Subject: Costa Rica 2005
greetings all ...

day 1 - direct from the airport to the Angel Valley B and B - $35 w/breakfast AND dinner - this is near San Ramon about 45 minutes north of the airport where the road to La Fortuna diverges from the Inter American Highway. this place is owned by Jose who also owns La Vida Tropical in Alajuela (see last day). We did not want to stay in or near San Jose at all and so we arranged this as an easy first night ... about a $30 taxi ride from the airport or you can bus to San Ramon and take a $2 taxi from there.

day 2 - the area was beautiful so we stayed ... it is on the cusp of the Los Anegeles cloud forest and we took a nice walk that moved from jungle to forest. horses and mt bikes are also available here.

days 3,4,5 - to Sta Elena and the Monteverde Cloud Forest - stayed at La Vista El Golfo for $20 - hot showers as everywhere and clean -100 yards from the middle of town - but there are dozens of comparable places at similar prices ... the further you head towards Monteverde the more expensive and fancy. Monteverde is worth a full say - catch the 6 am bus and arrive with the staff. sign up for a guided morning tour - the guides are great and without them you will not see much in the way of birds and such.

be sure to also go to the continental divide and la ventana for best views and contrasts between the 2 sides. and also catch the big suspension bridge.

we also did a night walk, visited the butterfly gardens, and did a zip line, which is a trip and a half. but we didnt get to do a canopy walk which many recommend.

be sure to note that Sta Elena and Monteverde are VERY VERY VERY windy and always a little wet - be prepared for that - have, at least, a decent parka. At night the sound was as if we were in the middle of a hurricane - every night. And the roads are bad ... the last 40 km in took 3 hours.

days 6,7,8 - took the truck, horse, boat, car option to getting to la fortuna using desafio outfitters - there horses were healthy and seemingly well cared for and we recommend this ride ... stayed at La Rivera for $40 ... beautiful setting and 10 minutes out of town ... we also took a day trip to Cano Negro - highly recommended for the boat ride where we saw caiman, howlers, iguana and lotsa birds ... we also rented bikes (tampa bay 2004 adventures) and did a afternoon/evening walk to a good Arenal viewpoint (but no views of the volcano - this year has seeen coninuous night clouds) and did the Baldi hotsprings which are nice ... the Tabacon hotsprings are spectacular, we are told, but for $30 a bit over priced.

days 9,10 - took the $25 tourismo bus to the Playa Tamarindo on the pacific ... otherwise several public buses would have been needed and it might have taken 2 days. stayed at Mono Loco for $50 - tamarindo is a bit pricier and our 2 other choices were full. But it was nice, a block from a nice isolated beach about 1/2 mile from the main beach. We hung around and did the Leatherback turtle thing but we were just a bit late. Season is mid november to mid february but the last turtle was spotted the day before we arrivved so we spent 2 nights sitting in the park waiting for the turtle that did not come ... turtle seasons are different all around costa rica so check what you are interested in. Tamarindo is 'surfer dude' town.

days 11,12 - to el rincon to la vieja where we stayed at Rinconcito lodge - a great deal at $28. took public bus to Liberia and they pick up for there for $35 round trip for as many people as you are. Spent one afternoon walking around the ranch and another in the park with hot springs and waterfalls - would have liked a few more days. horses available but they are on the thin side - healthy but thin. they are also building a xipline.

the park has 2 sides with the entrances only 7 km apart but no connected by road - to drive from one to the other it is necessary to go back to liberia ... we were at the Sta Maria side and the fumaroles and the mountain are on the other side ... but staying there is much more eexpensive so you need to weigh all that.

If you rent a car you can reach this with 2 wd but it is hairy and i think 4 wd is highly useful. the same with monteverde.

day 13 - back to Alajuela and La Vida Tropical which is a great homey place for a first or last night - like staying at a friends house. cost is $35 minus $2 if you come from the airport (10 minutes by taxi). great sources of information and book exchange.

in general - dont change money at airport on arrival - you lose a good 10% - in fact you may not need to change more than a handful since $$ are accepted widely. but do try to prepay your $26 exit tax since it will save time on departure. internet spots are ubiquitous and many will put photos on CDs. While many smaller places have phone connections they are done well - they dial additional lines if needed and these lines are shared so the speed is not bad.

Harold Goldstein; Washington D.C. area