On recommendations from friends of ours from Panama we decided to spend 10 full days on Contadora for Christmas 2005 and New Year's 2006. We could not have been more disappointed.
The food was little more than recycled slop; the leftovers served a little differently from day to day. We learned later that there were supposed to be multiple dining facilities open, and that only one was open during our stay... they had closed the rest. My spouse, who can't eat meat, had very few options, often only able to eat bread and their seafood-rice during meals. Fortunately we found that Hotel Villa Romantica on the South side of the island has wonderful food and service, and we were able to eat there twice during our long stay.
My mother-in-law's room smelled so strongly of moth balls (it was next to the linen closet which used them to keep bugs out of the sheets) that she came away from the experience with serious lung problems (we were unaware that she's actually allergic to the chemical) which required weeks of treatment.
Our bathroom floor was stained with the remains of stomped cockroaches. Unfortunately there were more to be found every night. The one dim lightbulb in our, admittedly spacious, room was so dim that we couldn't read in bed at night.
We befriended some of the entertainment staff to learn that they were being kept in conditions approaching indentured servitude. Half the staff ended up quitting right before their big New Year's party (which, by the way, guests of the hotel were required to pay an EXTRA $40 to attend).
By way of explanation we found out near the end of our stay that the owner of the facility had died in a crash a couple weeks before and that, upon hearing the news, the general manager quit. However, one cannot imagine that the facility could slip so far in only three weeks. Clearly this property is nowhere near its heyday in the 70s and 80s, and should be avoided until it's under new management and has clearly demonstrated progress.
The beach was pretty; the resort seems to cater to families with children, so expect that, if you decide you still want to go. As avid SCUBA divers we found that the area had truly nothing interesting to offer as far as diving or snorkeling was concerned. There is a dive shop on the island, but they're expensive, and your money is better spent elsewhere. There are two pools, only one of which we used, and while in it I stumbled over an electrical light fixture that had come out of the side of the wall in the pool. Had the lights been turned on, there would have been a good chance everyone in the pool would have been electricuted.
Of moral offense was the on-site unsupervised zoo exhibit with spider monkeys, parrots, large cats, roaming peacocks, and other wild creatures regularly tormented by guests.
It should be noted that the hotel is geared toward guests from other Latin American countries, not US visitors. While we spoke Spanish and were able to converse with the staff reasonably well, the hotel does not provide accommodations US residents tend to expect in resorts. We expected this, and are still convinced that they failed miserably.
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