Magical Melia Playa Conchal
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
< First Page The Resort < Page 2 The Suites
The swimming pool at the resort is one of the loveliest I have ever experienced, not because it's long and undulates through several acres of greenery; that type of pool is ubiquitous in the tropics. No, it's terrific because the designer had a unique approach: Create a gorgeous 'fantasy pool' but add coves and nooks for privacy and a more intimate feel. Separate the children's area from the main pool with huge boulders, put the pool volleyball at a far end where it wouldn't disturb the guests who had no desire for sport, create pockets of lounge areas with individual aprons of patio and palapas for more intimate family gatherings. It's brilliant. As large as the pool is, it never feels as though you might be surrounded by hundreds of other hotel guests.
An entire activity menu is provided daily, including water aerobics and craft-making. Age-appropriate activities are designated for children, horseback-riding trips can be arranged. The resort works with Swiss Travel Service to provide excursions into the Costa Rican countryside; the Rain Forest Canopy tour is especially popular, but sportsfishing, volcano tours and river rafting are also available. Professional tour guides ensure safety during these trips.
If, like me, you just cannot leave your work behind and relax, the resort has a wonderful little Internet Café that offers access for a very reasonable hourly rate. Telephone calls from the resort to the United States were quite expensive, but I could check on my dogs via email. Once assured that they were being well-treated and behaving themselves, I was able to enjoy other pursuits.
No resort would be complete without a beauty salon, and Playa Conchal is no exception. Facing the golf course, a small salon provides not only hair and nail services, but limited spa services as well. A tiny woman whose strength belied her stature managed to pummel my muscles into sweet repose during a much needed and appreciated massage. She spoke no English, and since my Spanish is limited to "Si" and "Gracias," I can only hope that she understood my gratitude for her considerable skills.
Without a doubt, the pièce de resistance of the resort is the Garra de León golf course, 18 magnificent Robert Trent Jones II-designed holes that use the the rolling landscape's contours to ultimate advantage. The Director of Golf, Alvaro Ortiz, is known as "the Tiger Woods of Costa Rica." Challenging enough to host professional events, the course is designed primarily for the resort golfer, offering two distinct 9 hole courses, each beginning from the central clubhouse.
The resort's restaurants are primarily centered along a "street" meandering down one end of the pool towards the sea. Breakfast can be enjoyed in your suite via room service, but the open-air Mitra provides a bountiful buffet with everything from fresh fruit and pastries to traditional Costa Rican cuisine, including beans, rice and sausages.
I loved my casual lunch at the huge palapa-shaded La Caracola, where I enjoyed a very inexpensive meal that was too large to finish. The next day I had an appetizer, which was really the perfect size for lunch. Both were great value for the money spent.
Supper time is when the dining venues really "strut their stuff," with torchlight illuminating the walkways in the soothing night air. All of the meals are beautifully prepared and presented, from the steaks at Spirula to the lobster fetuccini at Faisanela, which features cuisine from northern Italy, and the fun buffet meals at Mitra. The desserts are veritable works of art, almost too beautiful to eat. While it might feel like desecration to stick a fork in the pastry chef's masterpieces, the first taste will convince you that you have indeed done the right thing.
Evenings can be filled with activity via a visit to the small hilltop casino or the hopping discotheque, or romantic and quiet with a walk along the ocean's edge.
No matter how beautiful or luxurious a resort might be, the guest experience is dependent upon the staff's behavior. One surly waiter or rude housekeeper can spoil the entire vacation. At Meliá Playa Conchal All-Suite Beach and Golf Resort that is certainly not a concern. EVERY employee of the resort, including top management, the young women who staff the activity center, every bartender and blackjack dealer, the trolley drivers and the housekeepers, were charming, helpful, and intent on making sure that every aspect of my stay was enjoyable. It worked. More difficult than turning away from the view at the hilltop lobby was packing up and having to leave the resort.
Of course I will return. I need another massage, a golf lesson, and a quiet respite at the edge of the Pacific at sunset.
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Unless otherwise noted, all photos ©Jána M. Jones 2001