Trip report (D&A)

Old Apr 15th, 2005, 06:21 AM
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Trip report (D&A)

Trip report:

First of all I would like to say that our CR holiday was a unique experience and
well worth the long flight from Amsterdam (through Miami/Orlando).
All you lucky Americans should immediately pack your bags
and take advantage of being so close to CR!

PS: dont take any notice of weird sentences and/or unusual choice of words.

Day 1: Ghent - San Jose
We arrived around midnight and took a Taxi Aeropuerto cab to San Jose
(you pay a fixed price at a desk on your left when you come out of the airport).
In San Jose we stayed at the Kekoldi hotel, which was nothing fancy but the rooms were
clean and suited us fine (+ we got to use the internet for free).
The Kekoldi hotel is in the Barrio Amon, which is supposed to be a nice part of town,
though we didnt seem comfortable walking around at night and avoided doing so.

side note: The hotels we chose werent the fanciest ones,
as we only needed a (clean) bed to sleep and rather spent our money on activities.
To be on the safe side we didnt go for the ultra-cheap backpacker places either.

Day 2: Rio Pacuare
The next morning we were picked up by our Rios Tropicales guide
for a rafting trip on the Pacuare river.
The drive to the Rios Tropicales operation center was spectacular
(sensational views of lush green mountains covered in mist),
while our guide gave his own (hilarious) version of Costa Rican history and trivia.
The tropical breakfast at the operation center was absolutely delicious.
We have been on rafting trips before (Salmon - Idaho and Zambezi - Zimbabwe)
where the rapids were much more spectacular than the Pacuare,
but this was entirely made up by magnificent waterfalls and a breathtaking gorge
(near the end). To be honest, if we hadnt been spoilt rotten by the Zambezi,
the rapids of Pacuare would have given us an unbelievable thrill.
The Rios Tropicales guides seemed very knowledgeable and experienced and
it was fun to float in a small raft (4 people + guide).
Certainly a worthwile experience! We saw other well-known rafting companies,
and it seems like they offer a similar experience...

Day 3: San Jose - Boca Tapada
We picked up our Daihatsu Terios at Toyota Rent a Car:
we recommend Toyota (gave us competitive prices),
apart from the fact that the mobile phone we rented
didnt work properly. After complaining we werent charged for the cell-phone.
Beware when renting a cell phone at a different rental company as well
as we heard similar stories from other tourists.
Don't worry about getting lost: the tico's are all very friendly
and eager to give you directions.
They really appreciate it if you try to talk Spanish to them,
so learn just a couple of standard phrases before you go
(we got very far by only being able to sayquot;Como se va a ..."
and knowing what left/right was).
We headed up to the Poas volcano, which was absolutely stunning
(pictures cannot capture the feeling of peering into the enormous crater).
We were there at 8 o clock (when gates open) and clouds were already setting in.
By 9.30 the top was entirely clouded, so get there as early as possible!
Next stop was La Paz Waterfall Gardens: the butterfly garden was fun
(we had hilarious attempts at taking a picture of a blue Morpho flying around!),
there were hardly any hummingbirds near the feeders,
but the waterfall trail was really marvellous.
The lunch buffet was ok but somehow we had come with higher expectations of it.
Our final destination for the day was the Laguna del Lagarto Ecolodge near Boca Tapada
in the Northern Lowlands. The road to Pital was paved,
but the final stretch was quite demanding!
Nevertheless we reached the lodge in 1 piece, and getting there was part of the adventure.

Day 4: Laguna del Lagarto Lodge
The Laguna del Lagarto lodge is a true ecolodge:
nature conservation & research play an important role as well
as providing jobs for villagers nearby (the local cook was an culinary genius).
We had great fun walking in the rain forest, relaxing in the hammocks and rocking chairs,
and canoeing on the lagoons (we almost had a heart attack when we came
close to colliding with a 2m-long cayman).
Back home we show no interest whatsoever in birds, but at the lodge we were constantly
ooh'ing and aah'ing at the colorful birds.
It was definately worth the drive (and its well off the beaten path).

Day 5: Boca Tapada - La Fortuna
Back along the same gravel road, though our experience in avoiding potholes was
starting to show. We headed up to La Fortuna, which after Pital was a smooth drive.
When we arrived the volcano was clouded, so we didnt see any lava.
To cheer us up we bought a hammock at Neptunus House of Hammocks.
We stayed at the Arenal Paraiso, which was an excellent choice
(Arenal Paraiso reportedly has a good view of the lava,
but you need to be lucky with the weather). We enjoyed the pools
(both normal and filled with hot spring water) and the restaurant was ok.
We had chosen for a standard room rather than a superior room,
which proved to be a good choice:
the standard room is not supposed to have airco (but ours did),
and the open porch overlooking the volcano seemed much more fun than a closed up one.
david_en_an is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2005, 06:30 AM
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Day 6: Volcan Arenal
Cloudy day again We went to the crocodile farm in La Fortuna (totally worth the 3$!) and got a guided tour from a 14yo kid, picking up caymans and almost shoving them into our hands (no thanks!).
In the afternoon we went to Tabacon Hot Springs, but decided to go accross the road. These hot springs are similar to Tabacon, but its the cheaper, Tico version. We had just as much fun as we would have had at Tabacon, and it felt more like the
"real Costa Rica" as we were surrounded by Tico families and their coolers. We had fun at the volcano, even though we never saw the lava flows...

Day 7: La Fortuna - Santa Elena
This was supposed to be the highlight of our trip, but turned out to be the biggest disappointment. We had booked an Arenal-Monteverde boat+horseback trip through the Pension Santa Elena
(host of and, including a drive-around for our rental car. We had reconfirmed our trip the day before and had had to remind them that they had promised to fax us a liability form for car insurance purposes. The fax never arrived, and multiple calls the evening before and the morning itself were left unanswered. When the horseback riding guide came to pick us up he didnt even know we had requested a drive-around. He randomly picked a
Tico from the street and introduced him as our driver. We wouldn't have cared who the driver was, as long as we had gotten the liability form, but without Pension Santa Elena taking written responsability we refused to go.
Beware when booking a similar trip, especially if you need a drive-around!

Instead of a pleasant boat trip across the lake and an adventurous horseback ride up the Continental Divide, we had to drive all around the lake and up the terrible roads to Monteverde. We unknowingly made one wrong turn on the way, but were spontaneously sent back by a couple of teenagers a bit further on. We arrived at the Arco Iris Lodge: pleasant cabin, helpful owners,
and bang in the center of the village but far enough from the roads not to be too noisy. I had a slight fever that afternoon, but the local pharmacist was extremely helpful!

Day 8: Monteverde
In the morning we took the Selvatura combination of Canopy Tour and Treetop Walkways. I guess the other zip-line companies offer a similar experience. It was absolutely amazing: imagine the thrill of zipping from treetop to treetop, sometimes overlooking the
canopy like a bird soaring in the sky. Halfway was a Tarzan swing, combination of a small bunjee jump, but after the jump you swing back and forward instead of going up and down.
The free fall (even though it wasnt really high) was scary as hell, and the swinging was just fun. People were free to skip this part. The walkways were fun as well, giving a different perspective to the cloud forest,
though my wife wasnt too fond of the weebly-wobbly feeling and tended to race across the bridges, making the bridges wobble even more for me.

In the afternoon we took a sunset horseback riding tour (with a different company of course: Desafio this time). It was great fun riding through the cloud forest, banana plantations and gallopping across open fields. Even though it poured all the way, we were given poncho's and never bothered about the rain (no rain = no forest).
My wife has this horseback trip ranked as #1 experience in CR.

Day 9: Santa Elena - Quepos
Back down again = bumpy ride + great views. The trip to Quepos was quite long, but well worth it. We stayed at the Kekoldi Beach Hotel which was nicer than the San Jose hotel (had a nice pool, but no ocean views). We had great fun using the outdoor shower
(though we first checked whether noone would be able to see us)! We had a nice dinner at "El avion", and the plane was a really neat gimmick.

Day 10: Manuel Antonio
We were the first to arrive at the park, and saw masses of wildlife: white-faced monkeys, agouti's, crabs (litterally millions of them!), lizards and iguanas. We felt disappointed when we arrived at a sloth-filled tree, because we hadnt thought of taking a guide and the sloths were only visible through the guides' telescopes. My wife pulled out her most charming face and convinced one of the guides to let us have a peek at the sloths (not before she accidentally knocked over his telescope so the poor guy had to find the sloths again).

In the afternoon we took a trip through planet dolphin to see dolphins, snorkel and enjoy the sunset. This trip was awesome (especially the snorkeling,
which isnt supposed to be that spectacular, but it was our first time). The stunning sunset marked the end of our trip.

Day 11: Quepos - Ghent
We left early in the morning to Alajuela and returned our rental car.
One thig about the airport: there are no shops/restaurants in the departure area, and if youre travelling with an obscure airline like Martinair (as we were), they dont open check in untill a couple of hours before take off.
So either dont come to the airport too early (we had built a safe margin of error, seeing as we had to drive all the way from Quepos), or bring some drinks/food.

All in all Costa Rica was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. We never noticed it was Easter Week (apart from a procession in La Fortuna) and the people were amazingly helpful! Visa and US$ were accepted everywhere.

If we had the money to pay for the flight, we would go back in an instant!

David & An from Belgium

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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 07:50 AM
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I was very interested to read your review on Laguna del Lagartos. It has been on our list for several years and we never seem to make it up there. We have been wanting to go there to see the Great Green Macaws. We saw them in Nicaragua but would like to see them again and LdL is supposed to be a good place to see them. Did you get to see them?

Sorry you had such a bad time with monteverdeinfo. They are usually a very dependable company and I know many people who have had great trips with their help.

A great trip report and so glad you had such a good time. I haven't missed a year down there in over 8 years. Can't imagine not going. We do feel luck being so close.

Looking forward to another trip to Belgium someday. I slept through it on the train last time on my way to Calais from Austria. Sorry I missed it, I hear it is a lovely country. Judging from your writings, the people must be just as lovely.
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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 08:58 AM
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I really enjoyed your report. Great detail. Thanks for sharing.
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Old May 8th, 2005, 02:19 PM
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Finally I have found someone who has been to La Laguna del Largarto! When we read about it in our guide book, it sounded just like what we would like to do this trip. How were the rooms and the food? Aside from the canoeing, what else did you do? Did you go on a boat trip on the San Carlos River or horseback ride or do any hiking? How long did it take you to get there and did you come from San Jose? Thank you so much for your information!
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Old May 9th, 2005, 06:08 AM
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Jessie: yes, LdL is supposed to be an excellent place to see Great Green Macaws, but during our short 2-night stay we didn't see any. We did see a lovely couple of Scarlet Macaws and many other birds, even though we weren't actively planning our day around bird-watching. We have never been interested in birds whatsoever before, but LdL was the perfect place to change our minds.

lglass: the rooms were very basic (the beds were on the hard side), but we didn't go to CR to spend any time in our room, and as we were exhausted, we had no problems sleeping in the rather hard beds. Outside the rooms were balconies with rocking chairs and hammocks, which were excellent to relax and to enjoy the surrounding jungle-sounds.

The food was the best we had in our entire stay: at first sight it didn't seem anything special, but in fact it was absolutely delicious! I strongly recommend going there for Adolfo's cooking alone!

As we were still suffering from our jet-lag, we took everything at a slow pace. We didn't take the boat trip, nor the horseback riding tour. We did, however, really enjoy the gentle canoeing (it would be a waste to go to LdL without venturing onto the lagoons). We also went on the free guided jungle hike, but apart from a few howler monkeys right at the lodge and a persistent swarm of mosquitoes, we didn't spot a lot of wildlife a la Manuel Antonio (which is practically a zoo). I guess the best wildlife spotting is either on one of the balconies, or in a canoe...

We drove to LdL from San Jose, but we stopped at Poas Volcano (arrived at 8am), and La Paz waterfalls (left around 1pm). I think we arrived at LdL at approx 4pm. Including these 2 stops was an excellent choice, as they were both impressive sights and ideal in breaking up a long drive...

LdL was completely different from the other places we went to, but well worth the detour!

David & An
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