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Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
Shira 

April 2008
After reading mixed reviews for this hotel, I wasn't sure what to expect. It was my first time at an all-inclusive hotel and my plan to to take advantage of all Costa Rica had to offer regardless of the hotel. I never thought that this hotel would be amazing! The reviews fail to mention that it is nothing short of a nature's paradise! We saw more wildlife hanging out from the hotel than on jungle trips. There are howler monkeys that hang out in the nearby forests and many huge lizards roaming around. There are many different species of birds including parrots, vultures, crested blue jays, bentivis (portuguese), etc. There are costa rican raccoons called mapaches and the best part is the coral reef at its doorstep. We saw many different schools of fish of all the colours of the rainbow. Some of the guests saw marlins, sting rays, and jellyfish. We were so lucky to swim in phosphorescence. It was the first time that I had ever experienced this and it is really more amazing that words can express.

The hotel staff are amazing, friendly, and very accommodating. They really take care excellent care of the guests and go the extra mile to make sure that they are comfortable. Example: we asked permission to make a bonfire on the beach for our last night. Before you know it, there was someone chopping wood and arranging it on the beach. They told us to come back at 9pm! I was really impressed! The food is very delicious and fresh. There are always fruit, salads, fried plantain, lots of fish, meat, and vegetables to enjoy. While I overheard some guests complaining that the menu is repetitive, I am more than happy to eat delicious fresh salad, rice, fish, yuca, vegetables, soup, every day of the year. The coffee is amazing (not a huge surprise) but certainly an added bonus. The rooms are very comfortable and clean with a/c, tv, coffee maker, hair dryer.

The staff helped us organize a rental car for a good price. We were able to take it to see the Arenal volcano- which i highly recommend. Near the Arenal volcano there are fabulous hot springs, waterfalls, jungle trails and of course the volcano is breathtaking. We also went on an organized tour to Rincon del la Vieja, organized by the hotel. The tour was amazing, and our guide, Larry, was very knowledgeable and showed us lots of animals and volcanic mud pools, waterfalls, etc.

I would recommend this hotel for any fellow nature lover but not for the tourist seeking ultra luxury. However, there is a Four Seasons down the bay. Something to note is that the bar closes at 10 and it helps to have a rental car to go into town at night. There are no activities, which I thought was great, but some of the older guests would have liked that. I can easily entertain myself, especially with snorkeling gear at a coral reef, but if you can't this might not be the best place for you.
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
Sherri 

April 2008
We stayed at the Giardini Di Papagayo in Costa Rica in February 2008 travelling from Canada.

We booked one of their suites and were looking forward to a relaxing, quiet vacation. While we were there, no one was allowed in any of the suites. We were given a bed in a box room with a lovely view of the pool and deck in the suite below that we had paid for. If they had just told us there was a problem and offering a refund or some compensation for the difference in price between the room and the suite, we could have gotten on with our vacation. Instead they gave us the run around for 3 days. They basically told us anything they thought we would buy to make us go away for awhile. They told us of "emergencies in Liberia", wait here for the manager, come back at this time or that, etc. etc. Once we even met with the manager, only to have him tell us he was not the manager after all (once he figured out we knew exactly which room we had booked and paid for). They actually run interference so we could not meet up with our Sunquest rep. Telling him we weren't there, while we were waiting by the pool. After wasting 2 days playing their games we figured out it was all a con. They just didn't want to refund us the difference for the suite vs the very plain room. They wouldn't even give us our messages. When we finally got in touch with our Sunquest rep, we found out there was a dispute between the owners of the suites and the hotel "management" (I use that term very loosely as management was not available). There were several people steaming in the lobby each day. Yes the place was a dive, with rats scurrying out of the kitchen and a scorpion in our bathroom, but we weren't expecting 5 stars. They were at times completely out of white wine, club soda, etc. Not even a radio playing music at dinner because it was "in Liberia for repair" (the kitchen staff had one though). The shuttle ran sporadically and one day not at all. The climb to the room was difficult for those not in very good physical condition and we heard stories of some visitors going to hospital after attempting to get to their rooms on their own. But this was all minor compared with being so blatantly ripped off and lied to and basically trapped, as there is nothing else around the hotel and they made communications with the outside difficult.

BTW, Sunquest was of very little help, offering only a very expensive upgrade elsewhere, which we could not afford. We wish we had checked their BBB report before booking with them. It speaks for itself!

We enjoyed the tours, as they got us away from the "resort" for 12-15 hours/day. Nicaragua was a fascinating cultural experience. The Arenal Volcano was interesting, but probably not worth the long drive. The guides recommended skipping the 30 minute trip to the look-out point to view the lava at the end of the tour, due to the low clouds. Someone in our group insisted that we go anyway, as this was to be the highlight of the trip. We did end up seeing the tail end of the lava. This may not have been much of a show to the guides, but to us the lava was the main reason to endure the long bus ride. We found out that the guides work 14+ hours a day, 7 days a week during the busy season. They were understandably exhausted, but I would recommend insisting they go to the look-out point, as this is what you pay for.
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
Elli 
Calgary
April 2008
Being very experienced, mature and avid travellers (though never before resort-clients), we only had a week available to us for this visit to Costa Rica, and since it was a special surprise from my spouse for our 30th anniversary, we were both looking forward to returning to this wonderful country. Having booked one of the suites (with private pool) quite a bit in advance, with confirmation on our voucher, we instead got a superior room (a normal room in our opinion), with a nice view, but not what was reserved and paid for. Despite numerous attempts to contact the supposed manager and being told many times he would contact us and 'fix' things, and despite being assured by the tour rep. that we would have help, we never got any kind of response, compensation or alternatives. The type of complaints expressed by others are a true reflection of the reality there. It has 'potential', but not under current management and not without constant upgrades and care.

You need a rental car (good deal thru Thrifty's), get yourself organized or go through a non-resort attached guide, and see the country - it is gorgeous, the people are wonderful, and you can eat much better meals in smaller, non-touristy places. Lots to do and see in the area, and if you just like lazing on the beach, you'll be fine at the resort. The low-key and quiet location is nice, but do NOT rely on ANYTHING promised or advertised to be true or available. Staff are nice and friendly, but this place will suffer if it continues on the current slide downwards. DO not recommend to anyone - it's not even a cheap alternative to more expensive resorts, since you end up paying for things that don't exist anyway.
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
Ken and Susan 
Miamisburg OH
March 2008
We have just returned from Giardini de Papagayo. Overall it is dirty and needs a lot of maintenance. The food is very monotonous. The shuttle service to and from your room (the resort if built on a hillside) is not always reliable. My husband is a semi invalid and we were told that there would not be a problem with getting him up or down the hillside. One morning, the shuttle did not start running until 8 am -- it is supposed to start at 6 AM. Several other times we had to wait 20 minutes or more.

The resort advertises plenty of hot water. We had "warm" water on the day we arrived (Feb. 26), then nothing but cold water for 5 days (we complained each day and got a promise that it would be fixed). On March 2, finally we had "hot" water, only to find out after we returned from our excursion on March 3 that the resort had no water at all.

We paid for a superior room. The room was small with a king size bed, 2 bed tables but only 1 had a lamp, and desk with a small refrigerator built in. Other than the desk chair, there were no other chairs. The bedspread looked dirty. I wonder what the standard room was like?

We had the all-inclusive package including all local soft drinks and alcohol. While we were there, they had no tequila, no marguarita mix, no bloody mary mix, and at times had no rum, no ginger ale -- to name just a few.

There seems to be no on-site manager. Only the staff who are wonderful people, but can only do what they have the authority to do, which is not much.

I would give this resort 2 stars at most.
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
George 
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
February 2008
We stayed at the Giardini Di Papagayo in Costa Rica for one week. It was 6 days too long.

The only positive of the whole trip was when we went on the Palo Verde trip to see the monkeys and crocodiles. Larry our guide was awesome. He was the only positive in our one week stay.

Originally I booked this trip with Cat tours for a Saturday excursion but they didn’t pick me up at the hotel, I phoned them and they said I could go the next day because the river was too low that day, They were lying of coarse because we booked the same trip with Larry one of the guides there at the resort for the same day.

We then wanted a refund from cat tours but their guide did not show up on Saturday or Sunday. I called him Monday morning, the morning we were leaving as he was not in, he said he would meet me at the airport and give me a refund, but I knew he would not show and I was right. So if you go to this resort DO NOT BOOK WITH CAT TOURS or at least do not pay in advance, pay when they pick you up, that is if they do pick you up. As far as the resort goes it is run down and they do not seem to want to take care of any problems you may have. They are under staffed, over booked and in general a very poorly run resort. There is only one small pool, about 4 feet deep, and in our one week stay we did not see the bottom of it because it was so cloudy. There is only one bar and one bartender which is inadequate for a place this size. On our first two days, at supper time the wind would blow a smell of sewage into the restaurant area making it impossible to eat , then one night just before supper they lit a pile of garbage on fire, The fire exploded spray cans and filled the area with thick garbage smelling smoke. All in all this resort should get a 1 star rating at best.
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
Susan 

February 2008
We just came back from a week at this resort, and will never go back.
There were no activitiesn or any activity staff. The bar and shuttle service closed at 10pm, necessitating an approx. 1km (depending on the location of your room) walk up a steep hill to the room. The shuttle was out of commission most of the week. It was hard work going up that hill in the heat. The staff was very friendly, but sometimes when you order something, they'd say "si", but you'd never get it. In general, the food was edible,plentiful,very monotonous. The snorkeling was not very good either. I would advise a different resort for a succesful vacation.
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
Ivona and Bob 
Canada
January 2007
Country: Costa Rica
Area: Guanacaste
Hotel: Giardini di Papagayo
Rating: 3 Stars
Meal Plan: All Inclusive
Tour Operator: Sunwing
Airline: Sunwing
Date of Visit: January 2007
About us
We are a couple in our late 40's and 50's who love to travel to warm sunny locations 3 or 4 times a year. We stay anywhere from basic 2 star hotels to upscale 5 star full-service resorts and everything in between. We normally prefer to stay in quiet, laid back resorts even in areas not necessarily associated with 'quiet', such as Puerto Vallarta or isla San Andres. We have come to learn that a hotel's star designation does not always reflect the quality of the resort nor our overall satisfaction of the vacation. We have visited over 30 resorts now in various countries and we wish to thank websites such as this that enable us to thoroughly research the myriad possibilities. We often wonder what people did before the internet!
The Area:
The Giardini di Papagayo resort is located in a secluded area of Panama Beach located on the Bay of Papagayo in the northern province of Guanacaste, approximately 20-25 minutes (by car) from the Liberia airport. Currently, the closest nearby resorts are the Fiesta Premiere, a few minutes walk up the main road, and the Nakuti which is approximately a ½ hour walk along the beach.
The Resort and Clientele:
The Giardini is comprised of several two storey villas built high into a hillside (and hence not recommended for those with mobility disabilities). This affords incredible views of the bay and surrounding mountains from most rooms, as well as privacy since the villas face the ocean instead of one another. Each numbered villa contains 4 rooms; one suite on the bottom floor and two superior and one regular room on the top floor. The regular rooms are extremely small generally having two twin beds and no balcony. The superior rooms all have some level of ocean view, a small balcony, a small fridge, a TV and either two double beds or one king. The suites are very spacious (see description below under ‘The Room’). Most, if not all of the villas are privately owned and therefore there is quite a variance in the rooms’ condition and general upkeep.

The common area (pool, reception, restaurant, bar) is located at the bottom of the hill close to the beach. The recent renovations are quite evident as the entire area seemed very fresh and new; from the brand new wooden lounge chairs circling the pool, to the covered areas for eating and lounging, as well as new dishes and beach towels.

During our two week stay the bulk of the clientele were families and couples of various ages from Canada (Ontario and western provinces), the USA, Germany, as well as Ticos.
The Room:
We had booked an ocean view suite and I was very glad we did. There is simply no comparison between the suites and the other types of rooms. I found the superior and regular rooms extremely small. Since our daughter was joining us for the first week, the suite really was a good choice for us. NOTE: Before I continue with the description of our suite, I must mention the booking problems encountered at this hotel. When we first checked in, we were given a superior room instead of the suite that I booked four months in advance, and re-confirmed with Sunwing through our travel agent. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones with this problem. Several other families reported similar booking screwups, and according to the tour operator rep, this is a chronic problem that he faces at this hotel on a weekly basis. We were lucky that we were moved to the proper room on our second day. Others were not as lucky. When booking this hotel, make sure that your room type is clearly written on your voucher or invoice in order to minimize the possibility of receiving the wrong room.

Our suite contained a full kitchen with a full-sized fridge with ice maker, range top, microwave and coffee-maker. No dishes or cooking utensils were provided. Coffee packets and bottled water were provided and replenished daily. The living area consisted of a full sized futon, futon chair and coffee table. The sleeping area contained two double beds, a night table with lamp, a TV table with TV (some 50+ channels) a vanity table with mirror (but poor lighting) and a closet. The closet was spacious enough for two people but a touch tight for three. The closet also contained the room safe. Unfortunately we weren’t able to use our safe due to a missing key. We had to make use of a strong-box at reception. I highly recommend people make use of the room safes. During our second week, one couple who made the mistake of not locking up their valuables had their room burgled and items including a passport stolen.

The bathroom contained a shower with a glass partition that wasn’t sealed very well at the floor and therefore caused minor flooding after every use. We ended up soaking at least one towel every day in the attempt to mop up the floor so no one would slip and fall. Water pressure and temperatures were excellent when we had water. Unfortunately, on two separate occasions, the hotel was without running water. On both occasions it happened during the early evening and meant having to go to supper sans shower (not a terribly pleasant experience!). Note that tap water at the hotel is potable. We used it to make our morning coffee and we did not suffer any ill effects.

A hair dryer is provided but I found it faster and gentler to the hair to simply sit on the balcony and let the wind dry my hair in minutes! The best part of the room was the outside patio area. Our suite had a large wrap-around wooden deck with a plunge pool, a lounge chair, several patio chairs, table and a shower. We loved sipping our morning coffee on the patio listening for howler monkeys and waiting for the daily visit from several friendly iguanas or watching the shy kiskadees taking their morning bath in our pool.

Unlike some other people, we had excellent maid service. We always had sufficient towels, soap, shampoo, bottled water and coffee. The plunge pool was usually cleaned twice daily. This was necessary because of the leaves and other debris which was continually falling into the water.
Beach and Ocean swimming:
The beach fronting the hotel is clean with soft dark sand. Shoes are a good idea as the dark sand gets hot! No sea-weed anywhere. You can walk the entire sweep of the bay until you reach the Nakuti resort. This walk takes approximately ½ hour one way. There are no high-rise buildings, beach shacks or vendors to spoil the natural beauty of this bay.

Facing the ocean, to the right are some interesting rocks which during low tide you can walk on and explore. This is also the place to go if you want to snorkel. Just be watchful for a few small black urchins tucked into some of the underwater rocks. We found the snorkelling quite interesting. We were able to see lots of different species of puffers, needlenose fish, parrot fish, eels, spotted eagle rays and even turtles on occasion. The ocean swimming was good as well. The tides are quite dramatic here just like in Panama, but swimming is possible no matter whether it’s low or high tide. The area directly in front of the hotel is quite rocky, but if you walk a few steps to the left you will have a beautiful sandy bottom. The water was not as warm as the Caribbean, but still warm enough to swim comfortably. It was also crystal clear and very clean.
Pools/Jacuzzis:
The Giardini has one small pool with one main section and a smaller section. The smaller section was constantly being filled and drained of water. I did not understand the purpose of this. The pool was always a comfortable temperature. I am 5’6” in height and the water came to my shoulders at one end.

The resort is adding a spa to its facilities. This construction has barely begun. A small jacuzzi seems as if it someday will be a part of that spa. Currently it is not operational.
Food/Drinks:
Food preference is an extremely personal subject. Suffice to say we had no issues with the food at this resort, we always found something to eat. The food was basic but good. Their cream soups were always tasty, at each meal there was a choice of fish and beef, and fresh delicious local pineapple. I was happy that they served local dishes; unlike so many other resorts whose mainstay is North American junk food such as fries, burgers and hotdogs. I didn’t have to bring my own hot sauce as they had several bottles available at every meal. Delicious Costa Rican coffee was available all day long. During our stay, the hotel was plagued with shortages. Some days they had no limes or lime juice (necessary for most of the mixed drinks on the menu) some days there would be no soda water, and most days there was no white wine, only red. When ingredients were available, the mixed drinks were absolutely delicious. This was one of the few resorts I’ve stayed at where they actually used real fresh fruit to make drinks. What a difference! Try the local liquor, guaro. This is made from fermented sugar cane. We drank it straight up with a wedge of lime, like tequila. Equally delicious was the guaro sour. The white wines, when available, were hit and miss. Some days they served awful sweet dark yellow stuff, and other days they had decent pinot from Italy.
The Sister Resort (Nakuti):
Guests from the Nakuti have exchange privileges at the Giardini and vice-versa. We noticed that the Giardini received a steady influx of Nakuti guests on a regular basis. Since we were able to see the beach clearly from our room, we would sometimes watch what we used to call the ‘Nakuti invasion’! Some of these Nakuti visitors would be at our hotel every single day, all day long. So, one day we decided to go for a walk and check this hotel out. What can I say; as soon as we arrived, Bob wanted to turn around leave! Yes, it was that bad. (Angele’s July 2006 review on this site sums it up perfectly). About the only positive thing I can say about this hotel is that the rooms, especially the junior suites, look very nice.
Things to Do:
The Giardini is a quiet hotel where you make your own fun. There is no animation team, and therefore no organized activities and no evening entertainment. On a few occasions, musicians would play during dinner.
The activities outside the hotel, however, are endless. You can rent a car and explore the many nearby beaches, volcanoes and rainforests. If, like us, you don’t like driving on the worlds’ worst roads, you can purchase tours for all sorts of activities such as white water rafting, cloud forest sky walks, zipline tours, volcano hikes, horseback riding, butterfly farms, cultural tours, coffee plantation tours, just to name a few. Bring your binoculars and camera!

If you want a break from hotel food, the nearby town of Playas del Coco has several restaurants. We ate at the Papagayo Seafood restaurant and it was excellent!
Shopping:
Costa Rica is not renowned as a shopping mecca but you can still find some interesting souvenirs to bring home. Popular items are wood carvings, mounted butterflies (which are raised in captivity), coffee and coffee liqueurs, hot sauces and the local liquor, guaro. We found the town of Playas del Coco, a 15 minute taxi ride, a good place to purchase the local souvenirs. This town also has a supermarket where you can purchase dozens of brands of locally grown coffee, as well as local and imported liquor. This is also the place to go if you want to stock up on drinks or snacks for your hotel fridge. The bank, with an ATM is right next door. Close to the beach is the taxi stand, so finding a taxi to take you back is no problem. Unfortunately, the hotel is not serviced by a local bus, so a taxi or a rented car is the only way to get around.
Weather:
One of the main reasons I chose to vacation in Costa Rica at this time of year is the weather. While many parts of the Caribbean can be ‘iffy’ during the winter months, Costa Rica, and especially the Guanacaste sea coast region, does not disappoint. We had bright sunshine with hot, but not humid temperatures every single day. It was also windy. Not breezy, but windy. Plastic chairs blown into the pool kind of wind. For those of you planning on visiting other areas of Costa Rica, especially the higher elevations such as Monteverde bring warm clothing! It gets quite cold up there! Rain gear for the rain forest would also be a good idea.
Wildlife:
Lots! And this includes the exoskeleton/invertebrate variety (yes I mean ‘bugs’). If creepy-crawlies bother you, my advice is that you do not travel to Costa Rica.

In my many years of travel I have never seen so much wildlife as I have in Costa Rica. It was fabulous! We have snapped close to 1000 photographs on this trip! (thank goodness for digital!). Inside our room we had the pleasure of the following ‘visitors’: a praying mantis, several crabs, a scorpion, a katydid and several species of spiders. Around our patio we had a daily parade of several types of iguanas, kiskadees, trogons, orioles, magpie jays, hummingbirds, parakeets, racoons, skunks, geckos and all sorts of colourful butterflies. Some mornings we could also hear the howler monkeys in the distance. Down by the pool area, a rather large flock of noisy parakeets were regular visitors to a favourite flowering tree. Groups of hummingbirds could be seen at the various flowering trees near the beach. And one day, one of the trees close to the restaurant held an entire family of howler monkeys. We were able to get a close-up look at these cute (and somewhat lazy) creatures. A day would not go by without seeing some sort of interesting wildlife.
Airport:
We flew in/out of the Liberia airport. This is a very small airport accommodating mostly charter flights. They seem to be expanding it though. There are only a few shops there, so don’t hold off your shopping thinking you’ll find lots of bargains at the airport. You line up first to pay your departure tax, which is approximately $27.00usd, and then to have your luggage hand searched before checking in. They manually search all checked bags.
In Conclusion:
We fell in love with Costa Rica and we hope to return to this lovely country someday so we can explore more of it. Our stay at the Giardini was very reminiscent of a newly opened resort experiencing ‘teething pains’, even though the Giardini is anything but new. This hotel has so much potential; it really is rather unfortunate that management is not paying closer attention. Based on our stay, the following is a summarized list of what went well and what I think needs attention:

Positives:
- Beautiful location, breathtaking views, wildlife
- Quiet, peaceful, relaxing atmosphere
- Rooms are quiet and private
- Friendly and helpful staff
- Beautiful beach, great ocean swimming, good off-beach snorkelling
- Food and drinks (when available)
- Open-air restaurant

Needs attention:
- Booking problems
- Water problems
- Rooms could use renovations (paint, leaky shower, cracked tiles, rattling windows, better lighting, etc)
- Broken beach chairs at beach area
- Better inventory of bar items (juices, liquor, wine, mix)
- More glasses! (poor bartenders were forever running out of glasses)
- Butter at meal times instead of the disgusting congealed bright orange colored margarine
- Bar could stay open a bit later (10:00pm is *really* quite early!)
- Smoking should not be allowed at restaurant (especially cigars!)

- If you still have questions, email me at: Ivona_Lancaster@hotmail.com
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
Bev and Kevin 
Newmarket
January 2007
My wife and I (mid 40's) stayed at the Giardini Di Papagayo the week of January 8th and we had an awesome time. Overall, great value for the money. Go with modest expectations and you will enjoy.
Hotel:
rooms are very small, ask / pay for an ocean view room as the views are incredible. Some rooms have better views than others....we stayed in the 20 block and had a perfect view of the ocean and sunsets. All of the rooms are on a cliff and they are up a very, very steep hill , they do have a shuttle with friendly drivers and they pick you up when you need them (call the front desk). The shuttle stops at 10 pm and if you stay to late at the bar, you are in for a late stroll up the hill, in hot humid weather. Rooms are run down a little / lot and maid service isn't the best. Be prepared for a few insects, bug etc. in your room but nothing worse than cottage country. Main area of the hotel has been recently renovated and is very nice.
Pool / Beach:
the pool is small but not busy. Perfect place to spend an afternoon in relative quiet. The beach is a short walk from the pool and it is about a mile long and fairly wide. Ocean is calm, great for swimming and there is great snorkeling right out from the hotel. The El Nakuti is a sister hotel and it is at the other end of the beach, about a 45 minute walk and you can use their facilities. We had lunch and a few drinks one afternoon but I wasn't impressed with this hotel. In my mind the Giardini has far better facilities, especially the beach. Staff: wait staff, hotel staff etc. are pretty much indifferent. They will help but smiles are few and far between. This was my only disappointment at this resort.
Food:
it was good.....sometimes o.k., sometimes awesome Buffet style, no a la carte, basic rice and meat, chicken etc.. We enjoyed the small seating area as it gave us time to catch up with the other guests and talk about our day's activities. No sickness at all and we ate on and off the resort. Everything was safe to eat. General: if you are looking for a party place, this isn't it. Because it is small, it gives you the opportunity to meet other guests. Bar closes at 10, they tend to run out of things but it is a fun experience. There isn't anything around the hotel, so you need to take a taxi into Playa Coco, small shopping area, supermarket, restaurants etc., it's a safe to eat and shop. We paid $10 each way but the going price is usually $15. For beer, snacks etc. you can go to Playa Hermosa which is closer and a cheaper taxi ride.
Tours:
this is by far where the country shines......we went on four different excursions and used the services of Mainor Lara, he owns a company called Tours Your Way, www.tours-your-way.com . If you want to go on intimate tours with a knowledgeable guide then Mainor is your guy. We paid a little more than the hotel tour company but the experience was fantastic. Sometimes we thought Mainor had x-ray vision.....we would pull over to the side of the road to show us things he had spotted in the trees.....you don't get this kind of service when you share a bus with 25 other people. It was just the two of us and Mainor in his car. He can accommodate larger groups in a van but he always gives the same personal service. We did the volcano tour and combined it with hot springs, a hike on the suspension bridges, a visit to a wildlife refuge and a waterfall, lunch and dinner and along the way we stopped to see a toucan, two types of monkeys, a sloth, raccoon/anteater type things, a small coffee plantation, snakes etc. etc., all on one trip !!....he customized it for us. Another day we did the Palo Verde river tour and he stopped to show us oxen pulling sand out a river to be used in making concrete....fascinating. We also went snorkeling and did the Ricon de la Vieja hike where we saw lots of volcanic type activity. All of the trips were amazing and I would highly recommend any / all of them.

Don't go to Costa Rica (especially this resort) to sit on the beach or by the pool. Go to experience the country, it's sites and people and you'll have a fantastic time. We have traveled to many countries and have gone on many tours....this was by far our best experience to date.

Email Mainor at any time and he'll help you out....his email is on his website.
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
Rebecca 
Canada
March 2006
We travelled from NB to TO on March 6 and had a last minute booking through Sunwing. I would use Sunwing again and was quite satisfied with their service and pricing.
As far as the resort goes--It always comes back to: "You get what you pay for." The cost of this trip was very reasonable so I tried to keep my expectations reasonable and also remember that we are the ones travelling to a foreign country--resort or not-- we cannot expect them to change their menus and customs to accommodate us. Otherwise stay at home in North America. Keeping all of this in mind I would say that this resort is adequate with lots of room for improvements.

Pros:


They have the best view on the Gulf. Incredible. The villas are terraced for the best possible views. You may have to get a shuttle u p the hillside but it is worth it. We stayed in 253 and the sight was breathtaking off the balcony.
The beach is soft and about a mile long. There is also a natural reef there so it's rocky in that area, of course and great tide pools on volcanic rock for kids to explore. The snorkeling was actually better there than where we went for our excursion. The beach gets hot, though as it is grey (mix of black sand from volcanic rock)
The people of Costa Rica are sincerely friendly and do their best to accommodate you. I really liked the location. It is a $15 cab ride to Playa Coco for shopping. I would rather be a little isolated than in a city-type hotel. The flora and fauna is beautiful and you can hear monkeys and see lots of bird and animal life. Parrots in the trees outside your room, etc. It is not a large resort so you never feel crowded so that is great. the villas have a Small standard room.&nbs p; We stayed in a superior. Below us and in all the buildings was a suite. It had a separate bedroom and living area and it's own swimming pool. Cool idea.
A few evening a group of men came with guitars and and local music and they were good.

CONS: (unfortunately more than pros)
The rooms were clean but worn and small. I travelled with my child and we were cramped. The locks were flimsy and it was a safe place or i would have been really nervous.
There was very little to do there. OK for an adult just needing a rest but hard for a 12 yr old boy. there were no other children when we travelled there. No beach activities other than a kayak that didn't look too safe. the pool was very small, shallow and cloudy by noon hour. the beach was nice but in the heat of the day it would have been nice to have something to do other than the beach . It worked out OK for us as we had 3 full days o excursions planned and they were all excellent. I highly recommend Michael Mills and Ricardo of Vargas Tours. We also had friends staying at a nearby resort and we visited there.
The food. There were healthiest but it was limited. If you are a fussy eater or if you are looking for an all inclusive with lots of food and good alcohol---don't stay here. every meal was a variation of fish and chicken--sometimes some beef or pork. I had some really good meals but I had to dig for it and sometimes have bizarre combinations of food to find enough that I liked. I am not a picky eater at all and love to try new things ( I am in the food business) but let's just say my son had to eat a fair bit of plain pasta. Only one night was really bad. My son was starving and I could not find a thing for him to eat. i finally had to ask the staff if he could just have something else and they happily made him a chicken sandwich to order. It made my mouth water because i had just tried to eat another meal of rice and beans and fish. there is one place to eat and no grill at the pool or beach. there is one bar. the beer is good and with everything else the choices were limited and the wine....not so good.
The staff were really nice but it is obvious that the problem lies in management. They were never there. It is a shame because this place could be so much more and it does have a lot going for it. For example, paint the rooms and put on new bedspreads. Replace all the cracked and broken lounge chairs with something decent that will last. Would I stay again? Doubtful.

But if it got me back to this amazing country for a decent price next year and I could use it as my home base to explore the rest of the country....I just might.
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
John & Adele (over 50) 
Ontario, Canada
February 2006
We stayed here for 2 weeks, 2006-01-16 to 2006-01-30.

Giardini di Papagayo, just north of Playa Panama, was our type of place. Laid back, quiet (except for Sat nights), excellent food, good service. Sister hotel - Nakuti was a 45 minute walk along the beach, and geared more for the slightly younger crowd. Ours had the much much nicer beach, but Nakuti rooms were right around the pool, and were much bigger. Our room at Giardini was quite spacious and clean, A/C fridge, private bath on second floor with N facing balcony over looking ocean (in distance). Apparently that was an excellent choice as at that time of year balconies facing any other direction get mid-day heat. Walk from pool/ restaurant to rooms was a challenge - up very steep hill - took me a good 10 minutes. Free shuttle service was excellent - from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm.

A more active group may have been disappointed with the leaky kayak, only 2 sets of snorkeling equipment, and limited activities, but that did not cause us any significant hardship. Many Canadians there, and all were very happy with accommodations.

The view from the resort and the beach were both beautiful.

Tours available from the resort were of reasonable quality. Word of caution : any visitors have to be warned about quality of roads. Large pot holes make for very bumpy ride. The drivers are excellent though so safety is not really an issue. The all day trips to the volcano and Monteverde are a little tough for some older travellers or for those with back problems etc.

What we missed in quality (which was very little in our estimation), we got back in quiet, R&R, and friendliness from resort and tour staff and local people.
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
William & Karen 
Vancouver Canada
April 2005
March 30 to April 6th 2005 we traveled from Vancouver Canada to Giardini di Papagayo, Guanacaste, N.W.Costa Rica. We found the layout of the suite (private small pool) to be excellent, and the Ocean-view 2nd-floor room to be quite adequate (2 couples traveling together.) The other couple at first got a Standard room, and this should really be eliminated as an option; very/too small. The air conditioning proved to be quite adequate (yes we did have to move to a different suite due to break-down, but this was handled in a timely manner, and we were assisted in the move.)

We found the shuttle system to be very prompt for the whole week (sure you should remember to dial "0" and call for transport rather than just wait.) The food was quite varied throughout the week and plentiful. The bar selection was quite good with all the basic liquors (including brandy) and all the basic tropical mixed drinks (pina colada etc.) The restaurant and bar service was very prompt and friendly. The room cleaning/maid service was very good and friendly as well.

Okay, the common pool is quite small but you could easily swim in the warm ocean. Sandals are recommended to and from the water. Speaking of the ocean, it is not a snorkelers haven (but you are not in the Caribbean!) The surrounding country was dry-tropical (oxymoron) due to the dry season, still lush with tropical fruit trees etc and very hot (but handleable) Liberia was a bust as a tourist area, but Playa Coco is an interesting nearby town with quite a variety of souvenirs and restaurants. Our service agent at the resort was Hazel from Sun-Quest, and she was very helpful.

All in all, we are very pleased with our choice (last minute deal) and will recommend this not only to others, but will consider returning. Due to distance from Costa Rica, the week was not long enough for us, but don't let us sway you from one week. I must say that I read the other reviews after we had booked and paid, and was a little apprehensive in arriving, but was proved wrong in this feeling almost immediately. We have found that when traveling outside our usual comfort zone that we have to be flexible. Our personal background in traveling includes Fairmont and Delta hotels, as well as renting condos/houses in Mexico, but while we weren't expecting the Ritz we felt we got more than what we paid!
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
Justin 
Canada
February 2005
My wife and I (50plus) just came back from Giardini di Papagayo on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and we would not go back again. Here is why.

The resort is by the ocean all right, but while the restaurant, the reception and the pool are close to the ocean, the rooms are on a steep hill ranging from 400 to 800 yards from the lower area.

This layout gives an excellent view but it is a great nuisance when one wants to retire to his/her room.

This is not the only reason we would not go back.

The room was small and containing the bare minimum. The smoke from the smokers in the rooms below came up to our room and we had to keep the windows and door shut at all times.

The room was done every morning. However, when we took the bed cover off the bed was exactly the way we had left it in the morning.

To go to the lower area we had to call for a run down mini van called a shuttle bus. Most of the time, in the morning, it came within ten minutes. Other times we had to wait and wait under the burning sun and once never came because it broke down.

The pool was too small. More than three people swimming in it would be too many.

The beach chairs were on not too clean sand, under some branches of nearby trees, about fifty yards from the ocean. Stepping on the sand was a hazard, because of the pebbles, seeds, fruits from the trees, and other dirt never cleaned for a long time. Once I cut myself, before I decided to walk with my sandals.

Getting in the water was another hazard. There were rocks everywhere in the water and swimming was dangerous. Noone bothered to tell us that. About three to five hundred yards away there was a beach that looked nice and that we could use, but that meant walking all the way there and back in the hot sun, and I like to get wet in salt water and dry out in the sun many times during the day.

The service was mediocre. That’s because there were many workers, (waiters, waitresses, shuttle drivers, pool cleaners etc) who had on their faces the look of "I don’t want to be working here" Many times we and other people had to get up to get cutlery, coffee, serviettes and the glass of wine would be brought almost at the end of the meal.

The food, after one week, becomes unappetizing. It is always almost the same every day and the small choice that was for lunch many times was also for dinner, with minor variations.

Finally the resort is in the middle of nowhere. To get to the nearest ever so small centre would cost a minimum of $30.00 US by taxi.

I am positive that for the same price we would get a real 3 or 3 and half star resort and not a 2 star like this Giardini di Papagayo.
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
Gillian 
Canada
March 2004
We went to Hotel Giardini di Papagayo in February 2004, there were 2 couples in our groupin the 45 age group. We booked 2 suites side by side last minute, which we got . We were happy with our suites & the location as there was a lovely view. When we got down to the meeting area we found that many people who had booked the suites didn't get them & were put in the rooms which I understood to be rather small. All week long people arriving in from different areas were upset as they didn't get the suites they had booked. We even had a honeymoon couple put in a small room that has booked a suite many months in advance. After a lot of arguing, some people were sent to El Nakuti & another couple had to make a call back to their travel agent in Canada to have them moved to the Fiesta Hotel, which is a 5 min. walk up the road. This made the atmosphere very tense around the pool & restaurant, as it's only a small resort & a lot of people were very upset.

The bar which was advertised to close at 11pm closed every night at 10pm. They didn't have much of a selection. There was absolutely no entertainment in the evening or during the day time. This is not a place for kids, there is nothing for them to do. It's Ok if you just want to lay around & do nothing. The beach is a black sand beach & rather rocky, so take some beach shoes with you, the sand becomes very hot. For snorkelling the water was quite cloudy, so you couldn't see a lot.

I found the people friendly enough, but not very willing to help with any problems, it seems as if they have become immune to all the problems going on, which they have to take the blame of as it's hard to find the manager.

The food was Ok, but was the same day in and day out. I also ended up not eating by the end of the week. My husband was quite pleased with the food, & nobody got sick with it. We did take a couple of trips to El Nakuti & they seemed to have more variety of food.

There is a nice little village close by they call Coco Beach. They have a lot of souvenirs, restaurants & bars. There is even a small casino if you're so inclined. There they have a large grocery store that has everything you might need. Even beer & liquor. After traveling to Cuba many times it was surprising to see so much available to purchase.

This resort I would rate at a 2 star & no more than that, I was quite disappointed with my trip as I had been looking forward to traveling to Costa Rica for some time. I have traveled to many destinations & resorts & always found the best in them, this one I would not recommend.
Hotel Giardini di Papagayo
Jean 

January 2004
We traveled with a group of 19 people on a trip to Costa Rica where we had reservations at the El Nakuti. When we arrived, we were transported directly to the Hotel Giardini di Papagayo. We were informed the El Nakuti had guests from the previous week that wanted to stay longer so our reservations, which we had gotten 10 months earlier were not going to be honored. We were informed we had no choice and we had to stay at the Hotel Giardini. We were all very angry and we feel this is a very poor practice. We also ran into another group of 13 that were in the same predicament and also upset. (32 people who reservations were not honored in one week!)

One of the reasons our group had chosen the El Nakuti was because of handicapped accessibility. The resort being all one level - for the accomodations and the grounds. The Hotel Giardini accomodations are all on a mountainside (quite a hike) and most of the rooms are all on the 2nd floor only accessible by stairs.

The pool at this hotel is about 1/3 the size of the pool at the El Nakuti. All of the rooms are a hike up a mountain side, we felt we had to leave the rooms for the day when we left just because of the hike(the El Nakuti is not uphill). Certainly not convenient for going back and forth to the rooms. (They did have shuttle service up the hill.)

The bathrooms in the rooms had black mildew on the walls and peeling paint. We had to phone to get towels, usually 3 calls before we could get any towels. Our shower drain was plugged, so the shower would overflow onto the floor. We called twice to have this fixed. Finally I went to the desk to ask about the shower and was told it was fixed - it never was fixed. So our bathroom floor was flooded everyday, we had to use the only 2 towels to soak up the water everyday.

We ran out of toilet paper in our room, I called the front desk multiple times to finally get a "promise" that they would bring toilet paper up to our room that night. I waited up for over an hour and none was ever brought. By the next morning, we still had no toilet paper. Finally when we returned from our diving and lunch, we had toilet paper - but this was about 16 hours after we were promised. This is unacceptable.

The majority of our group experienced similar problems with towels, toilet paper, drinking water(we were told we could get water the next day), drains or leaks in the rooms, and mildew in the bathrooms.

The food was prepared well, the only trouble was there was no variety. The same vegetables were served twice a day everyday of the week. The meat choices were the same at almost every meal. The salads were combinations of the previous meals leftovers. The "warm" dishes were always cold. We even arrived at the buffet before it opened - the food was still cold when it was brought out. By the end of the week we didn't even bother to eat several meals, after walking through the buffet line and seeing the same things out.

The staff was very friendly and cordial. Unfortunately my Spanish doesn't extend far enough to communicate plumbling problems, etc. And none of the staff's English extended far enough to understand all the problems. Most of the problems were minor, but they are in dire need of fixing many small things to make the hotel an acceptable place to return to.

We visited El Nakuti - the rooms were better. We all feel we were cheated. We feel that we paid for better accomodations than we received, yet no refunds were forthcoming. We had prepaid for the rooms and, now looking up the room rates and comparing, the Hotel Giardini where we stayed was $20 less per night than the reservations we had paid for at the El Nakuti. So this resort group made out and got away with cheating it's clientele. We certainly would not recommend either of these resorts because of the "bait and switch", we got by with the other problems.

The country was great. The diving visability was poor. The people were friendly.