Holiday review by Joanne O’Hara
Name: Joanne O'Hara
Date of trip: 17/10/2016
Number of people: 2
Our guide from San Jose to our hotel in Puerto Viejo was amazing. He was such a wonderful introduction to the country. The staff at our hotel were fantastic and all spoke English (which helped as my Spanish is pretty poor!). Puerto Viejo has such a laid back vibe with some amazing places to eat. The food was delicious and really fresh. The fresh fruit drinks were perfect in temperatures averaging 30c. The guided walk through the rain forest was everything you could wish for if you love wildlife. To see monkeys, sloths, toucans, iguanas etc was just perfect.
I'd always wanted to visit Costa Rica, mainly to see the wildlife, and thought my birthday in October was the perfect excuse to go. Although it is the rainy season on the Pacific side of the country, the Caribbean area (where we stayed) was hot, hot, hot! It was an amazing experience, which has given me a taste for more.
Once I decided on our destination, I did an internet search for a specialist in this area. I chose Tribes due to the positive feedback from their clients. I emailed my requirements and received a response the same day. My consultant was extremely efficient and had our itinerary organised by the following day. With a couple of tweaks we were all booked up within a few days. He booked hotels and excursions that suited us and our requirements. He also detailed the process for going through US customs whilst we were in transit. This was really helpful as we haven't traveled long haul for about 10 years and needed all the help we could get! The only downside was that although he booked our vegetarian meals on the flights he didn't book the seats and I'd assumed that would have been done. It was only due to my husband asking the question that I found out we needed to do this ourselves and was unable to get two standard seats together by that time. We ended up paying extra to get two seats next to each other for all four flights, which added quite a bit to the overall cost of the holiday.
From meeting us at the airport to our transfer to our final destination, the guides/drivers were impeccable and always on time. Alex, who drove us from San Jose to Puerto Viejo, a five hour drive which included a stop for lunch, was amazing. His knowledge and love of his country was astounding. From politics to religion, animals to plants, there wasn't anything he didn't know and his command of the English language is excellent. He was also an extremely good driver! Other guides and drivers also surpassed themselves and made us feel very welcome and safe.
Social & Environmental Responsibility:
There were no 'brand' hotels in the area. Most hotels, lodges, restaurants, cafes and excursions are run by local people, keeping the local economy buoyant. There are very strict rules with regards to wildlife. You can not touch the animals (even in rescue centres), there are really strict rules when snorkeling on the coral reef, and no 'photo opportunities' with the wildlife.
The places you stayed
This was just an 'in transit' stop for us, but it's a lovely hotel. Plenty of art and sculptures adorn the corridors and the rooms are lush. The standard of English spoken by the staff was not as good as in Puerto Viejo, but it made me try harder with my (pretty awful) Spanish!
The staff at the hotel couldn't have been more friendly and helpful. The breakfasts were substantial and tasty and evening meals good also. They have boardwalks to get from your room to all areas of the hotel so it's as if you are living in the rainforest. Beautiful birds and butterflies flit through the trees and visit the pool and the howler monkeys put in a good chorus some mornings. Our room was always clean with the towels, bed cushions, wall prints changed daily to match the colour of the staff's uniforms, which was a nice touch.