Playas del Coco, Costa Rica
February 2012

We decided to go someplace warm for a week in February and rented a condo in Coco Beach, Costa Rica. It's also known as Playas del Coco. This is in the Guanacaste area in the northwest part of Costa Rica. This was our second trip to Costa Rica, the last one in 2010 and we had a great time.

We never saw anyone swimming in Coco Beach because of all the dogs and glass. We did find a nicer beach a little north (a few minutes away) called Hermosa Beach and we drove to it daily. Here are two more photos of Hermosa Beach, Hermosa Beach There was also a nice hotel with a bar at Hermosa Beach. The Coco Beach was also a dark brown sand that seemed to stick to everything. Hermosa Beach was much better.

Our trip started out bad as Dollar rent a car did not have the car we reserved two months earlier. They first tried to give us a 4 door pickup truck but we would have been forced to put our luggage in the open bed of the truck and driving around like that did not seem smart.

The Dollar website stated: "... we do guarantee that the class (size) of rental car reserved will be available at the rental car location." I think the guarantee is worthless. Dollar also told us we would be billed $50 if we failed to show up. Everything seemed to be in their favor.

We noticed there were several sedans available and we said we would accept one. We were told that was not possible because we had reserved an SUV and they were trying to get one for us. Go figure!

Instead of an automatic A/C SUV we reserved 2 months before we ended up with an old manual SUV with so-so A/C. This after a long wait. It had 85,000 kilometers on it and it was pretty beat up inside and out. I made sure they documented all the broken parts and marks on the body and then proceeded to take a bunch of photos to document the condition of the car. They also charged us for some insurance even though we had coverage with a credit card. It's hard to argue when the language is different. I don't know why car rental companies don't tell you when you reserve a car what the extra charges will be. Why do they use initials and acronyms like "G-SLI plus" or "G-SLI Decline CDW" with no explanation.

Actually, based on the condition of the car we are of the belief that it was not a Dollar rental car. It could very easily have been an employee's car. It was really in bad shape with a lock on the gear shift that you don't see on a rental. The gear shift boot was torn off. The glove box was broken. The rubber seals on the doors were falling off. The interior was dirty. The floormats were cheap hard plastic and they were broken in places. They had just been spray washed and we had to stop and put them in the back because they were so slippery. The interior was dirty. Why did we accept it you ask. Well, we were in the middle of nowhere, tired, and we figured we could make do and maybe complain to Dollar later. We really didn't realize how bad a car it was until the next day.

The car was so bad that we only put 208 miles on it in a week and we had planned on making several trips.

We really felt screwed by Dollar.

The whole episode reminded me of the Seinfeld show where he had reserved a car and was told they didn't have it for him when he came to pick it up. Jerry told the agent at the desk that they knew how to "take" the reservation, they just didn't know how to "keep" the reservation. Maybe he rented from Dollar.

I did complain to both Dollar Rent a Car and Expedia (we made the reservation through Expedia). Dollar sent us a check for $50 but we all decided it wasn't enough and I returned the check. Maybe if they had apologized and compensated us but $50 was nothing considering the junk we got for $472 for a week. Anyone who reads some of my travelogues knows that I rarely make any negative comments about a business. Normally, I just don't mention it but this time I was very upset.

As for Expedia, I am also disappointed. I complained several times via email but they always respond with the instructions to call customer service. I don't think they want to put anything in writing. When I called they took down the complaint and said someone would get back to me. I'm still waiting.

When we got to the condo office (Agua de Lechuga Condo Rentals) they did not have the two bedroom, two bath condo we had reserved. We had paid a down payment. Finally, the owner of the management agency appeared and told us the owner of the condo we had rented transferred to a different management company the previous day without giving him any notice.

The manager of the Agua de Lechuga Condo Rentals took us to the new management company and we re-negotiated a rental for the same price. The first manager told the new manager he would give them our deposit. Things like this happen and I am happy to say that the first manager immediately made things right for us. This is contrary to our experience with Dollar Rent A Car.

The condo complex had 39 units and a pool. The people staying there were mostly Canadian and were friendly and nice. The pool was okay but there was a swim up bar area (no bar service) with too many electric wires for my taste. The 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo was nice with good air conditioning but only one blanket for two rooms and not enough dishes for 4 people. We had a big screen TV with several English stations. The condo units were at the end of a dirt road close to town and we could walk into town but you needed a flashlight to return after dark. The place could use a little maintenance. It looked like they had started to install an elevator a few years ago but stopped. There were only 9 sundeck chairs and they were dirty. Several people got up early every day to reserve them with a towel. The 20 person Jacuzzi was cold and drained into the There was regular pool . There was one table as the outdoor dining area. The wireless Internet was not reliable but did work occasionally.

The main street was paved but most of the other streets were dirt. The previous photo and this photo are in front of the Agua de Lachunga Condos. There are no sidewalks on the main street so people walk in the street. The condo management company would wet down the road every day to keep down the dust. I doubt if I would want to be here in the rainy season. We found many bars and restaurants and had some good food. Food in the restaurants was not cheap, about the same as Chicago. Food in the supermercados was expensive. Fruit was very good and we cut up fruit for breakfast every morning.

You're going to see a lot of garbage in Coco Beach. We were told by several people that the garbage truck had broke down or that they werer on strike but we never knew for sure. It didn't matter as the garbage still smelled.

All the houses, businesses, condos and hotels have barbed wire or razor wire around for protection from something. The businesses, hotels and condos also have 24 hour guards. You will also find men around who will watch your car while you shop, eat or swim. We were advised to pay them or something would happen to your car. One day we drove south to the beach at Tamarindo and pulled into the beach parking lot where a man wearing a t-shirt that said "Watching cars" came up to us and told us what he charged to watch our cars to keep it safe. He said we should pay him when we return if our car was okay. He put a handmade sign on our windshield that had some initials on it with the words "No Parking". It's not easy to drive around as all the roads go inland to a major north-south road and you then have to drive inland again. There's really no easy way to drive along the coast. For some reason gas stations are not plentiful and when you find one, expect a line. Gas was over one dollar per liter. Speaking of money, you can use dollars or Costa Rican Colon or Colones. You may pay more by letting them convert for you but not enough to really matter. I had notified my bank that I would be in Costa Rica but my ATM Card never worked. I only tried it at the supermercado. I've used this card all over the world but we really didn't need more cash as we charged everything and we did bring dollars. Anyone who offers to help you wants something. At the airport a man was holding a sign that said Dollar Car Rental and we walked over to him. A man next to him took our bags and walked along with us,, I thought he was also from Dollar but he wasn't. After he put the bags in the car he said, "I only work for tips".

There is a $28 departure tax at the airport in US dollars or on a credit card but be aware, if you use a credit card it is considered a Cash Advance and your credit card company will charge a fee and interest.

The sun was hot, around 93 degrees Fahrenheit and you need sunscreen and a hat. The waves at Hermosa Beach are fun and high. Christine lost two headscarves and two pairs of cheap sunglasses in the waves. There are plenty of people around who will show you a time share. One day while driving to Hermosa Beach we checked out another area and drove past a young man in front of a kiosk on the road twice. The second time he flagged us down to inform us he was there to help us not to sell us anything. Yeah, sure.

The roads are not good. The people are friendly but expect to be watched closely in souvenir shops or the supermercado.

As for a bar, Coconuts has good beer for $1.40 a bottle (Happy Hour)and a few mixed drinks at the same price but you get real cheap liquor. We also stopped several times at the Lizard Bar. Both on the main street. Our favorite restaurant was La Caveja, a small Italian restaurant just south of town on the road to Ocotal Beach. There is a nice bar-restaurant Father Roosters at Ocotal Beach. Another photo of Ocotal Beach.

Will I go back to Costa Rica soon? Maybe if they get their act together some day. Clean up the place a little, there is trash everywhere. They built a cement walkway along the shore and put sod in but obviously forgot about watering it. The road into town has many vacant or abandoned businesses an condos on either side. If you look at a satellite map on Google Maps you can see that it looks like some dropped buildings at random. All Coco Beach has to offer is sun, heat and drinking.

Oh, I don't think I will rent from Dollar again.