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Trip Report January trip to the Caribbean side

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My husband Lin & I just returned from a wonderful 13 day trip to the Caribbean side of CR. We love adventure & this trip definitely met or exceeded our expectations. Our itinerary looked like this:
3 nts Pachamamas in Punta Uva
3 nts Banana Azul in Puerto Viejo
2 nts at Laguna Lodge Tortuguero
2 nts Casa Rio Blanco
raft trip on the Pacuare river
2 nts at Las Orquideas Alajuela

Our journey started out a bit rough as we left Miami on a non stop to San Jose. We almost left on time but a fellow passenger got sick so we sat on the plane for 2 hrs while they searched for her luggage & then had to replace a cushion (good old American Airlines). That got us into SJO late so we missed our 2pm bus heading to Puerto Viejo. This trip we decided not to rent a car so we purchased a taxi/bus ticket through Gecko Trail Adventures for $25ea. That was a great deal. Our 4pm bus was an hour late so it was dark by 5:30pm so we didn't see much of the country as we'd had expected. Finally got into Punta Uva area by 10pm. Most of the roads were fine until we got to Puerto Viejo. It's a sight to watch cars swerving from side to side trying to miss the pot holes.

We were happy to reach our destination-Pachamamas. We were right in the jungle. Bill showed us to our bungalow. When you close the louvered doors the breeze is gone so he explained we'd be fine to leave the doors open & sleep with the mosquito netting over our bed. He assured us the animals wouldn't come in so being tired we went along with his suggestion. By 5am the howler monkeys were our wake up call along with the roosters. We were glad we'd heard them before on our last trip to CR because it's always such a shock. The positive thing about Pachamamas is the location. We had a big deck with table & chairs, 2 Adirondack & an outdoor kitchen to enjoy the view & there was a river nearby with kayaks that we used. The room itself is quite rustic with a bathroom that smelled like a litter box. Breakfast was a bit of a task to get but the banana pancakes were good when they did come. The place just needs more attention.
We were close to Selvin's restaurant which was very good & also Arricife's where the owner would fix us pitas with fresh feta right from Bulgaria. It's near a nice beach. We did a hike at the end of Punta Uva beach where you can find a steep path that goes up & over to another beach below. Nice hike & great view from top. We borrowed the bikes to ride to Manzanillo one day which is about 6 miles away. There are two small hills on the way there that the rusty single speed bikes just could make it up & over so we got to walk them a bit. That was our hottest day of about 90 degrees. Manzanillo was super crowded. We learned not to go to the beaches on a Sunday. There is a very nice beach there & the water was smoother. Wished we had taken our snorkel gear! Each day we would walk down the road & always saw lots of monkeys. One day while heading to the beach we came across a baby sloth crawling across the road. We stayed next to it as it made its way to a tree. I love sloths so that really made my day. Mom was in the tree above keeping a close watch. I was very impressed with how clean & lush most of the places were along the road. Loved the jungle of Punta Uva.

Our next 3 nts were spent at Banana Azul. That is a WOW kind of place. I was so happy there that I didn't want to leave. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, the pool was so nice & the food was very good. We had an Ocean room. It was delightful with a huge deck with table, chairs & hammock. The staff couldn't have been nicer. Gecko Adventures has a desk there. We booked a 3 in 1 tour of the Jaguar refuge, chocolate tour & waterfall hike. It was a wonderful small group tour. The refuge center is very educational. We got to hold baby monkeys & touch baby sloths & see way too many snakes. They don't allow photos in the monkey cage anymore (undoubtedly someone complained). One funny part was when the monkeys jumped on my husband & were frantically going after his backpack. I forgot to tell him I'd put a couple bananas in his bag. We never made it into Puerto Viejo since I got a bit sick so was very happy to have a nice room. I don't think I missed much. Puerto Viejo is very dusty & not all that attractive & the roads are terrible there. Still sure there are fun restaurants that we might have liked.

Next 3 days were spent at Tortuguero. We got a private driver to take us to the boat dock at Moin where we met up with Modesto & Fran Watson. We were so pleased to have just 2 other couples in our tour. We had a great fun group. We couldn't have been happier with Fran & Modesto. They are so nice & so very knowledgeable. It took us almost 4 hrs of leisurely traveling up the river spotting birds, river turtles, sloths, monkeys & caiman. At one point the river is very shallow & our boat couldn't get through so we all got off the boat except Modesto & Lin (my husband). They finally got out to push the boat through & loaded us back on. We hadn't gone very far when Modesto points out a caiman. Lin says "Hey Modesto, you forgot to mention that when we got out of the boat". We all had a good laugh & added it as an extra adventure to remember. Laguna Lodge was so much more that I had expected from it's snail shaped check in to the wonderful turtle shaped pool, huge restaurant & palapa bar, frog garden & nice lodge. We got to see frogs the first night. The food there was wonderful though I still hadn't gotten my appetite back. Next morning we headed out before breakfast to the most incredible sight of at least 50 monkeys with their babies on their backs jump from the trees on one side of the river to the other. It was an unforgettable moment. We also got up close to some spider monkeys. Later that morning we went into the Natl Park, donned fashionable rubber boots & made our voyage through the jungle, on out to the beach where the turtles lay their eggs & then on back through the village. When booking Tortuguero I was afraid it would be a real let down to be there if the turtles weren't there but that is far from a disappointment. It's such a fascinating area. Late afternoon we did another boat tour & saw a river otter, boatbilled heron & just the most lush vegetation. With our fun group, wonderful guides, Tortuguero definitely made the top of our trip.

Fran dropped us off at Casa Rio Blanco & was nice to call & have them pick us up at the end of the road. That was an adventure---Herbie met us, threw our bags in the back of his pick up & up we climbed, bouncing all the way on top of our luggage all the way to our next "home". Would have to say this was the only part of our trip we were really disappointed with. It's too isolated without a car & nothing to do. It's peaceful & pretty there with the sound of the river but the cabins are a bit rustic. Annette was nice & fixed us good meals. We hiked (more rubber boots) through the jungle down to the swimming hole which was pretty. Two nights were too much.

On to the Pacuare River! We were so happy to see Rios Tropicales. They picked us up at Rio Casa Blanco with the rest of our rafting buddies. Once again a small group of 6 people & the greatest boatman ever. The ride down to the river was definitely memorable--not for the faint at heart. After donning our helmets, lifejackets & getting our safety instructions, we were off. The Pacuare River is #5 in the world for whitewater--around 60 rapids with 4 class 4's. It was so beautiful with the granite walls, waterfalls, huge boulders & the fun lodges along the way. Alonzo did a super job. It was the best whitewater we've ever been on. Would do that again & stay overnight at the lodge. Great meal at the end of the trip. It was a great way to get back to San Jose. Rios Tropicales are tops in customer service. They got us as far as Holiday Inn by the airport. We caught a taxi to take us to our final 2nt stay at Las Orquideaus.

Our last 2 nts we spent at Las Orquideas in Alajuela. It would have been more convenient to have stayed at the Holiday Inn since that is where our tour took off from the next morning but Las Orquideas was a fine place. It has a nice pool & nature trails which we didn't have time to take advantage of unfortunately but we did enjoy the Marilyn Monroe bar & restaurant. We took a Grayline tour with 4 other people to Poas volcano, Doka coffee estate & Sarchi. What a great way to end our trip. We loved the trip up to Poas. The strawberry fields, ferns & coffee farms were great to see. Poas is in the cloud forest & would you believe it was the only day we left our raincoats. It's very cool up there. It was clouded in but still a great trip. Got a great picture off the film they were showing. When others saw me take the photo, it caused quite stampede to get their picture. Doka coffee estate was a very fun & interesting place. We were excited to learn all about coffee. They have a wonderful butterfly garden with lots of morphos so I finally got my picture. We had a delicious lunch there & then headed to Sarchi. I was expecting to see oxcarts being built but that isn't what you see. We saw the largest painted oxcart & viewed the town & then headed to Grecia & on to a souvenir shop where they make wood jewelry & other souvenirs. We got to watch them make items & learned all about the wood. Wished I'd had lots of time there. It was such a great tour & only $68ea. I can't imagine making it to all of those places on our own.

In summary I'd say this trip was one of the best we've taken. Tortuguero was tops on our list with the Pacuare River being a close 2nd. We really enjoyed the Caribbean side more than the Guanacaste/Manuel Antonio from our last trip. The wildlife was incredible & the scenery beautiful. We were so impressed with the food this time & the recycling that is being done. There are great places like EARTH university that are on the cutting edge of environmentally safer agricultural farming. The weather couldn't have been nicer. We had rain one day as we were leaving Tortuguero but mainly 75-90 without much humidity. Oh, forgot to mention we hardly used any insect repellent. We love
Costa Rica & plan to go back. There's still the Osa Peninsula!!!!

I downloaded lots of pictures to Snapfish but forgot how to attach them.

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