• A Friendly Trip to Costa Rica: Part 5 – El Silencio > Tabacon Hot Springs > Andaz Papagayo

    by  • May 18, 2016 • Luxury Hotel, Miles & Points, Travel • 0 Comments

    Previous Trip Notes
    A Friendly Trip to Costa Rica: Part 4 – El Silencio Lodge & Spa
    A Friendly Trip to Costa Rica: Part 3 – National Car Rental & SJO > Bajos Del Toro
    A Friendly Trip to Costa Rica: Part 2 – MIA Centurion Lounge & MIA > SJO
    A Friendly Trip to Costa Rica: Part 1 – AA DCA > MIA

    The mountain roads are intense in Costa Rica, even in a large SUV, and luckily after about an hour we were out of the mountains. We stopped at a strange iguana farm (at the time we hadn’t realized that we were not heading in the correct direction). Instead of paying for data, we downloaded a couple offline map apps (maps.me and OsmAnd). They worked pretty well, except we hadn’t noticed it had crashed until about twenty minutes off our route.

    Strange Iguana Farm

    So we double-backed and got back on the right route. Views of Arenal Volcano came to view, and they were stunning, although low clouds were in the way of seeing the peak:

    Arenal Volcano – CR

    I had booked four day-passes at Tobacon Hot Springs. The tickets were $85 per person and included lunch, and we paid with my friend’s Barclaycard Arrival Plus (sign-up bonus of $440 worth of free travel expenses, which this included since Tobacon is a hotel). We arrived around 11:15am, relaxed and put on sun screen. The locker rooms were fairly run down for such a high-rated resort. Lockers came with the day passes but were incredibly small. You are not allowed to wear your swimsuit at lunch, so we booked lunch as soon as it opened at noon. The lunch was a three course meal.

    Lunch at Tabacon Hot Springs – Ceviche

    Lunch at Tabacon Hot Springs – Surf & Turf

    Lunch at Tabacon Hot Springs – Potato Salad

    Lunch at Tabacon Hot Springs – Strawberry Tart

    Lunch at Tabacon Hot Springs – Brownie

    Overall a very good meal. We then put on our swimsuits and hit the hot springs. They were impressive, with a couple dozen pools ascending up the mountain with various temperatures ranging from 80 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. There were very cool mini-waterfalls where you could sit underneath as the water passed over you or sit directly underneath and get a massage.

    Tabacon Hot Springs – Arenal, CR

    Tabacon Hot Springs – Arenal, CR

    There was also a water slide at the main man-made pool which allowed us to engage our child-like waterpark selves.

    Tabacon Hot Springs – Arenal, CR

    Tabacon Hot Springs – Arenal, CR

    Tabacon Hot Springs – Arenal, CR

    Tabacon Hot Springs – Arenal, CR

    Tabacon Hot Springs – Arenal, CR

    Overall it was a well-spent couple of hours, although I’m not sure I would go back to Tobacon – as it seemed a little dated.

    We hit the road, with what our map program told us was about a three and a half hour drive. It seemed longer than it should be, but as we started driving around Laguna de Arenal (Arenal Lake), we realized how monstrous the lake was. And the extremely twisting, and somewhat unsafe, roads limited the speed of travel. We were all quite exhausted and were excited to start seeing multiple coffee and bakery signs. We opted to pull into a German Hotel and Restaurant to order coffees, mostly because of the intrigue of a German hotel. In Costa Rica. Expecting to have retired Germans living out their retirement dreams, we were surprised that Costa Ricans were working there. It seemed like we had just fell for quite the tourist trap.

    German Tourist Trap – Arenal, CR

    German Tourist Trap – Arenal, CR

    German Tourist Trap – Arenal, CR

    The decaffeinated Folgers (or so we think), was about the low point of the trip, but did make for a number of jokes and conversation on the car ride. Which. Just. Kept. Going. You’d pull up behind a truck going 25 MPH, without an ability to pass for miles at a time. And then you would encounter cars coming the other direction in the same situation, who had obviously hit their breaking point and made a calculation that death by passing on a twisting road was a better fate than continuing behind a slow-paced vehicle. After what seemed forever, we started to diverge from the lake, and drove through a small town. And then, like the elusive gold-filled pot at the end of a rainbow, we entered a real highway. Like multiple lanes going in both directions. 90. 100. 110. 120. 130 KPH, we were FLYING! All I wanted to do was watch the sunset with a beer from the hotel, which was set to occur at 5:53pm. The GPS quickly went from an arrival time estimation of 6:55pm down to 6:30pm, then 6:00pm, we might make it! Apparently it was a new highway, and the GPS program thought we’d be on dirt roads instead of highways.

    We actually had enough time to stop at a large grocery store to pick up more beer, mixers and flip-flops (which NSPwife had forgotten). And then it was the home stretch. We passed the airport with a sign saying 41 KM to the Andaz Papagayo. At 100 KPM, we were getting close, yet we saw no water. The next sign said 35 KM. No water. 20KM. No water. When we were 3 KM away, this was about as about as far from the expected scenery as I could have imagined. We then hit a beautiful security entrance, and afterwards started a decent. We then realized that we were at the top of a hill overlooking the Gulf of Papagayo:

    Hidden Gulf of Papagayo – CR

    The Andaz property is roughly halfway down the hill, overlooking the Gulf. It is a beautiful, sprawling, property – reminding me of the Conrad Koh Samui.

    We went through a second security gate and pulled up to an open-air reception. A long drive. A long day. But we were there, prior to sunset. And I was looking forward to that beer…

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