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Costa Rica

 

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Summary

 

Foreword

Usually, I plan my trips by myself. But, this time, feeling to get some trouble when planning, I decide to search for a tour. I found out Puraventura, a subsidiary of Viventura for Central America.
The offered tour, as well as its detailed content combined with a 3 days extension in South Caribbean coast, was exactly what I needed. So I decided to get in touch and asked for more information.
After all, I registered and I accepted to share the room with a fellow traveller. I dreaded a little bit because it was the first time I was travelling with a group.

I don't regret my choice because Elodie, from Puraventura, has always been listening to my issues before and after the journey.
The group was amazing and we had a lot of fun together.
The local guide, Flor Marlin, was really sweet, very nice and spoke a fluent french. Her way to pronounce "ou" instead of "u" charmed the whole group, and her "haha" as well.
Her competence and her availability are unquestionable.

Flor Marlin Retana Costa Rica

Moreover, my fellow traveller and I, were good friends ..... especially to drink some cocktails.


Practical informations

Usually, in December, it's dry season. But we virtually underwent 15 days rain, following a hurricane passing through one week before.
Even so we got some lulls and we could have made some interesting visits.
So, kit yourself out with a poncho and rubber boots to be shield as best as possible.
I was wearing a Regatta Adventure Tech coat and Asics shoes.
Likewise, kit your camera out with a rain cover and bring colored silica gel bags (usable).
As an outcome, following a 2 hours hiking under a heavy tropical rain in a pineapple plantation, my Nikon D80 and my shoes gave up the ghosts.(†)
Don't forget a mosquito spray and some drugs.
I took a so-said waterproof rucksack SunVP 35L. Fortunately, all my electronic devices were each in a freezer bag.
Bring a powerful flashlight and a garbage bag to put dirty clothes inside.
US dollar is allowed all over the country, so bring $20 notes with you.


Tour

Some internal links refer to videos of my Youtube playlist.

Day 1 : Flights Lyon - San Jose

The previous evening I slept in an hotel standing in Lyon airport. Early in the next morning I take a flight to Madrid, then to San Jose where I land in the middle of the afternoon. (7h jetlag)
A minibus is waiting, with Flavio our driver and Flor our guide, and drive us in the rush hour to hotel Colonial in downtown San Jose.

Hotel Colonial San Jose Costa Rica

It stands close to Chinatown and a pedestrian area. Warmful welcome, good breakfast. Free wifi.
My fellow traveller and I went to restaurant El Patio for dinner.

restaurant El patio San Jose Costa Rica

Day 2 : San Jose - Cartago - San Gerardo de Dota

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Early in the morning, we drive to Irazu volcano 3432m high, but very cloudy. Then we get to Cartago to visit basilica Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles and the picturesque central market.
After lunch in the marketplace, we drive down a narrow and twisty road to San Gerardo de Dota 1400m high.

We settle in Suria Lodge. Magnificent setting. Warmful welcome. Free wifi close to the entrance. But night is very cold and heating is inadequate.

Suria Lodge San Gerardo de Dota Costa Rica

Day 3 : San Gerardo de Dota - Sierpe - Osa peninsula

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Getting up at crack of dawn to see a bird : the quetzal, then returning to the hotel to take breakfast.
Then, we drive to the South towards Sierpe where, after leaving our main bag in the bus, we take a boat and sail on a river during one hour to Drake.
The change from the river to the ocean was very impressive but nice.
We walk on a footpath with a rucksack to get to Punta Marenco Lodge for 2 nights.
Beautiful spot even while raining. Rustic bungalow : no warm water, no soap, no wifi and electricity a few hours in the evening. Warmful staff except the manager who only thinks how to squeeze dollars from customers.
As a matter of interest, my fellow traveller and I get to the restaurant where a beer was proposed that we enjoyed. Some time later, we were asked to pay $5 a beer. It 'd have been better to get the drinks menu, because we 'd have had a drink anyhow.

Punta Marenco Lodge Drake Costa Rica

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Day 4 : Osa peninsula

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This day, I decide not to go with the group. Because it was raining heavily.
There was a voyage to La Sirena and a 3h hiking in the mud through NP Corcovado. (I saw videos beind made)
It's likely that my Nikon D80 should have given up the ghosts from that day.

But I didn't waste my time. Being sheltered from the heavy rain at the restaurant with my Nikon, I have watched beautiful birds because a staff member set up a telescope and food to entice them.

⇒  Hiking close to the hotel + Pacific Ocean + Capuchins

Day 5 : Osa peninsula - Manuel Antonio - Quepos

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Back to Sierpe where the bus was waiting for us. Then we were driven to hotel Kayak Lodge in Quepos close to Manuel Antonio.
Very comfortable. Free wifi. Management very warmful. We celebrate my fellow traveller's birthday at the restaurant.
We spent 2 nights.

Kayak Lodge Quepos Costa Rica

We have lunch in Manuel Antonio marketplace, then we visit the city and its beach.

Day 6 : Park Manuel Antonio

Parc Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

We devote the day to visiting the park, seeking for birds and animals. Guides have keen eyes to find them out.

The group goes swimming, except our guide and I (because of the racoons), to a beach. When leaving we found out the following sign !

Park Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

Day 7 : Quepos - Zapotal de Miramar

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We go to Rio Tarcoles where a lot of crocodiles were basking under a bridge.
Then we get to Zapotal de Miramar where we visited a farm, hiked in a forest and saw the traditional making of cane sugar and cooking.

The group breaks up because we stay with the local inhabitants. Warm welcome and excellent food.
My fellow traveller speaks spanish, that helped us a lot.
Moreover nights are very cold.

Day 8 : Zapotal de Miramar - Tenorio - La Fortuna

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We get to NP Tenorio where we hike to a waterfall close to rio Celeste.
Then we get to the hotel Las Flores where we 'll stay 2 nights.
This hotel is very disappointing : no coathangers, nothing to hang up clothes, breakfast setting up is low and anarchically. Free wifi.

We get a free afternoon, so I have lunch with the guide and 2 fellow travellers, then we go and visit the city under heavy rain.

Day 9 : Volcano Arenal - suspended bridges

Volcano Arenal Costa Rica

Hiking at the canopy level of a main forest in a private park.

In the evening, we take a bath under the rain in the hot springs of an hotel where we stay for dinner. Very pleasant.

Day 10 : La Fortuna - Sarapiqui

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We go and visit a farm where we meet the colorful Don Rodolfo. We taste cane juice, ginger juice, curcuma, pineapple, ...

We spent 2h hiking in a pineapple plant under a heavy rain. Following this, my Nikon D80 gave up the ghosts. So bad.

During the afternoon we visit Tirimbina natural reserve where we take a very impressive suspended bridge (L = 270m).
We attend a very interesting explanation about cocoa making. (a complement of the one I got in Guadeloupe)

Then we get to Ara Ambigua Lodge.
This hotel is beautiful, worthy a 4* and restaurant is great. Free wifi at the front desk.

Ara Ambigua Lodge Costa Rica

Day 11 : Sarapiqui - La Pavona - Tortuguero

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We get to La Pavona and board to Tortuguero. 1h journey. We land at La Baula Lodge where we'll stay 2 nights.
This hotel is beautiful. Free wifi at front desk.
After lunch, we go and visit the so picturesque Tortuguero.

Day 12 : NP Tortuguero

A ride in the morning and another in the afternoon to discover the local flora and fauna. Great.

Day 13 : Tortuguero - Guapiles - Puerto Viejo

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Back to La Pavona. Then the bus take us but I get off at Guapiles because I was the only traveller to spend 3 nights in South Caribbean coast.
Thus the group gets back to San Jose.

In Guapiles, I had to wait a van 2h30. Then it drove 3h to get toAzania hotel close to Puerto Viejo.
This hotel is gorgeous, even in the evening. Full equipped bungalow. Free wifi. Excellent food.

Azania hotel Costa Rica

Days 14 & 15 : Tortuguero Puerto Viejo

Bicycle ride in the vicinity of Puerto Viejo.

Movies : ⇒   1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  5

Day 16 : Back to San Jose airport

Departure at 6h30 a.m. 5h driving with heavy rain.
Flight at 17h30 !

Day 17 : Madrid

Landing in Madrid at 10h30 a.m. Lodging in hotel 4* Alameda where I got special price (Iberia crew).
Hiking in the vicinity and lunch in a local restaurant.

Day 18 : Madrid - Lyon

Flight Iberia at 4h30 p.m. to Lyon.


Conclusion

I hated the heavy rain which destroyed my Nikon. Moreover, clothes were constantly damp and could not dry.
It was tiresome to wake up at dawn and my recovery was sometimes weak.
I do appreciate hiking in Tirimbina reserve with its long suspended bridge, my stay in Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo.

The group was friendly and my fellow traveller very pleasant.

The natives are wery sweet and Flor, our guide, was very charming.

I think doing again such an experience but better fit out.


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