Detailed CR Trip Report - MA, Arenal, Monteverde

Old Mar 18th, 2006, 12:43 PM
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Detailed CR Trip Report - MA, Arenal, Monteverde

Just got back from CR. Thanks to everyone who helped plan our trip. Our trip to Costa Rica was just AMAZING!!! This was our first trip and I can't wait to go back already.I will never forget playing with monkeys, watching red lava flow from a volcano, and ziplining thru the cloud forest!

So here goes:

We arrived in the morning in San Jose. Airport was nice and efficient - got out of there in less than half hour. Took a Sansa cessna to MA. what an experience! tiny plane but ride was much smoother than i had expected which was a nice surprise.

MA - Stayed 3 nights here and wished we had a couple more days. I was a little skeptical about MA after reading many negative reviews, but i LOVED it. What's not to love about beautiful beaches, lots of monkeys and iguanas, and fantastic views. It was hot and humid though so pack lots of summery stuff.

Costa Verde Hotel - Really liked this hotel. Definitely go to Anaconda right before sunset to see lots of endangered squirrel monkeys. Must've been baby season since we saw lots of mama monkeys with babies!! The adult pool had incredible views but no shade. we preferred our pool in Area A. no bar there but the mini fridge was key to keeping our beers cold which we purchased up the street at Super Josette (it's not that close walking but a cab ride was only $1 each way). Only negative was front desk wasn't very nice (they almost made us miss our Finca Valmy Tour - they told us FV called to say they were running late and pick up would be at 9:30 instead of 8:30. Valentin knocked on our door at 8:45 - apparently he had never called and the front desk had blatantly lied!!) Overall, i would HIGHLY recommend this hotel.

Activities:

MA Park - Definitely pay the $7 to get in!!beach inside the park was much more beautiful than the public beach and not as rocky. We did the Punta Cathedral hike which turned out to be well worth it because we saw lots of capuchin monkeys. However, the trail was very steep in the hot humidity and the views were no better than from our hotel. the beach water was so refreshing and beautiful. don't put your stuff under the trees. we saw 3 capuchins steal a giant watermelon slice right out of a backpack. it was so funny - those monkeys are so smart!!

Finca Valmy - this tour had high potential. beautiful trails with lots of butterflies and the lunch at then end was just delicious!! Valentin was very friendly and knowlegeable. we went on a monday so there were 15 of us! the trails were narrow so the horses kept bumping into each other and we had to wait a long time at spots while everyone took their pictures. waterfall was just a trickle which was a disappointment. Overall, if it wasn't so hot (most of it isn't under shade so we were just baking in the sun for 3 hours) and there weren't so many people, i would've enjoyed it more.

Restaurants:

Anaconda - great sandwiches at lunch. Must go to see the monkeys before sunset. Dinner was good but pricey.

Cantina and Avion - good food and the atmospheres were great.

Soda Marlin - just ok. nothing special.

MONTEVERDE: next we were off to Monteverde. Took interbus which was very comfortable. The driver even stopped at the Rio Tarcoles so we could take pictures of the crocs. there were so many and so big!! really nice treat. Road to monteverde WAS very bumpy and bad. in fact, we were making great time til we got a flat tire. our driver was very apologetic and fixed it in no time. It was cold in monteverde...i didn't bring a sweatshirt or jacket and sure wish i did!!

ARCO IRIS - what a great bargain of a hotel. our cabin was REALLY nice and the owners were so friendly and helpful. If you don't have a car, and even if you do, I cannot recommend this hotel enough. It was just a 2 minute walk from the town of Santa Elena which had lots of restaurants, stores, etc.

Activities:

Selvatura Hanging Bridges - it was a nice hike and fun to walk over the bridges. We saw no wildlife at all here and most peeople we talked to said the same. If you have extra time, do it, but otherwise i'd skip it. On the otherhand, the ziplines looked amazing. i wish i had done it there.

Original Canopy Tour - ziplining thru the cloud forest was amazing. i chose this one cuz i'm terrified of heights and heard this was the easiest. it turned out to be not scary at all so i wished i had tried selvatura or one of the more adventurous options. The Original Canopy Tour only had 7 platforms and each line was really short. They also closed down the strangler fig so you don't get to climb through it anymore. I would highly recommend ziplining but try Selvatura instead. on the plus side, the guides were SOOOOO nice and took great pictures for us.

Monteverde Cloud Forest - A MUST GO if you're in Monteverde. It was soo cool - like hiking in the clouds! we didn't see much wildlife but it was just cool to be here. we saw lots of coatis right outside of the reserve which was cool.

Hummingbird Gallery - just outside of the reserve. just wonderful!!! lots of different hummingbirds...it was just sooo cool. we even saw a fox out there too.

Butterfly Farm - unless you're really interested in butterflies and insects, i'd skip it. the guide was nice but just droned on and on (over 2 hours!!) about the butterflies and insects which was really boring for us. there weren't as many butterflies as i had expected. I wish i had gone to the frog pond instead as i didn't get to see any frogs that looked so cool in the postcards.

Restaurants:

Morpho's - yummy, yummy. the morpho's special fruit shake was so good. so was their soup.

Solo Buono - the rice with chicken was the best i had on the whole trip. they pack up food to go so great to stop here and get a snack before heading out to the activities.

La Marqueza - skip it. worst meal my boyfriend and i had on the whole trip.

ARENAL: we took to boat jeep boat to Arenal. The road down to boat ride was just as bumpy and bad as the road we came in. BUT it was very scenic which was great. lots of cows and countryside. The boatride was nice and relaxing.

ARENAL OBSERVATORY LODGE: we stayed our first night here and i just didn't want to leave. At night we saw lots of the red lava flow from the volcano which was just amazing and undescribeable. In the morning we saw tons of amazing different color birds. (right outside of the restaurant, they put fruit on a tree and tons of birds hang out there.) i spent hours just staring at the beautiful birds, butterflies, and hummingbirds. We saw the volanco grumble and smoke just mushrooming from the top. soo cool. We hiked to the waterfall which was well worth the short hike. Didn't see any howlers but definitely heard them which was cool. We stayed in room 7 with a great view of the volcano. The rooms itself was a little rustic for my liking (lots of ants and bugs) but the areas surrounding the lodge was just so wonderful, i didn't want to leave. I suppose if you have a car, you could just come here for the day if you don't like rustic hotels.

TABACON RESORT: loved this hotel as well. ask for a room in building 3. it was luxurious!!! and would've offered a great view of hotel had it not been clouded over the whole time. i wouldn't recommend staying anywhere else in Arenal!!! i know some people think it's expensive but it includes free access to the hot springs the day you arrive and the day you leave. So $35 x 2 people x 2days = $140. so when you think about it that way, the hotel was only $50 was the nicest resort in Arenal!

ACTIVITIES:

Tabacon Hot Springs and Spa - just beautiful. but hot! it was easier to sit in the water at night but we spent a lot of time at the pool with the wetbar. The whole hot springs area was incredible with lots of waterfalls and beautifully landscaped. well worth the money to spend a day here even if you're not staying at the resort. The spa was such a treat. Bf and i did the couples massage and it was so relaxing and wonderful. the couples massages are done in a private area along the springs which was extra great.

Restaurants:

Observatory Lodge - both breakfast and dinner were ok. if you don't have a car, you don't really have a choice. my bf had the garlic steak which was AWESOME!! highly recommended.

Tabacon Resort - food and drinks were much pricier than anywhere in CR but was very yummy. the free breakfast had a ton options.

El Novillo - really yummy steaks and rice dishes. Warning though - even though it's less than a km from Tabacon, cabbie charged us $7 since they have to come from La Fortuna.

ALAJUELA - took grayline to Hotel Villa Bonita. another easy and nice transfer. Villa Bonita was good for it's price and proximity to the airport. however, the area around the hotel was kind of sketchy. walking to the supermarket we had 3 people stop us to beg for money.

Got to the airport early. don't forget money for departure tax! we had to hit up the ATM at the aiport cuz we didn't have enough. and then we were off to home. sniff. sniff. wonderful vacation coming to an end.

FINAL TIPS:

1) don't exchange money at the airport. exchange rate was 500 to $1 almost everywhere and all places took US or colones.

2) I'm glad i didn't drive. transfers were cheap and easy. so were taxis. there are NO road signs anywhere - i don't know how people find anything. plus didn't seem to be a lot of parking and road were terrible.

3) Beer is cheap. imperial is the best! Food was better than i had expected. Order lots of fruit smoothies. they are cheap and delicious. Lunch cost an average of $20 for 2 including a meal and 1 drink each. Dinner was about $35 for meal, appetizer, drink. this was a little higher than i had expected but don't forget that tax and service is 23%. still much cheaper than in the $US.

4) pack a travelling alarm clock. most hotels don't have phones or clocks. pack a sweatshirt and bug spray for monteverde.

5) best place to see monkeys is in MA. look for them around lunchtime and right before sunset. they are so fun to watch swinging from tree to tree.

6) backup your digital pics if you can. i lost all of mine cuz my memory card decided to die on the last day. all 200 irresplaceable memories gone! didn't even know that could happen. i've called Nikkon, the memory card people, several photo shops. apparently, it's rare, but it happens. i cried for days. so don't let it happen to you!!

FINAL THOUGHTS: Costa Rica was a wondeful country and everything we had hoped for and more. The people were so friendly and the wildlife and beauty of the country is unmatched. you really felt like you were a part of nature. PURA VIDA!!!





sdtravelhappy is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2006, 12:57 PM
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One more thing. booked most of our hotels, transfers, and sansa flight thru vacationcity.com. they are wonderful and you can "live chat online" with them anytime to answer questions. Don't know if we were just lucky, or because of vacationcity, but i thought we got the best rooms possible at every hotel we stayed at. i booked a few things on my own and had to scan and fax credit card #'s extra, so it was nice to have vacationcity take care of all that for us.
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Old Mar 18th, 2006, 01:26 PM
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Thank you for all of this! We leave Monday morning and do the same itinerary in different order...Arenal, Monteverde and MA. Where do you suggest changing money if not at the airport?
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Old Mar 18th, 2006, 01:55 PM
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Take 20, 10, 5 $ bills too, anywhere you pay you can use US$, they give back the change in colon. In this way you won't end up having too much colon left.
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Old Mar 18th, 2006, 01:59 PM
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we never exchanged any money. Just paid in $US dollars, and people gave us change in colones. Try to bring a few small US bills to start for taxis and buses. Nobody ripped us off on exchanging. 500 Colones to $1 was the norm everywhere.
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Old Mar 19th, 2006, 03:55 PM
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We wer there at the same time. I'll write my trip report in a bit. Funny, though..we drove and could not have imagined the trip without a car. To each his own!
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