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Trip Report-Manuel Antonio, Rafiki Safari, and Dominical March 2010

Trip Report-Manuel Antonio, Rafiki Safari, and Dominical March 2010

Old Mar 26th, 2010, 09:42 AM
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Trip Report-Manuel Antonio, Rafiki Safari, and Dominical March 2010

In March 2010, my husband, twin 11-year old boys, and I took our third trip to Costa Rica in four years. Previously, we’ve been to the Osa, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, Arenal, and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. For this 9 day trip, we spent 2 days in Manuel Antonio, 2 days at Rafiki Safari on the Rio Savegre, and 4 days in Dominical.

*Thurs March 11, Arrived in San Jose, picked up rental car at Tricolor, and drove to Manuel Antonio on the new highway with short stop for an OK lunch at Wahoo’s soda in Jaco. We didn’t get the chance to get colones at an ATM before settting out on our trip, and I didn’t realize the new highway was a toll road. Surprisingly, they even took US dollars at the toll booths in Costa Rica.

*In Manuel Antonio, we stayed at La Posada, which was a great place to stay. Despite being about 20 yards from the entrance gate to Manuel Antonio National Park, La Posada bungalows were very quiet and quaint. Each morning, they serve a breakfast which was plentiful and delicious. The walk to the beach from La Posada was about 3 minutes, and the hotel had boogie boards and snorkel masks for use by its guests. The staff at La Posada was also extremely helpful. Unfortunately, we didn’t figure out that the air conditioning in our rental car was not working until we were already close to Manuel Antonio. I was having some trouble communicating with the person on the phone at Tricolo, given my Spanish is not great and his English was so-so. Esteban of La Posada was extremely helpful and helped me communicate with Tricolor that our expectation was for them to bring us a new rental car that evening. Which Tricolor did…driving a car all the way from their office in San Jose and delivering it to us at La Posada. Right at La Posada, we saw squirrel monkeys each afternoon at about 2:30. One morning at breakfast, a very calm deer also showed up. And one afternoon, I saw a couple of toucans while I was sitting by the pool at La Posada. That evening, we had dinner at El Avion, the airplane restaurant. The food was very good, it had great views at sunset, and good batidos (fruit shakes).

*Friday March 12-This morning, we took a guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park with Juan Brenes. Juan was an excellent guide. I would definitely recommend him. Besides spotting and pointing out wildlife, which we would never have seen without him, I loved him telling my 11 year olds how he became a successful guide, starting out with washing dishes in a restaurant from 4 p.m to 2 a.m. when he was their age. On the tour, we saw 2 three-toed sloths, 1 two-toed sloth, 3 or 4 howler monkeys, an agouti, popoo bird, white-necked heron, various spiders and lizards. I was kind of surprised that we didn’t see more wildlife. For some reason, I got the impression that Manuel Antonio Park was just brimming with wildlife, and to be honest, I feel like I saw more wildlife in terms of quantity and variety in the Osa. After finishing our tour, we went into Quepos for lunch at Soda Sanchez, which I would also recommend. After an afternoon of boogie boarding and body surfing, we went to Agua Azul. This is one of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten at in Costa Rica. We thought the prices were pretty high ($10 for a hamburger and fries, $15 for a burrito), but then when our food arrived, we realized why. The portions were HUGE. The hamburger was the biggest I’ve ever seen, and 2 people could easily share one meal here. Their menu also has more “gourmet” type items.

*Mar 13 and 14-We drove south to Rafiki Safari Lodge in the morning, and arrived just before lunch, after an interesting ~15km drive on a bumpy dirt road. We were greeted by the very friendly owners and staff with batidos made of tropical fruit, as well as a very cool looking green tree snake making its way across the lodge floor. The hospitality and charm of this place make it stand out, not to mention great service, beautiful setting and lodge, amazing food, and the platform tents with luxury bathroom. Rafiki Safari was definitely the highlight of our trip. We spent the afternoon swimming in the Rio Savegre, and the kids LOVED the very fast waterslide right at the lodge. The next day, we took a 1.5 hour horseback ride from the lodge to our put-in spot for white water rafting. The horses were very well-trained and well taken care of. On the ride, we saw a sloth. Despite being the dry season, the rafting trip provided enough fun and adventure for the kids. There were 2 guides plus the four of us on the trip, using 2 very maneuverable mini-rafts. We pulled our rafts out for lunch, and were surprised to be served an excellent picnic lunch complete with placemats and flowers on the table. Near the end of the trip, we took a short hike to some very beautiful waterfalls where we could jump off and swim in the falls. Guides were fun, great with the kids, showed us interesting plants and wildlife along the way.

*Mar 15, 16, 17, 18-Drove to Coconut Grove Bungalows in Dominical. Spent the afternoon checking out the beach and arranging some tours for our stay near Dominical. We ate at a local soda, and unfortunately, about 3 hours later, one of my kids felt pretty sick. I won’t mention the name of the place, because I’m not 100% sure that this place was the cause of my son’s illness. This is the first time any of us have ever gotten sick in CR, so I was surprised. Owners of Coconut Grove were very helpful, gave us info on doctors with 24 hour service, and even offered to go with us to the hospital in the middle of the night if my son’s fever worsened (it was over 103, even with ibuprofen). His illness slowed us down for a day, so we didn’t get in quite as many activities in Dominical as we wanted. One of our favorite activities was surfing lessons on Dominical Beach. The kids picked it up really quickly, and even I, a 46 year old, was able to get up on the board, thanks to the good instruction by Jorge and Ezekiel. We took lessons with Dominical Surf Adventures. They also do other trips, and I would definitely recommend them.

*The other organized trip we took was with Southern Expeditions. We had booked the Waves and Caves tour, but because of my son’s illness, we had to reschedule. They were very flexible in booking us on another tour a couple days later. We ended up doing the Kayaking and Snorkeling trip. They picked us up at our bungalow in a very nice air conditioned bus, and dropped us off at Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, about 25 minutes south. We paddled our kayaks for about an hour to an island, then “parked” our kayaks there, put on snorkel masks and went snorkeling. I had very low expectations for snorkeling in Costa Rica, having snorkeled at Cano Island and Manzanillo, but it was actually pretty decent and very worthwhile. We saw a really wide variety of tropical fish. I would also give 2 thumbs up to Southern Expeditions.

*I liked the Dominical Area and would go back. The beaches, with the exception of Playa Domincal, were practically empty. I don’t think I’d stay in town, but there were several places along the coast that looked good. Coconut Grove was also an excellent place to stay…reasonable prices, nice pool, beautiful grounds, etc. We rented a small house. The property is right on Playa Dominicalito, which is pretty much deserted. The best restaurant we ate at in the Domincal area was Roca Verde. I’d also suggest you try Ruby’s Homemade Ice Cream in Dominical. Excellent ice cream and waffle cones, with interesting tropical flavors.

*Mar 18-drive back to San Jose. Our tour ended an hour later than they told us, so we really had to push it to get back to San Jose to turn the car in before the rental place closed. We made it in 3.5 hours, including about 3 or 4 stops in Atenas using my mediocre Spanish to ask directions and make sure we were on the right road. Remember…in CR, ”directo” is not always exactly “directo”. Yet I have to say it’s amazing how friendly, patient, and helpful the Costa Ricans were as I tried to communicate in Spanish. I’ve been to CR 3 times and I realize most roads don’t have signs or for that matter even names, but is there some reason why the rental car companies can’t have a printed map, using landmarks and distances, on how to get to and from their offices?

As is our custom, we stayed at Las Orchideas the last night in CR, before our early morning flight. The restaurant there served some really excellent food. And even though the original Marilyn the hotel dog has passed, my kids were very happy to meet Marilyn 2, who is one of the friendliest dogs you’ll ever meet.
fcfarmgirl is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2010, 11:26 AM
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Sounds like a wonderful time! Surprised you didn't see more wildlife at MA park, but I really talked it up to a co-worker, and she didn't see a single capuchin there while we saw tons of them.
volcanogirl is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2010, 12:29 PM
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Thanks for the great report! Sounds like a fabulous trip. I've been looking at Rafiki for 5 years now and still haven't made it there...but some day!
hipvirgochick is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2010, 12:31 PM
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Oh, and glad to hear Orquideas is still living up to it's reputation of serving great food in the restaurant. We'll be going back in June and last trip was when we found that Marilyn had passed. Sad, she was such a sweetheart!
hipvirgochick is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2010, 12:45 PM
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Sounds like you had a great trip, except for the sickness part! I've been looking at Rafiki too - and it seems like such an interesting place! Glad to hear you liked it so much!

Thanks for sharing!
ShellD is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2010, 12:56 PM
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Thanks for the info. on Rafiki - that looks very cool. Beautiful waterfall and fun water slide look really inviting!
volcanogirl is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2010, 04:30 PM
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Love the great info and report, been trying to get to Rafiki for a long time. May I ask, how long did you drive off the main road to Rafiki and how bad was that road? Is it possible to wander about the property on trails on your own or is it pretty much just the cabins & restaurant?
tully is offline  
Old Mar 27th, 2010, 08:07 AM
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I'm guessing the drive off the main road took us 1/2 hour. We had rented a small SUV, and it was absolutely no problem...just kind of bumpy with a couple hills that were a little steep...not really that bad. We saw several small cars driving on the road, also with no problem. It was dry season at this time, so I suppose a 4WD would be a good choice especially during rainy season.

For the trails, I only went on two, but the owner said that there were several. One of them headed down to the river from the lodge. It was only about 20 minutes, but it was all relatively recent growth because of a big flood they had in 2005. The other, through the jungle, was good. It followed the perimeter of a small watershed and was about 1-2 miles. However, it being jungle and my desire to see animals, it took most of an hour. The trail was pretty easy to follow and there were a few side trails that went off, but I didn't follow them because I didn't know where they went. One of the guides said he was working on a map for the trails, but it wasn't done yet. Maybe it will be done by the time you get there. I saw a few birds and bugs, but no animals. The property is 840 acres and runs along the Rio Savegre. It's a beautiful spot.
fcfarmgirl is offline  
Old Mar 27th, 2010, 08:18 AM
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Thanks to all of you who replied to my trip report post. I have definitely used your advice in planning our 3 trips to Costa Rica. Pura Vida!
fcfarmgirl is offline  
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