Trip report--just back from CR--chapter 1

Old Jun 4th, 2005, 11:29 AM
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Trip report--just back from CR--chapter 1

Just returned from 10 wonderful days in Costa Rica. This is my very first trip report so please forgive me if itís not great.

Left NYís JFK on Sat May 21 on American Airlines 6am flight (ugh) to Miami. No food of course. Arrived in Miami on time but left there about 45 minutes late. No food on that one either but we were able to grab a bite at the airport. Arrived at San Joseís Juan Santamaria Intíl Airport at about 11:05, 30 minutes late. Immigration and customs went smoothly and we were met by a driver from the Vista Del Valle Plantation Inn, where we (me and my husband) had reservations for 2 nights. The driver didnít speak English and we donít speak any Spanish other than cerveza and baño (if you know the first you should know the second!). Arrived at Vista Del Valle about 20 minutes later and were greeted by Brook, a young American woman who works there. She gave us the lay of the land and showed us to our cottage, the Ilan Ilan, an octagonal cottage with a large wrap around balcony with an outdoor shower and wonderful views of the forest. We had a resident Blue-crowned Motmot who liked to hang out on our deck. We had never heard of this bird, much less seen one. Itís a beautiful creature with a brilliant blue head and very strange tail, it kind of has a split in it almost at the end. He didnít seem to mind us invading his territory and watched us carefully as we took in the view. After unpacking a few things, we went to the Vistaís restaurant, an outdoor affair next to the pool, with incredible views, and had lunch and Mojitos. The food was very good but probably pricey for CR. The one thing about the Vista is that you are sort of held hostage there as a cab into San Jose is $35.00 EACH WAY. Even a cab to a neighboring town will set you back about $30 round trip. After lunch, Brook told us to check out the waterfall set below the hotel, with the very generic warning to be careful. The hike down was somewhat treacherous having to climb down very steep slippery slopes hanging onto a rope and some very scary ladders. The fact that it had rained the night before made it even more slippery but we persevered and finally made it to the waterfall, which was beautiful though not the nicest Iíve ever seen (that award goes to Russell Falls in Tasmania,
Australia). The trek to the waterfall is worth it however and I donít say that lightly since I have a lot of trouble going down anything remotely steep. After about 30 minutes of taking pictures and looking at the fall, we decided it was best to head back since it looked as though it might rain. When we got back, it looked as though the rain might hold off so we went for a dip in the pool. The pool is not very large but is very nice with a small waterfall and it is spotless. After that we walked around the grounds, which abut a coffee plantation. After showers in the wonderful outdoor shower, we popped one of the bottles of champagne we brought and celebrated our vacation on our balcony with the Motmot and several dozen insects. Dinner at the Vista is at 6:30. It costs about $20 per person, not including drinks, tax and service and there is no choice. Dinner that night was Mahi Mahi and was very good. I should add that the water was safe to drink and we ate salads and had ice all over CR and encountered no problems. We are normally very careful since we travel frequently to South East Asia and wonít even brush our teeth using tap water but after being assured by Brook and others that the water is safe we decided to indulge. Dinner includes salads, veggies and desert and coffee. Dinner ended sometime after 8:00. We went back to our cottage but with no TV and nothing to do, we decided to go to bed in order to get an early start the next morning. After making sure the mosquito netting was completely closed, we turned off the lights and had a restful sleep until about 5am, when all the birds started to sing. After breakfast, which was a choice of a typical CR breakfast of rice and beans, or huevos rancheros (sp?)-- we had the huevos which was great-- we arranged through the hotel to have a driver take us to Sarchi to do some shopping. We decided to do our shopping now since near the end of the trip we were taking a Nature Air flight from Manuel Antonio back to San Jose and the airline has a 25 lb. weight limit (including carry on) which we were already pushing. We figured we could store what we bought at the Vista since we were returning for another night before going home. Our driver, Alex, spoke perfect English and was very friendly. He charged $30 to take us to Sarchi, wait with us, and return us to the hotel. To say we were disappointed in Sarchi is an understatement. Every place sold the same thing, none of which I was interested in. I didnít care for the painted wood pieces. Itís not that I didnít think they were pretty, some were, I just didnít want them. I found the stuff to be tourist kitch. I ended up buying only a T-shirt and a wooden puzzle of a toucan, both for my cousinís children. Alex then brought us to the supermarket he and his family shop at so we could buy some snacks and coffee. I love coffee so I wanted to be sure to bring home lots of whole beans. We knew my sister and her husband would be arriving at the Vista late that morning, having flown in from Texas via an overnight in Miami, so we headed back and got to the hotel about noon. My sister and her husband had arrived about 10 minutes earlier and were booked in the Mona Lisa, also octagonal with an outdoor shower, much like the Ilan Ilan but a bit smaller and no Motmot. After they got settled in, the four of us had lunch at the Vistaís restaurant. The choice was chicken or cheese quesodillas (sp?) or chicken burritosósame as the day before. I had the chicken quesodilla with a mango daiquiri. After lunch, I had a massage (one hour, $35.00) in my room, which was booked through the hotel. It was a good massage but much more gentle than what I am used to. Iím used to Thai massages where they push, pull and pummel you for 90 minutes. This was more of a gentle manipulation. After my massage I went to the Mona Lisa where I found my husband, sister and brother-in-law making good headway into a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool. We found the weather to be sunny earlier in the day, with clouds rolling in mid afternoon and maybe some rain in the evening. This being the ďgreen seasonĒ, it was less rainy than I expected. Before dinner, we popped open the other bottle of champagne we brought to celebrate my sister and brother-in-lawís arrival, the four of us enjoying the view from the Ilan Ilan balcony and warding off insects. The Motmot put in an appearance as well. Dinner that night I believe was chicken and the four of us shared a nice bottle of Chilean Pinot Noir ($25.00, which we later also had at the Tabacon Resort for $15.00). Another early night since we were being picked up the next morning to be driven to the Tabacon Resort and Spa, where we would spend the next two nights. I made these arrangements in advance through costaricashuttle.com. It was $110 for all four of us for the transfer. Our driver was there at 8am as arranged and had a very nice comfortable, air-conditioned van for our transfer. I donít recall too much of the drive having felt somewhat ill (I get car sick on winding roads) but did lift my head from time to time to look at the beautiful countryside and even snap a picture or two.

Arrived at the Tabacon about noon but check-in not being until 4pm, our rooms werenít ready. A little aside here: this is the only hotel I did not book directly with the hotel, because their server was down when I was trying to make the reservation. I used centralamerica.com and they were truly awful. The first agent, Johanna, told us the superior suite we wanted was available and reserved for us, only to find out two weeks later she never even bothered to check with the hotel. Johanna ended up getting the boot from the agency but our next agent, Patricia was no better. She never kept me apprised of the situation, and only got in touch with me after I called or emailed her. One week before we were leaving for CR, I emailed her to find out when payment was due. She emailed me a credit card form which I immediately faxed back to her and then she told me the voucher would be snail mailed and would arrive in about a week! After explaining that was not good enough, she faxed the voucher to me. On top of all that, when I received my credit card statement, I found that she overcharged me by $93.11. But I digress. Back to the Tabacon. Deciding not to waste the day waiting around the hotel lobby, we got out our bathing suits and had the hotel watch our luggage while we went down to the hot springs (free entrance if a guest of the hotel, otherwise, $29.00 per person per day) and spent the rest of the afternoon there. First we had lunch and drinks (of course) at the restaurant at the springs. The food was very good and fairly inexpensive. After lunch, we got in our suits and enjoyed the hot springs, which were very hot. The place is gorgeous, with small waterfalls, beautiful landscaping and, if in the right spot, views of Volcán Arenal. Although the springs are crowded, you can always find a spot to be alone. After several hours steaming in the springs, we went back to the hotel, a hort walk, and found our rooms still werenít ready. Waited around another half hour or so and were finally able to get into our rooms. We had two standards, the suite never becoming available. The rooms were very nice, much nicer than any of use expected. They were a good size and nicely furnished with wood pieces. We had a king size bed and my sister had two doubles as no other kings were available. Both rooms had a small balcony at the back. The bathrooms were very large and well appointed but, as is the case with many hotel bathrooms, the light is dim making it difficult to put on make-up. After showers and waiting for my sister and her hubby to show up for drinks on our balcony, I was out on the balcony when I heard a very loud BOOM which sounded something like thunder but which I knew immediately was the volcano erupting. Iíve never heard a volcano erupt but the sound was unmistakable. We ran out the front door of our room and sure enough, Arenal was doing her thing. We had a good view of it from there and the sight was incredible. Lots of people came out and we were all taking pictures. I have to say, we were incredibly lucky. For the two nights we were there, the volcano was almost always visible and erupted quite frequently, putting on a wonderful show. While we didnít see any great displays of red lava running down the volcano, at night we did see the red stuff spewing out the top. For anyone who has never seen an erupting volcano, a very thrilling and highly recommended place. Next installment, zip lines and beyond.

I hope I havenít been too boring. If Iím giving too much detail, please tell me and Iíll pare down the future installments, which Iíll get to soon.
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Old Jun 4th, 2005, 01:42 PM
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Not too long at all! Looking forward to the rest. I'd heard there was a lot of activity at Arenal in the past couple weeks, sounds like you had great timing.
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Old Jun 4th, 2005, 02:16 PM
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Awesome report ! I await the rest as well !!! And hey ! I LOVE salad ! lol , Faith
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Old Jun 5th, 2005, 03:47 AM
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Love the report. I am dying to hear more!
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Old Jun 5th, 2005, 08:42 AM
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Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease. For your next report entry, can you break up the paragraphs? This reads like a sales contract. I didn't bother.
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Old Jun 5th, 2005, 10:14 AM
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TripleSecDelay, I will do my best to accomodate you, I'm sorry it's been difficult for you to read. I'm typing this in Word and cutting and pasting into Fodor's so the formatting doesn't always stay the same. I thought this was the best way to do it since it's long and Word will catch most of my typos. I apologize to anyone who is having trouble but no one is being forced to read it either.
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Old Jun 5th, 2005, 01:32 PM
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Thought it was a super report , just had fun reading what you did and gathering tips for future trips ! I DID bother to read it .
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Old Jun 5th, 2005, 01:33 PM
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No need to apologize either ..... ( JMHO )
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Old Jun 5th, 2005, 01:53 PM
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Thanks faithie, I appreciate that!
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Old Jun 6th, 2005, 10:41 AM
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laurieco - I am simply the only person who is voicing the common opinion of many. Don't be offended by my candor.
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Old Jun 6th, 2005, 01:19 PM
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TripleSecDelay--I wasn't offended, in fact, I took what you said seriously and applied it to Chapter2. I hope you'll read it and tell me if it's a bit easier on the eyes. I want people to read the reports and enjoy them. That's why I posted them!

Laurie
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Old Jun 6th, 2005, 01:40 PM
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Thanks laurieco

I did read the report but it was "tough sledding".

I agree with TripleSecDelay about spacing the report.

I also do not intend to offend as I realize how much effort you have put in.

Hmmm you are doing this on Word, I usually just type right into the space Fodors gives!!

And you are right ,I am sure after you Copy and Paste , you lose some of the exact spacing from Word.!

You see I am spacing this for easy reading.

Thanks you for a lovely detailed report.

Percy
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Old Jun 6th, 2005, 02:47 PM
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thanks Percy, I'm glad you took the time to read it. Normally when I post on Fodor's (I do a lot of posting on the Asia forum) I do it directly in the space too. But this is very long and I at least wanted the benefit of a spell-check. Also, you never know if a thread will be removed for some reason (it happens occassionaly if a nasty argument breaks out) and this way, I now have a permanent journal of my trip.
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Old Jun 6th, 2005, 03:12 PM
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laurieco

I take it you have been to Asia a lot.!


Anyway good report and I understand your concerns about spelling errors.

Everyone knows I have made my share in Fodors postings !!!

Percy
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Old Jun 7th, 2005, 12:50 AM
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Very valid reasons for typing it on Word first Laurieco. It's funny, when I first looked at it, it seemed soooo long, was my first response. Probably due to the infamous no-spacing, but as I read, I was so into it that as much as I wanted to stop and read the rest the next day because my eyelids were shutting (it was around 3AM!), I couldn't break away from it. Same with chapter 2. I like very detailed reports and stories, as long as they're not boring that is! Good job
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