Manuel Antonio, Jaco, Arenal December Trip Report

Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 05:48 AM
  #21  
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Day Eleven: Afternoon Coffee/Chocolate Tour North Fields Cafe

We had breakfast at the buffet on the Nayara Gardens side, the restaurant with a great volcano view, getting to cross that lovely bridge again. We passed the Spa/Yoga area on the left as we descended. Yoga is offered every morning free; my husband and I, unfortunately, are the most inflexible people on the planet, and our groans tend to ruin the experience for others. I'm sure the instructor would be happy that we did not participate.

The buffet was huge, and there was a short-order area where I was able to get huevos rancheros, the Costa Rican version. As we walked up the hill, I asked my husband, "Was it me, or was everything on that buffet just a tad mediocre?" He started laughing, "I was thinking the same thing." To explain, the array of fruit was pretty darn large. But the fruit in comparison to the small buffet at La Mariposa and to the small breakfast we had enjoyed at Club del Mar, was tasteless. The pastries just were not that good. Coffee just tasted like grounds. You get the drift. Odd. We had stayed at an extended-stay property in the US for several days before the trip, and its very small buffet had had better-tasting items. Again, odd.

Once back in the room, my husband changed clothes to hike all over the property (he wanted to check out the new Glamping area at the top) and I grabbed my bird book and binocs. When we last stayed there, I had had great luck seeing hummingbirds (Costa Rica has 54 types) around the hot springs jacuzzis on the Nayara Gardens side. Successful. Toucans, macaws, hummingbirds, you name it. Our room had been cleaned by the time we both got back. Hmm, no wash cloths had reappeared. Oh well, I pulled out my own that I had hidden in a little snack bag out of fear IT would disappear, too.

I went back to our plunge pool, plopping binocs and bird book on the side while my husband porched it with his iPad. A bright green praying mantis came by to keep him company while four different types of hummingbirds visited the plunge pool shrubbery. This was a pretty darn good life. We were in total "this is wonderful and this was a good decision" mode.

I had booked a coffee and chocolate tour via Trip Advisor. Nayara Springs offers one, but I had read somewhere that North Fields Cafe's tour is the best, and I suspect they were right. Our tour tickets were sent via mobile; the tour operator told me no need for a taxi--they regularly picked up at Nayara. Sure enough, they were right on time outside reception. The 10-minute commute took us to a small cafe outside of La Fortuna. We stood by a bird feeder where I got my first view of a red-legged honeycreeper. I didn't know what it was! Heck, I told you I was a bad birder. A couple standing next to me chuckled as I searched my bird book, telling me to move towards the warbler area. So then I looked at the couple--OMG, they were obviously birders. It was my husband's turn to chuckle and I knew he was thinking, "She's died and gone to heaven now." Yes, I had brought along my own binocs. Our guide for this tour, Alberto, came over while we were waiting for two more persons and pointed out several other birds in the area to the three of us.

Alberto reminded all of us to get our bug spray out and to please make sure we had enough sun screen. Luckily, we tuck packets of Deet wipes in every pocket plus have a mini-bottle of Deet spray. Once the tour started, Alberto NEVER stopped giving information. He quizzed us constantly, joked constantly, and overall gave one of the best tours we've ever experienced. Mid-tour, my husband whispered, "How much did we pay for this?" "$40 per person," I whispered back. He was impressed at the value. This is the perfect tour if you are interested in plants, the history of and the culture of coffee and chocolate. The first part of the tour is walking through coffee and cocoa fields, and then you get to take part in demonstrations of chocolate and coffee making. All the people on the tour--all adults--were fun and were truly interested in learning, so Alberto's skills were totally appreciated.

At the end of the tour, we had time to buy things (we bought chocolate TEA--it's made from the bean husks and it's a revelation) and then the cafe called us a taxi. We were unsure if we had to pay for it, but no problem. The ride was covered by North Fields.

Of course, after this tour (I think it was over three hours!), we needed a beer at the hotel bar. But before we could get to the bar, a Nayara employee held the reception door open and queried, "Do you want to see wild pigs?" We were totally in! Turns out it was Hidalyah (SP), a Nayara naturalist pointing out this sight. What a lovely person. We told her that our driver had told us to request her the next day. She did not know if we were her assigned couple, though.

Climbing up the hill, we dipped into the bar, slid onto our seats and happily started on a few Imperials. We looked at the restaurant Mis Amores to the side of the bar and thought we'd drift over there later and see if they had any tables. We were done planning for the day.

Up the hill we went--still trying to find a direct way to our villa and failing--where we showered and descended once again to Mis Amores. We were the second party in, and because it was part of the not busy time (early December), most tables were not taken during our entire service. Speaking of service, we really liked everyone at this place. And we thought the food was good, too.

Flashlights out, we climbed up the hill, getting lost only a few feet this time. AND the turn-down service had placed wash cloths on the vanities. Whoa! My misgivings about the place were totally wrong. Right?

Next:
Day Twelve: Early birding tour booked through hotel
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 06:27 AM
  #22  
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Oh great, flygirl. I know how you roll on trips, so I can't wait for your trip report.

Day Twelve: Early birding tour booked through hotel

5:30 am was our bird tour. On certain days of the week, a free bird tour is included. Too bad those were not the days of our stay!

Egads, we were so worried about not waking up OR not having enough coffee. We scheduled an early wake-up with reception. The Nexpresso pods gave us a starter, but we knew there was NOTHING at the Springs reception. We made it down in the dark (this is a STEEP descent) to reception, and low and behold, our guide and driver were already packing up a to-go breakfast. He introduced himself as Andre, which we learned later was Luis Andrey. We were disappointed that our request for Pablo or Hidalyah had not been obeyed; I can tell you that Andrey, as he preferred to be called, was the bomb. I love him.

Anyway, I immediately informed him of three things:
1) I am a bad birder
2) My husband does not bird, but he likes the challenge of spotting
3) WE NEED COFFEE

Andrey and the driver (Emilio?) started laughing. Yeah, it's weird one can get coffee at the "lower rent" Nayara Gardens side in the early am, but not in the "high rent" Springs side. They kindly drove up the main hill towards the Gardens and we all tanked up. Good.

So this outing did not come cheap--over $200 for both of us--but I do think we got a good value. This was over a 3-hour involvement. We started out at the reservoir lake area spotting amazing birds and then progressed to the Arenal area, where we spent hours. My husband has no interest in bird ID but he LOVES spotting things. He had the eyesight in youth of being able to spot insects crossing the road on a highway. I'm not kidding. So as he's aged, it's as though his eyesight is still better than mine with glasses. He was a great baseball player who could understand motion, everything I can lack in spotting bird movement. Again, both Sergio, our guy in Jaco, and the Nayara guide Andrey appreciated those skills.

On our way back, Andrey told me why he was so convivial with all the other birding guides we all met. They all have to be recertified every two years with Costa Rican guide rules. They end up taking classes together--and this is across generations of age difference--so they all end up knowing each other. When it came to an ID of a certain flycatcher, I said to Andrey, "I've never been able to know the difference." The five other guides around us all started laughing. I was embarrassed and Andrey said, "NONE of us know the difference. There are skilled birders who come here and take the picture and then come back once they've counted the darn feathers". All the guides nodded. One guide said, 'That ID isn't worth a life of worry." PHEW.

We returned to the hotel and reported to the bar again. Our room was cleaned by the time we returned. NO wash cloths. OMG--this had become stupid. Even in my early morning stupor, I had tucked away MY OWN wash cloth in a baggie just in case. I pulled it out again for my shower. My husband went back to hiking the property while I lurked in bushes down at the Gardens area to get more hummingbird species. It was great. And then I started thinking, "I spend ALL my time on THIS side. Why in the heck did I just not stay here?" Could have, should have, etc.

So we'd been tipping every darn day for our morning service, but I guess we should have been tipping big for evening service. So I tested that model that night before we descended to Mis Amores once more. Mis Amores was good again--we love talking to those servers. It's just so great to hear how proud people are about this lovely country. We returned--NO wash cloths. Well that tipping theory flew out the window.

Next: Recommendations if staying at Nayara Gardens or Springs
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 07:33 AM
  #23  
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Next: Recommendations if staying at Nayara Gardens or Springs

Here is what I found to be wiser than what we did:
1) Book five days or more to get a better deal per room. We missed out on some key offerings by our short stay.
2) Cost compare the best room at Nayara Gardens vs the Springs. Our Springs room was fantastic, and I can see how someone on a honeymoon may want all of that. We just did not need the excess. We had scored, by chance, the best room of the draw on our Backroads cycling trip at Nayara Gardens. Just take a look-see at their best room.
3) Take advantage of whatever each property offers for free. Yoga may be your thing. GREAT. Not us.
4) Check out packages in terms of what they can offer YOU. For example, we are NEVER doing a couples massage. You actually may love that.
5) If you need early morning coffee without a Nexpresso machine, the Gardens can help you.

I actually really do like the combined property. I would cross the bridge between the properties every day for the rest of my life because the smell and sounds are so wonderful. But I can tell you that we do spend time at a super upscale property in the US per year, so the faults of this one are glaring (yeah--you got me. I brag about being "low rent" and I have a secret "high rent" thingie. Mea Culpa,).

Here are significant differences:
1) Carts and people don't conflict our on "high rent" US place. Pedestrians have a right of way and there are frequent alternative paths for all. It's disturbing how the lazy guests and their very friendly drivers assume a right of way at Nayara (the skinny paths at The Springs make any avoidance impossible). If we are more than willing to hike the steep degrees of incline, at least respect us. Pitiful practice and truly poor design. And it's not because we expect service to be "servile". At our 5* US property, one expects to strike up conversations with the person clearing the path or cleaning the gutters or trimming the greenery. Guests-Employees have pretty darn equal standing.
2) Any buffet at our US place has pretty darn fresh or ripe ingredients. When "lower rent" properties in Costa Rica have riper, tastier fruits and vegetables than Nayara, one has to wonder.
3) I've never had to "bargain" for towels or wash cloths at any 5-star property in US or Europe before. Never. Ever. At Nayara, my bath towels would be taken away and I'd have to trot out to find some replacement near the plunge pool, and thank goodness at least one would be left. As I've pointed out, Springs offered a wash cloth and then it would disappear. At the US property, by comparison, I have to write notes to housekeeping: NO MORE TOWELS! WE ARE GOOD TO GO." + *
+I hope you understand that we never are inclined for replacements when spaces allow for items to dry. Teeny tiny bathrooms are places where we want to have towels replaced, mainly to prevent mold and mildew for the property's bathroom.

So every negative I've explained above is hardly a "hardship." But if one chooses to spend beyond sense, then the property should deliver. Again, we loved the concierge desk. The design of our room was great. There are just some glaring faults that say, "You can do FAR better for your dollar."
And boy were we stupid.

Next:
We return to earth. Leaving CR.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 08:32 AM
  #24  
 
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Nice report. I understand what you are saying about the luxury places. Even though I can afford them, I generally don't like them. My one trip to Costa Rica I was lucky enough to stay at Arenas del Mar (your age is your discount green season special!) The food was also pretty bad there. The best meal I had in CR was at Pura Vida hotel near Alajuela, but it was prepared by a Vietnamese-American expat!

I'm enjoying your comments as a "bad birder". Aren't hummingbirds wonderful? I understand the laughter about flycatchers. It's much worse in Central and South America than it is here in the US. I had a recent flycatcher experience here at home, even with lots of photographs of the all important feathers and bill from all angles. Yet the experts could not identify it since it was silent, plus not expected in December. That happens a lot. There is no shame in not being able to ID an "empid".

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 2nd, 2020 at 08:36 AM.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 10:51 AM
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Thanks for sharing all of this; I'm bookmarking for when I have more time to read it. Looking forward to it.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 02:37 PM
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Just had a chance to read through; your report is great fun. I'm really enjoying it. We stayed on the "low rent" side of Nayara once and enjoyed it. Even that was really pricey though. I think you might like the Arenal Observatory Lodge if you go back; it's off a long, bumpy road by the lake and has the best wildlife of any hotel in the area. The Smithsonian rooms have great volcano views if the weather is good. Free guided hike every morning, and free breakfast too. I thought Nayara has a very slick, designed feeling compared to some of the other spots where we've stayed.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 04:25 AM
  #27  
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volcanogirl:
The low rent side is more than enough! As long as one is an adult, one is allowed to "cross the bridge" and visit the services, etc on the other side. Again, if I were ever to go again, I stay on the Gardens side and I'd go for a LONGER period of time to take advantage of offered services. Here is a 2018 pdf of complimentary services and paid tours for the adult Springs side:
tour-rates-02-04-2018.pdf I should find out from the Gardens side what is complimentary there.

As to the Arenal Observatory Lodge, our guide Andrey took us there to look for birds for about 1.5 hours. The Lodge's guided walk, however, would not be what I'd like. There were too many people on the one we saw passing us. Heck, I used to give tours in a historic theatre, and at least nothing in the theatre is hiding in a tree or a bush. Once the crowd gets beyond a certain number, a lot of people just give up and start private conversations.

mlgb Thanks for the compliment, and thanks for understanding the bird watching! All those professional guides would love your "There is no shame in not being able to ID an 'empid' " statement because they all had come to the same conclusion. Life is too short to stress out about that ID!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 06:01 AM
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I guess it depends on how many people are on the walk, only six the last time we were there, but much bigger on a previous trip. We did a private tour with their birding guide which was great, got to go up in The Nest, their new bird watching tower where we could observe some aracaris.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 06:03 AM
  #29  
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We return to earth. Leaving CR.

At 5 am, our wake-up call came by way of a howler monkey that by voice seemed to be on top of our room (their voices can carry for miles, though). What a way to end our trip. Loved it. We packed for a bit and then wended our way down the hill to have the a la carte breakfast at Mis Amores with a CLEAR VIEW of the volcano. Those clear views are rare. We said goodbye to the Mis Amores staff--we really liked getting to know them and made our way up the hill. Once in the room, I nabbed my binocs and allowed myself 30 minutes to lurk in the bridge/pond shrubbery on our side of the property. A few finds--but the Gardens side would have had the better offerings.

We are old but strong. We still needed help with our luggage because it would be treacherous with the incline to go down our hill. All doctors know--Old People Fall. Reception was anticipating our call, and most of it went by clockwork. Our driver (through the hotel) had had to wait at the bottom of the hill until given the all-clear, but I did not know that and was starting to fret. No worries. Armando pulled up and away we went.

So here's another warning for anyone staying at the property flying out of San Jose: If you are flying back to ATL as we were in the early afternoon, you really do need to leave the property at 9:30 am. Figure out your cost ahead of time by the cost of your stay divided by hours on the ground. Hmm. That's a number.

The drive takes 2.5 to 3.5 hours, and that's without our eating at the mid-point where all the La Fortuna drivers take their break. We offered to buy Armando coffee and a snack while he took his restroom break (he declined), but we stayed in the car. The drive could encounter the slowest cars in the world, sudden traffic hazards, etc. You do need that time. And dropping off bags may have taken us little time because of our Delta Priority (we spend a lot of combined time in the air per year plus my husband still lives on airplanes for work plus I have a Delta SkyMiles Am Express Card that push up each of us) but we saw so many others frustrated in line and knew the feeling. It seemed as though many Americans were trying to check-in a zillion bags that were seriously overweight. People were repacking all over the place.

We made it onto the plane in lovely time with a fun group of people, with the exception of the guy in front of me who reclined into my face for 99% of the flight. We're talking about not being able to read my Kindle without a seat overhang. I had to lift it above his bald head. I seriously thought about kicking his seat for the next few hours, but decided mid-flight to do the refocus lights/air-vent revenge. He never moved his seat up, but you could tell I at least made him at least 50% less comfortable. What the hell--I made him 75% less comfortable on my two visits pulling down his seat to my boobs on the way to and from the restroom. That was not on purpose--he made me do the limbo (I have already reported flexibility is not one of my attributes). A lady in back of me started laughing, and I peeked around. She whispered, "You go girl. He's insane." As all of you business guys know, there is sort of a protocol of "I'm reclining--are you OK?" type of thing among frequent flyers. Truly, so many guys who travel just respect space in so many lovely ways, and this guy decided he was entitled to my lap.

But GOOD PROBLEMS TO HAVE.

We landed at ATL and made it through the process in zippy time because we did Global Entry eons ago. Thank goodness, it worked. Our cab was great, we made it to our temporary overnight and all was good.

Except we were no longer in Costa Rica.

We shall return. We love this country. One thinks of the US as a place where all immigrants are bound. Not true. So many have found their safe space in CR. And as any person interested in ecology, Costa Rica accounts for only 0.03 percent of the earth's surface but contains nearly 6 percent of the world's biodiversity. The fact that naturalist guide is a position worth having says that the government there understands its unique place in the world. We want to support that understanding.

I hope this trip report is helpful. I'll be happy to answer any questions.

Love to all,
AZ
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 10:13 AM
  #30  
 
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Thanks, enjoyed. I googled empid and it could be employee ID! But I am accepting flycatcher. I am a partial birdwatcher; if I can't identify they are called nice birds. (Pretty much all shorebirds are nice birds.)

A long time since I have been to the Arenal area, it was still erupting. Last trip was Bosque del Cabo. Expensive by my standards, all-inclusive by necessity, would go back.

Are you willing to disclose the luxury resort in the US you like? Just in case I want to blow my RMD?
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 05:43 AM
  #31  
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Oh, I'm laughing, emmajm. "EMPID" is the abbreviation for the genus Empidonax. I think all those CR birding guides would prefer the idea of "employee ID."

So many of these flycatchers would be easier to ID once they migrate north in summer. As a related topic, it's ironic that the "jewels" of the Northeastern US and Canada forests, warblers, are usually dull in Costa Rica where there are so many brilliant bird species (OMG--the red legged honeycreeper and the motmot blew us away).

Because they are migrants, warblers are wearing their dull fall and winter clothing as "vacationers" in CR. I've been on many a frustrating migration-south bird count decades ago before my kids made me drop the "nocs". The jewels of spring start to match bark on the way back south. The warblers only start to brighten up as they leave Costa Rica, and by April/ May, when those of us in the Northeastern US and Canada get to see them and HEAR THEM vividly on our bird counts, they are gems. Many of the CR birders I adored had never seen common birds around my home in their gorgeous summer plumage.

Sergio, our Jaco bird guide, was in love with DUCKs after seeing a one-off in a pond. Ducks are not in abundance in CR, and he hoped to get a trip to US or Canada to see them. My husband and I exclaimed when Sergio confessed this that he had to find LOONS, which of course are not ducks, but they are so amazing.

I hope Sergio gets a photography client (Sergio has a lot of those) who falls in love with this guy's passion and finds a way to get a him a visa to the US or Canada. We told him that if he could just get to Point Pelee (both a peninsula park and an island in Canada that is close to Detroit, Michigan, Toledo, OH, etc.) he'd get to see his spring warblers plus all kinds of ducks. The birds are so exhausted from migration flying across Lake Erie that they stay still for a few hours panting, and they spend time there fueling up for their next destination.

However, emmajm, I'm not going to ID the 5* property in the US. For many, it is NOT 5*, which is why we keep going back. It's sort of 5* for people who don't need one And in addition, my husband, who tolerates all my overshares on this board, is reluctant to share HIS life, and for once (maybe five times in 40 years), I SHALL obey.

For now. I do think it's funny that I heard my husband say to a friend once we returned, "If you don't look for birds in Costa Rica, you are missing out on the country." Well, I guess there's a reason he married me.

Once again, I want to do a salute to VolcanoGirl. You helped me out so much years ago, and I've seen you do it over and over again for others. I spend most of my time on the Europe forum where there is far more advice (and OPINIONS) and we all need more participation on this one. I hope everyone who has lurked here soaking up advice comes back to report. We all vacation differently (heck, if I were to look at my itinerary, there are THREE vacationing styles represented), but bits and pieces of trip reports start to inform another successful vacation plan. Life is short--those plans might provide a meaningful memory. I so believe in travel because the world is getting SMALLER, not larger, and our environmental community has become totally dependent on each other in a disappearing vegetation and species world. Our children will depend on OUR experiences to inform their future. GET OUT THERE!

Thanks to all,
AZ
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Old Jan 5th, 2020, 12:46 PM
  #32  
 
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Just in case someone reading here missed it--Netflix has a good short documentary Birders about birdwatching across the border (US-Mexico).
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 08:29 AM
  #33  
 
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I am leaving Friday and have done zero zip nada to plan other than I know where I am sleeping. I still don't have a driver for place to place, nor, any activities booked.

Thank you for going into such detail!!
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 05:06 AM
  #34  
 
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Fab report

Really enjoyed your trip report but it has raised some anxieties for me.
we are going to Costa Rica first timers in two weeks. All rather rushed as we were going somewhere else long story so havenít done the usual searching and also lots of places booked up.
anxieties are 1.weve hired a car is this a mistake?
2. We have booked la Mariposa but your comments about the mossies have freaked me out as I am quite allergic to their bites. Usually manage with DEET but they sounded wild!! Is everywhere the same I saw a place called parador resort might that be better?
3. I havenít booked any trips yet should I ?
4. we have booked to stay first night in president hotel San Jose and then back to the airport next morning is that a waste of time should we just stay near the airport if so where?
sorry fir all the questions really the mosquito one is the most vital to me
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 07:45 AM
  #35  
 
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The mosquitoes are in the entire area, changing to a different hotel won't make much difference. Pack bug spray in case you need it. We haven't found them to be that bad, but we use our repellent when we need it. Sometimes it depends on how much rain they've had.
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 09:18 AM
  #36  
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Happy you liked the report, and I want to allay your fears.
1. We've hired a car. Is this a mistake?
Those who love to drive around will will say, "No, we love that." But my husband and I did rent our first time out, and we immediately regretted it. At the agency, the car cost FAR MORE than the given estimate. We only were going to Manuel Antonio, so it's not as though we were exploring the country. We quickly found we could get everywhere we wanted to go in Manuel Antonio by walking, by shuttle, or at a last resort, by taxi. So since we HATE renting cars outside of the US (and right now, UBER serves us most times in the US), for this trip, I had the husband's permission to book a driver no matter what. And La Mariposa's Victor was so delightful, and the cost was so fair, that we ended up being happy with our choice.

2. We have booked La Mariposa but your comments about the mossies have freaked me out as I am quite allergic to their bites. Usually manage with DEET but they sounded wild!! Is everywhere the same I saw a place called Parador Resort might that be better?
Mosquitoes are a fact of life in CR, and recent rain says all. Part of the problem for our lovely room is that one stepped DOWN into the room, thus creating a sort of mosquito lurking point between the entry shrubs, and those guys took advantage of the door opening. You are going to need DEET no matter what for most of the trip. People who have stayed at the Parador love the service; they all agree La Mariposa has the best view. Up to you. I have no mossie comparison chart between the properties. I doubt it differs much.

3. I havenít booked any trips yet. Should I ?
Well, yeah. You should at least contact your Mariposa concierge pretty darn soon.

4. We have booked to stay first night in the President Hotel San Jose and then back to the airport next morning. Is that a waste of time? Should we just stay near the airport? If so, where?
If you are not going to explore San Jose (we did so our first trip and totally enjoyed it) then you truly might want to spend the night at the hotel we did our this one, our second trip. It was the Buena Vista Chic, one that provided transport to/fro the airport. We offered to get to the airport for Victor's Mariposa pick-up, but La Mariposa told us that it would be so much simpler if Victor just met us there.


Mosquitoes eat me alive. They do not touch my husband. I totally get your fear. I carry DEET spray and lots of DEET wipes in every possible pocket.
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 01:18 PM
  #37  
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
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Thankyou so much feel like a bit of a baby now fussing about the mosquitoes 🦟
do we have the same husband they always bypass mine in favour of me. I’ve also got some Avon skin so soft apparently the US military uses this as mosquito repellent

i could try and find out about transfers but I had got the impression ( rightly or wrongly) that we might be hanging around for long periods of time waiting fir drivers to show up. Allesanro zoes experience seems to allay that..

i will get on the case re the trips out not sure how many to be booking tbh.

Maybe we we will just stay in San Jose at the end to take a look round we arrive quite late at the start of the trip
I’ll look your hotel up.

volcanogirl thankyou for your replies both here and on the 5hread I started as well


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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 01:56 PM
  #38  
 
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We've used drivers for just about every trip, and we've been to CR over ten times. I don't think we've ever had a driver be late; sometimes they show up a bit early, but they're always willing to wait until the appointed time. You can usually reserve them through your hotels when you book them. Sometimes we ask them to point out interesting things they spot along the way. One pulled over and showed us an entire tree full of scarlet macaws; another showed us where coatis like to hang out, and we got to see some there. Sometimes they don't see anything, but it's worth mentioning in case something pops up. Another took us to a place where big iguanas hang out, and one showed us a pretty waterfall. We usually reserve our tours before we go, but a lot of people book once they're there. I'd do it at least a few days in advance if you can. There are a lot of popular American hotel chains right near the airport if you decide to go that route.
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Old Jan 17th, 2020, 12:23 AM
  #39  
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Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,290
The Avon-Skin-So-Soft has never worked for me. Well, it's sort of trapped bugs on my skin, but other than that... Here is a link to the Consumer Reports on it: https://www.consumerreports.org/inse...iew-bug-spray/

Knowing not only how mosquitoes are attracted to me but also how my body totally overreacts to bites, I went with
Benís 30% DEET Tick & Insect Wilderness Formula Benís 30% DEET Tick & Insect Wilderness Formula
. My husband and I each carried a little spray bottle plus packets of wipes in this product at all times.

I am also fair-skinned, and I took advantage of the new long sleeved, high necked swimsuits. Those sleeves came in handy to keep skeeters off me, too.

However, our stay was at the end of the rainy season when rain has filled up gutters, etc for months. You will be there in a much drier period.


As to drivers showing up late? Our one driver was merely ten minutes late after battling construction traffic all morning on his FOUR-HOUR drive to get to us, and he called our hotel's desk to alert us. We had to assure him a zillion times that we were not upset. So the timing of our drivers was not an issue at all.
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Old Jan 17th, 2020, 01:07 AM
  #40  
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Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,290
And I forgot to add that the same driver who was ten minutes late (again, NOT a problem!) was lovely about saying our time and needs were the priority on our trip north. He had wifi on board, water, and offered stops for restrooms all the way. He pulled over for macaws, too. So VolcanoGirl's observations are seconded here.

As to the arrangements: I booked our guy Victor through La Mariposa (he arrrived an hour early). I booked our other two drivers through our Arenal hotel. Knowing that's how VolcanoGirl did it (and she does not travel extravagantly) made me be a bit more chill about not having to look elsewhere.

Again, why did we not drive? Answer: we had done so before. My husband HATED it (and he drives seven hours 4x a year for one of his clients on a truck-packed interstate, so it's not that he can't do it). His point to me was that he was ON VACATION and both the roads and the driving style of the country were not him. When we had taken our first trip, our guide in Manuel Antonio, who was very much of a business guy, asked us how much we were paying for our rental car, etc. and told my husband that for the area, it made no sense. And we agreed!

But I do get it about worrying about timing. When we go to Paris, I NEVER book a shuttle. Taxis are easy to get at CDG; depending on where we stay, I will often do the Metro. The one time we used a shuttle to get back to CDG, other passengers were late. NOPE, not doing that. So I get your worry.

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