Costa Rica HM Trip Report - May 14th - May 30th

Jun 9th, 2004, 06:45 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2004
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Costa Rica HM Trip Report - May 14th - May 30th

**WARNING: VERY LONG**

We spent 17 days in Costa Rica from May 14-30 for our HM. I?ll try to break this review down as easily as possible. We spent about $5500 and that includes plane tickets, hotels, food, souvenirs, and all activities.

Overall Impression: The country is incredibly beautiful, the people are extremely friendly, there?s so much to do, and it?s very affordable!

Transportation:
We flew on Delta from Pittsburgh to Atlanta & Atlanta to San Jose, same thing on the return trip. Now, I?m a Delta SkyMiles member & I?ve carried a Delta SkyMiles American Express card for many years, so I suppose I expect them to be polite to me when I ask a question? When we arrived in Atlanta we asked the gate agent how much it would cost us to upgrade our coach seats to first class. I had my SkyMiles card & my SkyMiles AMEX out & we mentioned it was our honeymoon. Now, it?s not like we were asking for anything free, we wanted to know how much the upgrade cost was. Well, she told us there was nothing she could do & that for international you have to upgrade 24 hrs in advance. That was all, nothing more to say. That would have been fine if my husband hadn?t walked through first class to use the restroom only to discover that there were 8 empty seats in first class! Maybe I?m being unreasonable, but I found this completely ridiculous.
While in the country we used a private driver named Oscar. He was always on time, usually early, very friendly, and helpful. He stopped at places out of the way that we normally wouldn?t have seen ? like the crocodile river! Additionally, our last 2 transfers, Oscar had car problems, so he sent his friend Rudy to be there for us. We also used taxis & buses to get around the towns & when we went from Arenal to Monteverde we did the jeep/boat/jeep trip, which was only $19 ? you can?t beat that!

San Jose: We spent our first night & our last night in San Jose & stayed at Hotel Santo Tomas. Like many other hotels in SJ, the neighborhood seems a little shady, but the hotel is very nice. It is an old mansion converted into a hotel. The staff is VERY friendly; the rooms are small & quaint, but very clean. We stayed in the basic room; I know they have bigger rooms as well. You get a breakfast of fresh fruit, coffee, and pastries included in the price. Also, there?s a fantastic little pool/spa/slide, a workout area, and a restaurant. I did enjoy our stay here & would recommend them, but I felt that the price was a bit much. www.hotelsantotomas.com
While in San Jose we checked out the city, walked in the parks, and found our way to Bar La Casona when we drank Centenario (CR rum) & the local spirit Guaro. We wound up meeting a group of Tico?s who spoke English & spent an evening at the bar, making new friends, dancing, and singing karaoke all night. It was a blast!


Manuel Antonio: We stayed for 5 nights at Costa Verde (CV II ? their adult only building & pool); I think it was $85 per night ? it was fantastic! The rooms are huge w/ 2 queen beds, a dining table, a kitchenette, giant bathroom, great balcony w/ rocking chairs & a table. We had a view of the rain forest & of the ocean. There are no windows, just screens across the walls. This is nice ?cause you wake up to the sounds of the monkeys and the sea. The ocean breeze & the ceiling fans (there were 5 or 6) keep the room a perfect temperature. The pool was like 30 seconds away from our room, was surrounded w/ lush plants & trees, and had an incredible ocean view! Also, there was plenty of laying out room as well as a nice shaded area w/ a table, chairs and a bar. We ate at all 3 of the hotels restaurants while we were there. Anaconda: breakfast & lunch were awesome and the prices weren?t bad. Dinner was ok and a little pricey. However, I must say that the view is absolutely breathtaking & there are monkeys everywhere if you go at sunset. La Cantina BBQ: This place was awesome! The food was fantastic, the sangria was incredible, the service was great, and they had live musik too! El Avion: This restaurant has a plane that?s a part of it, really neat atmosphere, but?didn?t really do it for either of us. Neat place, what w/ the plane and all, but? The bar part inside the plane wasn?t open when we were there for dinner, the food was mediocre, and the service wasn?t real hot. www.costaverde.com
Activities while in Manuel Antonio:
MA park tour w/ a guide ? a little pricey at $35 a person, but I think you wind up seeing a lot more w/ the guide & through their scope, than you would on your own. We saw all the kinds of monkeys, 2 sloth?s, tons of butterflies, iguanas, land crabs, lots of birds, some weird animal related to the rabbit (can?t remember the name), all kinds of stuff! The beach inside the park is fantastic ? very calm & warm. It?s breathtaking too.
White Water Rafting ? ? day ? book through hotel went w/ Friends of the River (Amigo del Rio, I think)- this was totally worth the price! The picked us up from the hotel, fed us a full breakfast, drove us to the river, took us on a little hike showing some of CR?s plants & fruits and gave us a TON of instruction. We were in the river for about an hour, stopped for a snack, and then were back in for about another hour. We stopped at their place on the way back & were fed a complete lunch, then they took us back to our hotel. White water rafting was a complete blast ? we went on the Naranjo (Orange) River ? and contemplated doing it again before we left.
Public Beach ? Very nice, warm, calm, beautiful, not very crowded, a steep walk down from any of the hotels, but only a quarter for the bus! Lots of people trying to sell you necklaces, drinks, snow cones, ect.
Quepos ? the little town closest to MA?only a quarter on the bus, which runs every ? hour & stops right in front of Costa Verde (and many of the other hotels). Some cute little shops. Eat at the Great Escape ? it?s awesome!
Another place we ate was El Gato Negro: very pricey, incredible view, amazing service, the food was awesome!


La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano- 3 nights at Arenal Paraiso hotel, I think it was $65 per night for the standard bungalow & they upgraded us to the deluxe since it was our honeymoon. The staff was friendly, the room was clean & had A/C. When it was clear we had incredible views on the volcano, which was, quite literally, directly in front of us. It was amazing to watch it erupt at night! My husband disliked this place, but not for any reason he can seem to explain. They had 2 hot spring fed swimming pools, both different temps, one w/ a swim up bar & a regular swimming pool. All were very nice. They also had a spa & the prices were reasonable, though we didn?t use it. Once while we were there (and I was in the shower, totally soaped up) all the water in the entire complex stopped working ? I waiting almost ? an hour & finally wound up having to put on my swimsuit & go to the hot springs pool to rinse off! I was a little annoyed. The breakfast that?s included in the price is delicious ? a whole buffet w/ a lot of variety. We also ate at the hotel?s restaurant for dinner, but found it expensive & mediocre. www.arenalparaiso.com
Activities in the area:
We booked our tour & our transportation to Monteverde through a place in town because it was cheaper. We also had pizza at a little place in town that was delicious & went to a pizza place/bar/nightclub called Vagabondo that was fun. There is no bus, but taxis are cheap, just a couple of bucks.
Horseback Ride to the Waterfall: This was nice, only $30 per person ? you get a guide & you?re gone for over 3 hours. It was a nice ride, except for the fact that it was raining, but the horse rental place gave us rockin? ponchos. The waterfall was incredible. However, the place you ride to is up high & there?s a nice view of the waterfall, but if you really want to GO to the falls, you have to walk down like 500 meters of steps (then 500 meters back up too)?that was a bit more strenuous than we were feeling that day, so we walked to the viewpoints and enjoyed the waterfall from there.
Tabacon: After our 3 hour horseback ride we went to Tabacon Hot Springs in the evening. The entrance fee is a little cheaper during the green season & they have a package deal that includes the entrance fee + dinner buffet. We chose the package since we planned on being there all evening. We had massages in their open-air spa, which was VERY nice, then hung out in the hot springs for awhile. We had our dinner buffet, which was ok ? there was a large variety of food, most of which was good. The service was poor though & drinks were expensive. After dinner we went back to the hot springs. The area is incredibly beautiful, and the springs are amazing. However, they are very crowded! Things to remember: bring cash for towel & locker deposits, don?t bother wearing your sandals into the pools w/ you, and Tabacon offers a free shuttle back to the other hotels.
Transportation: We opted to do the jeep/boat/jeep trip to Monteverde ? (they were actually vans) it?s the fastest & cheapest way to get there. Additionally, it?s a really nice trip. We were picked up at our hotel & we drove about 20-30 min. around the volcano to Lake Arenal where we got on a boat. We got some awesome, very clear views of the volcano from the lake! The boat ride was about 20-30 minutes, very nice?calm, scenic, peaceful. Then we docked at the other side of the lake & got back into vans & went up the mountain to Monteverde. The road to Monteverde is considered on of the worst in the country, so I?m glad we took the shortcut on the boat!

Monteverde Cloud Forest: 3 nights at Hotel Fonda Vela, I think it was $85 per night. The rooms were very large, well accommodated, and very clean. Our room had huge open windows looking out on the rainforest. The hotel is an eco tourist place & we really enjoyed the way they tried to design the place, so that nature was really apart of it. The restaurant is ok, but too expensive, though they make some kick ass drinks. Also, they gave us a delicious bottle of wine to celebrate our honeymoon. We booked the canopy tour & our transportation to our next location through the hotel, with ease. www.fondavela.com
Selvatura Skytrek Canopy Tour & Hanging Bridges: This was awesome! It?s one of the longest canopy tours in the country w/ 19 zip lines?sometimes you?re in the air for 30 seconds & sometimes for like 2 full minutes! Also, you get to swing on a tarzan-type rope while you?re on this tour. I felt very safe and secure, and the guides were very helpful. It?s truly amazing the views that you get ? sometimes you?re totally above the canopy & sometimes you?re flying through the thick of the forest, it?s truly incredible! After the canopy tour we did a self-tour on the hanging bridges. There are 8 metal, suspension bridges anywhere from 85 ? 170 meters long. We hiked through the forest, came to the first bridge, hiked some more, came to the 2nd bridge, ect. The path went in a circle. We saw almost noone else while hiking, got to take our time and really just enjoy everything around us. I was petrified of these bridges & pretty much waddled myself as quickly as possible across them. Aside from that, the view was breathtaking & the hike through the forest was wonderful. Selvatura also has a nice sized butterfly garden, a hummingbird garden, a restaurant, and a gift shop on the premises. It was a great way to spend the day.
Monteverde Cheese Factory: The tour was 8 bucks, gave us something to do, was really interesting (especially if you?re American since the place was founded by Quakers from Alabama), and we got free samples at the end! I liked it, my husband was bored.
Also: We ate at a pizza place in town (are you sensing that we like pizza) that was fantastic, it?s really the only pizza place around & at a little soda. The food in town was SO much more reasonably priced! In fact, it was cheaper for us to take a cab into & out of town to eat there than it would?ve been to eat at the hotel.
** Monteverde was treacherous to get to, but happens to be one of the most beautiful places I?ve ever seen. I?m very glad we decided to go there, especially since so many people skip it, since it?s out of they way.**


Playa Conchal ? We spent our last 3 nights at the 5 star, all-inclusive, Sol Melia Paradisus Playa Conchal Resort. We paid $313 per night for 2 ppl. I had some serious social issues about staying here. It bothers me that this place is taking up SO much land & that people spend their whole trip there, never really getting a feel for Costa Rica. However, we decided it would be nice to spend the last few days of our HM, not worrying about anything & being pampered. We certainly got what we asked for. We got a special room closest to the pool & beach w/ towel art, flowers & champagne waiting for us. The rooms are very nice, spacious, big bathrooms, and secluded. The pool is fantastic! It?s HUGE, has different depths, and a great swim up bar. There are tons of activities to do, most of which we skipped ?cause we just laid around & relaxed. We did go on a sunset boat cruise, which was amazing ? the sunset was gorgeous, there were tons of diving pelicans & dolphins swam & jumped along side of our boat! The breakfast buffet it huge, there are tons of options, and the food is great. The little fast food restaurant is really good as well. Hole 19 has great food & an amazing view. We also ate at Spices, the Asian fusion restaurant, and the sushi/sashimi and everything else there was awesome. I got a massage at their spa, and it was nice, but not as good as the massage at Tabacon. It takes awhile to get a ride back to the main lobby, so make sure you call atleast 20-30 min. in advance. Everything was really wonderful. Overall we really enjoyed our stay, but I am very glad we didn?t spend our entire trip there. www.paradisusplayaconchal.com

Costa Rica was absolutely amazing, and we can?t wait to go back!
Alethea is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 07:56 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 244
Alethea: What a terrific report! Thanks for taking the time to include so much detail - it really helps others to plan.

We also did the jeep/boat/jeep to Monteverde and stayed at Fonda Vela. Your report sure brought back some wonderful memories for me!

I'm wondering if your inability to upgrade to first class is due to the new post-911 security measures. I suspect that it is.

Congratulations on your marriage! Sounds like you got it off to a great start.

Terri
TAGriffin is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 10:23 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 30
What a wonderful honeymoon! It will be a memory you will remember forever.

Don't be too harsh on Arenal Paraiso for their power outage....it happens all the time in one place or another down there. This is a developing country after all which is one of the things that makes it so endearing.

We keep bottled water in our rental home because, even little tremors can disrupt the water or electricity. We learned long ago to be prepared for anything.

Congratulations.
KatHep is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 10:32 AM
  #4  
 
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Alethea,
Great trip report! So glad you had a great time. Sounds like a perfect honeymoon. Thanks for sharing so much good information.
shillmac is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 10:44 AM
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Alethea,
Thank you so much for the great report! We'll be staying at Arenal Paraiso in a deluxe room for three nights next month. I wonder what your husband didn't like about it? I'm hoping it was nothing major.

About Delta, I've also noticed their attitude slipping lately. They have become very inflexible. They normally will let you pay to upgrade at the gate, but I guess the international thing was the problem. They have some unreasonable rules and refuse to bend them for anyone. For example, I was rushing to Atlanta last December to be at my dying father's bedside. I got to the airport for my 1:00 AM flight at about 11:15 PM. They had another flight to Atlanta taking off around 11:30, which was not full. I went to the gate and offered to pay the fee to go stand-by on the 11:30. They wouldn't do it because stand-by has to be on the "same day". Since my flight was at 1:00 AM (2 and a half hours later) it would not be the "same day". The fact that my father had just been resuscitated and death was imminent made no difference to them. The flight left the gate with empty seats while I stood in the gate area with tears in my eyes. It's sad that they have gotten to be so inflexible lately. I lived in Atlanta for over 20 years and they used to be my favorite airline, not any more.
LA_FadeAway is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 11:49 AM
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We thought Arenal Paraiso was fine. Agree the restaurant was just OK.

We didn't think the restaurant at the Fonda Vela was at all overpriced for what we got--the meals we had there were excellent. Especially the seafood selections. I'm sure a pizza place would be less expensive, but it's really comparing apples and shoe boxes.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 12:30 PM
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Alethea,

Thanks for taking the time to post that awesome trip report. It was very helpful--I love all the details you included!

Best wishes to you and dh for a long and happy life together!
JoBurritt is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 02:05 PM
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Alethea,
How strong were the rapids on that white water trip? We'd like to try it, but we've never been and are a bit nervous about getting thrown from the raft.
LA_FadeAway is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 04:29 PM
  #9  
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LA: The rapids went up to class 4 - neither my husband nor I had ever gone white water rafting & we were both a bit nervous; however we had no problems whatsoever, we recieved a ton of instruction, and the guides new exactly what they were doing. It was wonderful, and I would totally recommend it!
Alethea is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 11:51 AM
  #10  
 
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Alethea, you mention you used the public beach at MA but it was a steep walk. How long of a walk? A path or stairs? Is there a fee to use it? Thanks.
Kwoo is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 12:17 PM
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The public beach in Manual Antonio is at the end of the road that goes to Quepos. Once you get to the bottom of the hill, the beach, restaurants, some hotels, souvenir shops, and the entrance to the park are there.

Our first time there we stayed at Si Como No, I bet it took close to an hour to walk there. But, what a nice walk. A troop of squirrel monkeys went across the road on their 'bridge'. Fun to watch. Also gave us a chance to look at the other hotels along the road. I think Costa Verde is about half way from Si Como No, but it's been a while since we were there. No way would I attempt to hike back up that hill. The bus runs often and is really cheap, as mentioned before. I also wouldn't walk this at night, since it's got lots of curves and no sidewalks. The taxi drivers really fly by. Jean
JeanH is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 05:19 PM
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Hey Kwoo,
That long steep road Alethea was talking about to the public beach refers to hotel locations. Many of the hotels are high and off the beach (overlooking the ocean). But you can take a bus down. Once you are at sea level, everything is smooth..no steepness! You enter the park right there by that beach at sea level.
shillmac is offline  
Jun 14th, 2004, 10:49 AM
  #13  
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ttt
Alethea is offline  
Jun 14th, 2004, 11:51 AM
  #14  
Iza
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Great report! Thanks for posting it.

To the person who had a question about public beaches in Manuel Antonio: there is a very nice alternative to the big public beach and the beaches inside the park. It is a fairly secluded cove called Playa Biesanz. It is located off the road leading to Makanda and Parador (you need to get off the road and walk a little path on the right hand side at the bottom of the hill when you see the entrance to Parador in the distance).
Iza is offline  
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