Trip Report 2-MA, Montezuma

Old Mar 28th, 2005, 07:19 AM
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Trip Report 2-MA, Montezuma

This is a continuing trip report of our trip to Costa Rica...
We・re two people in our late 20・s who have traveled quite a bit to the Caribbean, Mexico and Europe. We like mild adventure and beaches, but we・re not night owls.
This report includes a more detailed account of Manuel Antonio and Montezuma. See the other report for our general thoughts on hotels, food and inter-country flights as well as San Jose and Tortuguero.

Manuel Antonio:
We really liked this area. We stayed at Villas Nicolas. The rooms are not fancy but they・re nice enough. Tile floors, older :cottage; style bedding and beds. Plenty of cross-ventilation but the wind never seemed to blow-it was always still at night. So it was pretty hot to sleep. The balconies are large and ours had a great view of the ocean/trees. The views are the highlight of the villas. (I think some of the lower units may only have views of the trees.) The pool is small but pretty and it wasn・t ever crowded or busy. We paid extra for a unit with air, but it didn・t work. I have a feeling it never did. They refunded the money for that portion. A/C also would・ve helped with the noise from the street. Loud trucks are up and down the road at all hours-certainly drowns out the peaceful quiet you would hope for /expect on vacation.

The hotel is next to Si Como No, which is way nicer- I wish we would・ve sprung the extra money to stay there- a little more resort-y, a little more our style. The bus stop is in front of that hotel-the bus is really easy to use and cheap (20 or 30 cents a person). Taxis are only a few dollars and pretty easy to catch.

We took a tour through the park and used a guide from the park. You can hire one in front of the park entrance. We paid $20 each (plus $7 park entrance). There were 4 people in the tour. It was well worth the money. Our guide spoke very good English, was funny and great at spotting animals. He also had (as all guides from the park did) a very high powered telescope, which made sightings so much easier. We saw lots of monkeys, a few sloths, a couple toucans and a coti. The tour lasted about 2 hours and was at an easy pace. I honestly don・t think we would・ve seen half the things if we hadn・t had a guide. We had lunch outside the park that day, then went back in to the second beach for the afternoon. We were practically the only people on it!

We also took a canopy tour through Titi Canopy Tour. We paid $45 each, including hotel transportation. It・s only 10 minutes or so (actually across the street from the airport) and supposed to be the more :sedate; of the trips in the area. There were two kids (maybe 5 and 7 years old) who went with the guides and they handled it fine. We liked it, it wasn・t scary, but was enough of a thrill and gave us the experience. It was just the right length too, about 2.5 hours from door to door.

Meals were for the most part good in MA. The best was at Sunspot (at Makanda by the Sea). Excellent fish entrees were about $15. Beef was good here too. The atmosphere is very romantic. We ate all of our breakfasts and a couple lunches at Milagro, which was easy walking distance from Villas Nicolas. We liked it a lot. Bambu Jam・s was okay-we were expecting better. We had lunch at Karaolas- it was good, but priced a little high. (It still wasn・t expensive compared to US prices though). We had drinks at Barba Roja・s a couple times, which was fun. Their location is great for sunsets.

Montezuma:
We had very mixed feelings about Montezuma. The town is not our style at all (we had known it was hippie-and believe me, it is total hippie) but we really liked El Sano Banano. In fact, we only went into town once for dinner (our worst meal of the trip). We were trying to go to Playa de los Artistas, but it was closed.

But our lodging, Sano Banano was great. We stayed in the beach bungalows, which were super cute. I loved the outdoor shower, but it was a little nerve racking to use after dark The waves were loud, and kept me awake a little, but didn・t bother my boyfriend. We did not have any bug problems, but we were very careful to keep our lights out after dark. The room was a little warm for sleeping but not bad. The grounds and pool are very lush and tropical. Sano Banano had the most resort type feel to it of all the places we stayed.

The new restaurant is very convenient- I cannot imagine hiking into town for every meal, like people did before this opened! Breakfast was great (choices of tico breakfast, fruit/yogurt, and a couple others). Lunches and dinners were quite good, if a little inventive on the chef・s part. I think they・re really trying for this gourmet vibe and sometimes try a little too hard The meals were priced higher than most other places we ate in Costa Rica, but still not expensive. Our dinner checks probably averaged $30-$35. Service was good for the most part-I think they・re still working out the kinks and service will be great in a few months.

The beach is pretty, but the water is very rough. Very few people were in the ocean. We walked along the beach away from town, but didn・t get as far as Playa Grande. The :10 minute; estimate seemed a little off and we gave up and turned around. We were pretty much ready to relax by this point in the trip!

So that・s the trip! I・d be happy to answer any questions.

LM3682 is offline  
Old Mar 28th, 2005, 08:44 AM
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Great trip report. We are leaving in two weeks and plan to stay at El Sano for three nights. Did you do any activities off site? Was it quiet at night at the resort? I don't mind checking out the hippies as long as I get a good night's sleep!!! Also, how did you get there? I'd be interested in hearing if you used the ferries and how you made out.
Thanks for your time!!
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Old Mar 28th, 2005, 09:48 AM
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Thanks for the report! My husband and I have been to MA once before but are going back in May--everyone keeps raving about Sunspot, so I think we're going to have to go this time. We actually tried walking there last time from Si Como No, but we couldn't find it! (It was dark and rainy, and I think it just may have been farther than it looked on the map.)

And we agreed with you about Karola's--pretty good, but definitely pricier than some other options.
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Old Mar 28th, 2005, 09:53 AM
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allison, I will in MA too (05/22-27). I know about walking on those roads in the dark!

LM - thank you for your report. Sounds like you had a great time. Question - I walked one day from Costa Verde to the Josette mini-mart & passed Si Como No, VN etc & never saw Cafe Milagro. Where the heck is it? Same side as above mentioned hotels or across the street? I must've walked right by it.
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Old Mar 28th, 2005, 09:59 AM
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Cafe Milagro is directly opposite the road that takes you to Makanda , Mariposa , Parador etc. Sort of right next to the Divisimar Hotel . Also , this is the road to obviously take you to The Sunspot , I have done it in the dark quite a few times , do not really recomend it and this was sans enfant !!! ( there is a concrete , shelter thing just at the corner of this road , thus directly opposite cafe milagro ....)
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Old Mar 28th, 2005, 12:00 PM
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ConnecticutJohn-Sano Banano was a little quiet after the dinner hour settled down (say after 9 or 10:00). The town was pretty lively though and there were lots of bars. The hotel itself will be very quiet (other than the waves) so you shouldn't have a bar or live music waking you up. We did do any activities other than walk up and down the beach! To get there we flew from San Jose on Nature Air, then had the hotel arrange a cab for us (which was very prompt in picking us up). The cab was $25 one way.
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Old Mar 28th, 2005, 01:04 PM
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Allison, We didn't find Sunspot the first time we tried either. Look for the big "Parador" hotel sign and turn down that road. Then it's further down and much more dark than you would expect. We walked there but cabbed it home. Worth the effort though! I think I had the best mahi-mahi of my life there!!
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Old Mar 28th, 2005, 03:22 PM
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Playa Grande is a 20 minute walk. Too bad you didn't persevere -- it's awesome.

I agree with your assessment of Ylang-Ylang, the ESB restaurant. The food is often excellent, but inconsistently so from dish to dish. (Anything with "French herbs," I learned, is to be avoided; great handsful of various and sundry flakes are thrown in with apparent abandon. On the other hand, their little appetizer casserole of hearts of palm and parmesan is to die for.) Nearly all of their seafood dishes, apart from those that are French-inspired, are great.

Don't worry about missing Cafe des Artistes. It was good, but not that good. Ditto, in my opinion, Cocolores.

It's too late now, of course, but the sushi bar in town is quite good, with friendly and surprisingly helpful service.

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Old Mar 28th, 2005, 07:10 PM
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Thanks for your first hand accounts of Sano Banano. What room did you saty in; Coco Joes? Describe the rooms distance to the beach? Thanks alot Mike
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 04:34 AM
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MikeyD- We were in one of the four beach front bungalows, not Coco Joe's. Our bungalow was maybe 100 feet to the beach, with nothing except a few trees between us and the beach. Coco Joe's was a little further down the beach, and set back just a little bit further than the bungalows.
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 05:28 AM
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Great trip report ... thanks for sharing! Sorry to hear about your A/C problem at Villas Nicolas. Even though they refunded your $$, if you're expecting A/C, it's disappointing to discover otherwise. Do you recall your unit number at Villas Nic? I think it would benefit others to know which unit NOT to ask for and/or if the unit is getting less reservations, the owner will fix the A/C or simply stop advertising it as an amenity.

Lisa in Manuel Antonio


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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 06:29 AM
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Wish the restaurant, Ylang Ylang, had been open when we were at El Sano last year! The walk into town for each meal did get a little tiring.

ConnecticutJohn - while in Montezuma, check out the Tortuga Snorkeling trip and horseback tour - we used Cocozuma Traveler, just 2 doors from the ESB restaurant in town. Both were very good excursions.
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 07:26 AM
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Dfarmer,
Thanks for the advice! Both side trips are exactly what we want to do so we will try Cocozuma. I've read a lot of advice that you've posted, and it is very helpful.
One question if you have a chance. We will be traveling to Montezuma from Arenal area. Is it better to take a ferry over, or is the drive ok. I don't mind driving, but if the ferry is reliable and a good ride, I'd rather do that. We are leaving on the 12th of April. Thanks for any help!!!!
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 08:24 AM
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Thanks - always glad to help.

As for driving, can't really give you any exact info on your trip. We flew Sansa to Tambor.

We have driven Manual Antonio to Arenal and did not feel that drive was difficult.

From Tambor our driver took us to Montezuma, undoubtedly the scenic route, as we crossed a river on the way. Then on the return to the airstrip, he took a more direct route, that was not at all difficult and no river anywhere.

Someone else is better equiped to answer about the ferry, but my thinking would be to take the ferry. Just be sure to double check the schedule.

Have a great trip!
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 11:56 AM
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Lisa- Our room was 1-Up at Villas Nicolas. It was a small one bedroom with a queen bed. I think the balcony was the same size as the actual room! But the views were excellent and monkeys were in the trees below us a couple mornings.
I believe they only have a couple rooms with A/C. I would say if somebody really needed A/C, I wouldn't chance it with this place.

ConnecticutJohn-As I mentioned, I also flew into Tambor to reach Montezuma. But I read many reports of people taking the ferry. I think careful planning would be in order, as well as flexible plans. They leave very promptly at certain times, and I got the impression that you have to buy your ticket in advance (In other words, driving up at the last minute won't work). If the ferry is full, you'll be stuck waiting for the next one, and they are sometimes cancelled for weather. I know that's general, but definitely search on this forum for more info.
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Old Apr 4th, 2005, 05:15 PM
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LM3683:

Did you drive from Manuel Antonio to Montezuma and how long a trip is it?
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Old Apr 4th, 2005, 05:40 PM
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ConnecticutJohn: We drove from Arenal to Montezuma via the car ferry. It's a long trek - plan your arrival at the ferry well so you don't get stuck waiting around for 2 hours like we did!

The other posters are correct, Sano Banano is very quiet at night...except for those waves! definitely do the horseback ride, the receptionist arranged it for us. Also, be sure to walk down to Playa Grande and beyond. The ocean is calmer there and we almost always saw, or at least heard, howler monkeys early in the morning.

As for ESB restaurant, good restaurants are very important to us and we always had great meals there. Also had an excellent meal at Cocolores.

ESB is really special...we actually ran into a couple who were there for 4 nights, visited M.A. for 2 nights and came back to ESB - they missed the quiet and charm of it. Have fun!

PS - Bring bug spray...I got bit by bugs (presumably mosquitos)even with the netting.
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Old Apr 5th, 2005, 04:21 AM
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Maryvh- We flew from SJ to Tambor on Nature Air, then took a 25 minute cab ride to get to ESB. I'm under the impression that the drive there is quite long.
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