FLAMINGO – Swiss-run, Italian-managed, German-owned, U.S. chain – hotels and resorts up and down Guanacaste’s coast offer an international take on Costa Rica’s beaches, and give some foreign visitors a sense of home away from home.
But for those who wish to immerse themselves in Costa Rica once they get off the plane, there is Club Bahía Potrero, on the waterfront 2 kilometers north of Playa Flamingo in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
Owned and operated by Costa Ricans, Club Bahía provides all the amenities one would expect to find at an international chain in a similar price range. But general manager Joaquín Gamboa has not followed any formula in the development of the Club Bahía Potrero.
Instead, he has taken what he has learned in hotel management seminars around the world and turned it into his own uncomplicated vision – a small resort with excellent service, a clientele that is equally Costa Rican and foreign, and a commitment to the community that surrounds it.
SINCE opening a little more than a year ago, Gamboa has trained a staff of 25 to answer every need and wish of his guests. By hiring young Costa Ricans with little or no experience, Gamboa is able to mold them into the hotel’s ideal employees, he said.
Attention to service is further helped by the hotel’s intimacy. Twenty-four units range from standard rooms to the presidential suite.
“We are trying to promote small conventions for businesses and organizations, and can provide excellent quality to small groups,” Gamboa said.
With green trees and exotic flowers throughout, the hotel’s gardens attempt to mimic the nearby national parks. The pool, with a swim-up bar and attached whirlpool, offers an alternative to the ocean, which lies just beyond the hotel’s healthy lawn.
The hotel lies on a bay, which makes for great swimming conditions, especially for kids. However, after a day of wading, many guests are looking for more, which is why the hotel helps arrange tours to Rincón de la Vieja, Barra Honda and Santa Rosa national parks. It offers quad, jet ski and sea kayak rentals as well as horseback riding. Arrangements can be made for fishing excursions.
GAMBOA and the hotel have been actively involved in the effort to clean up the nearby Flamingo Marina, which is struggling to reopen after a government closure (TT, Jan. 24, 2003).
Although Gamboa boasts that some of his guests come to eat at the Club Bahía Potrero restaurant and are so pleased they end up staying at the hotel, some dishes on a recent visit were hardly the best of what traditional Costa Rican can offer.
However, Gamboa is sending his head chef to Brazil to study and work under one of the country’s top chefs of 2003, so improvements could be coming.
Gamboa also supports the local scene when it comes to entertainment. Over Valentine’s Day, local mariachi singer Elena Umaña and one of Costa Rica’s most popular cumbia groups, Calle 8, played in the hotel’s outdoor dining area.
All units at the Club Bahía Potrero have air conditioning and cable television. Stereos are also planned for every room.
Hot water is provided through a water heater; turning on the water heater requires locating a switch in the closet.
Gamboa claims the hotel strives to provide all of the amenities of a resort, with prices that are still accessible to both foreign and Costa Rican guests.
A standard room for four people with two double beds and a sofa bed is $100.
The same room with an interior terrace and whirlpool is $116. A villa with separate bedroom, three sofa beds, kitchen, living room and dining area, housing five people, is $178. Condominiums with two separate bedrooms, kitchens and living and dining areas, housing eight people, are $300. And the presidential suite with three bedrooms, four double beds, kitchen, living and dining rooms and a whirlpool, large enough for 10 to 12 people, is $698. All prices include taxes.
Prices May 1 through Nov.1 are 35–45 % less and during Semana Santa and Christmas slightly more. Discounts are also given for extended stays. Club Bahía Potrero can be reached at 654-4671; see also www.potrerobay.com.
BY BUS: Buses to Playa Flamingo leave from San José at 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., 5 hours aboard Tralapa (Calle 20, Avenida 3/5, 221-7202). From Playa Flamingo a bus leaves daily at about 1 p.m. for Potrero.
BY CAR: From San José take theInter-American Highway
to the road to Santa Cruz over the TaiwanFriendshipBridge, continue straight through Santa Cruz to the Cruce de Belén. Take a left and continue past Huacas to an intersection and take a right toward Brasilito. Continue on same road after Brasilito about 2 km to a dirt road on the right, take the dirt road about 1 km, at an intersection, Club Bahía Potrero will be on the left.
BY PLANE: SANSA (221-9414) and Nature Air (220-3054) have regular flights to Liberia. Taxis are available from the airport to Potrero (about 45 minutes).