Pool at Hotel Bambito Costa Rica / Volcán

As I mentioned in my last post, despite having a crazy drive and border crossing experience, we enjoyed our trip to Panama. I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures, but I’ve been meaning to write about the trip for several days. So here we go.

Pool at Hotel Bambito

After crossing the border from Costa Rica into Panama, we drove straight to Volcán, the town we enjoyed the most on our last visit to Panama, and also one of the closest to the Costa Rican border. We stayed the night in Hotel Bambito, the only place in town with a swimming pool. Our girls love to swim. Marie would do it all day if we let her. It was a really pretty indoor pool surrounded by glass windows so you still felt like you were outside. We were glad it was indoor because it was pretty cold outside – too cold for swimming anyway. They also had a hot tub, sauna, and ping pong table, all of which we enjoyed.

Meals with Friends

The next day, we met up with some friends for lunch and dinner. Both suggested the same restaurant, at Dos Rios hotel, so we ate there twice, and enjoyed the food both times. It was great to see our friends again, to catch up on what’s happened in the year and a half since we were last in Volcán.

Driving to Las Olas Resort

Jen at Las Olas

The next day, we thought we’d get a little closer to the border and go find a hotel by the beach somewhere. Our friends recommended Las Olas Resort, and gave us directions. But unfortunately, we missed the signs, and got very bad directions from several locals, which ended up taking us 1.5 hours in the wrong direction! We were all pretty frustrated at ourselves – well, Jen and I were. The girls somehow handled the extra 3 hours in the car with a very good attitude, just having fun playing together. When we got to the hotel, we found out it would be about $50 more per night than we thought because the prices on-line didn’t say it was an extra $20 per person for more than 2 in a room. I asked for a discount, it being the low season, but they wouldn’t budge. :(

Emily Learned to Swim!

Turtles at Las Olas

So, we went swimming that night, and also played a little at the beach and watched the sun set. The pools there were pretty shallow, which was great for the kids. In fact, because Emily could almost touch her toes in just about every part of the pool, she got brave enough to try swimming on her own from one end of the pool to the other, and did it! Our little girl has taught herself to swim! (Which is good because for some reason, she gets terrified whenever I try to teach her myself).

We had dinner at the resort and the girls enjoyed feeding the lettuce to the turtles in the pond and watching the parrots and macaws in the cage by the entrance.

Back to Costa Rica

The next day, we headed back to Costa Rica and immediately felt a little safer and noticed how much more green and dense the foliage was. We really like it here. :) We drove all the way to Dominical to find a hotel to stay at. Although we did stop at the beach just long enough for Marie to lose her shoe in the waves…

Pool at Hotel Ambiente

The hotel we planned on going to turned out to be be closed, so we drove around to several others, and ended up at one that was a little pricier than what we wanted (because we had to get 2 rooms instead of one, but they gave us a big discount). But it was so beautiful and we were ready to treat ourselves to a nice night after all that driving, so we took it. We stayed at Villa Ambiente, and it really was ambient (although we did have to drive through a river to get there). The architecture, furniture and decor were lovely, and the ocean view from the pool was spectacular!

We swam a little until it started to rain, then had dinner at a fun pizza restaurant in town, followed by some delicious ice cream at Ruby’s Homemade Ice Cream, owned by a sweet family from New York (Ruby is their baby). We enjoyed visiting with them, and they even showed Emily how to make waffle cones when she kept probing them for details.

To Buy a Hotel or Not to Buy

Courtyard at Villa Ambiente

Being a business man and having a mind that wants to know how things work, I enjoy talking to business owners to see how they run their operations. In addition to the ice cream shop owners, I also talked to the receptionist at Villa Ambiente (who was the only one there except the gardener) to see how things were run. I found out that it was owned by a man from Switzerland, and run by this woman and a gardener. The hotel is also for sale for 1.7 million dollars! Whew! Way out of my price range (for now), but it sure got me thinking about what it might be like to own a hotel, and how profitable a venture it might be.

In fact, I spent all week researching about buying commercial real estate in Costa Rica, how to run an effective hotel, and created a complex spreadsheet to help me analyze how profitable a hotel might be given many different variables. It’s been fun to learn about, even if I don’t end up purchasing a hotel. But I think it could certainly be a better place to diversify my savings than sticking money in stocks and mutual funds all in US dollars. At least with a hotel I’d have a little more control over the ROI. Something to think about.

Fresh Farming

Visiting the sheep

The next day we headed home, and on our way back stopped at a farm called Finca Ipe for some fresh cinnamon and honey. They even showed us the boxes where the bees make their honey and we got to stick our fingers in and taste the honey right out of the hive! Delicious! Fortunately, these were bees that didn’t sting. We got to see their other animals, too, like sheep, goats, rabbits, and chickens. The kids really loved it!

Overall, we had a great trip and it was fun to be together, see old friends, meet new people, and have new experiences together. For our next visa run, we are planning to visit our family back in Utah for a week or two, and then maybe take our kids to Disney World in Florida. We’ll probably be out of the country a bit longer for this next trip because September/October are the rainiest part of the rainy season here in Costa Rica, which I’ve heard are often just best to avoid altogether.

Thanks for reading! Enjoy the video and pictures below.

Brandon is a location independent entrepreneur, musician, worldschooling father, and the principal author of this blog. He's all about reaching his potential and enjoying life to the fullest in each moment.


  1. That hotel looks wonderful… I would love waking up to that every morning. Even just ONE morning. lol.
    Kennedy is the same way as Emily about swimming. She gets very upset and irrational if anyone tries to teach her. She is a ‘do-it-herself’ type of person, for sure.

    And those turtles are so cute!

  2. I loved the swimming pools, and was so proud of Emily for making so much progress on her swimming skills! It was fun to stay at such beautiful places too, and driving through the river to get there was certainly an adventure. I really enjoyed chatting with the family who ran the ice cream shop as well. :)

  3. What a fun trip and adventure :o) Driving through a river!! WOW.
    Good job Emily on teaching yourself to swim.
    I’m so excited for your next visa run… I’m looking forward to your visit.

  4. That covered pool is beautiful. Well, all the pools are beautiful. And way to go Emily on her swimming progress! That will be really helpful when she gets her mermaid tail :)

  5. Well, if you want the inside scoop on running hotels and restaurants you might want to get a hold of your Grandpa Hays’ friend, Coy Wood. He has a multi-decade perspective. I think this is his profile http://www.linkedin.com/pub/coy-wood

  6. I’ve got Coy’s phone number and email address if you do…. he has been my dad’s most loyal friend these many, many years. He’s also the guy that owned/flew the 6 man plane that flew us to Acapulco when I was a teenager (you’ll remember that story from my blog…)

    He currently owns a restaurant in Tacoma. Here’s a link to their site, which contains a bio about him.

  7. Brandon,

    Was having dinner with the Wheatley’s in South Jordan last night and mentioned that we were headed to CR to investigate the possibility of moving our family down there. He said to reach out to you. It would be cool to meet up with you (if possible) to get an LDS expats perspective on the whole idea (I need some help convincing my wife!:)

    Email me if you’re around, where you’re at, and if you’d be willing to have lunch, etc. We’re planning mostly on cruising the west coast from Boca Barranca to Dominical, but we have absolutely no solid plans, so we’re open to advice from a local.

    My contact info is on my website (not that phone will do any good down there.



  8. Hello Daddy. I love your blog. I like the pool that you put on your blog.
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  9. […] organic farms and ate some of the freshest produce I’ve ever had, and honey right out of the […]

  10. Jeet Singh Says: March 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Very nice story,I enjoy it reading.I would like to make another trip soon.

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