Fist of all, after reading all the previous reviews it sounds like the "Costa Rica adventure tour" was a lot more enjoyable and activity filled. If I had to do it over again, I'd make sure I'd be on that tour, not the "Costa Rica+Nicaragua tour".
Our tour guides Henry and Hector picked us up at the Hilton to start our journey, and since there were some issues with a hotel, we were to start by heading to Nicaragua. It was a 2 hours drive to the border and at the border it was about 1.5 hours wait while they settled some passport issues and we filled out the necessary forms etc. Once cleared, it was another 2 hours until we reached our destination, Granada. We headed directly to the Masaya Volcano park where we were able to view this active volcano and walk up a short distance for a nice view. We spent about an hour there, then headed out and stopped at a nice restaurant with a great view for and included lunch (3pm!?). After lunch we stopped by "Le Mercede Church" where you could go to the top and get a good view of the city of Granada. (20mins). We then checked into our hotel for the night "Hotel colonial". The hotel was great, located a block away from the main street of restaurant and bars, had nice little pools and large rooms. Service was excellent and breakfast was great.
Next morning we headed to the "Boat Tour" adventure about 20min drive from the hotel. It was a tour of a bunch of little islands.....it was about 45mins long and was pretty unimpressive. Not much to see except different houses on these islands and thats about it. The highlight was a little island where there were rescued monkeys that we stopped to feed...apart from that, the boat tour was pretty pointless. I had previously read the boat tour comments from the other tour, which sounded a lot more exciting as they saw a bunch of wildlife, crocodiles etc. There was no such wildlife on this one thats for sure!
We then packed back into the van for more driving.
Our next Destination was back to Costa Rica, "Hotel Boroquin" where we would get to do ziplining, Horseback and Hot Springs. Buckle up, because your up for another 4.5 hours of driving, plus the border crossing once again. By the time we got to the hotel it was about 7pm and pitch black. We hadn't had dinner yet so everyone was starving, yet we were informed that both the restaurant and hot springs were closing at 10pm and that evening was our only chance at enjoying the hot springs as we were leaving at noon the next day after ziplining. We checked in as soon as quickly as possible, then went to the restaurant. It is fancy and weren't expecting that so we weren't dressed appropriately but had no choice. Meals are about 20$-30$ US per plate so don't expect cheap food around this hotel. The hotel was deep in the forest and was a very nice place to stay, no complaints about the facilites.
After dinner a goup of us (Most from our group as everyone had no choice but to go as soon as possible) headed down to the springs. First was the Sauna, if you could find it. It was pitch black and there was no lighting at all to get to it through the woods, so luckily we found it with the dim light of an iphone. You could see anyone or anything 6 inches in front of your face, so we didn't stay long at all. We then all headed to the mud bath, but as it was basically closed already for the night (no staff anywhere) the mud was all gone from the basin and we were basically scrapping it off the sides to try and cover ourselves. There was no effert from any staff at all to make sure our experience was a good one with regards to the hot springs. In the morning it was time for Horseback and Ziplining. What a great experience!! This is what we signed up for. Guides were great, both activites were awesome and it was a beautiful scenery and great picures! The horseback ride up to the top of the ziplining point was about 30-45mins and the ziplining about 1.5 hours, so we were done in about 2.5 hours. We then had an included buffet lunch...food was great. Then get back in the van for more exciting driving!! How long? Ah lets do another 4+ hours, why not! Basically get used to being in the van during the day and get to your destination at night.
Anyway we headed to "Baldi hot springs resort and spa". It took us about 5.5hrs to get there and we arrived at 5:30pm, again dark out and we only had the night to enjoy this great hotel, so going to town for dinner wasn't an option for us as originally planned. We settled in got our bathing suits on and headed to enjoy the 25 pools/hot springs. They were outstanding and relaxing. Food and drinks were very expensive though, 10$us for cocktails and I think 20$ for the buffet and the other restaurant was even more. We ordered some late night chicken fingers and fries for 14$. Bring your own booze as you can take your drink with you.
In the morning it was time for our white water rafting adventure. We met up with Wave expeditions, great company, great people. We got on their bus and it as about 1-1.5 hours to the rafting site. The expedition was a lot of fun, great scenery, and people who wanted to could jump off a 16ft cliff into the water, it was great. It lasted about 2.5hours. We then drove back (so another 1-1.5hr, Inclueded Lunch in between which was great) back to meet the monkey tour guides to continue our tour. Up next? You guessed it, another 5hr drive during the day to our final destination Playa Samara (8 hours in a van in a day!?!?!). Afterter looking back and assessing the trip, we REALLY should have spent more time at Arenal, they had ziplining, Hanging bridges and all kinds of activites that you could do.
Anyway we arrived at Playa Samara at around 8PM checked into our hotel "Hotel Villas Playa Samara". You know what they say "Save the best for last", well I guess monkey tours didn't get the memo. What a run down hole. At first glance in the dark it actually looked decent, nice pool, clean lobby etc. After checking in we realized that the reviews were more accurate and it was at most a 2 star type place. No TV's, Phones (wtf?), and our room was never checked by a maid service. We had a coffee machine in our room but no pot lol Didn't matter as coffee isn't provided anyway, but you could buy it at their little store if you ever saw it open. Some of our group had mold in their room, there were no shower curtains so water would get everywhere. The location of the hotel is at the other end of the main beach area where the main town was located. It was about a 20min walk along the beach or a 6$ cab ride. The beach was a bit rocky, but was much nicer down the other way. We spend as much time as possible away from our hotel because it just wasn't a place you'd want to be. We rented ATV's 60$ for 6 hours and toured around the town on them, it was great. We got to travel the back roads, see some wild monkey's and have a blast. The couple we were with took surf lessons at Plato's surf school and they really enjoyed it. My girlfreind and I hired a couple horses for 20$ each for 2 hours and we went on a horseback tour over through the mountains and over to another beach, it was nice. You can get better rates on activites obviously on your own if you go into town and look for them. We also took advantage of the Isle Chora Kyak tour that was included with the groupon we purchased. It was basically the island directly in front of the hotel. Took about 15mins to Kyak to, then we were provided snorkles and masks to explore the shores. Our guide had 3 pinnaples he brought and cut up for a snack. The experience was not that impressive, if you've ever done snorkling in any area that had and coral reef, then this wont measure up at all. It was rocky, saw some small fish, a starfish, thats about it. We were all ready to go back after about 30mins. It was good that this was included because i looked at what it usually would cost and it was priced at 45$!!!! I would have felt super ripped off had I paid for that, let alone 90$ for the two of us.
Food was great, we ate two times at "Coco's Mexican grill", great mexican food if you like it. We also ate at a little italian restaurant off the beach right next to Plato's surf school. I forget the name but it was very good too.
All in all the country was beautiful, the guides were great, and the hotels apart from our last one were all wonderful. We expected driving obviously but not to that extent. Stick to the Costa Rica only tour. The nicaragua part could have easily been cut out of ours and used for more productive use, definitely not worth the 8+hour driving plus border crossings for what we ended up seeing there. The time would have been much better spend in Arenal where we could have seen and done very similar things without additional driving time.
Also there should be an age limit. We had a couple bring (at no fault of their own) their 6 and 8 year olds with them. Long drives with nothing to do = not enjoyable for them= not enjoyable for anyone. They were also not able to come to the white water rafting which seemed was communicated properly to them from the get go.
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