Trip Report

Jan 6th, 2004, 07:37 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Trip Report

Just got back from 10 great days in CR (12/25-1/4) as a family of 4 traveling w/2 teens. We're really glad we didn't drive and instead opted for transfers from one place to another; not just the road & bridge conditions but things are just not well marked so if you drive you end up lost a fair amount. All the Tico's were as warm and friendly and helpful as we could ever have imagined! Loved Tabacon Resort but dinner food wasn't great and was very expensive. Got to see Arenal so we're thrilled! Hot Springs were terrific. Arenal is NOT a good day trip from San Jose. Stay overnight! We took a day trip to Tortuga Island from S.J. & wish we had done that differently. It was billed as "after breakfast, early morning departure...late afternoon return". We were picked up @ 6AM (B/4 breakfast at our hotel) and did not get back until 8:40PM!!!! Too long for a day trip. In Manuel Antonio, we took a tour with a guide. While he could not have been nicer, he did not have a telescope, his binoculars weren't working and he was inexperienced. So I would suggest using this site to request a specific guide. Karolas was our favorite restaurant in MA. Be sure to do a mangrove swamp tour!
peggi is offline  
Jan 6th, 2004, 10:35 AM
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I am in the throws of planning a trip in March. Can you tell me whether it was worth going to Tortuga Isalnd & what you did there?
Also, I would like to know where you stayed in Manuel Antonio & whether it was nice. We are having trouble deciding on the M.A. area or Samara/Nosara beach. I would like a nice place to stay, but don't want to spend over $120 a night. Also, we are really into bird watching, animals & snorkeling. Thanks a bunch!
sparks is offline  
Jan 6th, 2004, 12:11 PM
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In regards to MA or Samara/Nosara area, just wanted to say that MA has many, many more activities to do, whereas Samara/Nosara is much more quiet, and much smaller and not as many activities. But I LOVE Nosara. I just go for quiet days on the beach looking for shells (a GREAT place to get seashells!) and reading. There are ATV's you can rent, but that's not my 'thing' and there are 'horseback' tours, but when I rented they just gave me a horse and sent me on my real 'tour'. I'm sure there are places there that will have real 'tours' but there is no waterfall or anything to ride too. You can also rent a small boat in Samara to go out fishing, but that's about it. Perfect for me, but boring for others.
Ally is offline  
Jan 6th, 2004, 01:00 PM
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Leaving in a couple of days. I pre-booked the Tortuga island tour. How was the tour other than the length? I figured the return would probably be around 7, but 8:40 is really late. Is it because you were one of the last hotel drop off stops? I think the worst part is going to be the bus ride.
katolb90 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2004, 02:07 PM
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How was the fishing & did a guide go with you? I came across a beautiful place to stay in the hills near Nosara & was wondering if I could make a few day trips to other beaches or interesting places. Thanks
sparks is offline  
Jan 6th, 2004, 02:26 PM
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The catamaran ride was delightful and the island was nice but fairly crowded - remember, we were there at Christmas! That probably also made the bus ride longer - especially since we went on a Sunday. Given that we were spending 5 days at MA, in hindsight, I would not have gone to Tortuga Island. But if you're there when it's less busy and prepared for the time investment, it might be fine. The best way was a couple on the trip who were docked nearby on a cruise ship and just got on the catamaran - no bus ride! The other thing is that Puntarenas is kind of on the way to MA so you retrace your steps a bit. We WERE one of the last hotel stops - don't know how you find out about that. I just felt we should have gone to the aerial tram at Braillo because it was closer and not such a long day and not redundant to the beach time at MA.
We loved La Mariposa but I don't know what we paid because it was part of a package. There was good bird watching just right at the hotel - I spent every morning watching 2 social flycatchers constructing a nest. Also, twice while we were there a group of monkeys visited the pool! And iguanas, of course, were was hard not to step on them. Some of the best bird watching was on the mangrove swamp tour - not to mention a rainbow boa, pygmy anteater and a Jesus Christ lizard.

I didn't see rooms anywhere else but it did appear to me that there were quite a few properties that would be nice. This site often recommends Tulemar Bungelows, I think.
peggi is offline  
Jan 6th, 2004, 02:39 PM
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Where and what is the mangrove swamp tour? How much was it? We are going to CR for our first time the first two weeks in May. Glad to hear that you had such a wonderful time.

trvlbug is offline  
Jan 6th, 2004, 03:46 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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did you take the motorized mangrove swamp tour or the kayak. we are debating. also did you take the rainmaker tour? any specifics on restaurants? thanks in advance.
cindyjo is offline  
Jan 6th, 2004, 05:57 PM
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The mangrove (those trees that grow above the water with their roots showing - the water is brackish and the trees actually process the water to remove the salt!) swamp tour was arranged through our hotel with Cambuta Mangrove Tours. The boat was motored, covered and held 10-12 people + guide and driver. I did see people kayaking and some with a guide, but I was happy to do it on the boat. We saw pelicans, snowy egrets, little blue herons, firgates, sandpipers, etc. We saw white-faced capucines, crabs, anteaters, a rainbow boa, iguana, a crocodile, & 2 Jesus Christ lizards. The scenery was just awesome. I think it cost about $60 each which included beverages and lunch and pick up at our hotel.

Our best meal was at Karolos, but we liked Mar Luna, too. We were going to Barber Roja but didn't make it. Love La Mariposa as a place to stay but don't recommend it for dinner. Cafe Milagro has a wonderful breakfast.
peggi is offline  
Jan 6th, 2004, 06:00 PM
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Jumping in here, I have done the kayak trip through the mangroves at Las Damas in the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area and it was a blast. It's a bit tough only in one place where you go against the current, but I had never kayaked before and did just fine so it wasn't too difficult. It was a blast, our guide "called" the monkeys and within minutes we were surrounded! They even drank water out of our hands.

Cakes is offline  
Jan 15th, 2004, 06:19 AM
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Peggi, I think I read one of your earlier threads where you were debating whether to take the antimalarials and get immunizations for this trip. Our family of four is going in March and dealing with the same issues. We'd be interested in knowing what you ended up doing, if you experienced many side effects, and any suggestions you may have after being there. We're also going to Manuel Antonio and wanted to hire a guide while hiking there. We were told to arrange it when we arrived at the park. Sounds like you weren't impressed with your guide. Did you set it up at the park or elsewhere? Glad to hear you had a great trip. Thanks for your help!
Erin44 is offline  
Jan 21st, 2004, 02:17 PM
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We got all the hepatitis vaccines as well as updates on tetanus but didn't end up taking the malaria medication. We were somewhat careful about the water but consumed tap water at the InterContinental, La Mariposa and Tabacon Resort...just didn't when we stopped at restaurants on the road. We did use DEET stuff when going to the rain forest and the swamp tour. Did have those mosquito coil things you light which we did use on hotel balconys. I think I got "food poisoning" but it was my own dumb choice...nobody else got sick. I ordered "seafood rice" at a restaurant by a river. That's probably not a good idea in the US either. I think some previous posters have named specific guides in MA National Park...ours was set up through our travel agent while still in the US...I think you might be able to request a specific guide...I just want folks to know all guides are not created equal!!
peggi is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2004, 11:42 AM
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I live here in Manuel Antonio, and thought I'd add my 2 cents to this thread. First as for the guide in the park. Your best bet is always to go early. All of the guides have to take a class at the university on the flora and fauna and pass a test in order to get thier licenses. But the person above is correct, not all have the telescope as they are very expensive here, and many of the guides have to save for a long time to afford one. The park only allows so many visitors per day, and is CLOSED MONDAYS. Go early and they will all be lined up at the drop off point. Some speak german, french, english, etc. So pick a guide who has the telescope, and ask if you will be capable of taking pictures with your camera through it. Some you can. Also make sure that he or she will speak your language well enough to explain to you what you are seeing. They all charge about 20 dollars per person, but if you are a group, you can negotiate down. If you are quiet, you will see the most wildlife. All the guides share info with each other on what they have spotted, and many animals are usually in the same areas, but if you do not have a guide, you will miss most of it.
There are many nice hotels here, my favorite is casitas eclipse. no ocean view except from the bar and resteraunt, but quiet, large clean rooms, 3 pools, full spa, and only minutes from everything.
The damas island tour times change daily depending on the tide. for the best rate, take a cab out there and go to the boat/resteraunt and book direct. otherwise any hotel can book it but they will get usually 40% commision on your tours, so I always suggest booking direct when possible, and then ask for a discount as they will usually start with the number the hotel would charge. The trip is one of our favorites, but I do suggest teh power boats as there are crocodiles in the swamp, so unless you are an accomplished kayaker, I wouldn't suggest it.
for food, Mar Luna is the best seafood resteraunt here. B @S grill is excellecent,as is el gran escape inn Quepos. there is also a new resteraunt here called the bambu jam, and people are raving about the food there. plinios has the worst food here in my opinion. If you don't believe me, go eat the sweet and sour chicken, adn let me know just what that sauce is. As far as Karolas, I have not eaten there since the waiter dropped a whole tray of blended drinks on me accidently for a table of 8 next to us, and I never got an apology, or a discount and I asked for one. Also lost my white shirt and had to call and early evening to go home and shower off the sticky mess. The waiter disappeared laughing, and did not return, but I was so mad about how they handled the situation, that I have not been back since, nor would I ever recommend the place, and that was 2 years ago. That was our final meal here on a group excursion, our guide recommended the joint, and I invited our guide, driver and 5 people we enjoyed on the tour to dinner that night. I doubt our guide will recommend that resteraunt to the next group either. Even with that large of a group, no discount, free dessert, free drink,or apology, nothing, and had to use our napkins to dry off.
Lovincostarica is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2004, 12:41 PM
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Great advice about the National Park tour guide! Wish I had it before we went! With the Damas Island tour, we pretty much had to book through our hotel as we did not have a car. Don't know if they will still pick you up if you book directly?? Sorry about the bad service experience at Karolas...still think the food was the best WE had but will admit they wouldn't cook a burger for my son at dinner (I'll grant you he can be picky) even though they had it on their lunch my son had French fries and dessert for dinner. Perhaps service IS an issue there?
peggi is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 04:58 AM
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I have an update about Karolas for everyone. After reading my post, the owner himself invited myself and 3 guests back for dinner one night, and guaranteed me a great meal if I would just try it again. It was fantastic. The food was excellecent, the service was great, we even went for the desserts and it was delicious. I am so hapy that we now have another dining option in the area. I recommend it to anyone.
The setting alone (you sit either in the resteraunt, or choose a private table in the jungle which we opted to do, is worth the trip. If you come here, please go and be sure to have dessert. Very good, and glad we gave it another try.
Lovincostarica is offline  

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