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Tips for Deciding What Trip Cost Category
is Right for You

Hotels

(Tortuga and Monteverde Lodges are at the Upscale level)
ROOMS Intermediate Upscale Luxury
Mattress Locally made for hotel use. Premium version. Beauty Rest by Simmons is most common. US or European made. Comfort and quality of bedding emphasized.
Sheets 180-200 thread count. Mattress covers are often used. 300+ thread count.
Mattress covers used.
350+ thread count. From finest sources. Mattress covers used.
Pillow Thick. Made of synthetic fiber. Choice of synthetic fiber or feather imitation. At least two different kinds of pillows offered, including a real feather pillow.
Towels Standard size. Average quality. Large; good quality. Extra-large; excellent quality.
ROOMS Intermediate Upscale Luxury
Amenity Selection Low quality soap bars, shampoo and conditioner. Good quality soap bars, shampoo, conditioner and hand cream. Luxury brand soap and gel, shampoo, conditioner and hand cream. High quality bathrobes and slippers will be provided as well as shower cap, sewing kit, etc.
Plumbing Plumbing will work 90% of the time. If something does go wrong there is someone available to fix it within a few hours. All hotels have temporary plumbing problems, this happens occasionally. When it does, the situation will be resolved with minimal impact on the guest. All hotels have temporary plumbing problems, this will happen infrequently. When it does, the situation will be resolved with minimal impact on the guest, who may be compensated.
Back up Generator. None. Back up generator used in cases of power failure. Expect a 10-15 min. wait for manual start up. Back up generator will auto start when power fails.
Water Supply Lack of power may result in lack of water, as pumps often depend on electricity. Power failure will not result in lack of water. The back up generator will keep the water pumps going.
ROOMS Intermediate Upscale Luxury
Water Pressure Depends on how many rooms are showering at the same time. Stable even if many rooms are showering at the same time.
Hot Water Not 100% reliable. 90% reliable. Upon failure, it will be fixed quickly. Water often solar heated. 99% reliable.
Room Decor Functionality emphasized over decoration. Decoration emphasized. Decoration outstanding. We can’t promise that you’ll like the style, but the hotel will have an obvious theme and décor.
Mini Bar Most rooms have mini bars. All rooms have mini bars.
ROOMS Intermediate Upscale Luxury
Safe Most have safes. Safes large enough for laptops.
Hair Dryer Sometimes available in room or at front desk. Available either in rooms or at front desk. Always available in room.
Telephone in Room In room except in remote areas where there is no or limited service. In room except in remote areas where there is no or limited service. Or, depending on the hotel’s theme, not having a phone may be considered an added luxury. Same as upscale price category, with 2-3 telephones in room.
TV in Room Some of the time Cable television in room except in remote areas where there is no or limited service. Or, depending on the hotel’s theme, not having a tv may be considered an added luxury. Same as upscale price category, but likely to have more channels.
ROOMS Intermediate Upscale Luxury
High Speed Internet Available in some hotels. There may or may not be an extra charge. Available at least in public areas unless the location is remote and service is not possible. There may or may not be an extra charge.
(Tortuga and Monteverde Lodges are at the Upscale level)
SERVICE Intermediate Upscale Luxury
Problem Solving Poor, but more options exist in this category to resolve problems at the hotel. Still, Costa Rica Expeditions often has to get involved. Efficient problem solving. Staff will often be proactive, friendly and smart about solving problems. Exceptions do exist. Problems should be solved even before you figure out you have one. When a situation arises, it will be resolved without inconvenience to you.
Advice Offer good advice, but not always well thought out. Exceptions to the rule exist and you’ll know when you are in good hands. Offer advice that takes into consideration your safety when recommending activities like hiking, canopy or raft tours. These properties will also be concerned with the quality, style and professionalism of the tour operator. Depending on the hotel, different policies exist regarding zip line tours, white water rafting or activities in areas close to a volcano. Some are conscientious and safety oriented while others are less so and may be more profit oriented.
Activities Don’t expect them to take into account safety or professionalism when they recommend a trail, canopy tour or rafting trip. In this world it’s all about commissions. Offer guided hikes, boat trips into the rainforest or to an island for snorkeling. Local guides can be good to fantastic depending on the property. Many lodges in this class have made a name for themselves by mastering the art of rainforest experiences. Usually offer tours run by independent, local service providers. These excursions are generally high-end, conventional tours with a large number of participants. Don’t expect them to be natural history oriented. If you want to insure a quality experience, it is best to book the activity and guide separately.
Reception More of these hotels offer good service at the front desk. It is common, however, to find that service is perfunctory. Generally you will be greeted with a smiling face and a staff ready to provide you with excellent service Some of the best receptionists in the world work at these hotels. They have the knowledge, resources and authority to take world class care of their guests.
SERVICE Intermediate Upscale Luxury
Public Areas Often have sitting areas for guests, but don’t expect seating to be exceptionally comfortable. Wait staff may be scarce, so be prepared to go to the bar to order your drinks. Comfortable public areas available for reading, enjoying a drink and taking in the view. Normally you will be approached every 30 mins. or so by wait staff. Beautifully decorated and deliciously comfortable lounge areas are the norm. This is your opportunity to enjoy beautiful spaces and be pampered.
Pool Same as basic price category. Pool(s) often built with non-traditional filtration systems making them more environmentally friendly and pleasant for guests. Comfortable and stylish pool-side furniture, including chaise lounges and umbrellas. Wait staff is attentive and will offer clean towels, drinks and snacks. Pools (often more than one) are usually built with non-traditional filtration systems making them more environmentally friendly and pleasant for guests. Pool-side furniture will be top-of-the-line and designed for sunbathing or reading in the shade. Wait staff is attentive and will offer clean towels, drinks, snacks and other amenities.
Gardens Usually well kept, but not extraordinary. Worth spending time in. Often home to interesting indigenous plants and animals. Birding may be very good. Many will have water features. Beautiful and designed to provide visual impact. However, they are not often home to many interesting species of indigenous plants and animals.
(Tortuga and Monteverde Lodges are at the Upscale level)
FOOD & DRINK Intermediate Upscale Luxury
Overview May be better than in the basic hotel category, but in most cases the basic hotel food description applies. Generally excellent food and service. Cooks are often from the local community and have been trained by a great international chef. These trainees can deliver very high-quality meals. Bars are well set up and offer a variety of wines and liquors. Cocktails are likely to be well prepared. Oddly enough food in this category can occasionally be of lower quality than in the upscale category. These hotels are generally larger making it harder to deliver extraordinary food. Kitchens may tend to overreach resulting in food that isn’t the best. Hotel bars in this category on the other hand, are usually the best; featuring great cocktails and snacks, friendly staff and beautiful settings.
Décor Clean but not a lot of decoration. Perhaps some of the most inspiring and original decoration in the hospitality world can be found in this category hotel. Everything is decorated by a professional and exceptionally well done.
TV There are often TVs in the dining room with the volume turned up. No TVs blasting in the back ground here.
Music Music can often be too loud and the selections tend to be what the wait staff likes to listen to. Music is usually carefully chosen and played at appropriate times and volume.
FOOD & DRINK Intermediate Upscale Luxury
Staff Competent but usually don’t make an effort to interact with guests (unless they find you attractive). Few speak English. High standard of service, wait staff are friendly and interact with guests. Head waiters speak English. Very high standard of service, wait staff are friendly and interact with guests. All waiters speak English.
Breakfast Menu When they have high occupancy, expect a buffet. During slower seasons a la carte menu is usually offered. Usually a la carte menu offered. Both buffet and a la carte breakfasts, with plenty of choices.
Lunch & Dinner Menu May be better than in the basic hotels, but in most cases the basic description applies. These lodges are often more remote so you’ll find different approaches to meals. Some offer separate a la carte menus for lunch and dinner with multiple choices. Some have fixed menus for lunch and dinner or they may offer three choices. You be asked to order your dinner after lunch. Some have a special orientation in their cooking. Usually these hotels have more than one restaurant, with separate menus for lunch and dinner. Generally there is an informal restaurant with lighter meals and multiple snack choices, and a formal restaurant that provides the opportunity to dress up.
What to Order If you stick to ordering the tried-and-true (fish, chicken, pasta and rice dishes), you probably won’t go wrong. But order something like Cordon Bleu (usually spelled Gordon Blue) or risotto, and you may encounter gelatinous sauces rich with butter and cream, tasteless sticky rice and over-cooked vegetables. Avoid beef steak (spelled bifstec), which requires strong teeth and jaw to chew. Also avoid lomito (tenderloin). Theoretically tenderloin should be tender, but in this category don’t count on it. These restaurants consistently serve great food. You will likely have wonderful dining experiences no matter what you select. Don’t calorie count so much that you miss out on some mouth-watering desserts. These restaurants consistently serve great food with few exceptions. You may find that because these hotels tend to be larger, the food is a little less tailored than at the upscale level.
FOOD & DRINK Intermediate Upscale Luxury
Coffee Medium quality coffee served. Specialty coffees unavailable. Premium coffee served. Specialty coffees available.
Wine by the glass One or two choices of red and white wines (usually Chilean or Argentinean). Expect to find three choices of red wine, two of white and one of rose. Expect to find many choices of red, white and rose wines.
Wine by the bottle From 10 to 60 choices of red and white wines. Thirty or more choices of red, white and rose wines.
Liquor Generally serve the least expensive brands. Occasionally there will be a more expensive whiskey or vodka. Watch out for food coloring in cocktails, some of which look like rainbows. Don’t expect premium liquors, brandy or digestives. Inexpensive liquors may be used in cocktails, but for other drinks intermediate and premium brands are used. You will find Red and Black Label whiskey, Absolute and Stolichnaya vodkas, and Jose Cuervo & Porfirio tequilas. A variety of brandies and after-dinner drinks such as Cuantreou, Gran Marnier and Jaguer Master are available.
FOOD & DRINK Intermediate Upscale Luxury
Ice Machine Available; ice is plentiful.

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