Osa, Costa Rica trip - May/June

Old Jun 19th, 2010, 08:46 AM
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Osa, Costa Rica trip - May/June

For this trip I decided to stay entirely on the Osa peninsula. It's my favourite part of Costa Rica and felt I could fit in a variety of places without losing too much travel time. My dates were May 20th to June 4th, although I didn't get out of CR til the 5th. Hotels stayed at were - Palma Real, La Leona Eco Lodge, Cabinas Jimenez, Surfside Bungalows, Bosque del Cabo, Xandari and (not by choice) Holiday Inn Express.

Arrival at SJO and was pleased to see the new immigrations area all finished. It was quick and painless, though luggage still seems to take a while to come out. Stayed near Sabana Park at the Palma Real, as I had last November. I'm not a huge fan of the boxy hotels but I do like this one. Booked about 2 weeks out and got a nice rate of $67, including breakfast. It has a restaurant, which is so-so and a casino; there is a great Italian restaurant next door though. It's also 5 minutes walking distance from a grocery store, albeit you have to make a mad dash across the busy highway. The stadium going up in the park is huge and looks to be completed soon, it's the fastest I've ever seen
anything in CR being built. An earthquake dashed my quick catnap, and I humoured myself watching the live news report of it in Spanish.

Off to Pavas in the morning to catch my Nature Air flight. I had a few hours to spend in Puerto Jimenez until catching the collectivo at 1:30 to Carate and then onto La Leona
Eco Lodge. The internet cafe is handy and cheap and catty corner from Carolina's where, more often than not, you will usually see someone you know there or walking by. Bosque del Cabo office was king enough to hold the rest of my bag as I was going in pretty light to La Leona. Went by and met Ute, the very nice lady who manages the PJ office of La Leona. She was nice enough to even check the tide tables for me as I was a little nervous about crossing the Rio Carate (which turned out to be a problem on the return). She was a great resource and was always very quick to reply yo my (many) emails.

So, wow, the collectivo sure has changed since I last took it. A few years ago it was merely a small pick-up truck with padded seats along the side. Now it's the same idea but in a huge truck. Someone had told me to get there early to get a good seat by the back and I very much agree. By the time we loaded up (at Cabinas Thompson, one street off the main street, $8) every seat was taken and several people had to stand. I had a seat at the very end so I had plenty of air and used my rain jacket as a cushion against the hard sides. The road from PJ to the Carbonera area is still the bumpy, pot-hole filled road it has always been, but the road from there all the way out to Carate was in great shape, relatively speaking. The drive took about 2 hours, maybe a little more as we had a flat tire - and thankfully a spare. Arriving at the Carate pulperia there is a horse-cart to take your bag and you have to cross Rio Carate then walk about 25 minutes on the beach to get to La Leona Eco Lodge. Right before you get to LL you pass the Corcovado Tent Camp which as others have mentioned, is pretty much abandoned. All the tents are still there but other than a couple groundkeepers it looked like it has been deserted for a while.

La Leona Eco Lodge - loved this place! A great deal at $115 a night including all meals, for an ocean front tent. There are 2 or 3 rows of tents, the ones behind are a little less. Very laid-back and casual, nicely laid out. The tents are built on wooden platforms with a nice deck and an open air bathroom in the back. No electricity, so the headlamp really helped at night. From past experience, I tried to get anything I needed to "get done" before sunset. Be ready for cold showers, which yes are invigorating but still....cold. I was in tent #8 which I loved as it was on the very end, very private and lots of great views of the ocean and many birds. The only thing that drove me crazy, and this is so minor I only mention it as it became rather funny, was the velcro that sealed the tent flaps. No matter which way I tried to get in, or pulled my hair back, I always ended up losing a few hairs each time I went in and out. The tents are kept so clean and I never had a single bug in my tent and only a small, uninterested crab in my bathroom.

All the meals were great and filling, though desserts were a little uninspired. There is coffee, water and juice available all day, as well as drinks at the bar and some snacks. The grounds are nicely kept and the entire staff was always on hand to help or answer any questions. My first morning there, one of the staff was going to walk the trail behind the lodge to look for a dog and myself and another guest went with him. It was one of those walks where you weren't really looking for anything, we were just walking and talking, not really on the lookout for animals when we ran right into a huge male tapir sleeping on the trail. We all startled each other. He then got up and ate some leaves for 5 minutes before finally wandering off. So exciting to see and all the better as we weren't even looking. The trail behind the lodge by the way is a nice one, lots of frogs and spider monkeys, takes maybe 30 minutes at a slow pace.

I'm glad I waited til my 2nd full day there to take the hike into Corcovado Park, as it was cheaper since we had a second person, a nice woman from Sweden. The price was $40 plus the $10 park entry fee. We were delayed by about an hour due to rain, but despite reports of such heavy rains on the Osa that week we were pretty lucky (except my last night there). It did rain of course, but never for very long, maybe an hour or two and then you carry on. Corcovado park was nice though a lot busier than I expected. We went in with the guide from LL, Bolivar. We didn't see a huge amount of wildlife, though I have to admit I've been spoiled by too many visits to Bosque del Cabo. A few capuchins, spider monkeys, a coati and some macaws. I have to look at it through someone else's eyes - the lady with us was very excited over all the animals. I don't mean I wasn't happy to see them but sometimes I would start wandering ahead, hoping to see a boa or another tapir. We came to a river where we had snacks and where we had to cross for the tour to continue. I forget which one this was, Madrigal perhaps? Anyway, after watching a few kids cross the waist high river we decided we preferred our dry clothes and headed back.

The night before I was to leave it started raining really hard and didn't let up til the early morning. I had to leave La Leona around 7:30 to catch the collectivo back to PJ at 8:30. The horse cart had already taken my bag so I was on my own when I reached the Rio Carate and my heart sank. Not only was it running a lot higher than the shin height it had when I came in but it was really running hard and strong with big waves and, I assumed, a strong current. So I did what I do when flummoxed - I stood there and stared at it for 10 minutes. This turned out to be a good idea. The horse cart suddenly showed up on the other side of the river, probably wondering where the person with the bag had wandered off to. After a few minutes of watching the river as well he made a mad dash across and came and got me, thankfully. Then arriving to the pulperia, another downer - the collectivo hadn't shown up and by now it was 9am. More waiting and a motorcycle showed up, said the Rio Oro (I think) was too high and the drop-off too steep for the truck to make it. As I was discussing my options (walk!) with the lady who runs the pulperia, I was elated to see the truck pull up and we were off.

Let me just add that the new airstrip in Carate is so ugly, IMO. It's fenced in and topped with barbed wire and is jarring to look at. I can only hope Sansa or Nature Air don't start regular flights there, I heard rumours that they would be and also that they couldn't, so not sure.

Arrived into PJ and was happy that I could check into Cabinas Jimenez early, stayed in room #10 which has a great view over the water. Price was $65 a night and has a/c, a mini fridge and coffee-maker. I would stay here again in a heartbeat. The girl from Sweden from La Leona and also some kids that had been camping nearby but ate at La Leona were all in town as well, so we all ate that night at the pizza place across from the soccer field, Pizza Mail.it. Very good and reasonably priced. Thanks to the info from Cabinas Jimenez found the laundry place, which is a great deal - big bag for about $2. Was to take about 3 hours but PJ lost power for several hours so I picked up next morning. When I was picking up the laundry, I ran into a driver and he said he could take me out to Matapalo for $30, which is about the going rate. First we went off to the BM so I could stock up on food for the next 3 days. $33 later, with coffee, eggs, chips, bread, butter and cheese bought we went off for the 50 minute drive. In retrospect, I should've bought just a little more food as there are only so many combos of above you can make.

I swear I meant to make this a couple paragraph report but I am apparently unable to condense or edit very well. To be continued.......
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Old Jun 19th, 2010, 11:25 AM
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Waiting for the To Be Continue .....
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Old Jun 19th, 2010, 06:25 PM
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Likey like so far. Maybe you'll inspire me to get something out soon too. I did leave two days after you, though, so I have a two day reprieve...
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Old Jun 19th, 2010, 08:01 PM
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Fun reading, tully. Thank you.

I live just a few blocks from the new stadium. It is being built entirely with Chinese funding and labor as a gift to Costa Rica, and they work 24/7. You go by there at midnight and there's all kinds of activity going on. The running joke is "When they finish the stadium, put them to work on _____." (Fill in the blank with the name of any number of Costa Rican projects that are weeks/months/years behind schedule.)
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Old Jun 20th, 2010, 07:54 AM
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Tully - loving the read so far, especially the tapir story! How cool is that? La Leona sounds great as well as Cabinas Jimenez. I can picture you perfectly staring the river down. ;-). Looking forward to the rest...
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Old Jun 20th, 2010, 08:53 AM
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Excellent that you got to see a tapir! Looking forward to hearing more...
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Old Jun 20th, 2010, 11:58 AM
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Tully-

Sounds like that dreaded earthquake interupted both of our naps!
Your trip sounds like a real adventure. Looking forward to hearing more about the Osa as I think that would be the place that we would visit next time.
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Old Jun 20th, 2010, 01:37 PM
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Thanks all! I will post another short segment here in a minute, then try to wrap the rest up soon. Jeff, yeah I can't believe the progress on the stadium between Nov and May, though the whole 'gift' thing has me wondering.
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Old Jun 20th, 2010, 01:41 PM
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Surfside Bungalows, Playa Matapalo. I'm not sure how to approach reviewing my stay here, it has quite a bit of qualifiers. Such as - it was really peaceful except for the hours of 8am to 4 pm when the table saw & generator at a nearby property was running. It was peaceful except when the 3 young boys on the property were screaming at the top of their lungs and throwing rocks at each other, and one errantly missing me by inches. It wasn't incredibly welcoming, a nod or hola would've been appreciated. So, those are my gripes.

The bungalow itself was very nice, extremely roomy with a full kitchen, fans, bathroom (back to the cold water showers again) and living area, plus a roomy deck. It's set maybe 20 feet from the beach access road, and Matapalo beach is under a 5 minute walk. My stay here was an idea, after years of walking the beach access road after hiking the Golfo Dulce trail from Bosque del Cabo, that didn't quite pan out. Since I don't surf, my plan had been just to chill on the deck, getting some reading done and basically just take it very easy. A stroll once ot twice a day up the road to Pan Dulce and back.

The noise was my top complaint, I had to walk down the road several times and just sit on the beach to get away from it. I think I also missed some type of routine and this was the first time I really disliked being alone. The howler monkeys would usually come into the trees at dusk (which was great) but then of course you would also get that wake-up call at around 4:25 every morning. So then I would do this, and that, and find myself, at what seemed like several hours later, at 7am, and again later several hours would pass, except that it would be only 9am. They were the longest days I've ever spent. I did venture up to Encanta la Vida for lunch one day, except I was unwilling to shell out $15 for pizza, no matter how bored I was by eggs, cheese and bread.

The brief respite I had was a massage I had arranged earlier with Laura, the masseuse from El Remanso - would highly recommend her! In fact, since she was the first person I'd really had contact with since arriving, I almost split that last full day there. I was going to use her phone and go stay either at El Remanso for 1 night or just go early to Bosque del Cabo for an extra night. But doing so would've meant forfeiting my $100 already paid for that night as well as ponying up at ER or BdC. So fully relaxed after the massage I decided to tough it out and make the most if it.

So - would I stay here again? No. But if you're a surfer and plan to be at the beach all day long, then it's a pretty nice place. Looking back, I wish I'd stayed where I originally planned - Laguna Vista Villas down at Carate but live and learn, right?

On to Bosque del Cabo next.....
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Old Jun 20th, 2010, 06:02 PM
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Enjoying the trip report...looking forward to the next installment!
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 07:41 AM
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Oh come on tully - I thought you loved misbehaved kidlets! Seriously though, bummer about the construction when obviously you go for peace and nature, plus sound like you got a little stir crazy. Too bad, that place looked pretty cool when we walked by though. Well I'm sure you bounced back at BDC so looking forward to the rest...
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 04:43 PM
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Hey Tully (and VG and Hip...)!

I'm almost ashamed to post because it's been so long since I've been on the boards. Life just sadly gets in the way at times...

I was delighted to get the link to your pics and am soooo envious and excited that you saw that tapir! Too cool. It's those terrific unexpected moments that make a trip so memorable.

Sounds like you had a little bit of a mixed bag with accommodations, but wisely chose to end your Osa stay at BdC. Hard to be disappointed there...
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 05:56 PM
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Hey, C - Welcome back!
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 06:27 PM
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Thanks, VG, glad to be here...
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 06:39 PM
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I am following this thread in my usual nice and quiet way
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 04:43 AM
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La Leona sounds interesting. Too bad you got a double whammy of annoyances at Surfside - construction and rude kids. Good thing you had Bosque to look forward to. Enjoying your report!
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 02:20 PM
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Hi cam, so good to see you again, welcome back - don't be a stranger

Jane, Cam, yeah a mixed bag, and I wasn't feeling so generous at the time but now just look at it as a learning experience. I now know better what to ask in the future,

Will continue soon, sorry been swamped at work.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 02:54 PM
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I'm following quietly too. I always hold your opinions in high esteem, so I'm listening!
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 02:57 PM
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Hi Cam! I actually posted on one of your Florence, Italy threads a while back...but I'm not sure if you ever checked back. I think I recommended a place in Santa Croce or something I can't remember, LOL! I don't think I have your current e-mail anymore so I'll get it from tully. Heading back to CR on Friday. Stick around, we miss you!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2010, 07:24 AM
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You guys are awesome! I clearly need to get my priorities back in line; more Fodor's, less work! ;-)

Hip, I did miss your response to my Florence thread. Sorry about that! We did end up buying some stuff in a leather shop right across from Santa Croce, so I wonder if it was the same one you mentioned in your thread. I was trailing in your footsteps and didn't even know it... Have a wonderful time in CR! Where to this time? I'll look to see if I still have your email and drop you a line...

Tully, I am looking forward to your BdC recap so try not to keep us waiting too long.
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