Central America – The Barefoot Nomad http://www.thebarefootnomad.com Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Wed, 07 Feb 2018 20:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 We Review The Phoenix Resort Belize And Tasty Nachos http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/central-america/we-review-the-phoenix-resort-belize-and-tasty-nachos/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/central-america/we-review-the-phoenix-resort-belize-and-tasty-nachos/#comments Wed, 12 Apr 2017 17:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=12920 Sometimes in life you get what you pay for and sometimes, you don’t.

Luckily for us, The Phoenix Resort in the heart of San Pedro, Belize is worth every penny and earns its reputation as one of the best resorts on Ambergis Caye.

Phoenix Belize Luxury Resort in Ambergris Caye Our Review | Belize Resort San Pedro | Luxury resort Belize | Luxury resort San Pedro Ambergris Caye | Luxury resort review Ambergris Caye

We were fortunate enough to stay at The Phoenix Resort for five days and had the opportunity to find out for ourselves what makes the place a Tripadvisor favorite.

Just want to hear the highlights? Look for our quick review on The Phoenix Belize at the end of this post.

A word of caution though, our Phoenix Belize review might make you book a one way flight to the island of Ambergris Caye off the coast of mainland Belize, so continue on at your own risk.

First Impressions of The Phoenix Resort

View of pool and codos outside The Phoenix Belize Resort

Tucked out the way at the north end of Barrier Reef Drive, known as front street to the locals, the unassuming side entrance of The Phoenix Resort leads into a shaded lot full of golf carts, which are the most common mode of transportation on the island of Ambergris Caye. On the left is a playground for kids, and up above is the hotel patio bar with free drinks during happy hour every day from 5 to 6 (local beer and rum only).

There’s also the well reviewed Sol Spa and gym located on the second floor with the resort owned Red Ginger restaurant tucked below next to the main lobby.

The main entrance to The Phoenix Resort is actually located on Pescador Drive, known as middle street to the locals, however the most common entrance is via front street with quicker access to the many restaurants, shops and bars along the beach.

Once you cross through the lobby from the main entrance and exit the rear door you see the saline lap pool and then the beautiful and heated multi-level main pool, with a well stocked pool side bar. There are loungers positioned all around the pool, as well as tables and chairs where you can sit back and enjoy a bite delivered fresh from the Red Ginger restaurant, or sip on a tasty concoction the friendly bar servers whip up.

Poolside loungers with view of the ocean The Phoenix Belize Resort

The ultra-stylish, three-story high buildings that comprise The Phoenix surround the entire pool area. Nearly every one also has an ocean view of the clear blue water. There is no beach at The Phoenix Resort, which is the case for almost all of the hotels on Ambergris Caye. However, there is a short seawall and pathway that runs in front, as well as several long piers nearby you can swim off if you fancy a dip in the ocean.

Note: This area of Belize isn’t known for its beaches, and even if you happen to find one in town the shallow waters, the sea grass don’t make wading in all that appealing. There are a few hotels with beaches on the island, however they’re all just outside the town proper. Most people that want to spend time in the ocean take snorkel tours and there’s some amazing snorkeling fairly close to shore.

That said, the Phoenix Resort is right on the water and the water views are gorgeous. The entire grounds on the resort are well maintained and patrolled 24/7, and there always seems to be someone around if you have any problems, however they’re never obtrusive.

The Rooms at The Phoenix Resort Belize

Each room at The Phoenix Resort Belize is condominium size. You can stay in one, tow or three bedroom suites, and the two and three bedroom suites all include two bathrooms.

king size bed with flowers The Phoenix Belize Resort

Our king bed

Our 1,700 foot, two bedroom suite had a huge en suite with a large jetted tub, a big walk in shower and his and her sinks. There was a nice collection of shampoos and conditioners as well as other toiletries in both bathrooms and super plush towels and robes.

jetted tub in master bath at The Phoenix Belize Resort

There were also flower petals strewn all around our suite when we checked in that made the suite smell wonderful. Turn down service that night took all the flower petals away so that was a nice bonus as well.

The main bathroom had two doors, one from the main hallway and one directly from the second room, with his and her sinks as well as a large shower. As such, the two bedroom suites at The Phoenix would be equally fine for two couples or a family of four. There was also a washer and dryer hidden away in the main bathroom, complete with detergent so that was a bonus.

Two single beds at The Phoenix Belize Resort

The kids bedroom at the Phoenix Belize

The master bedroom had a very comfortable king sized bed and a plush white duvet complete with a variety of soft to firm pillows. There was also a new LCD TV as well as a safe hidden in the oversized closet. The spare bedroom included a pair of comfortable twin beds and another LCD TV as well.

The rooms were all meticulously maintained and we all enjoyed staying at the resort.

The Kitchens at The Phoenix Belize

All the suites at The Phoenix include well appointed kitchens complete with stainless steel appliances, including a fridge, dual sinks, a blender, a stove, an oven as well as a dishwasher. There’s also filtered water from a tap in the kitchen so you can cut down on purchased water bottles while you stay there. The kitchen was well stocked with a Keurig coffeemaker, plates, glasses and cutlery as well as a decent selection of pots and pans.

There were a few spices in the cupboard, as well as salt and pepper but that’s about it. Luckily, there are two grocery stores almost right in front of the hotel, so stocking up on supplies is a quick walk away.

Side note: I was short some butter one morning while making a late brunch and one of the women cleaning noticed my distress (there’s daily cleaning as well as a turn down service at night) and she offered to grab me some butter from the restaurant so I could finish cooking. It was incredibly nice of her and she reminded me that the restaurant could also provide additional pots and pans if I needed them. Many thanks!

living room and kitchen in two bedroom suite at The Phoenix Belize Resort

Living room and kitchen at The Phoenix Belize Resort

As well as the large kitchen area, there was a living room complete with a large screen TV. The living room also had a outdoor patio right off it with another table, chairs and a few loungers for relaxing. We had a few of our meals out on the terrace and it was a great place to eat breakfast before the pool area got busy.

In Room Extras at The Phoenix Belize

When you stay at The Phoenix Belize, they include a lot of extras, including free WiFi which is always important for us. I have to say the Wifi at The Phoenix was pretty good for Ambergris Caye. There were a few spotty areas around the resort but it was reliable in the suite, around the pool and in the bar, which are pretty much the areas we stayed around the most.

A cool bonus when staying at the resort is that it includes an Apple iPad during your stay and a Bose speaker system to pair with. As well, there was a cell phone with $20 worth of service. The cell phone was helpful when meeting up with some friends in town and also calling about a flight off the island. It also came in handy when I called around to get some snorkel tour prices, however the hotel tour prices ended up being comparable so we ended up booking through them instead.

The iPad was great for the kids and it included links to the onsite Red Ginger restaurant for ordering room service. It also had information about the other restaurants the resort owns in San Pedro, namely Wine de Vine and the Blue Water Grill restaurant. As a guest at The Phoenix, you also get 10% off all food at the Red Ginger, as well as their other two restaurants, however there is a small surcharge for room service.

You also get a delicious welcome drink when you check in and there was a small bottle of rum, a bottle of Coke, a bottle of tonic water and a lime waiting in the suite for us when we checked in as well. Needless to say, they didn’t go to waste.

Resort-Wide Extras at The Phoenix Resort

Swingset at The Phoenix Belize Resort

Complimentary Yoga classes

Throughout the week there are complimentary Yoga classes upstairs on the rooftop patio for guests staying at The Phoenix Resort. We didn’t make it to any, however two separate friends we know who’ve stayed in San Pedro raved about how good the instructors at The Phoenix were when they heard we were staying at the hotel.

Complimentary Drinks

Every day from 5 to 6 PM there are complimentary cocktails served upstairs on the roof top patio bar. The free drinks include local rum, local beer and, often wine from their Wine de Vine store. Our favorite beer (and it seems the favorite of everyone on the islands) was the locally made Belikin beer. You can get it in Regular, Light and Stout. We enjoyed Regular the most, however plenty of people love the Stout.

Free Kayaks and Paddle Boards (SUPs)

Free kayaks and paddle boards are included at the resort, however you can’t get them on site. Instead, you need to grab a voucher from the main lobby and walk a few blocks south past Central Park to one of the dive centers near the ferry terminal. It’s a quick walk, however it’s a bit of a pain to have to go first to the lobby, wait for them to call and then walk down there. The good part is that the resort is just about the perfect distance to paddle to before heading back into the wind and coasting back to the dive center to return your paddle board or kayak.

Complimentary Wine Tastings, Chocolate Tastings, and Painting Classes

As well as the free daily cocktail hour, The Phoenix often offers free wine tastings, chocolate tastings and painting classes to its guests as well. These events change every week and you’ll find a copy of the resort activities on the iPad as well as printed in your room. They even offer special painting classes just for kids. You can contact the front desk to find out more info as well as watch the sign by the foot of the stairs to the patio and spa.

Complimentary Bicycles

Though we never got around to using them ourselves, The Phoenix Resort offers free bicycles for their guests. We rented a golf cart for our entire stay on the island, so er either walked or took the golf cart, but we spotted several guests using the bikes on a regular basis. The bikes looked in good shape and San Pedro is the perfect size to get around by bike.

Bouncy Castle

Everyday, at around 3 PM, there is a bouncy castle for the young ones to play on. Ours decided they were too big for it, however if you have young children with you this would be a great way to tire them out everyday. There’s also the

Amenities at The Phoenix Belize

Pools

There are two gorgeous pools at The Phoenix Resort. Both are saline pools and both are heated. The heater in the lap pool was being repaired while we were there so we strategically opted not to use it, however it looked liked a great way to get an early morning workout. The main pool had multi levels and included a shallow end that would be great for smaller kids to wade around in while the parents sample some of the tasty beverages the guys in the pool bar whip up.

Looking out over the ocean at the infinity pool The Phoenix Belize Resort

Looking out over the ocean at the infinity pool

Unlike some of the huge resorts in Mexico, there are no “Activity Coordinators” or music being pumped out around the pool, making it a chill and pleasant place to hang out. The only time it ever seemed to get busier was around 3 or 4 when most people got back from taking tours or checking out the town. We had the pool to ourselves quite a few times, especially before lunch.

Infinity pool and loungers The Phoenix Belize Resort

As well as the pool bar, open most days from 10-5, there are plush pool towels and off resort (for snorkeling or other tours) towels available on the corner of the pool bar, and special lounge chair towels for the loungers. You can order food off the menu from the Red Ginger and it will be served to you pool side as well.

lap pool The Phoenix Belize Resort

lap pool

Sol Spa

Guests at The Phoenix Belize can enjoy the amenities of the onsite Sol Spa. The Sol Spa offers sport, therapeutic and deep tissue massages as well as a variety of scrubs and body treatments. They also do mani/pedis, facials and more. The massages can be had poolside, in your room or in one of their lovely spa treatment rooms. We didn’t have a massage, but one of the other guests raved about it while we were down by the pool one day so it sounded nice.

Fitness Center

Next to Sol Spa is the fitness center at The Phoenix. It contains all the usual assortment of treadmills, elliptical machines, a universal weight machine as well as some free weights. They also offer complimentary passes to a nearby, more fully stocked gym if you want more variety in your workout.

Red Ginger Restaurant

The onsite, resort owned, Red Ginger restaurant is a well reviewed restaurant and a great addition to the hotel. You can eat in, order from the menu poolside, or have them deliver your food right to your room. We only ate in the restaurant once, but we did get nachos and sandwiches every day we were there. The nachos were heavenly and were a great poolside treat between lunch a dinner.

Red Ginger inside The Phoenix Belize Resort

Red Ginger Restaurant

The Red Ginger has daily specials and a brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays. Guests get 10% off all their food at the Red Ginger, however there is a $5 BZD fee ($2.50 USD) for room service. You can check out the Red Ginger menu here. Just remember that the prices on the menu are in Belizean Dollars which is usually at half the US dollar (so divide by 2 to get USD price).

Blue Water Grill and Wine de Vine

Though neither of these places are located at the hotel, they’re all part of the same family and guests staying at The Phoenix Resort get 10% off their food and drink at both restaurants. The Blue Water Grill, a few blocks south down front street right on the beach, is known for its great seafood and ambiance and the Wine de Vine store is one of the best places on the island to buy local and imported wines. They also sell some really tasty looking platters in their meat and cheese deli section.

You can check out the Blue Water Grill’s menu here and Wine de Vine’s page is here. Note that prices are also in BZD so divide by 2 to get USD pricing.

Business Center

The Phoenix offers a small business center, complete with a few computers and printing facilities. They also include a small library of books, DVDs and board games you can borrow while you’re staying at the hotel.

Activity Planner for Offsite Activities

Though not really an amenity, the activity planner who works at the front desk is great at setting up any offsite activities you might want to do on Ambergris Caye or even on mainland Belize. They can help you set up everything from snorkeling the amazing Hol Chan Reserve and Shark Ray Alley to diving in the world famous Blue Hole. They can also get you a good deal on golf cart rentals, fishing trips, catamaran tours and jet ski rentals.

There are also a ton of things to see and do off the island like day trip excursions to the mainland to check out ancient Mayan ruins, go cave tubing, ziplining, jungle trekking and so forth. You can usually set up these activities once you get to Belize, however, depending on the season, it might be better to arrange them in advance.

A Quick Review of The Phoenix Resort Belize

What we loved

nachos by the ocean The Phoenix Belize Resort

The Phoenix Resort is right in heart of San Pedro and that makes it easy to check out the nearby bars and restaurants. The rooms are bright, spacious, cheerful and clean and their nachos were so good we ordered some every day we spent there. We also loved lounging by the pools and the free daily happy hour up in the little patio bar.

Micki’s note: The kids and I loved the warm, ocean side pools so much that we spent every morning playing in the pool, and eating nachos for lunch. Pure heaven.

What could have been better

The free kayaks and stand up paddle boards they offer require a voucher from the front desk and are stored a few blocks away from the hotel with another company. On the positive side, they are included free. There’s also no beach at The Phoenix, however all the beaches are public in Belize and there is a small beach a few doors down you can use. You can also swim from the end of the nearby pier if you love swimming in the ocean as much as I do.

Final Impressions of The Phoenix Resort Belize

Mom and daughter at the Phoenix Belize Resort infinity pool

Mom and daughter at the infinity pool

To say we enjoyed our stay at The Phoenix Resort on Ambergris Caye would be an understatement. From the moment we walked into our bright, spacious suite we knew we were going to be comfortable there. They included pretty much everything we needed as well as a few that surprised us. The included iPad and cell phone were especially nice while we were there.

From a tasty welcome drink while checking in to a free ride to the airport on the way out, we felt we were in good hands while we were there. We especially loved that the people at The Phoenix Resort were happy to help us in any way but stayed out of the way once we were settled in. That’s exactly what we love about a place. Well, that and tasty nachos…

About The Phoenix Belize

You can find more Phoenix Belize reviews on Tripadvisor or visit the Phoenix Belize website. You can also find the Phoenix on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Check lastest prices.

Want to check out their restaurants? You’ll find them here (prices in BZD): Red Ginger, Blue Water Grill, Wine de Vine

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23 Moments You’ll Experience At Victoria House on Ambergris Caye http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/central-america/23-moments-youll-experience-at-victoria-house-on-ambergris-caye/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/central-america/23-moments-youll-experience-at-victoria-house-on-ambergris-caye/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=12940 I’m sitting at the beach bar at the Victoria House in Belize, enthusiastically attacking the best Greek salad I’ve had in years, and staring out at the impossibly crystal clear turquoise ocean.

Just out of my hearing, the kids are tearing up and down the white sand like two happy puppies. Later, we’re all heading out for an afternoon boat trip to Shark Ray Alley to snorkel with nurse sharks and stingrays.

Yes, this is what luxury is like on Ambergris Caye.

23 Moments You’ll Experience At a Luxury Resort in Ambergris Caye Belize | Victoria House on Ambergris Caye | San Pedro Luxury Resort | Belize Luxury Resort | Ambergris Caye Luxury Hotel | Belize Resort | Belize Luxury Hotels

Victoria House awards and more

I should have expected something special here at Victoria House in Ambergris Caye, Belize. After all, this San Pedro resort has a swath of awards longer than my arm, including multiple TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards, Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence, 2012 Travel + Leisure Magazine Top 500 Hotels and Resorts in the World, and a 2013 Fodor’s Choice Award of Distinction. Not too shabby at all. You can check out the Victoria House reviews for yourself on Booking.com and TripAdvisor. Check prices here.

If you ever have a chance to check out a luxury hotel on Ambergris Caye in Belize, don’t hesitate for a second. Grab your passport, your wallet, a swimsuit and your sense of adventure. If you do, there will come a moment when you’ll totally understand what I’m writing about today.

Here are some of the amazing moments you’ll experience.

Frolicking barefoot by the ocean

Hands down, the relaxed, Caribbean vibe on Ambergris Caye is my favorite part of the island. It’s all about sunny beach days, playing in the water, reading great books, and letting all of your at-home responsibilities and worries slip away.

Girl running down the dock at Victoria House Belize

Finding the most gorgeous places to catch up on work or relax with a book

Hands down, the thatched roof palapa by the infinity pool at Victoria House was one of my all time favorite places to catch up on writing blog posts, surfing the net or catching up on reading.

Laptop under a thatched umbrella at Victoria House Belize

You’ll feel like you’re among old friends

It’s hard not to feel welcome here. We were greeted with ice cold fruit drinks when we stepped into the lobby, and every single person I met greeted me with a warm smile.

Friendly Staff at Victoria House Belize

Eating snacks by the ocean

There’s something wonderful about sitting by the ocean for lunch. Admiral Nelson’s Bar at the Victoria House serves up some of the tastiest homemade snacks and lunches I’d had in a long time. Try the Greek salad. To. Die. For.

My favorite greek salad at Victoria House Belize

Homemade nacho chips and black bean dip Victoria House Belize

Blooming onion snacks Victoria House Belize

Admiral Nelsons Bar Victoria House Belize

Sinking into your luxury bed

We were lucky enough to stay in one of Victoria House’s villas, with a gorgeous king size bed. There’s not much more inviting than crisp white sheets on a luxurious bed at the end of a long day of swimming, exploring the town of San Pedro, and then enjoying delicious food.

Victoria House Ambergris Caye King Size Bed

Dangling your feet in the ocean-side pool

There are two pools at Victoria House; one lovely infinity pool toward the back of the property, and an ocean side pool. It’s perfect for splashing around in and watching the ocean. The kids loved to sit on the loungers here and dangle their feet in the water. When we were there, the pool wasn’t being heated so we only went swimming in it once.

Relaxing in the pool facing the ocean at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Lounging on the private dock

We found the private dock at Victoria House to be one of the prettiest spots on the island and that’s saying a lot on an island that’s surrounded by clear aquamarine water, white sand, and dotted with charming, colorful houses.

At the entrance of the dock, there’s a dive shop with free stand up paddle boards (SUP) and kayaks for use by guests. At the end of the pier there’s a small palapa for shade and lots of room to sit down if you want to relax and stare out at the ocean or dive into the clear water.

Victoria house dock Ambergris Caye

Blissing out at the Spa

The Spa at Victoria House.

I can’t even begin to tell you.

There’s a pages long menu of spa treatments and services, all designed to pamper and relax you. The Spa at Victoria House itself is a brand new 3,500 square foot colonial building set among coconut palms, bougainvillea, and gentle ocean breezes.

Charles and I both opted for a couples traditional relaxation massage. It was flawless, relaxing, and one of the best spa experiences we’ve ever had.

Tea at the spa Victoria House Belize

Spa massage beds Victoria House Belize

Spa entrance Victoria House Belize

Dining by candlelight

The beautiful Palmilla Restaurant comes with a considerable price tag, but it’s well worth it. If I were a professional food writer, I’d be throwing around words like “scrumptious” and “mouth watering” to describe my nightly vegetarian pasta courses and Charles’ chicken selections. The Palmilla Restaurant at Victoria House has a nice air conditioned dining room with plenty of seating, plus an outdoor patio. It’s open to the public as well if you happen to be staying somewhere else in San Pedro and want an upscale meal.

 

Delicious pasta at Restaurant Palmilla at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Tasty chicken at Palmilla Restaurant Victoria House San Pedro Belize

Eating freshly made pastries every morning

The Palmilla restaurant is also where you’ll eat your complimentary breakfast in the mornings, complete with fresh juices and home made baking. Be sure to try the delicious, fresh-baked muffins or the home made granola. They were delish!

Restaurant Palmilla Victoria House San Pedro Belize

Walking along the ocean boardwalk

Victoria House, like most of the hotels on the island, has an ocean side boardwalk instead of a traditional beach area. The waterfront at Victoria House is also enormous, making a walk along the ocean boardwalk here extra special.

Beach and palm trees at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Diving off the pier into the clear blue ocean

Since there’s no sloping beach to get in the water, the best way to get wet is to jump off the pier that juts out into the ocean or when taking out one of the free paddle boards or kayaks.

Lounging by your villa

We were lucky enough to stay in one of Victoria House’s huge two bedroom private villas. As such we could just sit and watch the world pass us by from 2 great vantage points.

Outside of our villa at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Enjoying the ample luxury in your suite

Our huge, 2 bedroom villa came with fresh flowers, a fully appointed kitchen, two bathrooms, and even an extra, private, outdoor shower for both bedrooms! Don’t worry, there are also traditional indoor showers, if you prefer to soap up in privacy.

There were also new flatscreen TVs with good English cable service in every room however you won’t find a phone anywhere in your suite. Somewhat charmingly, when we requested a wakeup call, we got a wake up knock at our door instead!

Villa kitchen at Victoria House Ambergris Caye Villa at Victoria House Belize

Waking to the sound of ocean waves

Though the ocean is fairly calm around San Pedro, you can still here the water lapping against the shore some mornings and there’s usually a nice breeze blowing in off the water.

By the beach Flowers at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Playing games by the ocean

The kids loved hanging out on the wide swath of sand beside the ocean. We lounged in the hammocks, and played beanbag toss or ladder golf for hours.

Playing in the hammock at Victoria House Belize

Admiring the expansive, groomed grounds

I’m not sure how large the grounds are at Victoria House, but they must run into several acres, at least, and they’re perfectly, meticulously, manicured. There’s not a lovely tropic flower, or verdant green tree out of place.

Sinking your toes in the white sand

The sand at the Victoria House resort in Belize is bright white and easy on the feet. There are also loungers and chairs strewn about in the sand and under the many palm trees that line the water giving everyone staying at the resort plenty of space from the other guests.

Loungers by the ocean Victoria House San Pedro Belize

Enjoying the exclusive toiletries

One of my very favorite things in a luxury hotel are the toiletries. You’ll find Victoria House’s very own spa line of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion here, made with Mayan bee honey. They’re as perfect as they look.

Luxurious toiletries at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Savoring delectable desserts

Molten chocolate lava cake cooked to order.

Creme brule.

Homemade ice cream.

Need we go on? Absolutely heaven.

Savoring desserts bananas with chocolate lava cake Victoria House Belize

Gazing over the infinity pool

With pool side loungers, and plenty of chairs and tables, the infinity pool is the perfect place to relax and unwind. It’s also gets great Wifi.

Working out in the air conditioned exercise room

Tucked away in the spa building, the exercise room is the perfect place to get in a workout in air-conditioned comfort.

Exercise room Victoria House Belize

Soaking up the sunset

Ambergris Caye has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. The ocean side pool at Victoria house is the perfect place to unwind, cocktail in hand, at the end of a busy day.

Sunset by the pool Victoria House Belize

What you need to know

Victoria House Beach Resort is a luxury resort on the Island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. There are 42 rooms, including private pool villas, luxurious suites, staterooms, and casitas.

The resort is a few minutes just outside of the main town of San Pedro to the south, so you’ll either need to take taxis (which can become expensive) or rent a golf cart for your stay, which is the main mode of transportation on the island. They also provide free bike rentals which can be an option depending where you’re biking to.

We rented a golf cart during our stay, and had a blast scooting around the island. You can rent independently, or Victoria House can arrange a rental for you. You can also arrange tours to nearby attractions like Mayan ruins, Shark Ray Alley, cave tubing and more through Victoria House.

The Spa at Victoria House

There are over 30 treatments, massages and facials available at the Spa at Victoria House.

Dining

There are two restaurants on site: the more casual Admiral Nelson’s Bar, and the elegant Restaurant Palmilla.

Want to know more?

You can find out more on the Victoria house website. You can also find Victoria House on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Want to book a room?

Check prices here. You can book a room through the Victoria House Resort directly, or through Booking.com or compare prices on TripAdvisor.

Location: San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Our stay at Victoria House was complimentary, but that doesn’t mean they forced us to lounge by the pool, enjoy some amazing meals or have one of the best spa experiences we’ve ever had. As such, all thoughts and opinions shared in this post are entirely our own.

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Dreaming Of The Panamanian Sun http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/central-america/dreaming-of-the-panamanian-sun/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/central-america/dreaming-of-the-panamanian-sun/#comments Wed, 20 Nov 2013 07:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=7634 As the snow threatens to fall, I’ve found myself dreaming of escaping to somewhere warm.

Preferably somewhere with unlimited fruity drinks, a great buffet and fun dancing. But where could we go?

Panama City by Matthew Straubmuller

Panama City by Matthew Straubmuller

Despite skipping through several continents on our last trip, and taking almost every mode of transportation you can think of in the past, we’ve never been on a cruise.

Given our love of riding camels and floating around the sky in Turkey, I’d say a little off the beaten path probably describes our travel style pretty accurately. So a great cruise for us would be something just a little different.

What if we decided to book a cruise through the Panama Canal?

Bridge of the Americas by dsasso on Flickr

Bridge of the Americas by dsasso on Flickr

The Panama Canal might just be the destination for people like us, who are looking for something just a little bit unusual. Though far from natural, where else can you sit on a luxury cruise ship and look out over mountains and fields while traversing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean?

8 Cool Facts About The Panama Canal

  • The Panama Canal is known as the eighth engineering wonder of the world and is sto;; considered one of the largest and most ambitious engineering feats in the world.
  • At 48 miles (77 km) long, the canal has locks at each ocean entrance to lift ships up into man made Gatun Lake, which sits about 85 ft above sea level.
  • The average toll to get through the Panama Canal is around $54,000 USD. The most expensive toll ever was paid was by the cruise ship Norwegian Pearl. It once paid $375,600 USD for a one way passage.
  • During the initial attempts by the French to construct the canal in the late 1800s, over 20,000 people died of malaria, yellow fever, and other tropical diseases before the project went bankrupt.
  • In return for guaranteeing the independence of Panama (by arms from Columbia) and providing a one time $10 million payment as well as an annual $250,000 annuity, the United States was given a 10-mile wide strip of land for the canal and the right to build it in 1904.
  • Though the Panama Canal was started in the late 1800s by the French, it wasn’t officially opened until 1914. As such, next year (2014) marks it’s 100th anniversary.
Construction of the Panama Canal circa 1910 Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Construction of the Panama Canal circa 1910 Photo by Wikimedia Commons

  • A treaty signed in 1977 under US President Jimmy Carter gave control back to Panama. Panama took full ownership of the canal in 1999.
  • A project to nearly double the canal’s capacity and allow larger ships is expected to be completed in 2015.

One of the great things about all this daydreaming (and Googling) is coming across some cool images. For instance, I love this timelapse crossing the Panama Canal.

What You Need To Know

A cruise on the Panama Canal has the advantage of letting passengers, depending on their itinerary, visit a port on either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean (or both!). Apparently, the scenery isn’t too bad either. While I’d expect lush jungle around the canal, some parts of the canal look onto Panama’s mountain ranges and sandy beaches.

Bridge of the Americas by Nelson de Witt on Flickr

Bridge of the Americas by Nelson de Witt on Flickr

Depending on the type of cruise booked, some companies offer an 11-day round trip excursion from Fort Lauderdale in Florida, and it’s also possible to book longer 14-20 day trips, and embark or disembark at well known ports like such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver.

The itineraries of the cruise will vary depending on how many days you’ve booked, but most cruises will visit Aruba, Cabo San Lucas, Cartagena, Puntarenas and San Juan del Sur, among others.

Ship in the Panama Canal by thyngum on Flickr

Ship in the Panama Canal by thyngum on Flickr

We haven’t quite made up our mind yet, but I’d say it’s still in the running. Not only would we be seeing a great country rolling by from the comfort of our loungers but we’d also get to check out a few nice beaches and port towns while we’re at it.

Have you cruised through the Panama Canal? What did you think?

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Montezuma – Artisan Paradise or Failed Hippie Rejuvenation Project? http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/montezuma-artisan-paradise-or-failed-hippie-rejuvenation-project/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/montezuma-artisan-paradise-or-failed-hippie-rejuvenation-project/#comments Thu, 07 Jun 2012 20:37:45 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=2107 Of all the places on the southern tip of the Nicoyan Peninsula, we had heard the most about Montezuma. Of all the people we had talked to, there was never a negative word said about it. We really hadn't done a lot of homework on the place but we knew it had a few hotels and restaurants and had pre-decided that if we spent the night, it would probably be in Montezuma. Neither one of us knew what to expect as we drove down the steep road leading into town and to be honest, we still have mixed feelings about the place. It is at once greater and lesser than we expected.

It is greater in that it is quite a cute little offbeat town tucked on the sides of a mountain with gorgeous beaches running along both sides of it. There are a dozen little restaurants and shops hidden along its curving streets and lanes. There is a nice park and play center right smack in the middle of it all. The people in town seem friendly enough and the prices, though not amazing, seem on par for that area of the world. There is a definite "earthy" feel to the town with yoga classes, all natural foods and organic fare available at a bunch of places. We even had decent healthy food at The Bakery Cafe while watching a pair of monkeys descend from the treetops to entertain us while we ate a late lunch.

That all being said, there seems to be an hidden undercurrent to the town. Both ends of the beach have...

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In my previous post I was continuing our little trip down the Nicoyan Peninsula in Costa Rica. We had already gone over the roughest road known to man and driven through the quiet towns of Santa Lucia and Tambor. Our next stop along the way was going to be Montezuma.

Of all the places on the southern tip of the Nicoyan Peninsula, we had heard the most about Montezuma. Of all the people we had talked to, there was never a negative word said about it. We hadn’t done a lot of homework, but we knew it had a few hotels and restaurants and had decided that if we spent the night, it would probably be in Montezuma. Neither one of us knew what to expect as we drove down the steep road leading into town and to be honest, we still have mixed feelings about the place. It is at once greater and lesser than we expected.

It is greater in that it is quite a cute little offbeat town tucked on the sides of a mountain with gorgeous beaches running along both sides of it. There are a dozen little restaurants and shops hidden along its curving streets and lanes. There is a nice park and play center right smack in the middle of it all. The people in town seem friendly enough and the prices, though not amazing, seem on par for that area of the world. There is a definite “earthy” feel to the town with yoga classes, all natural foods and organic fare available at a bunch of places. It’s a far cry from the adventure travel that Costa Rica’s known for. We even had decent healthy food at The Bakery Cafe while watching a pair of monkeys descend from the treetops to entertain us while we ate a late lunch.

Bakery Cafe - Montezuma, Costa Rica

That all being said, there seems to be an hidden undercurrent to the town. Both ends of the beach have a very large tent population with many tenters there for the long term. The majority of the locals seem be remnants of a 60’s hippie rejuvenation project that fell on hard times. I haven’t checked the stats but I would hazard to guess that the place has a higher amount of assault and petty theft incidences than neighboring towns. I will say that besides for walking on the beach after sunset we never really had a strong feeling of danger in the place though. Of course, with the kids we weren’t out too late and the town looked like it had a few parties that might go all night so who knows how the place changes as the night progresses.

In the daytime, Montezuma is colorful and loaded with craftsman and artisans. Even at night the streets come alive with tables and booths set up along the two main roads with people selling their crafts while cooking their supper on their little portable bbqs. Maybe it’s the hunger of the sellers eyes that gave us mixed feelings about the place. A lot of the artisans are gringos from the tent cities and need the few dollars your willing to spend on their clamshell necklaces, beaded bracelets and coconut pendants to prolong their extended stays in this little corner of paradise.

Even now Micki and I can’t really define what it was about Montezuma that left a bad taste in our mouths. In truth the kids had a great time and we enjoyed our stay.

I ask any of you who read this who have been or are planning to go what your thoughts on Montezuma are. I would love to know if you picked up that subtle thread of uneasiness that we felt or if the town is exactly what it pretends to be, a hippie inspired craftsman’s paradise of colorful people and nice beaches.

To complete this tale, after a day on the beach and after playing in the pool that night the kids were quite tuckered out.  We had supper in a gorgeous little Italian restaurant surrounded by the more affluent in the area. In the morning we got up and had a nice breakfast and let the kids run off whatever steam they had at the playground before deciding to continue our trek south.

In my next post in this series, I’ll tell you all about our crazy 4×4 off road drive over a mountain track to Malpais and our take on the much larger than expected surf town of Santa Teresa.

Safe travels Barefoot Nomads!

Have you been to Montezuma, Costa Rica? Do you agree with our take?  Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.

 

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The Quiet Life in Playa Tambor and Santa Lucia http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/quiet-life-santa-lucia-and-tambor/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/quiet-life-santa-lucia-and-tambor/#respond Tue, 05 Jun 2012 20:46:18 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=287 In my last post about our travels in Costa Rica we were bouncing our way South down the Nicoya Peninsula. I say bouncing simply because the only road from Naranjo to Paquera is about as rough a road as you'll ever drive. After such a tough stretch driving down, we were greatly relieved to finally make it to our planned destination.

We were hopeful that Santa Lucia, Tambor and Montezuma would ease our frazzled nerves and give credence to their well deserved reviews. Well, that isn't totally true. After that rough road we were anxious to just sit back and rest. We weren't sure Santa Lucia and Tambor would offer much respite, but we looked forward to seeing them regardless.

We had met another couple that had stayed in Santa Lucia while we were day tripping out of San Jose a few weeks before. Long story short, they loved the area, but said there really wasn't a whole lot to do in Santa Lucia proper. Oh sure, they went ziplining, did a little snorkeling, walked the beaches and went kayaking but there wasn't a lot to do in the town itself. Following their advice, we simply cruised through town and did a quick stop at the local beach to check out the views. After a bit of walking around, we jumped back into the jeep and headed to Tambor.

The area around Santa Lucia was gorgeous (as expected) however they were right on the money in terms of things to do. If you're hoping for a string of restaurants and a wild nightlife just keep on trucking. Santa Lucia is perfect for...

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In my last post about our travels in Costa Rica we were bouncing our way South down the Nicoya Peninsula. I say bouncing simply because the only road from Naranjo to Paquera is about as rough a road as you’ll ever drive. After such a tough stretch driving down, we were greatly relieved to finally make it to our planned destinations.

We were hopeful that Santa Lucia, Tambor and Montezuma would ease our frazzled nerves and give credence to their well deserved reviews. Well, that isn’t totally true. After that rough road we were anxious to just sit back and rest. We weren’t sure Santa Lucia and Tambor would offer much respite, but we looked forward to seeing them regardless.

We met a nice couple while on a day tour out of San Jose when we checked out some active volcanoes, a coffee plantation and a whole bunch of waterfalls, who passed on some great advice. They had just spent a week renting a large house in Santa Lucia with a dozen extended family members. They had all converged on Santa Lucia for a week from all over North America and in their last few days in the country (when me met them) they all went their own ways to do their own things. We thought it was a nice way to have a joint vacation and are hoping to do something similar with our extended family in the coming years.

Anyway, they loved the area, but said there really wasn’t a whole lot to do in Santa Lucia proper. Oh sure, they went ziplining, did a little snorkeling, walked the beaches and went kayaking but there wasn’t a lot to do in the town itself. Following their advice, we simply cruised through town and did a quick stop at the local beach to check out the views.

Beach Near Tambor Costa Rica

Sea Birds Off the Coast Near Tambor Costa Rica

The area around Santa Lucia was gorgeous (as expected) however they were right on the money in terms of things to do. If you’re hoping for a string of restaurants and a wild nightlife just keep on trucking. Santa Lucia is perfect for those looking to get away from it all and have a nice quiet stay. Some of the houses right off the water would be a great place to relax for a few days with the kids, however the lack of close amenities could be a massive turnoff for some.

In a similar vein, if it wasn’t for its tiny airfield, the large all-inclusive Barcelo Tambor Beach Hotel and the Los Delfines Golf and Country Club, we’re not sure Tambor would exist on a map. Since we weren’t flying out from there (they offer 20 minutes flights to and from San Jose and several other Costa Rica destinations for a surprisingly reasonable amount) and weren’t planning on staying at the very large and seemingly very nice Barcelo Tambor Beach Hotel (though we were awfully tempted to check in for a few days of all-inclusive decadence) there wasn’t a lot to do in town.

There’s a supermarket, a few car rental places (due of the airport) and the usual collection of souvenir shops and tour operators. We did a drive by to check out the beach and though the surf seemed calm (Ballena Bay is supposedly one of the safest bays to anchor in on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica) and the volcanic grayish sand looked fairly fine we decided to keep on driving to Montezuma.

Of all the places on the southern tip of the Nicoyan Peninsula, we had heard the most about Montezuma. It was both greater and less than we expected.

On that note I’ll leave you wondering. You can expect the Montezuma post up in a day or two.

Safe travels Barefoot Nomads!

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Should I Visit Tamarindo Costa Rica? http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/should-i-visit-tamarindo-costa-rica/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/should-i-visit-tamarindo-costa-rica/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2012 22:05:42 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=920 Tamarindo is just one of those towns: You love it or hate it. Noone seems to be ambivalent about Tamarindo. Me? I loved and hated Tamarindo.

The Good

Tamarindo's amazing beach to seems to go on forever

Great waves, perfect for surfing, boogie boarding, or just chilling by the sand. At high tide, the waves are way too big and powerful for little kids and weak swimmers. At low tide, waves are smaller, and a bit more manageable for the little ones, if you keep an eye on them.

A foodie's dream beach town. Tamarindo has a great selection of fantastic restaurants (though a bit expensive), but there are a few budget options.

Friendly folks and a laid back vibe.

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Tamarindo’s a bustling beach town on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.

Tamarindo is just one of those towns:  You love it or hate it. Noone seems to be ambivalent about Tamarindo. Me? I loved and hated Tamarindo.

The Good

  • Tamarindo’s amazing beach to seems to go on forever
  • Great waves, perfect for surfing, boogie boarding, or just chilling by the sand. At high tide, the waves are way too big and powerful for little kids and weak swimmers. At low tide, waves are smaller, and a bit more manageable for the little ones, if you keep an eye on them.
  • A foodie’s dream beach town. Tamarindo has a great selection of fantastic restaurants (though a bit expensive), but there are a few budget restaurant options.
  • Friendly folks and a laid back vibe.
  • You won’t be bored. There are a ton of activities in town, and some of them are surprisingly affordable.

The Bad

  • Holy, f***ing hotness. And we were there in the January, in the cool season. I’m not talking a bit hot, I’m talking an hour in the direct sun will fry you into a nice replica of those instant bacon strips. We hid inside from 1-3 in the afternoon because we were afraid our kids would spontaneously combust on the three minute walk to the beach.
  • It’s called Tamagringo for a reason. A fun beach town, but definitely not for anyone looking for an authentic Costa Rican cultural experience.
  • Infrastructure. Or the lack of it. While the main road into town is (mostly) paved, most of the road in town is a rutted, dusty dirt track with constant traffic spewing dust, noise and exhaust. Definitely not pedestrian friendly.
  • Growing rumors of a drug and crime problem. Locals warned us repeatedly to stay away from the beach area near the traffic circle after dark. Waitresses ran to rescue the belongings we left on the table when we went to pay at the cash register, telling us that our stuff would be swiped immediately if we didn’t keep an eye on it. In the month we were there, we never had a problem, but the constant reminders told us that there’s a problem brewing.

The Take Home

You should visit Tamarindo if you’re in the mood for an alternative to a standard, packaged beach vacation.  Tamarindo is small enough to make you feel like part of the local vibe right away.

Check out these posts:

 

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The Elusive Tamarindo Car Rental http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/the-elusive-tamarindo-car-rental/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/the-elusive-tamarindo-car-rental/#comments Sun, 25 Mar 2012 07:01:41 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=860 You’d think renting a car in Tamarindo would be easy. There are at least a dozen car rental places in Tamarindo. Hertz. Dollar. Budget. Mapache. National. Alamo. Economy. Vamos. Toyota Car Rental. Poas Car Rental. PuraVida Car Rental (websites and phone numbers for car rental companies in Tamarindo). All this in a town in Costa Rica with fewer than 5,000 people during tourist season.

It’s just that all the cars are all rented to someone else. All the time.

We were in Tamarindo for over a month. After checking out some of the awesome things to do in Tamarindo, we called to pick up a 4×4 for an off-road roadtrip. Unforturnately, when we called to make a reservation for our Tamarindo car rental, not one of the car rental agencies had a little 4×4 for rent. Or even a car of any kind for rent. They told us to check back the next day. This went on for four days, until voila, Hertz had a little Diahatsu 4×4 for us.

The moral of the story? When in Tamarindo, reserve your car well in advance. This wasn’t a big deal for us, as we had plenty of time and a flexible schedule, but it may be a problem if you’re only in town for a week.

Where to Rent a Car in Tamarindo

Though Hertz wasn’t the cheapest, they were close to us and always seemed to have a car available when others didn’t. We rented a great little Diahatsu Bego 4×4 from them. Hertz was quick and professional, and the cars all seemed to be in good condition. One downside is that Hertz’ office is a hot, dusty, 10 minute walk from the center of town.

Based on chats with some other travellers, they seemed to have good luck with Hertz, Budget and Alamo. Economy seems to be the cheapest place in town, but we heard mixed reviews about the quality of cars. If you’re in the center of Tamarindo, Economy is probably the best location. Economy is just off the roundabout by the beach.

You can book a Tamarindo car rental directly from any travel site, or directly from the car rental sites. I like to use Car Rentals.com to compare the costs of different car companies. They seem to have the biggest selection of vendors for Tamarindo (including Thrifty, Avis, Budget and Hertz) and they let you compare their prices against Expedia and Hotwire at the same time.

$16.95 A Day Rental Cars from CarRentals.com

Because cars in Tamarindo seem to be in such high demand, we heard a few stories of reserved cars not being available when people went to pick them up, so you might want to bookmark this list just in case your car isn’t there.

Car Rental Agencies in Tamarindo

Adobe. Phone (Liberia): 2667-0608
Alamo. Phone: 2653-0727
Budget. Phone: 2653-0756
Dollar. Phone (San Jose): 2443-9250
Economy. Phone: 2653-0728
Hertz. Phone: 2653-1358
Hola. Phone (Liberia): 2667-4040
Mapache. Phone: 2653-1717
National. Phone (San Jose): 2242-7878
Payless Car Rental. Phone: (Liberia): 2667-0511
Thrifty. Phone: 2653-0829
Toyota Car Rental. Phone: 2668-1212

Tips!

  • Some of the out of town car rental agencies, like Dollar, will even drive a car down from Liberia if you’re desperate. We tried to have Dollar drive a car to Tamarindo from Liberia, but the drop off fee ended up being too expensive.
  • If you want to rent a car in nearby beaches like Playa Langosta, Playa Grande or Playa Flamingo, you may find that you need to rent in Tamarindo. Playa Flamingo does have an Economy rent a car office, but there’s a fairly high demand, so book in advance.
  • If you’re flying in to Tamarindo, you may need to take a cab to the car rental agency. The airport is about 3 minutes away from most of the car rental agencies, but probably too far to walk in the heat with luggage. Check with the car rental agency, as they may be able to arrange a shuttle to pick you up at the airport.
  • We heard a few stories about people being charged for damages that were on the car when they picked it up. Always fill out the company’s damage form, and mark down scratches, dents and cracks in the windshield.  You may want to look under the car, and also check the tires to see if there’s any damage, given that some of the roads around Tamarindo are very rough. If the car rental agency doesn’t have a damage form, take pictures and videos of the car before you drive it off the lot.
Daihatsu Bego Costa Rica

Daihatsu Bego Costa Rica

Do I need a 4×4?

If you’re just driving to Liberia or San Jose, the roads are generally pretty good and you shouldn’t need a 4×4. However, if you’re going to visit the smaller beaches or towns a 4×4 is a good option.  We drove from Tamarindo to Montezuma, and ended up on a track no car could ever negotiate.

The roads in Guranacaste are mostly rocky and rutted, and can change from decent condition to barely driveable in a few short miles. If you’re adventurous and want to go a bit further afield, you’ll definitely want to rent a 4×4. Cars in Costa Rica tend to be smaller, so you’ll pay a premium if you want a larger 4×4 like a Jeep Cherokee, but you can pick up a completely servicable little 4×4 like a Diahatsu Bego for just a little more than a regular car.

Tamarindo Car Rental Insurance

In Costa Rica, your car rental includes mandatory liability insurance. Always ask if the rental price you’re quoted includes the liability insurance. Some companies like to tack it on as a little surprise when you pick up the car.  If you have collision damage waiver insurance on your credit card, you may be able to waive the rental agencies CDW insurance, but check with your credit card company first.

This post is part of our Barefoot Guide to Tamarindo, which dishes on where to eat on a budget, gives you the self-catering supermarket options in town, and outlines some of the great things we found to occupy ourselves in Tamarindo.

 

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Pura Vida at Mango Condos Tamarindo http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/pura-vida-at-mango-condos-tamarindo/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/pura-vida-at-mango-condos-tamarindo/#comments Thu, 22 Mar 2012 17:10:46 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=858 We stayed at Mango Condos for a month during our stay in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Overall, Mango was one of the cheaper Tamarindo condos we looked at renting. We were quite happy with the value that we got for the price, despite a couple of minor problems.

Price. We negotiated with the ever-patient owner, Julius, and got our two bed, one bath unit at Mango condo for a month, starting in mid-January, for $1,200 USD. When we went, the Tamarindo economy was still in a bit of a funk, but prices were starting to pick up again, so you might pay more.

Security. The condos have a secure, locked front entrance, with separate keys for each condo. There are three levels, with condos facing either the dusty front street or the big leafy trees in back. A troupe of howler monkeys traveled through trees in the back a couple of times, making for some great wildlife watching out back. Because the condo is about a three minute walk from the beach, none of the condos have ocean views.

Pool. The pool is nice but small, with a small kiddie pool and an attractive fountain. It's great for a quick plunge, but not really big enough to hang out at all day. It's in the center of a small courtyard, and out of the sun most of the day. The cafe tables by the courtyard are a great place to read the local paper or enjoy a drink...

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We stayed at Mango Condos for a month during our stay in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Overall, Mango was one of the cheaper Tamarindo condos we looked at renting. We were quite happy with the value that we got for the price, despite a couple of minor problems.

Mango Condo Tamarindo

Mango Condo Tamarindo

Price. We negotiated with the ever-patient owner, Julius, and got our two bed, one bath unit at Mango condo for a month, starting in mid-January, for $1,200 USD. When we went, the Tamarindo economy was still in a bit of a funk, but prices were starting to pick up again, so you might pay more.

Security. The condos have a secure, locked front entrance, with separate keys for each condo. There are three levels, with condos facing either the dusty front street or the big leafy trees in back. A troupe of howler monkeys traveled through trees in the back a couple of times, making for some great wildlife watching out back. Because Mango condos are about a three minute walk from the beach, none of the condos have ocean views.

Pool. The pool is nice but small, with a small kiddie pool and an attractive fountain. It’s great for a quick plunge, but not really big enough to hang out at all day. It’s in the center of a small courtyard, and out of the sun most of the day. The cafe tables by the courtyard are a great place to read the local paper or enjoy a drink.

Laundry. There was a washer and dryer on site that we used for $4 USD a load on an honor system. The laundry facilities were in the dusty, cinder block shell of an uncompleted condo. The dryer was broken when we were there, so we hung our laundry on the clothesline strung around in the laundry area. Since there were no windows in there, our laundry dried overnight in the heat.

Internet. The only Internet connection in our condo was hardwired, which was fine. We just set up the laptop on the desk by the kitchen table and worked from there.

Mango condos is owned by a friendly Canadian expat named Julius. He was extremely helpful and patient with all of our questions and emails.

We rented a two bedroom, one bath, condo on the third floor at Mango condos. Inside, the condo was gorgeous, and very similar to the photos on HomeAway or VRBO, though our condo didn’t have a vaulted ceiling. The condo we rented was modern, with granite counter tops and a nice fridge and stove. The air conditioning worked perfectly.

Potential Problems

While we were happy with Mango condominiums, there are a few things to be aware of:

  • Our condo wasn’t equipped with any basic cooking supplies like dish soap, paper towels, or spices except for a small container of salt and pepper. The cooking utensils, pots and pans, and coffee maker were nice, although a blender would have been great. Gotta love those fresh margaritas!
  • We chatted with another couple who’d made a last minute reservation, and they were quite upset at being given a smaller condo than they said they were promised. Apparently, their condo was one of the first built, and lacked a few key features, like windows that opened fully.
  • Because the road in front is gravel, it constantly throws up dust. The plants in front and the entrance are coated in dust if they’re left for a couple of days without washing. Because we were in the back of the condo, dust wasn’t a big problem for us, but I’d imagine the condos in front get a bit of dust. That said, a lot of the roads in Tamarindo aren’t paved, so that may be a problem in other condos in town.
  • We had understood that a maid would come in once a week, but after about 10 days we had to ask Julius to get them in. It took a little negotiation with Julius to make the maids appear a couple of days later, and they did a pretty perfunctory job. Not a big deal; I imagine it was just a simple mix-up and was resolved fairly quickly.
  • The condos are still under construction, so there’s a chance you may get some construction noise or disruption, though there wasn’t any while we were there.

Mango Center Condos is located at the beginning of the dusty, bumpy road to Playa Longasta, and about a three minute walk to gorgeous Playa Tamarindo.  It’s a five minute walk to Playa Langosta for a great afternoon checking out the waves, or lounging by the pool at the Langosta Beach Club.

This post is part of our Barefoot Guide to Tamarindo, which dishes on where to eat on a budget, gives you the self-catering supermarket options in town, tells about some of the great things we found to occupy ourselves, and gives some hints on how to actually find a car to rent in Tamarindo.

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Supermarkets in Tamarindo http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/supermarkets-in-tamarindo/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/supermarkets-in-tamarindo/#comments Mon, 19 Mar 2012 23:23:04 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=856 Tamarindo's expensive, and the grocery stores are no exception. Once we got used to the sticker shock after coming from San Jose, we managed to find almost everything we needed at the local Tamarindo supermarkets.

Super 2001 - Our condo was about half a block away, so this was our default place to stock up on groceries. This is a very small supermarket (only about five isles, so about the size of a convenience store in Canada or the US).

The good. Considering the store is so small, they have a respectable selection of North American staples. There are some decent bakery items (including pizza) in the cases next to the cashiers. The wine selection was good.

The bad. Not cheap, but nothing is in Tamarindo. This is the smallest of the three main grocery stores in Tamarindo...

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Tamarindo’s expensive, and the grocery stores are no exception. We spent a month in town, so we had plenty of time to check out all the local places for self catering.

Once we got used to the sticker shock after coming from San Jose, we managed to find almost everything we needed at the local Tamarindo supermarkets.


View Barefoot Guide to Tamarindo, Costa Rica in a larger map

Super 2001

Our condo was about half a block away, so this was our default place to stock up on groceries. This is a very small supermarket (only about five isles, so about the size of a convenience store in Canada or the US).

The good. Considering the store is so small, they have a respectable selection of North American staples. There are some decent bakery items (including pizza) in the cases next to the cashiers. The wine selection was good.

The bad. Not cheap, but nothing is in Tamarindo. This is the smallest of the three main grocery stores in Tamarindo, so you’re better off doing your major shopping somewhere else. The produce selection is pretty lean, and what’s in store is generally wilted and looking a bit worse for wear.

The indifferent. We’d been told Super 2001 was the most expensive place in Tamarindo, but after comparing the supermarkes, their prices seem pretty much the same as anywhere else.

Super 2001 is located just after the turnoff to Calle Tamarindo. Matt at 10feettravelling has some good pictures of Super2001.

Super Compro

I wanted to like this, I really did. It’s the most typical Costa Rican store of the three supermarkets in town and caters more to locals than tourists.

Unfortunately, Super Compro isn’t air conditioned, and there’s no air flowthrough the store. There were some pretty nasty smells oozing though the store on a couple of our visits. That said, it’s well stocked, though you won’t find more than standard North American items here (parmesan reggiano is out of the question, though you will find some standard American cheeses). We did pick up a cheap $10 boogie board.

Super Compro is located just across from the local park in the center of town.

Super Las Palmeras

Super Las Palmeras is a one minute walk from the Hotel Diria, on the main paved road into Tamarindo. It’s reasonably well stocked with the basics, and is conveniently across from the beach for a quick stock up on sunscreen.

Auto Mercado Supermarket

Automercado Supermarket Tamarindo Costa Rica

Automercado Supermarket Tamarindo Costa Rica

Auto Mercado is about two miles outside of central Tamarindo. It’s only a $5 cab ride, or (as we learned the hard way) a hot, sweaty, dusty 30 minutes walk down a busy road with no sidewalks. Spring for the cab.

Auto Mercado is the nicest, newest, most Western of all the supermarkets in town. It’s part of a chain of San Jose grocery stores. Once you step foot in here, it’s easy to forget you’re in Costa Rica. You easily could be inside any generic supermarket, in any generic North American town.

The store is well stocked, so you should be able to find almost anything your little North American heart desires, from American coffee to gnocci and Ritz crackers. They carry a good selection of housewares, and probably have the best wine, beer and liqour selection in Tamarindo.

Their bakery is well stocked and darn delicous, too. The produce section is the biggest in Tamarindo and the produce looks fresh.

The good. Amazing selection. Clean and air conditioned. Great bakery and produce, and a well stocked fresh fish and butcher shop.

The bad. If you’re looking for an authentic Costa Rican shopping experience, this is not where you’ll find it.

Auto Mercado Supermarket is located in the Garden Plaza Shopping Center, just off the highway on the way into town.

If you get a chance to stock up at a grocery store in San Jose or Liberia, you’ll save a bundle. Grocery stores in Costa Rica are generally cheaper than in the US, Canada, or Europe, but you’ll pay about the same price for packaged foods (like Oreos) as you do at home.

We stopped at the Mega Super supermarket in Santa Cruz (the closest large town), and (surprisingly!) found the prices no cheaper than in Tamarindo. The trip to Santa Cruz was worth it, just to see a glimpse of more typical Tico life than you see in Tamarindo.

This post is part of our Barefoot Guide to Tamarindo, which dishes on the cheap restaurants in Tamarindo, fills you in on some of the great activities we found to occupy ourselves, and gives some hints on how to actually find a car to rent in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

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Searching For Cheap Restaurants In Tamarindo http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/searching-for-cheap-restaurants-in-tamarindo/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/costa-rica/searching-for-cheap-restaurants-in-tamarindo/#comments Sun, 18 Mar 2012 01:15:40 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=853 Tamarindo has no shortage of great restaurants. It does, however, have a big shortage of cheap restaurants. With a month to spend in Tamarindo, and a family of four to feed, we didn't want to spend a fortune on eating out. These are the best cheap eats that we found in Tamarindo on a budget.

Pizzeria La Baula

This place has me so Pavlovian-conditioned that just saying Pizzaria La Buala makes my mouth water. Pizzeria La Baula is a home run: Amazing pizzas with high quality ingredients and a comfortable, casual, attractive place to hang out.

If you're craving anything other than pizza or salads...

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Tamarindo has no shortage of great restaurants. It does, however, have a big shortage of cheap restaurants. With a month to spend in Tamarindo, and a family of four to feed, we didn’t want to spend a fortune on eating out. These are the best cheap eats that we found in Tamarindo on a budget.


View Barefoot Guide to Tamarindo, Costa Rica in a larger map

Pizzeria La Baula

This place has me so Pavlovian-conditioned that just saying Pizzaria La Buala makes my mouth water. Pizzeria La Baula is a home run: Amazing pizzas with high quality ingredients and a comfortable, casual, attractive place to hang out.

If you’re craving anything other than pizza or salads, you’re out of luck here. They do make some awesome fruit smoothies that are a pretty good deal. The pizzas range from standards like Hawaiian and four cheese, to prosciutto, arugula, and parmesan, and other wonderful toppings. The crust is thin and crispy.

Every time we ate at La Baula (which means leatherback turtle in Spanish), the owners were right there, asking if our meals were good, and chatting with everyone in the restaurant. It made for a nice vibe.

This place is located down a little dirt side road off Calle Real (good luck finding a street sign in Tamarindo). The road looks a little dodgy on first inspection if you’re making our first foray after dark. We braved it, and found the welcoming smells and lights of Pizzeria La Baula about a three minute walk down the road. The entire restaurant is open air, and furnished in tables and chairs made of local wood. There’s a cute little playground (swings and a slide) on site to amuse the kids (though the slide’s a bit high for the smaller tykes).

Cost. Pizzas run around $10 USD, and smoothies run around $3. One pizza’s probably too small for a couple, but two pizzas fed Chuck, me, and our two little ones with no problems (though we’re not big eaters). La Buala is a great choice for someone eating out on a budget in Tamarindo.

Le Petit Cafe

The owner of Le Petit Cafe, Allison, is a friendly and laid back Canadian. I’d give two thumbs up simply based on her attitude and how welcome she made us feel. We must have eaten here a dozen times over the course of a month, often just to grab a bubble tea and a sweet to escape the heat of the afternoon.

The good. Cute, clean as a whistle, and (thank God!) fully air conditioned. They do have a nice outside patio for evenings or those tough enough to brave the heat.

Favorites. You’ll score a win with pretty much any of the sweets. The brownies are especially yummy. Sandwiches are small, but good. Charles loved the avacado melt, stuffed with avocado, bacon, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and pesto.

Their coffee is top-notch; you can get a pretty mean espresso or latte here. Strangely enough, good coffee can be hard to come by in Costa Rica – most of the good stuff seems to be exported. Most local restaurants serve the ever-popular lower quality grounds pre-blended with sugar, but the coffee at Le Petit Cafe was top notch.

The bad. Portions (especially sandwiches) are quite small compared to typical Western portions. That said, they tasted pretty darn good, but someone especially hungry or a larger guy will need to order something extra.

Cost: If this is the first place you walk into in Tamarindo, you’ll think the prices are a bit expensive. That said, restaurants in Tamarindo are pretty expensive, and Le Petit Cafe is one of the most inexpensive in town. Sandwiches run around $6 USD, sweets range from $2 to $4 USD, and coffee’s around $2-5, depending on your poison. A huge breakfast burrito is $4.

Nogui’s Sunset Cafe

Location, location, location. Nogui’s Sunset Cafe is smack in the middle of gorgeous Playa Tamarindo, with a front row view of Playa Grande, surfers hitting the waves and the gorgeous waters of the Pacific.

We stopped at Nogui’s Sunset Cafe for mid-afternoon snacks, so I can’t say much about their suppers. Our fries and guacamole were fresh and tasty, and the portions were big. They’ve got an enormous menu, with some darn strange smoothie combinations for the adventurous. Our food did take a good while to come (about half an hour, which is an eternity when you have a two year old with you), but that’s pretty typical for a beach restaurant in Costa Rica.

Nogui’s is famous for their pies (especially cream pies). To my undying regret, we didn’t get to try one, but the folks at the next table were raving about their coconut cream pie.

Cost. A little cheaper than typical for Tamarindo. Our appitizers were about $7 USD a plate. Though we never made it, Nogui’s had a 2 for 1 happy hour from 5-7. If you choose carefully from the menu, you can get a meal on a budget here.

 Taco Stop

Taco Stop is a funky little hole in the wall, with cheap prices and tasty food. It’s right beside Mango condos, on the dusty road to Playa Langosta.

The owners are laid back surfers, and it shows. The vibe is uber, uber casual, somewhere between laid back and grubby (I mean this in a nice way, really). If you’re looking for white tablecloths, fine crystal and haute cuisine, this is soooo not the place for you. You’ll be sitting outside (but sheltered from the rain) with local pups running around your feet.

In fact, if you expect that the place will be regularly open during business hours, this may not be the place for you. We came by a couple of times at supper time (6:30ish) and it was closed, but had some luck a few days later.

Taco Stop is owned by two Argentinian brothers who made us feel right at home. The cook for the night (not sure which of the brothers that was) even went out of his way to make a cute little quesadilla plate (not on the menu) for our little two year old.

Our veggie and chicken burritos were both enormous, and packed with beans, veggies, and cheese in a melt in your mouth homemade tortilla. The salsa and guacamole were homemade and delicious.

Cost. Possibly the least expensive meal we had in Tamarindo. Our burritos were around $4 USD, and the excellent fruit smoothies were around $2. Taco Stop is a great choice for eating out on a budget in Tamarindo.

 Langosta Beach Club

These guys have cornered the market in casual elegance in Tamarindo. Langosta Beach Club is located right on Langosta beach, and you can choose a table right on the sand, or one under the leafy trees by the infinity pool.

The food’s pretty darn good too. We went for lunch, and loved the paninis on homemade bread, and delicious salads. Their fruit smoothies may be the best in Tamarindo (and that’s saying a lot – we never had a bad smoothie in town). My favorite was the strawberry. The crepes with fruit and honey or chocolate were absolutely amazing; some of the best I’ve had.

At night, the white tablecloths and good china come out, and the Langosta Beach club transforms into an elegant, romantic restaurant. With two Trits-covered little kids in tow, it’s hard to be elegant, and especially hard to be romantic, so we never tried their supper menu. Too bad – it looked delicious.

There was a $15/day fee per adult (our little ones were free) to use the infinity pool and facilities when we were there. We had some of our best days in Tamarindo lounging by the infinity pool, and grabbing a snack in the comfy, elegant palapas. It was awesome location to catch some great waves on our boogie boards and splash in the infinity pool.

We did hear a few complaints that the staff could be a bit … how do I say this? … rude. In response, all I have to say is that the owner/manager is, well, French. We treated the folks there with respect and tried to be reasonable, and they were absolutely wonderful to us. They even went so far as to loan us some beach towels for us the day we forgot ours (we didn’t even have to ask).

Langosta Beach Club is about a five minute walk down the dusty road to Playa Longasta.

Cost. Langosta Beach Club isn’t especially cheap, but it is good value if you’ll willing to pay a bit extra for the atmosphere. Crepes were about $7 USD, smoothies were around $3 USD, and paninis ranged from $9 to $12 USD. The dinner menu was much more expensive, but definitely looked tempting.

Photos of Mandarina Tropical Juice Bar, Tamarindo
This photo of Mandarina Tropical Juice Bar is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Mandarina Tropical Juice Bar

Mandarina is a great place to grab a quick afternoon snack or a drink. Three’s not much here other than fresh fruit smoothies made to order, ice cream, iced coffee, salads, and light sandwiches, so save Mandarina for a quick bite. They also make an awesome, filling, breakfast smoothie with oatmeal and fruit salads. The kids might love a granizado, a refreshing creation of ice cream, lemonade, and topped with fruit. Our main problem with Mandarina was that the Tamarindo heat turned our ice cream into puddles faster than we could eat it.

Mandarina has two locations in Tamarindo. Most people go to the one on Calle Principal, just off the beach, but the location near the entrance to town is larger, and has better selection.

Cost:  An ice cream and fruit smoothie is $3.50 USD, a granizado is $3 USD, and a smoothie/salad combo runs about $6 UDS.

This post is part of our Barefoot Guide to Tamarindo, which checks out the local supermarkets, talks about the condo we stayed at (Mango condos), dishes on some of our favorite cheap things to do in Tamarindo, and gives some hints on how to actually find a car to rent in Tamarindo.

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