Seeing as it’s been windy, blustery, and sub-20 since returning from 85-and-sunny Costa Rica, you could say we’re now deficient in Vitamin D. 😉 I have now decided that a tropical trip is the BEST way to kickoff any new year, especially when it’s snowing and freezing where you live come January. Who’s with me? We spent a week in Central America at Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica to celebrate our friends wedding this past month. While there we got lots of Q’s via Instagram DMs about where we stayed, what we did, etc, so hopefully this post will be an all-inclusive guide to the all-inclusive resort and then some. It’s got a recap of our trip, general info on traveling to Costa Rica, as well as a comprehensive review of where we stayed (and if we’d recommend!).
Our wild adventure started with a cancelled flight less than 24 hours before takeoff thanks to a massive snowstorm in Philly (and the whole East coast). We scrambled to book a different flight for the same night, otherwise we’d be unable to leave until the end of weekend (we were scheduled to leave Saturday evening and had one final flight out of Philly on Friday night, or we’d have to wait until Monday – and we’d have a full day of travel to get to CR before leaving on Thursday, so really, we HAD to get out Friday night or the trip wouldn’t even make sense to make anymore). Our sole goal became GET TO MIAMI. The first flight leg was to Miami and second to Costa Rica, and since snow wouldn’t be much of a concern in Florida…we knew the mission.
After American cancelled our first flights to Miami, we managed to switch to that final Friday night Frontier flight and figured we’d finagle details for the second leg when we arrived in Florida. The flight was first delayed because of maintenance, then delayed again on the tarmat because the pilot was MIA. An hour later…captain showed up, but the plane needed de-icing. Mind you, at this point, it was a SOLID 1.5 hours delayed, and the snow was starting to come down in Philly. We were definitely worried that even after all of the chaos in switching plans around, the plane wouldn’t make it off the ground. But lo and behold – WE TOOK OFF.
And then…spent the night sitting on the floor of the Miami Airport. Let me tell you – if Frontier seats weren’t uncomfortable enough (they’re awful), the cold airport floor ain’t much better.
Once American employees starting coming back to the airport (which apparently doesn’t happen until around 4 am), we managed to get things figured out for our next trip leg. When we finally got to Costa Rica, we had another 1.5-hour long shuttle ride to the resort. Our driver knew basically ZERO English, so I switched to Spanish – and he was so stoked, he stopped to grab us local beers from a roadside tienda.
WHERE WE STAYED: Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica
We stayed at the Dreams Las Mareas resort in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Dreams resorts are actually the family-friendly sister properties to Secrets Resorts, which are adults-only all-inclusive properties. I had been to Secrets a few years back and loveloveloved – I’d recommend Secrets over Dreams simply because they’re nearly identical in experience, but one allows kids and the other does not. So if you’re there for a romantic getaway and prefer to not have littles running by or splashing around you, go Secrets over Dreams!
- The monkeys. If you were following along on Instagram Stories, you KNOW the monkeys. PAUL. There was a little tribe of Capuchins on the property, and they were typically hanging out around our side of the hotel around breakfast-time (we had a Tropical View suite!). It’s not technically recommended to feed the monkeys (or any wildlife on property), as they could get aggressive with humans if they become too dependent on food…but I swear I’m a monkey whisperer. 😉 Truly, this was the highlight for me. The white-faced monkeys are like the squirrels of Costa Rica, and it was totally surreal waking up to monkeys on the balcony. Did I order room service fruit every day just to hand feed the monkeys? You bet. Did Paul the Monkey try to open our room door when he saw I had fruit inside? Sure did. So, word of warning…lock your door. 😉
Why yes, Paul did try to OPEN OUR BALCONY DOOR in hot pursuit of bananas.
- Gorgeous pools – an upper and a lower pool, spaced nicely apart. There are beautiful infiniti pools, a swim up bar, waterfalls – you name it.
- Fabulous room service breakfasts – get the Huevos Motuleños! The waits were often not as long as they said on the phone, too.
- Loads of fresh fruit. The best papayas we’ve ever tasted – and they put Tajin on the fresh fruit by the pool! Get the papaya with honey at the breakfast buffet…superb.
- Very similar to Dreams/Secrets properties which are, for us, closer to home. Even the chair design and towel colors at the pool were the same as at the Secrets I was at in Mexico – and since it’s maybe a 2.5 hour flight to Mexico versus two of those legs to get to CR, we’d just prefer less travel time and more pool time, ya feel?
- Big language barrier. Even though I know quite a bit of Spanish (I studied it in school and lived abroad for a summer in Spain), the language barrier was pretty rough at times. We were often met with employees who didn’t really understand English and definitely couldn’t speak it, so there were a few instances of time wasted trying to figure out reservation details, COVID testing to get back in the US, etc.
- We often felt like we were being sold to, or taken advantage of. Harsh, I know. But we were bombarded quite a bit by folks wanting us to sign up for this breakfast or that activity. Granted, do the timeshare breakfast. That’s when they try to sell you a whopping vacation package in exchange for cash or spa credit. We managed to get our entire couples massage covered ($500 value) for an hour and half of our time listening to their sales pitch, and we were super blunt from the start that we wouldn’t be purchasing anything. Not bad. BUT some other things were questionable – like the fact that our supposed total in the gift shop for one magnet, two bug sprays, and a bottle of Tums was $71. I mean…$71?!? (Needless to say, we put back half of the order). We don’t like feeling like sterotyped rich dumb Americans? Ha!
- The beach is public…meaning, people approach you to try and sell you things constantly there, too. Some dudes even stand at the edge of the resort to watch the pools and motion to try and sell you different bird whistles and things – which just feels…creepy?
- Drinks were meh. I know this can be a toss up at all-inclusives since drinks are included, but they didn’t blow us away.
- Evening entertainment wasn’t wow-worthy. I say this because at past all-inclusives we’ve been to in Mexico, evening shows were INCREDIBLE. Like, you HAD to attend. Incredible magicians, performers, the works…here, they were just okay. Although I will say, there was a little trio band of a guitarist, violinist and singer, and they were FABULOUS. We saw them over dinner one evening and then they actually sang at the cocktail reception of the wedding we were attending!
- I’m personally not a huge fan of all-inclusives with kids.
J + I are always game for excursion when traveling internationally, especially if we don’t know if we’ll be back to a given country. I mean, WHY NOT. So we lovelovelove choosing some fun activities to mix up our days, get us off-property, and exploring the area. You can book excursions with Amstar next to the concierge at Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica; they make it super simple to tackle it all at once upon arrival, if you so choose!
EXCURSION 1: Swimming in the Cangreja waterfall + natural hot springs
We drove out to the the Cangreja waterfall in the Rincon de la Vieja National Park forest for a short hike + swimming. The ride out was about 1.5 hours – which was typical for all of the excursions, really. The hike was easy; we were surprised that this part of Costa Rica – Guanacaste – is actually NOT rainforest. We were half-expecting toucans and snakes all around us, but it felt like walking the woods behind my grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania – ha! Apparently the rainforest is on the Carribbean side of the country, so if you’re gunning for that, plan accordingly. 😉 Once you climbed down to the waterfall, you could swim; the water was ICY, but it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience so we bucked up! The natural hot springs that followed was a great respite. They were surprising to us since they looked + felt like hot tubs, but they’re totally natural, so the floor is all rocky and bumpy (be careful to not stub your toe!). You could put natural volcanic mud on your body as a treatment, too – but fair warning, the shower to REMOVE the mud is cold and it doesn’t come off easily, so it’s a bit of a rough transition from hot spring to mud shower! 😉
Next up: HOT SPRINGS
We got back to Dreams around 3:30 pm and hit up the pool for happy hour.
Of the multiple restaurants at Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica, we were able to try the Italian, Mexican, and the international buffet; there were some language mixups about when the Japanese restaurant was open, which was a bit of a bummer. But both the Italian + Mexican restaurants were fabulous. The buffet was just okay – I’d recommend the other cuisines over it!
EXCURSION 2: Sunset ziplining, hot springs, + dinner
On our second full day, we tried a bit of a different excursion for sunset ziplining and more hot springs at Vandara Hot Springs & Adventure. Again, it was an 1.5 hour drive. The ziplining was the best part – it was WILD. Doing it in the dark is a whole new experience, and this particular adventure park had about 8 ziplines over varying terrain (like wide-open canyons and clear views of the volcano!). We also got to hear howler monkeys in the trees around us while ziplining, which was freaking COOL!
The dinner on this excursion was also fabulous. The hot springs here were a bit of a let down because they didn’t feel…natural. While the water WAS natural volcanic water (heated by the volcanoes, etc), the pools were more formally formed, so it felt more like being in a heated pool and less like an authentic experience.
Our third full day there was wedding day – yay! We spent most of the morning poolside sipping Miami Vices until ’twas time to head up and get wedding-ready. The wedding was a beautiful beachside ceremony with a reception on the roof of one of the poolside restaurants, which ended up being simply stunning. Everyone cried, everyone danced, everyone had a blast. CONGRATS KELLY & KEVIN, WE LOVE YOU.
We headed home the next day!
Have you been to Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica before?
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