Riverboat Francesca
Riverboat Francesca
5
Multi-day ToursBoat ToursNature & Wildlife Tours
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5.0
118 reviews
Excellent
111
Very good
2
Average
2
Poor
1
Terrible
2

Sharon S
Alexandria, VA25 contributions
Jun 2021 • Friends
As a group of 10 with ages from 17-60+, it was hard to imagine an outing that could enthrall everybody equally, but that is exactly what we found with Riverboat Francesca, led by Sven and Modesto.

Our confidence was high from the outset with the incredible responsiveness to all of our planning questions. And when circumstances changed our plans unexpectedly, no detail was neglected.

The real treat began the moment Sven and Modesto picked up our group, with their friendly and welcoming manner and cute, comfortable bus. Once on the canal, it was clear that we were in the hands of skilled captains and wildlife experts, and we saw many amazing animals and plants, never feeling rushed. Laguna Lodge where we stayed was both luxurious and part of the natural surroundings, and every outing was an adventure.

The details are too numerous to list in a review, so I will simply say that we are wholeheartedly happy to have chosen to see Tortuguero specifically with Riverboat Francesa, and I would recommend Sven and his company in a heartbeat to anybody wanting to explore that area of Costa Rica.
Written June 24, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

SamMittal98
Cupertino, CA40 contributions
Dec 2019
I don't have enough words for this tour operated by Modesto & his son Sven. Out of all the 5 places we visited in Costa Rica, this was the highlight of our trip. Modesto/Sven treated us like their family and were there right from beginning of our trip to the end. People like them deserve more than 5*. The lodging arranged them is probably the best in Tortuguero. Even the return trip to Moin was more memorable than Tortuguero itself (we saw so many unique birds & crocodile). We will definitely visit again in 2020 December and take their services again.
Written January 2, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

_khozemamansure
Toronto, Canada2 contributions
Dec 2021
Based on the reviews, I connected with them and booked the Tortuguero tour with them. Unfortunately another couple who were also booked with us, opted out at the last minute, so we couldnt do the tour with Riverboat Fransesca, but even then I am writing this review because I was deeply touched at the manner in which Sven went out of his way to help us plan and get us to Tortuguero. It was not easy because while we were to come from San Jose, we werent returning back to San Jose. Sven helped me plan my trip every step, and gave me all the info. He spent a lot of time replying to my emails, talking to me on phone, even though he didnt have my business; just goes to show how committed and genuine these folks are. Not only that, he made me feel comfortable approaching him for so many other tips on Costa Rica as this was our first trip. Sven, thank you so much for your help and assistance.
Written December 25, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Anderson C
8 contributions
May 2021
Of all the things we saw and did during our stay in Cost Rica, it was our time with Modesto and his son Sven that we'll remember the best and the most fondly. They are both incredible at spotting wildlife, answering any and all questions about local culture and history, but it was their friendly manner and easy going vibe that made the day the most relaxing and somehow simultaneously invigorating. Our four-year-old had as great a time as we did and that says a lot. I won't give details, but Modesto is a truly amazing individual who has lived an incredible life. Sven, you've got a lot to live up to! ;)
Written May 23, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MNRJSS
Guelph, Canada54 contributions
Mar 2012 • Couples
Wow!!!!!!!!

I am a 40-something biology professor from Canada on sabbatial at a university in Costa Rica; my wife and in-laws spent two nights/3 days with Riverboat Francesca (RF). I have travelled throughout the world including Asia, Latin America, the Arctic and Africa -- I've been fortunate to see lots of wildlife. Without any doubt, however, this was one of the highlights of my life!!!! My family all felt the same way.

RF is run by a husband and wife couple, Fran (an American) and Modesto (originally from Nicaragua). Fran is a zoologist by training and Modesto has decades of experience as a naturalist along the Caribbean coastline.

We met Fran and Modesto at 9:30am in Moin (near Puerto Limon) as we had our own car, but they can also pick you up from San Jose. We first took a 3.5 hour boat ride through jungle canals parallel to the Caribbean coastline to Tortuguera -- the journey was beautiful and in itself key to observing wildlife. We were dropped at our B&B (Casa Marbella; great if you get a deluxe, second floor room facing the river -- but terrible if you have a first floor room -- avoid and stay at the hotel they recommend). We left at 6:30am the next morning by boat to explore beautiful jungle canals -- another 2 hours. Modesto then picked us up and since he knew we might be bored, kindly offered to take us to a hotel with a beautiful pool to have lunch and spend the afternoon. Then at 3:30pm, he took us by boat again to explore more jungle canals for another 2 hours at sunset. On Day 3, he again had a beautiful 3 hour boat ride back to our starting point. So in total, we had 10-11 hours of wildlife observing by boat, two nights stay, and 2 breakfasts for a total of $170 per person -- an incredible bargain. It is $50 more from San Jose.

On top of that, whereas most tour boats we saw had 20-30 people on board, our tour with RF was a total of 6 people going, and the remainder, only the 4 of us, in a beautiful, safe boat. Given the small size, and Modesto's style of showing you what you're most interested in, it felt like we had tours that we had our own personal guide.

Fran couldn't go with us, so it was just Modesto. As a professor of (plant) biology, I can attest that he is incredibly knowledgeable about plants and even more so about animals. He understands their behavior, the native ecosystem and taxonomy. He also has incredible eyes at spotting wildlife. He then cuts the engine to allow us to drift quietly -- sometimes even mimicking their calls to attract them. As a result, we were incredibly fortunate to observe 3 species of monkeys, including a troupe jumping on top of us across a canal (!!!), multiple sloths including one 3 feet above us; multiple species of birds including tucans, crocodiles, caymens (like crocodiles), an otter; two species of frogs, fish, iguanas, Jesus Christ lizards, etc. I have seen wildlife in the heart of central Africa, but nothing was as spectacular or exciting or up-close as this tour. We had so many "National Geographic moments".

On top of that, after I told Modesto that my wife loves frogs, he stopped the boat and went searching for a poison dart frog. The next afternoon, while we were resting at the pool, Modesto (on his "rest break") went searching for the frog species my wife had always wanted to see, and found one!!! It made her entire trip. Wow!!!!!!!

On top of that, both Modesto (and Fran) are incredibly friendly and trustworthy. As the story illustrates above, they are incredibly accommodating.

Incidentally, as the entire tour was by boat, this tour is excellent for older people (as well as younger people). Their boats are wide and felt incredibly safe and balanced. My father-in-law, who owns a boat loved the boats so much he wants to have one built and shipped to Canada!!!!!

I could go on and on about my praise for Riverboat Francesca and Modesto.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law said this was the best trip of their entire life!! It was one of the highlights of my life and that of my wife. It was worth every penny and quite honestly is a HUGE bargain.

Please do not hesitate to book with RF. Tell Modesto what you want to see also. I wish our entire 6 week stay could be organized by RF and that Modesto (and Fran) could be our guides.

Please remember to leave Modesto a good tip -- they deserve it. He never asked for it and was even surprised to receive one (and very grateful), but given their significant expenses (boats, gas, etc), I think it helps them out and allows him to continue giving these small, personalized tours to others.

If you're reading this review, do not hesitate -- go to Tortuguera and book with RF. You're paying for someone that I would consider a world expert naturalist.

Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Written March 26, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Martha H
Silver Spring, MD49 contributions
Sep 2014 • Friends
Our tour of Tortuguero aboard Riverboat Francesca far exceeded our expectations! My husband and I and another couple and their grown daughter traveled to Tortuguero in late September to view the famed nesting green turtles. While turtles were the draw, our boat journey to/from and around Tortuguero with Modesto and Fran Watson aboard Riverboat Francesca, was the highlight of our trip. At night we saw turtles laying their eggs along the black sand beach, during the day we toured the canal byways with Riverboat Francesca's comfortable boat. We saw two dozen different species of birds, a 12 foot crocodile, red-eyed tree frogs, scores of spider monkeys, and more -- all thanks to the keen eyes and naturalist know-how of Modesto and Fran. Our 3 day, 2 night trip not only surpassed what we had expected, it was also very affordable. The $295 package (the low season rates) included transport via van from San Jose, the 3.5 hour guided boat trip from Moin to Tortuguero, hotel, all meals, morning and afternoon guided boat tours through the canal system that criss crosses Tortuguero National Park, and the boat trip back to Moin. Modesto, originally from Nicaragua's Miskito Coast and Fran, a former Peace Corps volunteer, have owned and run Riverboat Francesco for some 25 years. Among locals and guidebook writers, they have earned a reputation as the most respected tour boat company and guides in Tortuguero. They combine deep knowledge of the region's history, culture, politics and wildlife with great stories and good humor, attention to comfort and detail, and flexibility in meeting guest needs and desires. They readily accommodated the diverse interests of our group -- to learn, for instance, about Tortuguero's municipal recycling system, 'green' practices in hotels, and the conservation initiatives by local NGOs and the park service. I know Costa Rica extremely well having both lived in and repeatedly visited this country over many decades. I now rate Riverboat Francesca is one of the real gems among Costa Rica's fabulous ecotourism offerings.
Written October 13, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Robin G
Melbourne, Australia6 contributions
We took the 3 day expedition and were so glad we did. As a biologist, this was a pure highlight to see so much wildlife in such a small area. Our guide, Modesto, was absolutely awesome. He was knowledgeable, funny and genuine. We were happy with our accommodation, breakfast and meals en route. We ended up spending almost 12 hours on the boat relaxing, taking photos and pinching ourselves that we were experiencing nature at its best. Highly recommended!
Written March 14, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

K W
Victoria, Canada6 contributions
Feb 2014 • Couples
This was the best part of our trip to Costa Rica. I had a mental checklist of things I was hoping to see and most of it was checked off within the first hour of leaving the dock! I wanted to see wildlife in a natural setting and this trip surpassed all my expectations.

Modesto and Fran do a fantastic job of showing you their river paradise. Together they make the perfect team. Frans zoology background is very apparent and she has a wealth of knowledge of all the things you will see. Modesto is a great spotter and driver, he takes each trip personally and really wants to show you everything Tortuguero has to offer. I have limited skill and a small point and click camera, but thanks to Modesto I have a camera jammed full of great shots!

Two night trip is really worth it, it allows you time to relax and enjoy your time there (even off the river there is a lot to see!). Some of the people we came with were only there the one night and they wished they had scheduled for two.

So happy with this tour.
Written February 18, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Robin B
19 contributions
Sep 2014 • Couples
Riverboat Francesca was by far one of the best things we did while in Costa Rica. It was a 2 day, 1 night trip for a very affordable price (especially for all that you get: experience, tour, food, lodging). At first, it might sound a little shady: leave your car at a port in Moin, meet a guy named Modesto, and give him a $350 check, while he takes you on a 3.5 hour boat ride to a place called Tortuguerro. However, although seemingly sketchy on the surface our experience was absolutely amazing (also, we read reviews so we knew it wasn't shady, just like to tell the story that way!). When we met our tour guide Modesto at the port in the early morning we were wowed by his friendliness, passion and energy. Modesto is very genuine, kind, humorous, and welcoming. He is one of those people who you feel like you have known forever or you could just give a big hug too! Along our trip we engaged in many conversations with Modesto and loved learning about how Riverboat Francesca started. Modesto, originally from Nicaragua and his wife Fran,originally from Michigan (just like us!), met in the 80s while doing refugee work, and eventually started Riverboat Francesca. Riverboat Francesca is a flat bottomed motor boat, which is nice since you do not need to paddle, just sit back and relax! The boat was also covered in the chance that there were to be rain. There were a total of 6 of us on the boat ride there and 4 on the way back so it was very private (1 couple had an extended stay). Modesto gave us a quick overview and we were off on our way through the canals for 3.5 hours. He spoke in both perfect English and Spanish. I am a very motion sick person, however, the flat bottomed boat and smooth ride up front did not bother me in the least. Modesto was very open to answering my many questions along the way and always seemed to have the answer. He was extremely knowledgeable about the canals, wildlife, and foliage. He was able to spot and name so much wildlife that we would never be able to do on our own. On our canal adventure we seen Cayman, Sloths, Monkeys, Iguanas, Basilisks, Crabs, dozens of unique bird species (Toucans, Herons, King Fisher, Oropendola, etc.), livestock along the canals, and more. Halfway there we stopped for a bathroom break along the canal then continued on. When we arrived we were blown away at the beautiful Laguna Lodge, at which we staying. The grounds, rooms, and location between the ocean, and river were spectacular. The property and rooms were clean and well maintained, and the staff were super friendly. The restaurant prepared us a delicious buffet style lunch when we arrived and we ordered drinks at the bar. After lunch, Modesto took us back down the canal on a speedboat in to the small and lovely town of Tortuguerro. After that, we ate a buffet style dinner, which was again delicious, and then did a night turtle tour. The next morning we were given another delicious buffet style breakfast and hit the canals to head back to Moin. Halfway back we stopped for a delicious authentic Tico Style meal and bathroom break along the canal. Modesto continued to always answer any questions we had and would pull over to explain, and allow us to take in the views, and get photos of the wildlife. Overall, this experience was amazing and very unique. We felt very safe on this trip! Modesto was wonderful, the experience, food, lodging, and views were wonderful and we are so happy we decided to take this tour. Highly highly recommend it!
Written September 29, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

CarlaSna
Rome, Italy7 contributions
Aug 2014 • Friends
Our boat tour in Tortuguero NP with them was one of the most exciting and beautiful experience we had in Costa Rica. Fran has been really helpful and caring for everything and Modesto is the guide you would want for all your trips: professional, prepared and absolutely nice and funny. The entire organization was perfect (and the park is amazing in itself!), I actually was there in 2009 but still I remember it as fully satisfactory, I strongly recommend them for an unforgettable trip in Tortuguero
Written October 6, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Riverboat Francesca - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)