Tag Archives hotel review

JACO LAGUNA RESORT

by Saturday, February 6, 2016

On the last week of January, 2016, I visited Costa Rica for a project I was working on for the blog, on the subject of “dental tourism”. I spent two nights on Playa Jaco, which was the closest beach to San Jose and located in the Central Valley. This happened to be one of the most visited beaches, because it is the closest beach to San Jose (just under two hours away).  I was fortunate enough to get to stay at Jaco Laguna Resort,  Jaco’s only 4-star beachfront resort, which is on the quiet south side of the beach, but within walking distance to the town center, where you can find shops, restaurants and activities that the area has to offer. The location felt as if you had your own private beach away from it all, but wasn’t isolated from things you  may want to do if you chose. It was like the best of both worlds.thewanderlustyogi.net

I have never been to Costa Rica before and was hoping to be able to see different regions in my short stay. The dental office I was working with was in San Jose, however, I did manage to visit the ocean, the mountains and the jungle on my visit. This entailed a lot of driving, sometimes on very difficult roads, but was it totally worth it. However, the ocean and my stay at Jaco Laguna Resort, was by far my favorite part of the trip and just to note, the roads to the ocean aren’t hard to travel on, the mountains, is a whole different story.thewanderlustyogi.net

I was traveling with my husband, my adult son, and his girlfriend. Each couple stayed in an oceanfront double queen bedroom on the third floor, rooms 21 and 22, which I feel had the most direct view of the ocean and the amazing sunsets every night.

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Each room was appointed with a Caribbean vibe themed decor. It’s amenities included: private entrance, air conditioning, alarm clock, cable television, laptop safe, flat-screen TV, clothes rack, closet, towels, linens, hairdryer, bathrobe, shower, telephone, radio, desk and free toiletries. Did I mention, free WIFI (which is always a plus)?

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The 26-room, intimate beachfront resort had everything you could want in a tropical destination. With rooms overlooking the pool, just steps away from the Pacific ocean and surrounded by palm trees, you couldn’t help but feel instantly relaxed when first entering the property.

The pool was extremely clean and at a very nice temperature, not to warm, not too cold. The pool area provided lounge chairs and lounge beds that you could enjoy sunning, napping, reading, sipping on a cold drink, nibbling on some snacks from their Tiki bar, or just relaxing. They also had a children’s pool.  Jaco Laguna Resort also had many on site activities including; massages, surf lessons, stand up paddle-board lessons and bike rentals, not to mention their full-service restaurant, offering Costa Rican dishes, as well as a variety of offerings that would please even the pickiest of eaters.thewanderlustyogi.net

On our second night, we had dinner at their restaurant, during sunset, at a table situated right on the beach. The food was delicious and the ambience of the sunset was stunning. We started with a chilled fish ceviche, perfectly marinated in lime juice and served with tortilla chips, then each of us got a traditional Costa Rican dish that we all enjoyed very much. I had the red snapper with hearts of palm in a vegetable cream sauce, my husband had beef tenderloin, flavored with Costa Rican coffee, my son had the teriyaki tuna and his girlfriend had their chicken dish with gallo pinto.thewanderlustyogi.net

The next morning we dined in their open air, second-floor restaurant for breakfast. They offered a choice of traditional Costa Rican style breakfast, as well as traditional American style breakfast. I , of coarse, wanted to eat what the locals (ticos) eat, so I got the gallo pinto with eggs, my husband got the burrito desayuno, which was huge and he was full for the day, my son got the pancakes and his girlfriend also got the gallo pinto with eggs.  The view was even as spectacular from the second floor as it was, directly on the beach. It was a lovely start to our day, especially the Costa Rican coffee. It’s the best!thewanderlustyogi.net

They also have Tiki bar on the beach that has snacks and casual fares, and of coarse tropical drinks and cold beers. This is considered a favorite spot to have a cocktail and watch the sunset by locals and tourists.  The restaurant and tiki bar is open to the public and as far as I could see for miles down the beach, it was the only one directly on the beach. Most all of the bars and restaurants in town were on their main street and a few blocks away from the beach.

The staff was very friendly and welcoming and the entire property was spotless. They had a guard at the gate in the main entrance and safe parking for their guests. Besides the beach, pool and the restaurant and Tiki bar area, they also had pretty landscaped gardens and grassy spaces that surrounded the building.  Next to the resort was a town beach for the public that didn’t get too busy. There was a building on the other side under construction, but the noise wasn’t even noticed at all. In my opinion this was a perfect location in the Playa Jaco region. If you are traveling as a couple, family, with friends or alone, it has something for everyone.thewanderlustyogi.net

We felt very safe and comfortable our entire stay and appreciated all the polite and gracious staff members that were always smiling, with an, “Hola” and was eager to assist us with any questions we had. Although we weren’t able to book any activities because of time restraints, the hotel would have been able to make any arrangements for local excursions if we were interested.

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Our stay at  Jaco Laguna Resort was even better than I anticipated and I will never forget the sunsets on that beach. My only regret is that I couldn’t stay longer. I hope to return to Jaco Laguna Resort in the very near future and I highly suggest this as great spot to stay if you are visiting Playa Jaco, Costa Rica. Please visit their website here to book your stay at Jaco Laguna Resort. I have stayed at many beachfront resorts, all around the world, but I can’t think of one with a better sunset than they have here at Jaco Laguna Resort.

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Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai-Hotel Review

by Tuesday, May 12, 2015

thewanderlustyogi.netApril 30, 2015- May 2, 2015, I had the pleasure of staying at the Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel in Dubai. Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel Dubai It was a planned stopover coming from a two-week trip to India and South East Asia. I flew on Emirates Airlines and Dubai is the layover, so naturally, to break up these long haul flights, I would want to stay a few days in Dubai. Do you blame me?

I’ve heard so many things, as of late, about this extreme city and how it has become a hot tourist spot. Not only does this futuristic city offer sightseeing of over-the-top attractions, boasting the tallest building in the world Burg Kalifa, and the largest man-made islands, The Palm Islands, but it also has some of the best high-end shopping in the world. (although I can only window shop)

Movenpick is a 5 star hotel chain, and in Dubai, they have 3 locations. We opted for the Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate location for two reasons.

1. it was right across the street from a mall

2.It has a private beach

Since this was at the tail end to a 2 week nonstop action trip, we felt like lying low and relaxing on the beaches of Dubai, would be a perfect end to our vacation. The sight-seeing things weren’t really a must-do for us, all except the camel safari in the desert experience.   We really wanted to do that excursion. Other than that, relaxing was the main goal.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe arrived around 2 pm at the hotel and were pleasantly greeted by the hotel staff. Everyone at the hotel seemed extremely friendly and helpful. From the bellman, who was dressed in Arabian attire, ( I couldn’t stop thinking about Aladdin) , to the concierge, to the front desk.

The front desk women took all the information, and quickly found my reservation. She offered an upgrade to the pool floor (on the 8th floor) and explained that breakfast was included as well as the shuttle bus to the private beach.  I was a little surprised and can’t say, not slightly disappointed, that we had to take a shuttle to the beach. My impression was that the hotel was directly on the beach. This was probably my mistake, and although it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, still fine.

Every staff member at the hotel spoke English, which for some reason I didn’t realize . I thought they may speak Arabic, with English as a second language, but this was not the case. At any rate, it made it that much easier to communicate.

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hotel lobby

We took a walk around the main lobby and the restaurant area.  It was very beautifully decorated with Middle Eastern inspired lamps hanging from the ceiling and ornate decor.  The hotel did a great job of embodying the essence of the Middle East, or at least felt authentic to  how I would imagine the United Emirates to be.

thewanderlustyogi.netThey have 5 restaurants with a variety of cuisines including Moroccan(Al Bahou), Indian(Chor Bazaar), Italian (Sicilia) and Chinese(Shanghai Chic) and global (Mistral) which has an array of cuisines and live cooking stations for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe only ate the breakfast at Mistral and were overly impressed of the diverse food choices and the sheer amounts of food offered. We could have anything we really wanted, literally; from made to order of omelets, sushi, salads, cured meats, fruits, cuisines from all over the world, you name it, they’d probably have it. You could eat for days and still have options. It was certainly the highlight of the hotel.thewanderlustyogi.net

Our room was with two full beds. My daughter and I have been traveling for weeks sharing a king-sized bed mostly, we opted for the two beds, but did have a choice.thewanderlustyogi.net

The room was very clean and modernly decorated. It had a storage closet for luggage with draws and a safe.

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a perfect spot to keep passports, credit cards and extra money

The bathroom was very roomy, with a toilet to one side, next to a large mirror and wash vanity, then at the opposite side, a rain shower style shower and a tub. It had the glass open view into the bedroom, like many hotels we’ve stayed at have.  thewanderlustyogi.netThey did have a privacy wooded type slide door if you wanted.  This was the funny thing when traveling with your daughter, all the romantic and seemingly normal rooms for couples, didn’t quite fit for our type of traveler.thewanderlustyogi.net

The 8th floor pool was small, but looked classy, had a city view, and seemed like a very nice place to relax.  thewanderlustyogi.netThe pool staff were very attentive, being sure we had sun if we wanted to, or shade if we preferred not. It was very busy the day we went to the pool with no chairs available when we first arrived. The staff kept watch and organized two chairs together for us within minutes.  They also moved our chairs when the sun became blocked by the building, and brought our things to an area with perfect sun exposure.  We laughed at how obliging they were on providing us the conditions for achieving a perfect tan!thewanderlustyogi.net

It was hot beyond what we are used to, to say the least. The desert heat that day was around 101 degree’s, but the pool was, although a tad warmer than one would like, still very refreshing after just sitting for 10 minutes,  a quick dip was a must.  The pool attendants also came by with fresh squeezed fruit drinks for everyone at no charge. It was a great pool day and I don’t remember having such great service by a pool before. I honestly don’t even remember having pool attendants in previous hotel stays. Now that I think about it, all except The Leela Palace- New Delhi, which were extremely accommodating too. It’s funny how the pool service really made a difference in our stay.

Hotels that pay attention to seemingly small details, create a much more pleasurable experience, but its clear that the ones that do, already know that.

The next day we planned on hitting the beach. Relaxing was what we were all about.  We were very excited! We already shopped the mall the night before and have booked our tour excursion for a camel dinner and show in the desert for that night. Thankfully the concierge let us know on the first day that, although we have free shuttle service to the beach, we needed to reserve a time.  It ran every half hour to and from the beach.  (on the hour at the hotel, and on the half hour at the beach) We booked from 9:00 am-1:30 pm,  that way we could have a few hours on the beach, and then have time to get ready before our tour pick up at 3:30.

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waiting for the beach shuttle with our new beach hats we bought the night before at the Ibn Battuta Mall (such tourists!)

We waited for the shuttle with other hotel guests, only about 8 others. The concierge gave us all VIP wrist bands and said it gained us access to the beach, pool area, and restaurant near the beach. It  took about a 20 minute ride through the city towards the beach, and we were dropped off at an executive apartment building.  We had a to take about a 10 minute walk through the parking lots, and down some stair cases towards the beach area. (which would be hard for some seniors, the handicapped or people with small children). Good thing we followed another guest that looked like they had done it before or at least knew where they were going, because otherwise we would have had no clue of how to get tot the beach. The bus driver didn’t say a word. It was all very vague.

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Movenpick beach shuttle bus

When we reached the bar area of the pool, they had a towel lending booth. It was free, but you  had to give them your room number and return it before you leave. We noticed quickly that the pool, which looked like a huge lazy pool, was behind fences and under construction. This was too bad because we would have had access to it, and the thought of floating around on a lazy river would have been awesome.

thewanderlustyogi.netNot that this wasn’t  bad enough, but when we got down to the beach it was more than lack luster.  It was a very small beach, away from everything and filled with lounge chairs end to end.  It felt like you were in a bay area that really wasn’t meant to have a beach there.  It was actually the Dubai Marina and the beach was called Jumeirah Beach.  We were both at a loss for words for a good 10 minutes. We could not believe that this was the beach. We imagined a beautiful white sand beach with camels walking by, aligned by a strip of cool Arabic style shops and restaurants and an amazing backdrop of this skyscraper filled city. It did have a city view (the only kind of cool thing about it), but not the one with Burj Kalifa or that area of the city like we were thinking. It was like a hidden and abandoned area, with nothing else there. thewanderlustyogi.net

I think we are at the wrong beach? We must be!

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We both thought that. We swore we saw youtube videos and pictures of Dubai and their beaches and it looks nothing like this. At all! Suddenly I got a sinking feeling, we had reserved the bus back to the hotel for 1:30 pm, it was now only 10ish. That means we are stuck here at this excuse of a beach for 3 and a half more hours! No!  Theres no way we were doing that!

We went up to the bartender and started expressing our disappointment and confusion, even asking him if we could get a taxi to a better beach.  He said we were probably thinking about the beach at the Atlantis-The Palm, Dubai.  I think he was right. I asked if you had to be a guest to go on that beach. He said no, and that there was a beach club that you could pay a daily fee to enter.  We looked at each other and said, “Lets do it!” Ahh rescued. But not so fast. On further information given, he said that the cab ride would be about 45 minutes long and would cost around 250 AED which is approximately $70.00 USD, each way! Then, also keeping in mind we would have to pay the fee to get into the beach club, which was 225 AED ($61.00 USD).

If we were to pay the cab fare, take the 45 minute ride (each way), and pay the beach access fee, we would be spending around $260.00 USD to sit mainly in a cab and spend maybe 45 minutes, max, on that beach. We passed. It just didn’t make sense.

We asked if we were allowed to at least go back early on the shuttle. We were.  We looked at the clock and instantly started running to the shuttle pick-up site, knowing that we probably will miss this one and will have to wait for the next. Luckily we made it. We figured that we would go back to the hotel pool. It was very nice and was extremely convenient to our room if we wanted to use the bathroom etc.  We would have a little poolside lunch and sun.  So it wouldn’t be a total wasted afternoon. And since we would already be right there, when it was time to get ready for our dinner in the desert, it would be easy.  It was a better alternative than the beach.

thewanderlustyogi.netOverall, on the positive,  the hotel was very nice, clean, modern, had a helpful staff, and great food. The less positive aspects, would be the beach (no surprise here),  the beach pool being under construction, having to take the shuttle to the beach, and that the hotel itself is located quite a distance to the city center and where most tourist attractions are.

I would stay at a Movenpick again for sure, I’d just have to stay in one with a better location. I was told by an Emirates flight attendant who lives in Dubai, that next time we come, to see the real authentic Arabic part of Dubai, was to visit the  Deira area of town. This area is filled with old souks, selling spices, gold and perfumes.  We were so bummed out that we found this out at the airport on our way home.  This is exactly what we would have loved to see.  I clearly didn’t do enough research for my quick layover in Dubai. If I go back I will definitely have to check out this area, and  Movenpick even has a hotel there. Perfect!

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