We recently went on a trip to Costa Rica, (September 19-26th, 2012) and we can tell you that it was and interesting, harrowing, adventurous, crazy journey, and we survived to tell the tale.
We booked with a company called Jetsetvacations (also associated with Travel by Jen) for a package deal which included a rental car, hotel, canopy tour and hot springs (not the famous Baldi Hot Springs..a tiny hot springs at a neighboring hotel called Los Lagos) for 6 nights all for $800 pp all taxes and fees included. (We extended till the 29th on the day we were scheduled to leave) Sounds like a great deal right? Well it was not so.
When we arrived in San Jose it was 5-6pm and very visibly getting dark. By the time we got our car at Adobe Car Rentals, which is located about 15-20 minutes drive from airport, it was pitch black out!
We took longer to get on our journey because they had to see if they had an automatic car to give us, instead of the manual that we did not realize was booked for us. Wouldn't you know it they had one, with the gas tank only ¾ full, and for an extra $60 US it was ours!
We also had to pay a mandatory fee of $14 US per day and GPS fee of $10 US a day(you really need the GPS) and licensing fee of about $2US dollars. We then ended up paying 15$ US dollar per day extra because we were not sure if our credit card covered full Collision and Damage (CDW). Adobe pitched the spiel that purchasing the CDW insurance was the best option as it covered up to $5 million in damage (who knows now if they meant $5 Million Colones (their local currency 500 Colones is equivalent to $1US dollar) or $5 Million US??!! ). However, flat tires are not covered!?
The other catch is if you don't purchase the CDW insurance they will hold $800-1000 US dollars on your card but only $350 US if you purchase it. We thought it was wiser to get it better to be safe! In the end the car cost $380 US for the five days!
At this point, we were exhausted and overwhelmed, and then we were told (only after enquiring about how far our destination was) that we would had to drive about 4 hours to our destination...ok so we have GPS no problem...wrong!!!
Little did we know; as the car people gave us no warning of the potential danger we faced, and no I am not talking about the moped drivers that just whiz by out of nowhere or the people that just standing practically in the middle of the street with babies in tow or the horrendous cavernous potholes (now I see why the insurance does not cover tire damage! ), I am talking about driving up a narrow mountainside with only forest cliff drop-offs, fog in which you can barely see 1 inch in front of you, and winding uphill roads...for 3- 4 hours!
Anyway, almost four hours later (on top of 7 hours of plane travel, adrenal stress overload and post-traumatic stress disorder syndrome)we arrived at Montana De Fuego, our first destination, alive so our vacation in our opinion was a success!
The next day we opened our curtains to the beautiful Arenal volcano...worth the near death experience!
Our room, at Montana De Feugo, was weirdly laid out (we were told it was an upgrade as they had given away our original room...I guess they thought we weren’t going to make it uphill either), and in one room I was awoken to a piece of the ceiling falling down on the pillow beside me because it appeared the A/C moisture caused the walls to ripple and the wood to become moist and brittle. The rooms were clean and the coffee in the room was the best we had on our trip.
The second hotel included in our package was Punta Leona. This was an average place, but the shower would not drain after we took a quick wash, but someone came immediately to fix it. The place was overrun with unfriendly Tico's, loud rambunctious children, and had pricey food and drinks. Not our idea of a quality, cost savings vacation.
However, we are not naive to think for the money JetSet Vacation offered for the package that it was going to be outstanding service and spectacular surroundings. We just think JetSet should be more forthcoming with what happens at these resorts, the cost, expectations of travel times; especially in off season.
The hotel staff at ALL of our lodgings was not overly friendly or helpful to us which we found strange as they were not even remotely busy, due to the low season, and as tourists we had expected a bit more catering. Everything was expensive whether you bought it at the hotel or the supermarket.
If we had been honestly and openly advised by JetSetVacations of the driving times we would have looked into staying longer giving JetSet more of our business or preparing ourselves beforehand for an extended stay by reviewing other lodgings thus saving ourselves headache and money.
Also, our trip would have went smoother if we would have been put up in a hotel in town until daylight so our drive to our first destination was not so harrowing or at the very least better if we could have arrived in daylight so that we could see the roads.
Although we read reviews on Tripadvisor and my partner had experienced Costa Rica 10 years ago on a resort, and we researched the hot spots to visit for nightlife adventure. No one tells you the real story. Staying on a resort the whole trip is not our ideal of getting to know the country, people and the places. So having firsthand insight would have been extremely beneficial.
Two full days out of the whole trip was done travelling to our various destinations and sights so a 6 day stay is not enough. In the end, we extended our stay by four more days which cost us at least $2200 US dollars more (your loss JetSet for not letting us know and we could have possibly extended with your company).
Would we book with JetSet Vacations again? No Thank You!!