Costa Rica Family Trip Report

Old May 24th, 2007, 06:39 PM
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Costa Rica Family Trip Report

Just returned from Costa Rica and I wanted to thank everyone for their help with planning the trip. It was quite successful despite 3 adults and a 7 yr old being together 24 hrs for 9 days... Iím really tired but I wanted to weigh in on frequently asked questions regarding lodging. Prices below are for a family of 4 (1 child) in Green Season, and all included breakfast.

Our itinerary was a very common one: SJO-MA-Arenal-La Paz (Peace Lodge)

1. SJO (Hotel Villa Bonita): $55/night Wonderful for your night arrival or early morning departure night from SJO Ė at $55 for all 4 of us, including breakfast, this canít be beat. Owners were so nice, I wish I had brought something for their little baby boy. We took Room 3 since it was tiled and had two doors that opened to 2 separate outdoor patios.
2. MA (Si Como No): $300/night, Deluxe Suite, Room 8 in Building 10. Beautiful grounds (esp. the 2 pools) and really great staff. If you have children and can afford it, this is a real winner. The family pool has a waterslide, several 2 ft. resident iguanas, and a swim-up bar for kids to order smoothies. The staff arranged to show a rated G film when we requested a family movie in their theater -- give them 24 hrs notice. My nephew and his dad watched Spy Kids (did I get that right?) in the theater all by themselves which they thought was very cool Ė there was no charge for the movie. Sister and BIL enjoyed listening to live guitarist in the bar in the evenings.

Personally, I wouldnít stay here again if traveling with adults Ė Costa Verde and Villas Nicolas are much better values at half the price and offer equally stunning views. The A/C at SCN was great but Costa Verde also has A/C in some of their units, canít remember Villas Nicolas.

3. Arenal Observatory Lodge, Smithsonian Room #16, $150/night: Had a memorable lava view the first night, watched while we lay in bed. This place felt like we were camping after the resort-y Si Como No but the lava view was worth it. We felt lucky to have seen the red rocks crashing down the side of the volcano. However, itís FAR down a dirt road with 2 bridges that were washed out after heavy rain Ė the river was flowing over the bridges and most people didnít risk driving through it. I read here repeatedly that this place was very far from everything else down a dirt road with pot holes and I still wasnít quite prepared for this road. S and BIL were a little shocked as we drove there at night. I can see how drivers might inwardly groan at the thought of having to come here.
4. Peace Lodge, Deluxe Suite, $360/night: Great for kids and adults Ė sis spent 2 hours in just the butterfly exhibit, alone, so I donít know how people can get through the entire park in 3 hours. The various exhibits took us a whole afternoon so we couldnít do the waterfall hike until the next morning. The waterfall in the bathroom was pretty over the top but the kid thought it was great and danced around all excited, and I admit I loved looking out at the green forest at dusk from the outdoor jacuzzi on the balcony. Massage at $65/hr was pretty good but not strong enough for me Ė I like a really deep tissue massage but the woman didnít use this method. The male masseuse was MUCH better (he gives a complimentary 10 min massage outside the reception desk) and immediately found all my knots, but he kept calling me ďbabyĒ so I asked them to send me a woman. I wish he were just perfectly quiet -- I would have loved an hour massage with him.

Definitely rent a car for the last part of your trip. It was so great to drive around and see the kids after school, to stop at small roadside cafes and gift shops. People are very nice and helpful and as others have stated, the locals negotiate poverty with a kind and dignified composure that I found to be incredibly humbling.

However, for the MA-Arenal trip I was VERY grateful that we had a driver as he expertly navigated through torrents of rain and deep fog after dark through winding mountain roads -- took us over 6 hrs.

I'll add more after I get some rest... thanks again everyone!
fishee is offline  
Old May 24th, 2007, 09:46 PM
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Great report. So glad you enjoyed Hotel Villa Bonita and the Brenes family. Lovely people.

Your description of the Costa Rican people, "dignified composure" is a good one. Lots of dignity, poise, warmth. Very endearing.

And I agree about SCN. We stayed there (as a splurge) in 2003 for $140. I thought that was SO expensive. Can't believe how much they've increased their prices. Pretty steep. Agree that CV offers a better value.

I can identify with your irritation at "too much talking" during massage time! The "baby" remarks would have sent me the other direction as well.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. So glad your family had a good time!
shillmac is offline  
Old May 25th, 2007, 05:29 AM
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Thanks for sharing! It sounds like you had a great time and I'm looking forward to more details! After our trip last month, I'm itching to go back with our two kids now. So, your report is really helpful. Peace Lodge is high on my list, as we stayed there and I know our kids would love it. I thought of the Observatory Lodge, but we saw that road when we went to see the lava flow and I don't know how driving on it a couple of times a day would go! And we had thought of Si Como No as well. My cousin stayed there last year and raved about it - but it is expensive! It does look like kids would enjoy it though! I'm thinking we won't get back for at least a year we have plenty of time to plan...and dream!

I'm glad you had a great time!
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Old May 25th, 2007, 05:43 AM
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Thank you for the trip report. I am going to Arenal for our second trip--not staying at the Observatory Lodge, but dinner there is a great idea if the lava flow is still on that side.

It sounds like you had a great time--and all your hard work and research really paid off!
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Old May 25th, 2007, 07:14 AM
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Hi fishee,

Thanks for your report. Looking forward to your additional details! As I recall, you took on the task of being the primary planner for your group, and had to do a lot of juggling to book things that you thought everyone would enjoy. I know that your were very excited to visit CR. Did your sister and family enjoy it as much as you did?

I hope you all had a wonderful experience! Welcome home!
cmerrell is offline  
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