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Trip Report Anniversary/Birthday Trip Report to Costa Rica

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My wife and I just returned from ten days in Costa Rica and I would love to share some of our experiences with you!

Rather than give you a day by day account of our vacation I have decided to break it up into categories making it easier for you to focus on which categories are important to you.

The Planning Stage Part 1

With the help of many Fodorites I researched hotels, activities, restaurants and itineraries and cross referenced with Tripadvisor and determined to spend 10 days in Costa Rica spending time in three locations: Arenal, Monteverde and Manuel Antonio (in this order). I booked our airline first ( American), took out Travel Insurance (Travel Guard) and then booked our hotels in each location. After making the decision not to rent a car I arranged our transportation throughout our stay and once I had everything in place started the process of determining which activities to pursue in each location including restaurants, hikes and tours, drivers and wildlife to see. I read about drinking the water (absolutely ok), getting any inoculations (not necessary), taking vitamin B1/ 500 mg two weeks before ( to prevent against mosquito bites--don't know if it worked but we didn't get any bites), phone communication ( will be using Skype and buy a phone for local use) and what to pack. We even made copies of our passports, driver licenses, credit cards and other important documents that we were carrying leaving a copy at home and another to bring with us.

Airlines.

Our trip departing from JFK in New York to San Jose was exceptional due to our son having us upgraded to Business class which was a first time experience for us. It reminded us of the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry gets bumped to first class while Elaine remains in coach. Oh my what a difference it made! You are literally wined and dined and treated so royally. There was more room to stretch out and more choices at your disposal for food choices and use of electronic equipment. It was indeed a treat and we were so grateful to our son for arranging this, however, our trip returning home would be much much different!

I was told to arrive at the San Jose airport two hours before departing and remember that you have to pay a $28 fee to leave the country. You can pay either with cash or credit card. After doing this we checked in, went through security, waited around and then had to go through another baggage check before boarding. We boarded, sat for a half hour and then was told that the plane would not be leaving due to the EXIT signs not working. Luggage off the plane, waiting anxiously for arrangements to be made including our connection to NY from Miami. American handled this wonderfully and soon we would be on our way ( 2 hours later) and would have to stay in a hotel overnight in Miami (arranged by American), vouchers given for dinner and breakfast and transportation provided to and from airport. No Business class this time but first class treatment displayed by American and its employees.

San Jose Airport

Since we were arriving in the evening we arranged through our hotel Adventure Inn ( http://www.adventure-inn.com/) to be picked up. A representative was there and we were on our way to the hotel only 15 minutes away. We went through immigration quickly and also stopped to purchase a phone at the Kolbi counter nearby the baggage counter. The phone was $20 and included 120 minutes for local calls. **Our only problem was that all the instructions were in Spanish. We ended up using the phone a few times, however, it was reassuring knowing that we always had the option.


Hotels

Adventure Inn was a nice hotel with comfortable beds, a small restaurant/bar, free wi fi , free phone calls to the states and a decent breakfast included. Highly recommend for an overnight stay. Helpful staff.

Lost Iguana Hotel in Arenal (www.lostiguanaresort.com) was exceptional! Although a bit isolated and away from the town of La Fortuna this hotel had excellent rooms, views and service. We had a view of the volcano from our room ( although only saw it one out of three days), incredible birds ( Toucans and others) right outside our breakfast area, beautiful pool , happy hour, on site trails, golf carts to bring you back and forth to your room ( if needed) and great staff. The food at the Hibiscus restaurant was good--not great but they went out of their way to prepare a very special Romantic dinner to celebrate our anniversary. Since we didn't have a car we were able to arrange both taxi rides and hotel staff vans into La Fortuna and back. Check with them on their van times and you can save the money from taxi rides which can add up.

Hotel Belmar in Monteverde (www.hotelbelmar.net)

Another exceptional hotel and also a bit isolated (without a car) with a long unpaved road taking you to the main road into town. Loved our room in the new building. food was wonderful and the evening sunsets were spectacular. An inexpensive taxi ride will take you into town while tours to both the Cloud Forest and Sepalverda will provide their own vehicles.

Hotel Costa Verde 2 in Manuel Antonio (www.costaverde.com)

The view from our room was wonderful, however, we were on the ground floor and wished I had booked a higher one. For one you will have more privacy and a better view higher up. The restaurants on the premises are OK--not great with the view from the Anaconda restaurant breathtaking! Costa Verde 2 is for Adults only so it was quiet by the pool with bar service and once again spectacular sunsets. Each room is huge with a full kitchen, balcony, free wi fi and of course great views! The bus stops in front of the hotel providing easy access into town and up the road for other restaurant choices. You can walk from the hotel to the main road and down into town, however, it is a bit of a walk and coming back it would be all uphill.

**Transportation and Activities Part 2 to follow.

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