Minotelís Anne Balke and
Villa Tournonís Leslie Wilson
Expect Minotel Hospitality
At Five Costa Rica Hotels
HE independent global Minotel chain, headquartered in Lausanne, maintains more than 700 hotels in 34 countries in Europe.
Theyíve now expanded to the Western Hemisphere and we decided to check out all five of their hotels in Costa Rica. Plans call for future expansion in Canada and the United States.
Minotel hotels are family properties, which makes it easy to meet the owners and feel like friends rather than customers.
Such was the atmosphere at the Minotel Villa Tournon in the capital city of San Jose. Anne Balke, director of Minotel International Americas Division, based in Atlanta, introduced us to hotelier Leslie Wilson who has owned the villa for 13 years.
Hotel Villa Tournon in San Jose
From the Villa Tournon the whole city is yours to explore. Actually the whole country, as we couldnít wait to see the rain forest and an active volcano.
On the way out of town we passed through the Red Zone, the X-rated district, which we didnít have time to explore. In the residential areas I was struck by the many houses secluded behind bars. There were bars on every window and door, and on top of that metal fences surrounded the houses. That tells you to be cautious as you walk the streets.
Our first stop was the tropical cloud forest at Braulio Carrillo National Park. On the ground you see only 10 percent of the forest. For a treetop experience, and the enjoy the hanging gardens, take the Rain Forest Aerial Tram, $49.50 for a 45-minute ride high above the forest canopy.
Minotel Las Palmas in Punta Uva
To protect yourself from mosquitoes I suggest you wear clothing that will repel such pesky bugs. I chose Buzz Off shirts, pants socks and hats from www.exofficio.com. For review see Products.
Stay overnight in one of the 10 cabins for an early morning one-hour nature walk to avoid the bus crowds.
Going east toward the Caribbean, we arrived at the newly developed port of Moin, where a container was just pulling out destined for New Jersey with a cargo of Dole bananas and pineapples.
Cruise ships in Limon
Moin is the future of Costa Rica commercial shipping. They are gradually shifting container business away from the established port of Limon to Moin. Limon is being groomed as a major port for the cruise industry. This day the town was booming with visitors from two cruise ships, Princess Spirit and Norwegian Crown.
Delroy Barton Brown, regional planner for the port authority, said that three or four cruise ships dock at the sister port of Limon in the midst of cargo and container docks.
In four years Limon, with entertainment and cultural facilities, will be serving the cruise trade while Moin will be reserved exclusively for the cargo industry. The entire makeover will cost $300 million.
Tim with Indian schoolgirls
To get to Minotelís second property, Las Palmas Beach Resort, located 40 minutes further south at Punta Uva, we had to drive through the thoroughly tourist town of Puerta Viejo. Youíll find young backpackers from all over the world tramping the streets and enjoying the pristine beaches.
Approaching Puerta Viejo you have to maneuver your car over, around and through the deepest, widest, meanest pot holes to be seen anywhere. I donít think even our experienced New York cabbies could negotiate those wild pot holes as well as the local bike riders and car drivers.
At Las Palmas, Jan Kalina and his wife Cristina made us feel at home with refreshing drinks. Jan built this 30-room resort in 1990.
Indian girl at school
Heíll arrange tours around the southern part of the country near the Panama border: a boat to the Archipelago Bocas del Toro, whale/dolphin watching, snorkeling and diving, a guided tour through the jungle in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, horseback riding on the beach, or a wonderful relaxing visit to the Indian reservation up the Talamanca Mountains which is what we did.