Costa Rica Vacation Notes The trip was designed to be an adventure trip. Rough it a little and be a Costa Rican Tico for a few weeks. Even though I am a creature of comfort past trips to Costa Rica have been best with simple surroundings. No all-inclusive resorts with Disney look and feel. Left the golf clubs home and opted to bring the snorkeling gear instead. I used Tripadvisor and Fodors to book everything. The last major trip was Italy and both guides made for a wonderful trip. The reviews in Tripadvisor have never steered me wrong so far. I am the type that researches, agonizes over which place to stay, and try’s to get as many stars for my money as I can. It is fun to plan and when it comes off with compliments for the nice room we stayed in, and then it is worth it. Side notes: Get a GPS. Even just for the ETAs. I underestimated driving times because the roads are rough and speeds are slow. Don’t be afraid to eat what and where the locals eat. You will enjoy the experience more. The all-inclusive resorts do not allow for the full experience. Day 1 Flight into San Jose. Taxi ride to Pura Vida Hotel. Nice B&B Charming hosts and wonderful dinner. Pura Vida is really a gem of a B&B right outside of San Jose. This turned out to be a last minute booking because the car rental agent did not recommend driving at night to Moin on the Caribbean coast. A good recommendation. The hotel was an adventure, the dinner was awesome and we were able to kick back and enjoy ourselves then leave the next morning for Moin. We found Wildrider car rental had the best deals on 4x4’s. The rep met us at the Pura Vida and went over our itinerary and got tips on driving conditions. Overall, it was a nice 4x4 and got us everywhere. The next day we left before dawn for the drive to Moin to meet the Riverboat Francesca. The trip to Tortuguero can either be by water taxi of tour guide. We opted for the tour guide and it was well worth it. The next day we left before dawn for the drive to Moin to meet the Riverboat Francesca. The trip to Tortuguero can either be by water taxi or tour guide. We opted for the tour guide and it was well worth it. We met the boat at the dock in Moin. The tour really allows for exploration of the canals and the abundant wildlife both in the water and along the banks. Our guides Fran and Modesto were so knowledgeable about the area. They were able to spot wildlife we would otherwise just sailed by. The tour also provided a chance to slow down and allow us to take photos. It is hard to snap a good shot when the boat is clipping along, but this was not the case with the Riverboat Francesca. Modesto was able to guide the boat to allow us to get great angles for shooting. Thank you for that. I was able to get a lot of crisp, tack sharp images when the boat slowed down. They are posted at KATHARRIS.SMUGMUG.COM. Tortuguero is all about the ecology of a remote and delicate ecosystem unique in the world. Arrived in Tortuguero mid afternoon. The boat dropped us at the dock outside our hotel. Stayed in town at Casa Marbella. Excellent place to stay right in the center of town. Next morning we took an early boat ride into Tortuguero Park. Our guides Fran and Modesto were so knowledgeable about the area. Then it was back to the hotel for breakfast and wait for the boat back to Moin. A treat was a stop at a small restaurant located on the canal. We dined family style on fresh fish, chicken, salad and rice/beans made with coconut milk. Still rated as the best lunch we enjoyed on the trip. The only way into Tortuguero is by boat. From Moin (near Limon) is where the tour boats that concentrate on the trip through the canals rather than the final destination. This is, by far, the best way to get to Tortuguero since it is all about seeing a different world. The canals and waterways are a unique environment and should be explored with a knowledgeable guide. There was a lot of discussion about leaving your car and most of your luggage at the docks in Moin overnight. We found out that the Costa Rican Government set aside this parcel of land for the boat tours to use. This helps promote alternative routes into Tortuguero. There is a guard and it is also known that to rob a car would be counterproductive to what the local economy thrives on. Tourism. In Tortuguero we stayed the Casa Mabel. It is a neat little eco B&B. The rooms are clean and they use “insta” hot water for the shower so it never runs out. The porch overlooking the canal is an ideal place to relax with an Imperial beer and watch the boats cruise by. Daryl Loth and his staff are wonderful hosts and even though we only stayed one night it was great. Casa Marbella is located right in the center of town and we give it a 5 star rating for adventure lodging. You will not be disappointed. Day 3 Left Moin for Selva Verde Lodge and some white water rafting. The lodge was the most upscale accommodations during our stay. Te room was excellent and we opted for the most isolated one overlooking the river. It is a walk, but well worth the view. The white water rafting was an adventure. Selve Verde Adventures takes you by van to a dock a few miles upstream. In contrast to white water rafting near Yellowstone, here we were the rafters. It was class 2 and 3 rapids and our guide was excellent at keeping things relatively on course. The last time we were in Arenal Tabacon springs had a modest entry fee and you paid for lunch and drinks. Now the entry feel is $90. It was Sunday and as we approached the entrance we realized that the locals all go there and it was packed. So we kept driving to the Baldi Hot Springs just a short distance away. Sort of a Vegas or Disney atmosphere. Lots of different pools and falls all using hot spring waters. There is a lot of disco music but you can find a quiet place to relax and the pools are different temperatures. Skip the buffet lunch. It is not worth it. Even the other restaurants are pricey. The best bet is to go have lunch in La Fortuna and then to the springs. After white water rafting at Selva Verde we were off to Arenal and La Fortuna. I mention La Fortuna because our best restaurant dinner was at Don Rufino in the center of town. American / European look and menu and the best tenderloin medallions. Really worth the stop. After dinner we left for Arenal Observatory Lodge. The road from La Fortuna to Arenal is mostly paved but the 9km road to the lodge is not. It was night and the trip was stressful but doable. This was the only place the GPS choked sending us past the lodge into unchartered places. The lodge was a wonderful experience even though the volcano was always cloud covered. We were taken on a nature hike through the grounds and ended up at a very picturesque waterfall. Later it was off to the hot springs. The last time we were in Arenal Tabacon springs had a modest entry fee and you paid for lunch and drinks. Now the entry feel is $90. It was Sunday and as we approached the entrance we realized that the locals all go there, so we kept driving to xxx. Sort of a Vegas or Disney atmosphere. Lots of different pools and falls all using hot spring waters. There is a lot of disco music but you can find a quiet place to relax and the pools are different temperatures. Skip the buffet lunch. It is not worth it. Even the other restaurants are pricey. The best bet is to go have lunch in La Fortuna and then to the springs. Dinner at the Observatory lodge was very good although I cannot remember what I ate. Afterwards we went to the lobby and found the 1st flat screen TV since arriving. There was an SD slot so we watched some of the photos taken on the trip. The next leg of the trip was to Monteverde. How it has grown. It is a very touristy place now instead of the modest hideaway it was in 1998. The town is noisy and full of souvenir stores and small restaurants. We stayed at the Rainbow Valley Lodge. And yes, we did see a rainbow. In fact, it was almost a perfect 180 degree arch that was actually below us in the valley. Quite a sight. The lodge is a small one man operation, but a very nice cabin. Do not expect breakfast or room service but do expect a clean room with daily maid service. This is the kind of place that leaves you to your own devices. Most every summer we rent a beachhouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. When we arrive we pick up the keys and after that we are on our own. This is the arrangement here. With that in mind, it is clean and has a fully functional kitchen. The room is cleaned every day. One night we stopped off at the super market and got some marinated beef and baguettes and made what resembled Philly cheese steak sandwiches. This made the kitchen a handy thing to have. The Rainbow is an excellent value and you will enjoy it. The next leg was Santa Teresa on the Nicoya peninsula. The town is like going to the wild wild west. ATV’s and 4WD’s are like horses and carriages. The one road is all dirt and everything is covered in a layer of white dust. But the town is a blast to stay in. Surfing, bikini clad 20 something walking the streets and a wild night life. During my stay here I realized I don’t like vacationing with people my age. This was much more fun. If you are looking for the resort towns go further north like Tambour or Flamingo. Those are very nice and we have stayed there, but they didn’t fit in with the theme. This was my only glitch in booking. We arrived a day early to a booked hotel. After several phone calls Aric the owner was able to find a place nearby called Alma. It was more of a restaurant, with two guest rooms in the main house. The owners were building two geodesic domes on the property for rentals. One was complete and the other still under construction. We were the first guests in the completed dome which had a kitch
Tour boats that go between Moin and Tortuguero