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Thread: Evaluation of Hotels, Airlines, and other Travel Businesses

  1. #31
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    Now... THESE are the restaurants in Costa Rica that you won't find in the travel guides or online... unless you really dig deep...


    1) La Luz (Santa Ana): This is the hotel restaurant at Hotel Alta Las Palomas, which is located on the edge of Santa Ana, a western suburb of San José. La Luz has an impeccable menu, 4-plus-star service, and an exemplary dessert menu. Live music (usually jazz) is occasionally featured on weekends. Don't forget to look up and take some photos as you walk from hotel reception to the restaurant. Hotel Alta Las Palomas is a gorgeous venue that should be listed on the National Register of Costa Rican historical sights.


    2) Don Fernando (Guachipelin): You won't find a better steak anywhere in Costa Rica, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a better steak anywhere else in the world. Caveat: Make sure that you are very specific about how you want your steak prepared. If the cook on duty the night that you visit looks like a 20-year-old university student, you're all set... He's the best.


    3) La Leda (Puerto Caldera): Just when you think you're going the wrong way... you're almost there. When the pavement turns to dirt and the whole area starts to look like a poverty-ridden wasteland... that's La Leda. Turn left and park. The best seafood in Costa Rica, and in the world, is served here. It's usually packed, especially on weekends and holidays, and you'll probably be the only non-Tico in the joint. Order anything that's seafood on the menu, and you'll be happy. My personal recommendation is visit with at least 2 other people, and order off the appetizer section of the menu as if it were a Tapas menu. Order a few items and start swapping and sharing. Reservations are only accepted for the "slow times", which defeats the whole purpose of making a reservation. Just show up anytime other than peak lunch or dinnertime on the weekend, and you'll be fine.


    4) The Springs (Arenal Volcano area) -- Breakfast Buffet: I wouldn't single out this overpriced resort for its dining, if it weren't for the breakfast buffet. The breakfast buffet at The Springs is nothing short of Epic. Actually, they had me at, "Breakfast Buffet is served until 11:00 a.m." Yep... From 6:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., you can partake of the multiple offerings here. That's good, because 4.5 hours is about how long it will take you to actually view all of the items on the breakfast buffet. It ain't cheap, but it's expansive, and it's good. There is both quantity AND quality here, but you Will pay for it. I would recommend that you do it Once per visit. Don't do it every day, or you'll spend a fortune. There are numerous omelet, waffle, and pancake stations. There are at least 3 types of bacon. The pastry table alone would feed a small army.

    Please note: If you visit during the green season, not all of the buffet options will be available... but it still beats the pants off of anything else. For reference, The Springs' full breakfast buffet is about 3 times the size of the buffet at Marriott Los Sueños.


    5) Breakfast Buffets: Speaking of which, here are some other good options for breakfast buffets... I am always a sucker for a good breakfast buffet...

    Marriott Los Sueños (Herradura... near Jacó) -- All high-quality stuff with plenty of selections, including (thank God) not-from-concentrate orange juice. This buffet is often included in your room rate, for up to 2 adults and 2 children, which is nice.

    Croc's (Jacó) -- A relatively small, but very nice, high-quality buffet... and it's hard to complain about a breakfast that's included with the room rate.

    Sheraton (San Rafael de Escazú, San José) -- A good-sized, high-quality buffet that is also often included with your room rate.

    Wyndham Garden (San Rafael de Escazú, San José) -- Ditto... Sheraton. Wyndham also has a hotel shuttle (free for hotel guests) that runs around the San Rafael de Escazú area from morning to night.

  2. #32
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    Costa Rican restaurants of Special Note:


    1) La Criollita (downtown San José): A cool little café-style place with good, cheap breakfast and lunch, as well as a bakery and bar. Grab a table near the large birdcage in the back.


    2) Soda Tapia (Sabana): All dressed up in a 1950s diner-style motif, with both inside and outside seating. Very busy during peak times... mostly Ticos. Open 24 hours on weekends. Soda Tapia is well-known for its sandwiches and milkshakes.


    3) Sabor a Pueblo (Ciudad Colón): Roasted chicken and all kinds of other Tico style home-cooked goodies. Top Quality stuff. It's a Tico place, which also means low prices.


    ------------------------


    I hate to post bad reviews, but there are some places that you should avoid...


    1) Villa Caletas (Punta Leona, Jacó area): Villa Caletas is gorgeous, but everything at this tourist trap is ridiculously overpriced, and the service is lackluster and unreliable. It's OK to visit Villa Caletas for a drink at sunset (very popular), but do yourself a favor and don't stay there or dine there.


    2) El Avion (Manuel Antonio): A very popular theme restaurant built around an old cargo airplane, the interior of which has been converted into a bar. Most menu items are overpriced and of average quality. Tables near the balcony are reserved for parties of 4 or more persons only. Basically, it's a tourist trap with poor service and high prices. It's worth a stop for one drink, to check out the airplane, but that's about it.

    A much better choice is El Wagon, less than 500 meters away.


    3) Grano de Oro (near Sabana): Grano de Oro is not a bad hotel or restaurant, but it is, in my opinion, overrated. Grano de Oro has long enjoyed its position as the "Flagship" theme hotel of San José, and is guilty of resting on its laurels. Although the hotel rooms and suites are still of decent value, the value is not exceptional and there are flaws. The quality of restaurant offerings is "hit or miss." The whole place is a gorgeous piece of architecture that has been turned into yet another tourist trap. It is worth a stop by the bar, to check out the interior... or even a single-night stay.

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