I know this post is long overdue. Some time ago my brother called me at the office and asked me if I missed my mom and really, without a pause, then asked if I wanted her here, if it was a good time for me. Of course, when you're writing a thesis, it's either always a good time or never. I 'm glad he called. I'm glad she came.
Suddenly I started planning a two-week trip where I could show her as much of Costa Rica as I could without missing work but without boring her to death. I will copy/paste parts of a post I wrote for the CRL list, but without the details about prices and such. If you want that information, you can write me an e-mail.
"My dear brother surprised me about three weeks ago with a phone call. Somehow I get the feeling it was a combination of too many frequent flyer miles on his part and my mom commenting that she missed me. In any case, he called and said if you want her, she can be there in a week or so. For two weeks.
I have the Lonely Planet Costa Rica book, and I had a pretty good idea of what she "needed" to see.
Important information if you're still reading: My mom is 63 years old and not the most adventurous type.
On our first week (weekend, actually) we went to Punta Leona and Cataratas de La Paz. Both beautiful places.
I rented a car from Mapache Car Rental...very acceptable service. So, on Friday we left Alajuela around 10 am and got to the Jaco area in two hours, just because we were admiring the view and she wanted to take lots of pictures. I'd booked us a room at the Punta Leona hotel, just before Jaco. We got a double room, with breakfast, lunch and dinner included, and also the beach towels. The hotel is great, the food was not bad, the beach was beautiful. Not too crowded, just the right amount of people. It was a long weekend (this was on the weekend before July 30th) so they were full, but there was never a time when we thought there were too many people anywhere. Very enjoyable.
On our first day in the Punta Leona area we drove around, discovered a little restaurant (Steve & Lisa's) where we had a delicious lunch and after checking in at the hotel we showered, dressed up and went to have a drink at the Villa Caletas Hotel. I had found it in my Lonely Planet Book, where they mentioned that you could have a nice drink while watching the most amazing sunset on the Pacific side. They have an amphitheatre where they also have concerts on special occasions. It was really worth it! My mom took about 100 pictures as the sun changed colors. Truly amazing. Then we went back to the Punta Leona Hotel for dinner. They were serving Paella among other things. The most fun were the monkeys that climbed down from the trees and stole the napkins, salt and pepper shakers and anything that was not too heavy to take with them.
Since we had to check out at 12 on day 2, we got all our stuff ready and put it in the car so we could check out early. As we checked out, they said we could stay there for as long as we wanted on that day (as long as we never left, because they give you a little paper every time you want to leave the resort).
We then drove to the beach (Playa Blanca) after breakfast where we stayed until around 1 pm. We were able to shower at the beach facilities and then went to the buffet area to eat. After that, we visited some friends in the Playa Herradura area (we had a really enjoyable time) and drove back to Alajuela via the Cerro Aguacate. I think I might try some other route next time. Other than that, the weekend was a complete success.
Sunday morning we left Alajuela around 9 and after stopping everywhere mom wanted, for pictures and souvenirs, we got to La Paz Waterfalls Garden around 11. If you don't have time for visiting much in Costa Rica, La Paz is the place to see. You can visit the trout pool, aviary, butterfly area, hummingbirds, snakes and frogs, a little Tico house from the old times and THEN you can walk down to view 5 waterfalls. It's a good idea to bring a rain poncho, because it can get wet, especially during this time of year. After you've seen the last waterfall, you climb back a little and a shuttle will take you back to the park entrance. We got back home around 5 pm or so, so it's a full day adventure.On Tuesday we visited Sarchi. All kinds of nice tico (and Central American) souvenirs with mostly reasonable prices.
At some point during this week she cooked lots and lots of stuff so I could freeze it and have some of her cooking when she was gone. SOOOO delicious!
Second weekend: Arenal and Monteverde - WOW!
I did not rent a car for this after I heard the description of the road to Monteverde. We took a bus (Gray Line) at the Garden Court hotel in Alajuela across from the airport. Extremely pleasant ride, air conditioned mini buses with expert drivers. There's a stop at Limonal where you're offered a snack (juice or coffee with some pastry) courtesy of Gray Line. They will pick you up at your hotel and will take you to your hotel wherever you're going. They will also pick you up there for your next trip. Extremely convenient.
We left at around 9 am and reached Arenal around 12 or 12:30. Our hotel was the Arenal Paraiso. Beautiful little cabins with private bathroom and a little terrace with a view to the Arenal Volcano. The best part were the little hot spring pools. They had about 12 of them (plus 2 big ones and a normal pool with chlorine) but each hidden in all this vegetation. So you had the feeling of being all alone among the rocks and trees. She loved that. The hotel provides you with towels as well, so no need to carry those huge towels to lie on the chairs by the pool. We got to see the volcano without the clouds and even some lava at night.
Since our bus picked us up at 6:35 and breakfast was served at 6:30, they gave us our breakfast in boxes, so we got to snack on the way to Monteverde. In order to get there, we had to stop at Limonal, where all the other buses stop for about 30-40 minutes to refuel and exchange passengers. That's where we took the mini bus to Monteverde.
This deserves a new paragraph. The ride into Monteverde is EXTREMELY bumpy. Not only is it full of twists and turns, the road also goes up and down a lot but the worst part is that it's not paved! It's like someone poured sharp rocks on a semi-flat surface. So you feel like a Martini (either way) when you get to Monteverde. The view is amazing, though. The problem is, if the driver doesn't stop for you to take the pictures, you will most likely just have blurry pictures. Which is not so bad if you're into impressionist style. Our hotel is the last one before the entrance to the reserve. So, basically you walk less than a kilometer and you're in the reserve. Our hotel this time was the Trapp Family Lodge. Beautiful hotel. My mom liked this one best of all. The service was amazing, all meals were delicious, beds were HUGE, in summary, if Gray Line added a helicopter ride to its buses, I'd book there again immediately. As it is, I think I'll wait a while.
First night there, we took the Twilight Tour in the Cloud Forest. Not my mom's favorite because it started raining, it got dark, and she fell on her face (almost) after tripping over a root.
The next day we booked Selvatura for the canopy tour and the hanging bridges. I talked her into doing the canopy and now she thanks me. There's also a Tarzan swing with the canopy... it's kinda like a bungee cable that you hold on to and they attach it to your harness once you've climbed REALLY high. Then you jump into the emptiness. Pretty scary but lots of fun. Mom enjoyed that, too.
That day we came back to the hotel and all we wanted to do was shower and then eat and sleep. So we did just that.
The next day we were met by our two guides with an extra horse each. They took us from 11 am to 1 pm on a ride inside the Cloud Forest. Really amazing. We got back to the hotel, showered, had lunch, and waited for the mini bus to pick us up at 1:45. We made it to Alajuela around 7:00 pm."
Monday (the day before she left) we had plans to visit Cartago, where she could see the church and see the image of the miraculous black Virgin Mary. Unfortunately, we underestimated the "presas" (traffic jams) and only got to the other side of town (Tres Rios) in time for dinner with friends. She was ok with that because our friends gave her a little replica of the Virgin she wanted to see. And she loved that little detail. We also enjoyed ourselves at dinner that evening. And although we got lost in the middle of San Jose (I keep saying we, although I was the only one driving and making the decisions where to turn, etc) we got home safely. She packed that night so I could take her to the airport at 4 am the next day. YAWN!
I think she had a lot of fun here...and so did I!