3 independent reviews for Costa Rica self drive holiday, natural history

Reviews for Costa Rica self drive holiday, natural history

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review 11 Feb 2018

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Our favourite part of the holiday was the three days we spent in the Tortuguero area, a fabulous experience. Going out on the boats early in the morning to watch wildlife was amazing. We saw all three monkey species here, toucans, Mexican porcupine, boa constrictor and cayman. We stayed at the Laguna Lodge and they have an area with red eyed tree frogs. Also a great place if you want to see nesting turtles although we weren't there at the right time of year for that. What we most enjoyed though was going on a guided kayak trip through the areas waterways. The rain came down in buckets but it was such good fun and we saw quite a lot of wildlife including caymans and sloths - I would definitely recommend that. Second to this would probably be our night walk at the Mistico Hanging Bridges in Arenal. We had done a guided walk in the morning which we enjoyed so much we decided to come back and do the guided night walk. So glad we did, as the wildlife was so different in the dark. However, if you don't like spiders, scorpions and snakes best not to bother!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

As a rule my husband and I aren't keen on joining organised or guided group trips and prefer to do our own thing at our own pace. However, on this holiday having a professional guide in the national parks was essential to make the most of the experience. The groups were usually no more than 8 people, often less, and so not crowded or rushed. The guides were amazing and were able to point out things we would never have had a chance of seeing without them. Also, so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Definitely invest in a guided tour. If you are spending anytime in the San Jose area, perhaps on the way to or from the airport, I can really recommend the Bougainvillea Hotel which has the most spectacular grounds - great for birdwatching. My other tip, particularly if visiting the Caribbean side and definitely if visiting Monteverde, bring some warm clothes and waterproofs! Our hotel in Monteverde was the closest to the cloud forest and so enveloped in the same cold wet atmosphere. The hotel had no heating and so we went to bed at 9pm to keep warm. I think we may have been there during a particularly cold and windy spell of weather (when I say windy I mean howling winds, ) but even so I would take something warm. If you decide to do a self drive holiday, as we did, be prepared for quite a bumpy road if you go to Monteverde. This is mostly fine in a 4 wheel drive but there are some huge potholes on the way to the cloud forest and some subsidence - we would advise not to drive at night. Sticking to the main roads the driving was fine although a bit manic in San Jose. Make sure the hire company gives you a GPS. WiFi tethering was also useful. We used Sixt car hire which provided this.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I think the vast majority of the staff in the hotels we stayed in were local. The visit we had to Tortuguero gave us the opportunity to support local people who I guess depend largely on tourist money. We saw evidence of recycling, respect was shown to the environment and local wildlife and we ate a lot of local foods. Also products in the bathroom were mostly refillable rather than single use which was good. The guides we had in the various locations were very environmentally aware and keen that our visit did not impact upon the local wildlife eg no flash photography at night, no touching anything. The one thing I did notice in Costa Rica, not just where we stayed but throughout cafes and restaurants, was the use of plastic straws which is a shame. I think in the UK, having just been made aware of the dangers to the planet of so much plastic through watching Blue Planet 2. I was perhaps ultra aware of this. I know the use of plastic straws is the same worldwide but it was the one thing I thought CR could change quite easily, particularly given their commitment to the ocean environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

An absolute five stars. We loved it and I can't wait to save up enough money to go back and explore the other areas. We found the local people to be incredibly friendly and helpful and so eager to share the beauty of the country with visitors. Everyone we met spoke English, which helped. The food was great, fresh and varied. Lots of fresh fruit and rice and beans. We ate in local Sodas where the food was cheap and tasty. We only stayed on the outskirts of San Jose and so can't comment on the safety of visiting there although we did notice that many of the residential properties in the area were surrounded by high fences and razorwire and so I'm guessing there can be an issue with crime. We didn't experience any problems at all. Definitely go to Costa Rica if you are at all interested in wildlife - you'll love it!

review 17 Jan 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Being at the crater of Masaya Volcano at night, and also walking in the cloud forest on Mombacho Volcano

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Learn some Spanish or take a phrase book.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

yes, it definitely benefited local people using local tour guides and also the eco lodge definitely supported environmental concerns and the reserve supported conservation

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Fantastic, absolutely loved it!

review 24 Feb 2014

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

There were so many highlights - and part of the pleasure was the variety of different experiences as we travelled around; more like six short mini-holidays all packed together. The very best moment was kayaking in Tortuguero: just four of us and a guide exploring the rainforest by river at dawn. The cries of the howler monkeys echoed across the morning mist, and we got up close to crocodiles, turtles and incredible water birds. Priceless!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Self-drive is a great way to travel - and driving in Costa Rica is not difficult. Choose an itinerary with a good balance of organised activity and free-time; it is much easier to see wildlife in the rainforests when you are with a local guide. We had at least one organised activity every day. Make sure you do at least one forest night walk - it's a different world at night. Take a good pair of binoculars for everyone in the party. As one guide said "we promised you wildlife, we didn't promise it would be very close!"

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes. Costa Rica was the most environmentally aware country I have visited. Tourism and environmentalism are very closely linked - and as long as the country is able to benefit economically from the preservation of its fabulous natural habitats, it can continue to support conservation instead of other more environmentally harmful activities, and to employ many local people in the process.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Fabulous. An wonderful and unforgettable experience.

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