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Trip Report 10 days in Costa Rica- Pura Vida!

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Thank you to all who take their time to give advice/recommendations and post their trip reports- it helped me hugely. I want to give my impressions of some of the things we did.

We ( myself, husband, 16 year old son, and 13 year old daughter) left Dec. 21st and got home January 1, 2012. We flew Frontier Airlines from Denver, Co directly to San Jose, Costa Rica- flight time was 5 hours, 10 minutes. The direct flight left at midnight and arrived at 6 :15 am.

We used the driving transfer service offered by our hotel- Arenal Observatory Lodge to get from the airport to AOL. The driver met us at the curb with my name on a sign. Loaded us up and we were off. He stopped once for us to grab some food and a bathroom break and we arrived after the bumpy drive to AOL.

We loved AOL and I would stay there again without reservations. We did the free morning guided hike with their staff- saw Howler and Spider monkeys. He gave a great history of the volcano and what it was like to see it erupt when he was a child. Saw the volcano for 30 minutes unobstructed- fantastic! We did take a taxi in to La Fortuna- $25 each way- to look around. We had terrible wind and a lot of rain so our time here was hampered by that. We spent 2 nights and could have used 1 more here but the weather was terrible most of the time we were there.

We used Desafio for the horseback ride trip to Monteverde. The boat ride across the lake was an adventure, as it was choppy. We had some rain on the horseback ride but we all loved it- they took great care of the group, the scenery was lovely, we saw toucans on the way, stopped for a pineapple and water break and just enjoyed the experience. Would recommend Desafio 100%. Once to Monteverde- we had an almost 2 hour van ride to our hotel- mountains and countryside were breathtaking.

We stayed at the Trapp Family Lodge. Property was right next to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and the property was nicely landscaped. The guys in the restaurant were wonderful- friendly, taught us some more Spanish and were fun to see each day. That being said, I would not stay there again. The rooms are a bit chilly and have NO sound proofing- we heard everything from every room around us. It was a long way into Santa Elena- though we had fun walking to town one night for fun. We ate at Johnny's Pizza and Tramonti - both were good though we liked the pizza at Tramonti's better. We enjoyed some baked goods at Stella's bakery and enjoyed the birds at the birdfeeder behind it.

We did the ziplines and hanging bridges at Selvatura. My kids and husband loved the ziplines. They terrified me but I did it. I did feel that the Selvatura folks were very careful and safety aware. The hanging bridges were amazing and I loved the perspective it gave you of the canopy. Selvatura provided free transportation to and from our hotel.

We took the Don Juan coffee tour and we all enjoyed it. The farm is lovely and they did a very detailed description of the coffee growing/picking process. They picked us up and took us back to our hotel and had a beautiful cafe to sample coffee and enjoy the view.

We hiked in the Cloud Forest Reserve for 5 hours the next day- fascinating place. We did not use a guide here but enjoyed having hours of the trails to ourselves. We stopped at the Hummingbird Gallery on the way out and saw beautiful and large hummers. We spent 3 nights in Monteverde- that time was about right for us.

Manuel Antonio
We used Anywhere Costa Rica to take us from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio. Our driver was right on time. Another very bumpy, but beautiful drive. We asked him to stop at the Tarcoles River so we could see the crocodiles and he dropped us off on one end of the bridge and picked us up at the other- what an incredible sight they are! We used Anywhere Costa Rica for the final tranfer from MA to San Jose and that driver was also on time and very professional.

We spent 4 nights at La Posada Jungle Bungalows. Four of us in one bungalow was a little tight but we would go back there in a minute. Mike, Jonathon and Esteban are the best! The location is right next to the National Park and an easy 5 minute walk to the beach. La Posada offers dinner three nights a week for $7 each, has a fridge with $1 water/soda and cheap beer, does laundry for $7 and has boogie boards, beach toys, towels etc. for free use. Pool is small but pleasant. Breakfast is included with your room rate and are very good each morning. Hammocks are hung at each room and we spent a lot of time just watching the world go by from the hammock. We saw there on the property- spider monkeys, white faced monkeys, a sloth and deer.

We did a guide for the National Park- it was very crowded the day we were there but we still saw a lot- all the monkeys, sloths, lots of bats, bugs, plants etc... Not so much with birds though. We swam at the beach in the park- lovely water and safe.

We watched an amazing sunset from El Avion one evening- just had drinks and an appetizer there but the view was perfect and the airplane interesting. We took a taxi to Quepos to Dos Locos to meet the group from La Pasada for dinner and live music, which they arrange every Wed. night. Band was loud and played classic rock- food was Tex Mex. Fun night.

I took the tour to Villa Vanilla, which is a 27 acre farm that grows vanilla, cinnamon, chili peppers and other spices. I enjoyed this alot- the countryside was pretty, the tour was interesting and they gave us tastes of treats like vanilla bean cheescake, cinnamon tea, cookies with cacao niblets etc... The tour included the spice drying process as well as walking in the fields to see the plants. They have a shop to purchase things as well- cash only. My kids and husband opted for a day at the beach while I did this- the tour transported me both directions from La Posada.

We spent a lot of time just walking the beach, enjoying the water, though the rip tides there are nasty. We ate the last night at the nearby Costa Linda- which has cheap burgers and other dishes and cheap drinks.

San Jose
We stayed our last night at Adventure Inn- big rooms, nice pool, and a pleasant spot to get ready to go home from. We took a taxi in to the main Plaza and walked around to see the cathedral, national theatre etc.. but the museums were all closed for New Years. It was fun to see the crowds and the central market. Taxis to and from Adventure Inn were around $15 each way.

I would be happy to answer any specific questions anyone has. We had a great time and loved the country. Can't wait to go back!

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