Summer 2010 CR trip - can't decide where to go

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Jan 6th, 2010, 09:46 PM
  #1
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Summer 2010 CR trip - can't decide where to go

This trip has been on the back burner for months now. I've known we want to go back to CR this summer, but we weren't sure if it would be in the budget, so I'm trying to figure it all out now. And of course, for those of you who know me, you know I'm just not happy unless I'm planning a trip....so, this would be my husband and my third trip to CR, but I had wanted to take my parents there this year with us. And we'd also bring our kids, who have been there once before. The kids will be 9 and 11 and my parents are in their mid 60's - good health and very into wildlife, especially birds. Also will really like the volcano and everything outdoors. This trip is to replace our annual family trip to the beach, which has been rainy the past few years...

I've had a hard time pinning dates down, between school and prior commitments, but I think we can pull off 10 days at the end of July - I was hoping for early June - since last time we went in July it rained a lot - really, a lot - but we'll hope for the best! My husband, believe it or not, does not love Costa Rica the way everyone here does, so I'm trying to not do a total repeat of our previous trips. He finds the traveling within the country long and not relaxing.

I know that we'll be going to the Peace Lodge if for no other reason than the hummingbirds and because my parents have seen the pictures and they would love it there. So, that has to be part of the trip. Arenal of course - which brings me to my first question -

For those who have stayed at Arenal Observatory Lodge - how is it for a family? We stayed at Los Lagos last time and the kids of course loved it there. We really enjoyed it. It's very convenient as well. But as I mentioned, I'm looking for something a bit different to not be too repetitive, and it's also much less expensive than Los Lagos. And are all the rooms there comparable, or do you recommend the Smithsonian room to get everything out of it there.

Then my biggest dilemma right now - I can't decide between BDC or Ylang Ylang. They are very different places. We've been to BDC and of course raved to my parents about how amazing it was. But something about Ylang Ylang is calling out to me, and that's how I usually plan trips - I get this bug to go to a place and head there. BDC feels sort of like a been there done that for me - While I really loved it, I'm not one to usually keep going back to the same place over and over. And it's is so very expensive. I've looked at Casa Blanca and if it's even available, for the 4 nights we'd be there, to add in the meals which aren't included for 6 people it really adds up. However, my parents keep asking if we're going there since we talked about it so much. So for those who have been to both Ylang Ylang and BDC - I don't think you can compare them - but if you had to make a choice - with the group I have going - activity wise, what is there to do around Ylang Ylang? Which would you choose? Which is more convenient from Arenal and then back to San Jose? We'll have a car or a van, at least through Arenal, but we can drop it off if we won't need it after Arenal.

So, right now I'm thinking:

Arrive early day 1 Peace Lodge
day 2 Peace Lodge
day 3 Arenal
day 4 Arenal
day 5 Arenal
day 6 transfer to either BDC or Ylang Ylang
day 7 BDC or Ylang Ylang
day 8 BDC or Ylang Ylang
day 9 BDC or Ylang Ylang
day 10 Back to San Jose
day 11 fly home, early flight

I'm open to ideas and suggestions!! I really want my parents to love CR as much as I do, and I'm hoping my husband can find something to enjoy this trip too! I know the kids will love it though!
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Jan 7th, 2010, 05:01 AM
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Shell, this is a bit tough! I can't help but think your parents and children would be so WOWed by BdC. To me, it just has it all. Of course, not having been to Ylang Ylang, I'm a bit limited. It is certainly on our list.

I'm just thinking that, from what I've heard, Ylang Ylang would be more of a narrow focus. As a birder, I know your parents would really love Bosque. BECAUSE your parents are going, BdC seems the better choice in lots of ways.

If your husband were more on board, it would be a bit easier for you as you are trying to please a lot of people! Is he pretty lukewarm regarding BDC? I certainly understand your wanting to go to places the two of you haven't already been.
Hmmm.

As far as travel, getting to either would involve about the same. Short flight, then a bit of a drive. That transfer day worries me a bit, as it is generally preferable (no matter which you choose) to fly earlier in the day, especially that time of year. It would be good to schedule a late morning flight, and get on the road from Arenal fairly early. Probably would ease your time factor up if you could fly back to San Jose from Arenal, then hop on another flight to Tambor or Puerto Jimenez. Involving, of course, extra expense.

As for AOL, we really loved it there. The birds on property are awesome. We were only there once and stayed in La Casona with shared bathrooms (kind of a long house with small rooms and a couple of baths off the big central hall). It was a great bargain, and that time of year it could just be you guys. That kind of bargain could certainly offset your other expenses nicely. And all views are excellent. But the property itself, aside from being a bit difficult to access (and time consuming) is awesome.

Good luck with this. I probably haven't helped one iota, but I can get right into the joy of planning with you! Happy New Year!
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Jan 7th, 2010, 05:01 AM
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Shell, I'm interested in Ylang Ylang too, so I'm curious to hear the feedback you get. Either way it will be a great trip.
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Jan 7th, 2010, 06:00 AM
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www.ylangylangresort.com

best rain and beach wise

www.bosquedelcabo.com

best overall for wildlife

but lots more travel time/expense

So in the time you have Ylang Ylang for me

AOL is closest to volcano but more of an eco-camp feel

remote up miles of bad road...Smithsonian Rooms best by far

With family www.tabacon.com makes sense free best hot springs

or www.lostiguanaresort.com same lava view better rooms/food

www.costarica.bookit.com good sales at Arenal sometimes
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Jan 7th, 2010, 07:05 AM
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Jill, for the first few days, we'd arrive at 10:55 am, so I initially thought we'd go to Peace Lodge first and get a good afternoon in and then a full day the second day and then wake up the next morning and head out to Arenal. But then on our transfer day to BDC, there's an 11:55 flight from San Jose on Nature Air - that's an early morning out of Arenal to make it. What do you think of on the arrival day, head ot Arenal - we'd get there late afternoon and then have the two full days there. Then on day 4 after breakfast head out to Peace Lodge, get there for a late lunch and then have a full day there the next day, and then head to BDC the next morning. That is closer to the airport and wouldn't be such an early moring or long drive to get to the airport. I think that may make more sense for the travel time. - All providing we end up at BDC.

Also, at BDC - what are the advantages/disadvantages of Casa Blanca vs Casa Miramar? Other than Miramar is a little more expensive per night.
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Jan 7th, 2010, 07:39 AM
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Shell, I think that's a good idea. We've gone to the airport from the Peace Lodge, and it's only about an hour, vs. the three that you'd have from Arenal. I think the roads between the Peace Lodge and Arenal are in pretty bad shape after the earthquake, so you may want to check on that.
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Jan 7th, 2010, 08:03 AM
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We loved AOL, it was just 2 of us, but several families were there at the time. They hiked, used the pool etc.
Big pool, big hot tub. I found the drive easy, interesting, not too bad. But you are a way from town, maybe 20 mins or so. Not too fun to drive going into town often to eat or shop.(time-wise... not drive-wise)
Birding was great, food not bad. We had a Jr Suite, 2 king beds, big rooms for sure. No internet access of any type for guests if that is an issue. Property was beautiful. I would go back in a heartbeat.

We have stayed twice in CB at BdC,with the food pkg.
You could see if you could buy just 2 meals a day.
That might help. I know others have done that. Keep PB and J for the kids, cereal etc.
CB is close to the lodge, easy walk to the pool, restaurant, beautiful view,great deck!! birds galore. One bedroom has a King, the other 2 Queens. Each has a private bath.
The bedroom w/the Q beds, is accessed off of the huge deck. The King BR is accessed via the living room. We have never spent any time in the LR , we are either in bed at night or on the deck, it is part is open and part covered. Lounges! Both stays at the Casa ...a week

CMiramar , you know the shillmac/Fodors group spent a week there last summer. They loved it. A walk to the lodge for sure. All open rooms, nice litle pool, great deck w/wonderful views. 2 years ago, a family stayed there w/ 3 kids, the youngest was 6. They had a ball, they did say the first few nights the kids slept w/an adult! But they hiked that road every night in the dark with no problem and they enjoyed the main pool as well.

Hope this helps, we are trying to head back to BdC again as well this summer. PS we are in our 60's, altho you lnow that 60 is the new 40!!!
We hike every trail at BdC , enjoy it immensely, so I know your parents would as well. But YY is also on our list, looks great and gets rave reviews. I can send you a few pics if you want of the houses at BdC
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Jan 7th, 2010, 08:17 AM
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parrmt - thanks for the info - it's very helpful! I didn't know about the internet access at AOL - I do need some type of access. I have a business and I have to keep in touch with my employees while I'm gone, and I know I won't be able to at BDC so to not be able to at AOL might be too much. I wonder if there's cell access to text? We've been down the road to AOL a few times, and it's rough for sure. We do like going into town to eat so that could be an issue too. But the property sounds like an adventure! Especially to see wildlife in that area. That's definitely a few things to think about.

I'd love to see your pictures of the houses at BDC. [email protected] Thanks!

What are the recent reports on Peace Lodge like? Are the trails to the waterfalls all open yet? I know July is still several months away, but their website doesn't have any recent updates on it. Has anyone been there recently with an update?

Thanks!
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Jan 7th, 2010, 08:33 AM
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I just asked someone about it recently, and they said that two of the five waterfalls are back open. If any more have opened, I haven't heard about it. We love the hummingbirds there too.
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Jan 7th, 2010, 09:24 AM
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Shell -- I think the big bonus with Miramar over Casa Blanca is the plunge pool...that was really wonderful to have. I'm including Ylang Ylang and BDC next trip, but having not been to YY yet I can't give you advice on which to choose. However, since the two offer very different things I think a lot will depend on what everyone wants...as you know BDC really isn't a beach destination so...

Good luck deciding and you will have an awesome trip either way!
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Jan 7th, 2010, 09:40 AM
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At AOL you might want to look into having your group stay at their White Hawk Villa. It has good views or the volcano.
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Jan 7th, 2010, 10:13 AM
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Is Casa Miramar all open (no shutters or screens) and Casa Blanca not as open? The pictures look this way on the website. If so, did you have any problems with critters and BIG bugs? I don't mind too much, but I'm thinking about my mom....Although I sort of think once she's there she'll adapt pretty well. She's been a camping person her whole life, so I think she'll be ok, but the Osa is a big change from the camping she's done, even at BDC accomodations!
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Jan 7th, 2010, 11:44 AM
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Shell -- Miramar is completely open. No screens and the bathrooms are literally open to the rainforest (like you can be doing your business and watch a critter stroll by). LOL! We didn't have a problem with bugs though. Jack was hanging around most of the time (Coati) and his troop would climb up and down the tree every morning right in front of the house. Found a couple scorpions and each night the tres amigos (3 frogs) would hang out in the pool.
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Jan 7th, 2010, 01:03 PM
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I have not personally stayed at AOL (It was booked when we were in Arenal) However I know 2 families that traveled there with children around your ages. ZThey both raved about it. I think it would be a good choice as long as you have a car.
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Jan 7th, 2010, 04:03 PM
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Shell - Miramar is open in the sense you can sit on the toilet and birdwatch. I saw a fantastic looking bird but had to wait a moment til I called out to the others. Also saw Jack the coati from there, busy place! I had a couple "visits" from some eh...mammals in my room which other than startling me didn't bother me. I was expecting tons of bugs but didn't really have much at all. We did come across 2 scopions as well, hip was good at spotting them and mr shillmac took care of them. When I walked around the deck at casa Blanca last Nov the doors were closed and I didn't want to go in and get anything dirty but it looked much more 'sealed' up than Miramar, plus it's a much closer walk. Though I think we got used to the 10 minute stroll after a while, fun at night! I did like the double-deck at CB, one covered, one not.

Haven't been to YY so can't comment but I will anyway I think BdC offers a little fuller experience just by the fact that everything, or mostly, is right there. You can do all kinds of things and never have to leave the property, or sign up for a tour to go somewhere to see something. But I think YY would be nice to enjoy the beach and just take it easy.
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Jan 7th, 2010, 06:16 PM
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With your group, and having no experience at Casa Blanca, I think Miramar could be a big hit. I know our little group sure had a great time there, hip, tully, DH and I. The plunge pool was awesome, and the views fabulous.

From the deck we saw toucans constantly, plenty of flyby activity from the scarlet macaws, beautiful white hawks, and a king vulture (awesome bird). Not to mention all the other stuff. Agoutis, LOTS of coatis (which got into our room on a daily basis and always left a little waste product). We did learn not to leave food out as the coatis tore into a pineapple on the dining table and unzipped DH's backpack in order to devour a sealed bag of granola we had purchased at the Matapalo market the night before. And some tums. This was all part of an amazing experience. Also, there was an anteater in some bamboo behind the casa, which eventually made it onto the roof. Great photo ops.

Hey, if you wanna go for the splurge, then I think you guys would feel you'd had the ultimate experience at Miramar. Be sure you want to sign on for that much walking, though. If your parents are in good shape, they'd probably enjoy it. Honestly, I could have stayed a month at Miramar and not been ready to leave.

Your switcharoo at the beginning is a perfect solution. Good thinking, shell!
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