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Trip Report Costa Rica Trip Report (02/04/09- 02/14/09)– Part 1 Advice & Itinerary

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Before I begin, a little about us, we are in our mid-30’s and have traveled to Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, Mexico, Bahamas, Jamaica and various other smaller trips within the US and of course now this exciting trip to Costa Rica which we just completed from Feb 4-14th 2009. I plan all my trips on my own and they are jam packed with adventure, sights and people to see. My philosophy is we travel and do not vacation which is a huge difference if you know what I mean. I also know that we will never return to a location since the world is too large and our capital is too limited so we make the most of enjoying our time in each location during our trip with that mindset.

I rarely use travel agents when I plan a trip but get most of my advice from Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, friends, etc. I do almost all of the research, reading religiously for weeks and months in advance as I am a researcher by nature. I then share bits with the Mrs., make the arrangements and then she enjoys the fruit of my labor. For me trip planning is not a chore like some see it but an obsession of mine. The only time I read is for research purposes as I can not read for pleasure such as novels, magazines, etc for the fun of it as I view it to be trivial and a waste of my time while others indulge in the escapism that a book provides, but hey that is just me. To each their own I guess, different strokes.

The overall trip Itinerary is as follows and their will be multiple posts to this report as time permits me to write them over the course of the next week.

Dates : Feb 4 - Feb 13 2009

Feb 4 – Flight from Appleton, WI to Minneapolis to Newark to SJO arriving around 10pm. Staying the night at Hotel Grano de Oro.

Feb 5 - Early flight on Nature Air to Puerto Jimenez and staying at the Bosque Del Cabo (BDC) in the cabana Mariposa arrived around noon. I got a massage from Jutta at 2pm that day Did Sunset Tour with Carlos before dinner

Feb 6 – Staying at BDC in cabana Mariposa. Lot of on grounds hikes.

Feb 7 - Staying at BDC in cabana Mariposa. More hiking around grounds.

Feb 8 – Flew on Nature Air to Arenal area through SJO and stay at the Arenal Nayara (deluxe room). Used Sunset Tours for drive to hotel from airport. Picked up by Sunset Tour at 3pm and take their Arenal Hike and Hot Springs and Dinner Buffet at the Tabacon Hot Springs.

Feb 9 – 7:30am Ziplining with Sky Trek/Sky Tram in morning. 1pm Hanging bridges guided tour with Jacamar Naturalist Tours and spent another night at Arenal Nayara

Feb 10 – Did an all day tour in the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge through Sunset tours. Night at Arenal Nayara

Feb 11 9am Lost Canon Repelling tour with Desafio in morning and back by around 2pm. Went into La Fortuna for a dinner at La Choza de Laurel and returned for another night at Arenal Nayara.

Feb 12 – Left Arenal at 11am via Luis our private driver from Tucan Limo Services and take long trip back to SJO (Grecia, Sarchi, Naranjo, Zarcero and Ciudad Quesada) Spend last evening at Hotel Grano de Oro and dined there since food is good and because we need to be at airport by 645am for 9am flight.

Feb 13 – Flew out at 9am in SJO to Newark on Continental in around 3pm. Spend evening in NY City since can’t get home bound flight out – lodging at Club Quarters Rockefeller Center location (perfect). Went to Broadway for dinner, Time Squares and Top of Rocks for a view.

Feb 14 – Tour NY in morning via Gray Line hope off and on bus tour seeing the sights and flight our via Newark at 5pm to Detroit and back to reality in around midnight in Appleton, WI.

Part 1 of multiple part Trip Report – What supplies worked and what I could have gone without

I am going to start this trip report off with some essentials that I brought with us on our Costa Rica that were welcomed suggestions from many of my fellow Fodorites. My wife thought I was nuts with all the pre-trip shopping I was doing based on the advice I received of what to bring but in the end it paid off time and time again to make the trip more comfortable and easy for us.

Keen Sandals – Absolutely the best footwear on the planet for this trip hands down. I always have issues with sandals in general fitting comfortable and rubbing on my heels but not this pair of Keen H20 sandals. They were so comfortable, the enclosed front to protect the toes worked wonderfully on the trails and they dried out super fast once we got them wet. My wife thought I was wasting my money buying special shoes for the trip until I bought her a pair for Valentine’s Day to take with and admitted their worth for the same reasons mid trail somewhere deep within the Osa Peninsula. You do take on some small rocks in the opening on the sides but heck any opened sandal will have that issue. They worked wonderful in slippery rock climbing conditions on our waterfall repel tour mentioned later under tour operators. I wore these for about 90% of our trip with the exception of zip lining and our 26hr layover in NYC for obvious reasons (the cold) or else they could have been the only things I wore for the entire trip. Skip the heavy hikers as they just add weight and are limited use items for a tight weight restrictions you have when traveling in CR. Score one for Fodors advice and listening husband.

Packing Cubes – Ordered 3 sets from Ebags to organize our luggage and eventually returned one. I was even skeptical about these to be honest but had a pair of slim ones used for all the batteries, electronics etc and another S/M/L set for my clothes and found them to be useful in keeping me from having to resort all my clothes and allowed me to find things quickly when we wanted to change and get going hiking etc. My wife mocked me again for this purchase that is until I had a few extra when packing and she used them up with little argument and mumbled something about how nice there were a few days into the trip. He shoots he scores another direct hit.

Bandanas – Not a huge fan of an idea of a bandanas not even going to a Guns and Roses concert would make me wear one but I bought a pair based on this board’s advice. Guess what, I used mine to wet in a stream repeatedly in the humid hikes in the OSA and it did the trick to keep my head cool and sweat out of my eyes. How can you go wrong on a piece of cloth for a buck that has that kind of pay out and functionality? I will have to save it for the cold day in hell when Guns and Roses does do go out on tour to sport their long awaited Chinese Democracy CD – you have to be my age to get this joke I suppose.

Luggage –I just want to say that we never, never, ever traveled to a place for 10+ days in all our trips under 50lbs in luggage much less with 1 bag each. We had more bags and weighed as much as a male polar bear when we went to Alaska. I guess it was because domestic flights within CR require it and were strict and if you don’t guess what, your bag might not go with you or you pay through the nose. So we both packed under 28lbs and that included 7 of that being the actual luggage itself with wheels so that was a major accomplishment. Nature Air, a domestic carrier even weighs you with your limited carry on which shocked us but heck do what you need to do to have the proper weight ratio to keep the plane from clipping trees or worse yet smacking into the side of a mountain range. Our bags were checked and not carried on back in the US as they were the next step up in the luggage food chain with minimal incident (will get to that later in the trip report) and never lost.

I did buy 2 of the weekender bags from Ebags that we later returned and never used. I loved the layout on how it was organized and the weight being like 3lbs but the depth of the bags just were too small for us so we passed on them but can see why so many people recommend them and like their functionality.

Zip Lock Bags – Please, can something this simple be that important? Duh with a resounding Yes I might add, this is a must for a trip to keep clothes organized, dirty ones from stinking up your clean ones as you move from location to location and to take with you on various day hikes. They also were a god send to keep paper and other key documents from rolling up or being wet under the high humidity levels. Take plenty of small ones, a nice mix of large and XL will be used one way or another. Another item wife questioned at first but was won over in the end to their use.

Wicking Clothes
Even though we are from Wisconsin and have high humidity it still doesn’t make me a fan and to me there is nothing worse they sweat dripping in every known crack to man when you hike. So with that said I took the great advice of purchasing wicking material t-shirts using both the Mountain Wear and Patagonia brands and both were worth the $25/shirt costs. Kept me dry and happy even on the most strenuous of hikes at our stay in the OSA. Add the fact they are light weight to wear and towards the weight restrictions of the domestic carriers and you have a double whammy winner. I had 4 pairs of the zip on and zip off pants and for about 10 days in country this was the right amount. We did do laundry service through the hotel ½ way through our trip at Arenal Nayara and this saved on what we needed to pack initially. A good idea though I must not say not entirely cheap at $36 for a few pair of socks, underwear, pants and T-shirts for about 5 days into the trip. However the alternative of heavy packs and excessive luggage fees balanced this in my mind.

Money and Prepaid Debit Card – Instead of utilizing the travelers checks as in past trips we decided to prefund a visa debit with $500 and use this card in sketchy locations or places with whom you might be afraid to get their hands on your main credit card (used it more in NYC then in Costa Rica) for fear of identity theft which I though was a great idea that credit goes to my Mom for having on their own trip to Arizona. Anyway we preloaded that and took about $600 in cash which was the right amount with mostly small bills for tipping and taxis, etc. We should have taken more singles as I burnt those up quickly with only about 70 dollars in $1 denominations. I should have had about $100-$120 but it all worked out for us.

Misc Small Stuff
• 300mm camera lens – Assuming your camera or one you borrowed was working, which we will assume to be true (oh how I wish it was), I would say this size of a lens works very well for most wildlife you encounter. If it is birding your after you need a slightly bigger lenses for most opportunities but this one worked well when my camera was in auto focus mode (about 10% of my trip).
• Flashlights and Headlamps – A must for your stay in the OSA and headlamp was used minimally but I still liked it for night hike so glad I had it. Won’t kill you to use a flashlight only unless your stalking animals in the dark or the other way around and you need your hands free to take pictures or fend them off. Just kidding people.
• Binoculars – Not sure how good your eyes are but mine thanks to computers are on downward slide so bring this item is a no brainer.
• Clothes Line and pins – They were great for a few days at the Osa but I could have just hung them over the rail on our Cabaña so not really needed.
• Pocket Knife – Used once to cut clothes line so a waste.
• Extra batteries – Never needed them but you can never know so still bring them.
• Reading Materials – Books at CR airports are like $14 when normally about $6-$7 in the US so plan accordingly.
• Flip Flops – Used once at the Tabacion Springs Spa for like 10 min so that was a waste.
• Eye Drops – Bring some since they were hard to find and costly. One of the few sundries I failed to bring.
• Brought my own 40oz water bottle – used it twice on hikes and could have left it home and reused the bottled water bottle we purchased at BDC over and over again.

I could ramble of on each of the things we brought but the main stuff was useful and the advice from fellow Fodor travelers invaluable for all the pain and suffering they spared me while I packed and traveled across Costa Rica. Next trip report will get into the lodging, activities and people we encountered that we enjoyed during our trip.

Stay tuned.

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