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AlessandraZoe Sep 17th, 2014 04:43 AM

Directly book Manuel Antonio Expeditions? Or just deal with hotel?
We are staying at La Mariposa a few days before Christmas, and the people there have suggested booking airport transport from SJO and tour expeditions through the hotel's front desk. I have no clue as to who provides those services.

I had read Volcanogirl's account of her stay at Tulemar Bungalows, and while that property is fully booked, I am seriously thinking of engaging the services of the company that guided Volcanogirl, Manuel Antonio Expeditions.

Should I just go straight to MAE or do you think I'm better off dealing with the hotel staff? Would love experienced feedback.

Thank you!

incabod Sep 18th, 2014 04:07 PM

Manuel Antonio Expeditions are excellent, go direct if you can. Not all guides and services are created equal and there is no telling who the hotel uses unless you ask them. If the hotel also uses MAE then its just a matter of price, make sure they are not jacking up the price at all. Have a blast on vaca.

AlessandraZoe Sep 19th, 2014 07:25 AM

Thanks, incabod. I'm getting frustrated, though, in that I have emailed MAE a few days ago and have yet to receive a reply. I know it's months off, but I also know they get booked up fast.

volcanogirl Sep 20th, 2014 05:59 PM

We booked directly with Manuel Antonio Expeditions. I'd definitely use them again and book directly with them. My policy with email in CR is to follow up with a second email if I haven't heard anything after a few days. If that doesn't work, then I call. They're a great company. I hope you're able to connect with them.

AlessandraZoe Sep 28th, 2014 09:57 AM

Thanks volcanogirl. I have been out of the country, thus I have not been able to respond on this forum. I have read EVERYTHING you have ever posted. You are SO contributory. Fodors owes you big time.

costaricacoffee Sep 28th, 2014 12:56 PM

Alessandra, make sure that you are getting advise from a real fellow traveler and not a travel agent in disguise. Always double check the identity of the people who are giving you advise, you will be surprised.

My advise: hotels are always intermediaries, they get a commission from the adventure/tour/transport operators, it is standard in the industry all over the globe. Now, unless it is a really bad season, the outfitters will not give you a discount equivalent to the commission they are going to pay so my feeling is that you would be better off to book thru the hotel because you will have more leverage if anything goes wrong. Now, if you into saving the most money, you can take a cab from the Quepos airport to La Mariposa, the cab fee is regulated by law and they have to use the meter, it will definitely be cheaper than a private transport which most likely be a minivan.

good luck!

volcanogirl Sep 28th, 2014 03:23 PM

Thanks, AZ - I'm glad I could help. I know that when we went out with Juan Brenes from MAE he said that he had limited accessibility to his e-mail, but I know his business is really important to him. We used them for both the Damas mangrove tour and the guided tour of the park; they even let us go to their house for lunch on one of the tour we did with them. I hope you have a great trip.

mlgb Sep 29th, 2014 05:28 AM

costaricacoffee, I hope you aren't trying to imply that volcanogirl is anything other than a frequent tourist to Costa Rica. She gives lots of good advice here.

I do agree on tripadvisor there are a lot of disguised travel industry professionals giving advice but it hasn't been a big problem on Fodors. I see you just joined Fodors this month, and have a link in your profile. People could start making assumptions about your own motives, too.

AlessandraZoe Sep 29th, 2014 07:35 AM

Thank you so much for trying to warn me away from forum shills, but I think we'll be OK.

While I have not been on this forum, I more or less "live" on the Europe forum. On that forum, I can tell you which of our posters there knows the most about Ireland, or Scotland, or Dijon, France (who happens to be a TA, but is a very forthright person) or Turkey, and I'm pretty aware when someone "new" tries out a sales scam on us.

Most of us over there complain a lot about Trip Advisor, even though we all use it, because TA has no real verification process. I know people whose job it is to raise approval ratings for establishments, tours, etc.

Like mlgb, I look at posting history on Fodors. Volcanogirl's detailed posts over her seven years here have certainly given me the immediate impression that she is a darn good expert.

incabod Sep 29th, 2014 09:22 AM

Costaricacoffee, not sure who you are trying to accuse, but seeing as not many have commented on this thread I will respond. If you are insinuating I am an agent you are mistaken. I am a former hotel owner in Costa Rica. I have not been since 2007 and have no connection with anyone I recommend. My recommendations come from years working in the business yes, and I make no apologies about that. I am in a unique position to tell people about the good I have found and the not so good based on my own experiences and the experiences of thousands of hotel guests that used services throughout the country.

I am also a destination expert over on TA. Volcanogirl is great, though we miss her over on TA she has always been a great source of info wherever she advises anyone.

I have always tried my best to give balance to the TA forum, to offer people choices over having any single company shoved down anyones throat as happens so often there. You are not wrong about there being professionals in that forum. If you do not like my posting style, and your words were directed at me, then I am sorry you feel that way and you are mistaken.

AlessandraZoe Sep 29th, 2014 09:51 AM

Let's all calm down.

And let's all agree that there are many people who could be accused of getting some financial advantage--be it a hotel owner or a TA or whatever--who actually are valuable on a forum, who are very straightforward, very ethical resources.

And it is always helpful to be "buyer beware".

I appreciate all who look out for the interests of others.

volcanogirl Sep 29th, 2014 11:10 AM

costaricacoffee, most people on here have been posting for years. incabod is a well respected poster on multiple forums. I see that sort of thing over on tripadvisor more than I do here. I think most people are smart enough to figure out if someone is pushing their own company.

Alessandra, I personally like to book directly because we've stayed at hotels that only use specific companies or will add on an upcharge for their services, and I like to pick the company on my own based on my own research. I do usually book my transportation through the hotels when we reserve them and have been happy doing that.

AlessandraZoe Sep 29th, 2014 11:17 AM

Makes perfect sense, VG.

I just got back from a trip, and I shall try MAE again. What are the email addresses for MAE that others are using? Perhaps I have the wrong address.

Thank you all.


volcanogirl Sep 29th, 2014 11:19 AM

AZ, if I remember correctly I used this info.

incabod Sep 29th, 2014 12:21 PM

yea, thats what I have for MAE contact info as well VG. If they do not email back then maybe give them a call AZ. Good folks there, great guides.

AlessandraZoe Oct 1st, 2014 07:12 AM

Volcanogirl and incabod: Your information was the same as what I used. However, following your advice, I emailed again and did get a response.

Juan will be giving us an MA private tour on Sunday and will give us the Damas Mangrove group tour Monday.

I thanked him and told him I was going to thank him, too.

AlessandraZoe Oct 1st, 2014 07:17 AM

Correction: "and told him I was going to thank YOU."

Egads I'm getting old :)

volcanogirl Oct 1st, 2014 10:27 AM

inca, we always seem to be on the same page!

AZ, glad you were able to reach Juan. We did a private tour too, and I was really glad we did it that way since some tour groups can get pretty big. I just read someone's comment that they only use American companies and that seems really sad to me. I think it was after the mangrove tour that they invited us to Paul's home, and his wife made a meal for us. Great hospitality. Juan has an incredible eagle eye. He pointed out a lot of things we would have missed. My husband was interested in seeing some particular bird not common in MA, and Juan even offered to take us on his own time to an area known for that species. I hope you have some great sightings.

incabod Oct 1st, 2014 05:52 PM

You are going to have a blast AZ, really awesome guides, glad it worked out.

AlessandraZoe Jan 1st, 2015 06:58 AM

Just wanted to follow up on our experience with Juan Brenes of Manual Antonio Expeditions.


We were so happy we did the private tour. The day of our tour became hot so very fast, and the people on group tours around us became very frustrated as they waited their turn to see through the scope.

I'm a "nature person"; my husband is not. Yet my husband probably had an even better experience than I. He and Juan, when not spotting creatures, talked business the entire tour. He said over beers later, "Juan is SUCH a guy's guy."

We came away with these impressions:
1) Juan is THE MAN. One could tell all the other guides on the trails held him in high regard. One of the other guides came over to us as we were having a snack and said that Juan had probably employed at one time or another at least 1/2 of the guides we saw around us. And he said, "They find out soon being an owner is not what it's made out to be."
2) Juan has no degree, but he is more than a "spotter" of wildlife. He can tell you the life cycle of ANYTHING on the trail. He was a kid who took frogs apart for a bit (typical biologist childhood)until he finally "got it" that life and nature were things to value above all.
2) Private tours are worth every penny.
3) Hotel arrangements might not steer one right. When we checked in to La Mariposa, the desk clerk suggested that a) he did not know of "Juan" or "Manual Antonio Expeditions"--which is pretty much impossible given MAE's history in the business. When he told me he thought he should "confirm" my reservation, I said, "You know, I worry about EVERYTHING in life, but whether or not Juan will show tomorrow is not one of them." And I was right.
4) Juan is worried about TA ratings reliability and statistical indexing--as are most of us veteran posters here on Fodors. We know our communities here (I "live" on the Europe forum) and I know I never look at a TA hotel rating without looking at too because TA will accept ratings from anyone.
5) There is a reason some people do more than nature tours with Juan. There was no financial gain for him to send me better driving directions back to SJO, plus this man has NO free time. At midnight, he had sent me much better directions than the ones I had gotten from Hertz.

So all in all?
If we return to Costa Rica, we will contact Juan right away.

Thank you, thank you, VolcanoGirl. And thank you so much, too, inchabod, for backing up her opinion. Let me know if you need advice for Europe--I'll totally be at your service.

volcanogirl Jan 1st, 2015 12:43 PM

AZ, yay, I'm so glad it all worked out and that you were able to connect with Juan. Yes, he's awesome! And glad your husband had fun too. I think Juan is everything a great guide should be - smart, personable, really hard working, just the whole package. He really goes out of his way to make his clients happy. We were just so impressed with the way he handled everything and the way he has been able to build his business. Did you meet his partner too? Those guys are a hoot together!

AlessandraZoe Jan 1st, 2015 05:04 PM

I did not get to meet his partners, but its sounds like a reason to go back to Costa Rica!

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