Trip Report: late August, MA & Arenal

Oct 1st, 2005, 07:53 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 19
Trip Report: late August, MA & Arenal

Hello, I received so much help from this board and I wanted to share the details about an amazing trip my husband and I took to Costa Rica.

I have to say that the help I received from the people at Gaia Link Tours was incredible!!! We basically chose our hotels, the areas we wanted to visit, and gave Ralph an idea of the activities we wanted to do while we were there. He got back to me with a price and we booked the trip, putting down a deposit and then two more payments before the trip. Arriving at the airport in San Jose was as little bit overwhelming, with huge groups of people out in front of the airport, but then I saw Rosia from Gaia Link, there to meet me with a hug and she provided all of the vouchers to me for transfers, hotels, and outings that would take place over the next week. Then we met our driver Luis, (who was fantastic) and we drove to Arenal while he shared the history of his country and stopped at favorite places for coffee, groceries, and photo opportunities. I cannot recommend Luis highly enough—he was kind, spoke English very well (he spent many years in California) and made us feel comfortable and welcome. With hugs we arrived at Lost Iguana and checked into our beautiful room!

That first night we went to the springs at Tabacon—not such a fan, kind of like Disneyland, but the hot water did feel great after a long trip from NYC. Yet again, we were met by a wonderful private driver (all arranged by Gaia Link) who made sure we were comfortable and happy before leaving us and picking us up several hours later. We were very lucky while in Arenal, from the very first night the sky was clear and the lava was flowing freely, rumbling down the side of the mountain. Our driver took us up to a beautiful viewpoint in the park and the three of us watched in silence for about twenty minutes, listening to the lava spark and fall down the sides of the mountain.

Lost Iguana: beautiful!!! We truly relaxed here. The rooms are spacious and the ones with views of the volcano are unbelievable. It is removed from the town but we actually found that we liked this very much, like a romantic hideaway in the hills. Our room had an open-air shower and a wonderful Jacuzzi tub on the patio. The only downfall is we found that the food in the hotel restaurant was not very good at all and since we did not have a car, going into the town was not all that convenient. But the views at dinner make up for it! All three nights we spent in Lost Iguana the lava was flowing freely and we gladly ate bland/mediocre food so that we could have that view while drinking a bottle of wine and then walking back up to our room, to watch the lava flow while we drifted off to sleep.
allthingsbb is offline  
Oct 1st, 2005, 07:55 AM
  #2  
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Trip report continued...

Activities in Arenal:
Our trip was packed with lots of fun activities, all arranged by Gaia Link. That seemed to be their specialty. All of our tours were small, off the beaten path, and very personal. Some of the activities we did were kayaking in Cano Negro reserve, Sky Trek (incredible!), hanging bridges (we found boring), and some hiking. The two activities that stand out were the Sky Trek zip line, which still makes me smile each time I think of it, and kayaking with our guide Memo in the Cano Negro Reserve. So much better than the float! We saw tons of monkeys, JC lizards, cayman, etc…all within our first hour on the river. Note: we did find this to be physically demanding at times as you are on the water for about four hours. My husband’s back was really bothering him after this because of back problems so I would just caution that you be careful if you have any back problems and decide to do this. It really was magical. The floats went by, and that looked nice too, but if you want a very personal, natural, and intimate experience, this is the way to do it. It was my husband and I in a kayak, and our guide Memo, and that was it. Memo packed water and a light lunch and we pulled over and ate lunch under the trees of the rainforest, surrounded by monkeys in the trees and natural beauty all around us. (Another note: Bring deet on this trip! While the mosquitoes were not bad on the water, as soon as we went onto land, they were all around and the natural stuff just did not cut it! Bring deet for this one). Memo is a beautiful, kind, intelligent guide and this is an experience that I often think back to and a feeling of peace overcomes me. Just to give you an idea: we would park at a breakfast place and the tour buses would sometimes come in with people, and it would just be the three of us sitting at a table, having Memo teach us about the food, history, and culture of Costa Rica. We loved Arenal.

Manuel Antonio:
So we went on the shared van service to Manuel Antonio and due to several delays with the bus, we found this to be a long, very bumpy journey that took us about 8 hours! On the way back to San Jose, it was better and only took about 5 hours but I have to say that next time we would hire a private driver instead, as we found it would only be about $50 more because there were two of us. In Manuel Antonio we stayed at Hotel Mango Moon. A fantastic owner, beautiful view, and conveniently located. The lobby/common area of this hotel was really pretty, but we did find that the rooms themselves were a bit rundown and not as nice as we thought they would have been. It was intimate and nice, but overall I can’t say that I would recommend it. We liked it, but just did not love it. The big thing to know here is that yes, it is on the ocean, but the ocean is about a 15-20 minute hike down to the water, just so that you know this in case you are looking to open your door and be on the beach. We did like Si Como No quite a bit and wished we had booked there instead. Much bigger and less personal than Mango Moon, but very nice with a beautiful pool.

Overall we were delighted with the improvement we found in both the variety and quality of food in Manuel Antonio. Lots of fresh fish, rice and beans, and other fantastic combinations. We enjoyed great meals at El Avion, El Patio, Café Milagro, Ronny’s Place, and another that was right by Mango Moon with a pretty outdoor garden, I just can’t remember the name. I would be very careful walking on the main road in Manuel Antonio—it’s bumpy and curvy, people drive very fast, and I felt unsafe at times. Definitely take a taxi, it’s worth it!

Activities in MA:
The park, which we found to be crowded even at 8am and unfortunately kind of dirty, I think we were just expecting it to be something different than what it is. Lots of sloths and tons of monkeys! They were everywhere in MA. Other meaningful trips here were a beautiful sailboat ride with snorkeling and an amazing meal of grilled fish served on the boat, and the horseback riding at La Finca Valmy. La Finca Valmy was an amazing experience—made even better if you have a fun group of people—that involves water passes on horseback, a waterfall, and a beautiful meal at the end at the guide’s home. I was bruised for two days but it was worth it. While I don’t think I would go back to MA again, it was a wonderful first introduction to the beach in Costa Rica.

San Jose:
My only words of advice here are Hotel Grano de Oro. Beautiful and truly relaxing after an action-packed trip to Costa Rica. We stayed in a deluxe room that was comfortable, clean, and beautifully furnished—complete with our own little patio with a lovely copper waterfall. This hotel alone is worth staying the night before your flight back home. The hotel has a great breakfast (amazing bacon) but just make sure to make dinner reservations well in advance.

Things we liked having: flashlight, lots of $1 & $5’s, bug spray (although not really needed, good to have), a nice warm sweatshirt/warm up pants, flip-flops, really comfortable shoes for outdoor activities, woollite to rinse our bathing suits and tank-tops (which we found in single use packs at container store), tanks, jeans, t-shirts, etc.

We returned from Costa Rica exhausted and bruised, but having had seen some very beautiful sights and met some of the warmest, kindest people we had ever met. We met new friends along the way and enjoyed meals and drinks with them at night. It was not uncommon for our day trips to end in hugs and kisses and an exchange of emails addresses and a promise to meet on our next trip to Costa Rica.

Please email me with any questions. Thank you all so much for your comments and suggestions. I feel like there is so much more I could write but this post would go on and on…Pura Vida....I now understand this.
allthingsbb is offline  
Oct 1st, 2005, 01:36 PM
  #3  
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i also wanted to added that if anyone would like to see photos from our trip, please email me and i am happy to send you the link to where we have them posted. if you are thinking about making this trip...definitely go for it!
allthingsbb is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 05:45 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 953
Great trip report!!! I are going to CR at Christmas and doing a similiar trip. Reading yours makes me even more excited!! We are using Ralph to hire drivers, but I booked the hotels myself back in February.

Questions: Did you hire a private guide for touring Manuel Antonio Park? Also, which sunset sailboat trip did you take? Did Ralph set it up for you?

Thanks for any info you can provide! And, YES, I would love to see your pictures!
Jayne
Jayneann is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 06:59 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 5,541
I'm curious about the area & trails at/nearby Lost Iguana. I'm considering going there on my next trip but will not have a car. On their website they mention having some trails but I'm wondering how extensive they are. Basically I'm looking for a place where I can walk/hike around on my own. Did you see any of their trails or take any of them? Thanks!
tully is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 05:23 PM
  #6  
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hi, thanks for reading. i remember getting so excited while reading these posts while i was planning my trip.

here is a link to some photos we took on our trip: www.szermer.com/trip. this was kind of a "best of", as others came out blurry--our first decision when we got home, we bought a new camera with a great zoom lens so that future photos will not be blurry! the photos you will see of the hotel room and chairs outside are at Lost Iguana. The shots of the volcano were from our patio.

yes, ralph arranged all of our drivers and day trips, including the sailboat. just one caution, i've never gotten sea sick before and did find that the water was pretty choppy the day we went out and i was later wishing that i had taken the pill to help prevent sea sickness. i recovered quickly--some ginger ale, keeping my eyes on the horizon, and the appearance of two whales seemed to speed along the recovery and before long i was back again hanging out on the front of the boat. the catamaran looked like fun as well, but we really enjoyed the feel of a big sail boat and the delicious grilled fish the captain made us for lunch. i don't know the name of the boat, but ralph at gaia link did arrange it for us.

hikes around LI: we did go on two hikes while at this hotel. one is real quick, just about 20 minutes and another took about two hours and was definitely more intensive. bring along water and maybe bug repellant if you decide to do the longer one. our first few days in arenal were packed with activity and we welcomed the slower pace of a day at the hotel, with a hike, lunch, and reading by the pool. the trails were good and marked well but not outstanding. still, a nice activity to include if you want to stick around the hotel one day.
allthingsbb is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2005, 04:49 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,372
It is always enjoyable to read others views on Costa Rica. Thanks for posting.

Enjoyed your pictures, as well. However they made me long to be in Costa Rica.
dfarmer is offline  

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