logo Old Reviews - Barcelo Tambor Beach
Barcelo Playa Tambor

January 2008
We had a wonderful time and were treated with great service, good food and friendly staff. The atmosphere and rooms were great and there was lots to do.
Barcelo Playa Tambor
Tim & Silv 
February 2007
This was our second trip to Costa Rica and my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed staying at the Barcelo Playa Tambor this time. Two years ago we stayed at the Allegro Papagayo which was also an excellent resort.

While the hotel has just over 400 rooms you did not feel crowded. There were minimal line ups for food and drinks, always chairs around the pool and beach available. The staff are very friendly, always greeting you as you walked by, and they kept the resort very clean. Checking in and out was very easy.

The food was plentiful and excellent. The buffet always had fish, pork, beef and chicken available along with varied vegetable dishes, some local. The quality of the food was very good and the fruits were excellent. The buffet also had a pasta bar some nights, or else it was replaced with a chef cutting veal roast or serving the best seafood paella we’ve had in a long time. Note: my wife and I (early 40’s) are both foodies and are always seeking out new dishes and trying something we’ve never had before. We are not squeamish. The “steak” sit-down restaurant was really a grill, but they served fantastic barbecue pork. The seafood sit-down restaurant served us a variety platter of five items – lobster tail, shrimp, scallop, calamari and fish that was superb.

The drinks at the bars were mixed stronger than we’d had elsewhere and the list was quite extensive. Something for everyone. Service was good at all the bars – lobby, pool and snack bar – smiles all around. Snack bar food was very good, with fruit, nachos and ceviche available almost all day. They also had roasted chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers and fries after 12:30. The chicken was great!

The pool is very large with several connected areas, a built in “whirlpool”, kids wading area and waterfall. Plenty of room to swim around, even with the volleyball games or aerobics going on. The pool was kept exceedingly clean and I noticed staff checking water quality often.

Plenty of activities to keep busy: Volleyball, aerobics, soccer, darts, archery, shooting, mini-putt, dancing lessons, air hockey and ping-pong. There is a nature park next to the resort full of animals, but be sure to walk slowly and quietly, looking up, down and sideways if you want to spot anything. There is a golf course next to the resort for those so inclined.

The room we had (#570) was in one corner of the resort. You have A/C, ceiling fan, bar fridge, balcony with table and chairs, drying rack, private toilet in the full bathroom (has a tub, not just a shower stall), hairdryer, ironing board, free safe, plenty of storage and TV (we never turned it on). We had to turn the A/C down at night as it was quite powerful. Beds were firm but comfortable. Daily housekeeping was perfect, and they arranged the washcloths and tissue box with flowers every day.

The beach is great for long walk. The resort is in about the middle of a 7km long dark sand beach. You could walk to Tambor village (taking care to watch the tides as you can’t walk back at high tide) in under an hour, or go in the other direction to a small village at the other end in just over an hour. The beach has a very gentle slope into the water which is very warm during the day. NOTE: the water is not clear! If you want crystal clear water go elsewhere! Plenty of birds and crabs to watch. Look out for aircraft landing at the airstrip next to the resort as they fly low over the beach.

We did two tours, one to the Montezuma zip-lines/souvenir shopping and one to Curu Park (nature tour). Both were half-day and very enjoyable. Our guide who took us to Curu was very well informed, brought his own telescope to help see the animals and gave us a great tour.

Recommendations: bring lots of sunblock! We had over 30 degree weather every day with no clouds. Also, take the air transfer unless you want to see some of the countryside (for 5 hours). Air transfer is done in very small aircraft (4-, 5-, 6- and 18-passenger) so if you get motion sickness take Gravol or Bonamine.

All in all a very enjoyable, relaxing vacation to a resort we will absolutely go to again.

Anyone with questions can e-mail me at interceptor800@hotmail.com
Barcelo Playa Tambor

December 2006
A Blight Upon Nature

We stayed at the Playa Tambor for three long days at the request of our father who lives in Costa Rica. He wanted the experience of staying at a nice hotel with his family which was in Costa Rica to celebrate his birthday.

It was all any of us could do to maintain the illusion that we were enjoying the experience so we wouldn't hurt his feelings.

As a hotel, the Playa Tambor is adequate: clean, modern rooms, edible food, large pool, clean towels. One of the beds in our room smelled like sweaty sneakers, but we just used the other bed. The staff is the one high point, the waitstaff in the restaurant is very courteous and the housekeepers were responsive to our requests.

Drinks are "free" ie. included in the price. We tried a bunch of cocktails which were all poorly made by indifferent bartenders whose days were spent being badgered by drunken teenagers. These people know so little about what they are doing that they served their red wine chilled and offered ice in the beer.

The beach is lousy at best. The hotel guests leave their trash (predominantly paper cups) on the beach and the staff is slow to pick up after the immature crowd that frequents the resort. The beach is about 60 percent rocks, and the rest is sand mixed with dirt washed down from the hills. Not good for walking barefoot.

The entertainment starts with a little kids participation show that is nice for the under 9 set. Then comes an odious audience participation event called "Icebreaker" but which is really "Humiliate the Audience" or more frequently "Humiliate the Girls". Alternating between boring (an hour of unanswerable trivia questions) and crass (boyfriend holds a red 18-inch piece of broomstick between his knees and blindfolded, tries to insert it into the core of a toilet paper roll held between girlfriend's knees), "Icebreaker" is like watching a trainwreck.

The professional shows feature good looking dancers of average talent, loud music and weak production values. No imagination or wit exhibited here.

Worst of all is the "Eco Tour". Costa Rica is a natural paradise, the country has famously gone to great lengths to preserve, protect and share its natural wonders with visitors. At Playa Tambor, you can get a tour guided by one of the dancers from the evening show who is completely ignorant of what he is showing you. The "Nature Park" is a swampy palm farm, with two native trees mixed in with the palms, some aligators in a cage and monkeys fed into docility. The only real nature is the mosquitos.

If you don't care about Costa Rica and only want to hang around a pool full of under-supervised teenagers and overweight people whose bathing suits are too small, try Orlando or Cancun, it's a lot cheaper and easier to get to those locations than to the Nicoya Peninsula.

We noticed that many, probably a majority, of the guests were native Costa Ricans, living it up in a modern hotel, getting what is, for them, an unusual cultural experience. When we were there, large numbers of high school age locals were around the pool, evidently unsupervised by parents or chaperones, hell-bent on getting into each other's pants.

If you want to really visit Costa Rica, there are many alternatives. You can "go native" or travel in luxury, but stay away from Barcelo Playa Tambor.
Barcelo Playa Tambor
Wayne and Tarrie- Lynn 
Ottawa Canada
February 2006
Just returned from Costa Rico and the Barcela Tambor resort. We stayed two weeks Jan 30 to 13 Feb 06. This was our first time at this resort and the first time at a Barcela. We had a very good time. We have traveled extensively and visited many resorts.
We found this resort a fun place to relax. The pool and beach had plenty of lounge chairs available at any time of the day. We usually went to the beach in the morning and the pool late afternoon. The water in the ocean was great for swimming and play. Nice waves. The flying Montrays could be seen skimming across the bay from time to time. The resort had a water main break for the first three days and we had cool water in the shower. Once the problem was fixed we had no problems. The grounds are well kept and there are plenty of animals around. The Howler monkeys were not far from our room. Every other day we walked through the Natural Park that is part of the resort. The Caymans and the jungle setting was unique. This resort is a working ranch and they also breed Macaw's. They breed up to 90 birds then set them free and start over again. The birds are kept in cages just as you enter the resort.
The rooms are a little tired, yet clean. We had to ask the cleaning staff to leave water a couple of times. They had no problem leaving soft drinks. We were located on a upper floor in the farthest unit from the main building. Very quiet. Be prepared to carry your own luggage to and from your rooms.
Food and Drink
The food was plentiful I loved the fish, squid and rabbit. The meat was a little tough. even the veal. My wife found the bread to be dry. However having said that, we had no problem finding enough to eat. The white wine,( it must be the Spanish chain) was not the best. We drank red during the time we were there. Last year at an Iberostar in Mexico we found that the white wine was the same. The drinks provided free of charge are not top brand. You pay for premium brands if you are fussy. We enjoyed the steak restaurant and ate the tenderloin beef, we ate squid and garlic shrimp at the seafood restaurant. Some people did not like the service at the steak restaurant but we had no problem.
Entertainment and Staff
The staff are very friendly when you speak with them and treat them properly. We found that they were not all over you as in some resorts but were helpful when you asked for something. The evening and daytime activities are not pushed on you. You can participate if you want to. The evening entertainment was OK. They work hard at it. Many of the bartending staff move around and because the resort is of a smaller size you see them often at different bars.
We took a number of tours and played a round of golf. In the afternoon around 2:30 the price is right for golf and the course is very nice. The tours to Monteverde (Sky Treck) and to Aernel Volcano were great. We transferred over to San Jose the last three days to do the Aernel tour.
We had a great time at this resort but it was what we made of it. Met lots of nice people, like Dave and Helen, Patty and BJ as well as the two Steve's. We loved Costa Rico and hope to go back to visit another part of the country. It is very safe. I recommend this resort if you want to enjoy a relaxing trip. Good place for families.
Barcelo Playa Tambor
Bill & Louise 
February 2006
We traveled from Toronto to San Jose on Jan 16, 2006 and returned Jan 30 2006. A 5 hour flight was followed by a 5 hour bus/ferry ride to the resort. A plane ride upgrade is offered by some Tour Operators. This was our second time here, we stayed there in 2000. Barceló states that this is one of their “Mid-range” hotels and with this in mind we were not disappointed. The grounds and buildings were well kept and we noticed very little deterioration since 2000, they even added a mini golf and a make shift seafood restaurant. This is not “Rock & Roll Central” If you want to party till you puke try Cancun and the like. This is a well run well kept resort. As in all places there could be some improvements. The beds are due to be changed, but I did not have any trouble sleeping after a day in the sun. The 402 room resort is well spread out in several 2 storey buildings. Rooms are typical of hotel rooms with balcony. I did notice some with “no-smoking” signs on the doors.

Food: All the all inclusive resorts that I have been to have a buffet style main restaurant. There was a huge selection each day. Fish, pork, beef etc with a carvery at one end. The Doctor as he calls himself is entertaining and willing to carve up the special of the day for you. Look around smoke salmon with capers, oysters on the ½ shell, pruschutto. The seafood restaurant was ok but the beef restaurant was well worth it. Reservations a must.

Pool: This is the main entertainment area for the resort with exercise class every day, pool bar and restaurant at each end. Big Jacuzzi style area, 2 shallow pool areas for kids and sports area. Lots of chairs/lounges scattered around. Plenty of shade & sun.

Beach: Get away form the noise of the pool here. Lots of room. Plenty of lounges. Beach is good for boogie boards. Waves are not big enough for surfing. Poor snorkeling, Take the trip to Tortuga Island for snorkeling. Great walking. To the right ( looking at the water) is Tambor, Tambor Tropical just past that the Yacht Club with restaurant. To the left los Dolfines and a small campground. Be aware of the tides.

You are in an isolated area of the country. Some of the trips are 8 to 12 hours long. Take the local bus to Montezuma for a day. It is appx ½ hour away 600-700 colones or take a taxi. There is a waterfall there but it is a rugged walk to the falls.

Hope you enjoy your stay.

2005- Puerto Vallarta Palladium. 2004- Costa Rica Costa Smeralda, 2003 Punta Cana Dominican Republic Riu Naboa, 2002 Merida Mexico Reef Club 2001
Barcelo Playa Tambor
Katie, 16 and Jessica, 13 
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
July 2005
We just returned from a family vacation in Costa Rica. We spend the last leg of the two week vacation at Playa Tambor from July 10 - 17. We really liked the resort especially the activities guys and the staff. Everybody is really nice especially, Junior and Geovanny! The nighttime shows are cheesy but undeniably entertaining (especially to teen girls.. those activity guys were very charming and very good dancers)! My sister and I especially enjoyed the preshow icebreakers which were fun to both watch and participate in. My sister and I also enjoyed the water gym aerobics and other activities like archery and the eco tour (within the resort). We also really liked the music they played at the swim up bar. It was fun to dance to.

The food was pretty good and the room was always very clean. The beach was nice and it was fun to rent the boogie boards and ride the waves in. We recommend this resort to anyone who wants to relax but also have a really fun time!

However, if visiting Costa Rica, going to Playa Tambor isn't going to show you everything about the country.

Have fun!
Barcelo Playa Tambor
Brad and Kim 
Ontario, Canada
April 2005
My husband and I, and a friend of ours, went to this resort the first week of March, 2005.

We'll start with the trip there. We flew Air Transat and were an hour late taking off. The pilot claimed an error by the airport caused us to be tenth in line for de-icing instead of first. This caused us to miss our ferry in Costa Rica and we didn't get to the resort until 9:00 PM. But, the ferry ride was actually fun, and they serve alcohol, so everyone just enjoyed the ride. The ferry ride is approx. 1 and a half hours, preceded by a bus ride of about an hour, and followed by another bus ride of 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Sounds arduous, but really wasn't that bad. Get to see a lot of Costa Rica. We stopped at a shop/restaraunt. My advice is to buy what you like there, you won't find any better deals in my opinion, unless you go to Montezuma on a trip. I heard people say they found deals there. But things are expensive and no bartering. Not a great souvinier trip.
The resort:
I have to agree that it is not a 5 star. I would rate it 3 1/2 to 4. It's nice and clean, pool is quite large and clean, the water almost warm by late afternoon. Rooms are average but clean. We had no trouble getting extra towels when we asked. No trouble finding pool or beach loungers, in shade or sun, and while we were there, all chairs were replaced with brand new ones. Also while there, they seemed to be building a new 'grill house' of some type on the beach.
Water was nice. Wavy, but we love that. They supply boogie boards and kayaks should you choose. Beach was gravelly until you got to the water, then smoothe sand all the way, no seaweed and the like.
We loved the food. We didn't do a la carte, just buffet and the pool restaraunt for lunch a couple times. The buffet looks small, but there really is a lot of choice in my opinion. All 3 of us were satisfied daily.
Again, we were all satisfied. The domestic alcohol is fine, the beer is Imperial and is great. Imported alcohol is extra, which I find strange for a 5 star resort - is usually included in my experience. The bartenders are awesome, especially Carlo and Adrian! They are amazing and a lot of fun.
Activities Crew:
They are a fun bunch who work extremely hard, as they are also the nightly entertainment! Not many activities during the day though. By noon there seems to be nothing going on. Also strange in my opinion. I'm used to watching some wacky game or contest by the pool, and they are always a hoot! But they're nice and try to make all feel welcome.
Nightly Entertainment:
Need improvement here, but like I said, it's the day staff who perform, and I don't think they get a lot of time to practice. They are often out of step with each other, and a couple shows are just lame. They do have 'ice breaker' shows before hand that are kind of fun to watch, and participate in if you are so inclined. My friend and I were inticed to join in twice. Once for a music trivia contest, and once for a contest involving breaking balloons between our bodies (with a stranger of oposite sex I might add!!), and a little dance. We took first and second in both events!

One major problem on this trip. Our camera and sunglasses were stolen poolside. Local people are allowed to frequent the resort on weekends, and this happened late Friday afternoon. Coincidence? Maybe. But frustrating none the less. The resort did send champagne and fruit/cracker/cheese baskets to our room as an apology. That was very nice, and helped make my review mostly positive instead of negetive. Thank god our friend had a camera too!

One thing before I forget. People who took the small plane for the airport to resort, instead of the ferry, had complaints. Some even switched to ferry for the return trip. They had to wait a long time to board, you can only take 20 or 25 pounds of luggage per person, meaning your luggage has to go on the bus. So even if you were lucky to catch one of the first planes, you had to wait for you luggage ( in our case until 9:00 PM). Also, on the way home, you have to have you luggage in the lobby the day before you leave, again taking only the same weight with you on the plane. Ferry/bus is long, but great for sight seeing and getting to know you fellow travellers if you choose to.

Leaving, you must have $26 american departure tax, plus and additional $6 american or $10 canadian for airport tax, whatever that is.
Had no problems, everyone nice, helpful, except in the one shop. Had to buy sunglasses, so in we go, prepared to pay through the nose. Paid in american, got colons back. Asked for american - we were not planning on spending any more money - they refused. We didn't buy the sunglasses. Went to the front desk on another occasion to get money from our Visa, and again could only recieve colons. We got only what we needed and did without the rest. I find this kind of rude, not used to being told 'no' on a trip I guess. Usually they do whatever it takes to make you happy. I don't know if this is just this resort's policy, or if it's a Costa Rican thing. But it bugged me anyway. No biggie though, I was still in paradise!

Didn't go on any trips, but there are plenty to choose from. Most popular seemed to be Montezuma and zip lining. We did, however, go on a horseback ride up the mountain - what a spectular view! It was $20 each and lasted 2 hours, saw a prowler monkey with her babies! Didn't see any monkeys at the resort park though. Some people did, said they are LOUD. Must have been sleeping both times we went through, but still a nice walk through.

Having the landing strip so close is kind of neat. You get a close up view of planes taking off and landing! My husband got a close shot on the camera, close enough to make him dive for cover! Saw a few people do the same.

All in all, a good experience. Would recommend this resort, but not at full price. We booked last minute and got our money's worth for sure, but at full price I would have felt ripped off. They are making improvements, but they're not quite there yet. So get a good deal, and enjoy!
Barcelo Playa Tambor
April 2005
My husband and I spent Thanksgiving 2004 at the resort and have a mixed review to offer those of you planning your stay at the resort.

We arrived at the resort after a short flight from San Juan via Sansa airlines. Because the Sansa terminal is quite small and was very crowded, we waited for our scheduled flight departure in the lounge seats out in front of the terminal. Had I not been listening and watching closely, we would have missed the flight as there was no announcement the flight was loading for departure. I just happened to notice people stopped milling around outside and it got a bit quieter inside, so we literally had to run for the plane when we realized what was happening.

The flight over to Tambor was quite beautiful and allowed us a great view of the country and landscape…green and luscious! The small airstrip in Tambor has no terminal and once the plane unloaded our luggage (strict 25 pound max) we watched several small buses and taxis ferry others off to their destination, leaving us the only ones at the gate and feeling quite stranded. When a stray taxi rolled into the parking lot, we arranged for a trip to the resort and found much to our disappointment that the resort was only about 2 minutes away and we actually could have walked. The taxi driver also would not accept our “transfer voucher” from our travel agent (Costa Rican Vacations).

Inside the Barcelo Playa Tambor resort, we were greeted at the front desk and checked in for our room. Remembering the information we reviewed from this site before we departed, we told the front desk clerk we wanted to be away from the disco and in the quietest part of the resort. He assigned us to a building at the edge of the resort property and for the first night, we loved it. Then…depression set in.

The room was very standard by all means, certainly not what I am used to in a 5 star resort, but remembering we’re in Costa Rica, not San Francisco. I’d say this is a very marginal 3 star – more like two stars. The rooms were clean, but we never received any face cloths despite asking every day, and finally realized began to just walk into the maid’s office every day to get bottled water and sodas for the fridge.

It was nice and quiet in our building the first night and we felt like we were the only ones in the entire building. The following night was a disaster and continued that way for the next three nights. The Resort was overrun by high school teenagers, shouting and running thru the building, slamming doors and breaking glasses and bottles in the courtyard. Security guards were finally called out when a party in one of the rooms got out of hand and the kids knocked the TV onto the floor. We tried to stay out of the room as much as possible when the kids were there because they made it unbearable for us. One night well after 2am, a group of kids began banging on our door, shouting and screaming drunkenly for us to open up. Our vacation has turned into a nightmare, but much needed relief came when they departed for home. Relief was short lived however, when a brand new batch of kids, seemed like thousands, showed up two nights later. Security told us there were over 1200 kids at the complex for a “winter break” vacation. When we inquired about a different building the front desk clerk told us every building had the same concerns. For this reason alone, we would never return to Barcelo Playa Tambor.

The complex at Barcelo is nice and clean. The food at the a la carte restaurant was very standard and although the selection was immense, changed very little from day to day. Service was excellent however. The pool areas is well attended and we really loved the swim up bar, however the thumping of the music – turned up way too loud – drove us out to the beach every day.

The beach at Tambor is very nice, with dark sand and small breaking waves. Make a point of walking down to Tambor, a small and quaint costal town with very friendly people and a few small shops. We sat in the front of the local grocery, talking to the town drunk, enjoying the tales he regaled us with. Also take a walk down the other direction, about a mile to the small bar and restaurant we found tucked back in the palms - it was a real treat. Nice folks with an easy, laid back approach and excellent dinners! Top Shelf!

We took many day trips (to get away from the swarms of obnoxious, drunk kids) and really enjoyed Montazuma and the incredible falls there. If you go, bring shoes that clamp down on your feet. The hike up to the falls is definitely worth it, but dangerous with the wrong gear. You’re going to climb over huge boulders and inch along some steep cliffs. Before our boat came we enjoyed lunch in the town, bought a few trinkets and enjoyed talking to the expats we met on the beach. We also took a boat trip to snorkel at Tortuga - with an outstanding BBQ lunch included. Since it was a Saturday, we met lots of locals and got to pet a tamed boar – a pet someone brought along on the family outing. We really enjoyed the trip to the Curu National Wildlife Park, and learned a lot from the guides and his extensive knowledge. Bring lots of water with you if you chose this trip and your camera.

The country of Costa Rica is beautiful and breathtaking and we’re planning to return this year. The warm friendly people and the lush scenery are well worth the long flight from San Francisco.
Barcelo Playa Tambor

February 2005
We just got back from the Barcelo Tambor in Costa Rica. The hotel it's self is great but there were a few things that we didn't like. The food was terrible at the buffett. We ate at the a la carte twice because it was much better than the buffett (not much) but the rest of the time we ate off the resort which was amazing. I would highly recommend eating in Tambor at Christina's and at Tambor Tropical (the chef is an Irishman..Jon). We had lunch and dinner at both and were not disappointed. We also ate at Estrella de la Playa(683-01-69) in Pochote Town and that was fabulous. The chef, Darrin is from England, We ate there twice, even enjoyed a Superbowl party there. There are also rooms at Estrella and tours run by Camareno. He does alot of sport fishing. It's about $5 each way for a taxi to these restaurants and at Estrella Camareno will sometimes pick up or drop off at the hotel. The Barcelo was very clean and the staff was very friendly, we had alot of help from Hugo at the front desk. The beds are fairly uncomfortable and the water temperature and pressure change alot in the shower. If you want a lounge chair on the beach or at the pool go early..7am The pool is very clean and sectioned off so its not very crowded. The grounds and setting is truly amazing. The beach is enormous and not very crowded. I would recommend walking down the beach to Tambor (avoid doing that during high tide). We went on a few tours..not through the hotel. We walked down the beach to Tambor and found Claber in the local gift shop (his sister owns it). He runs Dorado Tours and is great (683-05-95 or cell 845-64-78). He took us to Montezuma and the waterfall, Tortuga Island snorkeling with a BBQ lunch on the beach..yummy lobster and Curu National Park(go really early to see the best animals). He will customize a tour for you. The hotel offers caymen feeding at night for $15, we just followed the group into the small park on the property, the caymens are in a fenced pit in the back, there are also howler monkeys there. One thing I really did not like..we had to take our bags down to the desk the night before we left because we took the air transfer. Somebody went through our bags, thankfully nothing was taken. We couldn't understand why the bags didn't go with the bus like they did coming to the resort. That is the only draw back of the air transfer. We arrived at the hotel at 2pm and the land/ferry people arrived 7 hours later. I would recommend the Barcelo Tambor but not the food.
Barcelo Playa Tambor
February 2005
My husband and I, both in our early 30's stayed at this resort Feb 1, 2005 - Feb 8. We booked a 1 week all inclusive through World of Vacations. The flight on Air Transat from Toronto was the same as usual, nothing particularly good or bad and I do prefer to travel Transat. Upon arrival in Costa Rica, things were a bit disorganized because you had to pick up your bags and make your way out to find your host agent instead of the normal thing when they stand right by the doors and call to you. We paid for the transfer flight via Sansa thru our package, there was no way after 4-5hrs of flying that we would want to spend another 5-6 hours taking the ferry/bus to the resort. We were bused about 5 minutes to Sansa where we took the small planes. The pilots were good and got us there safetly without a lot of turbulence. Don't rush for a plane because once they drop you off in Tambor, you hang around till everyone arrives by plane and then a bus comes. We sat around at this tiny airstrip wondering what to do because no one had met us so we just waited. Finally a bus came about a half hour later and we came to find out that the resort was only .5km alway! We could've walked there in 10-15mins though it's blistering hot and humid there. You cannot bring your luggage on this plane so make sure you bring the things you need with your carry on. You'll get to the resort around 3ish, your bags will get there around 9pm. Bring your swimsuits in your carry ons!

Check in was smooth. We got building 3 near the beach. The only bad thing was that the toilet didn't flush properly (they couldn't seem to fix it) and their restaurant got converted into their club in the evenings so the bass was heard pretty clearly. Luckily they had the air con in each room so we ran that and it blocked out the noise. The resort was nice but not spectacular. We've seen better but keep in mind, this is probably as good as it gets in Costa Rica. The grounds were well maintained and the rooms were clean. The water was quite wavy but luckily there was not much of an undertow. The sand was nice, brown/black, apparently from the volcanoes. There was a rocky portion of beach between the beach chairs and the water so you'd have to wear your slippers but that was fine as the sand was so hot, it was impossible to go barefoot. The beach and resort were fine except if you wanted to just hang out at the resort, I can think of better places. Luckily we wanted some action! The food was passable...not gourmet but as long as I can find something to eat, I'm happy! I was easily able to find something everyday. We did not try the restaurant during our stay. They have a macaw reserve just inside the entrance so we visited that a few times. Gorgeous birds! The weekend was busier but it didn't bother us. The only problem is that people again love to save chairs and not use them for the whole day. I really wish people wouldn't do this but since I couldn't change it, I had to join them. However, when we saved chairs, we actually were planning on using them. The entertainment was sad. We brought cards so we ended up entertaining ourselves for the most part. There is also a casino but we weren't there for casino action so we stayed away. Not much to do when the sun goes down at 6pm so bring some entertainment for yourselves! Surprisingly there are no mosquitoes! The nature park beside the resort was amazing. We saw howler monkeys and lizards. Apparently if you go during different times, you can see different animals.

Costa Rica is very safe for tourists. Once we found that out, we were off to take the public bus down to Montezuma. We did that 2x. Be forewarned that the bus is not always on schedule so be at the stop about 15 mins early and be prepared to wait. It only comes 1x every 1-2 hours so if you miss it, you'll have a long wait. Also, the last bus out of Montezuma is at 4 so make sure you're there in plenty of time or you'll be stranded. The ride was about 45mins. The resort offered this same "tour" for $35, we paid $1.50. Montezuma is a small town settled by quite a few outsiders with a lot of backpackers and surfers. Suveniors are not cheap in Costa Rica! I ended up not buying many suveniors for people for the simple fact that the trinkets were so expensive. If you want coffee, buy it from the supermarket, it's so much cheaper! We hiked up to the Montezuma Falls which were beautiful! They say it's a 25min scenic hike into the falls but let me tell you, it was quite strenuous over boulders and hanging on the rock walls. Defintely wear sport sandals. Do not wear flip flops! You will hurt yourself!

We did 1 tour thru the resort. Monteverde. It was an incredibly long day. Met at 5am came back at 9pm. We first took the bus to the ferry (.5hr), ferry (1.5hr) back on the bus (2-2.5) up the mountain. It was a definite must do in your trip! The cloud forest was unbeleivable. We did the zip lines and we actually went THREW clouds! Unfortunately we couldn't take too many pics as it was so wet and drizzly there. Be prepared. Bring warm clothes, etc...the temp really drops there. The travel was awful, Monteverde was worth it. After the zip lines, we went into the town of Monteverde. We bought the souvenirs that we did get from here (hand paintings on feathers) and had lunch. On our way back, we got stuck behind a parade in Paquet (I think) so tack that delay onto my time. It was certainly a sight to see! We had wanted to do the Monteverde/Arenal Volcano 2 day, 1 night tour but needed a min of 6 people and we didn't have enough. That certainly would've been the better tour!

Leaving was also a long day. We were scheduled for the middle Sansa flight so we had to be in the lobby for 10am. Our luggage had to be in the lobby by 5pm the day before since it was going by ferry. Our luggage took a pretty good beating on this trip so I'm so glad we didn't buy the "nice" looking luggage like I had wanted. The Sansa flight was good as before and we picked up our luggage from the Sansa lobby. From there we paid our departure tax of $26 ea and $6 at the counter. Have exact change. Our Transat flight did not leave till about 3-3:30 and we were back in T.O around 9.

Costa Rica is an awesome country. Full of ecological sights and the people are so friendly. I certainly wouldn't recommend it for a laze around sun holiday because of all that you'd miss. I would certainly come back again but this time, we'd rent a car and do our own thing.
Barcelo Playa Tambor
Bellingham, Washington, USA
December 2004
This was my second visit to the Barcelo Playa Tambor Resort. We were there from November 19-29, 2004. Our group of 15 people (4 famlies) consisted of 8 adults and 7 children aged 5-17 yrs. Everyone agreed that it was the best vacation ever!

We arrived into San Jose in the evening, and stayed overnight at a bed and breakfast in Alajuela, 5 minutes from the airport. The next morning we took a flight with Sansa Airlines to Tambor. The cost was $60 per person (25% discount for children). The small airstrip at Tambor is located just 2 minutes from the resort. Check in was quick and efficient. We had oceanview rooms in Building 1 and Building 4. They do not have connecting rooms, but each family was given adjacent rooms so that was fine. The rooms have 2 double beds; in some of the rooms the beds were pushed together to make a king size bed. The small fridge was stocked with bottled water and sodas. There is a coffeemaker, hairdryer, iron, and free safe.

There weren't too many changes from our last visit, except that they moved the aviary to the front of the resort (quieter for the birds), and they switched the location of the exercise equipment to where the pingpong tables used to be, and added some pool tables as well. The kids club is very small and usually empty - I would not rely on using that facility. The food was excellent, just as we remembered it. The beach now has some areas of piled up gravel, where it used to be just all smooth sand. They added an internet cafe ($5 for 30 minutes).

The weekend was very busy with locals coming in from San Jose. Midweek was much quieter. Our teenagers like the busy weekends because then the disco was hopping! They enjoyed dancing to the latin music and talking with the Costa Rican teenagers. All the kids enjoyed the nightly shows. They stayed up for them every night, and even won a few prizes - tshirts and hats.

I had arranged several daytrips for our group: Curu Wildlife Refuge, Montezuma, and Malpais. I reserved a 15 passenger van and driver through www.montezumaexpeditions.com. They quoted us a very reasonable rate (much cheaper than taking taxis or doing the hotel tours). Our driver was Jose from Tambor and he was excellent - always smiling and a very careful driver. Our first trip was to Curu Park, which was about a 30 minute drive. The entrance fee is $6 per adult and $3 per chld. Jose volunteered to be our tour guide and took us on some trails where we saw monkeys, lizards, and coatis.

Our second trip was to Montezuma. This was about a 45 minute drive, and the last 15 minutes was on dirt road. Jose had reserved the canopy tour for some of our group ($30 per person), so we went there first. We watched them zip down the cables, then continued down the hill to the parking lot for the hike to the waterfall. It was about a 30 minute hike upstream to get to the top waterfall, where we enjoyed swimming in the cool water and feeling the spray of the huge waterfall. Afterwards we walked around the beautiful grounds of the hotel "Amor de Mar" , and then into the village to browse the shops. Jose recommended a great restaurant on the beach for lunch. Afterwards we walked along the beach to check out the "Sano Banano Bungalows". Very beautiful, romantic setting. Would definitely love to stay there for a few nights next time.

Back at the Barcelo Tambor Beach resort, we kept busy every day with numerous activites: horseback riding (the Barcelo has its own stables next door, and offers 2 different trips taking 2 hours, for $20 each), boogie boarding, beach volleyball, water polo, aerobics, dance lessons....plus lots of laying around in hammocks. It was heaven.

We made reservations for the a la carte beachfront restaurant twice during our stay. We enjoyed the candlelit setting and excellent seafood including huge shrimp and lobster thermidore.

We ended our Costa Rica trip with 4 days at the Blue Jay Lodge in Malpais. It was about an hours drive from Tambor, mostly on dirt roads (with lots of potholes!). We stayed in "treehouse" bungalows. This is a very small village with a beautiful, rugged beach and big surf. Some of our group took surfing lessons at "El Carmen" beach, which is the begginers beach. My husband took our kids fishing ($30/hr for the boat and captain) and they caught a 40 lb wahoo and some tuna. The owner of our hotel cooked the tuna up for our dinner - it was delicious! We bought some beautiful hammocks for $18 each (very soft cotton) and some wood jewellery.

I have posted my recent photos of the Barcelo Playa Tambor Resort at : www.geocities.com/barceloplayatambor

Feel free to email me if you have any questions: vivian@chuckanutbaytravel.com
Barcelo Playa Tambor
Calgary, Canada
November 2004
My husband and I were married at the Tambor in June 2004. We spent a few days at the resort before the wedding and a few days after. We then moved onto different areas of the country for the second week. We had a great time, even in the “Green” season and would like to recommend doing your homework before traveling to Costa Rica. There are many places to stay, and the big resorts through travel agents in your home town may not be your best option.

We traveled with 12 friends and family for the first week so things were a bit complicated with luggage. We flew from San Jose to Tambor (much more relaxing than driving) and our first travel host told us we were going to have to leave our luggage in storage. Of course, this was not an option since we were getting married and everyone needed their luggage. So we brought it with us and the airplanes they planned on using couldn’t handle the weight. After two hours they split us up onto 2 smaller planes and we were off with all of our luggage.

We arrived before official check in at the Tambor, but we were able to store our luggage and check in later. Our room upgrade was not the best. We ended up with two double beds instead of a King bed (go figure for Honeymooners) and our view was ok. We had fresh flowers in our room picked fresh from the resort. It was a great bonus!

The service was great and I found that learning a small amount of Spanish helped in understanding the locals and staff. We had to remember that we were traveling in a foreign country with less money and less reason to learn English well. The front desk staff spoke English well, but waiters and cleaning staff did not.

There were great tours. I recommend doing the ATV tour. We had a chance to see the countryside and swim at some waterfalls (which is available with almost every tour). We also did a boat tour and had lunch where the first Temptation Island was filmed.

The wedding was not planned through the resort, but through a great wedding planner with Weddings Costa Rica. I was warned that the resorts use staff for photography and the weddings are not worth the money.

The wedding planner (Larissa Banting) is a Canadian living in Costa Rica and was prepared for every detail. She worked everything out with the resort including dinner (which was fabulous), musicians, photographer and lawyer. I have yet to see the marriage license… I’m told that this is how they do things, it takes a while.

The resort was pretty obnoxious the first day since the locals from San Jose vacation there on the weekends, but the rest of the week was great. We had good weather (rough seas though), uncrowded restaurants, beach and pools and every opportunity to relax. The disco was very slow, and we ended up being the only ones in there by only 1 am. The greatest part about this resort, there were no peddlers on the beach!

I cannot recommend this resort as I have not been to others in the area and we went during green season, but I hope my review helps you make a great decision. We had a fabulous time!
Barcelo Playa Tambor
June 2004
My husband and I went went to the Playa Tambor resort in February 2004 for 1 week. It was the first time we had ever done something like this-going to an all inclusive resort. We loved it! It was a great experience.

The highlights for us was the nature. As we are both Biology teachers and have a love of the outdoors, we were anxious to check out the Costa Rican wildlife. We weren't disappointed. We saw many, many different bird species such as macaws, ibis, spoonbill, frigatebirds to name a few, around the resort as well as on a boat tour which took all day and brought us to a nearby wildlife refuge. Howler monkeys were constantly making themselves heard by our hotel room. It was great! The hotel area was a great place for checking out the wildlife. It has a little park that you can walk through and see crocodiles at night (and during the day) and the wildlife refuge is about a half hour away.

The service was really good. We never had any problems getting what we wanted. The staff was friendly and helpful and we never found communication to be a problem although our friends who came with us had some problems. One of them had lost their inhaler and had to get it replaced and found it a very frustrating experience. She had to go through many different people in order to find someone who could understand what it was that she needed. However, she received a letter of apology along with a discount.

We found the food was awesome! Lots of choice and more than other all inclusive resorts from what I've heard.

Our boat tour was great. It included a trip to a wildlife refuge, a snorkelling adventure, a fantastic lunch, and a trip to the Montezuma waterfall along with time to tour the local village which had some cool shops and pubs. Our tour guide was a biology student who was working as a tour guide during his break. He was really interesting to talk to and gave us a great tour of a wildlife refuge.

We went on another tour to the butterfly gardens. Our tour guide was another biology student who was very friendly. He kept meeting up with us afterwards around the pool whenever he had a break. He taught us a lot about the culture, economy and other things of the area. One thing is for sure, there are lots of tours to choose from!

The rooms were okay. Nothing special but were mostly clean and the air conditioning was awesome. They kept our fridge supplied with cokes and other non-alcoholic drinks.

The drink service was great. A lot of the drinks tasted the same but you stick with a few that you really liked and oh yah, have as much as you like!

The pool is fantastic! I loved it! We stayed in it most of the time because it was nice to have ready access to the bar beside the pool.

The ocean water is also very nice and warm. It was warmer than the pool at times. Boogey boardng was great!

Well, we had a great time for our first time at a resort. I think the resorts that we will go to in the future will have a lot to look up to.
Barcelo Playa Tambor
March 2004
We just got back from our two week stay in Playa Tambor. Would like to touch on one down point about the resort. On the weekends they let in the locals from San Jose. They overtook the poolbar, loud, drunk and offering of pot to the teenage tourists. I was very dissapointed with this and let the hotel know (not that it is going to change, so be prepared for this). Entertainment at this resort was poor to fair. Food in the buffet was good and good selection, varied from night to night. I suggest if you are doing the tours to seek out a local man in Tambor (15 minute walk down the beach) his name is Klever. He took us on an awsome tour for a fraction of the cost for the same tour that the hotel offered. He took us out on his boat to the islands of Curu, Tortuga and Montezuma. On the island of Tortuga is where we did the snorkeling and Klever bbq'd the best mackeral I have ever tasted right on the beach. Montezuma is where the waterfalls are and it is a great hippie town, lots of good shopping at good prices. We also did the Canopy tour to the Cloud Forest in Monteverde, this one we had to book through the hotel as no locals in town offered. It was $120 US but worth every penny!! Beach is less to be desired, very rocky.

They do rate this as a 5 star, but with my travels I have only stayed in 5 stars and this one I would rate at most 3.5. No beer in your fridge, no bottled beer only imperial on tap. Any fine liquors (ie Baileys, Grand Marnier, Smirnoff) all is extra charges. Never experienced this in the other 5 stars that I have been to.

I would definately go back to Costa Rica but I would do it different. Not so long at one resort would do more touring to see more of this beautiful country.
Barcelo Playa Tambor
March 2004
Our advice is to avoid Barcelo Playa Tambor for the purposes of a honeymoon vacation. First, the pros: very warm, nice pool (including swim up bar), and excellent adventure tours (for extra money). However, the cons far outweighed these things for us, revolving mainly around the lousy service. Most of the staff do not speak English, and the “departments” seems very uncoordinated with each other. Our complimentary bottle of wine/champagne never came to us during our visit to the featured restaurant “El Rancho”, and even though we booked to have it delivered to our room with guest services, no one had any clue as to its whereabouts. It was a trial in itself trying to hunt it down. In addition, the advertisements state that honeymooners get a free pass to El Rancho, but so does everyone else. Few perks so far. Now, if you enjoy receiving wake up calls during all hours of the night, this may be the resort you’ve always craved! 3:30am, 5:30am, that’s right – unplug that phone and you’ll be better rested. Other calls were for tours we did not book. But not to fear – a paltry breakfast which is to be delivered to your room, may arrive far too early to be even out of bed. Oh, and the ocean-view room upgrade? Don't expect to see the water. Well, to be fair, one Costa Rican expert mentioned that resorts have sprung up faster than the county has been able to properly prepare for, but I say that this one would do well by shutting down for a couple of weeks and training its staff. Honeymooners should look elsewhere for a relaxing escape.
Barcelo Playa Tambor

March 2004
I just returned from the Barcelo Playa Tambor couldn't wait to write my review. Costa Rica is such a beautiful country - there's so much to see and do you could stay a month. My boyfriend and I (He's 32 and I'm 27) had an awesome time - we like a very social and active atmosphere. We traveled with Air Transat vacations and I recommend getting to the airport very early to check in or take advantage or the seat selection. We arrived at the airport two hours before departure, and there were no seats available to sit together.

We opted for the flight transfer both ways to Playa Tambor. At the time it seemed very disorganized. but we were anxious to get to our hotel and it seemed worse than it was, in retrospect. Our luggage, and other passengers coming by Ferry/Bus were very late arriving (we expected it around six, and it didn't come until 8:30) but that didn't matter as we killed the time experimenting with every drink on the menu and meeting our fellow vacationers!

The hotel impressed me at first glance. The grounds and landscaping were perfect, the pool was awesome, the entertainment area was much larger and than I imagined, and it was very clean. However, after getting into our room, (we were in the green building farthest from the pool) I was a little less impressed. There was nothing wrong - it was well equipped with a TV, fridge, hair dryer, iron and coffee maker and it was very clean. But, everything is very dated and well used. Not what I expected from a four star hotel. My biggest complaint would that there were no rooms with a Queen or King sized beds. The standard double beds are very uncomfortable. But, I didn't come on vacation to stay in my room and sleep.

The beach is exactly what I expected. I knew it wasn't a sugary white sand beach with crystal blue water. Instead it was darker and the surf stirred up the sand quite a bit, so the water isn't clear. But, the water is so warm and the surf is so much fun, the water could have been purple and we wouldn't have cared. We tried Boogie boards on a couple of days when the surf was particularly strong and loved it!.

The food is what I expected - mediocre at best. I don't eat seafood so that limited my choices a lot and I'm not an adventurous eater either. I'll admit, I had a hard time finding something to eat a couple nights - but that's my fault for being a little picky. My boyfriend had better luck in selection, but wasn't impressed with the dry, tough meat and bland food. Breakfast has a good selection - my favorite meal. The snack bar is great for lunch - we ate there most days. We heard most people were disappointed in the restaurant, but we though it was quite good - much better than the buffet. If you get Lobster, be sure to ask for the butter and garlic to dip - they don't bring it automatically. Book your reservations right away - as the restaurant fills up fast.

Don't go on this trip unless you have significant spending money. If you're planning to stay on the resort and take full advantage of the all inclusive - you're crazy. The best part of our vacation was what we did off the resort grounds. The first thing we did was the 2 hour horseback-riding trip offered through the resort for $20 and it was wonderful. Before we arrived in Costa Rica we knew we knew we wanted to go on the ATV tour. We were approached by Dianney (pronounced DNA) on the beach and she offered the same tour privately. Once we compared the ATV trip offered through the hotel and the private tour through Paradise Tours, we opted to go with Paradise. Turns out that tour is MUCH better all around. It's $10 cheaper, you get your own virtually new ATV, and you can go with a group as small as 4 people. Remember, security will not allow anyone on the resort unless they are staff or guests. So, you have to meet the driver at the front gates to get picked up. Our last activity was the canopy tour, which is so much fun. Both the ATV tour and the canopy tour took you to the Montezuma waterfalls which are beautiful. The guide for our canopy tour was Kenny and we hit it off with him right away! Kenny took us under his wing and took us out to one of his friend's local bar for dinner and a few beers. The next night he took us to a small restaurant in Tambor where we had the best dinner we had all week. My boyfriend had lobster and it was the best he's ever had and they made me a steak and pasta - it was delicious!! Afterward, we went to a local club and partied till the wee hours.

Overall it was a wonderful trip. The people we met were all fantastic, the resort was wonderful, the country is spectacular and we didn't want to leave. This vacation raised the bar pretty high - it will be tough to top it.
Barcelo Playa Tambor
February 2004
My husband and I and three children (17, 14 & 6) had a fantastic time! If you're flying from San Jose to Tambor, be patient because we had to wait about 1 ½ hours. That's still better than the long bus/ferry ride though. The teenagers enjoyed the thrill of the 5 seater plane but there was a lot of turbulence and my 6 year old & I felt queasy.

Our rooms were in the buildings farthest away from the stage and pool. It's a bit of a walk but we wanted to be away from the thundering late night disco. Our room was always spotless & water and pop was always in our mini-fridge. We asked for a third towel (we were 3 in one room) on the second night with no problems. There was a great variety of food in the buffet and we always found something we liked - no complaints. Book the a la carte restaurant on your first day if you want to go. Personally, the food wasn't anything special and we enjoyed the variety at the buffet much more.

We were disappointed that there was no supervised kid's club despite the fact that there were quite a few small children there. There was a playground that no one used and a video game arcade (about US$5 for an hour). There was a kid's show every night that my son loved to participate in. The evening shows were mildly entertaining. It was easy to spot the howler & spider monkeys in the nature park on the grounds. The crocodiles were harder to find. Horseback riding on the beach was fun. The weather was very hot (no rain) - bring extra sun screen. The pool was big enough and very warm. The ocean was cloudy but warm and boogie boarding was great for all ages. Where were the blenders to whip all those lovely fresh fruits into thick yummy drinks? All the drinks came from a fountain or bottle - rather disappointing.

I strongly urge everyone to do the Sky-Trek canopy tour. We hired a private car through our tour rep to Monteverde which was a very long and very bumpy ride. Zip lining through the rain forest was our highlight. My 6 year old rode with one of the guides and had a ball. It's extremely safe and our guides were very friendly and took excellent care of everyone.

We arranged to spend our last night at the Barcelo Palacio in San Jose since it's closer to the airport. Our luggage was sent via bus and luckily we noticed it before it was redirected to the airport. Only 15 people are allowed on the shuttle to the airport in the morning that goes every hour. Our group was left behind and we had to quickly arrange for a separate taxi through our tour rep.

We've traveled to similar all-inclusives in Jamaica, Dominican, Cuba & Mexico and I definitely want to go back. Next year we'll visit a different resort just for a change and see the Volcano and hot springs.
Barcelo Playa Tambor
Terry Wong 

February 2004
I stayed at Barcelo Playa Tambor Jan.12 to 19. We booked the air transfer from San Jose with our travel agent. Aparently, there was no schedule for the air transfer. When there is enough passengers to fill a 5 or 14 seater Cessna- a plane took off.

We lucked out and got the 5-seater. My friend,John,sat with the pilot going to the resort. I sat with the pilot coming back. The flight to the resort was scary because it was a windy day. The plane was going up and down and sideways. The views were breathtaking-the pilot flew at a low altitude which afforded us incredible views of the city,mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The extra money we paid for the air transfer was well worth.

We got to the resort around 2pm. They were still serving lunch. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch after the awful food we had on the airplane coming to Costa Rica.

The food is the best food I have had at an-inclusive. This is my 4th all-inclusive. You must order the Chateau Breuf in the a-la-carte. There is too much meat even for two people.

The weather was sunny and hot(90 degrees) everyday. We got sunburned after the first day. Good thing I brought my afterburn and my 50spf sunblock. We loved going into the Nature Park early in the morning. We would go in the evening to feed the alligators.

We paid the $120US each for the Skytrek. It was worth it!!!! Once in a lifetime experience.

We paid $20 each for the Horseback riding. Wonderful to ride the horse threw the hills and the beach. We did the island tour special for $90 each. It was worth it too. We should have did the sportfishing $2oo for four people. I want to thank Barcelo for our wonderful vacation. I would go back to Playa Tambor in a heartbeat. Maybe I would not come back. The weather is wonderful all year round. I hate snow!!!!!!