Of Hotels, Shuttles and Costa Rica

Day 1

You might want to stay in a nice hotel when you travel, but that does not mean that you want to pay an arm and a leg for shuttle transfer from the airport. Well, perhaps a leg. Or maybe an arm. But not an arm and a leg. Even if the hotel is really, really far away from the airport.

Such a situation befell us recently when we reached the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica. One could save some money, and stayed in Liberia. I am sure some people do. But most of us who have Costa Rica on our minds dream of beaches, and mountains, and volcanos. Not of Liberia. Thus we had planned to stay in the J W Marriott Resort in Guanacaste. Not exactly cerca de Liberia. But quite lejos. A good distance away.

A bridge too far?

A bridge, but where’s the river Kwai?

We could have taken the shuttle provided by the hotel. Only one problem. The charge is not too far off the daily room tariff. At least in the off-season.

So we decided to do what travelers have done for millennia: we haggled with the locals. No, not with the hotel. But with local taxi drivers. And smugly got into a taxi, having won a most satisfying battle. And very nearly lost the war. There was a misunderstanding. There was a third party involved. And one of the parties, the most important one, as it turned out, heard a higher figure than the others. And nearly turned around to return us to the airport. Which would have been counterproductive.

But order and understanding were soon restored, and our voyage continued. And terminated at the above-mentioned hotel in just over an hour.

A few valuable lessons: Take the hotel shuttle, unless it threatens to bankrupt you. Or, make doubly sure that you and the taxi driver are on the same page regarding fare and destination before you set off. Also ask if the guy will turn the air conditioning on. Some private taxis charge more to turn the a/c on, even if they have it in the vehicle.

Please do not take this to mean that you should be fearful of visiting Costa Rica or staying at the Marriott. Quite the contrary. Costa Rica is one of the prettiest countries I have visited (this was our second trip), and the J W Marriott is a fine hotel.

Rain, rain go away!

Don’t worry! The sun will be back pronto!

Another interesting thing happened on our way to the hotel. There were periods of cloudiness, and then the sun would break through. The sun really works hard here, so it would raise the temperature into the mid- to high-eighties. And this was in the latter part of October. As a result, the cloudiness was much welcomed, as it lowered the temperature, and led to a lovely breeze, best appreciated when we rolled the taxi windows down. You know, science is wonderful, and I love air conditioning, but it is hard to beat nature’s own breeze!

And then there was a short, sharp burst of showers, before the sun dispelled the clouds arrogantly, and stamped its authority on the landscape once again.

My point: everybody reads about low seasons, and high seasons, and peak seasons. Not to mention the rainy and dry seasons in Costa Rica. January through April is the dry summer, while May through December are rainy periods, laughingly called the winter. The average annual temperature in this country is 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun reports for duty for about 12 hours a day on most days.

So don’t worry too much about the wet weather. On many days, it won’t rain at all. And if it does, it may not last for more than a couple of hours, unless you are in the rain forest. And there is still usually plenty of sunshine, especially on the Pacific coast beaches.

Best of all, prices are down! Hotel deals abound! Yea!!

Moving right along. We reached the hotel. One word describes it. Wonderful!

Hammocks ahoy!

My better half!


The first thing which strikes you as you drive into the reception area is the sheer number of hammocks. This hotel must think that the cure for most maladies which afflict mankind must lie in a hammock. And I think they may be right.

So if the reception people are a little slow in checking you in (a highly unlikely occurrence), you can climb aboard one of these ubiquitous white, corded delights, and have your significant other set it in motion. I promise that if you close your eyes, time will stand still!

Hammocks are fun at night!

Well, we were checked in expeditiously, and with due courtesy, and even the room change we requested was dealt with efficiently. We were soon enjoying a panoramic view of the Pacific from our oceanfront room. The vacation had truly started.

Hey bud, where are you from?

Backtracking a bit, we were traveling from Asheboro, North Carolina, which is a wonderful small town, full of great people, but with a rather severe deficiency of  international airports. So our default choice is Greensboro, half an hour to the north, another nice town, which boasts of an airport, but is not blessed with great connections or great prices.

So we drove to Raleigh in the evening, spent a night close to the airport which had offered us a decent price for a flight to Liberia, Costa Rica, and set off bright and early to catch the 6:20 am United flight to Houston, and from there a connection to Liberia. Again, North Carolina is a lovely state, but is not exactly teeming with truly bustling international airports, which can whisk you away to any place in the world without too many interruptions. Well, such is life.

The rest of our day was spent chilling out, eating, and pretending that we had jet lag, which we actually did not. There is only a 2-hour difference between NC time and Costa Rican time.

Want to know about the gastronomic delights which awaited us? As they say, stay tuned!