Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wow, hard to believe it’s already 2011! So much has happened at the Flamingo Beach Resort in the past year, it’s time to put you up to date with all of our new and continuing initiatives:

Last January we began an incredible year for destination weddings, with three of them booked back to back the week after New Year’s. The happy couples kept on coming and we hosted over 30 wedding groups in 2010 and a similar number of honeymooners. Wedding and honeymoon business is so gratifying and exciting to us as hoteliers, because we truly become a lasting part of our guest’s lives and memories. We are redoubling our effortsin the new year to provide a truly personalized, special and memorable occasion for all the bridal and honeymoon couples who’ll be joining us in 2011.

In addition to our focus on romance, we had several corporative incentive groups who enjoyed our facilities last year. They were able to program a wide variety of tours and activities for their guests, along with catered dinners and fun, “bonding” activities such as Pool Volleyball, Karaoke Nights and Texas Hold’Em Tournaments. We look forward to welcoming more corporate groups this year, and assisting them in promoting employee solidarity, productivity and communication.

One of our major focuses in 2010 was to become a more sustainable, environmentally friendly resort. In addition to celebrating Earth Day with Tree Plantings, candle-making and other green activities, we began

our process for the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo’s Certification of Sustainable Tourism. Two Environmental Studies students from Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment assisted by gathering data and working with our management team to train our entire staff in every aspect of environmental sustainability. We instituted such programs as: separation and recycling of all plastics, paper and aluminum products and waste matter; regular beach clean-ups and maintenance of Playa Flamingo’s international Blue Flag Certification; periodic water-quality monitoring of the ocean, the pools, and the resort’s drinking water; the use of water coolers to replace bottled water; the purchasing of only biodegradable, recyclable and environmentally safe products by our housekeeping, food & beverage and maintenance staffs along with the reduction of the use of plastics and any other non-biodegradable products; achieving energy savings through the installation of low-energy consumption lamps and light bulbs, along with recycling of organic waste for energy uses; achieving water conservation through the installation of low-flow faucets and shower heads.

Assisting our local communities is an important part of our commitment to sustainable tourism in Guanacaste, and we collaborate closely with local schools, churches and community organization to provide donations of money, time and materials; assist with fundraising efforts, offer job training and support in many other ways. We started a program of guest donations to support CEPIA, a non-profit social and educational organization based in a nearby community. We also collaborated again with Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment to develop and sponsor an in-depth scientific study of our adjacent mangrove forest. The unique ecosystem found in the mangrove wetlands provides the perfect environment for young marine organisms, and protects the coastline from erosion.Two graduate students worked all summer mapping the mangrove system, taking soil and water samples, making a complete survey of the flora and fauna, and educating local schools and communities about the importance of preserving and protecting the mangrove ecosystem. The field part of their study culminated in a Mangrove Clean Up Day sponsored by the resort.

The Fall Green Season was a time for much-needed staff vacations, but we also hosted a number of wedding groups attracted by our Free Wedding Package promotion. Guanacaste’s rainy season is never as intense as the rest of the country’s, and our resort guests enjoyed many days of sunshine as they toured the lush, green local attractions. It was also a great time to enjoy many of the seasonal specials for massages and skin treatments offered by our Serenity Spa.

Pacific Coast Diving spruced up their Dive Center facilities with some gorgeous new wall murals, and continued to certify a number of new dive enthusiasts thanks to their top-ranked team of professional PADI instructors. Our resort is now recognized by PADI as one of the premier dive resorts in Costa Rica, especially due to our proximity to the marine-life rich Catalina Islands.

The Flamingo Casino moved into smaller quarters overlooking the pool area from the second floor lobby, and with its new, cozy bar and lounge, morphed into Flamingo Pub & Gambling. They will be promoting Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournaments and offering blackjack and poker classes in the coming year. In the old casino space, we opened a new Family Center, with ping-pong tables, billiards, foosball and a mini movie theater. The area in our second floor lobby also includes a convenience store, snack bar, and Internet access. Another exciting new investment is the beautiful new artwork in every guestroom, featuring colorful Costa Rican flora and fauna, designed especially for the hotel by San Jose-based artist, Jacques Quillery.

Finally, in December, the resort welcomed two new vendors to our family: First, the Famous Points Beauty Salon located in our shopping area off the Main Lobby; they provide hair cuts and styling, manicures, pedicures, depilation services and high end hair products and treatments. Second, a new water sports venture was launched by Playa Vida Waters Sports; they provide beach umbrellas for rent, offer free chairs for a guests, rent boogie boards and skim boards, and offer exciting Jet Ski Safaris. They are located in a newly built kiosk on the beach side of the resort.

The year ended with our largest ever New Year’s Eve Party, featuring a multi-course gourmet buffet dinner; live music by La Seleccion, and what everyone agreed was the best fireworks display EVER! Champagne and cocktails were enjoyed by all, the starlit night was spectacular, and many of our guests have already signed on to return again for next year’s bash. Our team at the Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa is geared up and ready for the new year and waiting to greet you and your family and friends at our ever-improving facilities. We are not perfect by any means, but we are the friendliest staff you will find in all of Guanacaste and promise to go “above and beyond” to satisfy you, our valued guest. Happy New Year; we look forward to seeing you (again) soon!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Preserving the Wetlands

With all of Mother Nature's dramatic upheavals recently--earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis--this Earth Day seems like a good time to contemplate our role as caretakers of this beautiful planet we inhabit.
The Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa is celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd with a series of activities designed to bring us closer to Nature and learn more about how we can help reduce the waste and contamination of its precious resources. We will be planting trees, guiding tours in the protected mangroves adjacent to the resort property (photo-left), making candles so we can turn off electric lights, and creating delicious meals and drinks from local, fresh ingredients. All of these things and many more efforts to promote environmental sustainability are actually done regularly at the resort; we are just drawing more attention to them and making them more inclusive on this special day. At all times, trash is recycled, efforts are made to reduce the amount of daily laundry, lights are turned off and air-conditioning temperatures are adjusted, natural, biodegradable cleaning products are used, beach clean-ups are organized, and organic, local foods are sought out for Arenas' Restaurant menus.
Recently, the resort ownership arranged to host graduate students from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University to conduct a scientific study on how to revive and preserve the health of the mangrove wetlands which run through the center of Playa Flamingo, creating a much-needed shelter for a wide variety of birds and other wildlife. By promoting the conservation of this large undeveloped tract of land and helping to restore the natural flow of salt water into the preserve, the Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa ownership and employees are working to maintain the natural beauty of Playa Flamingo for generations to come.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Happiest Place on the Planet

The word is spreading: Costa Ricans are the happiest people on Earth, according to several different measures. The information comes from a very credible source, The New York Times, in an article that cites several different international studies which attempt to measure overall contentment. Please check it out for yourself: Having spent the past two weeks here at the beautiful Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa in Playa Flamingo, Guanacaste, I can assure you, I have not experienced a single unhappy moment. On the contrary, every evening as I watch the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean, the sheer natural beauty of these sunsets makes me feel exceptionally blessed. And words cannot fully describe the sense of health and well-being one experiences while walking the expansive white crescent of beach, feeling the ocean breezes caress your skin while breathing clean, fresh, unpolluted air. Now, spending a day at the beach makes most people happy, I guess, so what is so special about Costa Rica? First of all, in this country they take sustainable environmental practices seriously. Where else would you have a moratorium placed on all development just so they can study the nesting habits of marine turtles to determine where all further development should be completely prohibited for the good of these gentle sea creatures? Costa Rica has set aside 25% of its land for protective parks and reserves that safeguard its lush natural beauty and great diversity of flora and fauna. With an estimated 5% of the world's biodiversity found in this small nation, many scientists and naturalists from around the globe refer to Costa Rica as the "world's living Eden." The Tico's cultural values also set them apart. First of all, democracy is Costa Rica's most treasured institution, and the ideal of personal liberty is strongly cherished. Costa Ricans are very proud to be members of one of the world's most stable democracies, and show it on the eve of the Independence Day, when the whole nation comes to a halt to sing the national anthem. Secondly, Costa Ricans are peace-loving, warm and friendly. It is easy to make friends here, no matter where you come from. Ticos are consistently helpful and polite. They are typically laid-back and thus worry little about deadlines. They do not live at all by the clock and therefore tend to be chronically late for appointments--a quirk notoriously but affectionately known as living on "Tico Time." Costa Ricans are non-confrontational. Faced with a difficult situation, they tend to laugh and use humor to diffuse the problem. Costa Ricans are extremely family oriented. Spending time with family and friends is of utmost importance, and multi-generational gatherings are the norm. Many Ticos even prefer jobs that will allow them more free time to spend with family and friends, even if it means sacrificing a higher pay grade (Hello, USA, are you listening??) Spend some time here in Paradise-On-Earth at the Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa, and believe me, you will soon understand what I am talking about and share in the sense of peace and well-being that seems to envelope this blessed little nation.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Feliz Navidad from Playa Flamingo!

What a difference a season makes! The scene during Christmas week at Flamingo Beach is famous if you are a Tico, possibly infamous if you're not. Meaning that for almost two decades, residents from the capital city of San Jose between the ages of 16 and 26 have made Playa Flamingo the place to see and be seen and to party away the nights from December 26th through January 2nd. During the days, the wide, white stretch of sand--normally quiet and uncrowded--fills up with dozens of Costa Rican families and gorgeous young people clustered in amiable groups along the mile-long beach. The gals are typically chatting and sunbathing, while the guys play soccer and frisbee. Occasionally there are beach volleyball competitions or concerts organized by a soft drink company or brand of surfer gear. The atmosphere is laid back and friendly, but there's a buzz of excitement in the air. Everyone gathers at 5 p.m. to witness the incredible show that nature puts on: sunsets like nowhere else on Earth! The sky goes from a gentle blue-gray to a hot orange to reddish violet and pink-purple tinged with golds and greens and aquamarines. The ocean calms, the waves grow gentle and both sand and surf reflect the incredible palette of the sky. Of course, the North Americans, Europeans and other tourists appreciate the beach and its beauty, but maybe they weren't expecting the crowds or the craziness. Still, if they happen to be vacationing with teenage or young adult children, they have hit the jackpot! The kids will think they have died and gone to heaven, with the parties that go on every night! It's like a giant tailgate in the tiny town of Flamingo, mostly due to a tradition started by the local nightclub/disco/casino called Amberes, that quite frankly, has gotten a little out of hand. But that's a viewpoint from a person already "over the hill," because I have to admit that the street parties are one of the reason my now adult children continue to want to come here year after year. December 30th is the craziest night of all. Forget about driving in or out of Playa Flamingo, you just want to stay around and enjoy the show. It reminds me of that old Van Morrison tune, "Wild Nights": with the "girls, dressed up for each other" and the boys "doing the boogie woogie down on the street." It's all in good fun, and all the local businesses contribute to pay for private security and clean up the mess early the next a.m. It's actually one of the things that helped to make Flamingo a united community, really, everyone coming together for a common cause: to keep the young people safe, and the town clean and tourist-friendly. The next day, while the 18-25 year olds are mostly nursing their hangovers, older and younger folks are gearing up for New Year's Eve.
The Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa puts on the best party in town, and everyone knows it! Residents who have condos in the area invite all their friends to see the spectacular fireworks the Resort puts on every year at the stroke of midnight...even better than 4th of July! An amazing dinner is served at the Resort, while guests are drinking and dancing to the music of one of Costa Rica's best live dance bands. The fun is to see the locals getting up and teaching the "gringos" to dance Latin! It is such a blast! The party is for young and old: there are grandparents dancing with their grandchildren, honeymooners having a romantic evening, families of all nationalities sharing an unforgettable time with one another. OK, it's not peaceful, it's not pristine, but it's the other side of Costa Rica: the zest for life, the emphasis on family, the hopeful attitude that each coming year will always be better than the one before.
Experience Fin de Año en Costa Rica just once, and you'll never want to spend New Year's Eve anywhere else!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Mega" Resorts Not For Me

Now that most travelers are shopping more carefully, looking for vacation bargains, why would someone want to stay at the Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa rather than one of those big, 350+ room "mega" resorts, which lately have been running specials to try and fill up all those empty rooms? Well, for one thing, if you compare, the Flamingo Resort's prices are usually better anyway. And secondly, the Flamingo is literally just steps away from the beach. You can hear the sound of the ocean while eating your breakfast at Arenas Restaurant or when lounging by the pool. If you or your kids want to go back and forth from the ocean to the pool during the day, it takes no more than a minute--you don't have to think about taking a 10 - 15 minute walk each time! If you do want to walk, the beautiful horseshoe -shaped, white sand beach is perfect for strolling or jogging. Instead, at most of the mega all-inclusives, your room is usually quite a hike from the beach, and sometimes you even have to drive a cart or wait for a shuttle to get there.

PHOTO: An Intimate Wedding On the Beach at Playa Flamingo, Just Steps Away from the Resort

Third, the FBR&S is big enough to offer almost all of the amenities of the mega-resorts (an optional all-inclusive package, activities, tours, two swimming pools, swim-up bar, casino, full-service spa, Internet, library, room service, mini market, souvenir shops, a dive shop, playground, pool tables, lighted tennis court, etc.) yet small enough so that the service is intimate and personal. After a few days you get to know the staff and they get to know you, and it feels like you are part of the family. There are no lines to wait in to get your breakfast or dinner, no scrambling around rows and rows of identical chairs to find a lounge right next to the pool. When you go on a tour from the Flamingo, it will be you, your family and maybe a few other folks, but never a crowd.

But most of all, you get to experience Costa Rica. The FBR&S is not isolated, off in the middle of nowhere, a resort you arrive at to never leave the premises. At the mega-all-inclusives, they may boast having 7 restaurants, but they are usually all served by one big enormous, industrial kitchen that basically puts out the same kind of food with different sauces. At the Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa you can also enjoy fabulous food and get it cooked to order, but it's not the only place you'll be able to eat and drink. Since it's the center of a small, international and local community, with other bars and restaurants within walking distance, you can enjoy a variety of venues and cuisines, and meet locals and tourists alike. Of course, everyone has their likes and dislikes, but a crowded resort with over 1,000 guests is just not my cup of tea. No, especially in beautiful Costa Rica, mega-resorts are not for me!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Action-Packed Natural Adventure

The Guanacaste Combo Tour is one of the most exhilarating, fun day trips you can take during your stay at the Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa. Especially if you want to enjoy a relaxing, beach vacation but at the same time want to experience some of the unique things about Costa Rica, this full-day tour is for you.
I had this delightful experience on a beautifully sunny day toward the end of the last green season. We left Flamingo around 8 a.m., right after breakfast, in an air-conditioned van en-route to the Buena Vista Lodge near Rincon de la Vieja National Park. During the approximately 2 1/2 hour ride, our guide enlightened and entertained us with an astounding amount of facts about Costa Rica's flora and fauna, history and culture. Once we arrived at Buena Vista, the adventure truly began. We started off with an easy 10-15 minute hike up to the launching platform for the Jungle Canopy Zipline. We were provided with helmets, gloves and hanging gear, along with very clear safety instructions, and off we went, flying among the treetops of this pristine tropical forest! As we landed exuberantly on the third of twelve platforms, we were treated to the sight of two colorful toucans in the branches nearby. The views were lovely and we could hear the grunts of the howler monkeys in the distance. Upon the final landing, we had another treat in store: A one-of-a-kind waterslide zipping downhill along the forest floor. The water was cold and refreshing, and as I bumped and bounced my way around curves worthy of a bobsled run, I found myself laughing hysterically, partly from terror but mostly from the sheer rush of the good time I was having. This was followed by a plain but satisfying "comida tipica" buffet lunch in the spacious, rustic Lodge. Next, we were outfitted with horses for a gorgeous 40 minute trek deep into the forest, following our guide single-file down a narrow, winding path along the river bank. Before emerging near the hot springs, we saw a variety birds including another toucan, along with a family of white-face monkeys playing in the trees. After changing again to our swimsuits in the simple, clean locker rooms, we were led to a kind of sauna built into the lave rocks, so that we could "open our pores." After that we were taken straight to the mud room, where we slathered warm volcanic clay all over our bodies, like Indian warriors preparing for battle. We showered the cleansing, soothing mud off a short while later, and began to explore the thermal pools of varying temperatures. Once again, the monkeys were putting on a show and kept us entertained while we soaked up the minerals from these healing springs. After an hour there, it was still hard to pull ourselves away. We changed back into jeans and t-shirts, ate a small snack, and piled on an open air tractor/jeep for the ride back to the Lodge and the bus ride to The Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa. We were tired but happy, full of wonderful stories to tell the folks back home.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sunny, Sporty Long Weekend

The weather during Labor Day Weekend (U.S.) and the week that followed at Playa Flamingo was a pleasant surprise, with beautiful clear blue skies every day and not a drop of rain. The surf temperature was delicious and the tranquil waters excellent for swimming, diving and fishing. Unfortunately, the Costa Rican national soccer team, La Seleccion, which started out with a very promising bid for World Cup qualification, fell to 4th place in its division (CONCACAF) after very discouraging losses to both Mexico (3-0) on September 5th and El Salvador (1-0) on September 9th. Locals and tourist alike viewed the matches on the giant flat-screen at the Sunset Lounge at The Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa, while enjoying cocktails and snacks. While "La Sele" truly disappointed its fans, the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament provided some excellent sports entertainment and action. One of the things I love about being at Flamingo is that you can be in this remote, beautiful spot, but still keep up with some of your favorite things from civilization!
Congrats to Flamingo General Manager Donovan Garcia and his wife Maria Teresa on the birth of baby Natalia, on Dia del Nino (Sept 9th). The family is welcoming their first daughter after three boys!
With Costa Rica's Independence Day falling on Tuesday, Sept. 15th, many San Jose residents will be heading out to soak up some of that Guanacaste sunshine now that it's their turn for a long weekend. Enjoy!