Kristy, May 2017

Mom of 9, 8 and 4 yr olds
9 day Rainforest, Volcano, Cloud Forest with eco-Tico lodging

We had a fantastic time! Jose was an absolutely wonderful guide, and we recommend him highly!! He recommended activities based on what we said we wanted to experience, and we loved each activity and eatery he recommended. Jose had an uncanny ability to spot very specific birds and other animals in trees as he’s driving down the road, at which point he would quickly pull over so that we could all see – we saw a great deal of wildlife from just traveling (e.g., toucans, iguanas, a sloth, howler monkeys). Jose also introduced us to a wide variety of birds that we would never have seen on our own, even including a quetzal in Monteverde. He was great with our kids, understanding how much further we could go, still within their comfort zone. Coming into the trip, I was most hesitant about taking my 8-year-old son, since he can be a hard nut to crack! However, Jose very quickly won him over – each time we went hiking, he would follow right behind Jose, listening to every word, looking at everything Jose pointed out, and even identifying some birds himself. My son was so pleased when Jose called him his assistant and let him carry the binoculars! Jose also stopped at a bunch of places while traveling between locations (and even some out of the way) so that we could see something new or get pictures – we stopped at a coffee plantation, a couple of random Sodas that looked interesting, the Pacific Ocean (even though that wasn’t on our itinerary), a bridge with many many large crocodiles underneath, and numerous places alongside the road to look at animals and scenery. Needless to say, our kids are still talking about Jose and are so glad that we have pictures with Jose and our family.

In terms of activities, as soon as Jose picked us up from the hotel, he asked us to talk with him about the types of things we’d like to do, so he could help us plan.
We had wanted to stop at Poas Volcano on our way to Sarapiqui, but it was closed due to recent activity. Even better, Jose put in a call and got us set up with Green Rivers – we met Kevin at the river and spent a couple of hours white water rafting down the Sarapiqui (we didn’t think we’d be able to do that with our 4-year-old). Kevin was completely knowledgeable about rafting, the river, the wildlife, and the ecosystem. He was also great with our 3 kids – positive and encouraging, even giving our 4-year-old a paddle whenever he could. Kevin also volunteered to wear the go pro on his helmet so that we could have video of the adventure. Our kids absolutely loved it – our 8- and 9-year-old sons both agreed that was their favorite activity from vacation. In Sarapiqui, we stayed at the Andrea Cristina B&B in one of the treehouses. The treehouse was a fun experience, definitely something to do once, but I would probably go for a cabin/room next time. Alex [owner of Andrea Cristina B&B] was extremely kind and easy to talk with, and we loved how nature was just everywhere. Jose recommended the “Best Chocolate” tour while we were there, and it was another great experience – we learned a lot about how the cacao is grown (who knew the seeds were all along the trunk!?) along with how chocolate used to be processed. We happened to be the only family there at the time, so we were able to participate fully in every step. Our guide and his wife were very friendly and engaging. Before leaving Sarapiqui, Alex recommended a local park for us to check out – there were several locals walking around and kids playing, and our kids had a blast.

Once we got to Arenal, we were pleasantly surprised to see a pack of howler monkeys in the trees right outside. In addition to walking around town and running around the square, Los Laureles was a great pick to experience the thermal pools – we were amazed at how reasonably priced, and NOT crowded it was. Jose also took us hiking on the Lava Flow trail – we were surprised to see that the cooled lava was not how we had pictured it. It was pretty tiresome for our 4-year-old, whom I ended up carrying for much of it, but still a fun nature activity and glad we went. We also went to La Fortuna waterfall one morning – there sure are a lot of steps, but like all the reviews stated, it was worth it! Looking up at all the greenery from the bottom of the waterfall was probably my favorite view in Costa Rica.

In Monteverde, we chose to go hiking over the hanging bridges in Selvatura. It was a great place to see and hear many different birds. To note, even though my husband is not super afraid of heights, he was pretty anxious on the bridges, although he did make it across all of them. We also spent an afternoon in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve – also a great location. Although we weren’t able to see very many birds/animals, we did see the quetzal that Jose was able to find! We also did the El Trapiche tour – the chocolate tour portion was not nearly as detailed as the Best Chocolate Tour in Sarapiqui, but the coffee portion was really interesting. We also found several souvenirs (coffee, chocolate, honey, liquor) at El Trapiche.

On our last day, Jose took the Long way back to Alajuela, so that we could see the Pacific – we had a great time walking along the sand and surf. We also stopped at Restaurante Los Cocodriles and walked down the bridge to see the crocodiles underneath – they were pretty amazing to see, but it was overshadowed by a few very pushy people at the start of the bridge sellling souvenirs – they followed us down the bridge, putting necklaces over my children’s heads, toys in their hands, and even grabbed my daughter’s hand as she was walking on the bridge walkway. It was the only time that we were truly uncomfortable during our time in Costa Rica.
I’m bummed that I can’t remember the names of all the sodas and restaurants we ate at – we really enjoyed the food. We found the sodas a better experience than the bigger restaurants, and our kids were happy that they could order chicken fingers, rolls/breadsticks, pasta, or rice about everywhere.

This was the first time we took our kids out of the country, and I was a little anxious. However, the itinerary that Jenny set up and Jose’s guidance made it all turn out better than we thought possible! Thank you!!