Aug31 2005

K Morrow

 

My group of 13 just got back from a week at the Grand Papagayo. I planned the whole trip, so I was very stressed out about how the resort would be for us all. Upon arrival, I was instantly relieved. At check-in we were all given champagne and Harold, the manager I had been in contact with, came to meet me to assure me that we would be taken care of. From there, the trip was awesome...

Rooms ~ each person in our group decided on an ocean view room. This was perfect. We woke up each morning to hear the waves crashing on the beach below. It was a decent walk to the rooms from the main building, but not out of control and there was constant transportation to take, if necessary. The cleaning service was impeccable ~ our girl came in to meet us our first day and each day she would go above and beyond her call of duty. One day she even put my earrings back in their little case, since I had left them on the floor (lazy me!!!).

Service ~ all of the staff at the hotel was awesome. They all spoke perfect
English and Spanish, and were patient with those of us who were trying to practice our Spanish speaking skills. Tipping is not necessary, but they do appreciate it (so much), and they will be even happier than before to help you.

Food ~ all of the restaurants were great. When we arrived we found out that the Italian and the Oriental were only available to us one night each. At first I was concerned and a little annoyed that we didn't know this ahead of time, but the truth is that the buffet is a 5* restaurant as well, and it was great eating there also.
***Tip - if you have a large group, tell them ahead of time and see if it is possible to arrange the Tatami Room (for up to 8 people) for a night. It is a private room in the Oriental, and it is beautiful and fun.

The Beach ~ we went to the beach on multiple days. It was a little rocky, but there were chairs and kayaks down there. It was fun to hang out and relax a little.
*Tip - Go at least one night at sunset.
**Tip - It was a short walk to the snack bar, but still kind of a pain to go get a drink. Bring a BIG insulated mug, and they will be happy to fill it up and send you on your way

Excursions... Where do I begin???
We used Michael Mills at Allegro Vargas-Papagayo Tours for all of our trips. He is probably is the happiest man in Costa Rica that we are now gone!!! Seriously, he was so accommodating and was happy to arrange all of our trips, even ones we did at the last minute.

1. Canopy Tours ~ we did Witches Rock. I still wish that we had done one of the combo ones, but this one was great. The cables were 3 years new and it was very safe. Tip ~ bring a hat/cap to wear under your helmet so you don't have to wear the ugly hair nets ~ the boys looked pretty silly with them.
2. Jet skis ~ we did jet skis through the hotel, and they took you to the Fiesta Premier to do it. (Our hotel was much prettier, but this one definitely had a different feel) The jet ski tour was 2.5 hours long and we got to see all of the different local beaches and resorts. Very cool ~ while out there we got lucky and saw dolphins, a six foot turtle, black fin tuna, and starfish. It was very cool.
3. Whitewater Rafting ~ very cool, very hard. We saw so many butterflies and monkeys. We did Class III, IV, and V... VERY tiring. Tip ~ bring power bars; you will be exhausted by the end...
4. Llano de Cortez ~ this was my FAVORITE thing. This is a waterfall about an hour away from the hotel. It was surreal how beautiful this was ~ we were able to all get in and play in the water and get a "massage" from the waterfall. It was about 60 feet tall and 40 feet across. This is not a true "tour" ~ Michael Mills arranged it. This is a waterfall that mostly locals go to. It looked like the beginning of Jurassic Park where the waterfalls all surround you. Tip - bring your waterproof camera. You will want to take a lot of pictures...

Other random things.
*There are stray cats wandering all over Costa Rica that are very nice. They will stay away from you if you are not a cat person, but I did wish that I had some kitty treats.
*Bring lots of waterproof cameras ~ everything you do involves some water.
*Insulated mugs ~ muy importante
*Call Michael Mills ~ he is wonderful. You can Google him under "Allegro Vargas-Papagayo Tours"
*Tip the staff. They will love you as much as you will love Costa Rica.

ok ~ time to get back to reality. Enjoy yourself ~ Puda Vida!!!



 

Mike, thank you for the wonderful time in Costa Rica. The tours you set up for us were the highlight of our trip. The small groups and the personalized service were just what we were after, and our guides were outstanding. I cannot talk highly enough to my friends about our experience.

Hoping to return soon,

Vikki and Cliff Feb 2005

Hi Mike:

Finally found some time to send off an e-mail to you regarding our tour with your company. The tour Buena Vista Mega Tour was great. Steve & I enjoyed many firsts together. I even attempted the canopy tour with a lot of help from the guide. Even though I didn't do it by myself, I can at least say I did it. The water slide was fun, but later that night, we found out at supper that a man at our Hotel went down the water slide and while going down, he noticed a snake's head pop up from his tube. He said it scared the @#$% out of him. It turned out to be a poisonous snake, so I'm glad I heard the story after the tour and not before. Also, the horse back riding was a first for the two of us and when the trip ended nobody wanted to get off. I think that was the most favorite part of the tour for me. Steve would say the canopy and he is ready for the next level. We also enjoyed the hot springs and mud bath. It was great for the sunburn.

We wanted to thank you for the discount. Everyone in our group enjoyed the tour, the small group and the fact that we were always ahead of everyone, at least a half hour, which meant no line ups, etc. It was great! We have told everyone we know about your tours, so we hope you get lots of business. We even told our travel agent about you and your tours and she was going to post these on her website for her clients to review before going to COSTA RICA in the future.

Also, we wanted to let you know how impressed we were with our guide "DAVID". For a young man, he was full of lots of information on Costa Rica and it's history. David showed us how cashews grow, which nobody knew. He was very nice and made our tour that much more enjoyable. Something that meant a lot to me, was that I had asked David if he would find some poor kids for me to give the clothes, hats, books and pencils to. David came with me and Steve took lots of pictures. I cried as the kids were so polite and grateful for everything they got. Not one child grabbed or screamed, they just stood there with big smiles on their faces and if I offered they said Gracias. Children in Canada have so much and are ungrateful and these little ones had nothing and were very thankful. After our tour one of the couples on our 6 man tour wanted to get some souvenirs and David and our driver (sorry I forgot his name) took us to a souvenir shop before heading for our Hotel. The souvenirs were very reasonable and probably half the money as at our Hotel. You have a good man in David and we just thought you would like to know as it is always nice to know that you have good knowledgeable help. Please say hi to him for us.

An English man by the name of Kenton from the Toronto area (who we referred on to you as well) was also very impressed with the Buena Vista Mega Tour and his guide. Kenton's son was sick the day originally planned for their tour, and your company made arrangements for another tour the following day. He was very impressed.

Well, should close for now, but just wanted to pass this information on to you and to let you know how informative your web site was for planning tours before heading to Costa Rica. Not only did it tell us about your tours, but it also told us about our Hotel "Allegro Papagayo" (which was wonderful). Bye for now and we look forward to planning more tours with you next year when we return to Costa Rica.

Sincerely,

Kim & Steve   - March 2005

April 5th/2005Hola Michael,

My name is Brandy Parker. My family and I took your sailboat tour on Sunday March the 27, I just wanted to let you know that it was the highlight of my entire vacation. We were staying at the Allegro Papagayo Resort. Costa Rica is paradise if I have ever seen it, with the most kind, most beautiful people in the world. After that week in paradise I am honestly thinking of ways to move there.

Thank you for your time,
Brandy from Canada

 

: Allegro Papagayo by Occidental
« Reply #16 on: Mar 23rd, 2005, 8:49pm »

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We just returned from one of the best vacation weeks of our lives...the resort is first class, food is fabulous , shows are professional, pool, bars and activities are excellent, and most important, everyone was extremely friendly and helpful and bent over backwards to accommodate any request. Our only "problem" was the air conditioning not cooling our 3rd floor, cathedral ceiling room very well...it was over 100F outside, so the AC there works hard. When we called the desk they were there within 5 minutes to fix it, and when it still wasn't cooling, they immediately offered to move us to another comparable room...the bellboy was at the door within 5 minutes and cheerfully waited while we packed up. Make sure you take water shoes. the black sand is muy caliente (HOT!!!) and you don't want to step on anything in the water (it is an ocean, after all!) We saw
howler and whiteface monkeys in the trees at the beach. Book your tours through Michael Mills ...we had 3 fantastic days of private tours us and our guide/driver) and the cost is about the same as the "40 people on a bus where you don't see anything and are on everyone else's schedule tours"...plus Mike was terrific about finding the best guides and staying in touch each day....he made suggestions, worked with our requests and problem solved to make sure we had a great week. Don't worry about booking at Allegro Papagayo; if they've had customer service difficulties in the past, they have certainly resolved them...we were treated like royalty.

 

User rating:
Province of Guanacaste: Fiesta Premier Resort & Spa: "Second trip to Fiesta Premier"
March 17, 2005:


August, 2004: We returned for our second trip to Guanacaste and again stayed at the Fiesta Premier. I will not repeat the details from our first trip in April 2004 (you can see our trip report from that one in a previous posting). The Fiesta Premier was as much fun as before. This time we stayed in a 2-bedroom unit (which was two 1-bedroom units joined by a short hallway), since we has not only our son but our 17-year-old daughter (Rachel) with us. Each of the rooms was very spacious, and this arrangement worked great. My wife (Sarah) and I actually managed to stay awake for most of the shows this trip, which was a lot of fun, especially since they drafted Rachel into performing for one show and Sarah for another (the Ms. Fiesta Premier show). This was definitely Sarah’s 15-minutes (actually more like 15 hours) of fame, since she had multiple fans come up the next day to tell her what a great Elvis impersonation she had done!

The biggest difference from April was that this was “rainy season”. Like others who have done trip reports from this season, we ended up thinking “Rain? What rain?” We really only had one day-time rain during our week-long stay, and that only lasted for an hour or so. The main tangible differences in the rainy and dry seasons were that (1) everything was much greener and lusher, with millions of beautiful butterflies; and (2) instead of getting stung by jelly-fish, my wife got bitten by bugs. (My wife is apparently very tempting to many wild animals -- including yours truly.) Anyway, the lesson here is to take plenty of industrial strength bug repellent, and apply it early and often.

We again took 2 tours, each of them pretty much all day. One was similar to the “Buena Vista mega-tour” we did before, except that this time we did a canopy tour on zip-wires that were longer and steeper (ie, faster) than the ones we used before. We requested this mainly because our 12-year-old son wanted an even bigger thrill, and believe me, we definitely got some adrenaline pumping! But it was REALLY fun, even for my wife and myself, who are normally big chickens about heights. (The kids, of course, are fearless.) The tour is $135 per person (compared to $120 for the mega-tour that includes the tamer canopy), but in our opinion well worth the money. This sounds like a lot at first blush, but considering that we got the personal service of a tour guide and driver all day (just for our family) and that on the canopy tour the guides outnumbered us, it looks pretty reasonable. We also did a white-water rafting tour, which was a blast. Our guide told us these were class 2-3 rapids mostly, with one or 2 short stretches of class 4. None of us had been white-water rafting before, so frankly this information didn’t really register. Naïve little me thought that as long as you stayed in your raft (really more of a 2-person kayak), the flow of the water would guide you through the rapids without much skill required. Wrongo, Dumbo! At my request, I started out in the kayak with just my son (no guide), and within about 5 minutes I had gotten us hung up on rocks 3 times. Each time required one of the guides from another kayak to get us un-stuck. We were never in any danger (the river was only a couple of feet deep), but it was clear that if we wanted to finish the rafting before we were scheduled to leave Costa Rica (in 2 days), we’d better make some adjustments. So, we re-arranged ourselves so that each kayak had a guide. David, our overall guide for the whole tour, was in my boat (unfortunately for him – read on). After that, things went much smoother, although even with a guide, things got a bit hairy at times. Again, no mortal danger, but we did overturn a couple of times and get carried along with the current a bit— enough to keep things exciting.

We arranged our tours again through Mike Mills and to avoid exhausting my supply of superlatives, let me just say that this is a fantastic tour company. They really go out of their way to accommodate you with personalized service. We did the Buena Vista tour with Ricardo, who is a real gem (see my April trip report), and the rapids with a younger guy, David, who is also extremely knowledgeable and very nice. Even when I accidentally whacked him in the nose with my paddle (by the way, I’m signing up partners for my next whitewater trip, if anyone is interested), he was unflappable and gracious. We heard some complaints from other people at our hotel who had gone on tours with another big company (Swiss), so we will definitely stick with Vargas on our future trips.

So, in sum, we now think that this vacation was about the best bang for buck we’ve had. We would highly recommend it to anyone, especially families. And if you go, say “Hi” from the folks in Falls Church to Ricardo and David, as well as to Mr. Raul Montero, the front desk manager at the Fiesta Premier.




User rating:
Province of Guanacaste: Fiesta Premier Resort & Spa: "Fantastic Trip"
March 8, 2005: A TripAdvisor Member, Detroit Compare prices with:


Province of Guanacaste: Fiesta Premier Resort & Spa: "I want to move there"
March 8, 2005: Nitram7@aol.com, Williamsville NY Compare prices with:
I stayed at this hotel in:
February, 2005
My ratings for this hotel are:

Rooms
Service
Value
Cleanliness
Dining
Activities and gym
I traveled to this hotel with: spouse/partner, small children

I recommend this hotel for: couples and romantics, honeymooners, singles, families with small children, large groups, students, budget travelers, active/adventure travelers

My visit was for: leisure

Returned from Fiesta Premier March 1st. Hated to leave. My wife and two children, ages 7 and 10 spend 9 days at the Fiesta. The best thing about the resort is the people. I don't know how they keep smiling. They are very open and there to help you have a great time. Will is one of the staff that keeps you busy through the day with activities and a smile. Henry is a great guy who will entertain your children with face painting and games. Martin was my favorite bartender who gives you the low down on what's up. Unfortunately I only became familiar with these few and Ogre who you'll see hustling first thing in the morning until late a night. I only mentioned men, but the women glowed with friendliness. Hey i can only say so much about the women, remember i'm married. These people work their behinds off for your comfort. Don't forget to tip. I didn't do it enough.
My kids loved the pools and they were never crowded. It always felt as if the resort was half full. The food was always good, with a different theme every night as well as an ala carte restaurant.
I thought the beach was great and there's another even better one just a stone's throw away. Bird life is everywhere in all sizes and colors. You can't beat the temperature and there usually was a nice breeze blowing when needed, yet the bay was very calm. My kids also loved the little tidal pools of sealife that formed on the rocks.
I didn't give the resort five stars because the room is nice but it is not luxurious. But it is almost irrelevant since we all just crashed and slept like babies at night.
We did some day tours with Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Allegro Tours)))))) through Michael Mills. Great people.With the politically inspired David Blanco, future president of CR. And we were very fortunate to spend the day with Richardo the owner, just a terrific guy.
At the resort you can get other tours and it is very easy to do. I also recommend that you somehow get out on the water for another perspective.
Just a wonderful trip and a great time in CR.
If you need any other info please feel free to email me.
One last piece of advise, if you are offered a shuttle through your tour agency you may just want it to the resort. It was a heck of a lot easier to take a taxi back to the airport as far as saving time.


Hi Michael,
We are back in Canada and missing your beautiful weather. I just wanted to say thank you for the wonderful tours you and your partners set up for us. Your staff is amazing and so knowledgeable about Costa Rica. All questions were answered, every request was taken care of and even extra stops along the way were fit in when requested. (We are the big group of 16 from Canada) We never felt rushed, we were always asked if we were ready to continue on. Best tour guides I have ever come across. I must thank you personally for the private use of your sail boat for our group on Valentine's day. It was the best afternoon and evening and I will never forget it! We enjoyed getting to know you better, along with Michelle and the crew. The saxophone player and guitar player were awesome and every time I hear a sax it takes me right back to your boat and that beautiful sunset. I can't thank you enough for making our stay in Costa Rica the greatest and if we ever make our way back, I will bring you some Canadian beer!
The Mandseth's  Feb 2005

Dear Michael

Thanks for a great time in Costa Rica. Our group of 16 especially enjoyed the Valentine's cruise . You made it very special by presenting the ladies with roses and chocolates. And of course the champagne didn't hurt either. We loved listening to the saxophone player and the great singer on the guitar while we were sailing . That is something none of us will forget. Our friend Kathy thought she had died and gone to Heaven. Our pictures of the sunset from the boat are absolutely awesome. Having the sax and guitar players come with us and continue to play at the restaurant, was such a nice touch and the pizza was delicious. Too bad some of our group had to be escorted home early ( for unknown reasons Ha! ) . Our whole time in Costa Rica was great, and thanks to you, we had awesome tours . The Mega Combo tour and the Palo Verde River tour were fantastic. Hope to see you again, as we have much more to see and experience in Costa Rica. Thanks Michael

Bob and Wendy Bignell
19 McLeod Crescent
Leduc Alberta Canada
T9E 6P7

Allegro Grand Papagayo Darlene & Kate ~ Canada
February 2005

We have just returned from a fabulous week in Costa Rica. Allegro Papagayo Resort was everything it was advertised to be. The frequent shuttles throughout the property made it possible for those less able to navigate the hills to be able to navigate the resort. It is a beautiful spot with breathtaking views.

The resort was busy and at times staffing was stretched to the limit in the main restaurant. The steak house was a much more relaxed atmosphere and service was excellent. The menu choices were great and it was a nice change to be served your food as opposed to the buffet.

The staff were pleasant and friendly. The Entertainment staff in particular worked hard to get people involved in the activities of the day. They were an enthusiastic and fun loving group. They work very long hours as do the staff in the dining areas. Despite long hours of work, the staff never failed to smile and execute their duties efficiently.

We booked two tours through Mike Mills, a Canadian who has re-located to Costa Rica. The small group approach to tours is the way to see Costa Rica. Our first tour was Paola Verde Wildlife Sanctuary and the river cruise. It was exciting to see the many birds, monkeys and crocodiles in their environment. Every effort was made by our tour guide David Blanco and boat operator to allow us time to take photos as well as to observe the wildlife. A stop at a local restaurant for a delicious lunch was a great end to the tour.

I would not hesitate to recommend Allegro Papagayo Resort as a place to vacation. Having traveled extensively in the Caribbean I feel this resort is great value for your money. Likewise, the tours booked through Mike Mills were exceptional. The knowledgeable tour guides, David and Maynor, both possessed a sense of humor which added to each tour.

The second tour we embarked upon was Rincon National Park. Once again our tour was exceptional. Two other participants had cancelled at the last minute which resulted in a private tour for us. The tour was conducted by Maynor of Tours Your Way and we were very fortunate to have such a knowledgeable guide. We stopped for several photo opportunities enroute to the park. Maynor reversed the path of our tour through the park so that we saw the volcanic areas in the early morning and were able to walk in the shaded areas when the sun was at it's hottest. Maynor went to great lengths to spot birds, monkeys etc for us. Once again we stopped at a lodge for lunch and were able to enjoy yet another aspect of the countryside.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

User rating:
Province of Guanacaste: Fiesta Premier Resort & Spa: "Fun at Fiesta"
March 1, 2005:,Port Washington,NY Check prices with:



We just returned from Fiesta after a one week vacation with our two children, ages 15 and 13. It was Presidents week break and we were looking for a fun vacation for the kids. The resort had about 85% of its vacationers from Canada. They obviously do not celebrate Presidents week. So there were very few kids at the resort. This was a problem, although the universe provided, and we met up with one other American family with kids the same age. That said, and that the resort seems to be more adult orientated, our kids did have a good time. The resort has a lovely spa with 2 wonderful therapists, Graziella, and Fernando. The spa area is separate from the main area of the resort and kids are not allowed in the spa area. The activity organizers at the resort did manage to keep us entertained, with beach volleyball, pool volleyball, water aerobics, dance lessons, eco walks and a bicycle ride that took place in the surrounding area outside the resort. The bicycle ride was wonderful. We got to see a lot of monkeys and the trail was shaded and lovely. Henry, the activities director was a wonderful host and he has a great, upbeat personality. Jehinner,another activities specialisy was wonderful with water aerobics, and the bike ride. All the activies personel couldn't do enough to make our stay enjoyable. The nightly shows were fun. The dancing was really good. The food at the resort is above average, with a variety of protein choices and vegetable choices at each meal. I especially appreciated all the different fresh vegetables, prepared grilled, steamed, and sauteed as well as fresh salads. There was always a pasta choice at lunch and dinner, and a variety of fresh fruit at all three meals. The deserts were varied and tasty. We ate at the a la carte restaurant one night, The El Dorado. I preferred the buffet. The smoothies at the Spa are wonderful, and there is a healthy variety of sandwiches, grilled chicken, avocado, whole wheat bread, etc if you choose a lunch there. After breakfast, the snack bar opens thru lunch and until about 5:00. There is an assortment grilled meats, hamburgers, grilled chicken, hot dogs, nachos, BBQ ribs etc. Plenty of choice for everyone. As far as the layout of the resort goes, the resort is built into a very steep incline. The rooms are clean, and the airconditioning works well. If your rooms are at the top, the 400 level, you have great ocean views, but you really need to take the shuttle. The shuttle does come in 5 minutes or under, so there is no issue, unless you really like to walk everywhere like I do. It really was quite a hike, and the extremely hot weather makes it difficult. I walked early in the morning, but at nite it's buggy, and during the heat of the day its too hot. But this shouldn't be a deal breaker. The shuttle is fine. The beach is a black sand beach, which makes it look a little tar-ish. The water looks dark, because the dark sand absorbs the light. The water is clean and warm, but it is not the beautiful turquoise blue of the carribbean. The gulf of papagayo is very calm and the snorkeling around the resort is good, with a lot of school fish. If you like to dive, there is a diving school on premises. You can also do a snorkeling trip by boat through the resort. It is about $50.00 per person. You can also book a snorkel trip on a catamaran through Michael Mills at Allegro. The highlight of our trip was the two excursions that we booked through Michael Mills at Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Allegro Tours)))))). His website is ------. We booked the BuenoVista Mega tour( bug spray a must, and not the natural kind. It has to have deet or you will be scratching for your whole vacation.) and took an excursion to Tamarindo, where the kids did surf school for the day. Tamarindo surf school did an excellent job with our kids. They had two instructors and the surf was a safe level, great for learning. Our guide from Allegro was Roberto. He was fantastic. Very knowledgeable about all things Costa Rica, he kept us informed and entertained. His English was very good and he was wonderful with the kids. I can't say enough about Allegro and Roberto. It was great to book a tour with a private guide and a small group. It was about the same money as booking through the resort, but you were not on a big tour bus with a lot of people. It really helps to go outside the resort, because staying all day at the resort for a week is a little boring. Even with the activities, it can get a bit repetitious. HELPFUL TIP: When we arrived on American into Liberia, our luggage did not arrive with us. It was a real hassle, because there is only one flight a day, and the flight does not arrive until about 2:00. We did not get our luggage until Wed morning and they made us get it. We sent a taxi from the resort and it cost $90.00! Definitely pack a carry on with a bathing suit, shorts, and toiletries. We had to buy everyone bathing suits, flip flops etc and that was a big expense. Hopefully we will get reimbursed, but I'm not holding my breath. The airport is a rinky dink hanger, understaffed and discombobulated, (if there is such a word) There isn't even a vending machine or or soda machine. We were stuck filling out paperwork for over 1 hour. We were hungry, hot and tired. Not a great way to start a vacation! Be prepared and plan ahead. All and all, we had a great time and we were sad when it was time to leave. That is a good indicator of our vacation even though there were some rough spots. I would definitely recommended this resort for couples, friends, and groups, and if you want friends for your children, I suggest that you bring them with you. There are probably kids around the Christmas vacation, but in general, I wouldn't depend on it.



Dear Michael,

    Thank you for all your assistance in organizing our vacation during the week of February 5-12th. I'm especially grateful that you were able to direct me to the local watering hole to watch the super bowl. Being from the Philadelphia area it meant a lot to our group. Unfortunately, the results were not those we wanted, but what better place  to recover from the loss than Costa Rica! The people were incredibly friendly and honest to the extreme. All the tours that you arranged for us were first rate and the groups were small and everyone got to know each other . Our guide, David Blanco was exceptional. He was with us for two days and went out of his way to teach us about Costa Rican flora and animal life. He also taught us the local customs and gave us a real insight into Costa Rican life.
By the end of the trip we wanted to take him home to meet our daughter , who is a wildlife and fisheries major. He is truly an asset to your tour company. At the resort ,people couldn't praise him enough and called later in the week to try to set up tours only if he was the guide. I'm personally thrilled with the fishing tour that you arranged for my wife and myself. Catching sailfish ,tuna and dolphin all in a 1/2 day was great, especially when others were catching nothing. Will try to send pictures when I get them developed. All in all ,I want to compliment the Vargas tour group on there professionalism and courtesy. I will definitely contact you on our next trip to Costa Rica.                  Sincerely, John Urbanek    Feb 2005

 

Hi Mike,
We arrived back in Ottawa over the weekend. I just wanted to say thanks for the great tours you provided for us on our vacation!

We started the week on the Palo Verde river tour was excellent. We saw many crocodiles, monkeys, birds, iguanas….David was very pleasant and knowledgeable. The restaurant where we had lunch was really nice. The food was great!

Next, we went to Witch's Rock for the canopy tour. Stephen was quite nervous, but once he got started he enjoyed it. I really thought it was a blast! It is a must do!

The day out on the "Cool Running" was most enjoyable. Sorry for the confusion about the meeting place. Thanks again for sending the small boat back for us. The snorkeling was fun and the cave was really neat.

The day at Arenal was great. It was cloudy so we didn't get a really good view of the volcano, but we still really enjoyed the day. Walking through the rain forest was awesome! Chico was a great guide. He stopped so we could see a coati (I think that is the correct name) at the side of the road. The hot spring (it wasn't Tabacon and I can't remember the name) was to die for!

The trip to Nicaragua was also really great! It was amazing to look into the crater of the Masaya volcano. The market in Masaya was really fun. Granada was really beautiful. Going though the border is quite an eye opener. Thank goodness we had Ciro (I don't know if I spelled the right) to help us along.

Overall, the tours we took made the vacation! The guides were all helpful, knowledgeable and fun. The places we saw were worth seeing. I would recommend them to anyone going to Costa Rica. There wasn't one tour that we were disappointed in. Thanks for everything!

Joanne Falconer
joanne.falconer@sdc-dsc.gc.ca
      Feb 2005



Grand Papagayo review
« Thread started on: Jan 30th, 2005, 5:57pm »

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This place is amazing! My fiancé and I were at the Grand Papagayo Jan 22-29. I really wonder why people are writing such negative reviews. I guess people really feel a need to let little things in life bother them. A vacation is really what you make of it. By far this was the best all inclusive resorts we have ever been to. I have to admit that I was a little afraid of what I was going to find considering the poor comments made by people who had traveled here when the resort first opened. Have no fear this place is GREAT!!


Hotel – When we first pulled up to the resort and got off the bus in the lobby I was mesmerized by the view of the beautiful bay of Papagayo. Right away I knew this was going to be a great vacation. Everything was so new and elegant. We had to go up stairs to the meeting room where we were given champagne. Then we were given our bracelets and room keys and sent on our way. One evening we had a family of howler monkeys right in front of our room. Their so cute! Also almost everyday we saw howlers down by the beach where the locals park there cars. There is a family of approximately 15 with one Alfa male that watches out and makes a really loud noise if he feels threatened. There were also many species of birds flying around the resort. Bring binoculars so you can get a closer look.


Rooms – We stayed in room 2203 with a beautiful view of the bay. It was quiet and far away from any sort of activity. It was great. We wanted some peace and quiet and we got it with our room. Our room had 1 king size bed a nice big bathroom and a big veranda with 2 chairs and a small table. This was where I spent a few evenings reading a book in the very warm summery air. The rooms were clean and tastefully decorated. There is a stocked mini fridge, a safe, ironing board, T.V with satellite (mostly Spanish channels but who cares), alarm clock and a hairdryer. We only had one minor problem with our safe the first day that we arrived (the battery was dead) but by the next morning they had come and replaced it and we could lock up our valuables. Also the air conditioner was really loud when it would turn on and off which got on my fiancés nerves (I was smart and brought ear plugs).


Restaurants – High quality of food every meal here is a breakdown of each restaurants.

Buffet- Excellent selection! I really enjoyed that they cooked Costa Rican dishes rather then trying to imitate North American food. It was always super good. Everything was pretty hot and fresh. I was impressed by the fact that they actually used spices to season their food unlike Cuba where you can even find salt and pepper. Every meal had a great assortment of fresh local fruit always super sweet and ripe. They also had very nice deserts and the service was incredible. My drink was never empty! And the waiters always pushed in my chair when I sat down.

Oriental – Also was very good, excellent presentation of food. The service and the décor were top notch.

Italian – Probably one of the best meals I have had at a restaurant in years. I have never experienced such amazing service as I did here. They really work hard to make everything perfect for you. The food was to die for. It was a 5 course meal consisting of an appetizer, soup, pasta, main course and dessert. They even make Martini’s with olives! My fiancé was shocked.

Staff – Talk about a nice group of people. Everyone was so polite and easy going. Nobody was expected to tip which I found to be a nice change. Our first night there we were tipping and we were always getting strange looks from the workers. So we stopped and our service remained great.

Entertainment – If you are looking for nightly shows and a lot of night life this may not be the place for you. During the day time there are a number of activities happening around the pool area. In particular at 9am every morning Ruben and Eva take you on a walk to look for birds and howler monkeys. Then there is water aerobics, Spanish lessons, volleyball and archery. Then at 5pm they take you on a sunset walk to Costa Blanca one of the most beautiful area’ s to watch the sunset over 3 rocks. So pretty!!! At night time people mostly sit around the bar area’s and talk about there days. Then they show a movie in the meeting room and then they have a Disco. We were usually in bed by 9 because we had gotten up so early in the morning.
Beach – Typical Costa Rican beach, soft black sand not very long but great for swimming and snorkeling. The water was warm and calm. The snorkeling was great on the left hand side of the beach where the rocks go out about 300m. We saw many different varieties of colorful fish. We saw quiet a few eels, octopus, puffer fish, and sting rays. I got stung a few times by small jelly fish but they are so small that it really only hurts for a few minutes. I would recommend bring water shoes because of the random rocks and the cloudy visibility. One thing we found really cool were all the hermit crabs that are on the beach at night time. If you go down at night and stand still and look around you will see hundred of moving lumps. It was truly amazing!


Excursions – We booked our tours through Michael Mills. They were great. We went to Rincon National park and had Manuel take us on a hike through the forest and the hot bubbling mud pits. We saw spider monkeys swinging from the trees as well as toucans. There were also many strange bugs and lizards. Then we made our way through the forest to a waterfall. It was breathtaking. We ended our hike and Manuel had fresh cut up Cantaloupe and pineapple. Then he took us on another 20 minute hike to another waterfall that we could swim. The water was extremely cold and we just had a nice time looking at all of the butterflies and watching this other couple swimming in the icy water. Then after we hiked back to the van we were taken to Liberia for lunch. We were given a typical Costa Rican meal of rice, beans, salad and fish. It was great!!! Then we made our way to a souvenir shop then headed back to the hotel.

Our second tour was to Palo Verde. David was our guide. He was also very knowledgeable. When we got to Palo Verde we were paired up with a boat driver they call Hawk Eye because he can spot things a mile away. We were informed that there was a group of white faced monkeys so we set off to find them. When we got there we were greeted by the cutest little faces looking out at us. Right away the monkeys were excited that we were there and started jumping all over the boat, coming with in arms length of us. Talk about a rush. I had never been so close to a monkey in my life. So after a while we set down river to find some birds and we came across herons and a bunch of other birds I can’t remember the names of. Then we headed back the other way and found tones of crocodiles. Apparently there are 200 crocks per mile. The place was crawling with them. Another group of people that were on our boat was feeding them chicken pieces. They were like 3 feet from the boat. Another amazing rush! The cruise a little over 2 hours and then we were taken to this little tiny restaurant where everything is cooked on a wood stove. That’s were we learned of a condiment they call Salsa. Its not they everyday chopped up tomatoes and onions it’s almost like a ketchup but much tastier. Needles to say we came home with some.

We also took a Taxi to Coco beach to do some shopping. Cost $30. I recommend getting your coffee from the grocery store everywhere else charges double. We also picked up some hot sauces “salsa” coffee liquor and rum. We did a little souvenir shopping and picked up a few small items. Really thought 3 hours is the most one can spend in Coco Beach. It’s just way too touristy.

In conclusion I would have to say that we would come back here again, and probably will sometime soon. I have totally fallen in love with Costa Rica and her people. I have never felt so at home in a foreign country. How could you go wrong with sunny skies and 30 degree weather everyday and surrounded by one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world!

if you have any questions please feel free to email me!I will have my pics posted soon

 

 

VILLAS SOL & FIESTA PREMIER RESORT & SPA

My husband has written this review.

In my opinion, how you get there is not important, what is important is how you were treated and if you had a good time when you were there.

First, we spent one week at Villas Sol. We previously emailed both resorts and let them know that it was our first anniversary and requested a complimentary upgrade from a standard hotel room. We brought my daughter, her husband, my grandson and his grandmother.

Upon arrival, we were surprised to find that we had received an upgrade to a huge 2-storey villa on the very top of the mountain. The view was absolutely spectacular. Both lower and upper floors had windows from floor to ceiling which overlooked the bay. We couldn’t ask for anything better, except there weren’t any drapes or blinds on either floor and the sun comes up around 5:30. There was also a full-length balcony on each floor. It was also a little inconvenient having to call for a shuttle whenever you wanted to leave the room to go anywhere. As I said, it was on top of a mountain and I mean a mountain. I am 45 and fairly fit and I could not walk up to the room. After the second day, we elected to move down to the main building where the rest of the family was staying. It was much more convenient for us and closer to the pools, bars and restaurants. I should also mention that the main area is still only halfway down the mountain, so it was still a bit of a hike down to the beach or you could take a shuttle.
The bars were close to the pool and the staff were very attentive and very friendly. I don’t know how they can keep on smiling when they work 14-16 hours a day, 15 days in a row and then only get 2 days off. The people deserve every tip they get and much more. The average employee makes under $300 a month and only sees their families 4 days a month.
As we were off the resort on eco-tours for 3 full days the first week, we did not reserve the specialty restaurant. We ate all of our meals at the buffet. It was not large or extravagant, but the food there was always very good. You could always find several things to fill up your plate, and we did, sometimes 2 or 3 times. No complaints for the price that we paid.
There are no bars on the beach owned by the resort, but there are a couple of restaurants, bars and a grocery store. It costs about $3 for a beer and a rum and coke, very reasonable.

We met an amazing guy, Michael Mills,(Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Allegro Tours))))))) who we had communicated with before we arrived in Costa Rica. He is from Canada and has been in Costa Rica for about 7 years. He knows all the best tours to take. Michael  can be contacted to arrange the tours. Michael took care of every detail of our tours. They only take small groups of people in 10 passenger vans and have the most knowledgeable English speaking guides. We were so impressed with our guide Felipe, that after our first tour, I called Michael and requested Felipe for our second day trip. These guys are amazing. They know everything about their country and made a 3-hour drive to the volcano an educational experience and it made the time just fly by. After our second day trip (the Buena Vista Mega tour combo), we called Michael again to see if we could get Felipe for our third day trip. Michael, in turn, called VargaTours and with some very thoughtful maneuvering, switched guides around so that we could have the guide that we requested.
These small group tours are far superior to the large bus group tours. You have one driver and an excellent guide with personal attention that they just can’t match. You can vary your trip to suit your group. You are not on a tight schedule like the large tours. You arrive at your destinations before the large tour buses, can stay there longer if you choose and can stop anytime that you want to take pictures, go shopping or for whatever reason.
For an example, on our way to the Palo Verde tour, we stopped at a grocery store, picked up bananas, chicken parts, beer and pop. I was having problems sleeping so Felipe suggested that I pick up some sleepi-tea, an all-natural herbal tea that helps you get a good nights sleep. Once the family saw what I had, they then decided that they too wanted some of the different kinds of herbal teas and our driver and guide had no problems in waiting for us.
When we got to Palo Verde, Felipe had arranged for a very special boat captain. He had a lot of knowledge and patience in finding the wildlife for us to see. While we were stopped on the river looking at 2 different kinds of bats camouflaged in the bark of trees and taking pictures of them, the large tour companies went whizzing by us and totally missed so much wildlife. We were also the only boat that pulled ashore for over half an hour, sliced up bananas and everyone on our boat got to hand-feed a group of about 15 white-faced monkeys. They came right on our boat. The other tour companies only stopped and looked at them in the trees and then took off down the river without feeding them.
Next were the crocodiles. Our captain knows a large, formerly captive male crocodile named Salamon. When he saw our boat, he swam directly toward us. We parked on the river bank and when Salamon got a couple of feet from our boat, fed him pieces of chicken. We also saw a few of Salamon’s girlfriends. What an exciting and exhilarating experience for my 9-year old grandson to hand-feed monkeys and have 10-foot crocodiles eating so close to our boat.
We were also the only tour boat to feed the crocodiles. You just can’t beat that. It is something none of us will ever forget. The personal attention and the patience of our captain and guide made the experience unforgettable. We also saw about 20 very large iguanas and an osprey. We stopped, got right off the boat and got under a whole family of howler monkeys. They are herbivores and don’t eat bananas, so we just go to take close-up pictures of the howlers.
After getting off the boat, we were taken to a local small restaurant to have a traditional Costa Rican lunch. All the courses were in large bowls and passed from person to person. Lunch was excellent. There was a Spanish speaking parrot sitting above us saying “Hola” most of the time that we were there.
All 3 of our trips were unique and unforgettable and would not have even come close to what we experienced with a group of 30 to 40 people.
All our unforgettable experiences were directly due to the personal attention of our guide Felipe. The love of his country, the drive and determination of a Canadian who fell in love with this country and wants other people to see and experience as much of the unique country as possible during their short holiday. My hat is off to Michael Mills, Felipe and Varga Tours for our experience of a lifetime.

On to our second week at Fiesta Premier Resort & Spa. Since we had booked 2 separate all-inclusive packages, our transfers from Villas Sol to the Fiesta Premier were not included, so I, in turn, called Michael to ask him the best and cheapest way to get there. Michael told us to give him a few minutes and he would get back to us. He returned my call and told us that we were all set, he had called Vargas Tours and Ricardo had volunteered to personally pick us up at Villas Sol and take us to the Fiesta. When I asked him how much this would cost, he replied there would be no charge, but we could try to give Ricardo a tip if we would like. After being transferred to the Fiesta, we tried to give Ricardo a tip, but he refused and said that he had heard about us from Michael and it was his pleasure to take us because he wanted to meet us before we left Costa Rica.
We previously visited the Fiesta Premier 6 years ago when it was called Blue Bay Papagayo. Since then it had been bought by new owners, was closed for a couple of years to receive a multi-million dollar renovation.
Let me say that everything, the grounds, rooms, restaurants and pools have been renovated. A new snack bar and bar had been added beside the pool and the old restaurant by the pool had been opened up to accommodate a large buffet and air-conditioned sitting area. New internet, tour, dive and souvenir shops have also been added. They have landscaped the area above the beach so that there are 4 separate flat lounge areas with plenty of chairs and palapas with small sets of steps between them leading up to the main pool, bar and restaurant areas. Much better than laying on a lounge chair sloping downhill.
The beach is a black sand beach with good snorkeling just off to the left of the resort and there are lots of parrot fish, trumpet fish and sergeant major fish. We even saw a yellow-fin tuna not 10 feet from the beach and lots of puffer fish.

The Fiesta Premier has a specialty restaurant for dinner that requires reservations. My wife and I did not indulge, but my daughter and her husband did and said it was very good. The only reason that we didn’t try it was because we were so impressed with all of the food at the buffet. I have never eaten so much in my entire life. The staff at the restaurant and bar are top shelf, always smiling and very attentive.
The activity staff are very active during the day, but not pushy like some resorts we have been to. They are also the stars of the nightly entertainment. These shows are also much better than others that we have seen.

Just down the beach to the right, about a 15 minute walk, there is another bay. It is very private and a nice morning walk. One morning, my wife saw a white-face monkey. Another morning, we walked a little bit further and took a path that goes into the forest. About a quarter of a mile in, we saw several families of howler monkeys.
Unfortunately, on our first full day, I broke a toe on a lawn sprinkler. It was very painful to walk, never the less wear fins, so I only ended up going scuba diving once. A 2-tank morning dive with the equipment rental was only $80. We took Diving Safaris from the beach at Villas Sol. Michael arranged for us to get picked up and transferred to their dive office and returned to our resort at no extra charge. The Pacific Ocean doesn’t have the clarity of the Caribbean, only 25 feet or so, but the marine life we did see was amazing. On our first dive, we saw 4 different kinds of Rays, green sea turtles, starfish, urchins, angelfish and countless species of fish of all colors. After an hour, we went to our second dive site. It was a large coral head with a sunken fishing trawler that was just packed with all kinds of fish. Both were very good dives.

On our last full day at the resort, we were invited by Michael to go on a Trimaran boat . He picked us up at our resort. We went down the coast for a few miles to a deserted, pristine bay to do some snorkeling. We snorkeled with a guide that went to the bottom and brought up starfish, puffer fish, urchins and even an octopus that was latched onto his arm for a few minutes. He brought up a whole feed of oysters and brought them back to the boat. With a little Tabasco sauce and lemon juice, we enjoyed the freshest oysters ever.
On our way back to the resort, to make the day perfect, we had a small pod of bottlenose dolphins just a few feet in front of the boat. What a way to end our holiday! Even with a broken toe, it was the best holiday we have ever had.
Sorry for being so long winded, but I just wanted people to know what a fun filled exciting holiday that we had in Costa Rica, largely due to Michael Mills, Varga Tours and of course a very special guide, Felipe.


 

Author: rsmury
Date: 08/21/2003, 12:22 pm
Message: My wife, 2 daughters ages 3 and 8, and myself recently spent a week, Aug. 2nd through Aug. 9th, at the Allegro Occidental Papagayo resort in Costa Rica. It was our first trip to Costa Rica, but it won't be our last. We were really happy with what we got for our money at this resort, and will be going back during spring break, because Costa Rica has so much to see, one week does not do it justice.

The resort itself is really worth every penny we spent on it. While it's rooms aren't 5 star resort quality. They are very comfortable, clean, and offer a great view. Plus we didn't go there to sit in our rooms anyway, we went there to enjoy the outdoor activities. We had one small problem with our room, after calling the front desk we had people to our room to fix the problem within minutes. The resort is located on a large hill, but there are shuttles for people who don't want to walk.

The beach is a black sand beach, and the water is not as clear as the Caribbean but my kids didn't really know the difference. They were taken out to the beach, on a daily basis by members of the fun club staff to build sand castle and play. There is boat service to a nicer white sand, which also has a bar and snack foods available, it was a nice change of pace. The pool was great also, swim up bar never seemed too crowded. The shows were great, my kids were on stage every night doing the games, and my wife really loved the shows the dancers put on.

The service at the bars was great. I took a stack of dollar bills, and a tip every now and then really helped the service, but was not required. The steak house was great, but we only ate there once, since my kids can be picky eaters, the buffet worked out better. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the buffet, were outstanding. There was always plenty of chicken, pork, and beef, freshly grilled, and already prepared. Breakfast was great, eggs and omelets made to order, plus fruits, cereal, and other prepared items ready to go. Never really had to wait more than a minute or to be seated, and the service was excellent.

Some of the trips we took were booked with the help of Michael Mills( e-mail
josta@papagayovargastours.com ,

 

We never made it to the Spanish Dancer for a day of sailing, but hopefully we will in the spring. Michael was a wealth of knowledge, and really helped us plan a great vacation. He pointed us in the direction of a private tour service provider (who works with Michael) Frederico , who took us on an overnight trip to Arenal. The volcano trip included a stay at Los Lagos Resort, a few hours and dinner at the Tabacon Hot springs, and horse back riding the next day to the La Fortuna waterfall. Frederico was a great guide, who took time along the way to point out various plants and animals. We enjoyed our time with Frederico so much that instead of renting a car to go to Tamarindo for the day, to surf and hang out, we paid for his services one more time. When we go back in the spring we will be giving him a call again for a trip to the Palo Verde River.

Another trip we took was a 4-hour deep sea fishing trip, which was a great time even though the seas were a little rough. We went with Tranquilamar Sportfishing , and will go with them again in the spring. We paid for 4 hours, but no one looked at the watches, and we were gone a total of 6 hours. If it wasn't for someone getting seasick we probably would have kept fishing, the captain seemed to be enjoying himself also. We caught a nice Wahoo, some smaller fish, and I lost a nice sailfish. The view of Bat and Catalina Islands is worth the price itself, add in the great fishing, and the view of the dolphins that my kids kept seeing, it was well worth the price.

The weather was a surprise. I really thought we were going to get rained on daily, We saw some clouds on most days, but not much rain at all, day or night. In fact I got very sun burnt while I was there. Inland at Arenal, the peak was blocked most of the day, but it did break through and gave us a chance to get some great pictures. When it did rain at Arenal it was late at night, and didn't prevent me from hanging out at the bar while my exhausted wife and children slept.

I will be back, but will be a little wiser next time. For one thing, I now know that ATM"s are almost non-existent. They will accept them as credit cards, but don't think your going to find a cash machine. I will take smaller bills with me next time, paying with a $100 and getting back colones was a bit of a hassle. No one ever tried to cheat me, in fact most vendors showed me the calculator, and what exchange rate they were using. I'm just not used to having to convert colones to dollars and the reverse. Maybe next time I'll take a small cheap calculator.

The bugs were not really a big deal, I got a few bites along the way, but that was mostly at dusk, after I got out of the pool and before I put on some bug spray. One of my kids left some candy in the floor of our room, and little ants invaded, but once the candy was gone so were the ants. All the horror stories of bad bugs were just that, stories. Costa Rica is no worse bug wise than south Florida. My wife hates bugs, but she's ready to go back.

I had a great time, and we will be back in March. I normally don't go back to places so soon, but this is different, there is a lot to see, and I fear more tourist will start invading soon and turn it into a Cancun like place. Plus the price and service was great.

 

Occidental Allegro Papagayo Resort Ricky & Sydney

August 2003

My wife and I spent a week at this resort. The value for price paid was quite high. We would likely not return as we saw and did everything we wanted. The facilities are nice. The grounds are well maintained. The public areas are situated nicely. The food was ample and OK...simple but with good variety. The biggest complaint we had was the noise level in the pool-bar-dining areas. They play music all day and frequently have games that require a microphone/DJ. The whole public area is forced to suffer the noise (I'm being nice). If you tend to eat at around 8:00 in the evening, your dinner will be disturbed with the noise and games taking place at the stage. The staff puts on several review type music and dance performances which are fun. However, the volume level can be painful.

If you go, request a room on the 3rd floor. These rooms feel larger due to the vaulted ceiling which you can't get on the first or second floors. The rooms are small, but comfortable. The bathrooms are tiny and have separate shower only.

Forget travelers checks...no one wants them. The Hotel would rarely have sufficient money to cash them and most merchants refuse them. VISA Card was, I think, the most widely accepted.

Instructions on what do and expect on outings are very weak. Make sure you have an idea how things work before you go. I don't know if it's language barriers or casual indifference. My wife, who had never been on a 4-wheel ATV, was very frustrated at the lack of instruction...she was basically told to get on and go (these are 5 speed bikes !!). The water taxi to the beach club only runs 3 times a day. It's first come - first serve coming back so if the weather looks to be getting bad you may want to wonder down to the pick up place and claim your position...only 11 passengers can be transported at a time.

There are many things you can do off property. The mega-tour is fun and is a long day. Unless you really want to see a small waterfall, that leg may be worth skipping. The hot springs came at the perfect time.

We did charter the "Spanish Dancer" catamaran and had a wonderful time. It's usually a couple of hours of sailing along with a couple of hours of snorkeling and exploring. The wind will have bearing on what you do at any given trip but they work hard to assure you of a great day.

We paid $1,400 for our seven day trip...this included round trip airfare, room, all meals, all drinks (soft,beer,rum,and house red/white wine). There is nothing I know of where we would have gotten better value. If you drink Bourbon, Scotch, Gin...take your own. There are no cash bars.

All in all we had a nice vacation. The biggest complaint I have is the noise. It would seem to me that this could be easily corrected.


 

Occidental Allegro Papagayo Resort Kaye - Temple, Texas

August 2003

Just returned July 12-19 from beautiful Costa Rica. We stayed at the Occidental Allegro Papagayo. This is our 10th time to stay in an all inclusive resort. This hotel could be a great hotel but it falls short. It is built on a very steep hill so walking if you have any back or knee problems will be very difficult. Shuttle service can be very slow at times. The food was ok, drinks were very good. We could never get our travelers checks cashed at the hotel, they would not cash them, and ended up going to a bank in Liberia. The dive shop is great, with very helpful people. The reception area won't help with much of anything.

That is all of the negative, the rest is pure positive. Through the internet we heard about Michael Mills with Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Allegro Tours)))))), contacted him and the rest was great. He introduced us to a great guy named Ricardo Vargas of Vargas Tours.

On Monday Ricardo picked us up at our hotel and took us to Arenal. What a great drive. Ricardo told us all about people, customs and stories on the way. Arenal Volcano is awsome, the Tabacon Springs made for a wonderful day.

Tuesday Ricardo picked us up and took us to meet Michael on his Spanish Dancer catamaran, what fun, spent most of the day sailing and snorkeling, stopping to shop on the way back in Cocoa Beach.

Wednesday Ricardo picked us up and off we went to Nicaragua, a trip we highly recommended. First to Masaya to shop and see that volcano , went up to the crater, what a sight. Then to Granada, what a history filled city, could have spent more time soaking up some of that history.

Thursday booked a scuba trip through the hotel. These people are great, took us to some of the best places to dive.

Friday - a river raft trip, also booked through the hotel, a nature lovers dream, all sorts of birds, iguanas and other creatures. All in all, a great trip that I will someday do again, I have written the Occidental Hotel chain to express some of my concerns about the hotel, it has been a while and I have not heard from them, maybe they can do a few small things and make this a better place.


 

Occidental Allegro Papagayo Resort Ed & Giselle --- Mississauga, Ontario

April 2003

This was our first trip to Costa Rica after being to many, many Caribbean Islands over the past 8 years of March break. My wife and I have three kids so finding accommodation for 5 is always a challenge. Lately we have had to get two rooms. We chose Costa Rica and the Allegro Papagayo because of value, and the fact that it is a relatively new travel location. The hotel is great. Set on a hillside at the end of a very large bay so it feels somewhat like a large inland lake. The buildings are scattered about the property, all in close proximity so no long walks. It is a challenge if you are handicapped - but you have the option of taking a shuttle that is always running. We were in building #11 on the first level up from the pool. It really is the most convenient location. During the day the kids are safe to go to the room, at night you can sit on the balcony and still be only 1 minute from the pool area bar, restaurant, night club and entertainment. Rooms are standard stuff. Clean, shower only, and with a fridge (bring chocolate!). The food is one of the best all-inclusive buffets we have experienced. Different every night and with good variety. During the day you can either sit down for lunch or get snacks and move on. Breakfast - how can you go wrong with anything? The a la carte restaurant was OK. A nice change, but not something I would do regularly. I tried the Caribbean Lobster but it doesn't compare to Atlantic East Coast kind. It's inside so you get the air conditioning, which I'm not crazy about when your on vacation. For the buffet restaurant bring bug-spray for your legs at night. There is the odd mosquito.

The drinks were also the best we have had. They use real fruit, unlike many other all- inclusive resorts that use only syrup gunk. Try something called a Caiparena. Fresh limes, soda (all the bartenders make them different so you have to find a good one). The kids will get their fruits by enjoying the many styles of Daiquiris. The beach is fine. Swim-able, but not the aqua blue hue you see elsewhere. The sand is a very exotic looking black colour that heats up to furnace like temperatures during the day. There are lots of chairs and shade on the beach. You can take the shuttle to their private beach that runs 3 times a day. The sand is nicer and it's very secluded - except for the fact that they are in the midst of building another hotel there. Behind your relaxing Gilligan's Island like hammock there was a constant buzz of construction equipment coming through the jungle. Otherwise, you can snorkel there, have lunch, a drink and get some real quiet (at noon during the construction workers lunch break). On our way we saw monkeys on the beach. You can sometimes hear and see them during the day but head up to the lobby bar around hang out on the balcony about 5:00 p.m. and you can usually see them up in the trees. The view is spectacular, and it's very quiet.

Costa Rica is interesting. There is a standard 12 hours of sunlight so the sun rises and sets about 6:10 a.m. & p.m. There is practically no dusk or dawn. As soon as the sun goes down, it's dark in ten minutes. (unlike Canada in summer). In the evening we usually had dinner, watched part of the show (put on by the entertainment staff) and headed to bed. That was usually about 10:00pm. It's funny how 38 degree temperatures take a toll on you. It is really, really hot there during the day. At night it doesn't go much below 24. Costa Rica also seems like one of the safest 'Caribbean' destinations. We took a tour (Swiss Travel at the hotel) to Liberia, the closest major town. You can walk on the streets without people trying to sell you something or feeling threatened. No one actually even pays much attention to you. We saw many groups of happy young students enjoying music and each other's company. Washrooms, refreshments etc. are all easy to find. Just ask, many of them speak English, if not have fun with your Spanish (banos). We took another tour with a private operator, Federico. He offers day trips to all the same locations as Swiss Travel including some that are not on the beaten path. Prices are good, he has a comfortable car (Toyota Land Cruiser), and is a wealth of information about the country (he could be fibbing but who would ever know). He took us up into a privately owned resort (Baraquin?) with hot-springs and a mud-bath close to Buena Vista Lodge. This place was eerie - like Jurassic Park. Totally deserted, monkeys screaming in the distance, more birds than you have ever seen a nice pool and grounds. Our kids said it was their best day. We ran out of time but Palo Verde sounds like a good day drip to see animals as well. He is a real nice young man. josta@papagayovargastours.com  We didn't do the Arenal volcano trip - no guarantees you'll see anything after a 14 hour round trip. The Rain Forests sound interesting but tons of mosquitoes. We can get that anywhere in Muskoka during the summer. Of course many travelers go there specifically for the eco-tours but they aren't for everyone. All in all, a nice trip - and a bonus when the kids stay healthy. They could work on improving the 'people processing' at the airport. Lots of long lines. More questions specific questions? E-mail me at tryfish@hotmail.com


We just We returned from a 2 week stay at the Costa Smeralda - Guanacaste Province in Costa Rica (24 Nov -08 Dec 2003)!!  We wanted to say it was fantastic!!
 
My husband and I are frequent travelers from Ontario Canada - and this was our first time to Costa Rica.  We did a ton of web/internet surfing before we left - so we were well prepared that this holiday would not be the "Caribbean beach" holidays that we were used to.  As I am the one that is the adamant sun worshiper/lounger I was a bit apprehensive as to how much I would miss just lying around on the beach.  Well I have to say that I didn't miss it one bit - and in fact it was me who was planning and booking our next eco- tour.  When we finally did have our beach days - I actually found myself a bit antsy about a tour that we should do instead so we didn't miss anything!!
 
We stayed at the Costa Smeralda all inclusive hotel during our stay and were very impressed.  We had a room with a FABULOUS view overlooking the bay.  Each morning there were approximately 15 - 20 different species of birds eating, singing and flitting around the bushes and trees just outside our room.  The rooms at the hotel were very well kept - clean and spacious - with a full front wall of glass windows that afford you a magnificent view.  
 
The hotel itself was small - I think 120 rooms all together - and this made it quite romantic.  During the week days the hotel was probably only 1/3 full and very quiet.  On the weekends the hotel tended to fill up with travelers and locals getting away from the city for the weekend.  Even at full capacity there were enough chairs, towels, and staff to accommodate everyone.
 
The staff at the hotel - everyone from the manager on down were extremely friendly and always helpful.   We were received the same even when we ran in to some of the staff off the resort shopping and such.  It was very apparent to us that they were being quite genuine and that overall the locals are quite friendly and helpful. 
 
We were pleasantly surprised by the food at the hotel - it was excellent - with a variety of choices.   The buffet was varied and the food at the a la carte restaurant was fabulous.  The service was very efficient, and fast.  If they were unable to meet your request immediately they certainly went out of their way to get it for you as soon as possible.
 
The beach at the hotel itself is ok - but we definitely recommend taking the free shuttle boat across the bay to the beach club.  It is a much bigger beach and the beach bar is closer.  (There is no beach bar at the beach by the hotel - you have to walk back to the pool/snack bar for your drinks.)   The beach club has water activities, snacks and lots of chairs.  The days we went there, to the beach club were always several howler monkeys "hanging" around.  Very good photo ops!!!
 
A couple of notes you need to be aware of if you are considering the Costa Smeralda!!  Everything - and I mean EVERYTHING is uphill!!  (It actually feels like it is uphill both ways - if you've heard that expression before!!).   It really wasn't a problem for us - and trust me we are "couch potatoes" from way back!! - but it is definitely something to be aware of.  It is definitely not conducive to anyone with any physical disability.
 
Also there is no internet use available at the Costa Smeralda Hotel.  It was not a huge problem - as it is easy to find in the towns and cost about .75 - $1 US for 1/2 hour or part there of.  We did find an internet computer at the Nakuti Hotel next door - during our second week - so that was a bit easier.
 
The only problem we had at the hotel was not promptly receiving some urgent messages from home.  We had a small family emergency while we were away - and our family and Michael had left three messages with the hotel.  I found out about the problem, and the messages left via the internet.  We dealt with the problem and all was well --Upon our return I asked at the front desk if there were any messages for us and was told no.  Two days later as we were walking by the reception area - we received our messages.  We addressed our concerns with the manager and he assured us he would look in to it, and that there was a system in place to ensure that did not happen.
 
Well on to the tours - we took some amazing tours, and there were none that we would say were not worth it.  We contacted Michael Mills (Canadian - now living in Costa Rica!!) Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Allegro Tours))))))/Century 21 before we left.   http://www.costarica-realestate.com/Allegro%20Papagayo%20Tours.htm I contacted him "SEVERAL" times - and each time he was very helpful and friendly.  By the time we departed we were friends!! - and had some excursions set up.  Michael met us at the hotel on the day of our arrival and we set up an itinerary for a few excursions. 
 
After doing some research - we opted to use Michael and his tour guides instead of going with the larger hotel tours.  We did some price comparisons and the costs were relatively the same for a private tour booked with Michael and Federico.  We had never gone on a private tour before but once was all it took and we were hooked.  Federico was an EXCELLENT tour guide!!!  His English is impeccable, as is his ability to impart history, cultural, and eco-system information throughout the tours.  The flexibility was also great - we could stay a bit longer at one spot or move on when we wanted too.  We didn't have to wait for 20 or more people to make a decision - and if we wanted to stop for coffee, snacks or drinks - Federico pulled in!!! 
 
We were escorted around in a brand new Land Cruisers with more gizmo's than I've ever seen.  Another words it was quite a comfortable ride.  We would definitely say that the Palo Verde boat tour, Wild Cat Refuge, and Los Inocentes Horseback Tour with Federico are MUST do's!!!!    We saw lots of monkeys, sloths, and tons different -beautiful birds.  The Canopy tours and Bird/Animal Tours are also MUST DO'S depending on your time!!  We also went to Arenal overnight and were able to see the volcano - it was well worth the trip - very spectacular!!
 
Another spot that you must see is Playa Hermosa and the Puesta Del Sol Restaurant!!!  The location is right on the beach - the owners are American and are just GREAT people!!!  They have a big screen TV - movie night, Monday night Football, oh and food, food, food!!
 
If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at lpayne@gtn.net.
 
If you are going to Costa Rica - contact Michael Mills - he really helped make our holiday wonderful!!!  Tell him that Lori and Ken say hello - and we will see him next year - same time - same place!!
 
Have a great holiday
 
Lori and Ken Payne
Langton, Ontario Canada

 

Feb/2004

Hey Mike,

Just wanted to say a big Thank you for all your help in planning our trip!! Our tour with Ricardo was fantastic, he was very knowledgeable and shared a lot of it!! We saw a lot of wildlife (White Face Monkeys, Howler Monkeys, toucans, coatis & Iguana's). Definitely nice going as a private tour as you learn a lot more about the flora & fauna. We did a snorkeling tour through the hotel and it was pretty good, saw a nurse shark & a moray eel. We also did the Congo Canopy tour  and really enjoyed it, nice & tame, and we had some Howler monkeys really close to us!! Checked out both Liberia & Playas del Coco as well, so we were quite busy with just enough time to lounge around the pool!!

The Allegro Papagayo was a very good hotel for us, thought the food, entertainment and pool area was fantastic. Rooms are pretty basic, but we only slept there anyway!! Used the free Kayaks, had some long walks along the beach, took their ECO trail by the hotel and saw more monkeys!!

All in all we had a fantastic trip and I thank you again for all your help. When we come back, and we will definitely be back, we will book all our tours through you & Ricardo as this was definitely the way to go!

Thanks again,

Daron Ink


(By the way -30 degrees Celsius is the high for today)

 

 

---- Original Message -----

From: "Margaret and Ken Fitzhenry" <margandken6@hotmail.com>

To: <josta@papagayovargastours.com  Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2004 1:50 PM

Subject: our trip

 

 Dear Michael

....don't know if you remember how nervous i was before coming  to Costa Rica...but it was all for nothing...we had a fabulous trip   ...the hotel was great ,people both staff and other guests were  wonderful .....we took the canopy trip with the spa ,the river cruise  with tons of wildlife, and the turtles nesting was awesome .....Ricardo  looked after us and  made this holiday packed full of wonderful memories ....you guy's are doing  a great job and i just wanted to thank you .

....take care...Margaret

 

 

 

-----Original Message-----
From: D'Andrea John [mailto:D'Andrea.John@northropgrumman.ca]
Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 10:57 AM
To: josta@papagayovargastours.com
Subject: Re:

 Michael,

    Well we are back to reality here.....  we landed during a blinding snow storm. I wanted to let you know about our fantastic week. Ricardo was a fantastic tour guide. The turtle tour was incredible even though we got back to our hotel at 3:30 am! It was so neat to see that leatherback turtle laying her eggs. If you don't mind a suggestion......  a lot of the people on the tour were cold since most wore only t-shirts and didn't figure on being cold in Costa Rica. Maybe on your web page you could add to bring a warm layer. The other couple with us were great and we ended up hanging out with them at the resort. I apologize for missing the tour on the next morning after the turtle tour..... we were just so tired!!  But....  the Palo Verde tour filled in all the gaps for us....  we ended up seeing all the wildlife that we wanted to.... and a lot more. Also, the back roads to the river and the quaint restaurant are things we'll never forget. I want to thank you and Ricardo for making our week that much more enjoyable and memorable! If I have one big regret, it is that we never got to meet you and have that glass of wine..... but, we have already decided that this is going to be a repeat visit!!     Take care of yourself and it was a pleasure corresponding with you.

Regards,

 John.

 

     P.S.  if you remember, tell Ricardo that the first day I got back to Mississauga, I went food shopping and bought a cantaloupe that was from Costa Rica (and maybe even from the same plant we passed by)  and it cost me $3.00.!!

 

 

From: Pat McNichol [mailto:pat_mcnichol@lycos.com]
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2004 10:44 AM
To: josta@papagayovargastours.com
Subject: Trip Review

Michael, Ricardo, & Lupita,

Hope all is well. Below is our trip review.

----------------------------
Lynn and I had a wonderful time in Costa Rica from 2 Feb - 9 Feb. The weather was warm and dry. We took two tours: Borinquen and Palo Verde.

We were originally scheduled for the Mega Combo Tour at Buena Vista. However, after we were picked up at our hotel by Lupita and met up with Ricardo's van, we all decided to go to Borinquen instead.

Borinquen is located about ten minutes past Buena Vista on a private resort. It was very quiet and the hospitality was great. We were the only people there, compared to Buena Vista where all the regular tour buses go.

The canopy tour was awesome! There are ten cables transecting the forest valley. There is a beautiful waterfall at the one end. Sliding down the cables suspended over the canopy of trees was exhilarating.

After the canopy tour, we had a great lunch. The beef comes fresh from the adjacent cattle ranch.

Afterwards, we went horseback riding up the mountain where we could see the Pacific Ocean and Nicaragua in the distance. The vistas were breathtaking.

Next, we went to the spa where we applied natural hot mud from the geothermal vents and bathed in the natural hot spring water. It was primitive and refreshing. It was cleansing for both the body and soul.

On the way back home, Ricardo recommended we take a trip the next night into the nearby beach town of Coco. The Costa Rican Bull Riding Championships were being held there. It was really cool. We got a sense of the real local flavor by walking down the main street of Coco. The bull riding event was authentic. Anyone who wants to run with the bull (or run away) is welcome in the ring. Mucho Crazy!

Our next tour was Palo Verde. Ricardo picked us up and along the way we learned about cashew trees, cantaloupe farming, and sugarcane extraction. We stopped to take our picture with a farmer and his ox-drawn cart. The locals are very friendly people. We also stopped to view a pack of howler monkeys along the dirt road.

We arrived at Palo Verde and got on a riverboat guided by Antonio, who was truly amazing! He could spot a hidden crocodile in the mud from 100 meters away! If you want to see monkeys, this is the place! Since there was only a small group of us, Antonio would drive up onto the riverbank and we fed the white-faced monkeys cantaloupe. It was a blast! He was also able to capture a baby crocodile and we all got a chance to hold him. We later returned the baby croc to the exact location where we had found him. This was a nature lovers paradise!

We stopped for lunch afterwards at a small and intimate, open-air restaurant owned by a friend of Ricardo's. The owner prepares meals exclusively for Ricardo's tours. It was the best lunch of our trip.

During both tours, Ricardo and Lupita were flexible on how long we could take and always willing to stop for pictures. They were very knowledgeable, friendly, and honest. Their English was impeccable.

Costa Ricans have a saying, "Pura Vida," or "pure life." We got a taste of the pure life through your tours. If you want to have a personal experience, we highly recommend to book your tour through Michael and Ricardo.
Web site - http://www.costarica-realestate.com/Allegro%20Papagayo%20Tours.htm
Email - josta@papagayovargastours.com


Michael, Ricardo, Roberto & Lupita,

We had a trip of a lifetime thanks to you !
Your country is very beautiful and the people are fantastic, but what
really made or trip memorable were our personal guides, Lupita and
Roberto.
I have attached a few photos; one of our daughter Devon with Lupita,
just before she strapped up for her first zip line ride, one of our quad
tour guide (from Resort Divers) with our daughters - he spoke little
English, but always had a smile on his face, and one of our guide for
the Palo Verde trip, Roberto, with our daughters.
I can't say enough about Lupita and Roberto. We didn't feel like
clients or customers with them, more like family. On our mega combo
tour, Lupita stopped several times to point out things of interest and
was always talking about Costa Rican culture and flora and fauna - that
really enriched our experience. We all felt very pampered. Lupita's
English was amazing and she even managed to teach me a few Spanish words
and phrases (most important being 'pura vida' !!). Roberto went out of
his way to take care of us - buying us cantaloupe straight from the
field on the way to Palo Verde, always offering our girls gum (he made
friends for life) and taking care of our youngest, Devon, when she was
feeling carsick.
Our daughters will never forget hand-feeding bananas to the wild
white-faced monkeys. The mega combo tour was a blast - the zip lines,
the 420m water slide, horseback riding, hiking to the waterfall, the hot
spring and mud baths, the animals (we saw lots of wildlife including
howler monkeys and a toucan) - by the time we got back to the resort
that night, we were exhausted.
I have also attached a scanned copy of some photos that were published
in our local paper 'The Oakville Beaver' - taken during the mega combo
tour.
We will definitely return to Costa Rica, it is so beautiful and there
is so much more to see. Next time, we'll come in December so we can see
the leatherback turtles. When we plan the next trip, we will be
contacting you for sure - we look forward to Lupita and Roberto showing
us more of the sights !

warmest regards, the Pearson family (Scott, Allyson, Sierra & Devon)

M. Scott Pearson
Manager, Operations Estimating
Northrop Grumman Canada Corporation,
Navigation Systems Division
Tel. (416) 249-1231 Ext. 2202
Fax (416) 246-2007
Pgr (416) 328-6618
E-mail pearson.scott@northropgrumman.ca

Fiesta Premier Resort and Spa Stu & Lois --- Canada
February 2004

My wife and I plus one other couple just returned from a one week stay at the Fiesta Premier Resort and Spa, Gulf of Papagayo, Costa Rica. Feb. 9 to 16, 2004. Before we booked our trip I did a lot of web surfing looking for feedback on this location. There was virtually none that I could find! We decided to take a chance anyway. We do not regret that decision.

We booked through Alba tours and flew on Skyservice out of Toronto. The plane was crowded and the seats are worn out but that is what you can expect from the charter services. The good thing about the flight was that we left the gate in Toronto 15 min. early and the return flight was re routed making our arrival back home 40 min. early.

ABOUT THE HOTEL
This location was recently purchased by Costa Rican interests, after sitting empty for a year or 2. A major upgrade was undertaken and it was re opened in Nov. of 2003. It is now rated at 4 1/2 star and in my opinion it does deserve that rating.

ROOMS
The facility consists of 160 rooms mostly in 2 room villas that have a connecting doorway but separate decks for each room. They are large rooms with a King size bed in one room and the other room has 2 beds. Bathroom with tub and shower and separate sink area with large counter and 4ft by 8 ft mirror. Marble floors, lots of drawers and closet space, air conditioning, ceiling fan, lots of towels, face cloths and soap products, hair dryer, telephone, TV. The safe is a digital self-programmed unit. NO need for keys. There is a bar fridge that is stocked at the beginning of the stay with 2 beer, 2 water, and a variety of soft drinks. IT IS NOT STOCKED AGAIN DURING YOUR STAY. Keep your water bottles because there is large bottled water dispensers located throughout the complex that can be used to refill your small bottles. The entrance to the rooms is 2 large patio doors. The villa's are dotted over a hillside and some are quite high up. There is a continuous shuttle system running that you can use to get to the units that are further away. Our rooms were spotlessly clean.

RESTAURANTS AND FOOD
There is one buffet restaurant that has an outdoor patio area and an indoor air conditioned section where the actual buffet is located. There is one specialty restaurant that is air conditioned (reservations required). Reservations are not a problem, just reserve at breakfast with the girl at the entrance to the buffet. There is also a dinner show buffet at the amphitheatre that is open before the evening shows begin. This also required reservations only so that the staff knows how many people will show up. There is a snack bar at the main bar that is open for mid morning and afternoon extras (hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos etc.) The spa area also has a snack bar where you can get more health conscious foods.

The food was excellent quality and abundant amounts. Breakfasts there were 2 grills for eggs, bacon omelet's all made to order. Almost anything you would have at home was available here. Lunch and dinner the meat was grilled as you wait. Included beef, chicken, lamb, pork, veal, and fish. There were always, salads, soup, fruit, local cheese, deserts and pastries. The Specialty restaurant was excellent. The menu was the same every day but there was enough variety that you could have had something different every day if you went back that often

BARS
There are 4 bars. One main bar, one swim up bar, one in the theatre (only during meals and shows) and one specialty bar at the Spa that served light beer and non alcoholic drinks blended with fruits etc. The beer is the local brand (Imperial) on tap. There is a large variety of options for mixed drinks mostly Rum based. Because the resort promotes recycling all food and drinks are served in reusable containers either glass or heavy plastic.

POOLS
The main pool area consists of a 3-tier pool with water cascading to the different levels. The lower level pool was a shallow kids pool. These pools were not large but they were never crowded. The water was warm and very clean. The spa area had a lap pool and another connected smaller pool.

BEACH
The beach has clean black sand, the water was warm and clear, with no waves as this location is in a bay that does not get the large waves. On each side of the resort there are lava rocks that go out into the water making perfect spots for observing the marine life even if you don’t snorkel. If you wear foot protection you can easily walk over the rocks on the right side of the resort and get to a very large private beach with nobody there. There are lots of lounge chairs on the beach and on the lawn area above the beach. The cabanas are all on the lawn area and during peak usage time there was not enough shaded area for everyone. It would be good if there were some cabanas installed directly on the beach. Maybe this is not possible because of the tide.

ACTIVITIES
All activities are run by a very energetic activities group. All standard things are available. Snorkeling, pool volleyball, beach volleyball, tennis, aerobics, funny games, kayaks, sunset tour, eco walk, to name some. The evening entertainment starts at 9:30 in an indoor impressive air conditioned theatre complete with lights and sound. The performers and costumes are excellent.

SPA
The spa includes weights, treadmill, hot tub and steam room. Massage, facials etc. are available at extra cost. This area has top quality equipment and was very lightly used during the time that we were there. If you want to get away from the majority of the people this is the area to go.

TOURS
There are many different tours that can be booked through the tour company that has an office on site. Costa Rica has a very diverse Eco system and it would take weeks to see everything there is to see. Pick what interests you most but make sure that you do see some of this marvelous country. There are also several private companies that take tours from the Hotels. The advantage of these people is that they only take from 4 to 8 people at a time allowing you to get first hand knowledge from your driver-tour guide. I suggest if you want to go this route you should make at least some arrangements before you leave home. The tour people we used can be found on the website www.costarica-realestate.com then hit on Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Vargas-Papagayo Tours (previously Allegro Tours)s (previously Allegro Tours)))))). As this option is becoming very popular these people are very busy.

SUMMARY
We have traveled to several all-inclusive resorts over the years. I would rate this resort as being the best we have ever been too, and based on the comments that we heard from other guests over the week there were other people who would agree with us. I did not hear one complaint that really meant anything all week. If you are going for a shopping holiday this is probably not the area you want to go to. If you want relaxation, eco-touring opportunities, this is the place to go.

Due to the fact that this location is new it was not filled to capacity therefore no waiting for anything. I am sure that this will change as more people find out about it. The spots that were booked by the Canadian tour companies were already full. If you have questions I would be happy to try to answer them. Contact me at loisandstu@hotmail.com Please use the word fiesta in the subject screen



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Greetings again from the Gordon family.  I just wanted to drop you two a quick note to thank you both again for your contributions to our wonderful vacation.  We had a terrific time in Costa Rica, and your tours and guidance were a big part of the whole enjoyable experience.  We've been back home a couple weeks now (it's been busy -- meant to get this note out sooner), but our satisfaction with our vacation just keeps growing.  Costa Rica is certainly a great place to visit.  We'll be back some day, and when we make those plans, we'll see if we can link up again.  Meanwhile, we'll let any of our vacation-planning friends know about the special place we've found, and we'll point them your way if they are interested.
 
Thanks so much again.
 
Best Regards,
Doug Gordon
 
Please give our greetings to David, too!

Allegro Papagayo by Occidental: "Great Vacation for the Entire Family"
Date: August 7, 2004
Reviewer: A TripAdvisor User, Atlanta Georgia
Compare prices with:
We just returned from the Allegro Papagayo yesterday after one of the most delightful weeks of our lives! I traveled with our entire family which consisted of 8 people raging from 9 to 73. We have taken over 20 trips to other countries and so this is an educated review!
We had 4 rooms in different areas of the property. They were all clean and comfortable. (No bugs!) The only negative is that there are no clocks in the rooms so you may want to bring one along.
The hills are steep but not anything we could not handle. I was in building 9 and it was a 5 minute walk to the pool and very quiet and private. There was a covered shuttle stop with seats right outside the door with bottled water and ice if you do not wish to walk We never waited more than 5 minutes for a ride.
The property is absolutely gorgeous. The pool is awesome! The children's Fun Club staff was delightful. The lobby has the most incredible views and there are monkeys right off of the bar area there. We did not go to the Beach Club because our days were so full but we did hear very nice things from other guests.
The drinks are good and plentiful. The service is unbelievable. Those in our group that did not speak Spanish never had a problem communicating with the friendly staff.
The black beach is lovely. The sand was never hot and there are plenty of chairs under the trees in the shade to relax.
The restaurant is very nice with adequate seating overlooking the pool, although there is not air conditioning. The variety of food had something for every taste and it was very good. They have steak and chicken grilled to order at lunch and dinner. There are also offered custom omelets every morning. As well as a serve yourself "Bloody Mary" station!

The steak house is great. I did make our reservations immediately upon arrival. I ordered Red Snapper and I was served the entire fish (head and all). The Filet Mignon was much better than we expected. They had a much better salad bar with shrimp and gourmet cheeses. The wine served with dinner was actually decent.

Excursions

We used a gentleman named Michael Mills to arrange our excursions.
He can be contact josta@papagayovargastours.com

Our personal driver and guide was Rory Hoffman.
He did a great job and was very sensitive to everyone's needs in our group.
The first day we went on a Sunset Sail that picked us on fro the beach at the hotel and it was the only thing that we did not care for.
We went to Tamarindo surfing and shopping one day. The next day we went to the Witches Rock Canopy tour and that was great fun for everyone,
We then went shopping and the Palo Verde River cruise where our guide showed us monkeys, iguanas and lots of crocodiles!

We are already planning another trip to this piece of paradise!


Michael,

I wanted to drop you a quick note to thank you again for setting up our tour. We had a wonderful time and Roberto was really great. If we vacation again in Costa Rica we'll definitely take another tour with your company.

Thanks again,
Lindsay Wilson

 

Dear michael,

David and i are now home after a wonderful trip to Costa Rica.
we enjoyed our tours tremendously and will definitely recommend them to others.
thank you for all of your help.

yours,
joyce lee

 

 

48 members of a Ski Club in Ohio  October/2004

Hi Mike,
I hope things are going well for you in Canada. We had a great time in Costa Rica. Ricardo was magnificent in coordinating our daily tours. His tours were also of much higher quality than those provided by Swiss Travel. I am very happy that we hooked up with your respective companies.
Thanks,
Walt


walthunt@bellsouth.net
Sent: Sunday, October 24, 2004 11:17 AM
Subject: RE: Tours

Hello Walt:
I guess today you will sleep in and unwind from the trip! I wish I had of been there to meet you and your group but I understand from Ricardo all went well. I also heard you had some big swells two days ago on the sailing trip. Hope all was OK in the end.

I simply can't email everyone who has taken trips with us but since I wasn’t there to meet every one I wanted to check back to make sure that you all had a wonderful time not only on our tours but in Costa Rica in general.

Any feed back you could provide would be appreciated.

Sincerely

Michael Mills

From: JThompson6809 [mailto:jthompson6809@carolina.rr.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 2004 5:22 PM
To: Michael Mills
Subject: thank you

Dear Michael, Last week my friend and I were in Costa Rica and you set up two tours for us with Roberto. I just wanted to say thank you so much for working that out.....I know we were not in your usual tour area since we stayed at the Paradisus Playa Conchal and we really did appreciate the extra effort. Roberto was a great guide--very personable, informative, and fun. Both Arenal and Monteverde were LONG trips on the wonderful Costa Rican Roads but Roberto made the time go by quickly, he was a good driver, and we thought that he did a great job!!! I loved Costa Rica and did not want to come home.....I am going to take a Spanish class and return to Costa Rica.....thank you, Jan Thompson

Dear Jan:

You are so welcome! The guides I work with are starting to call me Charlie in reference to “Charles Angles” never seen but behind the scenes. As you experienced with Roberto…he made the tour with his knowledge and friendliness. I will make sure he sees your email.

I felt the same way the first time I came to Costa Rica….you had to pry me onto the plane. After two more trips of a month each time I decided to make the leap and have never looked back. It’s a wonderful country with the friendliest people I have ever met.
I look forward to your return trip and hopefully meeting this time!

Sincerely

Michael ( Charlie)



________________________________________

Hi Mike,


We’re back from Costa Rica about a week now. Mike, thank you so much for arranging our trips.  We had the pleasure of Phillipe Blano guiding our tour. He was just excellent. Very knowledgeable and truly has a great lookout on life.
I’m sorry I didn’t get an opportunity to meet you personally. I’ll have to do that next time we come to Costa Rica.

We did end up at a beach and my husband John arranged to go fishing with some guys that work for Albini. John Leckie was on the beach that day, and looked after the arrangements. John and our son Jamie went out with the guys the next day and had a great time. Are you familiar with Albini??

Take care, and have a very warm Merry Christmas. I can certainly understand why you would move to Costa Rica. Even my kids, John and myself would move in a heartbeat. Are there any good jobs for accountants in public practice down there??

Thanks once again, and kind regards.

Linda, John, Jamie and Cara Bulanda

Traveler rating: 3 of 5 stars
Nicoya: Allegro Papagayo by Occidental: "Loved Costa Rica-Would not Return to the Allegro"
  Jan 31, 2006:  A TripAdvisor Member, Ottawa, Canada
 

 
My Husband and I booked two weeks at the Allegro Papagayo for our Honeymoon from Jan. 16-30. This was our first trip to Costa Rica and we were thrilled to be there. (Note: Don't be afraid to change your clothes for warmer climates at the airport in Canada, as the Airport in Liberia has only two washrooms and space to change into your Shorts is at a premium.)

Our check in at the Hotel was smooth and we did get a safe lock, however many people did not. Our first room (924) was very disappointing, though we had a great view. We had two double beds, which had definitely seen better days. Our A/C did not work for three days and leaked tons of water. We had to have towels brought in to soak up the mess. We complained about the A/C and had three different guys come into look at it. Each time they said if was fine, but each time they left it would go on the fritz again. Finally, we moved rooms. 2nd and 3rd floor rooms have the best view and our next room was no exception. Though we did have a long walk up the hill to building 2, it was quiet and very comfortable. The king size beds seem to be in better shape. The facility itself is very beautiful, grounds are well kept and there are flowers every where. Water is provided at different locations. This is sealed water-cooler spring water. Just bring a water bottle with you or recycle one from the store and fill it every day. We drank water in the restaurants and ate the fruit and veggies and had no problems. Use your own judgment on what you feel comfortable with. The food on the buffet is excellent and there is a lot of choice, but after two weeks most people are ready for something different. My recommendation for eating in the buffet restaurant is get familiar with one or two waiters and ask for them by name. The service you get is much better and more consistent. Heiner and Theresa are excellent. The Mexican Restaurant was very good, but it is the Italian Restaurant that takes the cake. MMMMM! We ate there twice at the end of our stay, and if we would have known how good it is we would have eaten there more. Service is fantastic and fun. We didn't spend a lot of time at the bars, but definitely Alberto makes the best drinks up in the Lobby Bar.
The beaches are not Caribbean beaches, but we knew that going there. Many people did not like the black sand beach, but we loved it. It not as crowded and the sand is very soft. Remember though that it holds the heat and you can burn yourself on the way to the water. We really looked forward to our daily swim in there. The beach club is fine, but really the sand is not as soft, the water is colder and you are sort of trapped there until your return time. Typically 2 loads of people 9:30am-1:30pm and 10:30am-2:30pm. YOu have to book a reservation the day before. We did see wildlife at the Beach Club though. Howler Monkeys, iguanas and a Boa Constrictor (eating the iguana).Truth! Not super pleasant, but extremely cool. Snorkeling is not great in this area, though may be better on organized tours to better marine-life locales.

I would have been fine at this hotel for a week. All in all, we had a great time, however two weeks is too much in such an isolated area. Transportation to the nearest towns is expensive and frankly Liberia is not that exciting. Just a regular town where people live and work. Just like many towns across North Amercia.

What truly made our trip and I cannot express this enough is our Day Trips!!!!!!! Fantastic! Our first trip was with Swiss Travel to Nicaragua. Very Long day but extremely interesting. My husband and I found that traveling on a big bus with forty other people a little confining. Upon consulting with other travelers we decided to book smaller more intimate tours with Michael Mills and Vargas Tours. Best decision we could have made. Now the people at the hotel will not tell you about these guys because they work closely the swiss travel group, so do not be afraid to look at his website and contact Michael ahead of time. He is very personable and his tours are great. They are not any more expensive and you really get the personal touch. No more than six people on a tour, a knowledgeable driver and fantastic guide. We had Eytell and David. They really took care of us. Our only regret is that we didn't do more with them. We ran out of time. Try their Borinquen canopy tour, Palo Verde Tour and definitely book a sunset cruise. The Sunset cruise is on a 50 foot sailboat owned and operated by Capt.John Kingsley out of Playas del Coco, however we booked it through Michael Mills. Beautiful trip. I can't say enough other than if I had know known that these guys also did a Nicaragua Tour, we would have booked with them as well. It's not a slight on Swiss Travel, it's just that these larger tour groups cannot compete with the quality and attention you get when there is only 6 people on your tour. Definitely worth the money.

So final comment. We Loved Costa Rica, we will go back. We probably would not do a 2 week All inclusive again and likely would not do the Allegro Papagayo again. Been there--Done that. Value for money at the hotel is good, not great compared to other All Inclusive. If you just want a beach trip, you can do it for much cheaper somewhere other than Costa Rica. If you want adventure, Costa Rica is it. An all inclusive is a little stifling and pricey in a place where all the action is away from the Hotel.