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Trip Report Trip Report - Bosque del Cabo and Orquideas Inn

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First, I’d like to thank you Fodorites for helping me plan our trip. It would not have gone as smoothly without your input and advice. For instance, without y’all, I would have gone to BdC in early October at the height of this years rainy season. Yikes!

I’m going to give some minute details here, because that’s what helped me with my trip and I’d like to return the favor and maybe help another newbie. Also, keep in mind, this trip was my (and my husbands) first trip outside of the state of Florida in 20 years. We are newbie travelers but seem to have caught the bug and are already planning another trip!

Our flight from Tallahassee was on time and security was a breeze. I did not get felt up and all the TSA officers were friendly. Changing planes in MIA was no big deal and upon arriving in San Jose, immigration was only a 20 minute affair, 19.5 of those minutes was waiting in line. Customs took all of 45 seconds. If it’s your first time in the airport and you are confused, just follow the crowd!

We walked out into the San Jose balmy, but cool, night air to cab drivers and drivers awaiting their fares. Just find the doors leading outside and turn right, that’s where all the drivers are waiting. I only had to look a second before I saw Luis from the Orquideas Inn holding a card with my name on it. He quickly led us to the mini-van and off we went through the bustling night streets of San Jose/Alajuela. Traffic patterns are quite different from those in the USA, but the cars flowed smoothly with drivers being both aggressive and passive at the same time. Luis was a great driver (and talker!) and I felt secure.

It was full dark when we arrived at Orquideas (10-15 min) and the gate guard had to open the gates to let us in. Check in was a snap with a very friendly clerk and we were shown to our room in the Upper Villa, the Mountain View Suite.

As soon as we thanked Luis and made arrangements for pick-up the next morning we shut the door behind us and exhaustion set in. So we decided to check out the view of the lights of the city and mountains from the Jacuzzi in the bathroom. It is situated up by the windows (it’s a second floor suite) and the view is magnificent.

The next morning we awoke to the same view, only with the sun rising behind the mountains. There is a coffee maker in the room and we had coffee and sat on the balcony and watched the sunrise. Our first day in Costa Rica off to a bright start. We tour the grounds before breakfast and marvel at the exotic plants and birds. Didn’t care for the caged birds, but they did seem to be well cared for. I see some plants I recognize from home, but it is like they are on steroids compared to the same variety in the States. The unfamiliar plants far outnumber the familiar.

The smell of cooking brought us to the patio off of the Marilyn Monroe bar where breakfast was being served. Rice and Beans (my fav), toast, tortillas, potatoes, half a dozen kinds of fruit, sausage and eggs cooked to order. And of course Costa Rican coffee. I discovered Lizano hot sauce that morning and ate it several times a day for the next week. The sweeter variety of Lizano sauce was my husbands favorite. I’ve got to order some of that stuff.

Luis picked us up a little after 10:00 for our drive to Pavas Airport to catch our Nature Air flight at Noon. He was a great conversationalist and guide through the city to the airport. I loved how there were houses next to restaurants and shops and everything was mixed together. It seemed like the streets bustled with people more than cars. A short part of our trip was on the Pan-American Highway. Because traffic was light, we arrived at Pavas really early, but we enjoyed the time spent in the upstairs cafeteria watching the planes come in. I also bought my exit tax thingy here. Don’t forget to fill out the back before you go through Immigration at SJO when leaving!

There was no wait to check in at Nature Air, but they informed us that even though our bags only weighed 22 pounds each, the flight was full and they were carrying a lot of luggage from a previous flight, our bags would have to come tomorrow. So we dug out a change of clothes and PJ’s to stuff in our personal bag. They said it would arrive the next morning on the 6:00 AM flight. It got to BdC around 2:00 the next day. No problem.

Our flight to Puerto Jimenez had a stop-over in Drake Bay, which turned out to be very cool. The airstrip there is just gravel and the airport...well, you just gotta see it...lol. The plane comes in low over the Pacific and takes off the same way. I’d be disappointed if I took a flight to PJ and didn’t stop there.

Andy, a taxi driver from Puerto Jimenez, picked us up at the airport. BdC had some vehicles in for repair and others busy, so they sent Andy. He was a great spotter of birds and wildlife and we saw a variety of birds on the way there we didn’t see for the rest of the trip. The road was rough but fun and I enjoyed the change in scenery from town, through the cow fields, to the Gulf and finally up into the forest. We saw our first pair of Scarlett Macaws as we crossed the river (one of three without bridges).

I come from a place of many palm trees, but only one variety (excluding landscape plants). The number of different varieties of palm along the way was staggering. I could look at them all day.

We arrived at Bosque around 2:00-3:00 and were welcomed with a drink and lunch. Toucans in the palm tree by the lodge entertained us while we waited for lunch. You could smell the salt air of the Pacific and hear the crash of the waves from down below. Very nice atmosphere to relax after the bumpy ride. Tuna Melt for me, DH had the turkey ham and cheese. I don’t really care for tuna salad I don’t make myself, but I’ve read about this darn tuna melt on Fodor’s so much, I just had to order it. Loved it and had another later in the week. Carlos got us oriented and then led us to our cabina, Mariposa.

Mariposa is on the south end of the ten cabinas, nearest the forest. The view is not quite as open as some of the other Cabinas, but the trees add interest and there is still plenty of Pacific view to go around. Plus, there’s a dead tree sticking up from down by the coast that’s visible from the deck that always has some kind of cool bird in it. The monkey viewing was excellent and we saw three kinds from our porch. Beside and behind the cabina is rainforest and the view out the back windows of the cabina always netted a treat. The entrance to the Tropical Garden/Creek Trail is just behind it so it’s handy for a quick walk. Several mornings, as soon as it was light enough to see where we were stepping, we’d go over to the Vista (less than five minutes away) and wait on the sunrise. Very nice.

The bed was comfy and the sheets were super soft. It turned out to be quite cool while we were there and the canvas bedspread was just the right weight. We’d close the doors at night, mainly to keep out the chill. Didn’t have the first biting fly or bug, although we used the netting just in case. We also did bed check before we settled in. A little scorpion was in our bed one day when we turned down the covers (we canceled naptime after that) but he was terrified of us and bolted. I don’t know where he went and tried not to think about it. Sleep came easy to me after days of physical exertion, but my husband had a few sleepless nights from the change of pace, diet and input. We found the scope of the rainforest a bit overwhelming and a lot to take in at one time. I felt in six days we hadn’t even scratched the surface.

Gotta say something about the bathtub in Mariposa (out in the outside shower enclosure and with a view of the forest and Pacific). It was really, really nice after a hike and we had some of the best monkey sightings of the week from there. One day, 5-6 White Face Cappuchins came through eating and carousing. One of them got on the palm tree near the shower, then he leaped out to another frond and slipped....we both squealed as he slid down the frond, but luckily he caught himself or else that monkey would have had a bath...with us!

Had a Black Curassow out behind/beside the Cabina a few mornings and a few squirrel monkeys in the trees right in front of the cabina quite regular. The white-face were most common near the Cabina. Saw Spider Monkeys mostly in the trees down by Sol Cabina. BTW, that was my second favorite Cabina besides Mariposa. I agree with Shillmac that the shower view is the best and I like how it is situated on the hill. Pizote is nice too (they are in the process of remodeling it).

Friday, our first afternoon at BdC, we walked down to the tropical garden and hung out. Saw a bunch of birds I couldn’t name if if my life depended on it and some agoutis (very plentiful). We climbed to the upstairs to the Yoga Platform and saw our first blue morpho fly by. The Cabinas in the garden were cool looking but I’d hate to have to do that walk down there after dinner in the rain.

The next day we did the driveway up to the Titi trail and back around. There were a few monkeys around, some birds, but the star of the day was a moth the size of Texas hanging off a leaf. Enjoyed this trail, especially the driveway part of it. Tully is right, the driveway is a great slow stroll uphill and I could be quieter walking and see more birds than when navigating the trails. Spent some more time at the Tropical Garden in the afternoon. It is a quick hike down to the Creek from the Garden and we did this nearly every day.

Sunday we did the Pacific Trail. It was a long way down, but what a payoff at the bottom. We hiked down the beach to the Tide Pools and chilled there a while. All the tide pools, large and small, were just amazing. We found a little shade and had the lunch BdC had packed for us PBJ’s, fruit and pumpkin bread. We didn’t make it to the waterfall. That tropical sun was beating down and the sand was hot. I was wearing tennis shoes for the trail and took my shoes off on the beach until the sand got to hot. Wish I had of had some surf moc type shoe, it would have been perfect for walking in the sand. Surprisingly, we found climbing back up the trail easier than going down. I have to say going to the Pacific was my favorite day at Bosque. The views were breathtaking as we came down and plenty of things to check out along the trail.

Monday we were planning to go on the Primary Rainforest Tour with Phillip, but the day at the Pacific caught up with us and we opted to chill. Walked around the grounds, stalked the lantana down the driveway for butterflies and then went up to Casa Miramar. It looked like they were doing repairs/construction on it, so we didn’t stick around. Did see a pair of Scarlett Macaws there, one of the few we saw the whole trip. We saw many, many Toucans, and a few other parrots, but Macaws were not everywhere as I had imagined them to be. Probably the time of year. The rest of the day we spent on the hammock trail with detour on the bathtub trail...lol

Tuesday and Wednesday, between showers of rain, we went down to the Creek several different ways, took a few dips under the mini-waterfall (I loved this spot!) and hiked about halfway up Zapatero Trail. Saw a lot of butterflies on the open spaces in this trail. Loved hiking in the creek but found it somewhat treacherous after a while. We heard LOTS of howler monkeys on the Zapatero trail, but had forgotten our binoculars that day and didn’t see them. We also spent a lot of time wandering the grounds during these rainy days. Checked out most of the cabinas that were not occupied (they were about half full). It is so cool that each cabina has its own unique view and feel. Nothing has a cookie cutter feel at Bosque del Cabo!

I regret not taking guided hikes, especially the Primary Rainforest Tour with Phillip. Both of us were so overwhelmed with the beauty of the place, we just wanted to wander around alone, taking it all in. I did not get bored, even in the rain.

The rain. We had lots of sun (but cool!) our first four days, the last two, rain. It was on and off rain, like bands from a tropical storm, which we are familiar with being from Florida, so we could get out and around some. Actually, those rainy/misty days made for our best photography days as the colors were so saturated. Our last night, the bottom fell out and it rained cats, dogs and monkeys all night. I was really impressed the thatched roofs did not leak. We felt snug. However, the walk back from dinner (alone, my husband crashed early) was quite an experience in the downpour and dark. My windup flashlight was low and I was trying to wind it, hold the umbrella, look down and watch where I was stepping and stay dry all at the same time.

We both really enjoyed the food at Bosque. Breakfast and lunch were our favorite meals. I had the Tico breakfast nearly every morning (after my fresh fruit plate) and my husband loved the banana pancakes. One day they were out of bananas and made the pancakes with papaya and pineapple. THAT was extra delicious! The butter and cane syrup served with the pancakes was also outstanding, very different from what we get in the states. I usually had the Casada for lunch and husband had a different sandwich/salad every day.

Dinner was always delicious...but it was our least favorite meal of the day for several reasons. As the sun would start to set, both of us would begin dreading having to converse with strangers throughout a long dinner. While many folks would not have a problem with this at all, and I admit there was some lively conversation, fun and very nice people at dinner, sitting with different strangers at dinner every night was something we dreaded. It would have been nice to chat with the other guests during happy hour, then sit at a table alone, at least for a few nights during our stay. Dinner was also late for us, nearly two hours after dark. We’d be struggling to stay awake and then going to bed with a full stomach did not agree with my husband and caused him sleep problems. When we visit again I think I’d like to just go to the bar for snacks at 6:00 and maybe just skip dinner, at least a few nights anyway. I wouldn’t want to miss out on those great veggies at dinner altogether. The tenderloin beef was also outstanding. Dessert after dinner was hit or miss, but the cookies/cakes at 2:00 PM were always excellent.

The Jaguar/Puma talk and slideshow before dinner one night was one of the highlights of the trip. Do not miss this if it is available when you are there. After listening to this (on our last night) that’s when I really began to regret not going on the guided hikes and learning more. But there is always next time!

The staff was excellent, always warm, always present and we never needed for a thing. They also all seemed happy, which speaks well of the management. We talked with Phil some the first night, but did not see much of he or Kim the rest of our stay, I think they might of gone to San Jose. We did, however, get to meet Kim’s Nana! She was a sport.

After observing the housekeeping staff coming and going, we realized they cleaned each cabina nearly every day whether it was occupied or not. This goes a long way in keeping things clean I’m sure. One day I saw a young Tico woman, a housekeeper, skipping from one cabina to the next. It made me smile.

The morning of our departure I was worried our Nature Air flight was going to be canceled because of the weather, or the road was going to be trouble after the 5+ inches of rain. But soon after breakfast, the sun peeked out and the animals, who had been laying low the day before, came out. We actually saw more animals in a few hours that day than we would normally see all day. It was like the forest was waking up after a big rain. Nice.

Then Gerly informed us that the river was high from the rain and we might have to wade across it to an awaiting taxi on the other side to get out. At first we were apprehensive, but we went and changed into our river crossing clothes/shoes and got excited about it..lol. By the time we got to the river, it had gone down enough to drive through and we were almost disappointed we didn’t have to wade. We were happy to see Andy the taxi driver waiting to pick us at the river. Again, he spotted many birds and animals by the road side we would have never seen on our own.

The PJ Airport was cute and we had some almond coffee ice cream while waiting on our plane. By the time our plane arrived (on time) it had clouded back up and the skies were ominous looking as we boarded the flight. But by the time we got to Drake Bay it had cleared up again. It was amazing to see what all the Osa mud flowing out of the streams from the rain the night before had done to the Pacific...turned it mud colored at the mouths of the rivers and along the coast. Beautiful in its own way.

Landing at Pavas was smooth but as we got off the plane, they told us to walk the yellow line to the awaiting officers and dogs. We each had to lay our baggage out in front of us and stand in a line as the dogs sniffed us and our luggage. Clear, we entered the airport to find Luis awaiting us...Yay! He hugged us like old friends and we went on our way back to the Orquideas Inn. I really enjoyed driving through the city again. Luis told us that a month or so ago, a small plane had crashed immediately after taking off from Pavas and turned out to be carrying drugs (the weight caused the crash). Ever since then they’ve been doing the security check every few planes.

Getting back to Orquideas was almost like arriving home! Bright lights, a/c, blowdryer, telephone, no bed check....oh yeah! We just hung out, got in the tub and by dinner time, we were starving so we decided to check out Orquideas Restaurant. The waiter gave us Spanish menus by mistake and we both picked something out using our limited Spanish. When he came back to get our orders he looked at us and said, “You don’t speak Spanish do you?”...lol We said no and he brought back English menus. We ended up ordering what we had already picked out. I had Tilapia Orquideas. Fish cooked in tin foil with a white sauce and shrimp, served with mashed potatoes and grilled veggies. It was delish and quite different that what we’d been eating at BdC. Rod had the Coconut Shrimp which he loved, but I found the shrimp/prawn a bit tough. Then we went back to our room and watched Spanish TV. Fun.

I felt really comfortable and at home at Orquideas and would stay there again. Everyone was super-friendly, it was very clean and the views from our room were great. Even though it was in a kinda busy area, it was fenced and walled and with all the plants it was like a mini-Oasis just a hop, skip and a jump from the airport. I won’t hold the purple and gold interior of our room against them...lol.

We had a 7:00 AM flight to MIA the next morning and left the Inn at about 4:00 AM. Check in at SJO took about 25 minutes, including us having to go to the back of the line to fill out our exit tax paperwork. We had PLENTY of time to spare but it went quickly. One more thing - As Luis was driving us to the airport, he asked what had brought us to Costa Rica and to the Osa in particular and I told him I had read a lot on Fodor’s Forum, then I mentioned tully’s real name and said she had been particularly helpful. He beamed a smile and said “Oh I know her!” and knew her last name too. My husband was impressed...lol.

Top Ten Things I Loved About Costa Rica

1. Ticos! Everyone we met (except the guards with the sniffing dogs at Pavas...lol) were so warm and genuinely friendly. I think I would be hard pressed to find a country with nicer people. I felt welcome. I’m usually very shy about using my limited, florida-hick accent infused Spanish, but everyone was patient and encouraging as I butchered their language...lol.

2. The Palms

3. The Views and Mountains

4. Rice and Beans!

5. The Birds

6. Monkeys!

7. Plants and flowers

8. The misty rain

9. Waterfalls

10. Hiring drivers instead of renting a car.

Again, thank you all for your advice and excuse the long drawn out report! Will post pics later in the week.

Pura Vida!

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