Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

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Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby microfragle » Fri Sep 30, 2011 8:13 am

Just thought I would share some of my thoughts and experiences having just returned (September) from a great CRA trip, hopefully others will find it helpful

Juan Santamaria International Airport – small, modern and easy to navigate airport. ATMs in the airport baggage claim area. Easy to get a taxi, past the baggage x-ray machines, through the sliding doors on the left, big orange sign, “official taxis” can’t miss it. Cost to the joining hotel about $25 same as the official GAP transfer. IMPORTANT there is a $26 Departure Tax which must be paid in dollars before you check-in to leave.

San Jose – Disappointing for a capital city, good as a starting point but one day here is enough. Hotel Rincon (joining hotel), clean, basic, relaxed atmosphere, free wifi and internet with garden and rooftop seating areas. Within walking distance of the center, 10/15 mins but wouldn’t want to do this in an evening or at night. Hotel only does breakfast but there’s good restaurant just across the road but not much more in the area.

Puerto Viejo – Set off early morning arrive afternoon by comfortablish local bus. Small, relaxed Caribbean coastal town, some great beaches to explore from Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo, good idea hire a bike. Highlight – Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge Tour by Rikki. Good food - Flip Flops (in town).

Tortuguero – Good boat ride from Limon to Tortuguero. Tortuguero, small community village, some largish resorts. Get around using water taxis. Long beach area split between national park and public beach, swimming not recommended. Highlight – turtles coming ashore at night (no cameras allowed). Also possible to walk along public beach in late afternoon may spot baby turtles other things to do include hiking in national park, wildlife spotting by boat.

Rara Avis – This is unique, you’ll either love it or hate it, You can walk all the way or there’s a 3hr very bumpy tractor ride, option to get off at El Plástico and walk the last 45/60 mins (recommended). Your in the middle of the rainforest here and all the animals that go with it. Back to basics accommodation, simple clean wooden huts . Excellent meals provided, electricity 5pm to 10pm only. Nothing else to do but explore, hike and enjoy the wildlife, which there is a load of. It will be wet and muddy, rubber boots provided. Great refreshing waterfall 5 mins walk away also optional massage available. Don’t forget to pack long football socks plus a small powerful torch. Highlight – Guided night hike

La Fotuna/Arenal – By far the largest town on the trip. Plenty of activities to do here in the shadow of the volcano. The volcano is dormant at present and no lava can be seen. Town basically made up of tour shops, restaurants/bars and souvenir shops, also nice town square. Guided hike of the volcano area included. Highlight – Rafting

Monteverde - Great views of the volcano from the boat on the way to Monteverde. Surprisingly small town. Not that much free time as coffee and cloud forest tours are included, both interesting. Weather stunningly changeable. Highlight – Zip lining (a must do).

Quepos/Manuel Antonio National Park – Quepos a large town on one side of the hill and Manuel Antonio National Park on the other side. Travel between the two on cheap local bus. Much more developed than Puerto Viejo and a lot more tourists. Most of the time spent on the Manuel Antonio side and its beaches. Main beach backed by restaurants/bars and souvenir shops plus all the water sports you would expect on a tourist beach, walk to the left on the beach past the headland for quieter/nicer beaches. National Park entrance $10 no need to hire a guide by now, easy wildlife spotting for tourists from the busy flat dirt road but get off it onto one of the short trails for a better experience.

General – Easy travelling, good accommodation, including 3 hotels with pools most had free wifi or internet. Optional activities and meals generally more expensive than thought, equal to western prices. Eat in sodas (local restaurants) equally as good if not better food and a lot cheaper than the western looking restaurants. ATMs readily available most dispensing Colonies or dollars. Expect to get wet at some point, may be very wet. Ensure everything in backpack is in plastic bags, plastic ziplock bags for cameras and valuables. The risk of malaria is negligible.

Excellent trip, good variety of beaches, activities, wildlife and scenery.
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby gina.letourneau » Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:51 pm

Hey microfragle,
Thanks for the detailed review - this is really appreciated. I would like to know if you had a preference for either Tortuguero or Monteverde/Manuel Antonio. I am considering two GAP trips, both going to Arenal, but one is doing Tortuguero and the other one Monteverde/MA. Which one would you recommend?
Thanks much,
Gina
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby microfragle » Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:39 am

Hi Gina

In my opinion, the main reason to go to Tortuguero is to see turtles. You would be unlucky if you go in season (which is most of the time) and not to see them coming ashore. Tortuguero is the smallest place we visited, no cars or roads, just paths and waterways. Exploring the waterways and wildlife is certainly interesting. The village itself is ok but nothing special, you can probably walk through it in 10 mins. Except for the turtles, most of the other activities here you can do in other places. 1 full day (2 nights) is probably enough.

Monteverde has more activities, more choice and is certainly easier to get around than Tortuguero. The cloud forest and rainforest are unique plus all the wildlife that goes along with it. Manuel Antonio was certainly the busiest and most touristy place we visited, with noticeably higher prices.

The other main consideration, when to go, is the weather. You will get wet at some point. September proved to be a good month. From what I can remember the tour leader was not looking forward to the rain on the Pacific side in the next few months from his past experience.

Regards
Microfragle
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby ginato » Tue Oct 04, 2011 5:23 pm

This is very helpful - thanks a lot!
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby microfragle » Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:16 am

just a short video of the trip, that may also give you some idea of what the trip was like

just click on the link

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/44411334/Costa%20Rica.0001.mp4

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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby nightowl » Mon Nov 07, 2011 5:20 pm

Thanks that was very helpful. My wife and I head off on a very similar trip in a few weeks time and are having a dilemma about whether or not to take hiking boots ...trying to save on space. Based on your trip, are they essential or can you get by with quick dry trail shoes? Any advice very much appreciated.
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby microfragle » Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:49 am

Hi nightowl

In my opinion you’ll be fine with just dry trail shoes, with good grip, unless you intend on doing some serious hiking. If you're going to places like Rara Avis, then boots would be useless anyway, as the mud/water can be that deep and you’re given rubber boots/wellies anyway. Take more than just runners/trainers as any grip on them can easily get blocked up and some of the trails you may go on will be very slippy. Hope this has helped any other questions let me know happy to help.

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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby mecheung » Mon Nov 14, 2011 2:46 am

Hi Nightowl!
I was on the Costa Rica trip 2 yrs ago and you will love it! As far as shoes/footwear my recommendation is the MAKE SURE your bring 2 pairs of to the knee high or higher socks. You will need them for the rubber boots at Rava Aris - especially if you plan to walk in or out (otherwise you will get majorly chafed!). We actually found walking in/out better. Its faster than the tracker and far less jarring on your body :D :D :D

For anyone else - We found that if you go with recommendations for food from the guide you will pay ALOT more than if you just wandered a bit and found some street food. We had a copy of Lets Go and Rough Guide with us and that helped us find really cheap eats that reflect local cusine. My husband and I have done lots of adventure trips and the food options are always tricky. If you want to keep costs to a minimum and are open to rice, beans, and chicken on a plate or in a burritto then you will find places that serve it for less than $5 easy on the street.
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby nightowl » Sun Nov 20, 2011 12:33 pm

Thanks for the tips, can't wait to get away...very excited!
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby worrywart » Thu Nov 24, 2011 4:56 am

As the name implies I am worried about this trip so thank you for you detailed post. Just a quick question - you mentioned ants in the jungle - apparently their bite is rather painful - did anyone get bitten on your trip? Is the eco lodge awesome?
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby microfragle » Fri Nov 25, 2011 5:29 pm

Hi worrywart

I would be surprised if you didn’t get bitten, by something, at some point while you were on this trip but no more so than travelling in any other jungle, rainforest, tropical area. I think most of our group got bitten at some stage but usually when they didn’t have any repellent on.

Speaking of repellent, “Repel 100” is one of the best I’ve found and of course Tiger balm for after you have got bitten.

Most of the ants that we saw were leaf cutter ants which are fine. We did once see bullet ants and you would be very unlucky if you got bitten by one of these.

As for Rara Avis (the eco lodge), don’t expect any luxuries here (you will have hot water). Some people loved it and some people hated it. If you don’t like or bugs worry you then you may struggle here. You have noises and animals, of all shapes and sizes, all around you and some maybe even sharing your hut. The best advice here is go and explore, the wildlife is stunning, hummingbirds, glass frogs, butterflies and snakes to name a few. I would have no problems going back here and would have happily stopped longer.

There are a few photos of the accommodation below so you have an idea of what it is like
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/44411334/Costa%20Rica/1.jpg
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/44411334/Costa%20Rica/2.jpg
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/44411334/Costa%20Rica/3.jpg
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/44411334/Costa%20Rica/4.jpg
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/44411334/Costa%20Rica/5.jpg
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/44411334/Costa%20Rica/6.jpg

Hoped that helped anything else let me know
MicroFragle
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby wikki » Fri Jan 06, 2012 8:43 pm

Hi: I am off to Costa Rica (CRA Adventure) soon but not sure about mosquito nets. Is it a good idea to have one with you, or are they available in hotels/the rainforest lodge? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks! :)
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby microfragle » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:09 pm

Hi Wikki

The only place that had mosquito nets was Rara Avis (most of the nets had holes in) none of the other hotels had them. At the time I was visiting there wasn’t any need for a net at all. If you’ve got space in your bag and want to take one then do so you’ll easily find somewhere to hang it. Probably more useful will be a good repellent and long sleeves in an evening.

Your in for a great time
Regards
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby catheriner » Tue Jan 10, 2012 8:16 am

Hi Wikki,

I lived in CR for a year and in general mosquito nets are not necessary. I have never used one myself but perhaps on more adventurous locations like jungle or rural area it might be useful. Just bring a lot of repellent with a high percentage of DEET. You might also wanna bring some cream for when you do get bitten, because the bites itch like hell :)
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Re: Costa Rica Adventure Trip (CRA) Review

Postby trekkert » Tue Feb 14, 2012 4:13 pm

Planning on going in a couple of weeks and am unsure as to take USD or CR Colons anybody know which is best to take?
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