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Trip Report Shell's return to Costa Rica - a family's adventures!

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Every year we travel to the beach with my parents, and the past couple of years we haven't had the best weather. Last year it rained nearly every day. I started thinking that for the money we spend on a beach house and for all the work involved in renting a beach house, how about if we try something new for the following year and all go to Costa Rica instead? I thought my parents would really enjoy the wildlife, especially the birds. And I knew my dad would really enjoy the outdoor adventures! I felt pretty confident I could plan a great trip for about the same cost of the rental house plus all of our expenses during a week at the beach - maybe a bit more, but we'd be spending more time in Costa Rica - so we decided to go for it! As a bit of background, this would be me and my husband's third trip to CR, my kids who are 9 and 11 had been there once before two years ago and it was my parent's first trip and they are fairly active and in their mid-sixties.

DAY 1, Wed 7/21

It was a really early morning flight. We flew out of Baltimore and we had a 6:10 am flight. We spent the night at an airport hotel and had set our alarms for 3:30 am. Our flights were all on time and our connection was in Miami. We flew on American. The kids have become such wonderful travelers! They each had their bags of distractions for the plane and I barely heard a word from them on either flight. Megan and I enjoyed looking out the window as we flew into Costa Rica. Our adventure was about to begin! Immigration was a breeze. It was nearly empty in there. We got our luggage and found our name on a sign. We hired Wilson Rojas as our driver and he had someone there with a sign who was to call him when we arrived. This gentleman took our luggage out to the curb and we waited. I will have to say we waited for what seemed like a very long time for Wilson to arrive. I was starting to doubt my choice in drivers. We'd hired Wilson on a past trip though and were very pleased, so I figured maybe he was just tied up somewhere. Megan was getting very antsy and was hungry, as to be expected. No one really had had a meal since our airport breakfast at 5 am and it was now close to 11 am CR time which was 2 hours behind our home time. Wilson finally arrived and loaded up the luggage. He said he didn't hear his phone ring when his associate called, he was at the grocery store getting snacks for our ride. But he was there now and off we went! Our first destination is Arenal so we began our journey.

We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant which happened to be right near Wilson's home. He brought his two year old son by so we could meet him. What a cute little guy! The restaurant had good food. No menu, just food brought out on platters. A wonderful view of the valley. The rain had started by this time, but the view was still beautiful. There was only maybe three tables and at one of them the women, which looked like wives and children of the owners - three generations, were making homemade cheese empanadas. The made everything from scratch from the tortillas to the filling and they were showing us how they were laying them on the banana leaves, which they just went outside and picked, so they could cook them on the leaves. After our little cooking lesson, we're back on the road.

As we get closer to La Fortuna the rain stops and the sky clears. We get to town and there's the volcano, perfectly clear. I'm so happy that my parents will at least get to see that there is a volcano here - at least once! No matter how many times I see that volcano, I still am always in awe of it! It's just amazing to me. My parents have enjoyed the ride so far and I think have found the different areas we've driven through quite interesting. We drive through town and head for Arenal Observatory Lodge. We make the turn down the bumpy road. We've been on this road several times before when we've gone to view the lava, but was it really always this bumpy or this long? Maybe it's because we're in a van instead of a 4wd? I'm thinking that I can't believe we have to ride on this every time we have to leave the hotel? I think when you plan a trip for other people you tend to feel how they will be feeling the entire time. All I'm thinking is, my mom is going to be thrilled about this road a couple of times a day! But then again, isn't that all part of the adventure? Wilson pulls into AOL and as much as I've heard that it's a more rustic lodge, I immediately love it. I haven't seen our room yet, but our check in is as smooth as can be, and the view of the volcano - it's as if you can reach out and touch it - it's so close! Our first night both my parents and also the 4 of us (husband, me and the kids) each have standard rooms. The next nights we switch to Jr Suites for the views. We get to our rooms, which are right next to each other and they're fine. Nothing fancy but big and clean. They have balcony's which have wonderful volcano views. We relax for a bit and start to come up with our plan's for the evening and our time in Arenal. I absolutely love it here!

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    Day 1 continued....

    We decided that while we were in Arenal we'd rent a car. We've always enjoyed having that flexibility and especially staying at AOL, we knew it would be a big benefit. This was also the first time we had a driver for the entire rest of the time. In the past we'd always rented a car and driven ourselves. We used a driver one time from Arenal to Manual Antonio just because of the length of the drive. But this trip since there were 6 of us it made sense to go with a driver due to the cost of renting a vehicle that would fit all of us plus luggage. And most importantly I think my mom would have made my husband insane with her worrying over his driving on the windy, bumpy, cliff side roads. So, for everyone's sanity it was a good choice! We chose Mapache because they were in Arenal and had good prices. They dropped off and picked up the car right at AOL. We did have to pay extra for this service, but it was better than going to thier office and doing the luggage transfer from the van to the rental and all that mess! The car was dropped off right on time and we did the paperwork right there in the parking lot. Very fast and efficient. We got some type of Nissan that sat 7 passengers and was 4wd. Including the additional insurance we paid about $480 for 4 days including the drop off and pick up of the vehicle at AOL. I'd rent from them again for sure.

    We decided to head into town for dinner, and my mom got her first taste of Mr Shell's driving. She held on tight! :) We went to Luigi's right in La Fortuna. Always a favorite with us. The rain was coming down hard, so we didn't think we'd have any chance of seeing lava tonight. After dinner we drove back to AOL. The volcano was clearing even in the drizzle. There was quite a bit of rumbling going on, but no red.....off to be we all went. The great thing about having the parents right next door? Splitting the kids up. Megan spent the night in their room, Alex in ours....ahhhh...peace and quiet!

    Our first day in Costa Rica was a huge success. Sleep came easy for everyone.

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    galenaguy ;) if only I could pull of doing Travelsource for a living! You know me so well! Good to see you here!!! And it definitely was a production.....can't wait to share more!

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    Day 2, July 22nd

    We're up early. Our breakfast is included with our room rate and it's pretty good. Pancakes, eggs, fresh fruit and juices, rice and beans of course! Toast etc. The restaurant has a huge window with a wonderful volcano view and the volcano is a clear as can be.

    After breakfast we wait around for the Morning Hike that is also included at AOL. It's supposed to start at 8:30, but it's approaching 9:00 and there's a pretty big group waiting and we still haven't started. It's a good time to take quite a few pictures though! There are some spider monkeys in the trees by the reception area and that keeps us busy for awhile. Finally we get started. Our guide is very quiet. He points out some things here and there and explains some about the grounds and the animals, but in general, he's just quiet. We have a large group - about 20 people I think? But it's a really nice walk. It takes us all over the AOL property and trails. We saw toucons and monkeys as well as several other birds. It was a great first hike for the kids and my parents. Much of it was on paved pathways. The hike also went down to the waterfall they have on their property. That was a bit more challenging, but not too bad. It was pretty cool down there and the kids and Mr Shell had a great time climbing on the rocks and wading in the water. The hike back up from the waterfall was a bit steep in parts, but everyone made it! We ended up at sort of a farm looking area and they took us back to the reception area on a tram type vehicle. All in all, I think it was about a 2 1/2 hour hike.

    The thing that got Megan through the hike was a promise to go to the pool, so we got changed and the four of us went and cooled off there. My parents relaxed on their balcony. Volcano was still clear! Still rumbling every hour or so! The pool at AOL is nice. Big enough to play in for the kids and it was pretty quiet while we were there. I think they could maybe add a few more chairs though! There's a nice size hot tub there as well. We could only stay for about an hour since we had Sky Trek scheduled in the afternoon and we still had to change and have lunch!

    We decided to have lunch at AOL and it was ok. We mainly had sandwiches and chips and salsa and everything was good, especially after the hiking and swimming! We had to eat pretty quickly before heading out for zip lining. When we booked Sky Trek the night before, all 6 of us agreed to do it. Mr Shell is incredibly afraid of heights, but zipped in Mexico so he said he'd try it. My mom said she'd do it and the rest of us couldn't wait......would we all do it when we got to Sky Trek?

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    Oh, Shell, you're leaving us hanging! We were very pleased with AOL, our room was nicer than we expected, and the trails were great. Love reading your report - hope to read the next installment soon.

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    Shell, did AOL have a lunch menu that you guys could order off of, or do they have a buffet setup?

    I'm imagining a family Christmas card photo with you all dangling from the zipline!

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    vgirl - they have a menu for both lunch and dinner. Breakfast is their only buffet. The menu offered a nice variety from what I remember. Appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, and then entrees. They also had milkshakes. The entrees where somewhat expensive for lunch, but I would assume they would be a larger meal. The sandwiches were priced the way you'd find in the states.

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    Day 2 continued -

    We all pile into the rental and head out on the bumpy road. The good thing is that Sky Trek is close to AOL. My mom is already talking about backing out. She's asking all kinds of questions about what it will be like. The kids and I zip lined on our last trip, but not at Sky Trek. So, even though we've done it before, we don't know exactly what this zip line will be like. We get there for our 2:00 scheduled zip and while we're filling out the paperwork, my mom and Mr Shell are watching the video in the waiting area. That's it for my mom. There's no way she's doing it. Not a chance. My dad tries to convice her that once she tries it and does the first line she'll like it, but there's no way she'll even get the gear on. Mr Shell says he could do some of them, but he sees that their longest line is nearly half a mile. He doesn't think he can do it, but he does gear up and agrees to take the tram up. My mom doesn't even hold the ticket. My son is a bit annoyed when they tell him he'll have to go tandem with a guide. He'll be 11 years old in two weeks, he tells them. He went without a guide at the other place 2 years ago, what's up with this! I tell him to stop pouting and be thrilled he gets to go at all. Better to go with a guide then be stuck half way in the middle of a half mile zip line! Suck it up! The tween years, so much fun! Megan is thrilled to go with a guide - she wants no part of being alone out there! But she's looking forward to it!

    The guides get us all set, safety seems to be a huge priority, our hooks and straps and gear is checked more than once. We go to the Sky Tram and they convince my mom to ride up, and then she can take the tram back down. She paid for it after all! We're met at the top with a refreshing glass of fruit juice. We're in a group of about 15 people, which is a bit large, but there are 4 or 5 guides. We get our instructions and it's nice that we don't have to use our hands to break at all. There are two "practice" lines, which are just really short and don't give you a feel for the actual height or speed, but more for how your body feels hanging there. One girl decides this isn't for her at all. Mr Shell doesn't even do the practice line. He sees the length of the first real line, which is the 3rd longest line. He immediately takes his gear right off. He says he's un pollo grande! No way! If that's not even the longest or the highest, he's not going!

    My mom and Mr Shell watched us take off on that first real line. Megan and the guide were the first to go. As I went all I could think about was how glad I was that Mr Shell didn't do this. He would so NOT have liked it! But me, I thought it was great! The lines were very fast and long. My son, Alex, he even did get to do a couple on his own afterall, which thrilled him. My dad had a blast as well. In retrospect, if Mr Shell could have conquered that first one, maybe he would have enjoyed the rest, but I don't think he would have gotten past the first one! My mom, I don't think she would have liked it one bit. So good decision for her. As we got to the last platform, it started to rain. The last platform is short and you climb down a metal staircase a bit to get to it. There was a snake on the stairs, which everyone enjoyed checking out!

    I really liked Sky Trek, but wished there were more lines. We went to Los Lagos last time and there were more lines, but they weren't as long. So pros and cons of each. Also at Los Lagos they have someone go along and take pictures of your group which you can get at the end. This was really nice to have. Their pictures are so much better than the ones I could take since they can stand right up on the platform and get up close.

    After ziplining the rain started to come down really hard and didn't let up. There was some really loud thunder and lightening. We ended up just eating dinner at AOL rather than drive down that bumpy road in the storm. It was a decent meal, although more expensive than I would have liked to have paid for dinner. I had curried chicken, which I liked. My parents had a steak and they didn't enjoy it. I can't remember what anyone else had, but I think they liked what they got. The power went out several times during dinner and even afterwards. After a few hours of rain, it finally stopped and once again we had a great, clear night for the volcano, but again - no lava! And as it always seems, a pretty early night to bed.

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    Shell - enjoying your report very much, have a question on Sky Trek. When you say, "We get our instructions and it's nice that we don't have to use our hands to break at all" can you explain how you did brake at end? I did the 11 lines at Arenal Paraiso last year, supposed to use your hand with the leather glove, squeeze it and that's supposed to stop you - not in the rain! So I'm curious as to how you actually brake on Sky Trek.
    Keep your report coming!

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    ShellD - We were at Don Rufino that same evening and, you are right, it was raining really hard. The road back to Lost Iguana was flooded in a couple areas and there were trees down. It was a little scary crossing those instant rivers that formed across the roads. I was just glad I wasn't driving.

    We were at sky trek the day before and 2 in our family backed out after seeing that first long zipline too. I was glad I did it, but probably wouldn't rush to it again. I'd rather spend the same amount of money on a full body massage. : )

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    colibri - with Sky Trek, we did have a glove on our hand, but not to break. They had us lean back and lift our legs up, and spread them out, like a V. Then when you came in, there was just a bumper that you'd hit. Most people were slowed down enough that you didn't hit too hard, but there was no actual breaking with your hand. It made it really easy - nothing to do but straighen out your legs, and they'd wiggle the line when you were to do this.

    javafan - I think if we had to drive back to AOL in that rain, my mom would have flipped out! That would have been it for her! I'm glad we decided to stay in that night!

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    Thanks, Shell, totally different from the ziplines at Paraiso where they had us cross our legs and curl them up to be as small as possible, then squeeze your gloved hand and pull up towards the line to stop. I think curling up made us go even faster along with the wet lines - not great for a first time experience!

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    colibri - we started out with our legs crossed, like a ball, laying back. Then to stop, that's when we straightened them out. We definitely picked up speed! They said on the longest line, we could be going 45 mph! It was fast! But I did like not having to break. At Los Lagos we had to use the gloved hand to break and it was more challenging.

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    Day 3 - July 23rd

    Today we are scheduled to do the Hanging Bridges, with a guide from the Arenal Observatory Lodge. We were supposed to meet him at the desk after breakfast. Breakfast starts there at 7, so we showed up around 7:45. Well apparently there was a bit of confusion in scheduling this because he told us when we showed up that now we weren't going to see "anything at all" at the Hanging Bridges - we should have left at 6:30 to see wildlife. I was a bit annoyed because he did not make this clear at all. He never told me to schedule a special early breakfast at 6 am and be at the desk at 6:30. And I've been to the Hanging Bridges before and while maybe we won't see tons and tons, I'm sure he can find something for us - afterall - it's only 7:45 now! This was the same guide we had the day before for the Morning Hike at AOL, the quiet one. I tell him the excursion is paid for and we are leaving the next morning, so it's now or never....we all pile into our vehicle, guide included and off we go.

    As we were heading down the bumpy road, I asked him (I never did get this guide's name) why they don't pave the road to AOL and he told me it's to reduce traffic and to keep drivers going slow. To protect the wildlife basically. He said that in the past week or so they recently had found a dead ocelot on that road! It was hit by a car. It's that very reason they don't pave it. That area is still very overgrown and they don't want cars flying through hitting animals. He said it's very rare to see the jungle cats there, and now there's one less because of a vehicle.

    I also asked him why we hadn't seen any lava when the volcano has been so active and clear. He said that since the eruption a month or so ago, the lava isn't flowing as much. He said there was some around 1 am last night, but mainly it's flowing into the other crater - I think that's what he said. But it's not really flowing down the side so much anymore so it's much rarer to actually see the lava flow. In the 3 nights we were there the volcano was clear as could be for part of every night. We saw puffs of smoke, heard rumbles and saw rocks tumble during the day, but not one speck of red at night.

    On the way to the Hanging Bridges the guide spotted some howler monkeys and a mot mot. He told us there are two different types and apparently this was the more rare type. I couldn't tell you what was rare about it, but he seemed pretty thrilled to see it!

    We got to the bridges and started our walk. I was happy that he was much more talkative here than on Morning Hike. Maybe because it was just the six of us instead of such a large group! We did end up seeing quite a lot of wildlife! At one point he heard the call of a blue jean poison dart frog and wouldn't you know he spent about five minutes looking for it and he found that little thing! Amazing! We saw many birds, including toucans, a two toed sloth, howler monkeys, hawks, a helmet lizard, coatis, many leaf cutter ants, and an eyelash palm pit viper snake - up very close! It was a beautiful day and we had some great views of the volcano and the surrounding areas. We enjoyed it quite a bit and at the end of the hike, our guide admitted that even though we started out late, we really did see much more than he thought we would! :)

    On the way back we stopped at a typico casada, which was mentioned recently on another thread - I can't remember the name....casadajos or something like that. It was very good and I believe he was the owner, was so friendly as was the rest of the staff. It was however not very inexpensive!

    When we got back to AOL we all went to the pool to hang out for the rest of the afternoon. We were so lucky to have such great daytime weather while in Arenal!

    For dinner we went to las Brasitas, it's the Mexican restaurant in La Fortuna. Evertyone enjoyed their meal here. The plan, for the third night now, was to eat and then head to The Springs Resort for their hot springs. The past two nights we'd gotten totally rained out. We wouldn't mind going in some light rain, but not in heavy downpours with thunder. But once again, during our meal, the thunder and lightening and storms rolled in....no hot springs for us on this trip. Back to AOL and early to bed....no lava again tonight, even after the storms left and the volcano cleared.

    Overall I really liked Arenal Observatory Lodge. I would definitely stay there again. I was very glad that we decided to rent a vehicle while we were staying here though. It's very isolated and it would be very expensive to use taxi's every time you had to go to town or an excursion. Even though on previous trips, we've gone to the "bridge" to watch the lava flow, actually staying at the hotel and driving back and forth on the road does get to be a bit tiresome - the bumps can get to you! I wouldn't want to do it in any of the heavy rainstorms we had. But the hotel itself was just what we were looking for. The trails were great, the rooms were big and clean. Not luxury, but they were clean. The one thing I didn't like was that in the Jr Suite, there was no screen door on the patio and no A/C so it was very hot at night in the room. They did have ceiling fans, but the room was still hot. I would assume because we were on the ground floor, they wanted the door shut, so no screens. In the standard room, which was 2nd floor, we had a balcony with a screen on the patio door so we left the patio door opened during the night and it was much cooler. The views of the volcano are of course fabulous. The food there was fine, it wasn't bad as some of the other's had previously commented. Breakfast is included and was always good. I would definitely stay there again!

    Next up.....Peace Lodge!

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    Sounds like you had fun adventures, shell. What a bummer about the lava! I had no luck either on my trip to Arenal a few years back. I've been wanting to get back for another shot to see it ever since. Hopefully the sight of it won't remain a rare occurence from now on...

    So did your parents enjoy Arenal overall? It's always interesting to hear the impressions of someone who's never been.

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    cmerrell - my parents did enjoy Arenal. I think it's really a perfect place to introduce Costa Rica! Especially since we had such luck with the volcano being so visable and being active, even without the lava flow! AOL is such a quiet and peaceful lodge to stay at, so removed from the town iteslf it was really a unique place to stay. My mom said it reminded her a bit of their trips out west to Yellowstone, except there was a volcano here! But it very much had the National Park feel to her.

    Day 4, Saturday July 24th

    Today we were leaving Arenal and making the trip to the Peace Lodge. Wilson was driving us again and he was right on time. When he dropped us off on Wednesday he reminded us that the ride was longer now because of the earthquake of 2009. However when he showed up to pick us up, he told us he was just told that the road from San Miguel was just reopened this week and if we wanted to give it a try we could. It would save us a couple of hours and be less expensive. Apparently the locals were tired of waiting for the government to fix the road and they did it themselves. Well, that should have been our first clue....but we said - sure, if the road is fixed and it's faster - why not? Off we went.

    On the way we stopped at the Iguana Bridge, the one that you stop at on the way to Cano Negro - and took pictures. The kids, especially Alex enjoyed that! After our short break we were back on the road. Everything was going well and when we got past San Miguel, when you make the sharp turn at the police station for those familiar with the route, little signs of the earthquake started to become visable. We kept going and a few miles later passed the "road closed" sign and kept going. I took it as a good sign that a car came towards us from the opposite direction, but I immediately tensed up. This was NOT a road to be driven on. As I'm looking around the area where the damage from the quake is so clear. I had no idea. We all saw some youtube videos or pictures here an there. But this road, no one has driven on it, no one - since the earthquake - until this week. All along the mountainside you can see the sides where the landslides occurred. The trees are just gone. It's just the color of mud. There are houses and buildings along the side of the road, just destroyed, halfway down the cliffs. As we're driving along I just feel sick. This "road" is on the side of a cliff and it's curvy and I have my kids and my parents with me. I keep a calm front but I am so tense as we wind up and down the snakey road that is barely dirt and holes and boulders and rocks! Occasionally a car comes the other way and we have to share this barely one lane, if you could call it that, with this other car. However, it does make me feel better that a car did come the other way. If they could come towards us, it must be safe where we're going. I just keep holding my breath because the more we keep going, the closer I know we're getting. I know my mom is freaking out because I'm a very calm and pretty couragous person and if this bothers me, she must be a basket case! We see so many destroyed homes, a church, a school even a restaurant that the only part standing is the restrooms! Wilson shows us where a town was - he tells us they're rebuilding - but not up here on the hills. He shows us waterfalls that are across the valley that are only now visable because the trees that once hid them have been wiped out. We finally get to the bridge at the bottom of the last waterfall from the Peace Lodge. I breathe easier, we're almost there. The reception area where the shuttle bus comes from the Waterfall hike to take you back to the Peace Lodge is being totally rebuilt. It's just a shell right now. How in the world did the Peace Lodge survive? The area right across the road has so many less trees....the road is much better now. My mom asks if I'm sure the Peace Lodge is ok? She can't believe any hotel in the area could possibly have survived with what we've just driven on and seen! Had I not read the reviews here and on Trip Advisor from people that have been there this past year, I'd actually begin to wonder myself!

    But we pull up to the reception area and it's like nothing ever happened here. It's our third visit here and we're very familiar with it. Mr Shell and I were here 3 years ago and then with the kids 2 years ago and now with my parents. We checked in and while we waited for our rooms we had lunch at the Trout Bar. It's the same I think, but no fish in the water. I asked the waiter and he said they just finished fixing the ponds and the fish would be back in about 2 weeks. After lunch, we get our rooms. My parents have a deluxe, I'd forgotten just how luxurious the bathrooms are! They're pretty impressed! We have the Monarch Villa. Just as we remembered! We settle in. Alex is thrilled to have a tv again! It's been 4 days without one! We drag him away from it after a few minutes and head out to go feed the hummingbirds.

    This is a huge hit. It's not real crowded and the hummingbirds are landing on all of our feeders. My parents really seem to enjoy this a lot. It starts to rain and my dad comments that he can't remember the last time he was just out in the rain, sitting and totally enjoying himself! After about an hour we left to get ready for the night frog tour. Our guide is John and he was great. First he took one of the poison dart frogs out of the aquariums in the first room and let us take pictures of it. We haven't done that on past tours! Then in the middle room, with the poison frogs we stopped for a long time and saw several small frogs. Usually we've skipped right through that room on the tour. It was here where a baby green eyed tree frog jumped right on Alex's neck. He wasn't too thrilled and had no interest in touching a frog after that! In the third room we saw so many frogs! We were allowed to hold them again. On our 1st trip we could, last trip we couldn't and now we could again. It was a huge highlight! The guide was great at teaching about the frogs, finding the frogs and he never felt like he was rushing us out. Between the hummingbirds and the frogs, we had a wonderful afternoon and evening!

    We had dinner at the Vista Poas. It was very good. They no longer have the set price, multiple course dinner, which I thought was a really good value, everything is now a la carte. It was expensive but everything we had was delicious. Compared to the food in Arenal, this was excellent! They have a kids menu - not printed, but offered with very reasonable priced meals. Megan had a filet that was huge and priced at less than half the adult entree. The restaurant has clearly been redone and now has restrooms upstairs past the new bar area. It's much cooler here and it will be nice to sleep with the patio door opened!

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    Great report ShellD!
    I was at Arenal about a week ago. It was the first time I had been since 1999! Last time the weather was clear and beautiful and I saw the volcano smoking..and the lava too! This time the weather was clear part time and again I saw the volcano smoking, but NO lava. The people I talked to about this said that the volcano, other than one rather large explosion has been very, very quiet this year. Oh well, it's still impressive to see it smoke!
    Looking forward to the rest of your report!

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    Shell - the earthquake damage is just heartbreaking, isn't it? I went up to deliver school supplies and donations to Escuela de Poasito six weeks after the quake and couldn't believe some of the damage over on that side. Yours is the first description I've seen of anyone trying out the road from San Miguel - sounds like you would have preferred the longer drive.

    Glad you enjoyed Peace Lodge, going there in February.

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    Oh, wow, shell, that drive sounds heartbreaking.

    Glad to know that the Trout Bar is back open; we really enjoyed that. I thought Vista Poas had great food - will be fun to see the new changes. I'm glad you can hold the frogs again. We had the "you can hold them now you can't" experience too.

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    Yes, the ride was heartbreaking, and more so just plain scary. That road never should have been opened. It wasn't even a road. In the US, they would never have let cars on it. While it did cut out a few hours I feel like a few years were cut off my life! :) But we made it and that's the important part right?

    Day 5, Sunday, July 25th

    We woke up after my first really good night's sleep to a wonderful view with the sun shining bright. Even though breakfast is no longer included at the Peace Lodge I thought it was still very reasonably priced at $10/adult and $5/child for their buffet. The food was very good, very fresh and there was an excellent variety. Today our plan was to start with the waterfall trails and then just wander through the exhibits.

    We were told that the trails were all now opened and all of the waterfalls were back to being visable. I suppose if you've never been there before you wouldn't know the difference, but from what I remembered from the past the trail is much shorter. The starting point is different and you actually come "into" the falls at the bottom of the first fall. It's still spectacular and beautiful, but it's different. They've done a great job of restoring the trails with much safer paths that they have said will hold up even better should there be any future quakes or landslides. You also don't get nearly as close to the last fall the way you did before. There isn't the viewing platform that you had before. There's just no way to get there now since the land that was there was washed away. There's a straight walkway from much higher up. The kids loved the hike and got as close as possible to each fall so they could feel the spray. My parents seemed to enjoy it and my dad did well with all the steps. This was a concern I had since he has a pretty bad knee. Peace Lodge is definitely not the place for someone with arthritis in their knee!! When we ended the hike at the former gift shop, which is now being totally rebuilt - right now it's just an empty concrete shell of a building, we caught the shuttle bus back to the hotel's reception area. The bus driver really spoke no English but tried to emphasize the earthquake destruction we were seeing and show us with many hand gestures the evidence of landslides.

    Our next stop was the aviary. I thought this would be a favorite for my mom since she is a bird lover! I remembered there being so many birds here! But when we walked in, they must have all been hiding! We didn't see any! Hmmm.... But almost immediately one of the employees stopped my daughter and asked her if she sould like to feed a Paca. She was thrilled! A paca looks sort of like a large guinea pig. So both her and my son got to feed the little guy some pellets through a cage while the guide told us about pacas. Then he asked if they wanted to feed the marmosets. Well, of course! Se he took us over to them and they were adorable. They'd grab a piece of food with their hands and run off. Sometimes they'd actually eat out of your hands directly. Then he asked my mom if she'd ever held a toucan. So off we went to the toucans. He reminded us that these are all rescued birds and in the wild you'd never want to try to touch one - they're aggressive birds. So immediately he puts some toucans on our arms and shoulders and lets us feed them and shows us how to gently pet them. They are really so beautiful up close! He took some group pictures of us with the toucans - maybe a Christmas card in the making? We were definitely impressed - and sort of forgot to walk through the rest of the aviary at this point!

    We went right to the Butterfly house. Here Megan was a magnet for the butterflies! At times she must have had five or six butterflies on her at once! They would land on her and just hang out. She could have one or two on her hands and a few more on her shirt! They've added a cage with two sloths and they have got to be the cutest things ever! I don't know that I've seen a sloth so up close before! We spent a long time here just watching the butterflies and taking pictures. My parents really enjoyed the hatching process.

    We decided to try the buffet for lunch. In the past I hadn't heard very good reviews of it, but we were planning on getting room service from the Trout Bar for dinner so it seemed like the best way to mix things up. We were pleasantly surprised! It was inexpensive and had a good variety. It wasn't crowded and everyone found enough that they liked. Again it was only $10/adult and $5/child. Things like ice cream or beer were extra. The rain began during lunch, but that didn't stop us - as my parents had come to realize you can't let rain stop you in Costa Rica! We went to the frogs, snakes the Casita and the cats exhibit. The puma was really funny. It actually seemed as if she was playing with the kids - the kids would run one way and she'd follow it was like a game of tag. I liked how each cat had a sign with where they came from, how they were rescued and it's history.

    The rain stopped and my parents decided to relax on their balcony and the four of us decided to check out the pool. We'd never been to the Peace Lodge pool before. It was really cool! There's a warmer waterfall pool a really cold pool and a nice hot tub. We spent a few hours there and then the kids and I went back to feed the hummingbirds again while Mr Shell enjoyed some much needed alone time! We also took another trip through the Butterfly house. Of course the sloths were posing like you wouldn't believe and I didn't bring my camera this time. As we were thinking about walking back it started raining harder than you could imagine! Guess we'd watch the butterflies a bit longer! When they were almost closing we tackled the steps back to the villa....so many steps all day long! As I was walking back up it dawned on me that Mr Shell told me that Wilson was coming tomorrow about 1 1/2 hrs too late for our Sansa flight! I was checking in when he left and wasn't really paying attention. He said he'd be back at 10:30 am and our flight is at 12:05. This isn't going to work! I have his email address but not his phone number. So, back to the computers at reception and cross my fingers that Elsy checks her emails! We need to be picked up by 9:00 am! I tell her I'll check back later to be sure she got the email and he'll be there by 9:00 or 9:30 at the latest.

    I get back to the room and we order our roomservice. My parents went back to the fancy restaurant for dinner. We got a couple DVD's from the front desk and just hung out! After dinner I checked my email and Elsy emailed back. Whew! We were all set. I repacked all our suitcases, hoping to even them out for the Sansa flights. Tomorrow we leave for Bosque del Cabo!

    Again, Peace Lodge was a great hit. I'm not sure we'd stay there again just because of the expense. Each time we've stayed here it's been a "first" for someone. First for us, first for the kids and now first for my parents. But it's such a relaxing and unique place. It's sort of like a place you can re-energize here and gear up for the next part of the journey!

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    Interesting account of the road conditions! It's hard to picture what it must look like. I'm glad you enjoyed the Peace Lodge again. It certainly is expensive, but as you say - relaxing and unique. It's the first place I stayed on my first CR trip, so it holds a special place in my heart. It will be weird to see the changes that have taken place on the trails, but thank goodness more damage wasn't done.

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    Nice report, Shell! So glad you guys had a great time. I can't imagine what that road must have been like. It would have scared me, too, and made me sad as well.

    You've brought back some lovely memories of relaxing in those luxurious rooms at Peace Lodge. Sure would like to go back again one day. We asked about Peace Lodge from one of the guides at Orquideas Inn. He told us about the falls, and how different the walkways were now--and the views. I'll bet it seemed really odd. Of course, to someone who didn't know, I'm sure it was spectacular!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share so much--looking forward to BdC!

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    Peace Lodge experience sounds great, especially for your kids with all of the animals.

    I guess I'm really surprised that Wilson would have taken clients on a road that he had not checked out in advance, one that everyone knows had been destroyed with the earthquake and landslides. He gets such rave reviews on this forum as a driver/guide, but this seems a lapse in judgment. I wonder if he will continue to use this road?

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    colibri - I know Wilson was shocked at the condition of the road. Apparently whoever told him it was opened didn't give him the conditions of the road and he felt really bad about it. I'll explain more about that, but he felt really horrible about having taken us on the road!

    Day 6, Monday, July 26th

    After breakfast we checked out and Wilson was there right on time waiting for us. He had a gift bag for us. He said he felt absolutly horrible about taking us on the road that was in such bad condition. He gave us a bag with coffee and some coffee liquor in it. He said he won't be driving on that road again any time soon and certainly not with clients with him! He hoped that we weren't upset and thanked us for understanding. He did say that when he told his dad, who was turing 65, about the road, his dad wanted him to take him on it so he could see the conditions and the damage! Wilson said - ok, for his dad, but that was it! In a way I felt a bit better that he felt the road was dangerous too - it wasn't just me!

    So, we said our goodbyes to Peace Lodge and went on our way to the Sansa terminal. We were making good time and Wilson asked if we wanted to stop for some coffee and snacks at Doka. We didn't have time for the tour but we spent some time taking pictures and Wilson took us down where they grow the coffee and told us about the coffee plants and harvesting it. It was a nice little break!

    We got to the Sansa Terminal, which has been redone since our last visit there and checked in. Our flight was on time, it was just us and one other family. It was a smooth flight and we were met in Puerto Jimenez by - I want to say Bernie - I hope I'm right - from Bosque del Cabo - he's the bartender and I feel bad if that's the wrong name! We loaded up the Land Rover. Someone else was driving and we never got his name. We stopped at the supermarket for some snacks and supplies since we were staying at Casa Miramar, and off we went. Another bumpy road! I know that the kids, especially Alex and also my mom were very apprehensive about Bosque. My mom just had no idea what to expect and she was told the Casa was essentially open air - there was a roof, but no screens on the windows. And Alex - he just couldn't figure out what the heck we'd be doing for four days in the middle of nowhere with NO tv, NO computer and nothing really planned! He kept asking - what are we going to do there mom? On the way there it started to rain, pretty hard and of course our luggage was on the roof. So we stopped and they pulled the luggage off and shoved it in with us, plied on our laps, under our feet, just everywhere. You just have to go with the flow!....

    Then we arrived at Bosque and the staff is just so amazing. So friendly and it's so beautiful there! All worries just melted away. We had lunch right away and everyone was happy. Even my picky eater, Alex. We had a short orientation and went up to our Casa. WOW - just beautiful! The kids immediately went into our very own plunge pool which was the perfect size for us and we all watched the toucans and the macaws! We checked out the bedrooms and yes the bathrooms are wide open to the world. Mr Shell made a little privacy sheet for our side - with the kids it just made some sense for us! He's very crafty that way! We hung our on our deck area until dinner just looking at the Pacific, watching the birds and enjoying the pool.

    We walked down the driveway to get to dinner and realized it was very slippery. This may be the biggest challenge for my parents, especially with my dad's knee problems. If it was a smooth drive, no problem but the rocks are pretty unstable. But we'd figure it out. Dinner was very good and over dinner we came up with our plans for the next day - animal sanctuary it would be! I was really looking forward to that. We didn't get there on our previous trip to Bosque and you hear so much about it here! By the end of dinner it was raining so we got a ride back to Miramar. They have a vehicle always on site now, they said and will always be able to drive us if needed. My mom was VERY happy about that! The kids, especially, had a very hard time getting to sleep. I did to a bit. It was pretty hot - not much breeze. But finally everyone settled in. Our first afternoon at Bosque was pretty great!

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    Thanks, Shell - good to know that Wilson won't be heading that way again! He always get such great reviews here.

    Looking forward to rest of BdC - what a fun trip you've had!

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    Yep, Bernie the Bartender. :)

    Ah, you're makin' me jealous! Miramar is really magical--enjoy every minute! Kudos to your parents; I'll bet they are having the time of their lives. Good to get them transportation on that road, though. It is such a slippery walk when wet.

    Now go find that puma!

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    Thanks so much for all the great info, ShellD - we were at AOL starting on 7/25 and had very similar experiences - except our guide for the "free" tour was darling - outgoing, informative and funny - "Eduardo" - great guy. After reading your posts, I definitely need to put Peace Lodge and Bosque on our next itinerary!

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    Day 7, Tuesday, July 27th

    The howler monkeys started sometime in the middle of the night, but by about 4 am they were going strong! By about 5 am my daughter came into our room asking what in the world that noise was! She was a bit scared and unsure what was coming to get her! Everyone was up and ready for breakfast by 7 am, we had to be done by 7:45 for our trip to the Animal Sanctuary and we were also going to combine it with a boat ride along the River Esquines. Breakfast was great. The ride to Puerto Jimenez was bumpy as ever. It's hard to believe they just don't pave the road! It would cut out so much time on that trip! We met Carlos at the boat dock and off we went. The ride on the Gulf was smooth and the sun was shining. We saw quite a few dolpins on the way over. He dropped us off and we met Carol, the woman who runs the sanctuary. She has many, many rescued animals there. She gave us a nice tour explaining the history of each of the animals and also about the animals themselves. She'd feed each animal we'd come to and we'd spend some time watching them. Her goal is to release as many as possible back into the wild. She's very dedicated to her work there. We really enjoyed it, although I'd hoped to be able to interact a bit more with the animals, based on some previous reviews I'd seen. We only got to pet one spider monkey - sweetie - who everyone seems to mention here. And yes - she certainly was sweet! She walked along with us for quite some time and at the end of the tour we got to feed her a bit. When we were done we got back onto the boat and travelled a bit more across the Gulf to the River Esquines which is a National Park. It reminded me a bit of Tortuguero, riding a boat through the canals looking for wildlife.

    Unfortunatley it started raining, really hard at times. It made for a very wet and pretty uncomfortable ride with very little to be spotted. It was so sunny when we left that I never thought to bring rain coats. As a matter of fact we had bathing suits and Carlos even had snorkels for us. We rode in the rain for at least an hour into the park. We did spot a crocodile in the distance and a few birds. When the rain let up to a drizzle we anchored under some of the taller trees and ate our boxed lunches. We did finally see a snake and some lizards while we were eating. That was pretty cool. We thought the rain had stopped and we started back out of the park. We had a few minutes of clear skies and enjoyed the ride. But as sometimes happens - it started to rain again....by now we were soaked. However, the boat driver picked up speed once we were out of the river and back on the Gulf and the ride was a lot of fun. We were hitting the chops on the water and bouncing all over the place. Alex and Mr Shell and I were lauging like crazy. Megan was sleeping through it all. The sun finally started to peek out of the clouds as we got back to town. So even though we really didn't see much and we were soaked, we had a pretty cool boat ride in the end!

    By the time we got back to Miramar it was drizzling again, but the kids went swimming in our pool. We got ready for dinner and without even having to call for a ride, they automatically picked us up, which was nice. Glad we were ready though! After dinner we all played Boggle - glad I threw in some small games for night time - got that idea from a previous trip report. Thanks to whoever posted that one!

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    Well, at least it sounds like you kept a sense of humor through the rain! It can be rather miserable to be trapped at the whim of the elements like that. I remember hiking the hanging bridges in Arenal in a torrential downpour. We made the best of it, but it was not the most pleasant experience. I'd like to get back there for another shot in better weather.

    Sounds like you had a nice morning at the sanctuary. It's nice to see folks doing their best to help the wildlife of the area.

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    Enjoying reading your report, brings back good memories. Did you gave any visitors at Miramar, like a wily looking coati that answered to Jack? :) The drive to Peace Lodge sounds so scary, I hated that drive before the quake even. Looking forward to the rest.

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    cmerrell - we tried to keep a good sense of humor in the rain. It really is hard sometimes though - especially when you've paid so much to go on a tour and it's basically a washout. For me, that's in the back of my mind the whole time! But, you gotta make the best of it right? I think when you go to a country like Costa Rica in July, it's got to be expected and we did our best!

    tully - no wily coatis named Jack! :) I was looking though! We did a good job keeping our snacks closed tight up which I think really kept them away!

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    Day 8, Wednesday, July 28th

    Today would be a big day! Last time we were at Bosque we just walked a few trails and relaxed at the pool, but that was it. This time I wanted to do as much as possible, to see it all and to explore with the kids! Especially with my vidoe game, computer addicted son! He loves the outdoors, but it's so hard to get him out there at home! My parents love birds and we decided to get up early and do the morning bird hike with Carlos. It was pretty good. We did see quite a few birds, mainly through his spotting scope. He's so very excited about everything he points out! It was just the four of us on the hike so that made it very nice. It's a very easy stroll along the driveway and grounds around the cabinas and restaurant area, just looking for birds.

    Alex wanted to do the tree climb, so after breakfast Mr Shell, Alex and I went out on that, again with Carlos, another couple and a man who we had met the night before. It was quite a hike to get to the tree he'd be climbing. It's not a trail on their map, but it's off the Creek Trail. Carlos warned us to bring hiking sticks and not to worry if we fell - it happens. Well, I didn't fall, but it was very muddy and very steep in parts. Also we were right on the edge overlooking the Pacific for much of the hike, so nice view! But I'm so glad my parents didn't come along for the hike to watch Alex do the climb. Not only would the hike have been difficult, but my mom would have worried the entire time that someone would fall off the side! I asked Carlos if going back we'd have to climb back up the very steep, muddy path we were going down, or was there some other way back? He said, no - this was the way back, but that it's much easier to not slip going up hill in the mud! Ok - um, thanks! :) So, we got to this amazing Strangler Fig Tree. These trees grow around a regular tree and over many, many years they prevent the light and nutrients from getting to the original tree and the original tree decomposes leaving a hollowed out inside where the Strangler Fig has grown. So this huge tree is there and the entire tree is essentially hollow! We all climb into the tree and the 4 people climbing, plus Carlos gear up into the gear you wear when you do rock climbing. Carlos went up the tree first to get settled. One by one they climbed up the inside of the tree using the roots and limbs as footings and then when they got to the top they climbed out of the top of the tree and sort of rapelled down the outside. So very cool! Alex loved it! What a unique experience to have! We hiked back to Miramar and hung out at the pool for awhile and then had some lunch at the restaurant. Our group was going to hike to the beach while my parents walked, but it was getting later and starting to cloud up, so we all got a ride down to the Pan Dulce beach. I'm thinking this is the name - the one with the "white gate". Again - last trip we didn't make it there. We brought some boogie boards down and spent quite a few hours in the water. The water was great. It was like having our own private beach. We met a boy there who was 10 years old. He was surfing and his family had moved to the area from Florida. He hung out with us for awhile. He seemed glad to have the company! After some time in the water we walked along the beach checking out the hermit crabs and shells. There were quite a few monkeys in the trees in the distance. The tide was coming in pretty quickly though and our ride wasn't due for more than an hour - but luckily he showed up about 45 minutes early. We were glad - we were definitely ready to head back.

    After some more relaxing in our pool at Miramar we went down to the restaurant area where my parents listened to the talk about the wild cats in the area. They really enjoyed that. The kids, Mr Shell and I took the Sunset tour. We passed on the cat lecture because it's rained every night and it was clear tonight. We didn't want to miss the night tour so this may have been our only chance! We saw a lot of frogs, snakes, lizards and really learned quite a bit. After dinner we went back to our Casa and played some poker with pretzels for chips. I'm thinking I could live here forever :)

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    I'm working on getting my pictures sorted out and hopefully will have some type of link soon too! But the trip report continues - if only the real world wasn't getting in the way of getting to all this trip stuff!

    Day 9, Thursday, July 29th

    Today we got to sleep in just a little bit. Although that's always a little bit difficult with all the jungle noises! Also, I'm always up a bit early beacuase I can't wait to get started on the day's adventures and it's so darn hot! Today is our last full day at Bosque. I want to take advantage of all that we can! We're going horseback riding this morning. My mom is pretty aprehensive. She's been on a horse before, but it's been many years! At times I'm not sure she's enjoying this part of our trip as much as I thought she would. It may be a bit too adventurous for her at this point. My dad on the other hand is loving every minute of it! I think he wishes he could be out there more and doing more, but his knee is not in the best shape and his back is also bad at times. But he's keeping up with us and he's up for anything we throw at him!

    So off we went to meet Miguel. When we pulled up to his horse ranch my mom almost backed out. But she hung in there and we all saddled up. Alex's horse seemed to have a mind of it's own though! As we all headed for the creek, his horse turned right around and headed back towards the ranch. He just didn't want to go. Finally Miguel came back and coaxed him out and we all went along. We started by walking through a creek. The water was nice and cool. I enjoyed it, but the bottom was all rocky and it did seem as though the horses didn't. They all would walk as close to the land as possible and if they could get out of the water and onto dry land they did. My mom's horse flat out stopped several times and just wouldn't go into the water. It just seemed that they weren't comfortable there. Then we went into the jungle. It was a very muddy trail. Sometimes the mud was at least six inches up the horses legs. But the horses seemed much more comfortable walking here. This didn't seem to slow them down. But here my mom just hated - she felt like the horses would stumble on the inclines or slip in the mud. She hated that they were walking in such deep mud. I had to keep telling her to just relax and trust her horse, it would all be ok. I felt bad that she wasn't enjoying it because it really was a nice ride. But then, we rode out onto a beautiful deserted beach. You could tell the horses just loved it! Their pace picked up, their heads lifted up and the view was just amazing! The sand probably felt good on their feet compared to the rocks! We rode along the beach for about 30 minutes or so and then stopped for a rest and we climbed on the rocks, and just checked out the beautiful view here. We looked for the little crabs and checked out the tide pools. It was so peaceful! Just us here! At one point Megan had mentioned that she wanted to try coconut milk and before we got back onto the horses, Miguel found a coconut and cracked it opened and we got to try the coconut juice and taste the coconut. She was loving this! We got back on the horses and rode back. My mom was a bit more confident and did enjoy the ride on the beach. Her horse was very slow, or she was holding him back...I'm not sure which! The rest of us really loved the experience. The beach part made it a perfect ride!

    We got back to Bosque del Cabo and had a great lunch and made plans for the afternoon.

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    Miguel's awesome. :-) I wonder if your mom had Tranquilo, what it white?

    Just thought I'd pop in to let you know yesterday a Puma was spotted at BDC by several staff with TWO CUBS! Sweet!

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    No way!!!! Hip - I have to tell you when we went down for dinner our second night, Phillip says to me sort of quietly - "um do you know....Hip, shillmac, tully" only he used your real names... and I looked at him sort of surprised and smiled and wondered how the heck he could have put together that I would know who you all were! But I said, sure! We "know" eachother from fodors - and he says "anywhere else?" I said maybe fb - and he says - "ahhh...your name came up somewhere on the internet as being here so I knew you had to know them!" What a SMALL connected world! Then he asked if I knew about your contest - which I figured was to find a Puma - and I told him I wasn't going to get up before the sun and go out looking, but if I saw one I would be thrilled! He started telling me all these puma spotting stories!

    Anyway, I think he thought it was pretty amazing how so many people here "know" eachother and help eachother out without really knowing eachother!

    So - where did they spot the puma?

    My mom's horse wasn't white, he was a golden brown, but he seemed older than the other horses. I forget his name, my mom right remember it. And yes, Miguel was very awesome! :)

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    Day 9 continued

    After lunch, my parents wanted to relax a bit. My dad wanted to check out the Garden area and I suggested they check out the Creek Trail, and head over the suspension bridge - check the property out a bit! However, we'd later find out when my mom got to the suspension bridge she just said - enough. She'd had enough hiking, walking, adventure. They want back to Miramar and sat on the deck and relaxed.

    Mr Shell, the kids and I decided we'd tackle the Pacific Trail. We didn't have enough time to make it to the waterfall and back before the tide came in, but it still would be a great hike down to the beach! The kids loved the tide pools and walking on the beach. But about halfway down the steps on the trail, Megan turned around and looked at me and in a slightly scared look asked if we'd have to come up this same way? Or if they could pick us up, like they did from the other beach? Um, sorry Meg - we have to walk up all 500 or so steps! I thought she'd start to cry right then and there! But we had a blast exploring the pools and climbing on the rocks and just checking everything out. But it did seem that the beach was fading fast, even though we supposedly had quite some time until the tide came in, but we decided to head back. As we were sitting on the bottom of the trail, cleaning all the little stones out of our shoes in the little stream, Alex said he was heading back and off he went - He must have ran back up that trail! To be an 11 year old and have all the energy in the world! I asked Mr Shell to stay with Megan and me. All I could remember from our trip 3 years ago was feeling like I'd need an airlift to make it back up! But that trip we'd hiked a lot further down the beach and it was much hotter. I'm certainly not in the best physical shape to tackle this trail! But I was there for the adventure - so Megan and I came up with a plan, 50 steps, water and rest, 50 more, water and rest, all the way to the top. We're such wimps! But we made it! What a feeling of accomplishment! When we got to the top Megan started to cry saying she couldn't walk one more step and wanted to get a ride back to Miramar. I tried to convince her that to walk back to the restaurant and ask for a ride would take just as long as just walking back to the casa. Mr Shell had no more patience and he took off up the hill of the drive back to Miramar....I pushed Megan along and we were rewarded by our first and actually only sighting of the White Faced monkeys! Suddenly they were all overhead in the trees of the driveway! About 10 of them! We got some great photo shots and also got to rest a bit! And it really calmed Megan down too! Some Spider monkeys also showed up!

    When we finally made it back, Alex was already swimming - he probably was back for about 45 minutes! We all relaxed in the pool for a bit. But this was our last day and I still wanted to hit the Titi trail. I'd never been on that trail, and it was so close to Miramar! Who would be up for that one? I convinced Alex to go with me. It was great to see him so adventurous and so away from the electronics on this trip! He loved the jungle! So, at about 4:00 we hit the road for the trail. I joked to my mom to send out the rescue team if we weren't back by dark - she didn't think that was funny. The two of us had a great walk. It was so nice for just the two of us to spend time together. We saw a ton of leaf cutter ants and some squirrel monkeys, but that was about it. But it was a great trail and just the right length. I'd like to head back to that one!

    So, after another great dinner, we started packing up to leave in the morning. I was gathering up all of our damp clothes, that just never seem to dry at Bosque and I picked up a pair of shorts off the night table near Megans bed and underneath was a scorpion. Well, I knew Mr Shell and Alex would think it was cool and she would hate it. Of course I wanted to get a picture and not let her know. She found out. It was tiny but none the less, who wants a scorpion 2 feet from your bed an hour before you go to bed! She was hysterical! She flipped out thinking where there was one there would be more and that she was going to die. It took awhile, but while I was packing she finally calmed down. Then as Alex was falling asleep, he noticed a big spider with eggs at the top of the mosquito netting over his bed. He didn't get upset, but it caused a bit of a rough time falling asleep. It was a long last night at Bosque! The bugs were getting to them!

    Day 10, Friday July 30th

    We leave Bosque toay. I'm sad to be leaving. I love it here. I could live here. Of course - I get waited on, but still. It's beautiful. Even with the bugs, the dirt and the extreme humidity. I'm not sure anyone else in my family feels this way, maybe my dad. But they don't feel that Costa Rica magic that I do. My thoughs on Bosque this trip - it's different from when we were here 3 years ago. Maybe because we were up the driveway and not right on the main property. I'm not sure. But we didn't see nearly as much wildlife this time. We actually saw more in Arenal at the Observatory Lodge this trip. Three years ago there were monkeys everywhere. We were in Lapa and I remember sitting on our deck and having howlers, spiders and white faced monkeys in the trees around us all at the same time. Seeing howler monkeys on hikes etc. This time we did hear the howler monkeys, but never saw them. We only saw the white faced the one time and we did see the spider monkey's a few times. We had one quick squirrel monkey sighting on the titi trail. We did see so many toucans though! And of course the macaws flying by over and over! But that being said, I don't think there is any other place like BDC. The staff is incredibly accomodating. They go so out of their way to get to know the guests adn be so helpful. The food is excellent, especially considering how remote it is! My kids were so hesitant to go there - they had no idea what to expect and they were so won over! That says alot!

    Next up....our last day and night at Xandari! And hopefully some pictures!

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    Shell -- I better wind my report up soon now too! Y'all are making me look bad. ;-) The puma and cubs were spotted right off the drive by a bunch of staff. I'm glad staff got to see them because they work so hard there! If you FB BDC you will get those kinds of updates on your page.

    Those stairs back from the Pacific trail can be daunting. I won't say too much more about BDC since I haven't posted about our time there yet, but I'm sure the wildlife does ebb and flow and I'm not sure if I'd be disappointed or not if there was less during one of our trips. I will say that 4 nights was just not long enough there this year! I know what you mean though, staying at Casa M is different than in the cabinas on the main grounds, but not in a bad way, just different.

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    That is funny Shell about Philip. We talked about it once, "knowing" people on fodors & meeting up at Bosque. I agree with hip on the ebb and flow, and timing. I know I've walked a trail and seen little and someone right after me mentions how many monkeys they saw. Glad your kids got into it (for the most part!), I admit I broke into tears too at the top of the Pacific trail ;-) Actually we all booked it to miramar and jumped fully clothed into the pool. Looking forward to the Xandari part.

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    I'd love to see your photos, Shell. Sounds like such a nice trip. I'm glad your kids enjoyed BdC for the most-part. I'm sure I would have freaked out over a scorpion as a child too. Now, I think they're cool (as long as I can easily extract them from my cabin ;-) ). And you never can tell where the wildlife will show up. I only saw one howler and 0 squirrel monkeys last year at BdC. But as a consolation, I got my best photos to-date of some spider monkeys, and saw tons of capuchins. Luck of the draw, I guess. It only makes me want to go back to try my luck again!

    A mother puma and babies, hip!! Wow, I need to get back down there! They can't elude us forever...

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    Probably best you saw the scorpion in your room the last night. We stayed in Casa Blanca for 5 nights recently, but we had a scorpion in our room the first night and I wouldn't call this one small. I think it put our kids (and myself) on edge and it took a couple of nights to relax at night. Still, BdC was awesome and the whole family is still talks about the whole experience.

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    ShellD, great trip report.

    Don't forget that the monkeys travel across the Osa in search of food. Perhaps the first time you visited there was more fruit and food in season near BDC than on this trip. I've seen places full of animals one month, and then noticed that they have moved on in search of ripe fruit/food the next.

    Pura Vida,
    Ballard Diaz,
    Jungle Guide - Osa, Corcovado and So. Costa Rica

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    Finally getting back to this!

    Day 10 Continued, Friday, July 30th

    We left Bosque after breakfast and had an 9 something am flight on Sansa. Since our last visit about three years ago, they've updated the terminal in Puerto Jimenez. Last time we just waited by the runway and they weighed our luggage right outside on what seemed like a produce scale from the grocery store! Now we actually went inside and had a real check in with a real weigh in! We took off on time and had a smooth flight. We were met by our driver from Xandari. Smooth roads again! What a treat! We pulled into the driveway and wow - Xandari was beautiful! We have an Ultra Plus Villa and my parents have the Palm Villa. We checked in and my parents were given their orientation and we were driven to our villa since it was a bit farther away from reception. It's huge and what a great view! We got our bathing suits on and walked back up to the restaurant for lunch.

    During a very, very long lunch it started to rain. The food was very good. Since we didn't have anything else to do, and it wasn't thundering, the four of us decided to pick one of the pools with a hot tub and brave the rain and go anyway. My parents went back to their villa to relax. Xandari has three pools. The kids, Mr Shell and I spent a good two or three hours in the pool and hot tub in the rain. We had a great afternoon! It was our last day and we were determined to not spend it sitting in our room. The jacuzzi felt great - it was HOT! And the pool was warm in the rain. After a few hours we went back to the villa. The kids each decided to take advantage of the big tub we had - they felt this was real luxury after the roughing it feel of Bosque del Cabo. We played cards for awile and then went up to the restaurant for dinner.

    We all really enjoyed the food at Xandari. I wasn't sure that they'd have something for the kids, especially Alex, my picky son! But he found the food to be really good. And we thought for the portion size and the quality of the food it was priced really well! I wished we had more time to spend here. It was a very relaxing environment. It would have been nice to get a spa treatment! :)

    Day 11, Saturday, August 31st

    We leave today - but we decided to leave our mark in Costa Rica! Xandari has a Green Program. Apparently the grounds where the hotel was built had no or very little trees on it when they built the hotel (I may not have this exactly right at this point - it's been a month since I read it!) But they have tried to restore the natural tree growth to what it should be in that area. So, they have a program where you can help to plant trees in the area and we decided to do so. Both my parents and the 4 of us planted a tree (2 trees) and they leave a marker with your name on it. So, Saturday morning we went out - again in the rain :) and their guide went with us and took pictures - which he was supposed to email and didn't - but we dug two holes and planted two different types of trees on their grounds. It was a really cool thing. The kids also really liked it. Now if we ever get back to Xandari we can see how big our trees get!

    After our tree planting, Megan wanted to buy some artwork from the gift shop at Xandari. And then we left for the airport. The airport was packed. It took nearly the entire two hours we were there to just get through the line to check our luggage. But we made it through, got on the plane only to be told that there was a problem with one of the engines....not exactly what you want to hear! But it turned out to only be a problem with the switch that turns the engine on. So after a short delay, they fixed the switch and we were on our way home.

    We had an amazing vacation. It was great to share it with my parents. And as I'm sure most of us here do, I'm already thinking about our next trip!

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