Bosque De Paz & Other recommendations

Oct 1st, 2005, 10:24 AM
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Bosque De Paz & Other recommendations

I did this trip last christmas and posted it (because I got so much help from this board but I can't find it when I search.) Don't know what I did wrong. So here it is again. I especially wanted to alert people to La Bosque de Paz a wonderful discovery that is not mentioned very often.


Trip for nature lovers

I planned a week long trip last December for my extended family (husband, two teenagers,79-year-old mother, brother and sister-in-law) to Costa Rica with the help of this forum. I couldnít have done it without the help of all that contribute to this talk board and swore Iíd write it up. Well six months later I still havenít done it but better late than never.

Day 1 Arrival/San Jose. We flew from Atlanta to San Jose on Friday night (12/17) and everything went smoothly except our luggage didnít arrive. The Delta Agent took our hotel information for the next night and promised the luggage would arrive. Since we were going to be hours away we didnít really believe her. We then went to find a taxi to go to our first night lodging. Hotel Bougainvillea (http://www.bougainvillea.co.cr/). As advised by the hotel, we looked for the ďorange cabs, Taxis UnidosĒ rather than the many people who are trying to get you to hire them. It turns out you were suppose to buy a ticket from the counter just inside the airport. It is called something else there so we didnít recognize it and my husband had to talk himself past the security guard that doesnít let people back into the terminal who are not catching a plane. But it worked fine and we were so glad we had been advised to not try and find the hotel ourselves since the way was really confusing. Hotel is located in suburbs and the surrounding area was not something you would want to walk around but inside the grounds it was wonderful. Beautiful rooms, lovely garden, and great breakfast. The only glitch was I thought breakfast was included and it wasnít. Iím still not sure if it was so my only advice is to make sure you keep that info when you book your reservations (duh!).

Day 2. Arenal region. Having read not to stay in San Jose, we had plans to leave the next morning for the countryside. Tricolor Car Rentals came and picked us up. We originally planned on them coming at 9:30 but my brotherís plane from Miami didnít land until the middle of the night so we delayed the pick up until 11. Tricolor had no problems. When we got to the rental place they couldnít have been nicer. We had reserved two SUVs (Suzuki Grand Vitaras ) but forgot to realize that SUVs do not have the trunk space of cars. So my brother ended up upgrading to a larger SUV. We definitely should have packed lighter. We also rented two cell phones, which worked throughout our trip and was great to have (can be arranged when you get to Tricolor). Because we didnít trust Delta, we decided to split up and we stayed in San Jose until the Delta plane arrived with our luggage. It turns out though that we met people later on that had gotten their luggage delivered hours away from San jose, so we didnít need to.

We drove up to Los Lagos Near the Arenal Volcano http://www.hotelloslagos.com
map and with more pictures available at http://www.arenal.net/hotel/los-lagos.htm We reserved 4 premium rooms up on the hill.

Drive was fine (took Highway to San Ramon then 142 to Fortuna. Must be new roads because easy driving). Hotel was wonderful. Everything that people said it was on this forum. Unfortunately only saw the volcano the first night a little bit. We tried to make it up to the viewing site beyond the cabins but gave up when we came to choices in the road. Wish we had asked when we had arrived how to get up to the observation and had tried it in the daylight. Given the volcano never became visible at night again my advice would be to grab the chance to see it if there is a break in the weather.

Day 3 . Morning walked up the road that leads to the observational hut bird watching. Some of the best birdwatching we had during the trip. Then went to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. Was the highlight of my motherís trip. Although somewhat challenging for her (not for us), she loved it, as we all did. We saw a lot of monkeys but few birds. Wish we had gotten there earlier in the day but was truly a wonderful place. Donít have to have an SUV to get there but it definitely made it easier.

We came back to Los Lagos, checking out the two hot springs that people talk about on the way. They seemed expensive, crowded to us, and bit too much of a swinging scene for us all fogeys. But we were delighted with the hot springs at our hotel (which were free). They have a nice slide that the kids did and a bar you can order drinks from while standing in the hotsprings pool. Although the evening was cool, we all ended up in (including my mother) and really enjoyed it. (BTW some of the other things that this and other hotels advertise like the frog pond really arenít thereÖ)

Day 4 Arenal/ La Bosque. Those of us who are not scared of heights (myself, my brother and kids) went on the sky tram skytrek combo. http://www.arenal.net/tour/skytram-skytrek/
We werenít sure which of these canopy tours to take but this definitely is a winner. You up very high on the skytram (gondolas) and then go across a valley many times on the sky trek. Would not choose it if youíre at all scared of heights but for me it was a real rush. This was a new operation, guides are wonderful, and the whole thing couldnít have been better.
My husband, mother, and sister-in-law tried to go to the arenal park but didnít find anything nice.. but ended up seeing monkeys on the side of the road and watched them for an hour.

Drove back to our hotel to check out and also because it was the first clear day drove up to the observational point behind Los Lagos and viewed the volcano erupting. Wish it was night time but was still amazing to see the lava (grey during the day) coming down. I would definitely go up here even if you donít get to see the volcano. The region is full on wildlife and rain forest and not of people.

Left after lunch to go to our next stop. Drove through Quesada, Zarcero, Sarchi Norte to Grecia (got good directions from Bosque when made reservations). Stopped briefly to see the topiaries but it was getting dark and we worried about the road to Bosque. The road to Bosque definitely was easier in an SUV because some of it was not paved and was very narrow and twisting. Was raining by this time so we had to go slowly. But was not a problem driving and found the driveway to the entrance of The Bosque De Paz Rain/Cloud Forest Lodge & Biological Reserve http://www.bosquedepaz.com/index.htm without a problem. By this time it was pouring and very cold.

Day 5. La Bosque. The absolute find of the trip. Not enough said on this forum about it. It is a new (under 5 years old) lodge in the middle of a cloud forest. It is owned by an old Costa Rican family (Federico González-Pinto, his wife Vanessa, and his son Federico) who bought up the land to preserve it. All profits go back to land preservation. All people who work in the lodge are locals and were trained by Frederico and Vanessa. They treat you like youíre a guest in their home. And what a home it is! A truly beautiful lodge in the middle of a cloud forest. They have birdfeeders and mammal feeders and a river that flows through the property right in front if the outside patio. You donít have to leave the hammock to see hundreds of birds and wildlife (my mother never did). There are also trails through the preserve. At Fredericoís suggestion, we hired a guide who took us on a hike (I think it was about 5 miles) to a beautiful waterfall. The trails are all well marked so we wandered on our own in the afternoon and the next day. We didnít see the birds we would have liked, Frederico said that was because of the cold snap we were having (we all wore wool sweaters and were still cold). Several birdwatching groups stay here so Iím sure it is true. The views were unbelievable. You look out on virgin (no people ever have gone) forest as well as primary rain/cloud forest. I originally chose going here because we could not get to Monteverde, and I canít imagine anything better. I canít recommend this more highly. We were the only ones in the lodge the first night and the second there was only one other couple. There are only 20 rooms so you really feel like you are on you own in this fancy lodge. The food was the best we had in Costa Rica and they will cater to your own requirements (we had lots of food allergies in our family). I hope more people make the effort to go. It is actually quite close to San Jose for those who do not want to drive themselves it is easy to get a driver to drop you off.

Day 6. Sarapiqui region. Left again after lunch (you get 3 meals a day with your room at La Bosque so we stayed for our second lunch) to drive to the Sarapiqui region. Past a beautiful village (Bajo del Toro) and then stopped to look at the largest waterfall in the Western Hemisphere outside of Brazil (canít remember the name but it is listed in the National Geographic guidebook and La Bosque can tell you). My family hiked to the bottom while my mother, brother, and sister in law continued their way. Was an interesting experience with missing guiderails and steep stairs (you had to go beyond a sign that said the way was closed). But we enjoyed the adventure and was not really dangerous though probably would not have been open in the states. The view from the top was just a nice but we got some exercise.

It was difficult reentering civilization. Both Arenal and La Bosque is much less populated than the Sarapiqui region where the main road is full of trucks and lined with houses/towns.
We went to La Quinta de Sarapiqui www.laquintasarapiqui.com I read the comments on this forum about the choices in the region and chose this one because of all the positive remarks and the desire to go to a place that was owned by Costa Ricans. I have to say that this was the only place where I disagreed with what has been said. La Quinta is in the middle of a pineapple plantation. When you drive up the center of it is all concrete. The rooms are ok but VERY basic and the noise from the plantation can be heard from the rooms. Everyone was warm and friendly and the food was fine so I agree with those comments.

Day 7. Woke up very early to get to an early morning bird tour at La Selva Biological Station http://www.ots.ac.cr/en/laselva/nhv.shtml. Because there was 7 of us I had reserved a ďfull day private tourĒ which in reality was an early birding tour 5:30-7:30 then ate breakfast at the station and started again from 8:30-11:30. ($38/person). Was fabulous. Guide was excellent in finding/ telling us about the birds (was definitely worth it getting there early, saw birds throughout the tour but not as many as in the morning) and taking us on a walk through the forest the rest of the morning. Breakfast was basic as everyone says but the money goes to a good cause. Walk was paved and flat and my mother was fine. Our only mistake was not to ask directions on how to get to the station from our hotel. I thought it would be obvious but it wasnít. We had to stop and ask directions several times to find someone who we could understand. So we didnít make it to the station until 6. Since it was a private tour that was fine but we are not early morning people so it was frustrating.

On the way back we stopped at the other lodge I had thought about staying at Selva Verde www.selvaverde.com. Boy was it beautiful. We had lunch in their second floor dining room (buffet style) looking out on the river. There are birdfeeders right there with hundreds of birds and the lodge itself was a beautiful wood structure. It turned out we were not suppose to be eating lunch if we were not staying there but the lodge managers let us pay. I fell in love with the place and dreaded going back to La Quinta. When I found out they had room for us, we had a family crisis between my husband (who never wants to spend money) and myself. Because we were leaving my mother to spend the day alone in our hotel the next day, I was adamant we look into moving. We went back to La Quinta and asked to be let out of our second night reservation. We were willing to pay for both lodges for one night but didnít want to pay for two nights. Beatriz was gracious enough to let us to cancel the next night reservation and we packed our bags and moved into Selva Verde. This lodge was wonderful and we thought it was well worth the extra money. The large well appointed rooms are all on stilts and look out into the rainforest. They are connected by raised walkways so if its raining you have no problems going to the lodge. You can sit for hours at the lodge looking at the birds and water. There are also trails throughout the property. The food is served buffet style and was not really different from that of La Quinta.

The place is also more of a resort and puts on activities (we learned to dance at night, and went on a guided birdwatching walk one morning). We do not usually think of ourselves the resort type but the lodge was very low keyed and nature oriented.

Day 8. Woke up early again and everyone but my mother took off for a one day Pacuare rafting trip. We booked it through Aventuras Naturales www.costaricatours.com. I worked with Grettel Alvarez who was very helpful. All the touring companies are really set up to pick you up at a San Jose hotel (even though we were closer. In fact, I noticed that tour packages are offered for Arenal and La Bosque for activities that took place in the Sarapiqui region so you really have to be careful if you donít want to spend time driving a lot.) We had to make special arrangements since we didnít want to spend anytime in San Jose or leave my mother there. It ended up easy. We drove an hour toward Guapiles to Rancho Robertos and which was the restaurant where you stop and have breakfast (truly delicious). We left our car at the restaurant while we took the bus to and from the river. This was again a highlight of the trip (everything wasÖ). Unfortunately, there are plans to block the river for energy so this will not be available much longer. The guides are all wonderful and try and make the trip as exciting as you can tolerate. Was one of the best rafting trips I ever took. One of the guides was in a kayak and kept taking digital pictures of us. You can buy a disk from him (we were leaving before he could deliver it the next day but he sent it to our home in the states). I also recommend taking a disposable digital camera. I got some wonderful shots with mine.

That evening was Christmas eve and we had been told towns put on a celebration. We drove from Selva Verda to the town (Puerto Viejo) but didnít see anything going on and didnít really know if it was safe. So gave up and went to bed.

Day 9. Went on an early morning birdwatching walk. Was really hard to leave this place but had to make it to a late afternoon plane. Took the Western road which was more picturesque (126) because we had taken the Eastern road for the road trip and that, although fast, was not very nice. It was a nice ride. Saw La Paz waterfalls by the side of the road and then got tempted by the trip up to Volcan Poas. My brother, who is more nervous (and smarter) about traveling went on. But I had read so much about the volcano on this forum and it was a crystal clear day and I knew how unusual that was so we just took off (with the full knowledge that we were cutting it close). We drove up to the park. Walked very quickly to the viewing point (about a half hour walk on paved trail). Was the first place we saw lots of locals out appreciating the natural views in their country. Donít know if thatís because it was Christmas Day or because of the location (close to San Jose) or the unusual perfect weather. At the top, you look down into the crater, with a green lake in it. Was beautiful. We then drove to the car rental place (was slower than we hoped and we got lost. But was able to make ourselves understood and found the way finally). The car rental folks took us quickly to the airport. We paid our exit fees (BTW you can pay by credit card so you donít need to worry about cash). The nice thing about the car rental is you have a 4 hour grace period so we were able to rent the car for a week even though we had it for 8 days.

General Comments: Weather.. Was coolish/cold in the Arenal/ La Bosque region. We were fine with long pants, short sleeves, and raincoats most of the time. It didnít rain as much as misted/cloudy. When the sun came out it warmed up quickly. In the Sarapiqui region was warmer but still not uncomfortable. We didnít have any problems with bugs or snakes. We still are confused about money. Although some places wanted dollars, others did want local currency (or maybe we thought they did). Used our credit card to pay for all our lodging except La Bosque where you pay ahead of time in dollars. I preferred the National Geographic guidebook and map (the latter I could only get on their website). I had no problems planning this trip through email/internet. Once you start some agencies will try and do it for you but I wouldnít bother. The week before Christmas was a perfect time to go. The hotels were empty and everything was not crowded. That means you donít have to worry about booking very early. The price per person was $1,700. This included everything ($600 airfare from Atlanta), car, food and all guided trips. Right after I booked the trip we got a solicitation from an alumni organization that offered almost an identical trip for more than twice as much.


Millie64 is offline  
Oct 1st, 2005, 10:40 AM
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Just an fyi for future use....if you click on your name, either near the top of the page or within a thread, you will bring up all the posts you have posted to.

Nice report!
tully is offline  
Oct 1st, 2005, 10:47 AM
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Thanks. That worked for me but when I search for content in the message (like on Bosque de Paz) I don't get either report. Just some things I wrote a year ago. Can you tell me why that's true? I feel like I've broken a rule of the board by posting this twice but wanted to make sure people are aware of this great place. And no do not know the people who own it.....
Millie64 is offline  
Oct 1st, 2005, 01:50 PM
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No, I don't think you've broken any rule The search function has worked poorly for over a year, I heard it would be fixed but obviously not yet!
tully is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 05:36 AM
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I have followed this place for years- ever since Punta Islita started offering a package w/ Bosque De Paz

It sounds like a real find and the type of place we hope to visit

Hopefully the crowds will keep going to american places like Peace Lodge and Tabacon-leaving the real finds for the nature lovers
greenfieldhunter is offline  
Oct 10th, 2005, 06:06 AM
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greenfieldhunter,
Would you please post the website for Bosque de Paz? I'm having trouble finding info/photos on the lodge. Thanks in advance!
shillmac is offline  
Oct 10th, 2005, 09:46 AM
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My pleasure Shillmac- I am sure you found it by now porque-

http://www.bosquedepaz.com/

I LOOOVE the look of this place and wish we had stayed during our honeymoon. I love hiking through quiet private land and the flora and fauna viewing looks spectacular.

I just checked the Punta Islita site and they still offer the package I think is so attractive- 7 days and 6 nights split between Bosque De Paz and Punta Islita, all food ( lunch and dinner is very expensive at PI) all flights and private transfers for $1100 each- not cheap but a good deal considering the level of luxury and privacy.

Throw in one night at each end at a nice hotel in San Jose and it would be a perfect honeymoon for nature lovers

I still hope to visit someday- maybe as a anniversary trip

BTW- Moon recommends BDP highly and rates it as a "find"
greenfieldhunter is offline  
Oct 10th, 2005, 11:46 AM
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Thanks, gfh. Don't know why I didn't think of trying the obvious address! I've gotta run an errand, will look later, but I share your view that the PI/BdP combo sounds like a real treat for the price--and perfect for honeymooners. Like you, I'd sure like to try it sometime! Thanks again.
shillmac is offline  
Oct 10th, 2005, 04:39 PM
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Selva Verde and Bosque de paz. both sound great. are they near each other? similar or different enough that it is worth to stay at both?

how hot was it when you were there?
Joanel is offline  
Oct 26th, 2005, 04:10 PM
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THey are very different. Bosque de Paz is one small lodge where you eat all your meals and is very high in the mountains. In fact, it can be cold (though I think that is unusual) but definitely not shorts weahter. It feels more like you've gone somewhere wild and primitive (while eating gourmet food). La Selva is at sea level, much more populated, and has an incredible diversity of birdlife. We drove from one to the other (I think its a 2 to 3 hour drive) and the roads are fine.
Millie64 is offline  
Oct 27th, 2005, 03:55 AM
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thanks. Is it hot and humid at la selva?
Joanel is offline  
Oct 27th, 2005, 01:41 PM
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Selva Verde is , as noted above, pretty much at sea level , so , yes it is hot and humid. The grounds are forested and are beside a river, so the wildlife watching here can be excellent.

The last time we stayed here we saw a family of neotropic otters, a mexican porcupine, a fer de lance and myriad birds including sunbittern right on the grounds.

You will find the flora and fauna here very different than at Bosque de Paz. One of the delights of Costa Rica is that a short drive can get you into a very different habitat with an array of unique and wonderful creatures.

My only concern with Selva Verde is that [at least during our last visit] is that the food is very basic - but it was fine for us.

cheers

Jerry
gannetmusic is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2005, 05:04 PM
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We went in Dec and didn't really find Selva Verde hot and humid. Just warm (unlike Bosque which was cold). I guess I was expecting it to be more uncomfortable than it was. If you want to go bird watching at the OTS biological station you need to go early anyway (best birding is at 6 am). Although the food was basic, it wasn't as bad as I had been led to believe. And I guess except at La Bosque de Paz we didn't really find great food in Costa Rica... Just nice people, pretty vistas, and great wildlife!
Millie64 is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 07:11 AM
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Millie64 - great trip report - would have loved to hear the kids greatest hightlights!
We are traveling with 3 kids (9,11,14) and doing 3 nts Arenal & 3 nts Manuel Antonio and then a 1 day highlight tour including a quick visit to Selve Verde and a float ride. My travel agent wants me to take away a night from Arenal or MA and stay a night in Sarapiqui. Do you think a few hours is enough or should we spend the night. It would change my 3 hotels in 8 nights to 5 hotels in 8 nights.
Thanks - Doreen
doreenwol is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 06:55 PM
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I think it would be worth staying the night in Selva Verde just to see the birds that come to the birdfeeder and to go to the bird sanctuary. the hotel is really pleasant. But I wouldnt really do a float trip on the Sarapiqui unless you like a calm river. on the other hand I don't understand how you added 2 hotels on your trip...
Millie64 is offline  
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