Shelley, March-April 2017

Shelley, mom of 10 yr old
8 day Rainforest, Volcano, Cloud Forest Itinerary with Combo lodges

What a TRIP!!!! Oh my gosh – I don’t honestly think it could have been much better!!!! We had such a fantastic time, amazing weather, fabulous stays, food, experiences – Lauren is soooo excited to go back again!!

Where to start – this was my 4th trip to CR, but the first without students and the first for my daughter! She was entranced. The Hotel Aeropuerto was fabulous. The hotel was very nice. Beds were so comfortable my daughter wanted to take one home. 🙂

Diego [guide] picked us up on Sunday morning, and it was friendship at first meeting! He and I spoke Spanish almost exclusively, which was fantastic for me, and he and John got along famously. Lauren felt very comfortable asking him any question she liked. Diego has the patience of a saint and has been guiding for so many years, that it seemed that everywhere we went, he knew the owners. If he didn’t, his personality is so warm that he reaches out to everyone, learns their name and is just so very friendly. By the end of our trip, he truly felt like family. We vow to return and travel with Diego again! There is no doubt in my mind! As there is no way I am brave enough to drive that road down from Monteverde!!!

Poas was our first stop and it was beautiful, but – cloudy. Couldn’t see a thing. 🙁 We waited for quite a while, but it was not to be. We also visited La Paz waterfall gardens – what a treat!!! I had no idea that the animal exhibit was that extensive! I have a love of hummingbirds, so could have stayed and had them fly past my head for hours. We ate there and the food was fantastic. Diego was able to always tell us exactly what was good and what we should try, etc., as he had been before. He was right, it was very much worth the stop! We continued on to see the waterfalls, however we didn’t leave ourselves enough time!!! I wished we could have gone slower and enjoyed more, but the bus back to the top of the hill was leaving at 5 and we were cutting it very, very close!!! Next time we will plan more time. Highly recommend this place! So well set up, very clean and every staff member we met was amazingly friendly. The waterfalls were almost mystical. It was starting to rain pretty steadily, but we had our trusty raincoats so no issues, and it was misty and just stunningly beautiful. What memories. **We were fine, and I am not sure what info you give guests based on age, etc., but I am sure this excursion would be tough for some that have knee problems or are a little older. Heck – I proved to myself that I need to get in better shape asap!!! I was having difficulty climbing the multitude of steps back up! yikes!!! Soooo worth it though!!

Sarapiqui stay was not what we had expected. I know it was stated as more on the rustic side, but this place was rather disappointing. The city alone, is not a place that I would go to explore during the day, and for certain not after dark. We stopped to grab a juice at a convenience store and there were some young men hanging around outside that Diego came to warn us about. I saw them when we entered, and they were gone by the time we left, but it was not good.

When we arrived at Andrea Cristina it was very confusing. Not well marked at all. Personally, I was rather disappointed. The beds just had a sheet, no blanket was offered nor kept in the room. One fan, which didn’t bother me much as i don’t get overly warm at night, and in fact could have used a blanket. 🙁 The towels were on the beds when we arrived but they were so very old and threadbare that I could see right through them. Beds were extremely uncomfortable. In the morning, John showered first. They do have on-demand hot water, but for him it was actually scalding hot and could not be adjusted. Breakfast was fine, but the surroundings were not good. The owner had a little pond that was filled with tadpoles and did seem to attract frogs to lay their eggs, however the water was so filthy there, and right next to guests in the breakfast area – I had a very high concern with Dengue fever. The mosquitoes there were very bad. We were glad that we were able to move on a day earlier than expected. If there would be anything to change about the tour, I would suggest taking this area and the hotel off of the options list. There are so many other beautiful places in Costa Rica, that this establishment does not show the best side of the country and all it has to offer.

On to La Fortuna. Found a great place for lunch, Diego was able to tell us which places had good offerings for a bit cheaper and which were a little more high-end. We had a great meal at the pizzeria and I always ordered the casado most every place we went, so I could compare. I was never disappointed!! This place was no exception! Our hotel for the evening was Silencio del Campo – and, although it was not on our original list, oh. my. gosh. We could have stayed there 3 nights, easily!!! We checked in and Lauren, John and Diego went to swim at La Fortuna waterfall and I stayed behind and sat in a chair next to one of the hot pools and read a book, and it was heavenly!!!! The accommodations were amazing and we do realize that it was on the high-end of hotel stays, but we are adding this place to come back to in the future. It was so peaceful – grounds were beautiful – just amazing! Staff was incredible. Food was very, very good.

Arenal Observatory could not have been any better!!!! The room!!! We will travel here and stay here AGAIN! I loved it! We all loved it! The grounds were amazing! Pool was chilly, but Lauren and I jumped in after our walk around the grounds as we were hot!! What an amazing place to be with a view! WOW. I cannot say enough about this place. We took advantage of the walk on the grounds the next morning – it was LONG but so beautiful! L’s legs were tired and she was glad we were able to ride a tractor back! There was a HUGE observation deck and others were going to see the sunset over Lake Arenal!

Chose to cross Lake Arenal on the boat the next morning – it was great! So relaxing and fast and the drivers were fantastic! So friendly – as is everyone in CR! We boarded our bus to Monteverde and what a climb. It was so beautiful. I enjoyed every moment! Arrived at Arco Iris, Diego was already there! HA! We had the 2 bedroom with the little sitting room – so awesome! Grounds were great!! We went with Diego to eat at The Treehouse – what an experience!!!! Food was great! Atmosphere was so cool!

Next morning we went to Selvatura so J and L could zipline. Diego and I drove with them to see them off the first platform and then we returned to the grounds to practice Spanish and look at moths and just sit. We had a great time and it was such an amazingly beautiful day!! We ate lunch there – absolutely fabulous food!! Lauren was addicted to all of the fruit “smoothies” by this time! She had one at almost every meal! We booked the coffee/chocolate/sugarcane tour. Before that we went into Monteverde “downtown” and stopped for a cup of coffee, and I went to CASEM – what a GREAT find! I bought all of my little gifts there for people at home! Little hand stitched hummingbirds, sloths, an embroidered pillowcase for me – etc. Then I took a picture of the woman that made each item in the book they had there. I love that! When I gave each person the little item from CR – I also gave them the description and picture of the female artist. It was fabulous!

We did stop for ice cream (amazing – I had fig! ) and then continued to the tour. LOTS of walking uphill – Lauren commented she thought that maybe everything in CR is uphill! HA!!!! What a great tour! Learned a lot! I highly recommend it! She got a ride on the oxcart and loved it!

When we left, we stopped for pictures of the sunset. Then we did the night tour. We could have completely skipped this. Lauren was soooo tired and it was just way too much in a day for her. There were too many groups out walking around and it was quite noisy so I would think that we saw fewer things just due to that, but not sure. If we would have skipped some things during the day, this may have worked, but we overbooked ourselves.

Got back to the hotel, I found a scorpion in the shower! HA! With not a clue what to do with him, I went outside and found the extremely friendly grounds security guy. He and I laughed as I was from WI and don’t really know much about scorpions nor what to do with them! He took care of us and escorted the little guy outdoors!

The breakfasts here were soooo good. Beautiful little eating area here and a very nice selection. Lots of European people were there when we were, and the items offered seemed to reflect their likings as well. VERY good and very nice place. We would return there as well!!!

In the morning we packed up for our sad return. Diego dropped us at Hotel Aeropuerto again, and we said some very sad goodbyes. We had so very much enjoyed our time with him!!!! We had so much to talk about and we all gelled so very well. He is an amazing guide, always positive, always working to do his absolute best for clients and travelers. So extremely friendly! I cannot even say enough about him here – just not possible. It was just such a fabulous match for our family! I have no doubt that we will travel with him again in the future!

Hotel Aeropuerto dinner was great! Lauren did a little swimming and we just hung out there and enjoyed. In the morning we had a great breakfast there again and then headed to the airport via transfer from the hotel. Could not have been easier!

Thank you SO much, Jenny – for the wonderful memories that we made on this trip! Everything was so fantastic! I love Costa Rica, and I believe my daughter now does as well. Yea!!! Hopefully she and I can return at some point even to just do language classes and stay. 🙂 I will be highly recommending you and your company. Thank you for all of your work in setting these things up, making the suggestions you did, etc. Now I know what I will be doing again when we return, and also I know that I should just book in an afternoon of nothing! Lauren could swim and I can read and we can relax. But we liked to do as much as we possibly could while there!!