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Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

calgary alberta
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Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

Our trip to Costa Rica was everything I had hoped for and more. After using this this site extensively for planning along with a few guide books from the library I was pretty confident that that our first vacation to C.R. would be wonderful but it exceeded our high expectations.

First of all THANKYOU to all of the experts and regular posters who take the time to answer questions and make recommendations.It helps to speed up the planning process so much!

We had 19 days to explore the the Rincon volcano, Samara, Monteverde, Arenal, and Playa Hermosa areas with a 4x4 we rented from Budget. We would have liked to have had a lot longer to do the area justice!

This will probably be a pretty long report as I would like to report on our highlights of which there were so many. Also, it will be over several installments as I do not type very quickly!

Preliminaries:

We always rent a car wherever we go on holidays and this trip was no exception. We decided to rent a 4x4 Bego based on the numerous recommendations and we were glad we did (especially for the trip in and out of Monteverde). You can get by with a car but we felt more confident with the clearance that the 4x4 provides as there are a few large rocks jutting out of the road to Monteverde.Our travels didn't necessitate us crossing any rivers.

We also were prepared for the occasional bug in our rooms as this is a tropical location. We have also encountered bugs in Mexico, Hawaii, etc.

We love the beach and if there is a beach in the vicinity of the place we are visitng we will stay there at least a few days. However C.R. has such beautiful and diverse geographical locations packed within such a relatively small area, you should really plan on spending a good deal of your time at the inland destinations, which is what we did.

We printed out the maps to our various destinations which are found on the "Your Travelmap" C.R. site and they provided excellent directions to our various destinations. Also, the time estimates they provide were pretty much dead on, driving at a reasonable rate of speed. I was surprised that in most cases there was a sign pointing out the direction to take but then we were travelling usually to popular destinations. On those few times where there was a fork in the road with no signs the Travelmaps came through.

We honestly didn't use bugspray very often. We did get a few bites (my wife more than me). When we did use it Deepwoods Off seemed to work well. We came back with a couple of full unused bottles of the bug repellant,

Next Installment: Rincon de la Viejo

Edited: 29 July 2012, 17:41
San Jose, Costa Rica
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1. Re: Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

It si so nice to know that you guys have hada great vacaction...and that as i ALWAYS SAID...ENJOY our COUNTRY AS WE NATIVES DO!

roadadvisor

calgary alberta
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2. Re: Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

We arrived in C.R. late on a Saturday night and stayed at the Hilton by the airport that night. I was glad we made the decision to stay there the night of arrival since we were 45 minutes late arriving as we had to stay on the tarmac at Houston until a lightning storm passed.

The next morning a rep. from Budget rent a car delivered our 4x4 to the hotel right on time at 9:00 am. After 5 to 10 minutes of completing the paperwork we were ready to go. It was a Bego that had approx.41,000 km on it. The Budget rep duly noted the few scratches on the inspection report but yes I did take pictures of the vehicle in case it became an issue when we turned in the vehicle (it wasn"t an issue upon return)

We arrived early at our first destination which was the Canon de la Viejo lodge near the Rincon volcano national park. They allowed us to check in early so that we didn't leave our luggage in the vehicle when we went hiking at the volcano. I knew the park was not open on Monday so the only time we could do our hike was on that day.

After getting settled we were off to the volcano park and drove through the Guachipelin hotel to get to the park. We had decided to stay at the "canyon lodge" instead of the Guachepelin hotel because we wanted to do something on whitewater during our stay and this was the only location we could fit this activity in.Guachepelin offers whitewater tubing while the canyon lodge offers whitewater kayaking in a two man inflatable kayak (you and a guide). I chose the kayaking for two reasons; first, because at Guachipelin it appeared you have to ride horses to the tubing location and I'm allergic to horses. Second,I had a hip replacement 18 months ago and I felt more comfortable with a guide as opposed to a tube over which you have very little control.(I'll get to the kayak trip shortly).

We parked at the rincon volcano and took the Las Pailas hike. The ranger forewarned us that it looked like it may rain, but that did not deter us. It was supposed to be the least strenuous of the hikes at the park but it was still no piece of cake since it has a few areas where you are going steeply uphill and over tree roots etc.. It was a beautiful hike, initially going through jungle canopy and then through more open terrain. we saw two types of monkeys during our hike and about halfway through you start to see the thermal bubbling and steaming pots. ..a very nice introduction to the C.R. diverse geographical features.

Sure enough, after about two thirds of the hike and just as we started coming into the more open vegetation we experienced our first taste of tropical rainforrest downpour. My 17 year old son and I thought this was a great addition to our adventure but my wife did not. She was worried we may take a wrong turn along the way and end up going around and around in circles until it became dark. I tried to reassure her that they kept a record of us when we first left the ranger station (they assign every group a number and you have to check back upon your return to the station).

However, my wife was anxious so we did not venture off the main trail to see some of the later volcanic features on the hike. We made it back before dark and signed in. The ranger explained that the two types of monkeys we saw were Howler and spider since the squirrel monkeys are not found in that park. In any event our hike was a wonderful way to start our vacation.

We had dinner at the Canyon Lodge restaurant that night (grilled Tilapia) and it was delicious! Being from inland Calgary,Canada, we appreciate the chance to have a good fish dinner and this Tilapia and the grilled sea bass we had the next night were the best fish dinners we had during our vacation (and we had a lot). There were only a few other people at the restaurant and I had read mixed reviews about the food at this restaurant but whomever the chef was during our stay certainly knew how to grill fish. I wouldn't ordinarily describe fish as being juicy but that is exactly what it was together with just the right combination of butter and spices.

The next morning my 17 year old son and I went on the whitewater kayak trip and had an absolute blast! We couldn't stop laughing for much of the trip. Our guides didn't speak english too well but this was not a problem. Quite honestly they did most of the paddling and maneouvering through the rapids allowing us to just enjoy the ride. There are two places that involve going over about a 4 to 5 foot drop which provided some scary moments but it was just so much fun. I would highly recommend this kayak trip and in fact loved the canyon lodge. It has a nice pool with a swim up bar and the rooms were fine. They were nothing too special but were clean. We did not spend much time in our rooms which is the way it should be at this type of a location.

Next Stop: Samara

Edited: 05 August 2012, 19:33
San Jose, Costa Rica
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3. Re: Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

Thank you nice report...I´ll see you in SAmara!

Nice that you guys enjoy our rivers...for some nice old rafting...!

I was getting worry about your hip!

roadadvisor

Cahuita, Costa Rica
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4. Re: Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

Always great to read such enthusiasm! thanks for sharing!

calgary alberta
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5. Re: Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

Hi, Roadadvisor... I wasn't sure about my hip either but there was no problem. I even fell out of the kayak once and the two guides were quick to get me back into the kayak. It was quite refreshing actually.

They also had a tarzan swing which both my son and I tried. My son went sailing into the middle of the river while I plummeted immediately into the water.I guess I don't have the strength of my younger days plus quite a few more pounds. One of the guides and my son then climbed up a cliff to jump in the water. By that time I knew better than to try that.

Edited: 06 August 2012, 06:41
calgary alberta
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6. Re: Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

Trip Report Continued:

Before leaving the Canyon Lodge we made a short trip into Liberia to look for a guitar for my son to play while he was on holidays. It didn't take long before we found a music store that sold a wide range of acoustic guitars. Liberia seems like a more traditional Costa Rican town as opposed to a touristy town. While it is not huge you could probably get anything you are looking for here. I would have liked to have spent a an evening and dinner in Liberia but after the very tasty dinner we had at the Canyon lodge the first night we decided to stay there for the second night's dinner.

The road from Liberia to Samara is very pretty with lush vegetation at places and cattle country pastures in others. I loved driving in Costa Rica as it often presents such a beautiful difference to the scenery around Calgary.(Don't get me wrong,Calgary has some of the world's best scenery nearby but the Costa Rican scenery and topography is so different in most places). The only real bad roads we encountered was going to and from Monteverde which I will get to later. Then again we didn't go off exploring out of the way places as I thought we might in our 4x4.

Samara is a neat little beach town about 2 and a quarter hours south west of Liberia if you drive straight through. In deciding where to stay in Samara the places that seemed to most fit our needs were the Samara Tree house, the Kalimba condos, the Hideaway Hotel and the Hotel Villas Playa Samara. When Orbitz first advertised a 35% discount on Villas Playa Samara that made the decision for me. It allowed us to book a one bedroom beachfront room which turned out to be huge. It had a nice living area and large bedroom with two queen sized beds.

Upon our arrival we discovered that the toilet did not work properly and the air conditioning remote was missing but the hotel had someone at our unit within 5 minutes to rectify that. The beachfront rooms are located in a crescent shaped group so I wouldn't necessarily descibe them as beachfront. However all of them had a nice view of the ocean and only a very short walk to the sand. Our unit had a huge patio which we often relaxed on while listening to my son play guitar after the sunset.

Speaking of sunsets we were treated to a couple of gorgeous sunsets during our stay. It seemed to be something of a ritual among the guests to head to the beach around 5:30 and sit or lay on the chairs provided by the hotel and just absorb the beauty of the sunset for about an hour. One thing about the pacific in comparison to the Caribbean side: you may not get the crystal clear waters and pure white sand beaches but you get the the stunning sunsets.

The beach at this location along the Samara bay was very nice and clean. It is at the southern most end of the beach which Frommers guide book says is the nicest part of the beach. The waves are small (good for families; not good for body surfing). I didn't check out the beach in the town part of Samara to compare the two areas but the beach at the Villas Samara was very nice indeed. Plus it is in close proximity to Carillo beach which is reputed to be one of Costa Rica's most beautiful. We made the short trip over to Carillo beach one day as the waves were a little better for bodysurfing in one location there. It is indeed beautiful but we were content to stay at our beach the rest of the time which was also very nice

The food at the hotel was good and reasonably priced although not as tasty or inexpensive as the Canyon lodge where we stayed near Rincon. Breakfast was included with the price of the room and was very good. I would stay at the Villas Samara again.

The first night we arrived at Samara we ate at a restaurant across from the bank (I forget the name of it). It was just o.k. and they did not accept credit or debit cards so I had to go to the ATM machine at the nearby bank. IMPORTANT TIP: while using the ATM machine in C.R. make sure you take your card out of the machine as soon as it becomes available.On this occasion (my first in C.R.) I fumbled around getting my cash and the two receipts it spit out and the machine very quickly ate my card. There was a sign that said to go to the nearest bank but this bank was closed at dinnertime of course. We returned to the bank the next day and easily retrieved the card but this could be a great source of inconvenience if you were planning on moving on to somewhere else. From then on I made sure I took the card out very quickly.

We also had a dinner at the Hideaway Hotel which was close to the Villas Samara but not on the beach. It looked like a very nice place to stay as well and we had another good fish dinner there.

We went into the town of Samara quite often during our 4 night stay and really liked the atmosphere and the people there. My wife says it was almost a hippieish laid back vibe in the town which we all enjoyed. Once again it did not seem to be a touristy type beach town as much as a Costa Rican town which we liked. My wife also commented that she would love to come back here to which my son and I heartily agreed.

Next up: Monteverde

Grecia, Costa Rica
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7. Re: Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

Great reporting, keep it coming!

Slovenia
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for Costa Rica
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8. Re: Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

Excellent reort. BTW, the ATM also likes money (while I fumbeled with receipts and card, it ate my money!). Lesson learned: take the card and the money, forget about receipts. The machine don't like them; it always spit them out!

Naples, Florida
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9. Re: Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

I am really enjoying the tale. Hurry up!

San Jose, Costa Rica
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10. Re: Just Back From our Costa Rica Trip: What a Vacation!

Thank you and glad about the good perfoamnce of your hip...agree with you guys Samara is lovely...sepnd many years when I was a kid around there it was paradise and still paradise...

Our roads are not bad ata all...I can hardly wait to see what you may have to said about the road up and down to Santa Elena!

rodadvisor