Family trip to Costa Rica

Old Apr 17th, 2008, 12:06 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2007
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Family trip to Costa Rica

Our family of four including two boys (ages 6 and 8) arrived in San Jose on April 1.

Car rental: I had booked a small 4x4 with Hertz. When I talked with the agent over the phone, he told me that the $165 rate for the week included mandatory insurance. When we went to the Hertz counter at the airport, they told me that they did not have any of these types of cars left, so they sent me to Payless. I was very concerned at this point because I couldn’t remember if this was one of the “bad” companies. They also told me that the $165 did not include any insurance (which most of you probably know), and liability insurance would be $20 per day for 80% coverage. So, our car ended up costing $325 for the week. We never had any problems with the card, and my husband drove it pretty hard! We decided to rent a cell phone for emergency purposes and we also used it to call family back in the states. This was $75 for the week. We felt it was worth it.
The people at Payless were very helpful and gave us really good directions to Peace Lodge. My first thoughts about the roads and the scenery were “wow – this is very different!”.

1st night - Peace Lodge – The kids and I loved this. We don’t normally stay in expensive places when we travel, so this was a different experience for us. We were in a standard room, and they brought in two cots for the boys. There was still plenty of room. We had lunch at the buffet which wasn’t so ok. We hiked down to the waterfalls which were beautiful and took the shuttle back up. We walked around the park and loved feeding the hummingbirds. The aviary was also a lot of fun. The macaw climbed on my back which was neat. Everything here was so well kept and the grounds were beautiful. We felt like we were the only ones staying there because we didn’t see many people. The boys enjoyed having the pool area to themselves. We did the frog night tour. This lasted about 45 minutes and was $10 for adults and $5 for kids. It was very informative, but my six year old got a little bored and tired since he had been up since 4am. We also thought we would be able to hold the frogs, but we couldn’t. Although breakfast wasn’t included in the price of the room, it was very good. I really did not want to leave this place. They gave us great directions to Arenal.

2nd and 3rd night – Los Lagos, Arenal – The kids really loved this place. However, tt was a few steps down from the Peace Lodge. I could tell things were not well maintained here – there were lots of weeds in the landscaping, painting needed to be done, and I saw a broken picnic table near the pool. However, the pools were a lot of fun for us. There were 3 slides, and we enjoyed all of them. The view of the volcano from the pool is beautiful. We had dinner in the restaurant our first night. I thought it was very good. The breakfasts were very good, too. We did the canopy tour with the company onsite. It was $35 per person if you paid cash. We had so much fun! I could not believe that my six year old did not get scared. If you go ziplining, make sure you do the superman! A photographer went with the group and took pictures the entire time. We also got a picture CD with about 800 pictures for $25. It was definitely worth the cost. Overall, we did like Los Lagos. We would stay there again if our kids have anything to say about it.

Our original plans were to go to the Hanging Bridges in the afternoon after the canopy tour. However, the boys were tired and they wanted to swim. So, we thought we would go the next morning before we left for Manuel Antonio. Mistake! We were there about 2 ½ hours. We still had to check out of our room, get money, get gas, and eat lunch before we left La Fortuna. So, it was 12:30 before we left the town. Our youngest son started crying about his stomach after an entire 20 minutes of driving. He did this for about 4 ½ hours! I still don’t know what was wrong – it must have been the continuous hairpin curves down one mountain and back up the next! We lost some time in San Ramon because we didn’t know which way to go. All in all, it took about 6 ½ hours to get to Manuel Antonio. This included stopping a few times for bathroom breaks and roadwork. Thankfully by the time it was dark, we were driving on flat, straight roads.

4th, 5th and 6th nights – Villas de la Selva, Manuel Antonio – When we went into our room, there was a huge toad in the floor. My older son said, “Mommy, I just saw a lizard on the wall!”. As I walked around the room, I noticed some “stuff” all over it (the bath towels, the sink, the shelves), and we realized it was lizard poop! I was so grossed out! There was nothing we could do about it because it was 7 pm and I had already paid for this place. This was quite a let down from the previous places we had stayed. We saw the owner later that evening, and I told her about it. She just said, “Oh, that was just a little gecko. You’ll have some ants, too. What do you expect when you are in the jungle? Don’t worry, they don’t get in the bed.” She did say that she would let us look at another room in the morning after people checked out. So, I hardly got any sleep because I was afraid that a lizard was going to crawl on me during the night! The next morning when I was in the bathroom, I looked on the ceiling, and there were hundreds of ants going in and out of a hole in the ceiling. I could not believe that I had actually spent the night in this place!

We took the owner up on her offer and looked at another room. It was much cleaner, and there was no lizard poop anywhere. This room was a little smaller, and she had to bring in another bed, but it was actually decent. The patio was wonderful, and the view was great!

There was a pool at this hotel, and we always were alone while we were swimming. I don’t think there were any other guests on our last night. Another good thing about this place was that we could walk to the beach. I think it was 300 meters down a paved drive. The walk back up was tiring but not terrible. We actually saw a boa constrictor in the process of squeezing a lizard on the side of the path I should say that I did ask on this forum about this hotel, and I was told to choose Costa Verde over this. I made a mistake! I should have listened to you! I promise that I won’t make the same mistake again.

We decided to go to the beach down from our hotel on the first day. We bought some sunscreen and applied it before we went out. I had heard about the riptides at this beach, but they weren’t bad that day. After that, we enjoyed our pool. We never reapplied sunscreen during this time, and our children paid the price. They (and my husband) got soooooo burnt. We just did not think about how strong the sun was, and we were having so much fun that didn’t realize how long we had been out there. We went to the national park the next day and hired a guide, but the sun was so hot, that we had to leave as soon as the tour was over. Our 6 year old was miserable because he was burning so bad. We didn’t get to enjoy the ocean here and paid $80 for 2 hours. I was bummed, but we’ll have to go back there next time.

Please, please, please use and REAPPLY sunscreen!

7th night – La Rosa de Americas, Alejuela – This was a small hotel which was about 15 minutes from the airport. It was about $100 (including taxes). It was nothing fancy, but it was nice and very clean. We also got have dinner with my great aunt who lives in Costa Rica. I had not seen her since I was a child.

We had a wonderful trip. Our children felt like they were on an adventure. I never felt unsafe and most people were very friendly. Next time, we will definitely choose one place to go instead of driving 6 ½ hours.
CritterP is offline  
Old Apr 17th, 2008, 12:30 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 875
Thanks for the report. Glad you had a great trip (with the exception of the ants and lizard poop, that is). We'll be taking kids to Costa Rica this summer, and Peace Lodge is one of our destinations.

Did you drive directly to Arenal from Peace Lodge, or did you make any stops on the way? We're doing the same drive in July.
Dana_M is offline  
Old Apr 17th, 2008, 12:40 PM
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We drove straight to Arenal. We did stop for a quick lunch and gas. It took about 2 1/2 hours with stops. That wasn't a bad drive.
CritterP is offline  
Old Apr 17th, 2008, 02:00 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
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Thanks for your report, Critter.

Sounds like you had a good time overall. Amazing that you got to see a boa in feeding mode! That's not something most people get to see!

The Peace Lodge and La Paz gardens are pretty spectacular, aren't they? Love that place!
cmerrell is offline  
Old Apr 17th, 2008, 04:07 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 5,541
You're right, you should've listened!! No, I'm just kidding. Seriously sometimes those ups & down help you down the line, even though it sucks to have them happen at all. To have a nice gecko in your room is nice to eat the bugs but it sounds like you had the whole extended family!

Agree on Peace Lodge. It's not usually the type of place I stay but it is incredible fun and I can only imagine for kids it would be wonderful.
tully is offline  
Old Apr 17th, 2008, 05:02 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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No, 2 1/2 hrs with stops isn't bad at all. We'll have plenty of time to make a few detours on the way.

Dana_M is offline  
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