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1/21 - 1/30 Trip Report - Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio

1/21 - 1/30 Trip Report - Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio

Feb 1st, 2005, 01:05 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 5
1/21 - 1/30 Trip Report - Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio

I wanted to thank all of you for your advice on accomodations, canopy tours and driving times, etc. We (two couples - good friends)had a great vacation. We saw a tremedous amount of wildlife and engaged in some great activites.

Here's a rundown with an emphasis on hotel & restaurant comments.

Background info - I booked the hotels and Toyota 4 x 4 through Centralamerica.com rep - Lily. She got us into hotels that another agent told us were unavailable and got back to me right away. So if you want the security of an agent, I would recommend this agency.

1/21 - Left Philly (got out before the snowstorm - yahoo!)and arrived in San Jose at noon local time. A bus was waiting to take us to our rental car (Mapache). We were booked into Hotel Don Fadrique in San Jose for the evening. We thought we would be cutting it too close to get to Arenal before dark. In hindsight, I would not have stayed in San Jose but either booked something in between SJ and Arenal or gone to Arenal that day. Hotel Don Fadrique was in the University section of town (near the museums). It is a converted residence and has a very nice courtyard, reasonably priced (65.00 per night) with breakfast included.

1/22 - Drove from SJ to Arenal - got a little lost along the way but got to the Hotel Arenal Paraiso by 2:00 PM. Saw a toucan on the way in - the only one of the trip. The weather here and in Monteverde was cooler and clouder than normal but still much better than the 5 degrees back home. We went on one of the volcano night hikes and although the volcano was covered with clouds, we did get to see some embers/sparks coming down the side at the end of the hike at dark. The clouds did not leave the volcano the whole time we were here. I would recommend Hotel Arenal Paraiso as lots of others have. We were upgraded at no extra charge. The cabins were roomy and clean. I loved having the protected porch with great views of the volcano. FYI - they have a few hot spring pools so we did not feel the need to go to Tabacon or Baldi.
We did have our worst and one of the most expensive dinners at the restaurant in this hotel. We all liked Lava Rocks Cafe in La Fortuna for frescos and american size portion casados.

1/23 - Did the Cano Negro Wildlife refuge trip with a small group - 8 or 9 people. This is where we saw the most diversity in wildlife. We saw Jesus Christ lizards, caimans, iguanas, a sloth taking a bath right at the river edge, white face monkeys were right next to the boat, howlers and spiders in the trees in the distance. We were lucky to see a Roseate spoonbill, lots of herons, many other birds.
At night, we did a hike in a botanical garden near Arenal. This turned out to be a tour for just the four of us and I found the poison Blue Jeans frog in a bromelius(SIC?)! We found other frogs and a vine snake using our flashlights.

1/23 - Did the Class 2-3 Whitewater rafting trip on a river near Arenal with DesFio? tours. Great fun and guides but I did get bitten by some type of small insect (not mosquitos) and I am still lathering on the Caladryl. This is ONLY time anyone had a problem with insects.

1/24 - Left Arenal and drove to Monteverde around Lake Arenal. We encountered the mudslide being cleared - only a small delay but what we thought and were told was a 3.5 hour drive became a 5.5 hour drive due to the terribly bad road from Tilaran to Monteverde. At times, we were not sure that this was a road that led anywhere but we did manage to get to Monteverde before dark. We stayed at the Hotel Fonda Vela and I would HIGHLY recommend this place. We again had 1 room upgraded at no charge. The grounds are beautiful and the rooms were the largest we stayed in during our trip. We had very good meals at the restaurant here - nice Tilapia and spiny lobster.

1/25 - Private guided tour to the Cloud forest. Saw 3 quetzals and many other birds. Our guide Samuel was great! In the afternoon, we did the Selvatura canopy tour and it was a blast! We thought we would be nervous but we never felt unsafe or afraid. It was very cloudy and in many cases, we were zipping through the clouds, not able to see the next platform until we needed to brake. Adrenaline pumping experience!

1/26 - Off to Manuel Antonio by 8:00 AM and got to our hotel by 12:00. We stayed at the Hotel Villa Teca and I wanted to give some info about this hotel on this site as I could find no reviews on this site or tripadvisor.com when I was booking our trip. This hotel is ok but if you can book Costa Verde, Si Como No or Villas Nicholas, they are definitely a better choice. We did try to get into another hotel but just couldn't work it out. We paid 112.00 a night(the most expensive of any hotel we stayed in) and while the grounds(no ocean view) and staff were very nice, the rooms were the smallest we saw and the restaurant is not that good. I think we may have been the only Americans staying there during our stay. There were many other nationalities represented here including Italian, French, German and Swedish as part of a large tour group that came in the day after we got there. We ate at Karolas that night and it was very good. Very good mahi-mahi although we didn't think the humungous shrimp were really that big.

1/27 - Went to MA park - our only park without a guide. Did the hike up to Cathedral Rock and around and then went swimming at the third beach in. The beaches in the park are the best - so pay the admission fee and enjoy! Saw many birds, a coatimundi and sloths who almost fell on our heads! Apparently, falling is one of the most common causes of death for them.

We did a horseback riding tour that we booked througn our hotel and it was great! Another private tour - just the four of us with a great guide named Ugo (shortened for our non-Spanish ears). The horses were really well trained and we were able to canter multiple times. This is probably the time I felt least like a tourist and felt like I was really seeing Costa Rica as the natives do. We visited several waterfalls and excellent lunch and dinner casados were provided.

1/28 - The guys went off shore sportfishing and we had a restful morning and then went kayaking in Damas Island mangrove swamps in the afternoon. This also was a private tour - just 2 ladies and our guide. It is not a hard paddle - only one little area has any current at all. We had rainbow boas right over our heads and a troop of white face monkeys came very close
(within a few feet) before a tour boat scared them away. We also got a distant glimpse of the silky anteater. We ate at Marluna that evening and enjoyed the food and the live entertainment. Definitely recommend this restaurant.

1/29 - Did a beach walk and drove to Costa Verde to experience the view while quenching our thirst. The views from the Anaconda restaurant here are spectacular! Left MA and drove to Jaco to see Los Suenos. I agree with others who have posted here. A beautiful place but not a place to experience the culture and people of Costa Rica. If you can't live without some American style food, you can get good appetizers and burgers here.
We drove back to Don Fadrique and had dinner at the German club right around the corner (we ate here our first night too). The club had really good food at reasonable prices and we had the place to ourselves both times. That night the bar at the German club was rocking and rolling until 1:00 so the sleeping was a little light that night.

1/30- Back to Philly. BOO HOO!

Some general comments and observations
- Pay for guides if you can afford to- you don't see half the wildlife without them and it is an opportunity to converse with the locals(even if they are the ones catering to us tourists).
- Bring binoculars for the times when you don't pay for a guide. You always see the guides along the trail and follow their lead as far as looking at wildlife
- Don't stay in San Jose if you have don't have to.
- The canopy tour can be a little rough on the body. I got a huge bruise on my upper leg from the harness straps. It is somewhat strenuous and you need to be in at least moderate physical shape.
- Don't drive yourself unless you feel comfortable driving on curvy mountain roads of gravel and boulders and no guardrails. My husband was the driver and he was ok with these things but I think I would have been really stressed if I was the one who was driving. That being said, I liked the freedom of having our own "wheels" so we could explore on our own.

Again, thanks for all of the great advice. It helped make our trip just wonderful! It was Pura Vida all the way! I can't wait to go back.

cachas is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 03:37 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 734
Thanks, cachas, great report! We saw a few sloths high up in trees, but none taking a bath!
Molly2 is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2005, 05:02 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 2,323
I know what you mean about those curves without guardrails ! Wow ! Long way down , freaked my hubbie out a bit !!
faithie is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2005, 09:50 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 5,541
Great report. 3 quetzals - wow! You hit the jackpot. Didn't you just love the view from Anaconda! I had breakfast there every morning and had to tear myself away!
tully is offline  
Feb 12th, 2005, 09:32 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1
Which horseback riding trip did you take?
My husband grew up with horses and doesn't want a trip that you just follow slowly in a row. One you have more freedom to ride and that the horses are treated well.
mjohnson is offline  
Feb 13th, 2005, 07:34 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 148
We're leaving on Thurs. & I'd like to know what the temperature was in Monteverde/Cloud forest? The guide I've contacted said they've had a cold spell & people were buying hats & gloves but no one seems to tell me the actual temperature. If you could let me know what it was like while you were there I'd really appreciate it. Thanks!
petite1 is offline  
Feb 13th, 2005, 07:47 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
At www.costarica.com you can access weather conditions all over the country. I looked up Monteverde and found that it is 65 degrees there right now. Noticed it gave a 15 day forecast if you'd like to look. What feels mild to us feels very cold to Costa Ricans because their temperatures are generally so mild. Cloud forests tend to be cooler than other areas--altitude.
shillmac is offline  
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