The first part of our adventures to Central America was to the Borinquen Resort just outside of Liberia, Costa Rica. The resort is situated on the side of the Volcan Rincon de la Vieja National Park, an active volcano. Our goal here was to soak in as much adventure as possible in our two night stay here. This included hiking, horseback riding, and ziplining… We did manage to also get in some nice downtime on the beautiful property at the pool, volcanic hot springs, natural saunas, and mud baths.
Read up on some of my other Costa Rica and El Salvador posts!
The Setup: Upcoming Trip to Costa Rica & El Salvador
Part 1: Costa Rica Ziplining & Borinquen Resort
Part 3: El Salvador & Santa Ana Volcano
Our flight from Indianapolis to Chicago was on a A319, nothing noteworthy but…. On our flight from Chicago to Liberia, Costa Rica we somehow managed to get bumped up into an exit row with an empty seat. I have no status with United but I do carry the United Explorer card which has been known to give you a slightly higher change for an upgrade. This was absolutely amazing for the ~5 hour flight. Felt like first class to me minus the free food and drinks!! Tons of extra room for the both of us. The flight was also on the special United Airlines Star Alliance livery 737-800. I was more than happy about that! Upon landing in Costa Rica we had to sit on the tarmac for being a whole hour early and our gate still had a plane in it. So we ended up deplaning at the exact scheduled time. There were 3 massive lines for immigration as it was spring break week. Tip, for others traveling to Liberia there is no special global entry line so you have to wait with everyone else.
All rental car locations are off site at Liberia’s airport and require a shuttle. We chose budget and there was a person waiting for us and directed us to the shuttle that took us to the facility. Our reservation was for a small four wheel drive automatic car as we heard the road getting up to the Borinquen Resort was rough… Budget gave us a Daihatsu Terios, which I was not familiar with but we named it the Little Engine That Could, as it slowly chugged up the wicked road that brought us to the resort and never failed us! But sure felt like it would… It was a 1.25 hour adventure in itself getting to the resort. Honestly, it was pretty fun driving the crazy roads just be prepared for them, they are worse than you think!
Another tip when renting cars in Costa Rica is that the government requires insurance that cannot be covered by your credit card or your current personal insurance. The insurance is mandatory and there is no way around it and to make it worse most rental agencies do not include this price in the quote. This can range from $10 – $30+ per day depending on the car. For the Daihatsu Terios it was $28 per day so make sure to take that into account.
The first two nights of our vacation was at the beautiful Borinquen Resort. We chose this resort in order to minimize the amount of driving that we would need to do. Most of the excursions in the Guanacaste area (the province) come to the Volcan Rincon de la Vieja National Park area anyway so it would just be easier to stay there a couple nights. It also helped that the rate booked included free horseback riding.
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Upon arriving we were greeted with their welcome drink, a guava smoothie. It was refreshing and very “welcoming” after the drive. The property is really beautiful and was surprising a very pleasant temperature, I was initially concerned it would be too hot but it was high enough up on the volcano to get a nice breeze. A tip for the rooms is to try to get the ones nearest to the lodge as it is really hilly. We ended up with room 204 which was close to the lodge and a had a great view of the resort. The room was their Superior Room which is a standalone unit (most are) with a private balcony with a hammock and table. The inside of the room was massive with a king bed, chairs, desk, mini fridge, and plenty of space. The TV was awkwardly placed in the corner, not a huge deal as we didn’t watch much. On to the bathroom, it was pretty standard but the shower was a large walk-in so that was nice. Our one complaint with the room was the WiFi was nonexistent, wasn’t a deal breaker but if you had any work to do it required you to go to the lodge, pool, or restaurant.
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Now one my favorite parts of the resort was definitely the grounds. We lounged at the pool for all 3 days that we were there. It was the only pool onsite but it was large and had wet bar at one end. Most people would trickle in during the afternoon after finishing up their excursions. It never got completely full, but it was a small resort so it was very easy to recognize everyone. Near the pool is the natural sauna at the beginning of a nature path. It is built directly over an opening of the volcano, we didn’t spend much time in their but it was pretty neat! On the opposite side of the pool was where the hot springs and mud baths were which were fed directly from hot water and mud from the volcano.
The protocol was to lather yourself up in mud and let it dry by walking around the boardwalks which lead to a natural hot springs and to the spa. After it dried, jump in the shower to wash most of the mud off and then take a dip in the hot springs. By the way, the hot springs all had different temperatures. With one set really hot, another hot, and then the last one cold. One of the nights a group of monkeys sat right above us as we were in the hot springs. Throughout the whole resort tons of animals can be seen from birds, to lizards, and some other weird mammal. Tip about the resort layout, it is really hilly and could be issue if you have bad knees. They do have golf carts that the staff can drive to pick you up but then you are waiting on them.
Time for a mixed review… So the breakfast here was amazing… and included! A huge buffet with a good mixture of your typical breakfast foods like pancakes, eggs, sausage but also some Costa Rican staples like rice, beans, plantains, and fruit. The lunch was also setup as buffet for $15 per person and included unlimited of whatever their drink of the day was. One day it was frozen ice tea (non-alcoholic) and was delicious. Dinner is when we had some troubles. The first night was great as they setup a buffet outside underneath the stars. The food was good but not spectacular. It also included flan as dessert and your choice of wine or beer was included all for $25. Not really the best deal but there was literally no other choices. The second night dinner was in their indoor restaurant and the service was atrocious. The way the workers split their duties works very well for buffets but when it comes to typical sit down service it was awful. To make matters worse my girlfriend, Beth, ordered chicken and it was clearly not done. They made another plate and when that came back only one the pieces of chicken was done… We had enough and had the meal waived and left the restaurant. They really need to just stick with the buffets or switch to real waiter service for dinner.
Adventures, Horseback Riding, and Ziplining
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So with our stay we got free horseback riding through the forests to two waterfalls. It also happened to be Beth’s first time really horseback riding and she loved it! It ended up being almost a two hour ride with a stop to hike to the two waterfalls. The waterfalls were beautiful and pretty well hidden so it would be hard for someone else to hike to unless they were on the tour. We didn’t have a chance to go soak in them but got some good photos. The two tour guides were great, and it was a great contrast to their restaurant staff. They tried to call the monkeys to get them out of their nests and it eventually worked. They even took our camera and went through the forest to snap a photo for us. Our group included 11 of us and everyone was very friendly and got to talk to everyone. On the way back from the waterfalls part of the group stopped to do ziplining. While we initially didn’t signup for it they had no problems letting us tag along!
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Different tour guides were in charge of ziplining and they were even better! Both very comical and friendly while being extremely safe. The group ziplining with us had two small children and the tour guides would zip down the lines with the kids to make sure they felt safe. For the course it was a series of 13 lines, with most of them being very long. I had ziplined before as a kid but this was by far better than anything I’ve done! Three of the lines traversed a huge canyon with a waterfall at one end that you could see, definitely one of the highlights. Another one of my favorites was a very long one that went over one of the nearby resort spas. The final zipline literally dropped you in for lunch. A perfect ending to our adventures on the volcano in Costa Rica.
After completing our stay we headed back down the volcano towards Liberia and on to our next resort… the Hyatt Andaz Papagayo! Which will be my next post!
Overall I loved the Borinquen Resort. The hotel portion was very nice using the pool and hot springs. My only real compliant is the terrible service levels, but this was a common theme for our whole entire time in Costa Rica no matter where we were. Now the tours were top notch and I recommend the combination tour we did with the horseback riding and ziplining. The guides were wonderful and it was reasonably priced as well.