Just back on Aug 5

Aug 8th, 2004, 11:07 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 68
Just back on Aug 5

Just back from beautiful Costa Rica on Aug 5. I used Costa Rica Transfers for hotel and tour booking. They're professional,helpful and always saving me a few bucks. I didnt have an adventurous itinerary to share, but I do hope that my experiences may be somewhat useful to the 1st timers.

About hotels:
1.Centro Colon Hotel, San Jose ? Located about 15-20 minutes drive from the airport, this hotel provides airport shuttle service at USD4 per person. We paid a discount rate of USD65 (breakfast and tax included) for a standard room, which is very basic (no hairdryer, no fridge, no coffee maker). As we took San Jose as our travel base, we checked in and out the hotel a couple of times and, fortunate enough, we were upgraded to a better room every time due to all standard rooms were occupied. One time our room was on 9th floor overlooking mountains and had 2 king sized beds. The hotel is a bit old but clean, and the front desk staffs are very friendly ad helpful. A supermarket (Mas x menos) with a food court is located within 10 min walk. We had dinners in the food court a couple of times. The food was cheap but not bad. It?s very convenient to take a bus to downtown. The bus fare is 80 colones per person.

2.Arenal Paraiso ?The bed sheet didn?t fit the mattress but at least it was clean. The pipe grunted but there?s plenty of hot water. The blanket was smelly but thank God there?s a cover. Don?t expect too much and you?ll find the room more than satisfaction. We didn?t have luck on the volcano view, only had a glimpse of some red spots, but sitting on the rocking chairs in the porch amid the darkness and listening to the sound of nature was a great experience.

3.Laguna Lodge, Tortuguero ? A little disappointing. I didn?t mind a rustic place but the room was dirty. There?re stains on the towels, the bed sheets and the walls. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are buffet-styled with a server allocating your portion of meat. Picky eaters should be prepared that the food choice is really limit. Only one kind of meat is served in each meal and the portion is small. Do arrive at the restaurant early. I went to dinner at 7:15 and there was already a long lineup. I waited 10 minutes to get a small portion of fish and, when I tried to get another round of food, I found that everything was gone. At 8pm the staff was already cleaning up the kitchen.

About Tours:
1.Canopy Tour- I did the canopy tour by Arenal Paraiso. Not as frightening as I expected but still an experience. There were about 20 people in our group. We?re supposed to slide from one platform to another platform, following the signal of the guide to ?brake? and land on the next platform smoothly. In the beginning, most of us stopped a few feet earlier and had to pull ourselves to the next platform by hands. The tour guides seemed quite inpatient about that. One of them even muttered to disqualify anyone who made two mistakes. Fortunately, after a few more platforms everyone seemed to get the skill. After the tour you can buy a CD with your photos for USD30. Both my friend and I were interested in buying the CD but we found that the photographers might not be interested in Asian faces. There?re only 2 or 3 shots for each of us. Even the group photo in the beginning skipped our faces (we?re standing by the side of the group). So we saved our USD60. One of my friends did another canopy tour near San Jose. She only paid USD10 for the CD. She was surprised to learn that we needed to pull ourselves back to the platform by hands because, in their tour, when people didn?t make it to the platform, the guide would come to ?rescue? them.

2.Tortuguero Tour by Fran and Modesto ? The 3 hour boat ride to and from Tortuguero was a highlight itself. We had a rainstorm and the animals were hiding away, but I still enjoyed the boat ride very much because the lush green jungle was a feast to the eyes. Fran is very gentle and caring, and Modesto is very knowledgeable about the jungle. While I had to check the animals out with a pair of binoculars, Modesto spotted the wound on the left shoulder of a spider monkey without his own eyes. We did the turtle walk at night. It was experience of a lifetime.

3. Other local tours ? We joined the 4 in 1 Highlights Tour as well as the Arenal by Night Tour (we arranged a drop off at Arenal Paraiso in the end of the tour) organized by Expedition Tropicals. There?re more than 40 people in each tour. Both tours spent as much as an hour picking up people from various locations. And there?re people showing up 10 or 20 minutes late without an apology. The tourist bus was very comfortable. The tour guides were professional, though not attentive enough. For those who don?t drive, I highly recommend these tours.

Other thoughts:
Tabacon Hot Spring ? Beautiful but overcrowded. There?re no hot or warm water in the shower rooms, and the soap dispensers were empty. A bit disappointing for a 5-star hotel premises like this.

Fortuna ? The front desk of Arenal Paraiso helped us call a taxi. The taxi fare from Arenal Paraiso to Fortuna was about 1300 colones. We had lunch at a decent restaurant named Neve. My Seafood chowder had shrimps, fish and even a small crab and cost only 1600 colones. However, the weather was too hot to enjoy a meal comfortably without A/C. We?re soaked wet by our own sweat. On the return trip, the meter showed 1370 colones. I gave the taxi driver USD5. He gave me back 500 colones only (should be 830 according to the exchange rate) and kept saying ?OK? OK?? Maybe he wanted us to tip him.

Tipping ?I always think that North Americans are used to tipping, especially for people in the States. However, as far as I noticed, my friend and I were among the very few who tipped the tour guides and drivers.

Interbus ? I took Interbus from Areanl to San Jose. It was convenient but not very comfortable. We had 3 adults jamming on the front passenger row. The driver spoke almost no English but tried to be helpful.

Things I wish I had packed ? A pair of flip-flop for the Tabacon Hot Spring because the floor of the changing room was wet and muddy.

Things I packed but never/rarely used:
Facial and body moisturizers- I have dry skin. My lips and heels cracked all year round at home. In Costa Rica, my heels have never been so smooth and I never felt the need of any moisturizers.
Poncho and umbrella ? It rained only lightly and always while we?re indoors. During the boat ride to Tortuguero, Modesto provided heavy-duty ponchos to keep us dry.
Long-sleeved T-shirts ? A lightweight windbreaker was all I needed.
Medicine ? I drank frescos at sodas. I used tap water to make ice cube. Didn?t get any stomach problems.
Insect repellent ? I thought I?d be eaten alive by mosquitoes but it turned out that I only used insect repellent once for the turtle walk at night. During my 9-day trip in Costa Rica I didn?t see any mosquitoes. In the Laguna Lodge, the window screen of our room had a hole. I slept without applying insect repellent but I didn?t get any mosquito bites.


lachat is offline  
Aug 9th, 2004, 05:20 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 1,574
Thanks for your trip report. We are leaving tomorrow morning for CR. Can't wait. What was the temperature when you were there? Sounds like you didn't get a lot of rain. Must be very humid, though.
Kwoo is offline  
Aug 9th, 2004, 06:46 AM
  #3  
lvk
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 3,265
Thanks for the great trip report -- lots of good info! Sorry about your experience with the canopy tour photographers. At least they let you see the pictures on the CD before you shelled out the $30/each.

We leave on Sunday, and I'm very excited. Kwoo, have a great trip and maybe we'll run into each other at the Arenal Paraiso!

lvk is offline  
Aug 9th, 2004, 09:55 AM
  #4  
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Kwoo, we always had sunny mornings and cloudy afternoon. Never felt very humid except the one day in Tortuguero, but it's still not very bad. We didn't check the temp but the only time we really felt hot was the afternoon in Fortuna. When there's lot of sunshine, it's unbearably hot. Other time we just felt comfortable. I particually enjoyed the cool evenings.
lachat is offline  
Aug 9th, 2004, 10:40 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
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Nice report! Now that I think about it, we had a problem with our bed sheets popping off at Arenal Paraiso also. I'm glad you didn't have problems with bugs like I did. I'm not really sure what kept biting me, because I never saw the actual bugs, I just kept getting new bites! It sounds like you lucked out more on the humidity too. We thought it was really humid on the coasts.
LA_FadeAway is offline  
Aug 9th, 2004, 10:41 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1,183
Oh yeah, I also agree that warm clothes and body lotion are a waist of packing space! I tried putting lotion on once and it just melted off. We really didn't need it there at all.
LA_FadeAway is offline  
Aug 9th, 2004, 12:16 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 128
Hi, thanks for sharing your experiences. I will be using CR transfers as well for a trip in November. Could you tell me a little bit more about your exoerience with them, from the booking process to arrival at the airport to what to expect from the driver, such as do they stop often, etc.. Thanks
Wolfiesmom is offline  
Aug 9th, 2004, 06:22 PM
  #8  
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Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 68
Wolfiesmom, we only used Costa Rica Transfers to book hotel accomodation, tours and Interbus service for us. Our itinerary could do easily without a car/driver because all the tours included pick up and drop off at the hotel. My experience with Costa Rica Transfers through the booking process was pleasant. They're flexible to accomodate any change of schedule. Only that you may need to take a little initiative to check the availability of your favorite hotel and then have Costa Rica Transfers book for you at a discount rate ( i couldnt get the discount rate myself). And dont forget to ask for a discount if they forget to offer you one. We saved a few bucks on everything. Not big savings but still we're happy about it.
lachat is offline  
Aug 10th, 2004, 06:21 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 128
Did you send CR Transfers a check before your trip or did you pay with a credit card? I am using them for transportation and got a great rate if I pay by check to their Miami account. I feel comfortable doing this since they seem legit. Now, it is possible for me to book my stay at the Peace Lodge for a great rate, but I am wondering if it would be best to prepay with CR transfers or book directly with Peace Lodge.

Sorry to be asking such specific questions but some unforeseen circumstances with my travel agent have forced me to consider other options. Thanks for all your help
Wolfiesmom is offline  
Aug 10th, 2004, 10:21 PM
  #10  
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Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 68
Wolfiesmom, no problem, I'm glad to be of help. I paid Costa Rica Transfers in full by credit card before my trip because I dont have a USD chequing account. Who offers you a great rate? If both Peace Lodge and Costa Rica Transfers quoted you the same rate, certainly it's better to book directly with Peace Lodge because you dont have to prepay. Otherwise, I'll just let Costa Rica Transfers do the booking and save my time and money.
lachat is offline  
Aug 11th, 2004, 11:52 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 128
Thanks for the info. BTW, CR Transfers offered me the rate at the PL.
Wolfiesmom is offline  
Aug 11th, 2004, 06:30 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,098
We didn't have any sheet, smelly blanket, or insect problems at Arenal Paraiso in January. Perhaps the rainy season causes more problems.

We had good fortune with the volcano, it put on a spectacular show for us two nights in a row. We were able to watch from our bed.
RufusTFirefly is offline  

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