Who: Family of four, two boys ages 8 and 10
What: Our dream vacation and celebration of a 40th birthday
Where: Monteverde, Arenal, Osa/Bosque del Cabo, and Manual Antonio
When: Two weeks in June
Thanks to the forums on Tripadvisor and Fodor's, I was able to plan
this whole trip myself. We loved Costa Rica and will definitely be
back! It truly was a trip of a lifetime.
Things we could not have lived without: Croc shoes (the only thing
that didn't stay wet and absorb odor!), battery-operated travel alarm
clark, lightweight REI hiking shirts, sweat bands, packing cubes to use in our duffel bags, a low-end telephoto lens ($200) for the DSLR , travel-size Febreeze (for the stinky shoes and clothes), Cortizone10 (easy relief applicator) for bug bites, and Advil PM (I took a half pill almost every night to help sleep).
Things I packed that we really did not use: camera bag, water bottles (we really only needed one between the four of us), binoculars, socks (we only wore them one day and that was with rubber boots) and umbrellas (almost all of the hotels had ones for guests to use).
Things I wished we had packed: $10s and $5s (for tips and taxi fares) and shorts (I only brought capris and I was dying from the heat and humidity in the Osa).
As to the wildlife we saw, the photos pretty much speak for themselves. Suffice it say that we saw all 4 kinds of monkeys, numerous sloths, toucans, scarlet macaws, coatis, etc. We even saw the margay that occasionally shows up around Arenal Observatory Lodge. It's best to view these photos from the sets (which are on the right-hand side) because the photos are all out of order in my feed.
Transportation: We did not have a rental car at any of our locations. We used taxis for short trips; Tucan Limo Services for longer drives; and Nature Air flights to get to and from
Puerto Jimenez. I was very happy with our decision not to rent a
car. Tucan Limo provides an excellent service. The vans, which were big, comfortable and air-conditioned, were always 30 minutes early and the drivers were extremely courteous.
Alajuela: Our first night we stayed at the Orquideas Inn. Although
the grounds were nice, the room was a little too rustic for me and we ended up switching our reservation for the Hampton Inn on our last night in Costa Rica.
Monteverde: We stayed 2 nights at Arco Iris. We loved Monteverde and Arco Iris! We almost left it out of itinerary and I'm so glad we didn't. We did the Trapiche Tour, a night hike at the Santa Maria reserve, and then a full day of guided hikes at the cloud forest and the Ecological Sanctuary with Rafael Elizondo. Rafael was recommended on this board by Wendy (VillaHermosa) and he was great! He was so good with our two boys, talking directly with them and highlighting things that he knew they would be particularly interested in. He's also great with email communications.
Arenal: We stayed 1 night at Arenal Observatory Lodge (AOL) and then 2 nights at Silencio Del Campo. We took the taxi-boat-taxi service across Lake Arenal with Desafio. We loved AOL and next time I would probably want to stay at least 2 nights because there is quite a bit of wildlife to see there. But we also LOVED Silencio. We spent a lot of time in their hot spring and, although small, was perfectly fine for us. It felt very vacation-like to order a drink from the bar and sit by the hot spring. My only complaint was that
this was the only hotel in our whole visit that did not have flushable toilet paper. We went to Eco Thermales one evening and had dinner there and I highly recommend that. Even though it was raining and we were the only family with kids, we still had a wonderful time and the dinner was very good.
Bosque del Cabo: We stayed 5 nights here. One night in Sol, two
nights in La Palma, and two nights in Tucan. What can I say?
Everything everyone says about this place is absolutely true. I can't
imagine our trip without BdC. The wildlife, the food, the
accomodations, and especially the wonderful staff make this a truly
special place. There was one late afternoon where we were standing on the deck of La Palma cabina. There were spider monkeys playing in the trees just below us on the cliff; I could hear a toucan calling from a tree behind me; two scarlet macaws passed overhead; and two armadillos climbed up the hill and made there way into a hole. And all this occurred within ten minutes - just standing on our balcony!
In terms of clothes, we did buy rubber boots in Puerto Jimenez but we only used them one time when we did a morning hike in the rain. Due to the humidity, I ended up wearing my bathing suit and a stretchy black skirt most of the time - even on hikes! Things definitely got wet and did not dry. My husband ended up ditching his Merrell water/trail shoes altogether and hiked exclusively in Crocs.
We did visit the Osa Animal Sanctuary and I highly recommend that. My kids got to scratch Sweetie, the very demanding spider monkey, and briefly hold a baby howler monkey. It's quite an experience. (The owner asked that no pictures be posted on a public website so they aren’t in my Flickr stream. If you really want to see some, send me a private message with your email.) Be sure to hit Jagua, the gift shop by the airstrip in Puerto Jimenez. They have really nice things in there.
Manual Antonio: We stayed 3 nights here in Tulemar Mot Mot. By the time we got here, we just wanted to hang out on the Tulemar beach and we really didn't leave. This is a fantastic, kid-friendly beach and, although it seemed much more touristy than other places we'd been, we did enjoy it. Chris, our concierge and chef, was really helpful and cooks amazing food! And it's sloth city at Tulemar! I saw 6 in one day. In fact, we had one try to climb on our deck in the pouring rain. (Check out the video of it in the Manual Antonio folder.)
Our last day, we did a bit of shopping in San Jose. We walked around a little and went to Galeria Namu and bought some amazing indigenous crafts there. I was glad we went into the city. I loved the energy of it, with lots of people and activity.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.
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Who: Family of four, two boys ages 8 and 10