CR Family Trip Report- Jan 08

Old Mar 13th, 2008, 01:42 PM
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CR Family Trip Report- Jan 08

What an amazing trip! I have been trying to find the time to post a report...

Installment One - Day 1 and 2
Arrival - Arenal
My husband and 2 kids, ages 8 and 6, departed Denver just after midnight on Jan 9. We had a 3 plus hour trip from our home to Denver - and stopped for dinner along the way which made us a bit late for our 2 hour advance checkin. In our haste we ended up on the side of the road for a half hour getting a speeding ticket. The kids thought we were going to go to jail! We proceeded onward and parked our car at the DIA Value Park - an excellent facility. We paid extra for covered parking so we would not be snowed in on our return. They have shuttles running constantly and jumped our battery for free one time when we left our lights on. www.diavaluepark.com

We got to the airport around 1045pm and checked in at Frontier for the nonstop midnight flight to San Jose. Flight was uneventful. We love the individual TVs and the movies were free for our flight. They even served us a light meal!

Arrival in CR was a hassle. The airline had not given us the correct forms to fill out and the customs officials, who did not arrive until 7am, just kept sending people back in line without any instruction on what to do. Finally someone took all the families and put us in another line and provided the paperwork...sometimes pays to have kids?

After collecting the luggage and changing some money (I was glad we only changed a small amount because the exchange rate was poor - more on that later). We were promptly met outside by our www.anywherecostarica.com driver. I have nothing but excellent things to say about this company! We booked transfers, hotels, activities and rental car through them. I'm a travel agent and feel we booked quality products at exceptional rates!

Herman picked us up in a roomy vehicle with large windows for a ride to Arenal. The ride was smooth and took about 2-3 hours. We stopped along the way at Cafe Catarats for a late breakfast. A small establishment on a very green hillside. Our hotel, Arenal Pariaso was beautiful. The lobby is tired looking but the hot spring pools and swimming pool and pool bar were great. Within the first half hour the clouds cleared and we got a fantastic view of the volcano. The room was great - brand new cottage with a great front porch, rocking chairs and view of the volcano. Bathroom was spacious and beds were very comfortable. After getting changed we went on a stroll to the many natural hot pools on the property. Nice trails lead to each secluded pool. We planned to try to make it to the other side of the volcano to have dinner and view the lava but the all night flight caught up with us so we ended up eating burgers at the hotel and taking naps. We got up later and went to town for appetizers at Choza Laurel and then walked to the other end of town for some ice cream.

Day 2 - Arenal
We got up early and had the breakfast at the hotel which comes with the room. Kids loved the pancakes, Dad liked the plantains and I enjoyed the made to order omelet. Lots to choose from. Adrian from Chaves Tours picked us up for our horseback ride to La Fortuna Falls. We made several stops at other hotels along the way before we got to the stables. We saddled up (all of us even our 8 and 6 year olds) and rode across the fields and trails to the waterfall. Mino and Rudy were our guides and Mino took special care of our 6 yr old son after his horse started trotting away. He held the reins so Georgie could ride on his own but feel like he was in charge. It was a gorgeous morning ride. The horses were not too docile but not too frisky either! We tied up at the waterfall and hiked down a considerable distance to the falls. Beautiful and a refreshing dip in the very cool water! Awesome photos! We stayed for about an hour. The hike back up was a grunt - but the kids did fine! We hopped back on the horses and took a neighborhood route back to the stables. Adrian drove us back to the Paraiso and then picked us up 20 minutes later for our reservation at Eco Thermales.

Eco Thermales - what can I say - heaven! The place was practically deserted! We ordered our lunch and then had about a half hour to sip cool drinks while we soaked. The waterfall mist pool at the top was unbelievable! The lunch was great - steak, checkin, rice, beans and avocado salad. We "rolled" back into the pools and spent the remainder of the afternoon hopping from the hot pools to the cold plunge to the lounge chairs. I especially loved the 3 inch pool! All of a sudden there were howler monkeys in the trees above us. They served us ice cream and then we headed back to the Paraiso.

It was too cloudy for lava viewing so we had dinner at the Paraiso - spaghetti for the kids, sea bass for Dad and a light avocado salad for me. A perfect day at Arenal!
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Old Mar 13th, 2008, 02:41 PM
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steviesmom
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Great report! Looking forward to the next installment!!
 
Old Mar 13th, 2008, 05:07 PM
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Erinng, I am so excited to hear about your trip. My husband and 2 boys (ages 6 and 8) are going on April 1. Did your kids enjoy Eco Thermales? I had thought about it but wasn't sure if that was a kid place. I can't wait to hear more!
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Old Mar 13th, 2008, 05:58 PM
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Sounds like a great trip! Arenal is quite a sight when it clears, huh?
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Old Mar 14th, 2008, 11:34 AM
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Sounds like you had a wonderful time, erinnq. It would be hard not to in Arenal, IMO.

I had to chuckle just a little bit at your second to last paragraph:

"All of a sudden there were howler monkeys in the trees above us. They served us ice cream and then we headed back to the Paraiso."

I've never been served ice cream by howler monkeys before. I'm a bit jealous! ;-)

Definitely meant in good fun!! I look forward to reading the rest of your report. We went to Tabacon on our first visit to Arenal. We thought it was beautiful, but I would definitely like to check out Eco Thermales next time.

Terrific report thus far...
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Old Mar 14th, 2008, 11:44 AM
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cm --- LOL!

erin -- Sounds like a great trip so far and I bet your kids just loved it!

It's funny too, how no matter where people go in CR, there are always raves about the pancakes!
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Old Mar 14th, 2008, 11:45 AM
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Hey Hip!

You are practically able to count the seconds down to departure by now, aren't you?

Can't wait to read your report...
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Old Mar 14th, 2008, 11:57 AM
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Great trip report! I'm looking forward to hearing the rest. My kids will be about that age when we go in August, so I'll be waiting to hear what else you did while you were there! I'm glad to hear the horseback riding was a success! Was the their first time on horses? I wasn't sure if that would be a good activity for such young kids. Good to know!

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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 06:48 AM
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Waiting for more!!!!
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Old Mar 17th, 2008, 09:58 PM
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Amazing things those howlers can do...actually I was posting at work and trying to finish too quickly!

The kids loved Eco Thermales but it was quiet. They tend to entertain each other and sometimes cause a ruckus. No slides or swings - so maybe it would be boring for some.

They have both been on horses, very briefly, before. Our goal was to do things we had not done before...mission accomplished! The horses were gentle and the guides were terrific.

Day 3 - Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge
Early breakfast at Arenal Paraiso. Ssame thing as yesterday but good.
Early pickup for the Cano Negro trip - 715am. Big comfortable buses for a beautiful drive. We made one stop enroute...where we saw iguanas (chicken of the tree) in the trees next to the soda (cafe). I wish we had time to shop here (more on that later) some really beautiful wood items at great prices! We arrived at the river dock around 10am and boarded the boat. The weather was cloudy,light rain and in the low 70's. Pretty nice compared to snowy Colorado! We saw tons of wildlife:

sloths, howler monkeys (a rare blonde one), spider monkey, snake bird, cormerand, kingfishers, mangrove sqirrels, long nosed bats, common pitu, roseate spoonbill (my favorite) and many more...

Raphael was an excellent guide. He knew his animals and also the political ramifications of the immigration of Nicaraguans into CR. Not too different from our south of the border situation. I really enjoyed the fact that he was with us throughout the bus and boat rides and during an excellent lunch! Typical CR food...excellently prepared.

We all snoozed on the bus ride back and dipped in the pools at the Paraiso upon our return. The skies had grown quite cloudy and while we were getting ready to go out to dinner we were hit with torrents of rain. We were soaked by the time we made it to the lobby!

We had planned to go to the Observatory for dinner but was told they were only open for guests. Also heard about another place a little further up the road that had good food and a great view - but the weather ws not cooperating so we decided to go into La Fortuna for pizza. I'll have to update the names of the restaurants (notes are at work). But I thought it was very overpriced...

Day 4 - To Monteverde!
Another breakfast at the Paraiso (good but getting a bit boring by the third day). We were picked up a bit later than I expected and taken to the dock for the boat across Lake Arenal. This was a highlight! It was a beautiful sunny (not hot) day and the volcano was amazing! We thoroughly enjoyed the ride and met some nice young people along the way.

I loved Arenal and thought the Paraiso was perfect! The accomodations were comfortable and attractive. We especially loved walking the trails to the hot pools. The food was adequate. I could have stayed here a week but would have rented a car for a longer stay. I would have done some hiking up by the volcano and defintely searched for a good vantage point in order to view the lava. I'm happy we did the horseback ride to the falls, hot springs and the wildlife refuge...it was perfect for our kids!

It's midnight here. I'll try to post the rest of day 4 within the next day or 2. I am busy planning a trip to DisneyWorld (if you can believe it) for April!
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Old Mar 19th, 2008, 02:58 PM
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Glad you are continuing on, erin!

Sounds like you had a similar terrific experience at Cano Negro that most here seem to have. It's such a worthwhile excursion. I saw my very first monkeys in the wild on the Cano Negro tour, which was something I had been really looking forward to!

Heading to Disneyworld next month, eh? I live in Central Florida and that should be a decent time to be out here weather-wise. The really muggy weather usually starts to make an appearance in May/June.

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Old Mar 19th, 2008, 03:27 PM
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Erinnq,
Great trip report, thanks for continuing it.
Which company did you use for the Cano Negro trip?
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Old Mar 19th, 2008, 03:44 PM
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Looking forward to the rest. I liked Paraiso too, I saw so many birds there I kept thinking shame I wasn't a birder.

I'll let you in on a secret - next month in FL it's going to be mucho caliente
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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 02:12 PM
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Ok the pizza place was Pizzeria Vagabundo. Good pizza but expensive. The staff was not very friendly either...

We booked our Cano Negro trip through AnywhereCostaRica with Aventuras Arenal.

Day 4 continued to Monteverde:
After getting off the beautiful boat ride we got a jeep with Lance and AmyBeth, friends we met on the boat. The overland trip was gorgeous and the stop enroute at the top of the hillside was perfect! We drove into Monteverde and dropped our friends at the youth hostel and continued (and continued) up towards the cloud forest to Fonda Vela.

Fonda Vela is beautiful and quiet and relaxing...but not much for kids. No pool, not within walking distance (although we did immediately hike up to the cloud forest)of anything. We hiked for 45 minutes and just got to the entrance and checked out the hummingbirds. I would rather have stayed at the Trapp Inn which is near the forest or closer to MV...next time.

So we got there and had lunch - which was good and then did the afore mentioned hike and made it back for sunset. Perfectly awesome - gorgeous - a sight to remember. We were on the deck where they serve drinks. The couple next to us had a bottle of special wine for "the last night in paradise sunset"...meanwhile my kids started wrestling and screaming during their perfect moment! Hmmm - boat ride, jeep trip, hike...might have been to much for them. Did I mention I wish we stayed somewhere else?

So as not to ruin anyone's romantic dinner - we went in to MV and had dinner at Morpho's. Really good food - kids and adults ate everything! The napkins that were placed strategically next to the candles caught fire and I blew on them sending them sailing into my 8 yr old daughter's lap! No injuries! We then walked around downtown - surprisingly cool and windy (it was the whole time we were there - very refreshing!) - and just love MV. Lots of young energy! We stopped in at Maraville's for ice cream. It is right next to an internet shop. A hub of activity! Taxied back to Fonda Vela and had a good night's rest. The hotel is quiet and we could hear the wind in the trees. Again highly recommended for a more mature group!

Day 5 Selvatura (Zip Lining) to come!

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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 05:05 PM
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erin, I'm excited to hear about Fonda Vela; my husband and I have booked there for July. Do you happen to remember how much a taxi into town cost? I'm enjoying all the details of your report.
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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 05:55 PM
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I loved Fonda Vela - we were in the trees and they made this oh so peaceful sound as the wind rustled their leaves and branches! We had a large room with patio on the bottom floor. The bathroom had a wierd step thing that you had to watch out for. The people at the front desk were so nice. We had the breakfast one day - kind of expensive but very good. The drinks on the deck at sunset are the best! Make sure you get back for that! The taxis into town were reasonable. I'm thinking about $5 each way. Except - for the day we called for a taxi early to take us to the cloud forest and then back to Fonda Vela. I think he charged us for the ride all the way back to MV on the way back. He charged us less to get there but probably because the front desk person took the taxi from his home in MV to FV. Everything is less expensive than the US but not tons less. We live in a ski resort so it looked less to us but probably not to anyone who lives in an urban area. Did you see the last issue of Conde Nast Traveler? The US $ goes farther in CR than any other country.

http://www.concierge.com/cntraveler/...0&pageNumber=7

Overall Monteverde was a favorite. Loved Selvatura and the cloud forest and the town was great! On my next trip I will do all my shopping here! More in my next post!
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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 06:31 PM
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Thanks, erin - We've been to CR before but haven't tried out Monteverde; now I'm really looking forward to it!
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