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Holiday review by Mr. Martin White

Name:
Date of trip: 23/11/2019
Number of people: 2
Country: Costa Rica

Overall level of Satisfaction

 
Tribes Overall: "The whole holiday was really enjoyable and the arrangements to get us around Costa Rica were absolutely reliable, always according to the itinerary."
 
Tribes Service: "Paul Cook's advice was invaluable when I was organising the tour and the resulting route and accommodation were just what we wanted (except the Trapp Family Lodge). I think some credit should be passed on to the local representatives who it seems did all of the organising in Costa Rica. I would have marked you higher had you explained what the local representative's role would be: I was expecting some representation from Tribes but as everything went like clockwork there is no problem. "
 
Guides: "I have to say that our experience was all the better thanks to the efforts of our guides. A good example is the Tortuguero guide who persistently wanted to give us the best experience. This resulted in him being able to show us events we will cherish for ever. These included the sight of an Egret perching at the edge of the river a few feet from us and managing to spot a fish and devour it, the Red Eyed Frog at night in the grounds of the lodge and the chance discovery of the baby turtles struggling against the odds to get to the ocean. Unfortunately, because of the inevitable risks these turtles have, they were more than likely to perish before we got on our plane home. I hope our presence at least put off the eager vultures hovering nearby! "
 
Social & Environmental Responsibility: "Costa Rica is well organised to fulfil their environmental responsibilities better than we do at home. Tribes support of this is very valuable."

Accommodation

 
Pachira Lodge
A great location being in the middle of the forest waterways and close to the Caribbean beaches. It was an interesting and thrilling route to get to the lodge via an eye-opening boat ride. The cabins were spacious and although basic were comfortable. It was our first experience of having to dispose of toilet paper in bins: something that can't be hygienic and difficult for us to comply with at times. The hotel was large and had a lovely swimming pool with impressive improvements ongoing. The meal arrangements were acceptable but not as good as we had in the other hotels. It was more like a canteen than a hotel restaurant. That said, the food was OK. We were intrigued with the Howler Monkey chorus each morning and had an excellent guide who went out of his way to show us as much as he possibly could. He showed us numerous birds close up, Crocodiles and Cayman, Sloths, Howler and Spider Monkeys and frogs. It was like being on safari: eager to see what may be seen around the next corner or tree.
 
Bahia del Sol
We really enjoyed relaxing and recovering here. This is a very well organised hotel with about 40 rooms located directly behind the beach at Potrero. The village itself is about ¾ hour walk along the sandy beach but there is little to see there. The room ‘standard’ but was spacious and very suitable for our needs. A short stroll found us at the swimming pool which was well arranged and had underwater seating so that cocktail drinking in the pool was very relaxing and convenient. The restaurant is adjacent to the pool but also spills outside to make al fresco dining very enjoyable. Breakfast was served by waiters and the choice was good. Evening meals were good, but we did try out the adjacent Sailing Club one evening where we were served up with tasty seafood. We opted for a half day on a catamaran which took us out to sea under sail, provided us a free bar and buffet and allowed us to snorkel in the varied and colourful marine environment. Our guide found a mature turtle which we could swim alongside whilst we were thrilled by sights of multi-coloured fish life. This was a very relaxing way to end our holiday despite the need to get a five-hour minibus ride back to San Jose to catch the plane home.
 
Hotel Presidente
A good hotel in the middle of San Jose which was what we needed after the long journey. We had a large room and a really comfortable large bed. The food was good and service excellent. We were able to walk around the town centre feeling safe to do so. .
 
Lomas del Volcan
What an amazing location and lovely setting in view of the volcano and the forest. Unfortunately, throughout our stay the cloud did not rise enough for us to see the volcano and it rained for most of the time. The hotel was well set out and modern. The restaurant had a fantastic view of, what were told was a volcano, through a massive window. If the cloud had risen, we would have had a treat! The food was average: standard Costa Rican breakfast fare which was included in our deal, but the evening meal service was poor and the food uninspiring. The location of the hotel was great being in forest surroundings with the volcano as a backdrop, but it was too far away from the town, La Fortuna, to walk there. On our final night we took a taxi for a meal at La Parrilla De Maria which was very good and gave us an insight into the local community. We paid £40 each for two course and drinks. We stayed in a “lodge” about 200 yards from the reception and dining facilities. It was an innovative idea in being able to see the volcano one direction and the forest in the opposite. It was well equipped and very comfortable. The short walk on the edge of the hotel grounds was interesting. Had we taken this walk after our tour to see the mountain up close, when we came across a Pit Viper (poisonous snake), we may have been more careful of what we were treading on! The tours we took were great and included: 1. The Arenal Hanging Bridges where and a few bridges Ali overcame her fear of them and complete the 15 without trauma! It was good to see the forest canopy from above. 2. Don Juan coffee and chocolate: it was very interesting to see how the famous coffee is grown and processed. 3. We had to undertake the guided hike to the volcano in a thunderstorm! The guide was very informative, but the weather prevented enjoyment of this outing. We crossed the lake in driving rain, staggered up to a lookout in thunder and lightning and proceeded to climb the lower slopes of lava in more heavy rain. This is where we saw the Pit Viper. 4. Ecotermales hot springs has an excellent set up with pools to laze in which increased in temperature from 36.5 to 40.5 degrees C 5. Zip wires where Ali not only conquered her fears again but was also really enjoying it when we got to the 16th and final ride! It was very safe having two support cables, effective safety mechanisms and procedures and well organised and trained staff. Having returned to the news of the fatalities in the New Zealand volcano I would be reluctant to stay that close to a live volcano again.
 
Trapp Family Lodge
We knew this may have been a quirky choice, and we knew there was a risk here but it was very disappointing in a number of ways. The location was excellent for being close to the rain forest but was inconvenient for getting to the local town, Santa Elena. It has an interesting history (not connected to the Sound of Music) but it had a strange layout having a breakfast canteen 100 yards+ up a hill, bedrooms on two floors in the main building but also positioned further away from the reception. The weather conditions of high winds and rain were not good for our comfort. The bedroom was impressive on first sight, but it was cold and located at the top of the building in the eye of the wind. We did not sleep well here with noisy wind and a cold room. No heating was available in the room and the portable heater provided in response to our complaint did not make any impact on the temperature of the large room. The restaurant was very basic and the food choice was limited off the same set menu every day. We enjoyed the Monteverde Reserve guided tour very much where again we had a guide who seemed to want to go the extra mile to give us the best experience. As a result, we were treated to a rare sighting of the Resplendent Quetzal, numerous hummingbirds, a tarantula or two, more Howler Monkeys an Agouti and had a wonderful walk in the cloud forest. We also took another tour for a walk and zip wire experience where we undertook another hanging bridges walk (next to the Sky Tram) led by a very knowledgeable 19 year old girl. Again, it was wet but none-the-less rewarding. We had also booked another Zip Wire experience at the Sky Tram. Unfortunately, the weather was not really suitable for flying through the air but was called it off when the Sky Tram itself malfunctioned and had to be winched back to base. Although the problem was fixed it had removed any confidence we had in them and we elected to cancel this part. We wandered into Santa Elena which probably took an hour via a local Women’s Co-operative where we had a taste of the local cuisine and saw interesting crafts for sale. In Santa Elena we also visited the Orchid museum which gave a very fascinating education on these special plants and we also had a tour of the serpentarium which put the dangerous local wildlife into perspective. Both tours are recommended, mainly because of the knowledge of the guides. We ate in the hotel restaurant for two nights but being uninspired by the limited choice of food we took a taxi into Santa Elena for our last night and were rewarded with the best steaks of our holiday in Torro Tinto. Whilst we enjoyed our experience in the Cloud Forest it would have been far more rewarding in a better hotel nearer to Santa Elena.

Our Memories

"We had many special moments to cherish and relive from our now extensive photographic record! The wildlife is fascinating and the guides expert at finding new experiences along with being masters of the information of the flora, fauna and area. The guides in fact made a big difference in increasing the enjoyment. The Costa Rican people should be very proud at how they're part of an environmental protection regime that should be the envy of the world where other more wealthy nations don't come near to what the Costa Rican's achieve. "

customer rating

5/5 from 326 reviews

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facts and information

Time: GMT -6 hours

Flight time: The flying time is about 12 hours from the UK. There are now direct flights from the UK using British Airways. We work with all the major airlines and can offer flights from the UK or via the USA, Panama or a European hub. With the connection times you are looking at around 15 or 16 hours.

Language: Spanish is the official language. English is widely spoken throughout Costa Rica

Visas: Not required for British travellers. Other nationalities should obtain advice from their embassy.

Health: There are no compulsory vaccinations.

 

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