Holiday review by Mrs. Karen Coe
Name: Mrs. Karen Coe
Date of trip: 14/08/2019
Number of people: 2
This was our first family holiday for several years and we were joined by our 17 and 20 year old sons. Costa Rica was chosen because it offered a good balance of wildlife, activities, beaches and forests that appealed to us all, and from Day One it didn't disappoint! There are too many special moments to mention here, but a few highlights include: my 20 year old son diving down while snorkelling off Cano Island and hearing singing from the humpback whales; the magic of being tucked up in a wonderfully comfortable bed and listening to a rainforest thunderstorm explode around us, peeping out and seeing the forest lit by lightening; standing on the beach in Tortuguero, all lit by the full moon, watching green turtles emerge from the ocean, crawl up the sand and lay their eggs before returning to the water, now dusty with sand, to start their epic migration once more; sitting in a boat, the engine stilled, as a large male humpback whale repeatedly thrashed the ocean with his tail, then looking behind me as the sun sparkled on the water to see a mother and baby whale breaching in sync with each other, as three dolphins joined the fun; an 'old married couple' of Scarlett macaws sitting about 30' above us in a tree near (the fabulous) Casa Corcovado Lodge, having a fine old squabble that lasted for about ten minutes but ended with a tender rub of heads and beaks; cooling off under waterfalls after hikes in Pacuare and in Corcovado; the mojito contest my 20 year old son and I conducted diligently at each hotel or lodge we stayed in (winner? The Alta Hotel - a great start to the holiday!); swimming in the infinity pool at the supremely elegant Pacuare Lodge as warm rain fell on us; breakfast on our final morning in Costa Rica, watching the butterflies that proliferate in the bushes at Finca Rosa Blanca, as we enjoyed our final taste of what had been universally excellent food throughout our holiday.
An absolutely fantastic holiday, perfectly tailored for us and our 17 and 20-year old sons. The perfect balance of activity and 'down time' in a stunning country. All the private and shared transfers worked like clockwork, the hotels and lodges were ideal and we came away with memories - and photographs! - to last a lifetime.
Fantastic - Alex listened to exactly what we hoped to experience on the holiday and worked with us to ensure we got everything we hoped for. It was particularly helpful to deal with somebody who knows Costa Rica so well; when we had even a fairly obscure query he either knew the answer or could quickly get it for us.
All the guides we met on our trip were great, most notably Cynthia at Casa Corcovado Lodge. She was hugely knowledgeable and enthusiastic and also took particular care of my husband (who had some vision issues) on a hike where we were walking through uneven terrain with lots of tree roots.
Social & Environmental Responsibility:
As a country Costa Rica has a strong social and environmental ethic, and it was clearly demonstrated to us that responsible tourism is playing a vital role in helping local people, wildlife and the environment.
The places you stayed
We arrived here totally worn out by a long flight from the UK and an unexpectedly long drive from the airport, the expected 25 minute transfer expanding to 1.5 hours owing to the bank holiday evening rush hour traffic. Feeling a little jaded we were tempted just to go straight to bed but headed to the bar for a quick drink, looked at the menu and decided to have dinner. We were delighted we did! The food was really, really good (gorgeous tuna steak!) and the mojitos were the best on our holiday - and we 'tested' each hotel and lodge we stayed at to make sure! The hotel is a little dated in places, but the beds were huge and very comfortable, the bathrooms great (and also huge!) and food and service excellent. In spite of the unexpectedly long journey it was a good choice for the first night of our holiday.
Tortuguero National Park
Evergreen Lodge is in an excellent location, and the tours from here - notably the turtle tour and the village visit - are very good, with knowledgeable and friendly guides who do a great job. Accommodation is fine, the lodges are spacious and beds comfortable and all is very clean. It's a bit dated now, but the gardens and pools are great and it's a good introduction to the rainforest, particularly for those on a bit of a budget. Plenty of monkeys, leaf cutter ants, colourful crabs and 'blue jeans' (poisonous) little frogs in the grounds, and some lovely flowers. What made me hesitate between 'good' and 'average' was the food - it's tasty enough but a bit 'samey', though the Gallo pinto is excellent - and, more than anything, the lack of organisation. Or perhaps I should say the lack of communication - we had to ask fellow guests if they knew the meal times (and we had several other guests ask us), there is no map of the site or even a general information leaflet in the rooms and we only found out by accident that we had been assigned to a particular one of the three onsite restaurants (all serve the same food).
This has the wow factor! The lodge rooms are gorgeous - each a detached 'bungalow' that is like a high-end African safari lodge, with indoor and outdoor showers and lots of nice touches. It's an eco lodge so the minimal electricity to the rooms (though there are USB charging points etc.) is bolstered by candle lanterns and solar powered lanterns. And the turn-down staff light tea lights on the steps down to the bathroom, which looks very pretty. There is a fantastic infinity pool, a spa where I had the best massage I've had in my life, and the food is superb and beautifully presented. Attention to detail is very strong - all the staff (including the waiters) knew our names and at lunch and dinner the person serving knew our individual choices (you order lunch at breakfast, dinner at lunch) and made sure the right person had what they'd ordered. The setting on the Pacuare River is stunning and the 'Loop' - the guided on-site hike to the waterfall (in which you can swim) is great. My older son and husband did the zipping and loved it. It pushes the holiday budget and is worth every penny! Only caveat is that you can only get in and out of here either by white water rafting (we were due to raft out but overnight rains meant the river was too high, sadly) or by 4x4. The latter is fine of course, but the final 15-20 minutes of the approach to the lodge is on a single-track, unmade mountain road which makes many African safari roads look quite civilised! It was all part of the holiday adventure but perhaps something to bear in mind for frailer travellers?
Any place we headed to straight after the stunning Pacuare Lodge was going to be at a disadvantage and, with its Austrian cabin feel and extensive use of wood inside, Trapp Family Lodge did have a slightly unusual feel and it's not in its first flush of youth. However, on a practical level, there is good wifi in the rooms (something our sons appreciated in particular!), there is a HAIRDRYER which was a godsend after four nights in rainforest eco lodges (our luggage got soaked on the first day so was soggy until we found the Trapp hairdryers!). The buffet breakfasts are nice and served in a sunny room with pretty views, but above all it's the location that makes this place a winner. You are literally a two minute drive from the entrance to Monteverde National Park and if you choose to walk it, it's about 10 minutes on the return journey (which is downhill). It's also a very well organised place, a short taxi ride from the small town - where we found a fantastic restaurant, Mar & Tierra.
Corcovado, Osa Peninsula
On a holiday packed with highlights Casa Corcovado stood out. It's a gorgeous location with its own private beach, two really nice swimming pools, brilliant wildlife, glorious trees and plants, excellent food and some of the nicest and most attentive staff we have ever encountered. Every person we dealt with at Casa Corcovado was just lovely - cheerful and endlessly helpful. Particular credit must go to Jose the restaurant manager, who, on being informed that my husband is diabetic, made it his personal task to challenge the chef to come up with deserts he could have (including home made, sugar-free coconut ice cream!), and to Cynthia, our guide. She was absolutely fantastic - a lovely, lovely lady who may be tiny in stature but is a giant in terms of her knowledge of the wildlife and the science of this region, and in the care she took of us. The tours from here are excellent, and the accommodation, service and attention to detail all fabulous. We were so sad to leave here - it felt like we had stayed at the home of a good friend - and we would love to return. There is plenty to do here and, with five nights here, we were able to take full advantage of that and also just chill out.
Near San Jose
A lovely way to end our holiday. After the jungle humidity, the warm, breezy air, was very welcome, and the food here is very good indeed. It's a very pretty layout, all the individual rooms and villas are white, with plenty of soft lines and round 'corners', set amidst an undulating and beautifully landscaped garden that is packed with butterflies and the odd hummingbird or two. There is a good-sized swimming pool with lovely views towards San Jose (you can watch the sunset over the city), and a hot tub. It's set on an organic coffee plantation (each afternoon guests can enjoy unlimited coffee and home-made coffee cake/cookies for free!), and the tour of the plantation is a really nice thing to do.