from Pinckney, Michigan
Submitted on 02-10-2016
I stayed here for 8 days as a solo traveler for the 2nd half of my trip to Costa Rica in mid-Sept, during the rainy season. I will first briefly outline my experience here, then will conclude with some tips/recommendations should you decide to visit/stay at this resort. Borinquen is one of the most beautiful resorts I've stayed, and is top-notch in terms of natural beauty, landscaping, food, and service. The grounds are located approx. 45mins from Liberia (I did not rent a car, but utilized a sh...
I stayed here for 8 days as a solo traveler for the 2nd half of my trip to Costa Rica in mid-Sept, during the rainy season. I will first briefly outline my experience here, then will conclude with some tips/recommendations should you decide to visit/stay at this resort. Borinquen is one of the most beautiful resorts I've stayed, and is top-notch in terms of natural beauty, landscaping, food, and service. The grounds are located approx. 45mins from Liberia (I did not rent a car, but utilized a shuttle service for transportation to/from the airport) - the primary road to the resort is a steep/winding dirt road with several potholes that requires complete driver focus; expect ~20mph maximum to safely navigate the obstacles without compromising the integrity of the vehicle's suspension.
Grounds: breathtakingly spectacular. The room is actually a private bungalow, luxuriously appointed with tile floor, classic sturdy wooden doors, exposed wooden trusses at the ceiling, large king bed with full "canopy", and with room 212, a sliding wooden/glass door that opens to a nice deck/patio with a small table, chair, and hammock. The bungalows are spaced similarly to houses on a street - plenty of room between them for privacy, but not too far to feel isolated. Be advised that the walkways/roads on the grounds are very steep (similar in grade, if not steeper, to what you'd find in downtown San Francisco), so the walk from the restaurant or reception/lobby to your bungalow is quite challenging, especially in the rain...I hike often, so I enjoyed the challenge, but it is tough. The hotel does offer complimentary/frequent golf cart transportation to assist those that prefer to avoid the walk. The lagoon-style pool is a great example of the architectural beauty that highlights the symbiotic relationship between constructed edifices and natural surroundings; you'll find two levels, each with their own areas that flow into each other via channels, well-designed rock/stone landscaping, and a nice 360-deg pool bar that offers half-perimeter seating out of water, and half pool service "seating". The resort has its own trails - a nice short one connects the spa area to the pool area that is well-maintained, crossing over a beautiful high-flowing creek. The spa is absolutely amazing, perfectly situated near the volcanic hot spring, hovering over the creek; definitely opt for a massage, even if just a 30min appt - its unique location is truly one-of-a-kind and you'll experience perfect harmony with the natural surroundings. The mud bath and hot spring pools are definitely worth experiencing while you're here...I hadn't experienced a spa-atmosphere before, but you will regret passing it up if you stay here.
Restaurant: The food here is excellent - exquisite flavor and great selection. Perception of cost is relative to your lifestyle/expectations...there are 2 restaurants onsite (1 for breakfast/lunch, and 1 for dinner), and it is important to remember these are your only option for several miles. If you rent a car, expect a 30min drive minimum to somewhere else; if you don't have a car, there is not a shuttle available to take you off-grounds. Expect typical dinner dishes to range from $20-$28; this is actually very reasonable for the quality of food and the convenience of dining in a high-end resort. I especially liked the typical Costa Rican fair (chicken/fish, rice/beans, sweet plantains). I also enjoy wine with dinner; they have a well-diversified wine list, and expect bottles to range from $25-$40 for the most accessible and good-quality wines...Italian and Spanish reds command slightly higher entries. Breakfast options are few, but there is something for all flavors (American-style with eggs/bacon, Costa Rican-style with rice/beans/fruit, and healthy-style with fruit/granola/yogurt)...other options as well, but that was a general summary. Lunch is very similar to dinner options, but at approx. half to 2/3 the cost of dinner. I'd like to respectfully reiterate that this is a luxury resort; expectations on quality/cost of food need to be aligned accordingly, and as such, I would say it's an excellent deal.
Service/Friendliness: Top-notch. From the front desk/reception (Joselyn was very sweet and very helpful), to the cleaning staff, restaurant personnel (Allan, Olger, Carlos, Danny, Alonso, Rafael, etc), maintenance staff, and activity guide staff (especially the hiking/equestrian guide Cesar, and the ziplining guides), I felt not only like a welcomed guest, but a part of their family. Each staff member always greeted me with a smile, cordial conversation, and a thank you for joining them as a guest. You will not have a language barrier here (some have more English language experience than others), but I encourage readers to keep in mind that English is their second language. I enjoy the challenge of utilizing other languages, so I chose to speak Spanish for approx. 90% of my stay (I'm not fluent, but have a good foundation, and learned more as each day passed). As you might imagine, anyone in any culture appreciates someone who is wiling to try...and there's nothing wrong with reverting back to English.
Activities: Incredible/awesome. Ziplining was epic, and this resort has the best in the region for sure, with more than 10 platforms in the most beautiful scenery. You'll ride over the canyon/river next to waterfalls and spectacular beauty...an unparalleled experience. Horseback riding was a nice way to take-in the trails of the rainforest, though I must admit that I prefer hiking to horseback. To highlight the character of the staff, my guide Cesar helped me search for my cellphone during one of our expeditions on the grounds (up in the mountain away from the bungalows), which had fallen out of my pocket at some point in my horseback experience. We dismounted, searched on foot for approx. 45mins, at which point another staff member rode up on horseback with my phone in his hand as he found it in some weeds; that was really above and beyond in my expectation. Once we got going again, we went to a hidden waterfall (amazing), and found another somewhat hidden pond with a natural rock water slide (definitely make sure you check these out). Earlier that day, Cesar took me on a 2hr hike through the rainforest trails (far from the bungalows) during which time he pointed out various wildlife including toucans and monkeys. At check-in, I was given a list of all hotel-sponsored activities...here are the ones I highly recommend: "Two-in-One" (combines waterfall, natural waterslide, and ziplining) and you can choose ATV, horseback, or hiking as the means of transportation to the ziplining platform; "Ecological Forest Expedition" - choose hiking, and you will see the wildlife up-close; "Day Adventure Expedition" - this is actually off-site at a nearby location called "El Canon" for which Borinquen offers a shuttle to/from...I'll detail this one in a separate review.
Negatives: Only a few, and I don't want to complain, but thought I should note these since it might be related to some external conditions. First: no ATVs were available for the entirety of my 8-day stay; I was told when I arrived that the entire fleet was down for maintenance. I understand the necessity for vehicle maintenance (I'm an automotive engineer), but don't understand why the fleet couldn't be staged in a way that half the fleet could go in one week, and the rest later. Second: the natural volcanic sauna was taped off in yellow caution tape to prevent entry/usage, and looked to be in shambles. Perhaps some previous storm was the culprit? not sure, didn't ask, wasn't too bothered by it...but would have been nice to use it. Third: Maintenance noise...every day for approx. 4hrs straight (until it rained), leaf blowers, pressure washers, and table saws for wooden repair work were in constant operation, which really detracted from the "natural zen-like" ambiance...a real shame since that is the primary reason you would select this resort. I will say, however, that there was an upcoming wedding later in the week; I'm going to assume most of the maintenance was in preparation for that event, so I can't get too critical. Also, this is the rainy season with very few patrons onsite...if I were the owner/manager, I would also select this "downtime" to catch up on some repairs/work rather than try to coordinate during busy season. A few days off would have been nice though...
Tips: Definitely visit this property
1) I recommend maximum 4 days to stay here, or if you have other accommodations, definitely take a day trip here to do ziplining, hot springs, and spa. 8 days was way too long - I freestyled this trip with no reserved plans, along with a semi-incorrect understanding of what rainy-season meant. In the rainforest in Guanacaste, it does rain every day, but only ~3hrs per day, typically after lunchtime. All activities begin at either 7am or 8am, so you'd be finished by ~2pm anyway. I allocated 8 days because I thought I'd have 3-4 entire days of torrential rain that would preclude me from doing activities...not true. I enjoyed every day at this resort, but having a car would have really helped.
2) Rent a car. This is a remote place and if you have any desire to try another restaurant or check out another nearby place, shuttles, if available, could be costly...but more importantly, you'd be held to a restrictive schedule. You do NOT need 4x4 despite what many reviewers claim...unless you get super-adventurous and go "offroading" as you would in the US. The roads are not great, but weren't much worse than downtown Detroit...all you need to do is pay attention and you'll be fine. Learn how to drive manual transmission equipped vehicles if you don't already know; almost no vehicles have automatics because almost nobody knows how to service them.
3) Get a bungalow up the hill, and one with a patio/hammock
4) Do your own research on activities off-grounds; I'm convinced you could spend less if you drive around, explore the area, and pay for activities directly to the provider (rather than paying the hotel to book it for you)
5) Try speaking a little Spanish if you're so inclined - it's fun, and enhances the experience of culture immersion; the staff will appreciate your efforts
6) Rainy season is far more affordable; I haven't stayed here during dry season, but the 3hrs rain per day actually added to the experience...it's the rainforest after all. Many Costa Ricans told me that Sept/Oct was the best time to visit Guanacaste because the "green" of the forest only comes alive after August (too dry beforehand), and the heavy rain comes after October. Best scenery/vegetation is Sept-Oct.
7) FYI, a few ATMs in Liberia dispense USD - I used USD and credit card for most of my trip. This hotel allows you to "charge to the room" for activities and meals...just allow for 10mins upon checkout to review your final bill