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CR Trip Report - Alajuela/Central Valley and Manuel Antonio May 2008

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May 27th, 2008, 08:39 AM
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CR Trip Report - Alajuela/Central Valley and Manuel Antonio May 2008

We were a group of 6, ages 29-70, a mix of friends and family. I did a lot of research on Fodor's and TripAdvisor leading up to our trip. I didn't post a whole lot of questions, but I did read just about every post made in the last year. So thank you to all of those who helped and didn't even know it! Hopefully I'll be able to help a little too, now that I've been there. Although, I'm certainly no expert...there's just too much to see and do in this wonderful country!

We were in CR May 14-24, 2008 - 3 days spent in and around Alajuela/Central Valley and 7 spent in Manuel Antonio. So, here goes!

Day 1
Flight from BWI to SJO
We actually stayed the night in Baltimore before leaving on a 6AM flight to Costa Rica. We had a great time in Fell's Point the night before and tried to go to bed early. After about 5 hours of sleep, we were up and at the aiport at 4AM. Our Delta flights (layover in Atlanta) were basically on time and fairly smooth. We arrived in SJO half an hour late, but were so happy to be in CR that we didn't care. The line at immigration was fairly long, but it moved quickly. I had read somewhere on one of these boards that if you had a color copy of your passport, they would stamp your passport and the copy. The 6 of us went to 6 different agents and all 6 said no, they can NOT stamp the copy. So I was a bit worried that we would have to carry our passports around until we found a copy machine. (However, Berni at our hotel later told us that a color copy without a stamp would be sufficient. Luckily, we never had to find out for sure, but we did carry around only the unstamped copy...never the actual passport.) When picking up our luggage, we got a little panicked, as one of our friends had brought fishing rods and they weren't on the belt. Luckily I had just been to Colorado with some friends and remembered that their skis came out on an oversized belt, not the normal one. So if you're at SJO with surfboards, fishing rods, etc, belt 4 is for oversized luggage. After baggage claim, we bought some really, REALLY cheap liquor at duty free to take along on our trip. If you're going to want liquor on your trip and don't mind carrying it, buy it here!! They even give you boxes with handles that are easy to carry. Next was customs, which was kind of a joke. They had us put all of our bags through a scanning machine, but no one was paying any attention to us or the machine. Lucky for them we weren't bringing in anything illegal!
We took a microbus to Pura Vida Hotel, just north of Alajuela. The taxi people tried to make us pay at the airport but I told them that the hotel pays and they let us go without paying up front...they didn't seem happy, but they let us go. Berni and Rebecca greeted us at Pura Vida as well as Max and Yagi, 2 of the 3 very sweet and gentle dogs who live here. I can't say enough great things about this place. The rooms were beautiful and spotless, the grounds were lovely, immaculate and private. We had 2 people in the Volcano Studio (lovely views, nice sized room, in the main house, but with a private entrance) and 4 people in the 2 bedroom Mariposa Casita at the bottom of the grounds (very cute and clean, but a little small for 2 couples, would've been ideal for a couple with children). We spent most of our time outside here as the grounds were just so beautiful and the weather was near perfect. They had a small, private restaurant on site where they serve (free) breakfast every morning and a $25 3 course dinner by reservation. We opted for dinner this first night so that we could just relax and get our bearings. Dinner was absolutely amazing. Berni and Nhi are the owners of Pura Vida and Nhi is an excellent chef. She made a spinach salad with hard-boiled egg, onion and smoked cheese with very light dressing for the first course. The second course was a nice piece of grilled corvina with a mushroom vermouth sauce over mashed potatoes and broccoli. And the third course was an eggless custard with a fresh fruit compote and fresh baked cookies. YUM!! And everything had just been purchased at the market a few hours prior to dinner. So fresh! After dinner, we were exhausted, so turned in early for our big day at Poas and La Paz.
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May 27th, 2008, 09:08 AM
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Day 2
Poas/La Paz

We were up by 6AM (the birds are very loud in the morning!) and had breakfast at 7:30. They served a ton of fresh fruit, yogurt with granola and fruit poundcake (queque), all part of the room price. For an extra $3 you could have eggs and bacon or a cheese omelette. A few of our party had eggs and they were delicious. Every 'extra' gets added to your tab to pay before checking out, which is very convenient. This includes dinner, the eggs and beer/wine/sodas that they will serve you anytime throughout the day, either in the restaurant, on your patio, or anywhere within the hotel grounds. At 8AM, Sterling arrived to take us to Poas and La Paz. Berni and Pura Vida hotel work with Sterling, so if you need a driver, just ask Berni and he'll set you up with Sterling. He speaks fluent English and is very sweet and funny (and cute!). Just before leaving, Berni offered to upgrade us, as the hotel was basically empty for the next few days. So we ended up with one couple still in the Mariposa Casita, one couple in the one bedroom Rainforest Casita and one in the one bedroom Toucan Casita. These three casitas were right next to each other, going down the hill, but still private enough that you couldn't really see each other. Berni doing this for us was really an extra special touch that he didn't have to do. But we loved it!

We departed for Poas a little later than we had hoped, due to the room change, but still made it before the clouds rolled in. On the way, we stopped at a lookout point to take photos of the valley, then at Doka coffee plantation (not the tour part), where Sterling explained some of the coffee picking process. We did the short walk up to the crater, stopping along the way for photos of the birds and plants. We got to the top just in time to see the crater, as the clouds started rolling in about 10 minutes after we got there. However, the fumaroles were venting a lot of smoke, so we never really got a clear shot of the crater. What we could see was beautiful though. Due to the cloud cover and some health problems with one of our group, we decided not to do any of the other hikes up there. We walked back and stopped at the coffee shop before heading to La Paz.

La Paz was amazing! Everyone agreed that this was one of the highlights of the trip. We took way too many pictures here and saw a ton of birds, some monkeys, a few frogs and even some snakes...yikes! We hiked the trail all the way around the waterfalls. One of our group (our 70 year old) had lung cancer and is now missing half a lung. She therefore has some trouble breathing if she exerts too much energy. She had no problems with this hike at all. It was fairly easy, mostly downhill and when we needed to, it was easy to take a break and rest. I think everyone should do this hike, as the waterfalls are just so amazingly beautiful. Our hike was mostly quiet, but towards the end, a tour group did catch up to us which made it a little loud.

We stopped for lunch on the way back on Sterling's recommendation. I don't remember the name of the place, but it was excellent. Typical casados and Imperials for under $8/person. We got 'home' around 3PM, just in time for the rain. It was pretty heavy, but it only lasted about 2 hours. After hanging out in the gardens, we ventured into Alajuela for dinner at La Mansarda. The food here was excellent and around $16/person for one app, six dinners, 2 desserts, several drinks and a complimentary round of planter's punch.

Back 'home' and straight to bed.
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May 27th, 2008, 09:30 AM
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Day 3
Zoo Ave and downtown Alajuela

We took a taxi to Zoo Ave just after breakfast. This place is amazing! The entrance fee was $15/person, but they show you a video that tells of their work and why the cost is what it is. The video made us all wish they charged more because of the excellent work they do there. Zoo Ave isn't just a zoo, it's a rehab center for animals that will be reintroduced to the wild and a breeding center for animals that are endangered or extinct in certain areas. They have all kinds of animals, from birds and reptiles to monkeys and pumas. Most are in cages, which is normally sad, but knowing they are being rehabilitated makes it easier to see.

Took a taxi from Zoo Ave to the Central Market in Alajuela where we walked around for a bit. It was quite interesting...I always love seeing markets in foreign countries, but it was indoors and rather hot. If you go here, try to go early in the morning. Walked around and found a restaurant (again, don't know the name) that was sort of Costa Rican/Chinese fusion. It was very good. Around $8/person for 6 meals and several drinks. We stopped at the Mega Super near Parque Central for some light groceries before heading back to the hotel.

Our last night in Alajuela, 4 of us just hung out at the hotel, ordered pizza from Pepe's (a local place) and drank before turning in early (again). 2 of the group went to dinner in Escazu at a very fancy restaurant called (I think) La Ministere. They paid $80 for a round trip taxi and I didn't ask what they paid for dinner. I know that info we had on the restaurant suggested $150 for a party of four, but that was 2 years ago, so I'm sure it's more now. It was their (early) anniversary dinner though and they loved it, so it was worth it for them.

Next up, our trip to Manuel Antonio
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May 27th, 2008, 09:44 AM
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SuCo -
I'm loving this trip report so far. Thanks for all of the details. Sounds like you had a great time in the Central Valley. Looking forward to reading about your time in MA. And thanks for the info on your dining choices - it's helpful to read about your experience and get a general idea of the cost.

Keep it coming!
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May 27th, 2008, 10:10 AM
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Day 4
Drive to Manuel Antonio

Sterling picked us up at 9AM for our journey to MA. He stopped at a lookout point for pictures again, a fresh fruit market and a park in Orotina, where he pointed out 2 black and white owls and 2 sloths. These were our first sloths, but they were pretty well hidden in the trees, so it was a little disappointing. But we saw many later. Next we stopped at Tarcoles and saw a ton of crocs. When you're driving, before crossing the bridge, there's a souvenir stand and coffee shop on the right and a restaurant on the left. We stopped on the right and the bathrooms were pretty gross. I don't know if they're any better on the left, but I'd stop there instead if you just need to use the restrooms. Finally we stopped one more time at a grocery store (Maxi Bodega, one of at least 2 chains in CR owned by Wal-Mart) and stocked up for our villa in MA.

We arrived at the Jungle Villa (www.junglevilla.com) our home for the next 7 days. This place got a rather mixed review from our group. It was completely beautiful and really big. It was 100% surrounded by lush rainforest and even had a view of the ocean. It had 3 pools that were wonderful and refreshing. However, upon closer inspection it wasn't very clean and the bedrooms were in desperate need of a renovation. We had a rat living in the kitchen (maybe more than one) and the staff spoke zero English...and while I speak a little Spanish, it was still difficult to communicate. The housekeeper, Orlando, and the night guard, Jason were at least nice and always said hello. The maid, Martha rarely ever acknowledged us and was a bit rude all around. I know Parmmt from here at Fodor's is staying there now and she is having a slightly better experience than we did (re: the cleanliness) but I'm curious to see when she gets back if her reactions are as mixed as ours. The house has an open-air floor plan for the living areas which is great for spotting wildlife. However, the first two nights, we could hear people yelling loudly from somewhere down the hill. As long as there weren't total jerks staying nearby, this wouldn't be an issue. It was cool though to be able to hear all the birds and frogs and howler monkeys as if they were in the house with you. It was really hot and humid when we first got there, but it rained (and thundered and lightninged) for about 2 hours shortly after our arrival, which cooled things off considerably.

After relaxing a bit and learning the layout of the house, we went across the street to Byblos for food and gambling. The food was OK, but rather expensive. $60 for 4, we shared 3 apps and a pizza and had 5 drinks/beers. The casino was fun, but small. It had about a dozen slot machines, 2 'American-style' blackjack tables and one other table...may have been roulette, we didn't really look. One friend played slots and lost $20 pretty quickly. SO and I played Blackjack. I broke even and SO ended up winning $30 after about a 1/2 hr of playing. I had heard what a scam CR casinos were, so I was pretty happy we ended up winning a little.

We came home and relaxed a little before 2 of our girls went out to Barba Roja for 'ladies night' (Saturday). There you get 3 free rum or vodka drinks or 1 free beer if you're a lady. (Well, these girls aren't exactly ladies, but you know what I mean... ) One of the girls fell on the road coming home and bruised up her elbow pretty good. I think it was a combo of the roads being bad/not really having shoulders to walk on and the free booze, but she was OK in the end...it could've been a lot worse, I'm sure.

Next day, the public beach!
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May 27th, 2008, 10:17 AM
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mysparky,

Thanks for the encouragement! I made it a point to write down costs of things whenever I could since we were travelling on somewhat of a budget...and I know others on these boards are doing the same.

Unfortunately, I'm only going to get another day or two posted before I have to go to work. That first day back really sucks! But hopefully I'll have the whole thing done in the next day or two. Photos are uploading now too and will be posted seperately!

Thanks again!
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May 27th, 2008, 10:38 AM
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Oops, I had said this day was the beach, but that's day 5. Sorry!

Day 4
Quepos and RAIN!

I woke up a little later than usual this day, around 7:45 and had just missed the first troop of monkeys to visit our villa...the mono titis no less! Fortunately others in our group got photos and the titis did come back later in the week so I got to see them. We started off our day swimming in the pool and relaxing. Around 11AM the capuchins came by and hung out for about an hour. These guys were great...they even came IN the house a little...gotta love that open-air floor plan, it was the main reason I chose this house. We took a TON of pics of these little guys.

We headed out, down the hill, in search of a soda or some cheap lunch. We stopped at the gift shop at Si Como No for directions (I was mainly looking for Soda Angels, which we never did find...does it still exist?). Anyway, the guy at the gift shop said there are no sodas on the road to MA, only in Quepos. So we hailed two taxis (this is pretty easy to do...I think the longest we waited for a taxi along the road was about 5 minutes. You can also ask anyone in any of the restaurants or shops to call you a taxi, but that takes just about as long to arrive). Taxis are pretty much $5 anywhere between the park and Quepos. The least we paid was $4 and the most was $6 and we always tipped at least $1, more if they were really friendly and acted as more of a tour guide than a driver for our short trips. We did get a few 'pirate' taxis that stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. We never accepted those, not because they seemed unsafe, but just because we knew they were taking business away from the drivers that went to the trouble of getting their taxi license.

On the ride up to Quepos, we passed at least 2 sodas along the road, so the guy at Si Como No was wrong about there being none there. Neither of them was Angels though, so we continued into Quepos. We walked around a bit before quickly remembering it was Sunday (my how you lose track of days when on vaca) and most things were closed. We stopped in a cigar shop next to Cafe Milagro for a few souvenirs, then headed to El Gran Escape just in time for the rain. Again, just OK. I was really disappointed because El Gran Escape gets rave reviews on the forums, but we thought the food was super 'Americanized' and not very good American food at that. The best meal we had here was the Costa Rican chicken and rice (basically a casado), but at $8, it wasn't priced like a casado. Here our bill was $100 for the six of us for 1 beer, 1 drink, 2 apps and 6 dinners. After lunch, the rain had let up just enough for us to hop in taxis (called by our wonderful wait staff at El Gran Escape). We made it back to the villa just in time for torrential downpours. Here was the downside to the open-air floor plan...when it rains that hard, it comes inside. It was a light mist that came in the house though and it was kind of nice after we got all the books and papers inside. However, it never stopped raining that day. But we took the opportunity to check email (free internet and computer in the villa) and to relax, read and drink at the villa.

Next day, public beach (for real this time!)
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May 27th, 2008, 11:03 AM
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Day 5 & 6
Public Beach & relaxing all day

The monkeys came again! The mono titis. Martha our maid did one of a very few nice things and brought over a banana to feed them. I was completely against feeding them (I'd read enough to know it's a bad idea), but some of our group decided it was just a banana and wouldn't do any damage (I still don't believe that's true, but they fed them when I wasn't looking). Anyway, off my soapbox. 5 of us walked down the hill to the beach. This took about 1/2 an hour. We were in the general vicinity of Cafe Milagro, Aqua Azul, Villas El Parque, Hotel Byblos and Si Como No, just to give a point of reference. Along the way, we popped into La Buena Nota and did a little shopping. By the time we got down to the beach, we had worked up an appetite, so we stopped at Marlin. We thought the food here was decent, better than El Gran Escape or Byblos. I didn't write down the price for some reason, but it was pretty reasonable. Not cheap, but reasonable. After lunch we went straight to the beach. They had chairs for rent for $5 each. And they are on top of you the minute you walk onto that beach, asking if you want a chair! We had to say no a few times until we walked to a spot that had 5 chairs together. The guy that rented us the chair was very nice and even pulled the chairs closer together for us and put the umbrellas up for optimal shade. After we sat down, a guy came by offering us a bucket of 6 beers on ice for $20. We said, uh no, $20 is ridiculous, we'll just walk over to that restaurant and get 6 beers for $12 (Imperial is $2 or less per bottle almost everywhere). He came down to $14 and we took him up on his offer. For the extra $2, we didn't have to do any work and they came in a bucket of ice!! We were happy little campers! The water was rough here...it kept pulling off our bathing suits and pulling us under. There were also a lot of surfers here that didn't seem to care that people were swimming 10 feet away from them. We almost got nailed in the head a few times by surfboards. After about 2 hours here, we walked up and checked out the stands along the road. Most of them sold the exact same stuff and we were tired, so we just hopped a taxi back 'home'.

We went to dinner this night at Agua Azul, right next door to (actually overlooking) our villa. This was by far the best food we had in all of Costa Rica. It was so good we went back the last night (and we rarely eat at the same place twice on vaca). It was a little pricey by CR standards, but by American standards, you were still getting 5 star food for 3 star prices (or less). Owned by 2 Americans, this place has an awesome view too. Try to get here for sunset! Dinner was $150 for all six for 4 apps, 6 meals, 2 desserts and 6 drinks/beers.

Ladies night was at Byblos this evening (Monday) but we skipped it. Heard it though from our villa. Not too bad though.

Day 6
Relaxed and never left home

We stayed 'home' all day and cooked our meals. The house had a BBQ pit that we attempted to cook dinner on (chicken shish kebobs) but we couldn't get it hot enough, so we ended up doing them on the stove. We mostly swam in our pools all day. The 3 pools were tiered and the first one waterfalled into the second one which waterfalled into the third one. It was so beautiful and Orlando did an excellent job keeping the pool clean. We had originally planned to go to the park this day, but got out of bed too late for that. I'm glad we did, because just relaxing and splashing in the pool was wonderful! We went to bed early so that we could be up in time to make it to the park the next day.
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May 27th, 2008, 11:07 AM
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Oops, I messed up my days somehow. Quepos should have been day 5, not 4 and the public beach and relaxing should have been days 6&7, not 5&6.

Anyway, I'll get back on track now!
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May 27th, 2008, 11:30 AM
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Day 8
MA National Park

We left the house at 8AM and stopped by Cafe Milagro for breakfast. The food and coffee here are excellent and cheap. $10 each for a breakfast and a coffee drink. They also have a 'breakfast of champions...while on vacation' on their menu that's just a slice of coconut cream pie. My grandfather got this both times we were here! It was good!!

Took a taxi down to the park (decided walking down once was enough!) and waded the small stream to pay our $10 entrance fee. We didn't hire a guide, but ended up seeing plenty on our own. As a matter of fact, twice when we were looking at animals, a guide came up behind us and asked US what we were looking at. Kinda funny. The park is absolutely breath taking. It's very well maintained and the trails are wonderful. Some of the hikes (up Punta Catedral and especially to Puerta Escondido) are rather strenuous though, so take caution. Only 4 of us did Punta Catedral and 3 did the hike to Puerta Escondido. We saw a ton of lizards and iguanas, 3 agouti, lots of capuchins and a sloth WITH a baby. That was really cool, especially since she was actually moving...sloths don't do that very often. The 3 that didn't really do the hikes stayed on beach 2 and had a great time. There was no one on beach 1 when we got there, so that would've been nice to hang out on as well. After a few hours at the park, we hit the beach vendors again. Bought a few souvenirs and stopped for lunch at Cafe Del Mar. I got the impression that this place was fairly new. I'd also not heard of it on the forums, so I think it must be new. The food here was fantastic. My second favorite restaurant of the trip. This was around $80 for the six of us for 1 app, 6 meals, 1 dessert and several drinks. And it was right on the beach. The only thing I didn't like about the public beach (and the restaurants along it) were the people walking around, selling pottery. It's not that they were persistent or rude, but there were sooo many of them (all selling the exact same pottery) that you had to say no to them every 2 minutes. After lunch, we took a cab to the Pali (the other Wal-Mart chain) in Quepos for some light groceries. We had been to the SuperJoseth in MA, but it was really overpriced. Had leftovers for dinner at the villa and relaxed before bed.

Next up, Canopy Safari
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May 27th, 2008, 04:43 PM
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Great report. I liked Marlins too, good food pretty cheap. Will look forward to the rest of your report and photos of those caphuchins!
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May 27th, 2008, 05:31 PM
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Enjoying your report.

Yes Soda Angels does still exist. My daughter mentioned eating there yesterday. Sorry you missed it.
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May 27th, 2008, 05:49 PM
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dfarmer,

If you think of it, ask your daughter where it is...I'm just curious. No big deal if you don't find out though!

tully,

Thanks! Marlin was probably our 3rd favorite restaurant, very good, but we liked Agua Azul and Cafe Del Mar better.
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May 27th, 2008, 06:14 PM
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Day 9
Canopy Safari

The bus picked 5 of us up at the villa at 10:10AM, right on time. There were already 2 couples on the bus and we stopped to pick up 7 women on our way to filling out the waivers (eek!). The hour long ride to the actual canopy would have been very relaxing, but the group of women were, well, excited. Lots of yelling and giggling so we all had a headache by the time we arrived. The drive up (and back) was through a palm plantation along a gravel road. I still don't understand how they found their way to this place...everything looked exactly the same the whole way there. Palms on both sides of the road the whole way and they managed to make several turns and never get lost...I guess practice makes perfect. We went over some SCARY bridges here that made the bridges along the road to MA look good. These bridges were just wooden planks across streams and rivers. No sides, barely wide enough for the busses. I was scared and bridges don't normally bother me.

Once we got there, along with another bus load, they went over some basic safety instructions, strapped us into our harnesses, broke the 35 or so of us into 4 groups and we were on our way. Canopy Safari has several ziplines, 2 repel lines and a tarzan swing. The tarzan swing was the only scary part for most of us. I felt completely safe the whole time, we were always attached to something and they seemed to run a very good operation. The trees swaying while you were on the platforms was a little scary, but again, we were attached so no big deal. The only complaint we had was that it moved very slow because of all the people. We spent more time standing on platforms waiting than anything else. After the tour, they fed us a typical lunch of casados. Excellent food and it was included in the $65 price. The bus ride back was uneventful and the 'giggle girls' seemed tired out. They dropped us off at our villa, but it seemed they would drop you off wherever you wanted...the girls got dropped off at a soda in Quepos instead of their villa.

One of the guys in our group had developed gout the night before and after doing the canopy tour, just wanted to relax. After sitting around for a bit, 4 of us decided to go bar hopping. We tried to walk the road down to Parador, but it was long and steep and dark, so we managed to hail a passing taxi who took us to the Bat Cave at La Mansion. The bar was pretty cool, but very small and very expensive. We had 5 drinks and our bill was $50. A little ridiculous for CR...that's NYC prices! From there, we had the bartender call us a taxi (it's not easy to just find one on that road) and we went to Salsipuedes for dinner. Food here was just OK but reasonable. We shared 8 tapas plates, 1 dessert and 5 beers/drinks for $66. We had wanted to go to more bars after dinner, but after eating we were full and tired, so home to bed for us!

Next up, Playa Biesanz
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May 27th, 2008, 06:37 PM
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Day 10
Playa Biesanz

Our last full day. We went to Cafe Milagro again for breakfast and it was just as good as the first day. One of our group went to an AA meeting at Mono Azul, our gout-y friend went home to relax and the other 4 of us took a taxi down to Biesanz. On the way down, we had a really nice driver (he was actually born in the US and spoke perfect English) who stopped and showed us a 2 toed sloth in the trees along the road. He talked about the area and agreed to pick us up at a specific time after we checked out the beach. We hiked the short path (about 10 minutes) down to the beach, past a small house with a barn and chickens. These chickens later came onto the beach and got a little closer to us than we would have liked. The beach itself was nice and very quiet. We shared it with only 4 other people. From here, you can go kayaking or snorkelling. There's also a small beverage stand that serves beers and sodas. On the left side of the beach, the ground is really rocky and you can't really wade too far into the water before your feet start to hurt. On the right side, there are way less rocks, but when we were there, the water over there was disgusting. The foam coming up on shore was a scary greenish brown color that didn't look too safe. So, we really didn't do any swimming here. We did relax for a bit though before walking back up to the road to meet our taxi driver. He never came! So we had to hike UP the big hill here to try to find someone to call us a taxi. This walk was exhausting but we finally got to what looks like a new condo complex and found someone with a cell phone who called us a taxi and we made it home.

SO and I went out to lunch at Cafe Milagro (again, but it was cheap and close) then to Pali for some last minute souvenirs (Lizano sauce and Imperials). Well, this time Pali was as annoying as its parent company, Wal-Mart. Someone in front of us was buying something that must have not rung up properly as the cashier just stood staring at the screen, then a manager came over and stared at the screen, then they both walked away. This staring and walking away went on for 10 minutes with no resolution in sight. The other 2 lines weren't moving either, so we put our things back and sucked it up and went to SuperJoseth. Got 'home', changed and went out for another amazing dinner at Agua Azul. Back to the villa to pack.

Finally, we leave and some final thoughts.
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May 27th, 2008, 07:08 PM
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Day 11
The trip home

I always have mixed emotions when leaving a vacation spot. I'm excited to see my pets and my friends, but so sad to leave a beautiful place (and go back to work ). Sterling picked us up at 7AM and drove us back to the airport. We arrived shortly after 10AM, bought our departure tax, waited in the Delta line (which went quickly) and went through security. It was a LONG day, but everything went smoothly. One of our friends did have 2 lighters confiscated (I thought you were allowed to take those now!? They weren't taken away in any of the US airports), but my grandmother got 4 mini vodka bottles through...they even 'searched' her bag twice and didn't find them. Our flights were all smooth and on time and customs in Atlanta was pretty easy. I do have to say that international arrivals and customs/immigration in Atlanta is rather disorganized. There aren't really any true lines and there are people yelling at you to get into line (what line???). It seemed a little odd for such a major airport. We finally made it home to Lancaster around 3AM...boy it was a long day!

Final thoughts
Would I go back? If my time and money were unlimited, yes. But since it isn't, probably not. There are just too many places to see and I've never been anywhere (outside the US) more than once. If I were to return to someplace I've been before, it'd be Greece or Venice before CR. Don't get me wrong though, I loved it there!

Maybe we got lucky, but the rainy season wasn't that bad. We had one day that the rain didn't seem like it would ever stop (and it didn't before we went to bed), 3 days where it rained for about 2-3 hours and 3 days where it didn't rain one drop. And when it did rain, it started at almost exactly 2PM. I also felt that the heat/humidity wasn't excessive so maybe that's another advantage of the rainy season.

I've seen on here that some people say a week is too long in MA. I felt like it wasn't enough. Maybe it was because we did a nice combo of 'running around' and just relaxing, but I felt like there was so much that I wanted to see and do (and eat) that I didn't get around to.

Taxis are cheap and plentiful! Private drivers are fantastic! Use them if you're afraid of driving. I didn't think any of the roads were that bad, but I did think we would've been constantly lost if we were driving ourselves. Obviously people do it all the time without issue, but I'm glad we didn't have a car. The Tico drivers are a little crazy, but they know what they're doing for the most part...they don't pass on blind curves (for the most part) and they don't really speed excessively (again, for the most part).

The Central Valley is beautiful and Alajuela makes a great base for exploring it. Again, our time here didn't seem like enough...I'm so glad we did Poas/La Paz and Zoo Ave and explored downtown Alajuela, but I wish we had gotten to see Grecia/Sarchi/Zarcero, downtown San Jose and Los Churros, among other things.

Well, that's about it. Overall, we had a wonderful trip in a beautiful country! We really loved our time here, and if I do ever get back, I have some good ideas for what to do next time! Any questions, feel free to ask!

Pura Vida!
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May 27th, 2008, 07:15 PM
  #17
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The photo link is posted on a thread entitled SuCo27's CR photos. Just in case:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...t=0&dirtyBit=1
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Jun 9th, 2008, 10:11 AM
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It was fantastic having Suco email me before we arrived at Jungle Villa. How lucky is that? Questions answered live so to speak! We arrived the day she left.


Love your report and your photos are great!

Will get mine out soon I hope.

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Jun 10th, 2008, 05:31 AM
  #19
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Thanks Parrmt! I can't wait to read your report. And I hope you'll post pics...especially one of that baby sloth! Glad you made it home OK, if a little late!
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