Vampire bugs ruined my honeymoon

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

Rachel Meredith’s account of her honeymoon reads like a script from a National Lampoon’s Vacation movie — minus the funny, but with bugs.

First, the wires got crossed on her reservation at the Westin Playa Conchal in Costa Rica. Then she and her husband encountered numerous service problems. And finally, they were eaten alive by insects.

I don’t want to keep you in suspense. The picture above is of Meredith’s leg. I’ll let her explain.

On the third day of our honeymoon, I noticed what looked like flea bites on my husband. They were little red bites that he said where itching.

I didn’t have any on me so I was confused. I had him take a bath and little black bugs started floating up to the top.

When we got into the States I noticed that I started having the same bites as my husband.

As my husband was looking at one of my bites he noticed that a little bug had flown out of my skin. We went to the ER, and were told that we were infested with botfly.

Luckily there was one pharmacy in our area of the state that had the medication that we needed to get rid of larva and bug infestation.

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.


The human botfly, Dermatobia hominis, lays its eggs under your skin through mosquito bites. They hatch in about eight weeks.

That’s some wedding present.

But hang on. Did Starwood, which owns Westin, infect this couple with botfly? No, it did not.

Here’s the response from Starwood:

Please note the hotel cannot accept responsibility for the infestation of botflies which you encountered.

We are truly sympathetic to your situation, though based on the nature of these insects, and that they lay their eggs through a vector (such as a mosquito), it is not possible to determine the exact time nor location of the introduction to you.

We would suggest you follow up with your medical insurance and/or travel insurance regarding the medical bills.

So what about the rest of the experience? It was far from ideal. Let’s hit a few of the highlights.

The room at the Westin wasn’t available, so the hotel “upgraded” them to a condo a mile from the resort.

“The condo looked lovely at first glance,” says Meredith. “Then I found a big cockroach. I thought nothing of it after all it is the rain forest. Next morning went outside to see our great view. It was their golf course which would have been lovely — had either of us actually liked golf.”

Service was slow

The couple would call for a ride, and it would take forever for a van to show up.

“When we would call for rides or for room service it would take them longer each time we called,” she says. “I had to argue with the front desk just to get our fridge restocked with water.”

You get the idea. Everything that could go wrong on this honeymoon seemed to go wrong — a lot of little things that added up. And then, of course, the botflies.

I contacted Starwood on her behalf. It refunded the 60,000 points Meredith’s father-in-law had used to pay for the honeymoon and offered its sincere apologies for the problems the couple encountered on its vacation.

Meredith is unhappy with that resolution. It doesn’t cover any of her other expenses, including the visit to the emergency room.

“We feel that this offer does not benefit us in any way, since the points aren’t even going to us,” she adds.

But is this enough compensation? I’m on the fence. I don’t think you can pin the botfly problem on Starwood, and the service lapses were fairly minor.

Still, the overall experience, as Starwood admits in an email to Meredith, “was not flawless.”

No kidding. We receive many complaints about honeymoon disappointments, but this one is in a class by itself.

Update (4:30 p.m.): Meredith has asked me to add something to her account.

During check-out, the couple got into a confrontation with the hotel staff over the bill. They missed their flight and had to spend the night at another hotel and pay for a new flight home.

They spent an additional $136 for the hotel and $217 on airfare

Meredith felt this was an important detail to add to the story, and the main reason she was unhappy with the refund. (Discover everything you need to know about trip planning in our guide.)

I had assumed, based on our correspondence, that the bugs had upset her. In writing this post, I omitted this detail for the sake of brevity. (Related: When I walked into the room everything was covered with bugs.)

Meredith says she wants a “stress-free” do-over of her honeymoon to compensate her for the additional expenses, and she wants my advocacy team to get involved.

Photo of author

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

Related Posts