Thank you for your letter after our return from Costa Rica and a fabulous holiday! I am sorry we have not replied sooner …..Life has swamped us again! It was a wonderful experience…. return via “Worldwide Traveller Plus” was definitely a plus in comparison with the outward journey. That was a pretty regular BA experience and David did politely tell the steward that his breakfast was inedible … but that is not your problem.
We were met most efficiently by Jorje who drove us to the Xandari Plantation whose lovely swimming pool did much to wash away the long journey. The hotel was comfortable and staff very friendly but we were happy to move on the next morning. The ferry ride to Nicoya was fun and our four nights at Tango Mar a complete delight. We loved our top floor room overlooking the sea, the beach and sea were perfect, we enjoyed the pool too and evening walks around the area with lots of monkeys various. We loved that hotel (and Hilda) and my only reservation lies in the fact that, although the food was plentiful, I would prefer a more modern and lighter slant. It does not compare well with food in our last hotel. Having said that, there is a very good feeling about the place and we would not have missed the relaxation there immediately after arriving from the grey skies and chill of home. Our departure was a bit fraught because no transfer to the ferry materialised until we pressed the matter. However we JUST caught the return ferry and “Dooglas” clearly gave our driver a flea in the ear!
The star of our time in Arenal was undoubtedly Donald who gave us a marvellous dawn tour of the park. He was knowledgeable, friendly, and practical (granola bars for the flagging!) We did not think so much of the Kioro hotel mainly because we did not find the staff very friendly – particularly the men. We were castigated for arriving for breakfast after our dawn tour at 9.25am. Clearly the staff need breakfast too but this was not our fault! Equally, when we had to leave at 5am. the next day, we were given a picnic breakfast which really was not attractive in any way. I say all this because you need to know these things. The girls on reception were nice and we enjoyed the pool…. and met a very entertaining couple from New York who were deliberately missing The Inauguration!!
Next was our trip to Corcovado which was a great success. We enjoyed the flight down to Palma Sur, rather a long wait at La Hacienda (wondering why) and then a brilliant river trip to the jungle lodge in the company of a large group of French …… long wait explained! We were offered cold drinks but we had to strike off into the village to find SOMETHING to eat after such an early start from Arenal, and I wished the coffee machine was operative! A man turned up with coconuts which was a good thing. We were most impressed by the organisation at Corcovado. Stephen Lill met us – knew our names – and it was quite clear that there was an iron grip inside the velvet glove. At any time during those four days, the management knew exactly where everyone was. The food was good although I found lunch on the beach a trifle sparse after a very active morning – perhaps my fault for not piling into white sliced bread! Everyone was extremely friendly and the guides knowledgeable. We enjoyed the boat out to El Cano but the snorkelling is not much good and the coral dead as far as we could see. (We are spoilt by Belize and the Philippines I guess). We also enjoyed the jungle walk but the young manager’s tip to wear wellington boots was not a good one. We nearly expired! It is a lovely place and the staff make it. I had reservations about the huge snake I encountered stretched out on the concrete outside our bungalow ……. but then we did go for the wildlife! I was discouraged by Stephen Lill from mentioning it to the other guests – three different diagnoses in the office – but I enjoyed all the french ladies squealing “Oo La La!” The snake was about two metres long, the thickness of my arm, mottled brown and white, and it sat up to a height of about 60cm. when it saw me. Boa? I did not stay to interview/be interviewed by it, and, by the time David arrived, it had gone.
Another speed boat trip up river took us back to La Hacienda where the ever-reliable “Dooglas” was waiting for us. He really is a star although occasionally we wished he might get out of third gear and put his foot down a little. He is not only knowledgeable and speaks remarkably idiomatic english, but he is also so kind, efficient, and clearly enjoys his job. We were always delighted to see him and it must help that Walter, who runs the office, is his brother. “Dooglas” would like to go to Corcovado …… so I passed that onto Walter with a recommendation to follow it up! From Sierte, we drove to Savegre through the beautiful hill country and arrived in time to do an afternoon walk down-river. The lodge there is of course a complete contrast to the one we had left that morning but everyone was helpful and friendly and we settled in, glad of Rosie Welchman’s reminder to take warm clothes which were very necessary in the evening. Our guide next morning (Melbin) was a little frustrated that about fifty people joined us to spot quetzals having their breakfast from an avocado tree, but I guess that is why people go there. After breakfast he took us for another walk to spot various birds and – rather his pride and joy – the sophisticated sewage treatment plant. As we sipped our drinks that evening in the bar, we wondered how many others knew that the wonderful fire was powered by methane from the sewage works? We enjoyed seeing quetzals, which we had also seen in Belize, and also the many serious birdwatchers with ever huger binoculars and cameras. It felt a bit like a ski lodge but with people lugging cameras rather than skis. We did walk uphill a bit that afternoon – hard work for those from the flat lands of Essex – and heard something piggy snorting in the bushes by the stream but we never saw it.
Our last journey was of course to Manuel Antonio. When we arrived at the hotel, our hearts sank. There was no room ready for some hours and the place was full of noisy people. But, charming waiters and some lunch helped – you can see that we do “march on our stomachs!” – our room became available and life began to fall into place again. We suffered a bit from a gang of noisy young Americans in the garden below as we turned in that night, but David did point out to me when I was about to employ a bucket of water over our balcony, that it was only 8.45pm. and before too long they quietened down. The next morning we discovered “Las Suitas” and the wonderful little pool below. We stuck firmly to that area for the last couple of days and found that there was never more than about six people around which was great. We walked down to the beach for a 7am. swim on our own both days, had an excellent breakfast, and then settled in with books and swims until it was time to change for a delicious dinner. The food was absolutely first class at that hotel and we learned very quickly to have a starter each and share a main course. It was a most relaxing end to our holiday although I have since been told we should have made the effort to go down to the Parc Manuel Antonio. We had seen a fair number of birds and animals already and were really very happy to have a couple of quiet days before heading home.
Fortunately we met another couple in the hotel foyer who told us that the plane had been delayed by three hours, and we had already asked Walter to delay Douglas from 11am. to 1.30pm. so, although we did have time to kill, it could have been longer. By the time the plane took off at 10.45 pm. we were ready to sleep and really did pretty well until woken for breakfast and landing. That was a huge improvement on the outward journey which seemed interminable. I think your arrangements proved pretty perfect and we got a really good idea of the beautiful country, friendly people, and a good mix of activity and relaxation. My favourite places were the three by the sea ….. which may say something about me. To walk into sea at blood temperature is my idea of Heaven even though a wave caused me an involuntary somersault which amused the onlookers! Friendly drivers, guides, hotel staff mean so much, and (I have to admit) that delicious shellfish and fruit, supplemented by a bit of variety in the form of very good meat occasionally and plenty of salad, floats my boat. Mojitos proved to be my tipple of choice and David put down a regular “Imperial” at lunch and dinner. It felt too warm for wine.
Altogether it was a terrific holiday, so thank you Fiona for arranging it! We would have no scruple in recommending Worldwide Holidays to anyone …. and indeed have already done so. I’m not sure you could improve on Costa Rica – such a wonderful combination of beautiful country, friendly people, lovely weather, good food and drink, few bugs and things that work!