Holiday review by Mr. Ian Tatman
Name: Mr. Ian Tatman
Date of trip: 06/12/2018
Number of people: 2
There were so many highlights that it's hard to know where to start. (In no particular order) Falling asleep to the noise of the frog chorus in the rainforest at Tortuguero. Watching the antics of the white faced capuchin monkeys throughout the country. The accommodation at Evergreen, Lomas del Volcan & Parador. The layout & setting of the resort at Lomas del Volcan. The front desk staff at Lomas deserve a special mention. They are all very welcoming, helpful and just all round nice friendly people. A real credit to the resort & Costa Rica as a whole. o All of the excursions, especially the night walk & birdwatching tours at Arenal wildlife refuge. (It's worth considering adding these into the included tours) The hot spring spa at Arenal. I had been expecting a walk down to a hot pool at a waterfall and was ready to pass on going as we didn't get there until dusk, so was very pleasantly surprised upon arriving to find a 5 * spa resort. Sipping cocktails in the hot springs is a great way to relax. The location of Trapp Lodge for access to the cloud forest park. All the wildlife throughout the whole trip and especially when you're not expecting it like seeing an anteater walk directly across your path after dinner in the grounds at Parador resort, or turning a corner in the Monteverde cloud forest to see a huge orange kneed tarantula just sitting on the bank next to you. Sitting on the balcony at Parador with a beer watching the numerous Toucans in the big tree opposite. (Room 315. Best location in the whole complex for this. Early morning is best due to direction of the light, but doing that was directly related to the number of beers drunk the night before.) Sorting through just over 2,500 photos from the trip, including over 500 just from the birdwatching trip alone. I'm still editing 3 weeks after coming back ! Most of all though ... the Costa Rican people.
An amazing & positive destination in so many ways. In fact, too many to list them all out. I've been lucky enough to visit around 40 different countries over the years so far and Costa Rica is possibly my top ever destination for many reasons. With the exception of seeing a Jaguar in the wild which is very unlikely anyway, it delivered everything that I had hoped for, plus so, so much more. Just when you thought that it couldn't get any better, it did.
Yes. I found Tribes to be really good and would definitely use them again. The in-situ company (Swiss travel) were also excellent and apart from the one transfer that was late arriving everything ran like clockwork. We were given a printed itinerary upon arrival which contained all the information we needed for our whole time. There was no need to reconfirm anything and it was nice to feel confident in that there will be a transfer ready and waiting for you when you turn up in the middle of nowhere.
We had 7 pre-arranged excursions, all transfers and also included 6 other independently booked tours while there so experienced a number of different guides for a variety of activities. I can honestly say that every single one of the tour guides was enthusiastic, informative, knowledgeable, approachable and dedicated to delivering a thoroughly worthwhile experience. In some countries you are left with the feeling that guides are only interested in working for tips. At no time did I get the feeling that this was the attitude of any of our guides or drivers in Costa Rica. Tips were very much appreciated when given, however at no time did I feel that they were expected. The only unwanted experience was with the transfer between Lomas del Volcan & Lake Arenal which turned up 30 mins late following a reminder phone call from the hotel. This then turned into a white knuckle ride with a Lewis Hamilton wannabe driver that incorporated a few, potentially dangerous overtaking manoeuvres going uphill onto a blind summit. Not an experience that I want to repeat at any time soon.
Social & Environmental Responsibility:
This wasn't the primary focus of our trip to Costa Rica.
The places you stayed
• Location : Right in the middle of San Jose.
• Staff : Very helpful reception staff.
• Atmosphere : The hotel layout and decor had an industrial feel to it which made the whole building feel a bit sterile.
Tortuguero National Park
• Location : Only reachable by boat and a great place to escape to.
• Wildlife : We probably saw just as much wildlife at the lodge as we did on the river trips. Caymans, crocodiles, a whole multitude of different frogs, birds & reptiles and also many white faced capuchin monkeys which are amazing to watch for hours on end.
• Accommodation : No outstanding luxury with the lodges, but it's not needed as they provide everything that is needed for a few nights in the rain forest and the basic style adds to the experience.
• A peaceful & relaxing environment : Falling asleep to the sound of the frog chorus is really relaxing. Haven't slept so well in years. (That is until the Howler monkeys wake up)
• Going that extra mile for their guests : Due to us having an extra night here they went out of their way to provide us with a meal that differed from their set menu so that we wouldn't have the same meal again during the stay. It was very considerate and we really appreciated this nice touch.
• Mealtimes : Wasn't keen on the set meal times, set dining places and the limited menu & quality of the food. This made it feel a bit more like a school trip or a package holiday. (although I do understand why they operate this way.)
• Unnecessary noise : Wasn't keen on the loud techno music coming from the river front bar area on our first evening. The natural sound of the jungle at night would have been far more relaxing and I'd actually have used the bar if this was the case. The solitude offered by this location is one of its biggest assets.
• Location : A stunning resort in a really beautiful location with wonderful views of the volcano.
• Staff : Incredibly helpful, professional & friendly staff.
• Food : Lovely food and enough breakfast to fill you up for the whole day.
• Getting around : Around a 20 minute walk from the lodges to the nearest supermarket & bars. Due to the distance along an unlit track from the main road it's not advisable to walk after dark. Plus it's all uphill. It’s also close enough to La Fortuna for a cheap taxi ride back and well placed in the area for the local trips and tours.
• If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it. In all honesty there is nothing that I would change about Lomas del Volcan.
• Location : Great location for the cloud forest park. It's the closest hotel to the entrance and is easily within walking distance for repeat visits either to the park or to the little café at the park entrance where you can watch a multitude of hummingbirds at the feeding stations. This café is a golden location for any wildlife photographer.
• Location : Too remote for anything other than the cloud forest park. It's about a 30 minute walk into Monteverde for the local shops (Stella’s bakery) and requires a taxi to reach Santa Elena where the main shops & and restaurants are.
• Atmosphere : Apart from the bar & reception areas the hotel is beginning to show some signs of wear and tear and looks a touch dated. The rooms and corridors could do with a refresh to make them feel warmer and more welcoming. This is more noticeable than at other hotels as the weather here is often very windy and any gap in the window allows drafts and creaks to whistle around the bedrooms. Didn’t get very much sleep at all while here. A large section of the soffit outside of our bedroom(Room 11) had fallen foul of the winds at some point which exposed the rafters of the roof. Not a hotel that I’d hurry back to unless some serious refurbishment is done.
• Location: Right at the end of the road and just a 10 minute walk to get to the beach via an easy forest path should it be desired.
• Facilities : 4 pools including adult only areas, dining choices to suit all budgets , Spa, shops and nature trail on site.
• Wildlife : Such a variety of wildlife without even having to leave the resort grounds. Monkeys, snakes, frogs, lizards, iguanas, many birds including different species of toucan, parakeets, hummingbirds, raptors and many, many more. We even got within 10 feet of an anteater right next to the restaurant one night which was mind blowing.
• Food : Options for all budgets & the Caprese pizza is excellent.
• Atmosphere: A great place to chill out for a few days and to soak up the sun. A 5 star resort in every way. Very peaceful & relaxing.
• Staff: All very professional and eager to help where needed. We even had an incident where we forgot to lock our safe before leaving the room and the cleaner who found this alerted the front desk who arranged for the combination to be re-set. I found this particularly nice especially as I have had money taken by house staff elsewhere in the past.
• Like the Lomas del Volcan there is nothing that I would want to change about the Parador.