Saturday, November 08, 2008

Costa Rica: Ugly Driving and Beautiful Xandari

I've been thinking about Costa Rica for years. Driving my wife crazy. Well, I was goofing around with my Northwest Airlines frequent flyer miles on their website and (with spousal approval) booked a short trip to Costa Rica. And now we're here.

We arrived after a fairly long flight - a bit longer because the plane had to fly around Hurricane Paloma. Then we had a minor adventure getting our rental SUV (4wd suggested due to rough roads). On that point, I have to say that Dollar Rent-A-Car's idea of a luxury SUV is not the same as mine. We got a large Mitsubishi that is competent on the road, but it's not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination. But what should I expect for $40/day?

Going to our hotel at night, we got our first experience driving in Costa Rica. It ain't easy. The directions were reasonably clear, but the streets do not appear to have names. For that matter, one-way streets are not clearly marked. As we discovered when a motorcycle cop advised me that I was going "contravia" (wrong way). Fortunately he was a nice guy or had more important things to do, so he gave me directions and went on his way.

After that slight detour we found our resort. We spent the first night at Xandari in Alajuela. The resort is gorgeous and so was our room. Very spacious with a large terrace and expansive views of the Central Valley.

Customer service at Xandari was outstanding. Our plans had us arriving fairly late. So they e-mailed me a few days to let me know their kitchen would be closed and asking if we'd like anything in our room waiting for us. We ordered a few dishes and they were all very good. We stopped back for lunch the next day after a morning trip and that was great too. We'll be back there in a couple nights so maybe I'll post something more about that in my restaurant review blog later on. Below is a photo of the view from our terrace the next morning:

For the digerati, Xandari has wifi in the lobby area. I used it to check e-mails and then used TruPhone on my iPhone to make a few calls. TruPhone costs 3 cents a minute. My cell phone roaming in CR is $2.29 a minute, so that was a nice trick, though TruPhone was a bit erratic on one of the calls.

That was the beginning. More to come.

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