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2 Week Costa Rica Trip Report: Arenal, Maneu Anotonio, and Osa

2 Week Costa Rica Trip Report: Arenal, Maneu Anotonio, and Osa

Dec 5th, 2010, 05:43 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 6
2 Week Costa Rica Trip Report: Arenal, Maneu Anotonio, and Osa

This is my first trip report! I used the forums a lot to gather information for a Costa Rica Trip so I wanted to report back to help others in the process. The information I received was so helpful and invaluable! My husband and I were in Costa Rica for 15 days from July 24th through August 7th, 2010. We had a fabulous time and the trip far exceeded our expectations. We found the people to be warm and friendly, the cuisine enjoyable, and the wildlife and hiking incredible.

We wanted to have ample time at each location so even though it was hard we limited ourselves to three locations. I’m really glad we did because we were able to settle in to each location. We were in La Fortuna 5 nights, Manuel Antonio for 5 nights, and then the Osa for 4 nights. I have reviewed all the accommodations in each section.

Solid Car Rental
After much debate we decided to bite the bullet, rent a car, and drive. For the cost of the transfers we would need and for flexibility we decided driving ourselves was best. We found the driving to be fine and realized once we were there we had agonized way too much about the decision. The only sketchy part was way south where they are working on some bridges and you had to drive over some pretty bad roads and bridges there. But that was just one day. We bought a GPS (Garmin Nuvi) before we left and loaded it with the EZ Find Costa Rica maps ($89, www.navsatcr.com). It is a must have as I think it would have been very difficult for us had we not had the GPS. It only led us astray once--it routed us to a bridge UNDER the highway so we had to figure out where to go to get on the highway but we had a paper map with us we used.

Our experience with Solid Car Rental for the most part was good. One big glitch was that they said they would be at the airport to meet us and they weren’t. We arrived and thought my husband’s cell phone would work because we had paid for the international plan but it wasn’t working. A guy came up to us and called Solid on his cell phone with our reservation. Had he not called for us I’m not sure what we would have done—he was a lifesaver. Solid finally arrived and took us to their office and then it took another hour before we left. They didn’t have the car we reserved so they upgraded us. We bought the prepaid gas and it was $48 for the car we reserved and $60 for the upgrade. While it isn’t that much money I mentioned that we should only have to pay $48 b/c that is the car we reserved. They agreed and said that is what they charged. You don’t get a very detailed receipt and while dropping off the car in Puerto Jiminez I asked about it and they had charged us $60. The lady in that office had to call and get it fixed. Next time I would probably go with another company. If you are going all the way south though solid car rental is the way to go because they don’t charge an extra drop off fee.

La Fortuna Accommodations
Hotel San Bosco ($66 night for double standard room, www. hotel sanbosco.com)—We stayed for 3 nights. For $66 a night we felt like it was a great choice. It is right in town, you can walk everywhere and they serve an adequate breakfast that is included in the rate. We rate this hotel really high in terms of service, cleanliness, and location.

Hotel Tabacon ($175, forest view room, www.tabacon.com)— We stayed 2 nights and loved it! Since we were there in the off season it wasn’t crowded at all and at times you would have whole areas of the hot springs to yourself. Since we had a rental car we weren’t forced to eat onsite which worked out well because prices in the restaurants are high. We did eat at the buffet one evening out of convenience and enjoyed it. Our room was wonderful and we felt the service was excellent.

Arenal Day 1
Arrival, long drive to arenal, and evening check in to Hotel San Bosco.

Arenal Day 2
We were planning on rafting Rio Toro, but they were working on the dam that supplies the water so the trip got canceled and we had to come up with an alternate plan.
La Fortuna Waterfall—We did this our first day and unfortunately I slipped on the rocks and hurt my shoulder pretty bad (partial dislocation) but it could have been a lot worse! It is a gorgeous waterfall and hike. We drove ourselves there and got there pretty early (around 9 or 10) and it was pretty deserted.

We then came into town and had lunch and we don’t remember where but it was one of our first of many casados. Delicious and inexpensive!

Then we headed to the Hanging Bridges. Wow, wow, wow! This was a fabulous experience. If we went again we would hire a guide. We knew we were going to hire guides for the later part of our trip we didn’t get one here. It rained tons but we still had a great hike and found the forests to be so lush and green—even more so than we imagined!

Arenal Day 3
My husband went rafting on Rio Sarapiqui with Desafio. Since I hurt my shoulder I had to pick another tour and did the Cano Negro tour. We both were really happy with Desafio and they gave me a credit because we had prepaid for rafting for me and the Cano Negro tour was cheaper. I thought that was really great customer service. My husband had a blast rafting and it exceeded his expectations. Cano Negro was fun, although a bit tame since I had planned on rafting. I saw squirrel monkeys, howlers, white faced capuchins, and too many birds to name.

Arenal Day 4
Transferred to Tabacon, dropped off our bags and drove to Volcano Arenal.
We did the El Ceibo Trail hike and we found it to be incredible. There was hardly anyone on the trail. We then did the Las Coladas Trail and hiked up to the old lava fields.
We then headed back to Tabacon and checked into our wonderful room. We hit the hot springs. It was so much more beautiful and interesting than we had imagined. The landscaping was so amazing and lush.

Arenal Day 5
The next day my husband went to zip line with Sky Trek while I spent the entire time at the hot springs. The zip line was a lot of fun (10 cables with a combined length over 13,000 feet) with some incredible views. One important note is that reservations are highly recommended. They have scheduled trip times and you might have to wait a long time if there isn’t room in other groups that are going.

Manuel Antonio Accommodations
The Falls ($95, deluxe room, www.fallsresort.cr.com). We stayed here based largely on tripadvisor reviews. Again, we had low season rates, and for $95 a night we thought this place was a steal. We had a king bed, walk in closet and a shower finished in stone. For us the location was great although you don’t get a view of the ocean. If we went back we would probably stay somewhere with a view. The staff here is very friendly and helpful.

Manuel Antonio Day 6
We packed up and made our way for the 5-6 hour drive to Manuel Antonio. We got there in the afternoon, checked in and then headed out a little bit later for dinner. Just as we started walking it started to rain, and rain, and rain. We went to dinner and then had the hotel call so we could make a last minute reservation with Aguila Tours/Juan Brenes (http://aguilatours.blogspot.com/) for a hike the next day in Manuel Antonio.

Manuel Antonio Day 7
Slept in and then explored a little on our own. I had originally wanted to stay at Arenas Del Mar (they were booked) so we thought we would drive down and check it out. Well, it was a bit remote so we decided we were much happier with our location and hotel. On the way back we were informed that the road would be closed for a few hours because there had been so much rain they needed to do some repair work. It was the only way out so we pulled out our books and postcards and settled in for the next few hours. We had been sitting for a few minutes when staff from the Hotel Parador came up to our car. They had just helped some of their guests walk out to the road so they could make it to the airport in time. The staff said why don’t you come back to our hotel and relax. So we did! It had a gorgeous view and we ordered coffee and tea and wrote some postcards. We got up to move down to the pool area and bar and asked about paying for our beverages. They refused to charge us for the coffee/tea!

So we moved down and settled in to their lounge chairs by the pool and ordered a few fruity alcoholic beverages (it was past lunchtime by now). We heard that the road was going to take longer so we just kept reading and relaxing and it was such a gorgeous day we didn’t mind. When we left a few hours later we just took it easy and lounged by the pool. I still am so thankful for the hotel though because it turned a 3 hour wait in a hot car into a very pleasant morning for us. Sometimes you never know what will happen when you go off the back roads of Costa Rica!

Then we checked out quepos, hung out a little, ate at CaféMilagro’s.

Manuel Antonio Day 8
We took the local bus down to the town and met up with our tour group for Manuel Antonio Park Hiking Tour. We had a very enjoyable half day hike and saw so much wildlife. Juan was a great guide. We had packed a lunch so after the hike we stayed in the park and checked out the beaches (and made sure monkeys didn’t get our food!)

Manuel Antonio Day 9
We spent the day in the beach. Lounging, hiking, watching monkeys, and swimming in paradise.

Manual Antonio Day 10
We liked our hike so much we booked the mangrove tour with Aguila. We were supposed to kayak but it was raining in the morning so we ended up on a covered boat. This turned out to be ok b/c we still got to see a lot of wildlife. Paco was our guide and he was just fabulous—really great and we very much enjoyed the tour. Paco is such an exceptional guide. If you can book a tour with him, do!

Osa Accommodations
Bosque Del Cabo ($310 night for classic, www.bosquedelcabo.com, upgraded to deluxe room Mariposa)

This was the place I was most excited about. Bosque Del Cabo met my expectations but didn’t exceed it. Our first impression wasn’t the greatest as I had worked out a transfer from their office in Puerto Jiminez since we would be dropping off our car in town. We showed up at the office and they seemed to be confused about what was going on even though I had several email exchanges about what time we would be at their office. In the end it wasn’t a problem and they did call a taxi for us when we were ready. To their credit I’m sure most people just fly in and get picked up at the airport. However, I found pre trip communication emails very difficult. It took several emails to finally get their office location so we would know where to go once the car was dropped off and also to set up a time. I’m not sure if it is a language issue but I felt like I had to keep prying for information.

After the very long bumpy ride they put us in a cabina next to one with a lot of construction going on. This was a big bummer and when I went to the outdoor shower I looked up and could see several workers on the roof of the next cabina. Obviously, I wasn’t going to feel comfortable taking a shower there and I didn’t want to have to coordinate showers with their working time. We mentioned it and they did move us and upgraded up to the Mariposa cabin. I give them huge props for that and really appreciated it. But I do question why they would put someone there in the first place? I can understand if the showers weren’t outside.

By far what makes Bosque so special is the wildlife and trails and their guided hikes. Their trials are in great shape! The food was adequate. It was exceptional the first night we were there and then I think they had a different chef because it wasn’t nearly as good for the next few meals. Again, this is a minor point but we had to keep reminding staff of our dietary requirements and I expected better service in that area. Overall, I don’t think the meals are worth what you would be charged to eat there if you stay in one of the houses.

It definitely is a great place and you are paying for exclusive location. We did find the staff to be good and we really did enjoy our time there.

Osa Day 11
The drive was beautiful and fairly uneventful but we did have some of the worst roads here. We ate lunch in Puerto Jiminez and dropped off our car and then got in the taxi to head up to Bosque Del Cabo. The ride was even bumpier than we had imagined. It was great fun though and we were happy to arrive at Bosque. As stated above we got upgraded to Mariposa and it was fabulous. If we ever went back I would definitely request it. After we arrived, I took a shower and it was pretty cool to have squirrel monkeys jumping from tree to tree!

Osa Day 12
We did the early morning bird hike with Carlos—so fun. Saw toucans, macaws, sloth, and so many other birds that were so beautiful. Definitely a wonderful way to start your day.Then we did the Pacific trail, Trogon, and Titi Trail. Saw monkeys, sloths, agouti , coatumundi, etc. No big cats though. Our dogs were barking from all the walking! We hiked about 11 hours.

Osa Day 13
We did the half day forest ecology hike with Philip. This was one of our highlights of our whole trip. We found this to be educational, the pace was great, and we felt like it was such a value. Saw parrots and my husband spotted a little black frog (orange and black poison dart frog). I can’t imagine staying at Bosque and not doing this hike with him. It truly is exceptional if you are interested in forest ecology at all. Then we relaxed and gave our feet and legs a break.

Osa Day 14
We paid for a ride down to the beach and hung there for about 3 hours and walked around. I loved seeing the scarlet macaws flying around and some of the trees had 30 birds in it! It was amazing as I have always wanted to see them in the wild.
Then we did the evening hike with Phillip. Again, a wonderful little hour long hike before dinner. I really wanted to see the red eyed tree frog and Phillip found one for me.

Osa Day 15
Flew back on Nature Air to San Jose and then home. I love to travel but I don’t like to fly so I was nervous about the small plane and flight back. It was very smooth and great and I couldn’t believe I actually enjoyed it! One thing to know is to check your departure taxes paperwork carefully. We didn’t realize they spelled my husband’s middle name wrong and the staff at the US Airways counter said to be safe we should have it fixed. I was able to get a worker’s attention so we didn’t have to wait in line again to get it fixed. We also were told we could pay our taxes at the smaller airport we landed into and we did. There wasn’t hardly a line at all.

We loved Costa Rica and everyone we met was so friendly. The hiking was spectacular, the wildlife abundant, and we found it to be an incredible easy country to travel around. Our next trip is Tanzania in 1 month!
traveler2009 is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 07:30 AM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 535
Thanks so much for posting such a detailed trip report. I am sure it will help many people.

So happy you had such a great time. And the Costa Rican friendliness you wrote about is so typical - it just made me smile.
hsmithcr is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 10:50 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 3,750
Great trip report! Thanks for sharing. . It sounds like you had a wonderful time in spite of hiccups and painful injuries so good for you keeping a positive attitude and going with the flow. It seems like you got a nice feel for the areas you visited. Like you, I moved from Sol to another cabina at BDC this year so I understand your feelings on that, otherwise I've still been under it's spell since my first visit. ;-). I hope your shoulder is felling better now that your home and able to rest it.
hipvirgochick is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 11:09 AM
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 113
Thanks for sharing your impressions of Costa Rica with us. As a native of the Osa Peninsula I grew up with this all around me and sometimes I take it for granted. Reading about your experience through your eyes gave me the sense of seeing it for the first time. Pura Vida.

Ballardo Daiz - Jungle Guide
Jaguarman is offline  
Dec 5th, 2010, 02:03 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 976
Your report provides helpful details and lots of advice that I plan to follow when I visit Costa Rica for the first time in January. We have 2 weeks and are also driving to many of the same places, including Osa. It's encouraging to hear from someone who's done it! Thanks for taking the time to write your report and share it with us.
aprillilacs is offline  
Dec 6th, 2010, 04:06 PM
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 28
During dinner at BdC a few weeks ago, someone was asked, "what's your favorite part of the Osa?" and he replies, "getting here." He drove.
blackcat256 is offline  
Dec 8th, 2010, 08:59 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 23,902
Welcome back, t; I'm glad you had fun!
volcanogirl is offline  
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