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Trip Report CR May-June - Caribbean, Alajuela & Osa

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I guess I better get this down before too many more details slide from memory!

Traveled solo to Costa Rica, May 24th - June 8th. On arrival was picked up by a friend to take me to my hotel, Xandari, and we promptly got lost up in the hills, which was actually great fun. Wonderful returning to Xandari, such a special place. I would be staying there over the course of my trip 3 separate times, they currently have a great special running with 35% off if you stay 2 or more nights. Beautiful gardens & landscaping, tons of birds, all the villas are so nicely appointed and the staff always very helpful. Since I would be returning other nights, I asked to stay the first night in the Palm Roof villa. This is the only one that does not look out over the valley and is slightly different. They cautioned me I may hear some dogs barking from that one but I was okay with that. (I did hear them a couple times but nothing loud enough to keep me awake). As I was leaving very early the next morning, they gave me an early breakfast which was enough for 2-3 people. Took their transfer to the Holiday Inn Express, as Interbus would not pick up from Xandari.

The Interbus transfer (booked thru Gecko Trail, which conveniently has an office in the Banana Azul lobby) from Alajuela to Puerto Viejo was smooth, though I would mention if you are staying in Alajuela or the N side of San Jose, you will likely be picked up first and then head to San Jose to pick up other travelers. So this added an extra hour to my ride. I have never enjoyed going thru Braulio Carrillo park and this was no exception. Thankfully it's only an hour or so and then the route flattens and straightens out. We stopped about half way at a place called Ellis Restaurant for a bathroom/food break. We skirted around Limon but what I saw on the outskirts wasn't very appealing. Being the major port it is, there are container yards everywhere. But finally we started driving along the beautiful ocean and all was right again.

Arrived at Banana Azul around 1pm or so. I had reserved the Red Frog room for 4 nights. However a little room improvement had led to a much more in-depth remodeling and they were not quite done, so I stayed in the Howler Suite for the 1st night instead. Lovely room with a nice nig bathroom and jacuzzi tub. Good breeze blowing in right off the ocean, enough to keep the fan on low and be fine sleeping. Kept the doors open all night and other than a wayward katydid, no bugs at all. All the staff were very welcoming and friendly, as well as the dogs and cats. Colin the owner was a pleasure to speak with and seems to have a good measure of what people are wanting when there. The hotel itself is so very nice, the gardens very thoughtfully planned, the koi ponds running alongside the hotel interesting. Just an overall good vibe to the place.

Up the next morning by 5am and out to the beach to watch the sun rise. Having coffee service out there at 5:30am wins major bonus points from me, just wonderful. (though the walk back to the hotel would take only a minute or two). Booked thru Gecko Trail the 3-in-1 tour, which started at the Jaguar Rescue Sanctuary. What a wonderful place and well run organization. The tour took almost 2 hours and was worth every penny. Several sloths, from adults to tiny babies were about, along with a deer wandering around, monkeys, toucans, snakes, and best - a baby ocelot. There were also several Howler monkeys hanging around as we walked around, containing some of the monkeys they had successfully released back into the wild. From here we went to the Cacao tour, aka the Chocolate Lady. Very interesting to see from start to finish the making of chocolate and tasting all the different flavors. I must say the most incredible thing was seeing how they ran banana leaves over an open flame (I kept waiting for it to ignite) which leaves the leaf with a consistency of plastic and can carry water, seeds, etc. It started to rain at this point but we continued on to the waterfall. Little slippery on the onset but flattens out quickly. Some of the other people we were with went swimming, a little too cold for me.

By the time I returned from the tour the Red Frog was ready. They really did a fantastic job of remodeling it. The two new oversized doors in the room lead out to a small little garden, as well as the one in the bathroom. The patio is huge with plenty of seating and a small koi pond. Being a cat lover I was delighted that a little scruffed up orange tabby was around, wanting no more than to sit in my lap and go to sleep. I was pretty adamant I wouldn't use the a/c but as it is set back further from the beach and doesn't get much breeze, I had to relent and I must admit it was very nice to have! If I could add anything to it, maybe a ceiling fan out on the patio would be nice, but not sure if possible.

The next 2 days I honestly didn't do much at all. Laid out on the loungers on the beach and read was about the extent of my activity. Loved the chilled coconuts the staff brought out mid-morning, nice touch. Walked up and down the beach a few times, always with a friendly dog or three in tow. As far as food goes, I ate all my meals at Banana Azul and all were very good and very reasonably priced. As I was solo, I really didn't feel up to taking a taxi into town and eating in a restaurant alone. Not to mention most nights I was in bed by 830pm. If you're looking for a place on the beach on the Caribbean side, I would highly rec Banana Azul, I really enjoyed my time there.

After 4 nights, I left at 630am with Interbus back to Xandari. As before I was the first picked up, I was now the last one dropped off. Took a taxi to Xandari and checked back in again. Loved, loved my room, Villa #15. Walked around the grounds again and went to check out the goats and chickens until a huge thunderstorm drove me back inside. Very cool to see the storm moving across the valley. Had both lunch & dinner at the hotel, the chicken enchiladas are incredible. Up early again to catch my Nature Air flight to Puerto Jimenez at 8:35.

Here is a link to my pics from Banana Azul and my stays at Xandari. https://plus.google.com/photos/112869710778750560395/albums/5752550337724374257?authkey=CNiDodiG-NXJYw

More soon.....

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