Poor signage meant we also took the 'back' road from the Bijagua side. Our so called 4x4 Hyundai had poor clearance and no power up the hilly and rocky road. With careful driving we made it to virtually the gates of the hotel then had the bad luck to run over a small piece of construction wire carelessly tossed aside and got the inevitable flat tire!
We arrived much earlier than check-in time so were pleased to be told our room would be ready in 40 minutes. We returned from the suggested trail down to the rio Celeste (lovely) 70 minutes later to repeated excuses and were kept hanging around for nearly another hour, which was irritating.
We eventually got delivered to our room (following another delay outside it as they went back to get the key they had forgotten) to find it was indeed highly luxurious and simply beautiful. The pool, hot tubs, bar, restaurant etc., all stunning. The gardens were very densely planted with exotic species - so much so there was no hope of bird watching, but it did mean privacy.
We tried to arrange the advertised 4-hour bird walk the next morning, followed by river tubing in the afternoon. They kept messing us around on the timings, duration of walk (reduced to an hour or so yet they still tried to charge the same amount for it until we complained) and basically wanted us to fit in with the guide's convenience not ours, so he did not have to wait to take us tubing after lunch. Several calls from reception later, we finally agreed to go tubing earlier to suit them. The bird walk started at 5.30am, which was a waste of an hour's sleep as we were waiting around in the road outside the lodge for ages before we got a sighting of anything. The birding was the poorest we experienced to date. The only time we saw anything was when we were invited into a local's garden and when we sneaked into the gardens of an adjacent hotel. The roadside tour of largely denuded land was a non-starter. The guide did not even have a scope, so no close-ups of those non-existent birds!! We grabbed some breakfast then we were off for our earlier than planned river tubing. Unfortunately the river was very low so rapids were just opportunities to get your tube stuck and have to struggle out and drag yourself over to a clear stretch. I did enjoy it nevertheless but my partner's tube was too big for her to properly brace herself over the rocks so a stiff neck and bruised bottom ensued. Lunch was included in the tubing, but because they made us do the trip early, we arrive at the restaurant just after 11.30 which was far too early to eat. We instead asked to be delivered back to the hotel, whereupon we later paid for our own lunch.
After the above very disappointing trips, we at least thought we would go and relax by the pool. Oh no we wouldn't! We arrived to find the whole pool area overrun with weekending Ticos who had claimed every lounger in sight and were busily having cocktails in the hot tubs or playing loudly with their kids in the pool. Fascinating watching the locals at play but not if you want to relax.
The restaurant did reasonable food, but it was very expensive. We understood why when we saw the enormous 'supersize me' portions, which to our European sensibilities was wasteful and very off-putting. Pricing was bizarre as well, with a huge piece of tuna costing much less than a plain bowl of pasta! Waiting staff were extremely obsequious, over-familiar, overbearing and unnervingly, ever-present. This contrasted sharply with the reception staff's indifference and ineptitude but neither approach was particularly welcome.
Overall, despite the luxury, this hotel left us cold. With 26 suites and a very large, busy restaurant it was not so much a 'hideaway' but party central, at least at weekends. The Tenorio area is developing rapidly and has been stripped of vast forest areas for both agriculture and tourism over recent years. Our guide told us that less than 15 years ago, it was impenetrable forest with no roads. We did not visit the park to do the hike to the famed Rio Celeste waterfall as the huge numbers of tour buses and queuing visitors put us off.
If you still fancy staying here - and it's sheer luxury and indulgence will appeal to many - come midweek and perhaps not in peak season! Also, try ordering one meal between two!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Rio Celeste Hideaway is a boutique, gourmet and ecologically orientated hotel. It provides a world of comfort and style surrounded by an untouched natural paradise. This hidden hotel is located in the middle of the Rainforest adjacent to the Tenorio Volcano National Park where the amazing Rio Celeste lies. Surrounded by lush tropical rainforest, each one of its 26 spacious casitas (bungalows) provides an exclusive retreat in which guests can relax amidst the breathtaking rainforest. ... more less
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