More about JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa Costa Rica
The Costa Rica Marriott...
The Costa Rica Marriott Hotel-located on a 30acre coffee plantation. Has free shuttle bus into San Jose, 16th century Colonial architecture, 2 pools, tennis courts, private heliport, 4 or 5 restaurants. I believe they now have a shuttle to another Marriott in the area with a casino, but am not sure. It was in the works when i was there.
Upscale and close to the airport.
We flew into San Jose to start our week in Costa Rica, but didn't plan on spending much time in San Jose. So, we booked 2 nights at the San Jose Marriott, for our first and last nights in the country. The hotel is a short taxi ride from the Juan Santamaria Intl Airport, but we had a private car and driver arranged through Way2Go Costa Rica. Nearly the same cost as a taxi, but much more reliable and we felt safer since this was our first trip to the country. We had a late night arrival, so we felt better about these arrangements. This hotel has excellent restaurants, and the service was great. The rooms were slightly better than average. Most rooms open out to the central courtyard, and the late night sounds from the bar area were a bit much. We were so tired, it didn't bother us, though. We'd definitely stay here again when in country. Spanish colonial architecture. Coffee growing on the grounds. Pitch and putt golf. Small pool area.
Not Quite Ready for Prime Time
We spent 5 days/4 nights at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort in late December and have mixed emotions about this property. Our travels have brought us to several JW Marriott’s over the years and we had high expectations of this being brand new (early December opening), and with a ocean front location – all in all, this property has promise, but it also had a lot of little issues that put together, detracted from what could have been a great experience.
Location – the resort is located 75 KM from Liberia International Airport. From the car rental agency, it slightly over 1 hour driving (if you drive fast) or about 90 minutes if you drive “normal”. The last 5-10 or so KMs to the hotel is dusty and bumpy. The hotel itself is fairly isolated and located on a beach. It is not close to anything else – so if you are looking to get away, and be isolated…this fits the bill. If you are thinking that you will wander down the street to the nearest club or bar, you better be prepared to drive 15KM to Tamarindo.
Car Rental – we rented a 4WD car, and there is an Avis on site (next to the concierge desk). Being isolated, you realistically cannot go anywhere without transportation (read: a car is a must if you think you are leaving – a 4WD although not necessary, is better and comes highly recommended). You won’t need a car if you decide that you will stay within the resort and don’t wish to explore. As a side note, we thoroughly investigated the coverage of our credit card on the rental car before going to Costa Rica. We advise any traveler to do so as well. In spite of this, we were surprised by a mandatory $12 USD per day insurance fee. We presume it is mandatory and correct – and we were unable to escape the fee.
Sights to see and things to do – we took an afternoon and drove to Guaitil – a village where pottery is hand made and passed down through the families. A bit out of the way, but worth the trip if you are into this type of pottery.
Palo Verde National Park – near Bagaces -- a long drive – not sure if the boat ride is worth it (see below), but that appears to be the highlight.
Things that need improvement at the hotel:
1) Hot tub? Did I mention the Jacuzzi “Cold” tub at the resort…make that two of them. They are not hot, the first night we were told that they needed to get parts in from Liberia. The second night, we were told “this is how it is suppose to be”. A conversation with the General Manager of the resort informed us that they were designed cold as a safety precaution.
2) Concierge – first of all, put a sign on the door so that us “tourists” can find the office. Better yet, put a map in the room that tells you the resort services. Don’t read this wrong, the concierge is nice – but we went there to book a trip to Palo Verde National Park which is near Bagaces and to take the boat tour. We tried to have the Concierge call the park to confirm the boat tour before we drove several hours to and fro. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to know who to contact, and our Lonely Planet book had an incorrect number. We drove out to Palo Verde, and found out that the boat wasn’t running. To cap off the story, when we got back to our room, the “headline” hotel event on that very day’s flyer was – you guess it, a boat ride at Palo Verde National Park. Hmmm….
3) We were on the third floor, of a four floor structure. The floors in the room are not carpeted, and noise from above comes through the hard floors fairly easily. Chairs are particularly annoying, but we would recommend the top floor if you like it a bit more quiet.
4) Food – room service was slow, and the food was on the expensive end. We elected to go out to Tamarindo several nights (15km – easy drive…but a bit bumpy) for dinner and if you have a car, we would recommend Tamarindo over the resort. If you go, watch your bags/purse as we heard several stories about petty crime at and around the beach.
5) Do not disturb signs – yes, you get one in the room…when hung on the door, it means exactly that. The overzealous staff apparently thinks it means knock until you get a response.
6) Foot washing coming off the beach – oddly enough, the resort only has one foot / shower as you come off the beach back onto the property – and two different entrances. Not sure why – but having one on the other side near the restaurant would be a nice touch
The Better side of the resort
1) The location is on the beach, and the beach itself, and water is nice. With the chairs out on the beach, you can spend all day there and forget about the problems of the world.
2) The pool is large, and very relaxing
3) Staffing – everyone appears to be fairly well trained on being polite, and trying to be helpful. This is a bit forced with waiters “assigned” a section of chairs, where they hover and are looking for work. Doing the more traditional walking around would be nicer and less obtrusive. We will attempt to blame this on “opening pains” but if the reports of staffing and quality do not improve, Marriott will have an issue.
4) This resort has promise – rooms are large and well appointed, and the remote location can be a plus (or a minus depending on your interests).
Overall, we were disappointed with our experience given the cost/quality of the resort, and blame it on new resort growing pains (for example, "warm hot water" one night, no water another day as they had a burst pipe). Let’s hope it was, because this is not quite up to the JW Marriott name if our experience is “typical”.
This hotel is absolutley beautiful. The pool(s) is amazing, yet a little cold. The beach is clean, but not the most beautiful in Costa Rica. You can go for a nice long beach walk too.
The rooms were very nice, great views, very clean and a unique design.
The staff is very friendly and still a little green.
We only ate in one resturant and the food was okay (although I'm not an adventurous eater).
The roads to arrive to this hotel are very horrible long dirt roads. There is very little, if any signing for this hotel if you are driving. Make sure to ask for "hacienda pinilla" if you get lost. Until these roads are improved, I may avoid this hotel.
Overall, this is a great place for a romantic stay, a restful vacation, a sunning pool rest. I would certainly recommend it as a luxery vacation. There is no where to walk outside the hotel unless you are looking to chill with the cattle.
Get a car if you want to explore, but 4x4 so you don't bottom out in the pot holes.
Didn't want to leave...
My husband and I came here for our honeymoon. We were both impressed by the quality of the resort and staff. From the minute we checked in, to the minute we left, we were treated like royalty. The staff bent over backwards to accommodate us.
The property and rooms are beautiful and very clean. We ate at every restaurant except the steakhouse. We both agreed that the food was fabulous! Ask for "Arturo", the general restaurant manager. He will make your dining experience exceptional. Drinks and food are a litte expensive because your at a resort! Even though the resort is a little isolated, it is completely worth the journey. We rented a car for a couple of days and visited nearby towns for local flavor. I highly suggest that to have a true Costa Rica experience. We felt very safe, everywhere we went and saw several other beautiful beaches. Some of the roads are terrible in Costa Rica, but you deal with it! The Arenal volcano is worth the 4 hour drive it takes to get there. I would advise spending at least 2 nights there though. The hot springs are amazing there!!! My husband and I hated to leave....the people of Costa Rica were the best part of our trip. Amazing people. I have travelled all over the world and have never been more impressed! If you eat at the Tamarine restaurant....ask for "Diego"....he's an amazing young man!
Absolutely a great hotel
We just got back from Costa Rica and had a wonderful stay at this hotel. It is absolutely gorgeous! The rooms are beautiful and the bathrooms are outstanding. Loved their layout and how unique they are. Also liked the patios and the sunshades that can be pulled down. I can't imagine how anyone can find fault here.
It is difficult to get to the hotel those last few miles but after a while it just becomes part of the experience. A car is definitely handy as you can explore the area, Tamarindo and local restaurants. We really enjoyed Lolas on the each (amazingly good food). I think someone said you can walk there along the beach but we were told it would take 20 to 25 minutes and you do have to watch the tide to do this. We drove and that's another whole experience (you think the road to the hotel is bad???!!) but glad we went. Also enjoyed LaPosada, a 2 minute drive from the hotel in the Hacienda Pinella.
Found the restaurants at the hotel to be very good and the service excellent. There were no problems at all. I think some of the menus need adjusting - would like more snack options and sandwiches and salads at lunch, but other than that, it was very good.
We stayed 3 nights here then moved to the Paradisus Playa Conchal for an all-inclusive and a diffferent area for 4 nights. That's another report but we were sorry we didn't shorten the stay at Paradisus and stayed longer at the JW Marriott.
Would definitely return here. If you like loud, lively hotels, this is probably not the place for you. If you like quieter places and more luxurious places, you would enjoy staying here.
Want to go back!
Beautiful Resort! A+ for service!
We just returned from an 8 night trip to Costa Rica, the final four of which were spent at the JW. We drove from Arenal where we had been staying, and really didn't think the roads were bad at all. Just part of the adventure! Set the GPS to Hacienda Pinilla and off you go! The resort is isolated, but we loved that. Scary to think that in a few years the area could be totally developed. So, rent a car, enjoy your ride down the dirt road, and be happy that you are at a beautiful resort on a private beach (with the most spectacular sunsets and starry skies) with no other hotels around. The property itself is gorgeous. Sort of spanish hacienda style. The pool area is great and we were informed that it is the largest pool in Central America. Plenty (and I mean plenty!) of cushy teak lounge chairs and umbrellas for every group of chairs. The pool area lit up at night is just beautiful. The rooms are nice. Comparable to other JW's we've stayed at, but nice that everything is spotless and brand-spanking new. We ate at Tamarine one night and had a good dinner, but we ventured into Tamarindo the other nights and had great dinners at Dragonfly and La Baula (awesome thin crust pizza with a great play area for the kids.) Prices at the JW are comparable to what you would pay at a nice resort in Hawaii (think $12 cocktails), so don’t think it will be cheaper just because you are in Costa Rica. It’s not! We bought a cooler and stocked up at the local supermarkets for snacks and drinks. It is an absolute MUST to rent a car. Driving is no problem. Biggest issue is people, cows, dogs, horses, goats (get the picture!) in the road during the day and at night. My kids could not understand why they didn’t have sidewalks! OK..back to the JW. We thought the service was awesome. Not once slow or spotty. The guys by the pool (namely Rodrigo and Elmer) were the best. Eager to make sure you had everything you needed, but also went above and beyond the call of duty gathering shells for our kids on the beach, making sure they took a family picture at sunset, etc. We loved them and were sad to say good-bye…which we all did with hugs which is not the standard for us when we leave a hotel! To our surprise they had a great kids club. We weren’t planning to leave our kids there, but they begged so they spent an hour or two each morning with Marilyn and Adrianna (the nicest girls) collecting shells, learning a Costa Rican dance, making animals out of palm fronds, etc. All very fun stuff for them. You have to spend the afternoon at Lola’s (about a 30 minute walk or 15 drive.) We rented boogie boards at the JW and drove over to Lola’s. A very cool restaurant and bar right on the beach where you can hangout, eat, swim and have a beer. Good food too. The beach there is better for swimming than at the JW, but there are still fairly decent size waves (loads of surfers around) so it is definitely not the calm crystal blue waters of the Carribean. The beach at the JW is small but nice and they have covered loungers there as well. There are tidepools right to the left where my kids found loads of shells, saw a starfish and millions of hermit crabs. We had done most of our adventurous activities in Arenal so mostly relaxed at the hotel. We did spend an afternoon in Santa Cruz because they were having the area’s largest annual festival there (great taste of Costa Rican life!), but I don’t think that is going on anymore. I think it would be shame to stay at the resort for the week and not explore the country, which leads back to the necessity to rent a car!!! Overall, we had a wonderful stay. Loved the hotel, the service, and the Costa Rican people. One note about the weather. It was WINDY. I was completely unprepared for this, but I guess it’s windy season. And when I say windy, I’m not talking about a gentle breeze. I’m talking constant 10-20mph winds. Still warm and sunny though. And another note…when you rent a car (we rented through Thrifty in Liberia), they make you a copy of your passport and drivers license and warn you that if you are pulled over by the police to never give your originals or you won’t get them back unless you pay them. Well, we were pulled over on a nice flat stretch of road (where of course my husband was passing a cattle truck or something) on our way from the JW to the airport. We gave the police man (first and only shady corrupt person we encountered!) the copy and he said he needed to confiscate the original drivers license or we would have to pay him $100 (because there is NO other way to pay…uh huh). We tried to talk our way out of it, but we were already running late for our flight so we just gave him $60. Ran into a man who saw us pulled over and said that cop is always there and has pulled him over three times and he gives him a $20. So better luck to you if this happens! Pura Vida!
Pick up snacks and beer on your way there ...
We arrived in the evening and the hotel was absolutely breathtaking. This place is extremely romantic with a wonderful view of the sunset every evening. The pool is enormous and the grounds are astounding.
We loved our room, with an ocean view (free upgrade since they were not busy). My only complaint was that they had obviously not cleaned it or even checked it's cleanliness before we got there as I found a spider, his web and a ton of dead insects right above our bed. The bathroom was wonderful, you could watch the sun set from the bathtub (or even the toilet, ha!). There is a roll down screen so that you can leave your door open and not worry about bugs getting in, which is really great because during the day there are a ton of bugs - mostly dragon flys milling around. The safe is nice and big and easily fit a laptop.
We visited the steak restaurant and were not overly impressed. For starters the table we sat at viewed a window that looked directly into the gym. Call me crazy but it is a little hard getting down with a big, fat steak when I have someone working out on a treadmill directly in my eye sight. I wish I could remember the name of the potatoes that we ordered, when they showed up my husband and I both looked at each other and laughed - they were like hash browns and were very small and oily, not worth the price at all. The caesar salad was a joke as well although the dressing was very good. The hotel was having an issue with the lights the night we dined and at one moment we were in dim, romantic light and the next it was as if there was a bright spot light on our heads (the light remained for the rest of our meal). Our server was very attentive and sweet.
The pool is cold and this is great during the day when it is warm. When it cools down at night however the pool is completely unusable. Also as previous people have said, the hot tubs are not hot, not even a little. So basically once the sun goes down there is nothing to do at night except have an overpriced, mediocre dinner at the hotel. The staff around the pool are so nice and friendly but they are very overwhelming. I cannot stand being walked by hundreds of times a day when it is obvious that I don't want or need anything. It almost made me feel guilty that I wasn't ordering things as I could see the hotel was not busy and these poor people were probably not making tons of money.
Rent a car if you are staying here and visit Tamarindo for good meals and drinks. Also, stock up on snacks and beer in town and keep a cooler to save A TON of money - why buy a $6 beer when you can have a $5 6-pack? Lastly, the resort charges $25 a person to shuttle you to Tamarindo, which is the biggest rip off in the world ... if you don't have a car call a cab or make friends who do.
Oh, the free valet was great!
Know What You Want . . . Part 2
We’re back in NJ – a 60 degree difference in temperature from Costa Rica . . . How we miss it already.
Few updates and a comment for your reflection if you’re considering the JW . . .
A couple of postings have made reference to the “over servicing” of the staff – such as “they are very overwhelming. I cannot stand being walked by hundreds of times a day when it is obvious that I don't want or need anything. It almost made me feel guilty that I wasn't ordering things as I could see the hotel was not busy and these poor people were probably not making tons of money.”
Part of what we have here (IMHO) is a culture shock . . . those of us (especially from the US Northeast) can be a bit cynical about people looking for tips with their hand out. It’s our understanding that the automatically assigned 10% service charge to meals, etc., is put into a pot and shared by all the staff, not just the people who wait on you. Thus, their motivation is not economic as much as (again, IMHO) it is to be hospitable and really want you to enjoy your vacation and be comfortable. We found this in many ways.
We call the (free) valet parking asking them to bring our car up so we can (sadly) leave to catch our flight home. As we approached the car drive area one of the staff came rushing up to us saying our car had a flat tire. I went to the front bell stand, asked the first guy I saw in uniform where the valet cars were parked; he asked by name/ticket number, grabbed my keys as I told him the car apparently had a flat tire. He walks with me and says “we will change it now for you”. So we get to the car and he immediately starts with the jack, etc. and changes the tire. In the meantime my wife is waiting at the entrance to the hotel with our bags. The General Manager (Jim Peebles) happens to walk by. We had seen Mr. Peebles on numerous times during our stay as he clearly has a practice of MBWA, Management by Wandering Around. He introduced himself to us during one of his walks around the resort. Seemed like a very nice guy, and an Eagle Scout too boot. Anyhow, he sees my wife and asks her how she’s doing. She tells him about the flat tire and her concern of getting to the airport in time for our flight. MR Peebles comes out to where the tire changing is going on, sees the very poor condition of the spare tire National Car Rental had equipped our rental car with and states unequivocally to the guy changing the tire, “put the spare on it but I don’t want these people trying to drive this to the airport. It doesn’t look reliable or safe. If they get into a problem on their way to the airport there is no way they can get help to get their plane on time. National will have to come get the car and we’ll find them another way to get them to the airport.”
So, I’m standing there somewhat in shock that my flat tire is all of a sudden the hotel’s problem and not my problem. As things unfolded they found a beautiful minibus (capacity 21) to drive us into Liberia, stop at National to straighten out the paperwork (which National was amazingly cooperative and apologized for the trouble and said they would take care of everything at no additional cost – as they should, but it’s nice they did it without any hassle!) . . . . OK, here’s one more piece of the rest of the story . . . they guy who got dirty changing the tire is actually Ronald Nassar, the JW’s Front Office Manager . . . this guy is management, not a tire changer. When I mentioned this to Ronald he brushed it off with a typically JW/Costa Rican attitude of “we want your stay to be pleasant and you needed help.” It didn’t seem at all unusual to him that he just happened to be in the place he was and that he jumped into physically solve a guest’s problem . . .
Final piece of the story (and I hate to publically state this because it sets up an unrealistic expectation for the JW to repeat) . . . but . . . as we get on the bus Ronald says the trip is courtesy of the JW as we’ve had enough stress for one morning. If they were money grubbing they could have easily charged us $100 or $200 and we’d have gladly paid it as the clock was ticking on our departure flight. The fact they comped the trip under such circumstances just says volumes about their gracious hospitality.
So, needless to say, we’re raving fans of the people at the JW . . . My wife has already “hinted” (you married guys know what that means) that it would be a superb birthday present for her if we go back for another week or two . . .
newyears eve 2006/07
My girlfriend and i are travelling to costa rica on the 27th of december and will be there over new year and were just wondering if any1 new of somewhere good 2 spend newyears? we are there till the 5th of jan and were also wanting to no of any tips of good places to go see and stay and the best way of getting around?
hope some1 can help us thanx :)
RE: newyears eve 2006/07
It depends where are you going to be. Most hotels and restaurants plan a wonderful New Year's eve every year. Check out for some hotels ( Costa Rica Marriott, Herradura Hotel) I only suggest you to book in advance.
Have a nice Trip!!