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Live from Costa Rica...

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Jul 2nd, 2011, 06:16 AM
  #1
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Live from Costa Rica...

Finally here, after 6 months of planning!!!

I figured I'd update this thread during our stay in lieu of a journal, which I never end up doing.

The family is myself, wife Daniela (from now on 'D"), and our boys Ryan (8) and Christopher (6).

We arrived yesterday and took a taxi to the Pura Vida hotel just outside of Alajuela - everything I read here about this hotel is true. Actually, it is better as pictures don't do it justice - just beautiful. We were greeted by Carlos who promptly got us a drink and took my boys around the property to pick fruit. Couldn't ask for better hospitality. Pura Vida had arranged our car rental ahead of time and an agent with our car met us and dropped off our 4x4 - so easy.

Afternoon was spent getting lost in the hills (needed directions from local children) on the way to the Doka coffee tour, which was very well run and informative. Pouring rain from 4PM through the night, but it was okay since we were just driving around, lost again, trying to find a restaurant we read about in a guide book on the outskirts of Alajuela (finally found it and had a great typical local meal).

This morning we were awakened by roosters at 5:30 (weather is PERFECT) and we are planning to check out the farmer's market, playground in town, and then drive up to Arenal for three nights at AOL followed by two at Nayara, then on to a night in Tarcoles (Cerro Lodge) and 5 nights in Manuel Antonio (Tulemar).

Thanks to all here for the invaluable help in planning!!!!
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Jul 2nd, 2011, 09:22 AM
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Great -- I am in the (very) early stages of planning a potential trip with my nephew, so will be following with interest!
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Jul 2nd, 2011, 09:49 AM
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Have fun!
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Jul 2nd, 2011, 03:28 PM
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Having a glass of wine at the room's terrace in nayara hotel. Beautiful resort, plenty for you to look fwd to when u arrive here!
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Jul 2nd, 2011, 06:56 PM
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Looking forward to Nayara CPT!

Day 2:

Amazing breakfast served by Berni at Pura Vida this morning before we drove the scenic route to Arenal Observatory Lodge. We made brief stops in Sarchi (Berni suggested a certain ox-cart maker), Zarcero (interesting/weird topiary), and Muelle (lunch). Tricky drive without a GPS, but we did okay. Massive rain storm in the afternoon - more rain in a half-hour than I've ever seen - and it's been on and off since then. Expected, and not too bad.

Our Junior suite is beautiful as is all of AOL - no complaints. People do complain about the food a lot but we just had dinner and it was fine...nothing special, but good.

The grounds are spectacular. Ryan was so happy to finally see a rain forest like the pictures in his books (he's very into nature). We did a little afternoon walk on one of the trails and saw 2 howler monkeys growling at each other. We have a private tour scheduled for 6AM tomorrow - the kids can't wait and are already in bed (8PM).

Actually, I'm tired already myself and it's nice getting up with the sunrise so, until tomorrow...
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Jul 3rd, 2011, 03:29 AM
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great report keep it coming.

actually have left AOL for tabacon.com in the past

due to rain flooded roads and awful food so glad u

are doing well there... love puravidahotel.com too..

HappyTravels,
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Jul 3rd, 2011, 06:16 PM
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Day 3:

7PM and the kids are asleep already....talk about a new schedule!?!

Our 6AM, private birding/wildlife tour at AOL was great (and a bargain at $35 for the four of us). We saw tons of birds, spider monkeys, and even an eyelash viper. Our guide, Christian, was savant-like in his ability to spot wildlife.

After breakfast we headed to The Springs resort to check out the hot springs. Gorgeous, albeit totally artificial, upscale vibe. We all enjoyed the pools and springs, and our time here overall. Very different from AOL (which is more our style) but beautiful nonetheless.

From there, headed to Los Lagos to zip but the rain forced us to reschedule for tomorrow. The kids checked out the pools but after The Springs this was just too crowded (we were practically alone at The Springs).

Dinner - Pizza John's (Jardin Escondito) in El Castillo. Highly recommended! Eating here is like visiting with an old friend...well, one with howler monkeys in his backyard. John is extremely warm, funny, and has great stories about his new life in Costa Rica. He's in a tiny village, which was cool to visit in of itself. The homemade pizza and ice cream were great as well.

More tomorrow...
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Jul 3rd, 2011, 07:08 PM
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Oh good, your report is becoming my bedtime reading each night, keep it up! The details are really helpful. If you have a chance, I'd love to hear more about how the kids are handling the new schedule -- they are obviously adjusting by going to sleep earlier, but has it been hard to pull them out of bed for all of the early morning activities? That's only thing about Costa Rica that I've been thinking my nephew won't be enthusiastic about. Thanks and enjoy!
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Jul 3rd, 2011, 10:29 PM
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We had a junior suite at AOL when we were there 2 weeks ago and really loved it. We also thought the dinner at AOL was fine - but wasn't it insanely dark? My husband said it felt like the power had gone off and they were short candles. We could barely see our food! And lucky you that Christian was available for a private 6 am tour - we tried to book that with him when we were there but he wasn't available. If you're still at AOL, be sure to try out the gigantic hot tub. My kids loved it - especially in the middle of a downpour!
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Jul 4th, 2011, 07:39 AM
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Moongirl: The kids are waking up at 5-5:30 on their own, no problem! they adjusted so quickly and we are loving it too - D was asleep at 7:30 last night herself!

BAJJ: Yes, the restaurant is insanely dark at night! We haven't done the hot tub yet, later this afternoon, thanks!

Did you see coatis here? We haven't seen any yet and really wanted to.

We just did a morning hike (on our own) to the waterfall, had breakfast, and we're headed out to zip at Los Lagos - I'm a bit nervous!
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Jul 4th, 2011, 07:53 AM
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I also had a great time at AOL (also more my speed) and thought the food at dinner was just fine. Did you sons enjoy meeting Max and Yagi at Pura Vida?

I don't think I saw any coatis at AOL, but if you are headed to Dominical later, and still haven't seen any, head to the fruit stand near the police check point on the coastal road (at the turn off to San Isidro). The vendor feeds a flock to draw attention to his business. At Hacienda Baru I saw a HUGE male near the turtle center, and a family with babies up in a palm. I hope you do include a guided visit at Hacienda Baru if you're in that area.
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Jul 4th, 2011, 08:22 AM
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john127, thanks for reporting back on the kids' sleep habits -- that's really encouraging! So glad to hear the whole family is having a good time. Looking forward to the zip line report.
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Jul 4th, 2011, 03:28 PM
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No, we didn't see any coatis until we got to the Osa. They are pretty cute!
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Jul 4th, 2011, 06:08 PM
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btw, if you buy your kids t-shirts from AOL, be sure to buy at least one size up because they really shrink.
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Jul 4th, 2011, 06:40 PM
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mlgb: Great tips for when we get to the coast. We are planning on visiting Hacienda Baru. And we all loved the dogs at Pura Vida!

BAJJ: Thanks for the shirt advice!


Day 4

Hiked to the waterfall at AOL this morning - nice walk, tough uphill climb for the kids back, but they did okay.

Zip line at Los Lagos was a mixed bag for us. The staff there was AMAZING with the kids though and very professional - we felt very safe and secure. Ryan was pretty nervous and he never really got over it - he did the first two lines on his own, got a little upset, and then went with a guide the rest of the way. I have a big fear of heights, so I'm proud of myself for even doing it, and while it was exhilarating, I'm good now!
On the other hand, D and Christopher LOVED it! The little guys was smiling the whole time and is asking to go again already.

Lunch at Soda La Parada in La Fortuna was very good and the rest of the afternoon was spent back at AOL - swimming and dinner. Okay, first bad dish at AOL - a pasta dish which I warned D not to order (we're Italian) but she didn't listen. I had a very good vegetarian casada though, so stick to the simple or local stuff here and you'll be fine.

A couple of zip line videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V14S07FURfw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6b3zAprl8I

And pics here:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?...892.1014725928
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Jul 4th, 2011, 07:01 PM
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Hahahaha.. no pasta for sure!
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Jul 5th, 2011, 06:51 PM
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Day 5

Wonderful last morning at AOL. Remember I mentioned wanting to see a Coati? I woke up to Ryan at our porch yelling, "Coati...Coati!" There was a curious little guy coming right up to the glass to check Ryan out - so cute!

We hiked on our own this morning and found ourselves surrounded by monkeys - we saw spider and white-faced capuchins who were very playful, swinging through the trees across the trail as we walked.

Arrived at Nayara this morning for what we figured would be two nights to splurge for some luxury. While the resort is intimate and gorgeous, the room amazing, and the staff exceedingly helpful and friendly, tonight we all miss AOL. Just personal preference. We are definitely AOL people.

We actually spent the afternoon at The Springs resort because we still had a day on the two-day pass and we're wishing we had splurged for two nights there only because the pools and springs are so amazing. And the place is EMPTY! We are stunned - why are places like Baldi and Tabacon so crowded while this place goes unnoticed at $20 a day for visitors!?!

Lunch at Soda Visquez in La Fortuna today - VERY good! Dinner back at La Parada followed by a stop at the Chocolateria (I love saying that) and ice cream next door (across from the park). A perfect way to end the evening!
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Jul 5th, 2011, 07:28 PM
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Totally digging the live report. Nice
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Jul 5th, 2011, 07:34 PM
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these are great posts! we are leaving on the 7th for CR (in 2 days!!)- 1st stop Nayara, then on to Tortuguero with a final stop at Arena del Mar for some sun-time (we hope). I have been noting your recs for lunch, dinner etc in La Fortuna as well as the info re The Springs. Didn't know if we would bother going there but it sounds fun. I have a major fear of highs too so CONGRATS to you for conquering the zipline. Your sons made it look easy! Enjoy the rest of your adventure.
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Jul 5th, 2011, 08:36 PM
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Glad you saw a coati! I don't know what your budget is, but we had dinner at Don Rufino and it's not just hype - that place is good! But, even if you didn't want to spend that much on dinner, the desserts alone are worth a trip. Maybe eat somewhere else and then just stop in for dessert?

Are you off to Tulemar/MA next? We ate a couple times at Sancho's (which is just to the right, on the left-hand side, when you exit Tulemar) and it is very good. Lots of kid-friendly, inexpensive things to choose from. Also, while I'm thinking about it, the strawberry slushies at the bar at the Tulemar beach are delicious!
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