Costa Rica Trip Report 12/31-1/13

Jan 16th, 2003, 12:24 PM
  #1  
Ally
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Costa Rica Trip Report 12/31-1/13

Rick (my husband) and I just returned from our 8th trip to Costa Rica. This is the first time we've been at this time of year and although we had a great time, we won't go back around the holidays again.
Too expensive and much too crowded! Of course we knew it would be, so we were not surprised.

We arrived on New Years Eve about 12:40pm. Unfortunately, our luggage did not arrive until about 7:30pm. But, we had packed shorts, flip-flops and cool shirts in our carry-on, so we were able to get into cooler clothes immediately.

We stayed at the Orquideas Inn for the 31st and 1st. We have been here several times and consider the owners our friends and we had a fantastic time celebrating the New Year with them.
The owners (Fred and Darlys) family were also there, and Fred's grand daughter who we've also met loaned me shampoo, rinse, etc. so I was able to take a shower before the party started so I didn't miss my luggage for a few hours.
The party was great but we stayed up too late and drank too much, but hey, it was New Years!!
Orquideas serves a fantastic breakfast buffet from 8:00-9:00. We got up the morning of the 1st and went to eat, then went right back to bed and slept until Noon! The rest of the afternoon/evening we just hung out by the pool and visited with everyone.

On the 2nd, we had a small 4 x 4 delivered to the hotel. We rented from Adobe and got the small 4 X 4 for $750 for 12 days. Not TOO bad considering the time of year. Some companies were out of cars, so we were happy to get one at all!

Part 2 to come....
 
Jan 16th, 2003, 12:44 PM
  #2  
Ally
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Part 2: Jan 2nd

We headed off for Nosara Beach. We've also been here several times and are familiar with the area so decided we'd start there. The first thing we did was try to find a hotel. The first one we tried (Villa Taype) was booked. The second we tried was Harbor Reef. They only had one room left and it was a suite. They wanted about $85. Now, I know it was peak season, but we've never paid that much before and were not going to do it this time either! The third place we tried was Casa Tucan, right next to Villas Taype. Bingo! They had a room for $65 and we took it. (When we checked out, the manager who had told us it would cost $65 was not around and we were only charged $55!) The room was okay. There was a small refrigerator and it had a/c, but the bathroom was small and there was no storage except for a tiny closet. Fine for one night. They had a cute little pool, but as it was shaded most of the day, it was a bit cold! Also, there were only two chairs at the pool and one broken lounge chair!
I can say this..the restaurant was good and they had the cheapest wine in town at 400 colones a glass! They also show movies on a large outdoor screen once a week and this night it was Gladiator. We'd already seen it, but it was still fun! However, we checked out after one night and went back to Villa Taype who now had a room. Great pool, very close to the beach, lots of storage shelves and closet space and a larger bathroom. The price was quoted at $70, but includes breakfast, so a pretty good deal for early Jan.!

Well I have to run now, so I'll post the rest of the trip on this thread tomorrow!
 
Jan 17th, 2003, 05:08 AM
  #3  
Iza
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Ally, I envy you so, to be able to go to CR for the 8th time. I am still working on our third trip there. Maybe next year. This year we've decided to try some other destinations for a change (Canada for skiing and then, if we're lucky, South Pacific!).
Did you go to Samara this time? Any good places to stay there?
I think our next trip will be a tour of Nicoya Penninsula, starting in Tambor, going through Nosara and Samara and ending in Tamarindo.
Looking forward to the rest of your report.
 
Jan 17th, 2003, 05:40 AM
  #4  
Ally
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Hi Iza,
There is certainly nothing wrong with trying new destinations! Rick and I are thinking of Chili next year!
The South Pacific is fabulous too. Back in 1998, for a long Honeymoon, we went to a couple Islands (Bega and Taviuni) in Fiji, sailed the Whitsundays, and went to Bali. Loved it all, with Fiji and the sailing being our favorites.
Sorry to say I can't help with hotels in Samara personally. We've been through there a couple times but never stayed. I have seen a Hotel called El Sueno Tropical at Playa Carrillo just south of Samara that looked nice. Have also heard good things about Belvedere Hotel and Fenix Condos. Maybe someone else can help you!
Have fun planning your next trip!
 
Jan 17th, 2003, 05:55 AM
  #5  
Ally
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Part 3: Jan 3-12

Let me start here by saying this was a 'last minute trip' decision. We did not decide to go to CR for New Years until a week or so before Christmas. That being the case, we really didn't have plans or make any reservations other than Orquideas Inn. We had thought that we may explore the area between Mal Pais and Samara, or head over to the Caribbean, maybe do some white water rafting. In the end, none of this happened this trip.
Long story short, Rick has been surfing for 30+ years. On our first night at Villa Taype, we met 5 guys from Florida, all surfers and all in Ricks age range. Well, the surf in the area was excellent, and Rick bonded with 'the boys' so we ended up spending 9 more nights in Nosara!
That was fine by me. While the men were out surfing 5 to 7 hours a day, I took long walks in the area looking at monkeys, clooecting shells, and mostly relaxed. I read 5 books. There was NO stress on this trip. Although I would still like to explore that area south of Samara sometime, there is something to be said for just 'chilling out' in one spot! Of course, had we known we were going to stay put in Nosara, we would not have rented a 4 X 4! It's really not needed until you go south of Samara. Oh well.

More on Nosara to come....
 
Jan 17th, 2003, 06:11 AM
  #6  
Ally
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Part 4:

About 20 minutes drive north of Villa Taype, is the small town of Ostional. This is a great surf spot, and more. This is also the beach where the Sea Turtles come to lay their eggs. We were fortunate enough to be in this area when the turtles were arriving. We found out about it from surfing there one sunset. As we were leaving, the parking areas were being chained off and we were told the beach would be closed for the next three days as the turtles came in. The following evening, we took a bottle of wine up to a small restaurant on a hill nearby. We intended to have happy hour and dinner here, then go down to the beach to see the turtles, as we had heard they come in after dark. As we were sipping a glass of wine, we noticed dozens and dozens of people on the beach below. We asked the restaurant owner about this and were told those were the towns-people collecting the turtle eggs.
Cometo find out, the turtles were already there...before dark. So, we left our bottle with the restaurant and told them we'd be back later for dinner. I'm SO glad we went down to the beach early, as there was still enough light to take pictures. (Flashlights and flash cameras are not allowed after dark). What and exceptional experience this was. We watched as turtles came in from the sea, made their way to the beach, dug their holes, laid their eggs, and returned to the sea. This was a hightlight of our trip.

General info on eating spots. Besides the restaurant in Ostional, we ate at
Cafe Paris, Harbor Reef, Bill Marlins, Cafe Luna, the Pizza place (can't remember the name!), Casa Tucan, Rancho Tico and Rancho Palmara. All were decent, with Bill Marlins being the most expensive (not really worth this cost IMO) and Rancho Tico and Palmara (both in town) being the least expensive and more for your money.
 
Jan 17th, 2003, 06:50 AM
  #7  
Ally
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Part 5:

After 10 days hanging around Nosara, we were ready to go. We only had 2 nights left in CR and there were a couple things I wanted to do, so we headed back to Alajuela. This was a Sunday. In all our trips, we've never returned to the San Jose/Alajuela area on a Sunday. This is another thing we'll never do again. We had been told that it's a very bad travel day, as many Tico's are also returning from the beaches on Sunday. Boy were they right! While the drive TO the area took 5 hours (we made excellent time), the ride back took 6/12 hours! As Rick had surfed that last morning at Ostional, we did not leave until about 11:00 and did not get back to Orquideas until almost 6:00. (we took an hour break in Liberia for lunch).
We had thought about going to Fiesta Pollo for dinner to try the chicked smoked by coffee wood that is supposed to be very good, but ended up staying at the Orquideas for dinner because there was a game that night in Alajuela and the traffic was terrible. Neither one of us wanted to get back in the car to fight more traffic!
The next day, or last full day, I wanted to drive out to Angel Farm. A man named Jose Pelleya (sp?) has a large house (B&B) here, as well as a B&B in Alajuela. I've spoken to him several times via email over the past couple years and decided it was time to meet him. His farm is BEAUTIFUL. I can't even begin to describe the vistas from this place. Simply stunning. If any of you out there favor horseback riding, this is the place to do it. After checking out the farm, Rick and I, Jose, and a couple of guest staying at his farm went to lunch. There is a great little restaurant just outside the gate to his ranch that is so cheap! Beer cost about a buck and lunch just slightly more! During lunch, I mentioned I wanted to go to the butterfly farm outside of Alajuela. Jose gave us an EXCELLENT tip. Instead of going to the large farm outside Alajuela, there was one closer and smaller nearby.

More on this farm in Part 6....
 
Jan 17th, 2003, 09:34 AM
  #8  
Ally
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Oops. I forgot to mention that once we decided we were going to stay put in Nosara, we asked the manager at Villa Taype (Fabian) if we could negotiate a better rate for our stay. He came down to $60 a night instead of $70. However, when we got home and started to examine our bill, we realized he only charged us $52 per night!

On to the Butterfly farm. Just outside of San Ramon, on the Pan American Highway, you'll see a sign on the right, up on a little hill with Blue Butterflies on it...100 meters.
It's just up the road, again, on the right. It's a little off the road, but if you're looking to the right, you'll see a converted garage with Butterflies painted all over it.
This place is awesome (thanks for the tip Jose!)The woman who runs it does not speak much English, and I don't speak much Spanish, but Rick was able to translate most of it for me. She showed us everything about the life cycle of Blue Morphos (did you know the Butterfly lives a couple months?), she showed us the eggs she collects and where she collects them, the larva, the cocoons, the worms and finally the butterfly.
Her yards is netted so they can't escape, and it's quite large with beautiful plants, including several kinds of orchids. While walking through her garden, you can be surrounded by a dozen butterflies. Absolutely stunning. It's a very educational tour, it's almost always going to be private (it was just Rick and I for our 'tour'), and it's cheap! As this was out last full day, we had used the last of our colones for lunch. The only small bills I had were two $1 American bills. She accepted graciously, but got the impression she would have liked more, and I would have given a bit more if we'd had any more money with us. It was well worth it.

Our last evening....coming up.
 
Jan 17th, 2003, 09:52 AM
  #9  
Ally
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Part 7: our last evening.

Back at the Orquideas, we had some refreshment in the 'living room' while waiting for the Rental Car Agent to come pick up our car. He was there when he said he would be, and we had no problems.
Back to the room to get ready for dinner. I had thought we would try to go to the 'Chicken' place. Rick thought otherwise. He wanted a 'special' dinner, without going all the way to San Jose. He asked around the Orquideas and was told to go to 'The Spa'. Rick was told it was a nice place (romantic, good views and fairly expensive for CR) although he was also told the food is not consistant, and the wait staff had 'no soul'. In any case, he was told we should try it, so we did. I can't remember the name of 'The Spa', but it's on the main road out of Alajuela and hard to miss. I'm so glad we went there! I had been craving Fettuccine Alfredo. They had it on the menu and I ordered it. Fantastic! Creamy and delicious with little pieces of ham and a few peas. Rick enjoyed his steak dish as well. The waiter was an absolute delight. An older gentlemen whom we talked with at great lenght about his family and where he lives. A lovely evening all around, for about $40 US including a bottle of wine!
That evening, while having a nightcap at the Orquideas, we asked if we could get an early fruit plate with some toast, as we would have to be leaving before the Breakfast Buffet was put out. No problem. It was ready when we were and satisfied us until we could get a more substantial meal.

End of trip. One of the best we've had, although we didn't do much sightseeing!

For those going soon, be aware that all baggage is now being searched, so it takes a bit longer to get checked in at the airport.

Let me know if you have questions!
 
Jan 18th, 2003, 05:50 AM
  #10  
Jay Weinstein
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Great trip report Ally! It is obvious that you are an experienced traveler, and are interested in exploring, meeting people, and are relaxed and flexible about your timetable and places to visit. I am especially interested in your experience with the nesting turtles in Nosara. What kind of turtles were they? How big were the turtles? Approximately how many were there on the beach? How close did you get? Is it legal to steal their eggs? Is early January the best time to see them?
Jay
 
Jan 20th, 2003, 05:35 AM
  #11  
Ally
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Hi Jay,
Thanks for the kind words!

The turtles in Nosara are olive ridley Sea Turtles and are about 1-1/2 ft. to 2 ft. around. Large, but not as large as the Leatherback.
There were dozens and dozens of them. You could only walk about 10-15 ft. before you came to a turtle or two, but there are some pictures near the beach entrance from a newspaper that show so many you could hardly walk at all without stumbling on one.
You can get VERY close to them. Close enough to 'steal' an egg right out of the nest, but of course this is NOT encouraged for turist. The people of Ostional 'harvest' the eggs for selling, although some are allowed to hatch and return to the sea. So, when the turtles are nesting, eggs are collected, and when they are hatching, the people in town help them get to the sea by turning them over if they happen to roll over, keeping dogs and buzzards away, etc.
I hear that this 3 day nesting event happens once a month, but could not tell you when exactly that time of month is. The turtles come in on a specific tide and lunar cycle which the people in town are very familiar with, as this is a huge event for the whole town.
Here's a little info...do a search and you may find more about this 'event'!

http://www.lagarta.com/turtles.htm
 
Jan 20th, 2003, 08:36 AM
  #12  
Jay Weinstein
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Thanks for the info Ally.
Jay
 
Jan 21st, 2003, 06:13 AM
  #13  
Ally
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Here's a fairly informative article I found about the 'turtle event' in Ostional. It answers many questions I had.
 

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