Trip Report Costa Rica

Old Jan 10th, 2008, 09:33 AM
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Trip Report Costa Rica

Hi everyone,

Sorry it has taken so long for me to post my trip report. When I returned, work was crazy and then the holidays. Oh well. Again, thank you all for you information, suggestions, etc. Because of your advice, my mom and I had a wonderful trip to Costa Rica. We left Los Angeles on Thansgiving evening and returned on December 3. Everything was amazing.

We arrived in the early morning hours on the Friday after Thanksgiving. We were met right outside of baggage claim by a driver arranged by Wilson Rojas (Wilson was booked so he had arranged for a colleauge to pick us up). From the airport, we were driven to Arena. We took the scenic route and stopped to see both the coffee plantation and the Poas waterfall. The driver was great and the drive was beautiful.

Arenal: In Arenal we stayed at the Lost Iguana. The Lost Iguana is a beautiful hotel far outside of La Fortuna. It is quite isolated, so if you don't have a car, you may feel a bit stuck. We were okay though because we did a lot of activities and were picked up at our hotel. When we went to La Fortuna for dinner, the hotel provided us with a ride (free of charge) and picked us up free of charge. The rooms at the Lost Iguana are beautiful, big and airy. We had a great view of the volcano when it wasn't covered by fog! Unfortunately, 99 percent of the time we were there, the volcano was obscured by fog. So, we didn't see any lava, smoke or falling rocks! My only complaint about the Lost Iguana is the dinners! The dinner was mediocre at best and was grossly overpriced. The lunch and breakfast, however, were fine. The employees of the hotels were great. One day I was dying to see some frogs and asked an employee where to find some. They gave me direction, but I couldn't find any. Later that night, someone from the hotel called my room and asked if I wanted to see frogs. I met one of the employees who took me around in the cart and looked for frogs. I saw LOTS of frogs. It was a nice, special treat!

As far as activites, our first night there we went on a volcano hike with Pura Vida tours. The package also included dinner and hot springs at Tabacon. The hike was nice. We saw lots of birds, but no other wildlife. We could not, however, see the volcano because it was covered in fog. Bummer, but that is how nature is. I loved the Tabacon hot springs. They were beautiful and the night we went was not crowded at all. The drinks, however, were very overpriced and the food was horrible. Do not eat there!

The next day we went on the Cano Negro tour with Canoa Aventura. I cannot recommend this tour company highly enough. The guides were absolutely amazing. Fun, energentic and so knowlodgeable. The group was small (only 7 people). On the drive out there, our guide stopped numerous times to point out birds and other wildlife. They provided high powered binoculars for each person on the tour. We also stopped at some convenience store type of place to see the iguanas that congregate in the area outside the store. I have never seen so many iguanas in my life. I got amazing pictures. Once at the Cano Negro, we had a snack and then went out on their boats (which were covered). We went down the river (not the part which is part of the preserve) first. There we saw howler monkeys, white face capuchine (sp)monkeys, kamen, jesus christ lizards, iguanas, any tons and tons of birds. We then turned around and went up the river to the actual preserve. We were the only tour group that went into the actual preserve. Again we saw lots of wildlife (the same as earlier). The guide had such amazing eyes that he saw things that an untrained eye would never see. After being on the boat for a few hours, we returned to the restaurant and had an amazing lunch. This was a great tour! You must do it!

The following day we hiked one of the trails at the hotel. On the hike we saw a couple of snakes and lots of toucans. Later, we went on a cayoneering tour with Pure Trek. This was a great tour. I must admit, I was absolutely terrified on the first rappel (It was 165 feet). I was more scared that my mother would kill me for making her do this tour. After the first jump, both my mom and I were good to go. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I highly recommend. The hike out was pretty vigorous, but everyone in our group made it just fine. You must be prepared to get soaking wet on this tour. So much fun. The guides were great and I felt quite safe considering what we were doing!

That night we went into La Fortuna. There is not much to see or do there. But we did eat at a good restaurant (can't remember the name, but it served great mexican food).

From Arenal we took the jeep-boat-jeep to Monteverde. The boat ride was nice, but the minivan (yes, it is a minivan and not a jeep) was rough. The ride is as advertised, very bumpy. My mom sat in the front of a packed van, so she was good. I sat in one of the jump seats in the back. It was rocky, but we made it there. I don't know how people with rental cars can even drive there! NEVER.

In Monteverde we stayed at the El Establo. It was a very nice hotel. Our room, which was a standard room, was huge. The downstairs had two beds (a queen and a twin). The loft had a king sized bed. The grounds are beautiful, but very hilly. There are always vans available to transport you around the grounds. Unlike Lost Iguana, the food at El Establo is great and very reasonably priced.

In Monteverde, we did the night hike. Unfortunately, it was very windy, so we did not see at ton of wildlife. We did, however, see a sloth, lots of tarantulas, big huge insects, the hugest any hill I have ever seen and lots of sleeping birds. I was a little disappointed with the hike. I thought I would see more, but the weather was bad. I did, however, love hiking through the jungle/forest with a flashlight!

The next day, we went to Selvatura. I loved this place. We did both the zipline tour and walked the hanging bridges. We also saw the reptile exhibit. We attempted to see the butterflys, but again, the weather (cold) had the butterflys hiding. The ziplines was amazingly fun. There were lots of them. There was also a tarzan swing, which I didn't try, but others did! The hike through the hanging bridges was fun, but we again didn't see wild life. It was windy!

From Monteverde, we were driven by Wilson to Manuel Antonio (my favorite place).

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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 10:16 AM
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The drive to Manuel Antonio was nice. Wilson was an amazing tour guide and driver. We stopped along the way to see Jaco and another beach (the black sand beach). He provided us with snacks and beverages and stopped at some of his favorite spots to get us local treats! He and his wife Elsy also planned and booked our hotels and tours! They were an amazing resource to have! He also recommended restaurants and shops. If you need a driver or help planning your trip, be sure to contact them. [email protected]

Wilson arranged a tour or Carara National park with Victor. This was a special treat. Victor is an amazing naturalist guide. The park is beautiful and not crowded. We saw all types of birds, poison arrow dart frogs, bats, and snakes. Without Victor's keen eye, we would have missed these things. For those of your driving through the area, you should stop and have Victor take you on a guided tour of the park!

In Manuel Antonio we stayed at the Costa Verde in one of the penthouses. The room was incredible. We had amazing views of the ocean and the surrounding jungle. I was a little nervous that the room did not have air conditioning, a tv or an alarm clock but none were a problem. The monkeys and birds provide a wake-up call every morning at 5:00 to 5:30. I saw so much wildlife on the grounds of this hotel. Just outside my room, we saw iguanas in the trees, howler monkeys, white face capuchins, toucans, parrots, and other beautiful birds, and a sloth! The sunsets are amazing. I highly recommend this hotel! We also loved the barbeque restaurant across the street. Best fish ever!

We went river rafting in Manuel Antonio with Amigos del Rio on the Savegre river (Class III and IV). Another tour arranged by Wilson and another tour which I highly recommend. I had never been rafting before. It was exhilerating. Although scary at times, I knew I was in good hands because the guide was great! This was an all day tour. Not only do you ride the rapids, but you stop to hang out at a waterfall. The guides also point out wildlife (lots of toucans) as you go down the river. So much fun.

The following day we went on the Damas Island Mangrove tour (we went in a boat as opposed to cayaking). We used Chino tours which is a small, family owned tour company. The family lives right near the Mangrove. The son, Diego, was our guide. He was an amazing guide. First of all, his English is impeccable. Second, his knowledge of the area is great. He was able to answer any question and gave us more information that I could have ever imagined. He was young and handsome and had great energy. We saw a porcupine, lots of birds, crabs, snakes, and a large family of white faced capuchines. Diego called the monkeys and two of the alpha males came down to our boat. There were lots of monkeys, both male and female and some moms with babies on their backs. The mangroves themselves are beautiful. It was like being in a whole other world. The lunch provided was the best food I had in Costa Rica. Did I mention that the tour was only my mom and I. How is that for individualized attention? I recommend this tour. I really feel that the hotels should use Chino Tours rather than the bigger tour companies that I saw out there. Other people I met in Costa Rica did not enjoy their mangrove tour.

We spent the rest of the day at the pool at the Costa Verde. It was nice and quiet! good, affordable drinks and an amazing view.

Our final day in Manuel Antonio was spent in the park! WOW, I loved the park. We saw monkeys, sloths, snakes, raccoons, iguanas, other lizards, crabs, and did I mention monkeys. More monkeys that you can imagine. The beaches (we went to four of them) are pristine. The water was warm. There were little crowds. It was a great way to end the stay in Manuel Antonio (BTW, my mom and I saw all these animals on our own... no need for a guide there).

Wilson picked us up later that afternoon and drove us to the Oquideas Inn where we spent the night before leaving. The amazing thing about Wilson is that I wanted to buy some more souveniers (I hadn't had much time to shop). His wife got on the phone and convinced a shop to stay open for my mom and I. Talk about personalized attention. A private shopping trip (they stayed open 1 hour late for us). I told WIlson I wanted to buy a wooden bowl. He contacted his friend, renowed artist Wilson Arce Mendez. He arranged for us to go to Wilson Arce Mendez house (at 8 at night). Mr. Mendez showed us his bowls, gave us a tour of his studio and explained how he makes the bowls from recycled wood. Best of all, he sold us his bowls for wholesale! We saved hundreds of dollars! This was a totally special treat!

My trip was great. It was planned with the help of this board and Wilson Rojas (who was recommended on this board).

I will be more than willing to answer any questions about my trip. Thanks again,

Jen


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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 10:33 AM
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Hi Jenn -- Great trip reports, sounds fantastic. One question for now, was the mangrove tour an all day tour or are there 1/2 day tours? How long does it take to get to the mangroves from MA?

Thanks!
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 10:36 AM
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The mangrove tour was only a couple of hours. The time the tour departs depends on the tide. Our tour was early in the morning, around 7:30.. we were back to our hotel by 11:00 or so. the tour included a great lunch. The drive to the mangrove was maybe 15 to 20 minutes. It was short, but there are the one way bridges to contend with.
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 10:49 AM
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Thanks for posting your report, another great CR trip report! Wish I'd had the time in Arenal to do the canyoning, always next time! I know the views from bldg B at Costa Verde are incredible so I can only imagine how beautiful they are from the penthouse, wow! Agree the restaurant across the street, La Cantina, has awesome food. Do you know if the artist, Wilson, that you bought the bowls from has a website? Or remember his store address/area? Thanks!
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 10:53 AM
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This is Wilson Arce Mendez website.

http://www.wilsonarcemendez.com/

His stuff is great. It is sold all over Costa Rica in high end stores. We went to his house. It was somewhere outside of Alajuela. He is very nice and personable. We also met his wife. She is Austrailian and they met while she was an exchange student in Costa Rica. Great people. And his bowls are amazing!
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 11:16 AM
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Thanks Jenn -- Do you know how to get in touch with the small tour company you used? Canyoning sounds...skkkary. Not sure my daughter would do it, even though she loved the ziplines!
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 01:38 PM
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Chino's tours was developing a website, but it was not up yet. Contact Wilson Rojas and he will put you in contact with them free of charge

[email protected]
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 04:01 PM
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well I went to the website and see bowls and a kitty so he's in my good graces already Thanks for the link!
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 07:04 PM
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Your trip sounds fantastic! You really can tell what a great time you had by your post...great details too! Did you think the mangrove tour was too similar to the Cano Negro boat tour or would you recommend doing both?

Thanks for the great report!
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 02:31 PM
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I did not think the mangrove in Manuel Antonio and the Cano Negro were anything alike. Totally different type of landscape. The mangroves themselves were amazing (even without the animals). On the mangrove, you get very close to the monkeys, etc. On the Cano Negro, everything is seen with binoculars. We didn't need binoculars on the mangrove tour. although if you had them, it would be very up close and personal
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