Costa Rica trip report (bring on the bats!)

Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 10:05 AM
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Costa Rica trip report (bring on the bats!)

This trip was our first time in Costa Rica. DH and I went to Osa, Arenal, and Monte Verde over two weeks.

A couple of days before we left, we had some exploding plumbing to deal with. It brought the pre-trip stress level up a bit, but I managed to get everything sorted out in time. I was kind of relieved to get on the plan and sit still for a few hours. Some of our trips include long flights and major time differences, so we were happy with a couple of 4 plus hour flights and only a one hour time difference. We arrived in San Jose and stayed at one of the chain hotels near the airport. We left the next morning for Osa via Nature Air. The flight had lovely views of the green countryside. I liked the little cemetary next to the airport in Puerto Jimenez, nice touch.

After a 45 drive, we arrived at Bosque del Cabo. What a great place! We stayed in Congo which has a nice water view and what I think of as “the monkey tree”. A howler monkey pack (band? herd? gang?) liked to hang out there. They would yell for a while at some enemy we never saw, rest and then sort of scamper all over the tree. It was so much fun to sit on the little deck and watch them do their thing. We were also visited by a pair of scarlet mcaws who ate almonds from the tree right next to the deck. DH got some fantastic pictures. Unfortunately, Phillip was away during out visit so we did not get to go out with him. We went on the early morning birding trip with Carlos. We enjoyed it and saw lots of interesting birds. Carlos was fine, but not as personable as the guides we had in Arenal and Monte Verde. We also went on the night time walk which was fun. It was great to see all the frogs and find out who was making which sound.

We really enjoyed our time at Bosque del CAbo. What a great place! It is the perfect mix of comfort and informality. We saw lots of wildlife on the trails there including coatis, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, a squirrel monkey, and a sloth. One morning when I opened the bathroom door, a bat flew past my head. It was pretty funny because the night before I saw bats flying around outside and told DH that I hoped we would see more. I really like bats, so I was pretty thrilled.

Once of the best things about B del C is that they have well-maintained trails. I could safely hike alone if DH wanted to relax with a book. The trail down to the beach was steep, but both times I went there I had the beach to myself. The people were warm and friendly and the food was excellent. Big thumbs up!

We went back to San Jose on Nature Air and then had a driver from there to Arenal. The drive was beautiful, but I was glad I took a Bonine before we started (thank you, volcano girl). We stayed in Lost Iguana. The hotel is nice with fabulous views of the volcano. We found it a bit inconvenient to be so far from town without a car, but it worked out fine. The hanging bridges were fantastic. I really enjoyed seeing the tops of the trees under my feet as I was walking. Also, we had a good lunch in the little restaurant there. We both had the casado which turned into a habit with me. DH started to mock me when I would look at the menu in restaurants. In my defense, it is not really like ordering the same thing over and over. Sometimes it is with chicken, other with fish and every place makes the side dishes a little differently.

We went with a guide from Flow Rios (or something like that) for a walk in the Arenal park. Milton was an excellent guide. He spotted lots of animals and was enthusiastic about explaining things. We had a great morning walking around the trails with him.

We went zip lining with Sky Adventures. I was not expecting to be scared, but once we got up there, I was. My mind was pretty sure everything was going to be fine, but the rest of me was not convinced. The team there seemed very professional and careful, so I don’t know why I was so anxious. I am not afraid of heights, so maybe it was more the idea of hanging from a wire by a couple of little hooks? My mouth was dry, my heart was racing, and my stomach was in knots. Also my legs were visibly shaking, and I did not want anyone else to see how rattled I was. There was no way I was going to chicken out (I grew up with brothers), but I was not enjoying myself at all when we started. I am happy to say that after the first couple of zip lines, I settled down and enjoyed the ride and the view. THe last couple of zip lines were a lot of fun.

One afternoon I went to Tabacon to sit in the hot springs. I went back and forth on which one to go to. I eventually settled on Tabacon because the hotel had a free shuttle I could take back. The pools were lovely with the surrounding gardens. I had a great time going back and forth between hot and not so hot. When I was there, it was not crowded. Unfortunately, I managed to hit my foot on a rock and break one of my middle toes. It is a stupid story. I had water shoes since I read that the pools are natural and have rocks in them. For some reason (?!), I took off my water shoes when I was walking around the paved paths. That is when I banged my foot on a rock bordering the walkway. Thankfully, my hiking boots have room in the toe area, with my boots laced creatively and a lot of ibuprofen there was little impact to our trip.

After Arenal, we went to Monteverde by taxi/boat/van. We both enjoyed the boat trip across the lake. Once again, I was happy I took a Bonine before the drive. The views were beautiful. Costa Rica is such a lovely country with all the green rollling hills and mountains. In Monteverde, we stayed in HIdden Canopy Treehouse. All the nice comments on Tripadvisor were accurate. Jennifer is a wonderful host. She really goes out of her way to make your stay as nice as it can be. We loved our room too. THere is a lot to do in Monteverde.

The Bat Jungle was great. Did I mention I like bats? I have never had a chance to see them still and feeding. There were even little groups of females with their young nestled under their wings. The guy who leads the tour is passionate about bats and happy to answer questions and explain things. After that, we had an excellent lunch at Cabure and then went on the chocolate tour. DH is a chocolate fanatic so he was in heaven. He got to try cacao nibs, chocolate liquid made from beans, chocolate drink, soft chocolate, and tempered chocolate. I think he would still be there eating cholocate if he had his way.

We went out a couple of times with Koky, the guide at Hidden Canopy. He is a fantastic guide. We saw some amazing things, and he has such a calm pleasant manner that he makes the time really enjoyable. We followed Quetzal noises around for a while and were rewarded with clear views of a pair flying and sitting and preening. We also saw the Bellbird doing his weird little dance and flinging his “face strings” around to attract a female. I know they are called wattles, but I like face strings better. It was absolutely fascinating. In an evening walk, we saw a side stripe viper. I don’t know if it is as pretty in the daylight, but at night the bright green against the dark tree trunk was beautiful.

The butterfly garden in town was nice. In addition to the gorgeous butterflies, we saw a Hercules beetle, a tarantula, some gigantic cockroaches, and the inside of a leaf cutter anthill. I got to touch the Hercules beetle. Now that is an impressive insect. It also seemed to be slow moving so it did not creep me out.

Jennifer recommended the coffee tour in San Luis. It was about a 25 minute drive there with fantastic views along the way. The coffee farm is run by a man who worked for a coffee company for 20 years before starting his own small farm and business growing organic coffee. He gave us a tour around the plants and showed us how the beans are processed into coffee. We also got to see how it used to be done. His dedication and pride in his work were obvious. He runs the farm with his wife and three daughters. THe youngest is aobut six and adorable. I think there is another coffee tour that a lot of visitors go to, but I highly recommend this one. We really enjoyed it.

For our last nigt, we stayed in Xandari. It is a very comfortable, relaxing place. I only did a little bit of walking, but from what I saw, the trails are quite nice. After that, we headed home.

We had a fantastic time in Costa Rica. This was one of our best trips. We sometimes amuse ourselves by ranking our favorite trips. It is kind of silly since the place are so different, but here goes: for me, Iceland and the Galapagos are still tied for first place, but Costa Rica is right up there with Africa and French Polynesia. The only thing I would do differently is to spend a day less in Arenal and stay longer in either Osa or Monteverde instead. Also, I would take my binoculars, and I would not take off my water shoes while strolling around Tabacon.

Thanks again for the helpful tips. I used a lot of the information here to plan our trip.
AnaBelen is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 10:52 AM
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That all sounds fantastic; you did a lot of cool things and had some amazing wildlife spottings.

You would have loved the room we had in Manuel Antonio. There was a bat hanging over the doorway that we had to walk under when we entered our room. Every night he would eat a fig and leave the rest of it on our front step!

What was the name of the chocolate tour that you did? That sounds like a lot of fun.
volcanogirl is online now  
Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 12:46 PM
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I cannot remember the name, but it was in the same building as Cabure and the Bat Jungle and we got our tickets at the restaurant. It is a small operation. The guy who took us through the process was very nice and obviously loved to answer questions and explain how chocolate is made.
AnaBelen is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 02:09 PM
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Great report, thank you!
alisa23 is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 03:30 PM
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Thanks, Ana - I hadn't heard much about the chocolate tour before - sounds fun!
volcanogirl is online now  
Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 05:17 PM
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What a great report, glad you had fun! I also love bats and we hope to actually get to CR in the next few months despite rainy season. September may be ok. I also love sloths so I am torn between MA area and Arenal.
We only have 4 nights and 5 days unfortunately.
So much to do I am torn - but I must say after the Galapagos it is really hard to love anywhere quite as much.

As we are all considering Iceland, do you have a trip report on here about it? Thanks!
kittygirl is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 07:09 PM
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Thanks for the report! Glad you enjoyed BDC..
emmajm is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 09:31 PM
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I did do a trip report for Iceland. I don't know how to post a link, but you should be able to find it under my name. I posted it in June 2011, and the title is "Iceland trip report: tales of secret puffin-love and disintegrating boots".

I am just realizing now that I give my trip reports very silly names.
AnaBelen is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 09:59 AM
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Silly names are great!
Thank you will search!
kittygirl is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2014, 08:13 PM
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Great report, thanks for sharing, it brings back wonderful memories. We stayed at Lost Iguana and Congo at BdC, too and loved them both. We did not encounter any bats, and that was fine with us. But I remember the bugs on!

I guess you were there in May, how was the weather?
xyz99 is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2014, 06:56 AM
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The weather was hot and humid but nice. It often rained in the late evening when we were already in for the night. A few times it rained a little in the afternoon, but nothing that interfered with our plans.

The bugs were pretty impressive. At Lost Iguana we had an enormous beetle in our room. It was slow moving though, so was able to catch it without too much trouble. We also had a cute little frog show up in our shower. I guess he came in through the bathroom window.
AnaBelen is offline  
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