Trip Report...sort of!

Old Feb 6th, 2006, 09:27 AM
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Trip Report...sort of!

Just returned from 2 weeks travel in CR. What a breathtakingly beautiful country. Plan to post webpage with full report, photos, and video, eventually...! but here's a briefing of our itinerary...if any questions or would like opinions on any of the following....

Thrifty car rental, Jeep Wrangler, San Jose

Peace Lodge at LaPaz Waterfall Gardens. Outside Restaurant: Colberts

Quepos, Manuel Antonio...hotel: Villas Nicolas. Tours: Finca Valmy Horseback, White Water Rafting down Savegre. Manuel Antonio Nat'l Park.

Monteverde...hotel Fonda Vela. Tours: Guided MV Cloud Forest Preserve plus night tour, SkyTrek ziplines (Oh MY!), Sky Walk hanging bridges.

Arenal...hotel Arenal Observatory Lodge. Tours: Old Lava trail hike, Tabacon Hot Springs, Fourtrax ATV tour.

Guanacaste/Rincon De La Vieja Nat;l Park...hotel: Guachipelin. Tours: Hike the Nat'l Park/Las Pailas Loop of Active Volcano (amazing). The Kazm Canyon Tour of Rio Blanco Canyon (zip line/wall climbs, rappel, etc), horseback to waterfalls, volcanic mud baths, tubing down the Rio Negro river class III and IV rapids - yikes!

Driving times and road conditions to all locations.

All locations we experienced very low crowds, no waiting in lines. Very slow for highest season. Ticos are the kindest, most gracious people we have ever met and their country is just gorgeous. Already planning our next trip this year to Corcovado!
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Old Feb 6th, 2006, 10:02 AM
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Michelina01 -- If you could provide details (feelings) on the following, I certainly would appreciate it: Fincy Valmy horseback riding and Manuel Antonio National Park, the night tour in Monteverde (which one and what types of critters did you see), SkyTrek ziplines and the Sky Walk hanging bridges (we are doing the Arenal hanging bridges and also have a reservation for SkyWalk at Monteverde). Trying to decide if I need to do both. The guided MV Cloud Forest Preserve, the lava tour....oh heck, could you provide a little something on everything? Thanks.
 
Old Feb 6th, 2006, 01:06 PM
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We're headed to CR in two weeks (yeah!). Can you tell us a little bit about your Ricon de Vieja Park, which we don't hear about as often? How long and was the horseback ride to the mudpots, and was it steep? Did you like Arenal Observ. Lodge and did you see any lava flows?

Thanks, Pat
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Old Feb 6th, 2006, 02:57 PM
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Michaelina01,

I will be doing a similar trip shortly. We are also staying at Fonda Vela, MA(different hotel), and Peace Lodge. Can you elaborate on:
1. Fonda Vela? We were told that it's walking distance from the Cloud Forest Preserve. Would you agree? We have a 7:30 A.M. guided tour reservation. Any restaurant recommendation there?
2. MA National Park. Did you do a guided tour there? Any restaurant recommendations there?
3. Peace Lodge. I have Colbert's on my list. What did you think of it?
Thanks a lot.

gumper

P.S.- I am looking for a tame zip line experience. Would your zip line experience fit?
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Old Feb 6th, 2006, 05:31 PM
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Here's a briefing, but will post webpage will full info and pics once I have time to create it!
Finca Valmy horseback tour was WONDERFUL. While I did a ton of research from travel guides prior to trip, I found out about this tour on this site. Valentin is your guide, he takes you on his very well trained and cared for horses. He is wonderful, aside from the beautiful horseride through the forest and mountains, through the rivers and plantations, he takes you to his home and cuts the fruit off the trees in his yard and shares them with you. Drinking the juice from the pipa was the most delicous juice I ever tasted. In fact, all the fruits and vegetables, juices served in all CR restaurants are fabulous - fresh and no preservatives. I am vegetarian so enjoyed the food quite a bit. You also stop to swim in a lovely little swimming hole to cool off, and at the tour's end you have a fabulous hot lunch at the ranch next door to his home in which we were visited by a scarlet macaw and 2 other parrots. A highlight of our trip. Highly recommended if horseback riding is on your list and you will be in Quepos/MA.

We spent a half day at MA Park. It was very hot, and not nearly as crowded as we anticipated. This is a gorgeous park, and if you want to see monkeys, this is the place to be. Take the Peroza Trail and there are monkeys galore...everywhere. We took tonz of photos and video. And they are quite comical, we spent hours just watching them. There are several good trails to hike with great views. Also the beaches are beautiful. We felt one day here was more than enough time to see the park, it is not that large. We did not hire a guide here. We liked being on our own time and spending lots of time observing the monkeys. We also saw 3 toed sloth in the trees and tons of coati (they are all over CR!), iguana, Jesus Christ lizards.

We ended up doing a night tour in one of the other reserves in MV, but I dont recall which one. Night tour was interesting, we saw really just lots of bugs, tarrantula, ants, some rodents..not really my thing, but it is the only thing to do at night.

The SkyTrek ziplines in MV...2 words...holy crap. They were an incredible, exhilarating experience. I think ziplining should not be missed during one's CR trip...HOWEVER, the SkyTrek is *NOT* for the faint of heart, esp if you have an uncomfortableness with heights. Sky Trek advertises as the biggest, highest, longest, fastest zips in CR, and I could not imagine anyone else could come close. I think the highest line is about 500 ft off the forest floor - you literally feel you are in the clouds. And the fastest line is almost 50 mph. We had such fun, it is really magnificent. The worst part of it for us was that Skytrek is built in the towers, rather than the trees (explains how they can reach the heights), so climbing that skinny, spiral tower to get to the first zip was the worst. Very heartstopping for us, but we are fearful of heights (dont ask why we chose this one!). Once I got clipped in to the first line, I was better when I got to the second, and there were no more towers to climb. That tower was just unreal. NOT for the faint of heart. I could not believe how high up we were. I did get great pics and video though!

We LOVED the Arenal Observ. Lodge. it is a fabulous place and the closest lodging to volcano, it is literally in their backyard. We stayed in Smithsonian room and it was fabulous with the most incredible view, I couldn't imagine it getting any better than this. It is, however, luck of the draw to get a clear view of the cone, or at least part of the volcano. First day/night it was nearly completely clouded over. The next day it cleared and a few times we got to see the cone. At night, we sat on our deck with a six pack and just looked out into the dark sky of volcano waiting for something to happen. Finally , we heard an eruption and saw the red rocks come tumbling down..quite a surreal experience, so glad to have experienced it. But, had we not had a constant eye out, we would have missed it.
The Lodge offeres a wonderful complimentary morning tour/hike to the old lava flows. It was a 3 hour tour and WONDERFUL. Our guide was a local born and raised in Arenal and he remembered the eruptions, therefore had terrific history to tell. We got to see day eruptions with rock spewing out the top and trailing down the side of the volcano.

The Fonda Vela was lovely. We found their restaurant very good and our view from room was great. We had a car so we drove to the entrance of the preserve. I suppose you can walk, but I *think* the hotel may provide a shuttle.

One of the most memorable experiences of our trip was awakening at sunrise every morning to the sound of the howler monkeys...what a sound for such a small creature! My husband said they sound like king kong with their roars!

The Peace Lodge and LaPaz waterfall Gardens was AMAZING. Give yourself a full day to relax here AND see everything. The grounds are impeccable and we were in awe of the views and the beauty here. The rooms are to die for and the food in their restaurant was the best we had in all of our 2 week travels, esp the breakfast. We had dinner at Colberts our first night and it was the best dinner we had the whole trip - the cheese platter was to die for!

The roads IN MV we found to be way worse than the roads TO MV! It was horrible just getting around around there so we took all of our meals at the hotel, except for a stop for afternoon coffee at the Treehouse place - really cool.

Rincon De La Vieja...this is a much less traveled area in Guanacaste, but really incredible. It is 30-40 min drive a above Liberia airport, so we visited this region at the tail end of our trip and flew out of Liberia, it worked out great and afforded us the oportunity to visit this region. It is the hottest, dreist region in CR, and completely different from our other stops - open savannah, no lush fauna in these forests, just completely different terrain. We stayed at the hotel Guachipelin: www.guachipelin.com. It is a dude ranch, and you feel like you are on a farm. Instead of waking up to the howler monkeys, we awoken to the cackling of roosters, ducks, and cow moo's...hahaha. The folks who work here were by far the kindest, most gracious tico's during our whole trip, if we thought they could get any better. So very accomodating. We definetely felt we had the most "cultural" experience here. We found the language barrier to be the most challenging here, though, but we got by. The Nat'l park has terrific hiking, if you like to hike. Hiking the Las Pailas loop at the volcano was one of the most amazing experiences ever. Supposed to be a lot like Yellowstone Park, but I have never beent o Yellowstone. We passed right by several bubbling mud pots, steaming fumaroles, the whole journey you can smell the strong odor of sulfur. Areas of the ground would just be steaming. It was a bizarre, science-fiction-like, almost other-worldly landscape. There are several other trails that were recommended but we didn't have enough time to hike them - you can hike to the crater of the volcano as well, but this takes a day and you need a guide.
The hotel offers a one day adventure pass for $70 so we did the white water tubing down the Rio Negro, horseback to the mud baths (about 30 min at most), horeseback to waterfall, the Canyon Tour. The hotel owns acres upon acres of property, so they have 4 waterfalls w/ beautiful swimming holes on site, and everything is close by, it is a great place. The Canyon tour is on property, you walk to the Rio Blanco Canyon. This Tour is amazing and we felt so safe, our guides were phenominal and SO much fun. You zip-line in the crevice of the canyon, wall climb, tarzan swing, it is a real adventure, we loved it.

Gumper, restaurants we liked in MA were: Bambu Jam - wonderful food and service, and live entertainment certain nights. Cafe Milagro for breakfast, Karolas - good food and the BEST drinks - we are craving those coconut margaritas! The Sunspot has an awesome view, and Rico Tico bar-try the banana flambee dessert - it is quite an experience!

Oh, now I am back in Atlanta in 40 degree weather with my work piled high and wishing I was back in CR!!
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Old Feb 12th, 2006, 02:31 PM
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Hi -

Please send your opinion on renting from Thrifty - and about renting a jeep - most of the agencies offer Jimny's or Terios - do you think the jeep was a better ride on bumpy roads?

Thanks!
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Old Feb 12th, 2006, 04:36 PM
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OK - you've scared me about the zip lines...I have a nine year old. Would he be able to ride with a guide? Are we better off doing a zip line in Arenal in the trees instead of Monteverde?? Thanks!
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Old Feb 12th, 2006, 04:49 PM
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We also just got back from 10 days in Costa Rica. All I can say is Wow! We loved it all. Out itinerary was as follows: Day 1 flew to San Jose, took a shuttle to Hotel Bourganvillea (Beautiful hotel and gardens). Car arrived next morning from Mapache. It was 4 wheel drive. Dove to La Fortuna and stayed the next three nights at Arenal Paraiso. Really liked that too. They had their own hot springs although not as elaborate as Tabacon. We did the Sy Tram/ Sky Trek. The ziplines were great. The guides talked about the rainforest while riding up the tram stopping to look at monkeys and different tree features. Then we zipped down. It was wonderful..The guides will go with you if necessary. I am 58 and normally afraid of heights but just loved this!!!Having a car was great if you like checking out intown stuff. We did go to Arenal National Park and hiked to a lava field. You could see the rocks tumbling down with each blast. The sounds are awesome. Also hikde to La Fortuna Waterfall. (500 steps down and up)but worth it. Also did the hanging bridges. Also cool. Then on to Monteverde for three nights at the Cloud Forest Lodge. A wild drive. the roads were horrible, a real adventure. We had a guide, Rafeal, who was great at the MV Reserve. Also took a coffee tour which was the only place we saw a toucan. It rained most of the time and when not raining you were in a mist. It didn't stop us at all. Next we drove to Manual Antonio and stayed 2 nights but wished we had more time there. The public beach was great, but swimming in the lagoons in the National park was wonderful. No waves. You could just float and swim all over. Also the trails had monkeys sloths both two and three toes, and iguanas. Amazing. Stayed at Costa Verde hotel. Loved it. Food was great and we found local music at La Cantina across the street. Took the 12 seater plane (Sansa Airline) back to San Jose the last day. Our car was picked up at the hotel the day before keeping our rental to a week even though we were there 10 days. 25 minute flight which as great for seeing the coast line and mountain ranges. We were so glad we did that. Only 58 dollars per person. Peggy at Vacationcity.com helped us with reservations after getting great ideas from this board. I will try to help anyone with specific questions, but am not on the computer everyday. you may have to wait for my reply. But we definitely want to return to Costa Rica. Just loved the country and the people. I only speak a little spanish, but being on our own what I could speak did make a difference. I would recommend having a driver or a tour if you speak no spanish. My husband was amazed at how my spanish helped and believe me it isn't very good.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2006, 11:40 AM
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Goodness! I am so late with my replies and I apologize! Up to my ears in work since returning from our vacation...decided to live vicariously through the CR forums for a break today and realized I hadn't checked this post in a while.
MARISA1519 - we had a good experience renting from Thrifty...they were quite helpful, and we loved driving the Jeep Wrangler...it handled real well on the roads, good suspension, it IS a bumpy ride, but the Jeeps are built for off-road adventure driving, so we felt it was also more reliable than the alternatives. When you are picking the car up at the counter, they tell you no off-road driving, but that is almost impossible if you are exploring CR! We had to drive off road many times, even through a river, but we were just fine. Yes, we found that Thrifty is the only rental Co. that offers the Jeep Wranglers, although they recently stopped offering the soft tops and now only have hard tops. FYI - aside from checking the jeep thoroughly for damage before riding off in it, definately check the tires well. The first Jeep they drove up for us had tires so bald you could barely see any treds. We had them bring us another. I hear that this is common, so make sure to check...a blown out tire will surely put a damper on your trip.
FIVEHOLMES - Sorry to scare you about SkyTrek! I was still shakin' in my shoes when I wrote that! The guides offered to ride tandom with any of us if we wanted, so I am sure this would be an option for your nine year old. It was really an exhilarating experience, it's just climbing that tower that made me so fearful, but again, I am afraid of heights...I even had a tough time entering the hanging bridges, but once on, I did OK...we did it ALL despite our fears! I know that most of the ziplines are built in the trees rather than the towers, so you can opt for one of these, like Original Canopy Tours. Most all agreed on our tour that the towers were by far the scariest! Definately do it, it is amazing! I have some pictures and short video clips of SkyTrek and taking off from the towers I can post a link to if interested.

I am missing that incredible country...
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Old Feb 23rd, 2006, 11:59 AM
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Will be at Peace Lodge in about 42 hours from now. First day getting in early and may head to Poas before going to hotel. You mention a restaurant called Colberts. Is it far from Peace Lodge.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2006, 01:24 PM
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RHR;
Yes, Colberts is down the road, we had a car and it took us 10 minutes to get there...it is fabulous and the best meal we had in the 2 weeks we were there. The folks at the Peace Lodge can tell you how to get there. My husband and I were the only 2 dining there when we went.
Peace Lodge also is known to have great food and the restaurant there has a four-fork rating, supposedly the best you can get. We found their breakfast buffet to far surpass any other of the 5 hotels we stayed at in our CR travels - really delicious. We only got to eat lunch and breakfast there, however, and were on the road to our next destination before dinner time.
Peace Lodge in 42 hours! I am ENVIOUS - that place is beyond amazing. FYI - they say the best opportunity to see Poas is early in the a.m...it tends to get clouded over in the afternoon frequently, but, it is all a matter of chance. Peace Lodge has an upper level open air restaurant that is supposed to have a great view of Poas, but it was completely clouded when we were there so we never got to see it. The grounds at the Peac Lodge/LaPaz Waterfall Gardens are truly remarkable. We could have spent more than a day there. Hope you love it as much as we did. Have a wonderful, safe trip!
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Old Mar 22nd, 2006, 10:06 AM
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Michelina01,
I haven't crossed to many people that have use fourtrax in Arenal. Do you suggest it with kids (ages 10 & 12 that would be riding double with adults). And do you see Fortuna Falls or is that still another tour we would want to do.
Thanks
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