Rainforest is raining: Costa Rica trip report

Old Jan 18th, 2020, 10:37 AM
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Rainforest is raining: Costa Rica trip report

Good morning everyone!

Yesterday was a looong day but I made it! Since I had to leave the house at 5 AM I packed Thursday night and after five hours of sleep got up at 4, showered, and Ubered to DCA. Between the flight to CLT, the three hour layover, the flight to SJO, then the ride to Arenal, I finally managed to sit down and have myself a cocktail at 8 PM (9 PM eastern time). My driver from the hotel was very nice, his name is Clever and we stopped partway for some coffee and a meal.

This morning I took a stroll on the grounds to get my bearings! I saw the waterfall and the hanging bridge and bounced my way back and forth across it.

January through April is the less-wet season here but the weather report says rain straight through. We will see what actually happens - it has been raining like the dickens off and on - right this minute it isn't raining. It didn't rain until after I was in bed last night but the wind and rain was fierce. I didn't realize that there are window vents way up high in the room and bathroom, I was so tired (and didn't have my glasses on) I was wondering where the wind kept coming from lol. I am pretty sure I heard howler monkeys this morning but they were not very close so it wasn't super loud.

I am reliably told there is a volcano outside my window but I haven't seen it yet lol. The temps are very nice - low 70s - but one thing to keep in mind - nothing dries here and in fact things you hang up will be damp from the humidity even if they were not damp when you first hung then (e.g. my jeans). It's quite comfortable as it's not hot, but there is no AC and everything stays damp. The hotel has a sign near the lamps that say DO NOT DRY YOUR CLOTHES ON THE LAMPS - haha! Bring quick drying clothes and GOOD CALL on the shorts volcanogirl. I suspect I will be wearing them a lot while I'm in this location.

Don't forget your dry bag like I did. Of all the things I should have brought but forgot, that would have been the most useful. I am going to go to one of the hot springs and it would be useful to have that. Although I'm likely going to hit up one of the higher end places (there is one where Will Smith stayed?) so I'm sure I'll have a locker for my stuff and a place to shower etc. I also brought three pairs of sneaker and I wish I had gone out and bought the hiking Keens like volcano girl mentioned - no socks! I have an old pair of Tevas but I don't think those would have the same grip on wet surfaces. My sneakers which are best for hiking are soaked from my walk on the grounds this morning - it is what it is. I did bring a ton of small kitchen sized garbage bags so I have a place to stash the wet stuff in my luggage when it's time to move on.

I think I'm going to see if I can go on a coffee/chocolate tour today. Thank you to everyone who wrote reports or responded to my various questions! It helped me get my bearings.

EDIT: one good thing about the rain and wind: no mosquitos! Yeah! I'll take it.

Last edited by flygirl; Jan 18th, 2020 at 11:18 AM.
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Old Jan 18th, 2020, 04:38 PM
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Thanks for sharing your travels with us. Costa Rica is a country I know little to nothing about so I am eager to learn from your experiences. Hope you get some sun during your time there.
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Old Jan 19th, 2020, 06:31 AM
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Fun to get a live report from you! You're off to a great start. If you want fancy natural hot springs, I think Tabacon is the prettiest.
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Old Jan 19th, 2020, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by volcanogirl View Post
Fun to get a live report from you! You're off to a great start. If you want fancy natural hot springs, I think Tabacon is the prettiest.
I went to the Springs Resort and Spa! I saw photos of what the volcano view WOULD be - wow! The pool was divine and I made a GoPro video (brand new still haven't even figured it out yet). There is a swim up bar and the locker room is well equipped and big.

Today I think I'll try for either the chocolate tour or a sloth tour. Allegedly Tuesday is supposed to be somewhat sunny. Not sure about tomorrow. I want to do a bird tour too - would the rain mean less chance of wildlife sighting in general or won't it matter?
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Old Jan 19th, 2020, 10:05 AM
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We never got to see the volcano due to rain and clouds. Wildlife is less active in the rain. Have fun and thanks for reporting!
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Old Jan 19th, 2020, 04:42 PM
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We've stayed at the Springs Resort and Spa - very nice! The Bogarin Trail is excellent for seeing sloths. We saw them there - easy flat trails, and the local family that owns it act as guides. Also a good spot to see poison dart and red-eyed tree frogs.
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Old Jan 19th, 2020, 04:43 PM
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I agree with Michelle - definitely less chance of seeing wildlife in the rain. They tend to hide out if it's rainy.
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Old Jan 20th, 2020, 10:18 AM
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Would constant dampness mess with a laptop? It has been in its soft sided case but not in the suitcase. I didn't figure out this relentless dampness until the next day after I landed and it's been really ornery and this has never happened before. I have turned it on and off a few times and it's still not right. Also, once I'm in a dryer place or at least climate controlled, anything special I should do with my luggage inside and out to get rid of the damp or ensure it isn't growing something?

Yesterday I did:

another different walk on the grounds - this time to climb the Nest (tall observation tower) and walk past the frog pond (did not see frogs).

a chocolate/coffee tour set up by AOL. It was so interesting and fun! I had no idea that cacao tasted like fruit! We saw every step of the process and had a taste (or in the case of fermentation, smell) of everything. We even made our own little bit of chocolate to take away. I happened to ask the guy checking us in if he could call me a driver to take me back and he offered to drive me back for less. We had a nice chat on the way back - I commented that everyone speaks such good English and he said it was because of the tourism - lots of practice. By the way so far everyone is accepting dollars and many things are priced in dollars.

I got back in time for 2-4-1 happy hour and after dinner instead of loading up in the rain to go use day 2 of my day pass at the FABULOUS Springs Resort and Spa, I opted to just walk down the path to the jacuzzi which was nice and warm and empty. So far I'm noticing most guests around me seem to be either families with kids, or people who appear to be retirement age. Not all - it's possible the even younger ones are up and out before (checks clock) 830 AM).

For anyone following, my logistics are fairly simple: five nights at Arenal Observatory Lodge and then the Interbus shuttle to Parador Resort and Spa (I think that is the full name) which is near Manuel Antonio.

by reading posts here and a guidebook I have the lay of the land and some ideas of what Iíd like to do but I didnít plan or reserve anything. Iím making it up as I go along. Iím beginning to think I may not zipline here - May need to wait until I go south - the rain has been really quite relentless and while it stops here and there once it starts again itís a downpour. Not prime ziplining weather.

And now I am going to run to see if i can make the 830 tour. Pura Vida!

(yes I hit send later - I was going to miss the tour otherwise)

Last edited by flygirl; Jan 20th, 2020 at 10:28 AM.
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Old Jan 20th, 2020, 11:19 AM
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Yes constant dampness can mess with your electronics. I've had my camera go wonky. I bought a dry bag to bring to keep the dampness out for future trips. It might helpt to use a blow dryer on a very low setting or if you can get somewhere with air conditioning, that will wick out the humidity. Also keep your luggage zipped up.

The Nest is neat; we got to see some aracaris from up there. The frogs are nocturnal so you'll have better luck if you go down after dark with a flashlight. We saw red-eyed tree frogs at the pond. They're stuck under the bottom sides of the leaves during the day. Someone was naughty and pulled one out for photos when we were there. They're gorgeous. Glad you had fun on your chocolate tour; that's good rain or shine!
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 09:09 AM
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Yesterday I did two hikes (in the rain)

The 2 1/2 hour guided hike in the morning - guided by a lodge expert - and in the afternoon a two hour hike on the property solo - and I do mean solo. NO ONE was on my path the entire time. A little spooky, a little serene.

Of course I got soaked both times so I had three changes yesterday, and as a bonus my morning clothes (and everything else worn so far) I was able to give to the front desk to be washed and I got it back by 5pm so Iím again wearing yesterday morningís clothes although dry this time! And my hiking clothes from round two went to the desk this morning so when I move on I will have all dry clothes. Yay!

I saw more coatis yesterday, and a red eyed tree frog, a few toucans, a spider monkey asleep, and some hummingbirds. There are some yellow tailed birds always near the hotel with an interesting kind of squeal/bird call. Not sure what they are yet.

today at noon Iím being picked up by the Mistico hanging bridges guide and that will be my last excursion here. Maybe Iíll zipline down south. My main goal down south will be to see Manuel Antonio Park (donít have a tour set up yet, hope that isnít a mistake), see some sloths, and zipline. Other than that no goals - maybe a lot of reading near the pool. We will see.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 09:49 AM
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Glad you're having some good sightings! I bet the birds are Montezuma Oropendolas. They build huge hanging nests so if you see those, you know they're around. You'll see them at the fruit feeder off the observation deck in the morning when they put the fruit out. Wow, you are getting a lot of rain - good plan to have the hotel take care of the clothes so you don't have to pack wet things.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 01:12 PM
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But we did get to see red hot boulders come down the volcano as it was very active then!
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 01:17 PM
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We zip lined at Sky Trek at Arenal in the pouring rain. It was miserable and cold. My husband would zip off and disappear into a cloud! The best part was afterwards. We headed to Eco Termales, had a nice lunch, and soaked in their hot springs.
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Old Jan 25th, 2020, 05:09 PM
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Whoops, stopped posting once I got to the Parador Resort and Spa - for no good reason as I've slowed down the pace here.

The hanging bridges was fun and so interesting! It rained quite a bit, too, but I was so used to getting wet by then it didn't matter. Recall that the temps were around 70 degrees so albeit humid it was actually comfortable - not stifling. Honestly given a choice I'll take cooler YET rainier if I am meant to be outside for a long time. Perfect would obviously be 70, sunny, and not humid. But I'll take 70 and rainy for outdoors stuff any day of the week, over 80+ and quite humid/sunny.

The hotels down here make things so easy. There are plenty of things to sign up for right there and they typically come get you. Overall, if I were to do this again I'd want to come with a friend and rent a car for more mobility but this worked out OK. The only time I wouldn't have wanted to have a car was arrival day in the dark.

My last morning at AOL I was sad to leave. It is charming and the people are so nice - the rain was only a little bit of a damper. No pun intended.

The Interbus came to get me at 720 AM. We had 7 people total going to Manuel Antonio and I was the first. It took roughly 6 hours or so including two brief stops.

The Parador is AMAZING. I am so pleased with my choice, even though I'm not typically a "lounge at a resort" kind of person. It is so well located and its perch is astounding. What views!

They had me at "we are going to upgrade you to a suite". I had booked a garden room for about $275 or so (I have to check) and they put me in their suites tower - this room is usually around $800 or so at this time. WOW. What a fabulous room. I looked, it's 700SF. Tall ceilings, king size bed, cavernous main room which has a living room area, dining area, wet bar..., big "reception" area (seriously the "reception" area of this room is bigger than the size of a typical Paris hotel room) and a big tub which is separate from the walk in huge shower and separate toilet room. Double vanity, big double closet, and the balcony is quite big too and has a jacuzzi tucked into the corner. The room has two desks, one in the reception area and one in the main room.

Four nights here, and I mostly just plunked (leaving in the AM). I know, I know. Here I am, and I'm a lounge lizard. Oh well. I did spend one morning with a guide at Manuel Antonio and met a dozen of my "neighbors" and saw a ton of monkeys and some sloths and some lizards and birds. I did go into Quepos for a little bit one day and it was too hot to enjoy walking around. Actually too humid, it really isn't very hot at 80-82 degrees. But the dew point is 73 and if you follow what the dew point means (more accurate scale than merely humidity percent) and it's REALLY disgusting. Bottom line is that a dew point under 40 is delightful, under 50 is still nice, under 60 is decent too. Start creeping above 60 and you will feel it.. hit 65 and you will think ugh.. hit 70 and you want to be indoors. It was 73 dew point. BLEAH.

Nonetheless today I took the shuttle to the intersection and walked around a little bit and bought some coffee at Cafe Milagro and since Tulemar is RIGHT there, I asked for a little golf cart tour. I'll be honest, I'm glad I chose the Parador. I think the Tulemar would be OK with a group. I didn't know this, but, each unit is owned by an individual and Tulemar manages them. They rent them out for the individual. It is basically a gated community which is set up so that the owners can easily rent it out and Tulemar is the manager of the whole place.

After that I walked back to the hotel on the up and down road and it was a nice walk albeit very humid. My fresh and clean clothing was utterly soaked and so I threw it in the wash bag and went to the pool for a bit. Today was two different outfits and a bathing suit, all of which got soaked to varying degrees (the second outfit isn't too bad and shortly I will get out of my bathing suit for the second time and go get dinner I guess).

Tomorrow is my long day home, I leave at 930 AM CR time and land at midnight east coast time.

Bottom line: I enjoyed my time, even though this isn't usually how I travel.Typically I like to visit cities and see the culture and dine out a lot... and usually in a less urban setting I'd be hiking every day or really out and about with the car, and I definitely dialed it back more than usual. At least one activity every day but I tend to be an all-day person on vacation. My next visit here would need to be with a friend or at least an adventure group of sorts.

I do very much appreciate how ecologically minded they are here - I had no idea about that before I picked up a book. I am bringing home three bags of coffee beans from Cafe Milagro and I forgot to buy chocolate but I am sure I can do that at the airport if the gift shop isn't open when I leave.

Tomorrow will be a nail biter as i just realized I have 1:17 to go through immigration in CLT and catch my next plane home. My pilot friend tells me that my flight has been landing 30 minutes early lately due to winds, and, I upgraded my seat to row 5 as well as priority boarding so I can stash my stuff too. Fingers crossed!!

Happy to answer questions.

Pura Vida!
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 02:15 AM
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Glad you're having a good trip. We were very happy to have air conditioning in Manuel Antonio; we needed it for sure. Sounds like you had some nice animal sightings. There should be some Cafe Britt stores at the airport where you can buy chocolate. A lot of times they have free samples sitting out. They have chocolate covered coffee beans and things like that. Aren't you glad you brought shorts? Hope all goes smoothly for your trip home.
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 06:43 AM
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Sounds amazing. Glad you had a great last few days. Safe travels home.
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