Subject: Re: Costa Rica
Hi Mary:

Just my personal opinion, but I would suggest Osa, it's less touristy (also more expensive I hear, but not overly so) and that's were you find Spider monkeys and Macaws (I didn't see any elsewhere). I didn't get to Osa but everyone I know who has been to Costa Rica raves about the peninsula, even if they aren't overly impressed with Costa Rica itself. If you're lucky, you'll see Mt. Arenal's lava show from La Fortuna in full glory ... but it's the luck of the draw, I spent 3 days there and didn't even see the base of the mountain. Did see Arenal Lake and the fumerols from a private cloud forest in Monteverde, though. Very impressive. My favourite little town was Santa Helena in Monteverde.

If you have the time, another place to visit is Tortuguero (to see turtles if they're in season) but it's a 5 hr each way boat trip to and from (through Nicraguan water on the way back and you have to pay a US$10 visa fee to pass through the Nica side of the canal; that's an experience in itself, and they only accept US dollars in denominations of $10 or under). Worth the experience if you're into that sort of thing (I am, others aren't).

My best wildife viewing was on a mangrove tour booked in Manuel Antonio, Quepos; Manuel Antonio itself is an interesting town, very touisty though, as is the strip all the way to the National Park. Good swimming by the park and in the park itself - there are a couple of hotels right across the road from the beach that look quite nice. I also liked La Fortuna. The other good wildlife viewing trip is through the Cano Negro in Los Chiles; I got there from La Fortuna.

I stayed in Playa del Coco in Guanacaste - Guanacaste is the dry part of the country (I spent 3 weeks in CR earlier this year and it rained continuously the whole time, except for the 3 days in Santa Elena and a couple of days in Playa del Coco). I've heard that most visitors head for the Playa Tamarindo area, it's supposed to be much nicer.

I'm a rock-bottom budget traveller (definitely through necessity but also by choice) so I can't recommend any even moderately priced hotels, except the moderately priced Hotel la Rosa de America in Alajuela, only 7 km west of the San Jose airport and handy for the last night before going home. The owner, from San Francisco, is possibly the most delightful, friendly and super-helpful hotel owner I have ever had the pleasure of running into, and if I was ever going to return to CR I'd start and end at this hotel. Great swimming pool, beautiful grounds, close to all sorts of interesting cafes etc. ... if you want contact info please let me know. I still can't get over how helpful he was. I recommended this hotel to someone else on another travel board and they came back raving about the place.

Nadine in Vancouver