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Late Trip Report-Costa Rica in Feb.

Old Mar 23rd, 2007, 09:23 PM
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Late Trip Report-Costa Rica in Feb.

First trip to CR-central and east-no car. Theory: low midrange hotels-most expensive was $65, cheapest $40. We skipped the Pacific because can only see so much in two weeks. We skipped a rental car because didn't want to drive our first trip in unfamiliar country. Weather: we hit the driest of the dry season. It didn't rain till last couple days.

Arrival in Alajuela, arranged pickup by Hotel Villa Bonita, dinner at local restaurant an easy walk away. Language note my review didn't teach me: con yellow means con hielo. With ice. Day One: Humberto, owner of the hotel, had a free day so drove us himself to Monterverde. Pretty drive with views of Nicoya and our first monkeys. On arrival at Arco Iris Hotel in Santa Elena, I immediately booked the 5:30 twilight hike at Childrens Eternal Rainforest (very good) and Selvatura the next day. Arco Iris is in Santa Elena up a hill, we walked around the town a lot and ate dinners at various restaurants. I liked the the little town a lot.

Day Two: Selvatura picked us up for our zipline tour which was very fun. The young men who man it are unfailingly friendly and enthusiastic even though you know they do it daily. We walked the walkways on our own and spent a long time in the hummingbird garden-so many bright birds, and close.

Day Three: Taxi to Stella's Bakery in Monteverde, tour of a bat place nearby, then tour at Monteverde Coffee Coop across the street. Only 8 of us on the tour, went to a small coffee farmers place, had a little snack with coffee, saw his baby granddaughter, saw how he grows his coffee partly shaded, and also grows beans. Then to the coffee facility, roasting shed, compost barn, drying areas. Saw the little road orchids on a view stop. We walked back to Santa Elena-rough, uneven surfaces.

Day Four: Didn't get up early. Taxi to Monteverde Reserve, joined a small guided tour, saw male and female quetzals, plus various other. Shared a taxi back. Transportation is super easy in the area. In Santa Elena checked out the Frog place (Ranaria?) figuring frogs are the hardest to see on your own.

Day Five: DeSafio picked us up for transfer to Arenal-a long bumpy drive to the boat which was a short but pretty trip with great view of the volcano. The van dropped us off at Erupciones Inn which is just below Kioro Inn but a whole lot cheaper. We never got a good view of volcano at night, but spent hours watching and hearing the rocks fall down in the daytime. Local bus to town-much less charming than Santa Elena, cheap soda meal, taxi back.

Day Six: picked up by Canoa Adventures for Cano Negro Trip-much enjoyed-caimans, turtles, monkeys, birds, Jesus Christ Lizards, iguanas. Empanadas before boat ride and arroz lunch after. Dinner-walked to El Novillo.

Day Seven: After checking out La Fortuna again we walked through cow pasture, over creek, and up hills behind our hotel for our first toucan spotting. Dinner at cowboy steak restaurant we walked to-overpriced.

Day Eight: Our hotel owner found us a good price for private transfer to Sarapaqui, to Posada Andrea Cristina B&B. Beautiful, simple place. Walked into town for dinner. In Costa Rica there are no sidewalks, everyone walks by the side of the road and children ride bikes along the road even though giant trucks speed by.

Day Nine: Breakfast in little covered pavilion at the B&B, fresh fruit and eggs and amazing colored birds coming for the bananas put out for them nearby. Talked to our fellow travellers from Canada and Germany. (met more Canadians and Europeans on our trip than Americans). Took self-guided tour at Tirimbina Forest Reserve. (taxi there, bus home) We were hungry after-the cafeteria ladies gave us a delicious plate of food (they feed visiting schoolchildren) but wouldn' t take any money for it. Dinner in town.

Day Ten: we had arranged with Alex, the owner, to take us to the boat to Tortuguero. (The local route that takes 3 buses to get there which I didn't want to do, my Spanish not that great). The three others decided to come too, so we had a good drive with our private naturalist who charged us very little. The canal was low, we had to drag our suitcases up inclines and down banks, and wade in the water to get into our boat. At a couple points some of the people had to get out to lighten the load. Much fun! Eventually we got to the bigger canals and were dropped off at Casa Marabella, at the deck where we ate breakfasts at. We stayed right in town, not at the resorts. Everything really close, bakery lunch place next door. A little noisy but the fan blocks out the noise, and later at night it is very quiet. Yummy pizza and wine a short walk away.

Day 11: up early for Daryl's canal tour-excellent-too many things to list. Back before too hot. A little swim in the Caribbean, lounge on the deck. (Iguanas twice pooped near the Canadians, but not us). Dinner at one of the tipico Caribbean places-okay, not great. It's a small town, we kept seeing our fellow travelers.

Day 12: Our owner Daryl Loth arranged for boat to Moin to pick us up-3 hour trip to Limon-boat driver helped us find van to Puerto Viejo. Limon to PV-much worse roads than to Monteverde. Everyone drives all over the road to avoid potholes. Stayed in really pretty B&B-Banana Azul-yummy breakfasts. Next time I would stay south of PV-prettier-but we only had 2 nights left so this was fine. Walked to town along the shore-explored the town. Internet yes, ATM to take our cards, no. Ate in town, taxi home.

Day 13: Goal was Sloth Rescue place--Aviarios Caribe. Partly because it was raining we couldn't figure out the buses, ending up taking a cab. So glad we went. Close up sloths, big ones, the famous Buttercup in her hanging chair, and boxes of baby sloths, right close, one only a week old. Bought a lot in the gift shop. We took the bus to Cahuita but the part we saw was not impressive. Went home to PV. Walked to town, arranged ride back to Alajuela, got a pizza to go, walked back before it got too dark.

Day 14: Walked back roads near our place-beautiful. Spotted a beautiful poisonous snake near the road! To town again (accompanied by the hotel dogs as usual), yummy soup in a tiny place. Picked up by Interbus van. After a long period of dropping people off at hotels, very slowly because of potholes, we ended up having only 2 other people in the van so it was a very comfortable ride back to Alajuela. Our driver seemed very competent. -we went over the mountains in the dark--and had nice conversation with the other couple. Back to Villa Bonita, and home in the morning.

Further thoughts:

What I wished we'd brought: a light on an extension cord. Everyplace except Casa Marbella had totally inadequate lights for reading. (Casa Marbella also won the prize for softest sheets.) Also we forgot our Swiss Army knives for misc. stuff. Clothes and shoes: don't sweat it too much but I noticed the locals wear long pants so you won't look stupid if you do too.

We drank the water everywhere. All our hotels were very clean. Everyone was so friendly. In Monterverde it was hard to practice one's Spanish--so much English.

Advice: study guidebooks, library or buy, to decide where you want to go and how. There are many different adventures in Costa Rica-whether you drive yourself or do as we did just suit yourself. Guided nature tours are great-those guides show you things you'd never find on your own.
emmajm is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2007, 07:15 AM
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thanks for the report, very useful!
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Old Mar 24th, 2007, 07:23 AM
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Thanks for a great report!!
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Old Mar 24th, 2007, 09:38 AM
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emmajm - Nice trip report Glad to hear such wonderful experiences with more affordable accomodations too. We are staying at Banana Azul in May. Can you elaborate a little more on your time there? We have 4 nights, but intend on taking the bikes out to explore and probably use a guide and go down to Manzanillo refuge one day. Also, Buttercup Foundation is on our list (I'm travelling alone with my 10 year old daughter, I think she'll really love this) and, she's excited to have the dogs Are there many cools little shops in town or did you happen to notice anywhere that might sell drums or guitars? We are staying at Villa Bonita our last night in CR as well.

Sounds like you had a great trip!
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Old Mar 24th, 2007, 05:07 PM
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Hipvirgochick: We didn't do much more in Puerto Viejo, it was the end of our trip and we didn't feel like cramming more into the last day. I doubt if there are drums or guitars available, but ask Colin at Banana Azul. No cute shops unless there are some toward Playa Cocles. A basic town.

I would check with ATEC for tours. They have an office in Puerto Viejo, or find online just search ATEC Costa Rica.
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Old Mar 26th, 2007, 08:58 PM
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hipvirgochick, what night will you be at Hotel Villa Bonita? I may send you some photos to take to Humberto y Carmen. Still have your address. . .
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 08:31 AM
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emmajm -- Hmmm. Well, it sounds like we'll have a little more time to venture out then you did at the end of your trip. We have other rec's on shops and nightlife so I'll post back about them.

shillmac -- I'll be staying with Carmen y Humberto on June 3rd. I'd be happy to deliver pictures to them for you

Also, thanks so much for sending the ECDS brochure. I like the small places. There's been more talk on the board about it lately too.

I plan on e-mailing Abel this week about spending some time with him. Thanks!
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 02:10 PM
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Good regarding Abel. . .I know Earthtraveler says he likes to talk a lot, and he does, but I always find his talking interesting. And we always find plenty of wildlife during the process!

I guess I'll just e-mail them or print a few and take myself (to Humberto). I'll be arriving the 14th of June.

By the way, I've got my photos (several) uploaded to Kodak Gallery. Will try to post a link tonight.
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