CRE Review

Central American volcanoes, cities and markets; Mexican Mayan history and Caribbean beaches and rainforests.

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CRE Review

Postby sonia321 » Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:28 pm

Hello
I just did the Costa Rica Explorer trip and had a great time. Thought I'd post some info since I got frustrated looking for info when I was researching the trip.
The hotels we used were
San Jose - Occidental Torremolinos (nothing fancy/ uncomfortable beds / noisy from construction / free internet)
Turtle Beach Lodge - simple rooms but fine - no computer access - no A/C but didn't really need it
Arenal - Arenal Volcano Inn - very nice rooms, had A/C -- wi/fi in lobby
Monteverde - El Establo Mountain Hotel - looks very fancy, nice views, but needed a van ride to drive from room to reception -- no A/C (but didn't need it) - computers for a fee
Quepos - Blue Azul - simple rooms -- A/C (really needed it!) -- nice rainforest theme around lobby / restaurant - wi/fi available, and computers for a fee

Transportation in vans was fine but with a full group could be a bit crowded -- some seats would lack leg room.
GAP endorsed a certain 3rd party activity provider in each area. Some of the activities endorsed were different than in the dossier. You could choose activities from another provider, but GAP didn't really give any official information on it ... you were on your own to figure out what was available (although the tour leader would tell you if it was a reputable company or not).

If anyone has any other questions, feel free to ask ...
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Re: CRE Review

Postby sinecure » Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:36 pm

Thank you for your information!

What else can you tell us about your trip? I hope you have some pictures to share as well.

NB: hotels do change, so future trips may not always be using the ones listed above.
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Re: CRE Review

Postby envirochick72 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:08 pm

I wanted to start by saying thank you for your post! We leave in a week for the same trip and now we finally have information on it.

Did you get a chance to do anything a little more challenging in regards to side trips? Is there any experience or place you suggest to check out?

Do you have any photos?

Envirochick.
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Re: CRE Review

Postby sonia321 » Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:10 pm

Re: side trips
We had an extra day before the trip started. We did a day trip we found from one of the brochures in the hotel that went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens and the Poas volcano ... it was a good trip.
In Tortuguera we did a night boat tour as an optional trip. Saw some frogs, birds, caimens. It was a little long and tiring but it was a starry night and really cool to be in the middle of the jungle at night. We also took canoes out one afternoon and saw some more monkeys.
In Arenal our whole group opted to go for a hike and chance to see the lava on the volcano. No lava seen (too cloudy) but the tour gives you booze to compensate. Also tried rafting (the easier level 2-3 rapids trip) which was fun, and mountain biking which was not overly scenic but really good exercise. A lot of people in our group also did canyoneering or horseback riding and enjoyed it. No one in our group tried the harder rapids (level 3-4) so I don't know how that was like.
Monteverde is the best place to do the zip-line, which also has a scary but really fun tarzan swing. The hanging bridges are pretty cool too. My favourite place to eat was a place called Chimera, across the road from the hotel.
Quepos was more touristy and the Park was crowded with tourists, and the monkeys were all used to humans. It was super hot and humid when we were there so we didn't want to do any active stuff (we did try a short trail in the Park and got surrounded by monkeys again). The public beach has good waves to play in, and the beach in the Park had hardly anyone there so you felt like it was your own private beach. Most people in our group did the sunset cruise which was enjoyable. I know some people who did the Mangrove kayaking and saw tons of animals. Someone else did a snorkeling tour (not endorsed by GAP) which was expensive but had really good snorkeling.
Another hint: you have to throw your toilet paper in a wastebasket, not the toilet, in Costa Rica. Despite this most of the bathrooms I encountered were very clean.
Hope you have a great trip ...
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Re: CRE Review

Postby morenistta » Mon Mar 01, 2010 11:30 pm

how much all these extra activities cost.(aprox)
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Re: CRE Review

Postby sonia321 » Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:27 pm

There are approximate costs in the dossier. Some of the activities/prices have changed.
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Re: CRE Review

Postby Endless Journey » Sun Mar 21, 2010 3:45 am

Hi Sonia, I did this tour last year and found that it was indeed a 'comfort' level tour compared to the 'basic' ones that I had done.

Yes, most septic tanks in Latin America are not equipped for toilet paper. Yet Costa Rica's infrastructure is much better than that of its neighbours, and tap water is considered safe and potable for North Americans.

I presume, you're new to GAP's style of travelling. GAP, as you know is short fot Great Adventure people. In fairness, I do believe, at the end of the day GAP tours provide good value for the money. There's a wide choice in optional activities, and often, the ones that are included are a must-do, like the coffee plantation tour. The tour leader is mainly there to pave the way for us, but I know many go out of their way help us.

I am certain you'll find yourself on another tour soon. Cheers.
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Re: CRE Review

Postby t.o. megan » Sun May 30, 2010 1:15 pm

I just got back from this tour and thought that I would add my two cents.

This was my fourth trip with Gap. It differed from the others in that they were more "culture-based" (seeing ruins, historical sights, etc.) while this one was more nature/adventure-based. I really enjoyed myself.

The hotels used were:

San Jose - Occidental Torrelimos. Pool. Free internet. Air conditioning. I thought the hotel was a little spartan for "comfort" level. It's currently under construction - so is covered in scaffolding and could get noisy. I'm not sure why Gap is currently using it.

I flew in a day early (b/c I wanted to catch a direct flight) so spent a little extra time in San Jose. There isn't much to recommend about the city - it's pretty dumpy with little to do. I went to the national museum, which was interesting. Other than that I just sat by the pool at the hotel.

Tortuguero - Turtle Beach Lodge. Pool. No internet. No air conditioning (and it was hot!). Meals included. The hotel was cute. It was only accessible by boat. It's located on the caribbean and has a beautiful beach (although you can't swim, b/c of rip tide concerns).

When we were there there weren't any sea turtles nesting, so we missed that aspect. Most of us went ziplining (an optional activity), which was a lot of fun. Also went on a boat ride to view wildlife - saw some caimans, monkeys; got caught in torrential rain (which was kinda fun!). There's also an included hike (which I bypassed in favour of the pool).

La Fortuna - Hotel Arenal Paraiso. Pool. Hot springs on site. Internet ($). Air conditioning. The rooms all faced the volcano, which was cool. The hotel was pretty nice - the rooms were okay, but having hot springs on the resort was fantastic!

I went white water rafting which was a lot of fun. We did the level 2/3 rapids, which was fine for me, as I'd never rafted before. It was a half day trip. For the more adventurous, there are also level 4/5 rapids (this trip is a full day). I also went rappelling in waterfalls which was a ton of fun - although be prepared to get your clothes soaking and very muddy.

One of the highlights in La Fortuna was one night our tour leader got us a bus and some pizza and we drove up around the back of the volcano to watch it shoot lava.

Monteverde - Poco a Poco - Pool. a/c. internet. My roommate and I had trouble at this hotel b/c our toilet wouldn't flush - so we changed rooms. But the replacement room appeared to be an upgrade, so no complaints here! In an effort to be environmentally friendly, apparently the hotel heats its water using solar power (an odd decision for a hotel in a cloud forest, where it's mainly grey and rainy) - so we had trouble getting hot water consistently as well as good shower pressure. The restaurant on site is pretty good.

We went on an early morning hike of the cloud forest, which was actually a low point for me. For the bird lovers out there, one of the big things to do is try to spot the Quetzel - which we managed to do. This involved standing around on a wood plank for about half an hour, while the guide looked for the bird - which nearly pushed me over the edge - but perhaps others would enjoy that!

I went ziplining here, which was a main highlight of the whole trip. Monteverde is well known for ziplining in the cloud forest...and if you enjoy that type of thing, I'd definitely recommend it. Some of our group who went ziplining in tortuguero decided not to do it again in Monteverde - but if you only do it once definitely doing it in Monteverde...it's amazing. The final zipline was a km long and over this huge valley. We also got to do the tarzan swing which was great.

As far as Monteverde itself, be forewarned that there's little to do. One of the days we were there was a Sunday, when much was closed...as a result, we found the three days spent there to be a bit much.

Manual Antonio - Pacifico Lundada - pool. a/c. advertises internet (which doesn't work). This hotel was a disappointment. It resembled as rundown motel. Apparently Gap moved to this hotel as an *upgrade* over the previous one, which makes me wonder what it liked. I strongly recommend they keep looking for a better one.

Our room had an insect problem. My roommate left her bedside lamp on when we went for dinner and we returned to find the wall over our beds coated with bugs. I realize we were in Costa Rica, but this was way beyond anything you could expect. We also had cockroaches. The breakfast was poor and there was never enough of it (which was strange b/c our group was the only one in the hotel).

Manual Antonia was a bit of a disappointment b/c we got three days straight of rain (which was uncommon for the area) - ha ha ha...the day we left it was warm and sunny. The park is beautiful - we saw tons of monkeys. and when there was a break in the weather some of us went to the beach inside the park, which was fun.

MA has great restaurants. I'd definitely recommend El Avion which, besides having a spectactular view, also had great food. I also ate at La Cantina and La Hacienda, both of which were great.

Overall I really enjoyed the trip. Don't expect it to be a cheap one - few activities are included (which makes sense, given how much there is to pick from), but make sure to factor in how much you'll spend on extra activities when budgeting. The restaurants aren't cheap either - about the same as I pay at home (Toronto).

Our Tour Leader, Taylor, was great...very nice and enthusiastic. Really wanted us to have a great time and tried to help however he could.

The transportation was poor. Going from Tortuguero to La Fortuna we had a to wait more than an hour for our van to show up - sitting outside, in uncomfortable heat. The van we transferred to after lunch was too small for our group + luggage, which made for a cramped, uncomfortable ride. Going from La Fortuna to Monteverde only one of two vans booked for our group showed up (our quick thinking leader "stole" a van from another Gap group). Going from Manual Antonio to San Jose, the van was more than an hour late, which meant that people wanting to do stuff in San Jose couldn't.

As noted above, I'd really suggest they change the hotels in San Jose and Manual Antonio, as I don't think either was in keeping with the comfort level of the tour.
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