JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort Review (Costa Rica)
The JW Marriott Guanacaste is located just a few miles south of Tamarindo, Costa Rica along the picturesque Pacific coastline. It is about a 1.5-hour drive along paved roads (of various quality) from Liberia airport and a 4.5-hour drive from San Jose airport.
The resort is part of a larger 'Hacienda' that comes with a separate beach club, golf course, and many smaller townhouses.
We arrived at 1.30 PM at the property and found the lobby area to be small and crowded. Only one check-in agent was available (and only one person was allowed to enter the tiny reception room at one time). There was no real line management and despite asking repeatedly several other guests jumped in line for their own check-in or checkout. About 45 minutes later it was finally our turn to get checked in which was rather quick (but involved the usual passport copies and endless exchange of credit card receipts and signatures to be done).
The resort charges room rates around $200 but there is a long list of resort fees and taxes bringing the prices to around $300 per night. I had used a Best Rate Guarantee claim for this property and it seemed the management was bent on punishing me for this.
Our assigned room was large and well-appointed. It seemed old - very old indeed judging by the many spider webs that had built up over time. The dark and old furniture is not my favorite but there was plenty of space - the bathroom was especially huge and provided a great shower, plenty of sink space, and a bathtub.
The WiFi at the resort was stable but was throttled to 8 MBit. Not terrible but since Costa Rica excels at fast Internet I was hoping for more speed.
The Air Conditioning was effective but only had two settings - freezing cold with full fan (which was loud at 60 dB or off). That wasn't a problem during the day but made sleeping a problem - even with military-grade earplugs that I always carry with me. I asked the front desk if someone could come by to find a setting with a low fan but the technician proceeded to show me proudly that the air conditioning was working (which I never complained about). I gave up after that and just wanted to try to sleep.
I found the bed way too soft (I do prefer hard mattresses). I was quite happy I only had to sleep in it for one night.
The room opened up into the gardens and there was a small patio with chairs to enjoy the garden area.
We walked down to the pool area and were stunned - it is likely one of the most attractive pool areas I had ever seen. The blue colors, the meandering pool itself with its huge size, and the green palm tree backdrop seemed the perfect incarnation of a holiday feel. At 90+ degrees the benches looked more than inviting. Most benches come with an umbrella as well. It can get windy at times during February (and staff may ask to not open any umbrellas) but on our first day that wasn't an issue. We loved lounging at the pool despite a number of rather raucous guests trying to spoil our little paradise. The pool area is a gem that few hotels or resorts can pull off.
The pool area leads into a small beach. The beach is great to look at but isn't ideal for swimming because of rocks, lots of small shells and the many dogs that locals run freely there.
We had both dinner and breakfast at the property and found it to be solid quality. It wasn't cheap but also not extremely overpriced. The wait staff seemed very friendly and had no trouble understanding custom orders.
In sum - I liked my stay at this JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort as the pool area was just stunning and really relaxing. The location is remote and quiet. I also found the food decent enough to not be a problem (as it is in many resorts).
The hotel seemed largely devoid of staff (especially at the tiny front desk). If we got someone's attention we generally got a helpful and friendly response (with the exception of my air conditioning issue).
The staff needs to rise up to the service level of a JW Marriott (or any 5 Star hotel) and this resort needs to remodel the rooms - especially the terrible air conditioning.