hip's 17 day Costa Rica trip with 10/yo daughter

Jun 14th, 2007, 09:10 PM
  #21  
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Day 7 - We woke up to a beautiful day in Arenal. Full sun, full volcano, awesome. I usually enjoyed a typico breakfast of beans, rice, eggs, homeade tortillas and fruit, while my daughter prefers the banana pancakes or french toast, with scrambled eggs. There's always too much food, but super delicious. I'm a coffee person, so of course I always looked forward to the Costa Rican coffee as well. We decided to start of the day with some pool time and then we headed into town to do some meandering. I'm not really a souvenir shopper type, but it's fun to look and we found a a soda with the best empanadas to bring home for lunch. The restaurant was kind enough the night before to tell us they would always heat up leftovers for us whenever we wanted. We ate on our "patio" and I was amazed at all the hummingbirds and small colorful birds that the gardens attracted. After that we decided to go for the canopy tour. We talked with Alex, the concierge, about using Sunset, but he convinced us to use Aventuras because the ziplines are longer, the location is over the falls, and for $10 more they include horseback riding (plus they have a butterfly and heleconias (sp?) garden, but both are small). Aventuras picked us up from our hotel and took us to their complex. Then, we took an open multi-seated truck like thing up into the rainforest. After that we walked up to the platform that overlooked the falls and watch people, watching us as if we were crazy, while we were fitted with our harnesses. Not that it matters much, but I certainly thought I'd be able to see the ground while zipping. Not so! The lines go over canyons and they're deep and you pretty much say your prayers before your first zip. My daughter, who I thought would back out, was ready to go! She went tandem with one of the guides. The guides were really cute and distracting and I was gullable because of being a little scared. Allain kept tugging at my harness saying "oops, oh, yeah, I think it will be ok, I'm sure it will be ok". Thanks Allain! Also, he mentioned to me about the 7 crosses I'd see while zipping. I got quiet, and then I asked did they fall because of cable, or harness failure. He asked what was I talking about, he was only joking. Acckk! Is this supposed to relax me!??!?! Anyway, after the first zip, where it feels surreal and like you could drop at any time, it's all cake Oh, but be aware there's quite a hike up, and up, and up, and you wear this heavy thing for the harness. Once you get started though, all is smooth sailing. I was the only one who did the tarzan yell. I had too! They looked at me like I was crazy! On one zip I stopped about 20' short and I had to turn myself around and pull myself in. It's A LOT harder than it looks. Another time I was about 15' short and Allain came to get me. He made it look easy. The rest were a cinch and soooo much fun! My daughter wanted to do it again, I would if not for the hike! We survived and after than went on a short (45 min) mellow horseback ride. We then had free time to explore the butterfly observatory and heleconios. Actually, there were many more poisonous frogs to see (Blue Jean and Poison Dart) that weren't even supposed to be there! We headed back to our hotel and got ready to go to Eco-Thermales. We ate some leftovers and one of the owner's (we spoke in sign language and one of the owner's gave us a ride there in her vehicle. Although I don't have anything to compare it too, I though Eco-Thermales was just lovely. The pools were adjacent to eachother, stairstepping up, with the coolest being at the bottom with 3 cold waterfalls. We literally couldn't go hotter than the 3rd pool, I can't imagine doing it in the heat of the day, the evening was warm enough. There were quite a few couples there, and then a couple of larger groups. Some wandering around the pools with drinks in their hand, so I had to join in. The bar is on the honor system, you just order your drinks and then at the end of the eve you tell them what you had and pay for it. Oh yeah, we had a lightning storm for a while so we got out, others didn't. There was a lone howler monkey in the tree above us. Hopefully it just left the group because it was hungry, and not injured. You usually won't see them alone. The cashier gave us a ride back to our hotel after sounding the alarm off for about 5 minutes, and we got settled back into our room. All in all, a pretty good day.
hipvirgochick is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 07:37 PM
  #22  
 
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Those Aventuras ziplines do sound fun! We did Sky Tram/Sky Trek through Sunset Tours last year and had a blast. We also went to Tabacon which is beautifully opulent, but Eco-Thermales sounds wonderful as well. The Arenal area just has so many terrific options for activities. You could probably spend weeks there and never do it all.

Looking forward to your next installment!
cmerrell is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 07:53 PM
  #23  
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cmerrell - I agree, Arenal has so many options and I haven't really heard of any "bad" ziplining experience! For me, I have to go budget in places where I can, so I didn't splurge on Tabacon. I imagine it's quite beautiful!
hipvirgochick is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 08:27 PM
  #24  
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Day 8 - Woke up to have an early breakfast because Aventuras was picking us up at 7:30 for the Cano Negro tour. Lucked out on another beautiful day with the sun shining down on the volcano. I contemplated not doing this tour, because of the wildlife we'd see in Osa, but so glad we did! Birds were much different here and such a variety. As we drove down the road there were a couple of other buses stopped along the road and people checking out something on a tree about 6' up. To our delight, it was a sloth! We couldn't get any closer than this! She slowly rotated her head around entirely upside down, and then booked up the tree at a pace of about 1' per 10 seconds it climbed up another 5'. I imagine to leave us gawkers behind So we headed up to the boat launch and boarded a river boat with our guide and driver. There were about 10 of us in the group. As all the tours, they provide snacks, juice and water and a stop for lunch. Oh yeah, on the way we stopped at a bridge to see the "tree chickens" which were about a zillion large iguanas sunning on the branches of several trees. Pretty cool. Our guides knowledge was excellent and he told us everying in English and then also in Spanish. The driver was also an awesome spotter and would get the guides attention when he saw something. I don't really consider myself a birder, so I won't pretend to remember the names of all the birds we saw. In fact, I still need to get my guide out so I can title my pics. However, this was my first outing that made me realize how cool birding was Big, little, colorful, camoflauged, sleek, fluffy...this trip really sparked my interest in wanting to learn more about indigenious species. We also saw tons of caimans, turtles, lizards, a few groups of howlers and white faced capuchins. The spoon-billed pelican (I think that's right, or is it stork, sigh...) was particularly cool looking. At one point, the driver rammed us into the bank and we lifted up some branches and there were some nesting bats. They were all in a row, cute, eye blinking little things. In between all of this wildlife we stopped on the bank where there was an open air kitchen/cafeteria seating and had a very nice typico lunch. At one point we were at the border of Nicaragua so we de-boarded the boat to take some pics and a little walk around and headed back. The entire day was full of wildlife. We literally saw one creature after the other, so it was very exciting. Plus it was such a beautiful, clear day, I plopped myself outside at the head of the boat for most of the tour and worked on my tan. Mind you, I'm a very pale girl and live in the NW, so when I got back from vacation SO NICE AND TAN I was accused of faking and baking. I can never win! What a great trip this was. After we returned home, we did some quick pool time, dinner in the restaurant and some regular relaxation. Ahhhh...gotta love vacation
hipvirgochick is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 09:00 PM
  #25  
 
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I'm really enjoying your report!!! It's bringing back some nice memories - We really enjoyed the Cano Negro tour as well - and we stopped to see those bats too! They must be pretty permanent residents!

I'm looking forward to hearing about the rest of the trip!

ShellD is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 08:48 AM
  #26  
 
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We're loving your report, hvc! Thank you. Also: when we were checking out of El Silencio a week before you, I suddenly had a flash that you were going to be visiting as well. Did you catch our greeting in the guestbook?
ascoli is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 08:41 PM
  #27  
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ShellD -- Thanks for the kudos. It's fun remembering Re: the bats, I agree, I think many of the guides share the "secrets" so everyone has the pleasure, which is great!

ascoli -- I completely missed the guidebook all together! Darn it! We had the greatest time there. Everyone was especially nice and thoughtful and seemed to think it was sweet that us two girls were travelling alone
hipvirgochick is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 09:12 PM
  #28  
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Day 9 - We slept in a little and then had our last breakfast and sighting of bunny. Another full view of the volcano. I feel really lucky! It took some time to pack everything up for our 10:00 pick up and transfer to Peace Lodge. Peace Lodge arranged this for us, which was fine, but after I committed I realized we could have paid much less than $140! Ouch...Don't let this happen to you! Anyway, we had a nice drive and I loved the long drive up the mountain to the lodge. It was gorgeous. During this drive, as well as the other drives, it was really interesting watching the plantations, housing, flora and fauna change. We arrived around noon I think and checked into our rooms. I had mixed feelings about the rooms because part of me thought they were way overdone in a Flinstone's sort of way, and part of me wanted to hop from waterfall shower, to jacuzzi bathtub, to jacuzzi on the balcony, to sit in front of the fire. How fickle can one be? I guess what I'm saying is, the place really isn't my cup of tea for a long stay, but a really cool place to experience. I will say we took every opportunity to enjoy the amnenities while we were there! We figured we'd be spending some time in the room, so ordered up 3 movies from the library (watched only 1). Played some music from the CD library and filled up the aromatherapy machine in the bathroom with oils. It smelled good, but was kind of noisy so we didn't use it much. The hummingbird feeder on the balcony was in constant use, so it was nice to just sit and watch them. We decided to have lunch at the Trout Bar. I had the blackened mahi-mahi sandwich with yucca fries, and it was excellent. Really fresh, tender and delicious. While we sat and ate, I realized the infinity pool at the bar had a couple trout in it too. Doesn't bother me, but I found it strange the trout pond above the bar wasn't reserved for that...did they escape? Ha! Didn't see anyone swim, or anyone fish, during the 2 days we were there. I met a couple from Houston and we talked and I gave them suggestions for Arenal. They said their driver from the day before said he'd take them to Colbert's that night if they wanted, and they suggested we meet them at the front desk at 7:00 if we wanted to join them. After lunch we checked out the aviary. It's fairly large and houses less than a dozen birds and they have free ability to fly, so it's pretty humane. Also, it's possible some of these birds may have been rescued, I'm not sure. I forgot to ask. One of the Toucans had a rather large chunk out of it's bill. Leonardo (?) wasn't sure how it happened. Alex was thrilled handfeeding the Toucans. You can even pet one of the more tame ones. They were all very curious of us. Awesome to see so up close 3 different kinds. There were also a couple of mcaws and turkey vultures. Alex made fast friend with one of the vultures and named him Bob. She visited him often during our stay and they "talked" to each other. In fact when we were checking out, she had to run down because she forgot to say goodbye to Bob. I tried to teach the parrot to talk, but he wouldn't go for it. Only the "whrrr-wrrr" sexy whistle. The also had a few marmosets (in the aviary?) that were SUPER cute! We were warned not to stand right close in front of them or they'd urinate on us. I witnessed that a couple times. After the aviary we decided to go take a hot tub. We were lucky in that it was really nice weather again. I'm just not a hot jacuzzi type of person in the sun, so we made it fairly cool so it was enjoyable. We were excited to go to Colbert's as we had heard many good things. Plus, this would be the first time I attempted to wear any make-up whatsoever (besides lip gloss) since we arrived). Not to get too personal, but I did the whole shabang. Clipped nails, polished toes, shaved, plucked brows, put smelly stuff on, even a skirt. Alex did the same (except shave) and wore a dress. We went up to meet the couple and waited, and waited, and finally Jeff (?) asked us what we were waiting for. Apparently, he was waiting for them too! I guess they decided to skip it, and it was sort of a "tentative" thing, which we didn't realize. ANYHOO, we played with the cat and kept in good spirits, decided to order tortilla soup and ice cream in our room and watch "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". So, that's what we did. I have to say that our bed WOULD have been super comfortable (down comforter and pillows were nice) but the plush mattress was not longer plush, but kind of lumpy. I just dealt with it
hipvirgochick is offline  
Jun 17th, 2007, 06:35 AM
  #29  
 
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I agree hvc with you about PL so much. It's crazy over the top but at the same time it's usually for only 1 or 2 nights so you have to just give in and giggle and have fun with it. As long as people are prepared for a sort of manufactured visit - outside the exhibits and other than all the other birds flying around freely, I saw no other animals except a tiny mouse living dangerously in the aviary. Feeding & petting the toucans was defintely a highlight! Yeah, the aromatherapy thing was great but loud! I had it running during a bath and had to get up and turn it off, not a relaxing sound! Those marmosets are adorable, but the uh 'pee factor' makes it hard to get a good shot, plus they looked like if they could get ahold of your nose they would snack on it.

Bummer about your ride to Colberts, would've been nice if they'd been a little more up front with you. Oh well, at least you got to get all dressed up
tully is offline  
Jun 17th, 2007, 10:50 AM
  #30  
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tully -- Sounds like we had very similar experiences at PL! Although, we did see a northern racoon at the exit of the waterfall gardens

DAY 10 -- This morning we decided to have breakfast on our balcony so we filled out the forms the night before. Eggs, bacon, fruit, oatmeal, toast (taking a break from pinto gallo). It was a lovely day. People mention it being cooler here, which it was, but honestly I wore nothing more than tank top and shorts the entire trip, with the exception of a light sweater in the evenings at dinner and bar at Bosque del Cabo. Afterwards, we went to the hummingbird feeding at 9:15. It's important you go at the set times because they cover up all the main feeders so the birds will be more attentive to your hand feeders. What's extra nice about the garden is that it's not enclosed, all the hummingbirds are free to come and go. I wasn't really prepared for the hundreds of hummingbirds and I'm not great identifying them, so I'll just say it was a frenzy! This was my daughter's favorite part because as she sat and held one feeder in each hand, at any given minute a hummingbird was not only feeding, but also perching their little feet on her finger. How cool is that?! I did this for a while as well and it was awesome seeing them up close...and still! You can see their tongue, twice as long as their bill, reaching down into the tube. I took a zillion pics, but since the pigment is not in their feathers, but how the sun reflects upon them, it can be difficult to get the true colors in the end result. The video clip is hilarious because you just see these little things swarming around the feeder a million miles a minute. It's easy to get pics with several hummingbirds in one shot. I also searched for them in the foliage to take more natural looking shots. I had to TEAR my daughter away from this place. We were the only ones there and she had an orange tank top on, so they loved her The attendant needed to uncover the feeders though and get on with her day, so we moved along. After that, we went to the butterfly observatory. I must say this was beyond my expectations. My previous visits to butterfly observatories have been somewhat disappointing, partly in due to the lack of butterflies, lack of activity and variety. This one has so many to see and at any given time you can hold the crysalis' and watch them hatch. There are also dozens hatching in the holding area. There are sorting trays where hundreds are separated into species and the pin is inserted carefully into the tip for hanging. The guide took us around explaining everything, the difference of cacoons and crysalis, moths and butterflies, lifespans, etc. He put about 10 butterflies on my daughter's hand so I, and other visitors, took photo op's of that. Quick trip back to the aviary to see Bob and feed the toucans, then back to the room for a hot tub After lunch at the Trout Bar again, we headed off for the waterfalls. I must say the falls are spectacular! Not just the falls, but the rainforest there is lush and beautiful. It was quite hot and damp, and there are quite a few ups and downs if you really want to explore all of the observation areas, but it was very much worth it. We took our time with the hike and at the end we took the shuttle back up to the lobby. I had to shower at that point. We then headed to the serpentarium, which had quite a few varieties, but were all in small enclosures behind the glass. More wandering around the grounds and checked out the trout pool again and the gift shop. Oh, BTW, I didn't realize there is an indoor pool! It's being worked on currently, so that was a bummer, but when it's up and running I think that will be another attraction for families since the outdoor pool/trout home isn't heated. Also, there's free internet in the lobby and near the gift shop. Daughter wanted to do the 4:15 hummingbird feeding again and then we headed to the Ranario. Being on vacation I really had no sense of what time it is and the Ranario was closing when we got there. So much for leaving things until the last minute! I was kind of bummed about this, although I told her about the frogs we'd already seen during our hikes and at the Aventuras facility before, and she said that's pretty much what we'd see here for the diurnal frogs. We didn't ever try the dinner in the main restaurant, so I can't comment on how good it was. I just didn't feel like paying that much, especially for my daughter, so we at at the Trout Bar for dinner, which has plenty of selections at less than 1/2 the price. We had good conversation with the bartender and waitress about PL and the owners and things in general about Costa Rica. We intended to go on the nocturnal frog tour, but after we made it back to our room we got too relaxed and ended up watching the rest of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".
hipvirgochick is offline  
Jun 17th, 2007, 08:32 PM
  #31  
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DAY 11 - Woke up early to pack (again). We were excited about heading for Bosque del Cabo today. We headed to the restaurant for the breakfast (included with the room). There was a huge buffet with quite a variety of food, as well as made to order omelets and pancakes and such. As always, waaay too much food at every meal! But really tasty. After breakfast we met our transfer to Sansa Airport (same location as SJO). They weighed our suitcases and we were just under, yay! Also, they weighed my daughter and then asked me how much I weighed. I just added about 40 lbs to avoid being put on the scale. I figure if I overstated my weight, they wouldn't question me. Ha! The width of the aisle in the plane was a joke! Meaning, anyone larger than the "average" size person would be squeezing through. I found this kind of amusing in that the 4 seater I rode in actually seemed to have more moving around room. Anyway, the flight was pleasant and only slight turbelence. We found out later the 2 earlier flights were cancelled due to clouds, so we actually arrived earlier than people waiting until their rescheduled flights the next day. Bummer. As we landed it was pretty much as I pictured it from all the posts I've read A gravel airstrip. Yup. People were getting picked up by various hotels and we found Kevin. Super nice and energetic, that's for sure. He also had Joanna in the back, we picked up Frank along the way and another person was in the front. We discovered later the BDC trucks and vehicles pretty much coordinate picking up staff and guests, to take them back and forth all day. We stopped at the grocery store to pick up some snacks and were on our way. To be truthful, I loved the rides in the BDC jalopy's and the dodge and weave of the potholes and puddles up to knees. It was fun! It was funNY to see Kevin pull the string that operating the left windshield wiper We talked and talked and on our way we stopped to see a sloth, howlers and the great putu with baby. Good photo op's. He said he wouldn't stop for the mcaw's cause we'd see them everywhere at BDC. When we drove up I saw the immediate beauty of the grounds. Really well laid out and still kept a natural appearance of the flora and fauna. For our first lunch I had the curry chicken sandwich with papaya slices which was TOO DIE FOR! With the sandwiches come a cabbage slaw and chips. My daughter had the tuna melt, and thought it was pretty great too. We always had iced tea or juice with lunch. During our first walk on the grounds we spotted toucans, and after more walking mcaws. This was just around the driveway area. Oh, our cabina was the "Gecko". I can't remember the poster here that stayed there, but it sure was fabulous! On the cliff, view of the ocean, large deck with sofas and hammock. Inside a king bed with mosquito netting and a hide-a-bed couch, which we didn't use as a bed. Also, the outdoor showers were just lovely. Ours looked out at both jungle and down to the ocean. I did have my daughter run around at different angles to see "how much of me" could be seen, not much I guess. Not that I wouldn't have taken showers, but that I would maybe turn towards the ocean more We put on our Deet and headed for the Titi trail. I think the first time we actually went in through the exit because when we "exited" we were turned around and headed the wrong way to BDC. This being our first hike, I got a little nervous about the sun going down quickly, but it wasn't too bad. We just got turned around the right way and returned in plenty of time. For those of you regulars who are thinking "how the heck could she get lost", I'm the first to admit I have no sense of direction when I can't see the sun (too thick of forest), and I'm really not good at reading maps. Although I understand the BDC maps are "simply laid out". After the second day, I was more oriented The best part was that on our first trail we saw coati mundis, some sort of turkey vulture things and an agouti. Pretty good for the first day! It was raining that day so we had our rain ponchos on, but each day thereafter had more and more blue sky. The last 2 days were downright sunny and hot all day. The dinner bell rings sharply at 7:00pm and is served family style, which I think is great because everyone can sit together and not be afraid to be social. First night was Thai (my favorite) and chef came to ask Alex what she could make especially for her so it wouldn't be too spicy. I this was really special, Alex chose buttered noodles. Kids! The food was 5* in my book, and was the first of 5, 5* nights in my book. Everything was fresh, flavorful and cooked just perfect. Thank goodness for big plates! After I took a little bit of every dish, my plate was full. There was not one thing that I could refuse to eat! That night dessert was two freshly baked chocolate cookies with icecream. Delish! After dinner we went to the bar. I spoke with a couple who got in the day before and they hadn't run into either the toucans or the wildlife on the trails, so I pointed them in the right direction! Jose the bartender is great and a real entertainer. More later. Getting up at the crack of dawn and going all day really takes it's toll on old mom and the little one, so after a couple of margaritas we hit the hay. Super comfortable bed and we slept through the night. Didn't even hear the howlers, but others did
hipvirgochick is offline  
Jun 18th, 2007, 06:27 AM
  #32  
 
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Reminds me of our first hike on the Titi trail the first afternoon we were at BDC. I made my poor husband practically run through it as I panicked--the sun is going down! The sun is going down! I sure didn't want to be caught out in the dark (I don't have a good sense of direction either).

I did end up calming down after a while.

Looking forward to reading more about your trip!
coolbluewater is offline  
Jun 18th, 2007, 07:32 PM
  #33  
 
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Well, you knew I'd be looking forward the most to your BdC stop. Sounds fantastic of course You know this past trip I went down Titi trail 'backwards', I'd been down it so many times decided to shake it up a little The cat trap made me yelp - they used to have it taped off so I was surprised when the flash went off and snapped my knees!

Isn't Jose the coolest?! Well, everyone there is really. Looking forward to the rest!
tully is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 11:07 AM
  #34  
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
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Have enjoyed your trip report very much! Am anxious to read the rest. We "raced" through the Zapatero trail at BdC because we were concerned about getting caught in the dark.
janenicole is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 12:00 PM
  #35  
 
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Hi! I just registered today to get on. Didn't know this existed. Your trip sounds fascinating and makes me want to cancell our trip to Maui in 2 weeks. I teach 1st grade and we study rainforest habitats and I was excited to hear about the animals you all saw that I too am familiar with thru study. Your itinerary was helpful. I'd love more info and about what would we expect to pay for a trip like this? Did you book and plan your own trip? We usually do but I'd need lots more info.
goingplaces2 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 12:28 PM
  #36  
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cbw -- Glad to hear I'm not the only one getting turned around

tully -- Too funny! And yes, Jose's the coolest! He's a sweetheart

janencole -- It helps a lot to know others have been in the same "it's going to be dark soon" situation! I always carry a flashlight with me now, even during the day, just in case...

goingplaces2 - Welcome to Fodors! You will find a ton of information and helpful advice here. Once you get the hang of doing searches for specific things you are interested in, or just posting questions, you'll find it's very easy and fun to plan your own trip, within any budget.

In answer to your question, yes, I always book and plan my own trips as researching and planning is half the fun. I probably tend to "over-research", but I save a bundle, and show up being aware of a lot of things each place has to offer.

Geez-loueez though, I'm sure you'll have a WONDERFUL time in Maui! Don't have any regrets there!

I'd love to talk with you more about budgets. How does your family like to travel? Rustic, roughing it, all inclusive, 5*. i.e., what's most important to you? Do you speak Spanish?

Everyone, I will add to the trip report tonight. Thanks for taking the time to read
hipvirgochick is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2007, 08:48 AM
  #37  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
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Hi hvc,

I really enjoyed reading about your first day at BdC. I am so impatient for December to arrive so that I can get down there to see it for myself.
It sounds like such a magical place.

As much as I loved and appreciated Arenal and MA last year, I am fully expecting to be blown away by the Osa.

Looking forward to the rest of your adventure!
cmerrell is offline  
Jun 24th, 2007, 07:09 AM
  #38  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
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ahem..... And the rest of your report? hvc you are like me, lol, I'm planning my next trip pretty much as soon as I get back from one, if not before!

I say we all meet up & have girls night out....at BdC!
tully is offline  
Jun 24th, 2007, 08:23 AM
  #39  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
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HVC, loving the report. What a fantastic trip for your daughter. Our daughters and son-in-laws still travel with us. We have a great time especially since we have grandkids now. We are planning a return trip to Bosque next year. Keep the report coming please!! Toni
parrmt is offline  
Jun 24th, 2007, 10:35 AM
  #40  
 
Join Date: May 2007
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Virgo, don't leave me hanging.... I love reading your report. We're getting ready for PL and BdC, and as I read your report, I can barely contain myself. What happened next?!
volcanogirl is offline  

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