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Trip notes, 11/15 to 12/1

Martinsburg...
Level Contributor
467 posts
6 reviews
Trip notes, 11/15 to 12/1

Just returned from our trip to and around Costa Rica. I will be posting a trip report, as time permits (back to work in the am), in this thread. Some stuff will be specific, some not so much, as I took notes each evening for a while, then kind of stopped doing so.

This trip was me (47), my wife (not telling), our son (16) and wife's father (mid sixties). Wife, son and I were in CR in the same timeframe back in 2014. This was first time in CR (and I believe first non-cruise foreign trip at all) for father-in-law.

We stayed in motion, for the most part; it was planned intentionally, to get tastes of lots of different parts of the country. It works for our wishes, but if you are the sort that likes to get more thoroughly acquainted with each area, and likes more time to smell the roses, you won't want to copy. Bear in mind also, regarding the amounts of time I allotted at different places, that we were skipping the adrenaline type activities (other than a few that my son and I did alone).

There were occasions throughout the travels where we went against a few of the usual recommendations/warnings that are provided here - some of those were planned that way, and some just worked out that way. Don't take them as suggestions or recommendations or arguments; I'm simply telling our particular story.

87 replies to this topic
Martinsburg...
Level Contributor
467 posts
6 reviews
81. Re: Trip notes, 11/15 to 12/1

...night frog tour continued

Luckily the rain was taking a break as we gathered for the night tour. This night there was a rather large group that came from off property, and it looked like a pretty large crowd in the reception area. I was somewhat concerned, as large groups are not conducive to this type of activity going well. Fortunately, Arenal Oasis apparently agrees, as it turns out they had two guides tonight and split the group. So we ended up as a group of seven - the four of us, another young couple, and a single. Pretty workable size, and enough room for everyone to get a look at things as we found them.

In all, we spent about two and a half hours, slowly strolling the property. More time stopped, to look at and photo things and to get explanations and background, than walking, so this is an easy one on the legs. All level ground, also, fwiw. We saw something like a dozen different frog species, some sleeping birds, many different insects (including the fastest spider I've ever seen), one tree snake and several eyelash vipers. The first of the eyelash vipers, one of the first things we encountered, was laying on a large leaf/frond literally right next to the trail at about torso level. When guides tell you to keep hands to selves and not grab random things in the rain forest -- this (along with thorns, other snakes, bullet ants, etc, etc) is one reason why! Our guide was very respectful of the frogs and other life. A few of the less jumpy frogs, he would lift using a leaf and place them for better view/photos, then gently replace them exactly where he had found them. If you have a chance to do a guided night walk, I would take advantage. This property was specialized somewhat to frogs, but in general the right place and a good guide can make for a unique experience.

After finishing up, back to the rooms, shower off the bug spray, and turn in after our last full day in Costa Rica.

Edited: 4:57 pm, December 23, 2018
Martinsburg...
Level Contributor
467 posts
6 reviews
82. Re: Trip notes, 11/15 to 12/1

Day 17, Saturday 12/1

Woke up and ate breakfast at Arenal Oasis, and ready to head for the airport. Our flight was on Delta at 2pm. My plan was to be on the road by 8am at the latest, and hoped for a bit earlier.

As it turns out, we were on our way about 8am on the nose, so I figured so far so good. Made a quick stop to top off the diesel (we were to return it with 6/8 fuel, so I figured filling in La Fortuna would work just about right) and headed through the mountains toward San Ramon.

I figured we were in good shape timewise, with a bit of wiggle room (but not tons). I still wanted to make the best time we could, however, after our previous experience of extensive delays heading to La Pavona. (There wasn't a guide I could call, this time, to have Delta hold our plane for us!) We did hit a small bit of stoppage for a paving project in one place, maybe ten minutes or so, but not terrible. We did, however, hit some major delay in San Ramon itself; some roads near the center of town were blocked off and some sort of fair or market was set up, and traffic was gridlocked trying to make its way through/around the town. As we sat, and crawled, and sat, I started to be concerned. Finally, we managed to get out the other side, found our way to the main highway, and headed toward Alajuela.

We made it to the Vamos lot at 11am almost on the dot, which is what I had hoped/planned, so fortunately the wiggle time I had built in was enough. The rep took a quick walkaround of the car and said 'looks like you treated it good; I hope it treated you good!', I signed a charge slip for the rental charges as originally quoted; we were in and out of there in about ten minutes, and on our way to the airport in the Vamos shuttle. Side note - I'll say it again, Vamos was great. Easy, no hassles, great tires on a nice clean 4x4 that took us within feet either way of exactly 1000 miles diring our 17 days, including a lot of major ups and downs and a few pretty sketchy places I know few rentals ever find, with never a hiccup or problem,

Got checked in at the Delta counter, and checked our luggage after a quick shift of a few items one from another to fix an overweight suitcase. Through security quite quickly, and found our way to gate 13 (it is one of a few that are downstairs) with loads of time to spare.

We all decided to grab some lunch while we waited. Interestingly, this was an instance where the usual advice about paying with a credit card to eliminate currency/conversion concerns, apparently does not apply. I had used all our colones the previous day, intentionally. The food court restaurants in SJO had posted prices in colones (expensive, as airports normally are, but to be expected and I didn't think twice), and I saw some folks paying in colones. However, when I presented my Visa card, they for some reason ran the charge to the card in dollars at a terrible exchange rate (they used 520; actual during my trip was in the 585-600-ish range), even though my bill was in colones. I don't know why they would do so, other than to make extra money, as I am fairly certain those card machines can charge colones. So, my 9600 Colon meal, that would have been converted to $15 or $16 anywhere else in the country during my stay (most places I paid my $$ charges using colones were using 600 for simplicity) was put through to my card at $18.46. Not a huge deal, obviously, especially since it is a one-time thing; I just found it interesting as it was really the only time during the whole trip where any merchant or vendor used the $$/CRC exchange to make a buck. That is nice in that -- while the normal advice of 'pay in the currency the thing is priced in' is still best -- once can frequently pay with the other and expect to generally be treated fairly.

Boarding time came, and this was a bit unique. I don't know if they were short of normal gate spaces that day, or some jetways were under repair, or what, but our plane was parked out in the middle of nowheresville on the tarmac and we loaded via a several minute shuttle bus ride from the gate, and a big staircase. :)

Uneventful flight to ATL, where we had decided we would likely eat a relaxed dinner to help kill the scheduled 3hr 20min layover time. Well, lets just say Saturday evening in ATL is apparently not the time to go through immigration. We spent a shade over two hours in the immigration line (take note, all who complain about the lines at SJO - in our case SJO immigration wait was a breeze compared to Atlanta...realistically, bad lines can happen anywhere) then retrieved and re-checked our luggage and headed toward our departure gate. By the time we neared our gate, the 'relaxing dinner' turned to 'grab some stuff on the way by and we'll eat it at the gate'. But, no harm, and we boarded on time and had a nice quick jump back to Pittsburgh at about midnight.

Fun trip, glad to see Costa Rica again and glad to show it to my father in law for the first time. Had a nice mix of repeat destinations and new ones, and thankfully no issues with any of the major trip-bummers like illness or crime or accidents. Rained more than it did when we were there in 2014, but not a ton more, and really only one 'washout' type of day. Also, the rain largely spared most of our planned activities -- Manzanillo (once the early rain stopped), Cahuita NP, Tortuguero canal tour, Blue Rivers trek, Arenal Oasis night walk for example -- were carried out in the dry. The ironic thing is that in each of those listed cases, we encountered the beginnings of raindrops just as we were ending the activity! So while the weather frequently was not postcard material, I certainly have no complaints, especially as I intentionally chose to book in sort of a transitional time between 'green' and high seasons.

Photos are semi-finished in the album https://flic.kr/s/aHskNFpdxu in roughly the order they were taken, though I still have more work to do with filling in descriptions on some and identifications on most. Also i will be pulling more still frames from Austin's Gopro videos, but that takes a ton of time and will be a here-and-there type of thing.

Once more, if I haven't done so previously -- Thank you to all in the forums who contributed in my planning, whether specifically or generally through your participation here. We don't all travel the same, think the same, or see things the same, but having a sort of crowdsourced grouping of thoughts and ideas from folks who have been there is a valuable starting place for anyone who is planning and putting their own stamp on a trip or itinerary.

Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
Level Contributor
20,488 posts
62 reviews
83. Re: Trip notes, 11/15 to 12/1

Oliver, you have contributed immensely to that "crowdsourcing" with your excellent and detailed trip report. There are a few drives I am envious about, and will have to replicate them on my next visit. And your photo album is filled with great photos and is adding to the overall greatness of this trip report. Thank You very much, and thanks also to your participating family members.

Cleveland, Ohio
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26 posts
31 reviews
84. Re: Trip notes, 11/15 to 12/1

Thank you for a very detailed trip report. I enjoyed reading it. The photos are wonderful

New England
Level Contributor
1,321 posts
222 reviews
85. Re: Trip notes, 11/15 to 12/1

OH MY. I enjoyed those photos. They are phenomenal. I'd like to have a little of your talent as a photographer.

Thanks for all the info.

Martinsburg...
Level Contributor
467 posts
6 reviews
86. Re: Trip notes, 11/15 to 12/1

@84,85...

Thank you for the kind words; I am happy with many of the photos I brought home, too. There are several folks I know of in this group who are tremendous photographers, that likely have forgotten more skill than I have, but I am learning.

The only thing I will be wishing is that I had more often 'borrowed' a fellow traveler with also a camera, and traded turns taking pictures of each other's traveling group. The thing I have fewest of, but years from now will wish for the most, is pictures that contain Costa Rica *and* several or all of us. :)

Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
Level Contributor
20,488 posts
62 reviews
87. Re: Trip notes, 11/15 to 12/1

For those "missing photos", Oliverbenny, you can always head back to Costa Rica!

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