AUSTIN, TEXAS -- My Wife and I have traveled to Costa Rica several times in the last three years that we have been dating. Every time we have traveled to Costa Rica, we have used the travel services of Rico Tours. Rico Tours has won the Condenast Award for both Costa Rica (8 years in a row) and Nicaragua (for the past 2 years). My wife and I discovered Costa Rica via the write-up in the magazine and thought we would give it a try. Boy, were we glad that we did!
In the past three years we have had several 2 week trips, one of which was our honeymoon, and Rico Tours planned the entire trip - all the airfare, hotels, transfers, cars, drivers, tours, and adventure trips for the entire vacation. Basically, you name it - they planned it. To start, everything was phenomenal. For me (a project manager) it's nice to have someone else do all the planning and take care of the arrangements.
Rico Tours planned everything - all we had to do was follow along. Not only did we follow along, but we stayed at some of the most Fantastic Resorts in all of Costa Rica. As well, the "Rico Tours" name was so well known by the locals that we were treated with extra special care with everyone we visited.
You can imagine that I would not trust just anyone to plan several week Honeymoon unless I had absolute faith that the planning and delivery would be superb. In all cases it was. Rico Tours arranged the most fantastic trip for our honeymoon which included time at the volcanoes, time at the beach, several days for spa luxury at the Four Seasons, then across into Nicaragua for more fun and amazing resorts on the beach.
Rico Tours is hands down has the most expertise, knowledge, and ability to plan your trip. I recommend to all of my friends and co-workers who are looking for an adventure, or just to get away, to call Rico Tours and let them do the work! From Houston, it is a very short hop to get to Costa Rica and makes for a great vacation get away! If you have the option - request Leigh Ann to plan your trip - she goes well above and beyond to take you to the most spectacular places you will ever ever see.
Will I ever use Rico Tours again? Of Course! As a consultant, I have traveled and worked all over the world and had the opportunity to work with all kinds of travel agencies. Rico Tours is by far the best. We discovered on their website that they also plan trips to Australia, so my wife and I are going to plan a trip to go dive the great barrier reefs and will definitely call Rico Tours to help us with the details!
AUSTIN, TEXAS -- On March 30, 2005 I contacted Rico Tours regarding our planned travel to Costa Rica in December 2005. In my March 30th email I included the following critical information on our Must Sees: “Our travel dates - over Christmas 2005. Must sees: Arenal Volcano area, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (zip lining tour would be cool), nice relaxing beach resort on the Pacific.”
Over the next 4 weeks or so we worked closely with Kandis Nelson at Rico to organize our holiday. My husband and I repeatedly in emails and in direct phone conversations with Kandis made it abundantly clear that the primary requirement for the hotel for the three days set aside for the Pacific coast, was on a beach or within easy walking distance (1 or 2 blocks)
from a beach.
We had numerous discussions with Kandis regarding whether to use transfers or to rent a vehicle. Kandis repeatedly recommended that we use the transfer service – that the roads in Costa Rica were bad and that driving was difficult. So, we relied fully on her experience and expertise and opted for the transfers.
On December 27th, after 1 1/2 hours on extremely bad and bumpy roads we arrived at Luna Azul - the resort Kandis booked us at supposedly on a beach on the Pacific Ocean. I was dismayed to learn upon our arrival that not only were we no where near the beach, we couldn't even see the beach or the ocean from our room. I left several urgent messages for Kandis on December 27th, asking that she return my call. I did not receive a return call from her during the remainder of our trip in Costa Rica, even though she had our detailed itinerary, and no call from her even upon our return to the US.
This was the portion of our trip to Costa Rica that I was most looking forward to. Three days on a beach. Playing in the ocean, sitting on a beach lounge chair reading a book and soaking up the sun. Rolf, the co-owner of Luna Azul, told us that when guests book their reservations he makes clear that the property is remote and that visitors to Luna Azul need a rental car otherwise they will be "stuck here." We confirmed with two couples that we met also staying at Luna Azul that Rolf had indeed used those exact words. I'm curious as to why my husband and I were not informed that we would need a rental car? So, we were stuck there for three days with absolutely nothing to do. All of the other guests staying at Luna Azul had a rental car.
I would expect an experienced travel professional to do at least some minimum level of due diligence on a property in which the travel professional was unfamiliar with and had not previously booked clients. At a minimum, knowing the requirements we had clearly and plainly laid out, I would have expected the following questions to be asked:
1) Is the resort on the beach?
2) If not on the beach, is there a beach within reasonable walking distance (less than 5 minutes)?
3) Do guests need a car?
4) Will the activity operators (tours, guides) pick up guests at the resort for the activities/tours?
5) Are there restaurants within walking distance from the resort?
The answer by the way to all of the above questions was NO for Luna Azul.
Within every industry there exists a reasonable standard of due care and professional workmanship, including the travel consulting industry. The reason we selected Rico Tours was because your agency holds itself out as experts regarding accommodations and travel itineraries for travel in Costa Rica. Kandis did not exercise the industry standard level of due care and professional workmanship when she booked us at Luna Azul. I spent the first day in tears and my husband was trying to move mountains to find us things to do.
The day after returning to the US I sent Kandis an email. By the way, nine days had passed and she had still not returned my three messages. In my email I asked Kandis if we could discuss why this happened and how we could work together to find an acceptable solution. Kandis replied and said “I have forwarded this email to Leigh Ann. She is just returning from Costa Rica tonight so I will speak to her regarding this situation as quickly as possible and will be back in touch with you.”
On January 11th, after waiting a week to hear back from Kandis, I sent her a follow-up email: ”I have patiently waited for over a week now for a phone call or other response from you and Leigh Ann. I would appreciate the courtesy of a call so that we discuss the serious issues that I brought to your attention.” Did I receive the courtesy of a call as requested – NO – I received a curt and terse legalistic email from Kandis. In her email she stated “This email concludes any further business we have regarding the trip and you are not due any type of refund as was stated to you in advance.” By the way, in neither my 1/4/06 or 1/11/06 emails did I ask for a refund.
Until Rico Tours improves their customer service - I strongly advise travelers to avoid using their services.
Kandis completely disclosed the location of this hotel, told her we had not seen it, gave her the hotel web site to review, and then she asked us to book the hotel. She doesn't mention the other lovely places she visited.