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Just Back from Costa Rica: Sarapiqui, Poas, Manuel Antonio

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Just Back from Costa Rica: Sarapiqui, Poas, Manuel Antonio

Old Feb 28th, 2006, 11:22 AM
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Just Back from Costa Rica: Sarapiqui, Poas, Manuel Antonio

Returned a few days ago from a fabulous trip to Costa Rica. This was our third trip and the focus was on birding and photography, so perhaps our itinerary was a little different than most folks. We spent two nights at Laquinta Sarapiqui, two nights at Poas Volcano Lodge, and three nights at Si Como No. I'll just give a short run-down of the highlights and a few random tips and thoughts...

Our purpose for staying in Sarapiqui was to bird La Selva Biological Station. We would have stayed right at La Selva but at the time we planned the trip they offered only dormitory lodging, and as we were arriving on my birthday, I just didn't want to spend my birthday in a dormitory! As it turned out, they have since added private cabins and I wish we'd have known that. La Selva is an amazing place. Beautiful habitat, very easy (paved) trails, lots of birds and butterflies. We pre-booked the
"full-day" guided private bird walk which ran from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (Its really too hot to bird after that hour, anyway.) We had an excellent guide, a young woman named (I think) Yelinda, and although she said she'd only been birding one year, she was very good, personable, spoke great English, and knew calls and found us many great birds. She also helped us book a private birding boat tour on the Sarapiqui river for the afternoon. That was really cool because we had an entire 20 person boat for just the two of us. We paid $25 per person for a two hour trip. The boat "captain"/guide didn't speak much english but he was excellent at spotting the birds and other wildlife and took his time maneuvering us for good photos, etc. (I have their card somewhere and if anyone's interested I can get the name.) Yelinda also recommended a good place for lunch in Puerto Viejo Sarapiqui---Mi Lindo Sarapiqui, across from the soccer field.

Laquinta was a fine place to stay, room was spacious and comfortable, plenty of hot water, great bird feeders and some nice birding on their property. Food was very good too--grilled steak, chicken, sausages for dinner, full buffet breakfast. A little crowded with tour groups though.

(Part 2 coming--Poas and La Paz Waterfall Gardens)
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Old Feb 28th, 2006, 11:28 AM
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Part II

Next, two nights at Poas Volcano Lodge. Two goals for this area--to visit the volcano, of course, and also to visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens, principally for photography and birding. We'd heard from a friend who'd recently been there that their feeders were fantastic for tanagers and some hard-to-get species. We arrived at LPWG after a short 45 minute drive from Laquinta (which is actually closer to La Virgen then to
Sarapiqui.) We ended up spending the entire day here--from 9:30 a.m. to almost 5 p.m. The touted hummingbird garden was actually a disappointment--oddly, not very many birds, and only a few different species. Maybe just an off day! However, the butterfly garden, frog habitat, and the fruit feeders were awesome and well worth the price of admission for us. And the waterfalls were pretty cool too! Plus the whole place is landscaped beautifully (but they are constructing still more). We had our best mammal sighting of the trip here--a Tayra (huge black marten-type critter) visited the feeders. We spent at least an hour just parked in front of the fruit feeders watching and photographing the birds. And a good hour in the butterfly habitat too. We never even got to the fishing pond area or the trails in that direction.

The next day was our day to visit Poas Volcano--unfortunately this was the one rainy day of the trip, we woke up to a socked-in volcano. But, we went up anyway, because, heck, we were there! Of course, no crater view, and no birds. We took the two short hikes--but didn't stay long, descending in hopes of finding clearer weather.

The "standard" rooms at Poas Volcano Lodge are quite basic--and small--and I think it might be worth the few extra dollars to get the superior room. Perfectly adequate though, with plenty of hot water. The lodge itself is really quite nice, roaring fire at night, billard table, friendly staff, some good trails, and we saw a spectacular rainbow across the pasture the morning we left. Breakfasts are excellent, eggs, bacon or sausage, homemade jams (great home-baked biscuits at dinner too.) Dinner was simple but good--one night, beef or chicken fajitas, and delicious lemon meringue pie! The second night we ate at Colbert's up the road, which was okay, not great, and kinda odd....we were the only customers there the entire evening. The chef/owner was attentive, classical music playing, but the whole thing seemed a bit surreal--not at all like Costa Rica.

Next, on to Manuel Antonio. Guess this isn't a short run-down after all ;-)
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Old Feb 28th, 2006, 06:41 PM
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Don't worry about the length--the details are nice! Thanks for sharing and do tell more!
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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 09:22 AM
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Thanks Shillmac! I did want to repay the board in some way, since I garnered so much info from here (including your great posts, obviously!)

The board seems quiet this week--maybe everyone is in Costa Rica ;-)
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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 09:44 AM
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Well, not everyone, sad to say. . .!
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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 10:11 AM
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Great report. You visited some of my favourites. Isn't La Selva a wonderful place? And those tanagers at La Paz.....

Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

Jerry
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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 10:26 AM
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Looking forward to the rest, not long at all! Wish I'd had more time on the trails around Poas, only 10 minutes or so

ot - hiya jill! Drop me a line, my 'puter died & got a new one but lost all my addy's!
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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 11:34 AM
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Tully !!!!! How have you been ? It's been awhile has it not ? lol , Faith
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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 01:45 PM
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hi faithie! been a while, yes, but I am up & running & waiting for the fares to CR to come down! (and I thought only you hijack threads, ha ha )
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Old Mar 2nd, 2006, 06:34 PM
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Hi Tully! Been wondering about you!

Hi Faithie! How are things up north? Have you heard from Percy lately? I keep forgetting when he is scheduled to leave for Australia. . .do you remember?

I know what you mean about the fares, Tully. The flights we like out of Dallas have been high all winter and look to be continuing that trend through the summer. We're hoping to head that way after our daughter's Tortola wedding in June. We have friends there who are expecting their first baby in July and we're hoping to be there for the event!

I'll check my addresses when I get to me "home" home this weekend and send you an e-mail. That reminds me. . I need to get out my Sounds CD and enjoy it. It's been awhile. How are the felines? You still thinking you'll get to CR in May?
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Old Mar 3rd, 2006, 03:04 AM
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Things have been chilly here Shillmac , I think Percy is allrready in Australia ...? Tully , where do you live again ? ( Seattle rings a bell , but I could be way off ) . If you happened to live close to Montreal or Toronto i could help u find ridicously cheap airfare . ( the catch is that you might only have a weeks notice ) For example departing Monday , Montreal to SJ, it's down to $348 Grand Total . And likley to drop more. Boo Hoo , wish we were leaving !!!
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Old Mar 3rd, 2006, 07:37 AM
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Part III
Finally, Manual Antonio..

We had no trouble finding our way from Poas to Manual Antonio, especially with the help of our Garmin Etrex GPS unit. A

tip--there's a free downloadable Garmin-compatible map of Costa Rica and the Caribbean available here:

http://rwsmaps.griffel.se/ Worked great. Stopped at the Tarcoles Bridge to view the crocs and birds, had the great luck of

three Scarlet Macaws flying overhead. Stopped at Steve and Lisa's for a great seafood lunch. But one "unanticipated"

stop---stood at a total standstill for one hour and fifteen minutes right before the one-lane bridge to Quepos. We were at

least a half mile back when the traffic just halted. No one knew what was going on. People were getting out of their cars,

locals were walking (you couldn't see the bridge from this spot, but we figured from the GPS that it was just ahead.) No

cars were coming the other way on the road, so we figured there was a problem on the bridge. Anyway, after a little over an

hour, traffic started moving in the other direction and eventually our line of traffic moved across too. No visible reason for

this, although later the guy at our hotel said they had been working on the bridge earlier in the day.

Our hotel in M.A. was Si Como No. We fall into the category of absolutely loving this place! Was a little afraid it would be

too "resorty" for us, but not at all.The property is wonderful and we saw and heard three species of monkey from our

balcony and countless birds. We were in room 5 a Superior Double and it was perfect in terms of being at eye level to the

canopy and also having a lovely ocean view. Yes the room is nothing special and we had a couple very minor peeves: no

over-bed reading lights, no luggage racks (and simply no place to put luggage! had to strew it about on the floor, while there

was plenty of room for a rack or two.) Finally, screens on some, but not all the windows, and we really didn't want (or need)

the a/c so we ended up just sleeping with the blinds drawn and window w/o screen open. Fortunately not very buggy there.

Loved that there is a seperate adult pool...it was never crowded. In fact the whole place never seemed crowded even though

it was a peak week. A tip: No one seems to know about the wooden walkway that goes from the Rico Tico to the "events"

space--Rancho Muy Gusto (which apparently is unused.) The events space overlooks the entire hillside below the hotel and

this is a fantastic spot for bird and animal watching especially early morning or late afternoon. We saw Toucans, Motmots,

Chachalacas from here and there was a sloth in the tree next to the boardwalk. From here we also saw our only Mono Titi

monkeys of the trip. The walk is gated, but unlocked. No one was EVER on it except every morning we saw someone

sweeping the leaves off the walkway. And there was a security guard that hung around the "events" area.

We ate one night in Claro Que Si! and were unimpressed. Okay, nothing special. But then the next night we ate at the

Rico Tico Restaurant and we thought it was great, had their lobster and ceviche and loved it. Great service and good food,

so the next night we just ate there again--more lobster and this time we of course had to have the signature Bananas

Flambe, in fact three tables had it at the same time, made for quite a show.

We just loved this area, so much accessible wildlife--yes the park gets crowded but we entered about 8ish and it wasn't too

bad; we didn't hire a guide (as birders, had our own scope and are pretty good at spotting stuff.) As others have said you

can pretty much see where the guides are looking and for the most part, when they saw we were birders they helped us

out anyway. Within 15 minutes in the park we found three birds that are normally very hard to spot: a roosting Common

Potoo, a Paraque (nesting on the ground!) and Lesser Nighthawks roosting in the trees. Not to mention: White-faced

monkeys, both two and three-toed sloths, Coati, Crab-eating Racoon (also known as cookie-eating--they stole our cookies

on the beach!) and numerous iguanas and other lizards.

As mentioned in another post, I encountered jellyfish in the water at the park, so keep an eye out.

We had a good seafood lunch at one of the places right outside the park entrance, not sure of the name. Second day we'd

hoped to lunch at El Avion but discovered it didn't open until 2 (and it was around 1) so we went to Quepos and lunched at

El Gran Escape. A good change to have a burger after lots of fish!

Finally--last but not least--the Expresso Shake at Cafe Milagro is to die for. I had one each day.

We only wished we had one more day here so we could have done the Damas Island boat trip. Next time!

One last tip--on the way back to the airport we stopped for lunch at Mirador El Cafetal outside of Atenas...fantastic

view...great smoothies and sandwiches...a perfect place to stop. You can't miss it...there were clever signs coming and

going for quite a stretch with pithy little sayings that escape me now.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2006, 07:41 AM
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ohh sorry about the spacing! I copied and pasted from Notepad and the weird spacing didn't show in the preview, sorry.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2006, 08:10 AM
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You said this was your 3rd trip to Coasta Rica. Our first was this Feb and I posted on here somewhere. Anyway we now want to go back but different locations. did you by chance in any of your trips go to the Osa Penninsula? I have been reading some bout that. It sounds wonderful but kind of remote. If you could post any info on the southwest pacific of Costa Rica or anyone else I'd apprediate it. thanks
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Old Mar 3rd, 2006, 07:00 PM
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heyjude, unfortunately Osa is one place we haven't gotten to yet--its next on our list. On earlier trips we were in Monteverde, Arenal, San Gerado de Dota, and Rancho Naturalista.

Still need to get to Osa and also Guanacaste!
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Old Mar 3rd, 2006, 07:42 PM
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Faithie, pretty sure Tully is a Florida gal!

Perhaps Percy has already left. That was quite a trip he had planned. I was thinking he didn't leave until March 6 or so.

Have a great weekend!

jczinn, I really enjoyed your latest post. Thanks for taking the time to give such great details. Glad you enjoyed Si Como No. We never ate at Claro Que Si, but, like you, really enjoyed the Rico Tico Grill. Great food! We, too, enjoyed our stay there.
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 10:48 AM
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jczinn -- what is the "events" area of which you speak? Is the Rico Tico on the Si Como No's property and can anyone take a stroll there?
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 11:39 AM
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jczinn, If you do make it down to the Osa I would highly recommend Bosque del Rio Tigre. Abraham is a great birder. My husband grew up spending a lot of time in South America with his Ornithologist father looking at and collecting birds for the Smithsonian and other museums. He is very impressed with Abraham. Have him take you to the Rincon area. Always some kind of cotinga sighting there.

Tigre is a small place with 4 bedrooms and a shared bath in the main rancho and a darling little open cabin in the woods with its own bathroom with cold water. They do have a bath house with hot showers if you prefer. There was a kinkajoo in the tree by the cabin last Nov. Abraham can cook up a storm too. They have a girl that cooks but he stands over her and tells her what to do.

I am really excited about some of your finds. Those potoos and nighthawks are almost impossible to find. We saw several a couple of years ago and haven't seen any since.

Saw my first prong billed barbet on the fruit feeders at La Paz. We spent hours sitting there watching the birds. Sorry you didn't see many species of hummingbirds, we saw quite a few. Perhaps they were all busy with little ones.

Glad to hear about the new cabins at La Selva. We would much rather stay right there but those dorms didn't look too inviting and the food we had there was pretty awful.

Thanks for the great detailed report.

Tully,
I'll be thinking of you down there in sunny Fla. come hurricane season. We ended up hauling 2 huge rubbermaid containers full of stuff down to CR with us in November for our favorite lodge.
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 02:19 PM
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Yes, anyone can stop by the Rico Tico for lunch. We did that our last time in Manuel Antonio when we were actually staying at Hotel California.
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 04:31 PM
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great trip report. Interesting that there are now cabins at La Selva. Agree it would be great to stay there to see the birds all day..
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