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“Incredible Experience! Incredible Hosts!!!!”

Riverboat Francesca
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed June 28, 2012

Our two day excursion to the Tortuguero canal system was a wonderful and at times almost spiritual experience. We were fortunate to have Fran and Modesto as our guides. They enthusiastically shared their experience, knowledge and deep passion for this unique area with us - they were the consumate hosts who were committed to making this this a trip to remember!
We saw all of the wildlife we could have imagined - crocodiles, camen, sloths, monkeys, iguanas, turtles, bats, butterflies, poison dart frogs, tree toads, toucans, cormorants and so many other species of birds. We dined on local fare and throughout the trip we were provided with a an expert narrative of what we were seeing. There were photo opportunities galore!
An experience you won't forget.

Thank Jeanne_David
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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70 - 74 of 86 reviews

Reviewed April 24, 2012

Traveling with Fran and Modesto is one of the most wonderful experiences I've ever had! They are both extremely knowledgable and have a deep reverence for the jungle and canals around Tortuguero. I've been on this tour with them three times and each journey has been delightful in its own way. If you go during nesting season, (July - October), you may have a chance to go on a night tour to see a sea turtle dig her nest and lay her eggs. The jungle is full of life, both plant and animal, and Fran and Modesto know where and when to go to see birds, frogs, monkeys, and much more. This is a great opportunity to spend time with fine people in one of the most beautiful places on earth!

2  Thank DJ G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 18, 2012

What a wonderful time we had! Modesto and Fran provided such gracious and committed hosting as well as sharing their expertise in a delightfully personal and informed way. We had heard so many positive comments about the tour and now understand why!

Thank Jean02
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 26, 2012


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.


9  Thank MNRJSS
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 25, 2012

Francesca River Boat tours done by a guy called Modesto.This guy is one of the most inspirational and charistmatic men I have met in my life.Its like being a tour by Morgan Freeman and David Attenborough rolled into one.You will never forget the tour the guy gives for the rest of your life.He will introduce you to the lowland rainforest as if it were a disney movie.He wants to you to touch,hear,see and feel the rainforest.Modesto should be on television;you will be left in awe and communion with the rainforest through his passion and love of the rainforest and sense of duty to his guests to get the most he can help reveal.this guy made our trip to Tortuguero unforgettable.He takes only very small groups to give you the best so book early in our case we asked if he would squeeze us in to his already full boat after we explained how awful our previous tours were.You will be blown away by this guy I guarantee it.I have nothing to gain except to help my fellow tourist so please if you do the tour with this guy then let others know.

2  Thank warice
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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