Nina

Pura Vida with GWA - Dec 6 - Dec 16, 2021

Traveler: Nina M. - Local specialist: Alberto Molina

Our trip to Costa Rica was one of the best trips I've ever been on, and it's all thanks to the wonderful people at GWA. This is the first time we've let a tour company plan basically our entire trip and we couldn't have been more pleased with the results!
Our contact was Alberto who was knowledgeable, polite, friendly and very accommodating of all our tweaks and changes. It really felt like the success of our trip was important to both Alberto and the rest of the staff at GWA. Alberto worked... read more

Our trip to Costa Rica was one of the best trips I've ever been on, and it's all thanks to the wonderful people at GWA. This is the first time we've let a tour company plan basically our entire trip and we couldn't have been more pleased with the results!
Our contact was Alberto who was knowledgeable, polite, friendly and very accommodating of all our tweaks and changes. It really felt like the success of our trip was important to both Alberto and the rest of the staff at GWA. Alberto worked with us to plan all sorts of activities/tours as well as picked all but one hotel with our approval.

Once we arrived we were met by Felipe, our main driver for the trip and a clean and private van transport to our San Jose hotel. When we arrived at the hotel Felipe gave us a lovely welcome bag with thoughtful goodies inside. The bag itself is designed by women at a women's shelter for domestic violence which we thought was so cool of them to support. They also included a nicely printed itinerary, a commemorative plaque/certificate of our visit, and two metal water bottles with their logo! Felipe went through our itinerary with us and patiently answered all of our questions.

The next day Felipe picked us up after breakfast and took us to our next location in La Fortuna, an approximately 3 hour drive from our first hotel in San Jose. Felipe shared his knowledge with us along the way and he was very kind and helpful when I revealed that I suffer from motion sickness. He recommended his favorite restaurant in the area Don Rufino which we took his advice on later, it was excellent! The hotel was fairly rustic with little cabins set up on a lovely garden trail. The wi-fi did not extend to our room and there was only soap in the shower but the grounds were very nicely maintained and the staff were so friendly and warm. Alex from reception did not speak English and with our limited Spanish it was difficult to communicate with him but he went out of his way to point out sloths in a nearby tree despite how frustrating it must have been that we did not understand. Eventually we figured it out and were able to spot sloths twice with Alex's help right there outside the reception! I also saw a toucan and many other beautiful birds on the property.
It was very quiet and peaceful and one morning we had breakfast and it was just us and Alex and the cook and a lovely woman who took our breakfast order the night before and I think may also have been the one who cleans the rooms. Jon played their old organ for them and we all enjoyed the music together.

That first night a driver named Otto from Desafio Adventure Company took us to the Paradise Hot Springs which was way less rugged than what we were expecting. We had drinks at the hot springs bar and lounged until dinner. There were lockers and showers on site and the springs themselves are located within a hotel. On the way back we told Otto about our need for shampoo/conditioner and Otto graciously accompanied us to a local supermarket where we were able to procure what we needed.

The next day we went on another tour with Desafio Adventure company with our wonderful guide Carlos and driver Alex. First we visited the Arenal Hanging Bridges which was pretty amazing and so beautiful! With Carlos's help we were able to see so many wonderful things that we would have missed alone, including Red-eyed tree frogs, White-nose Coatis, Howler Monkeys, Anoles, and even a Purple-Crowned Fairy! He was very knowledgeable about the many plants and trees that we encountered as well, and even their uses by indigenous societies. From the hanging forest we went to La Fortuna waterfall and went swimming near the falls in beautiful water with small fish. The walk back up the steps was pretty brutal, everyone told us a different number of steps, was it 600 or 800? Either way with frequent pauses and shaky calves we eventually made it to the top!
We then went to Desafio's base of operations and had a delicious buffet style lunch and coffee and rested for a bit. The final expedition of the day was to Arenal volcano, Carlos unfortunately was not feeling the best so we hiked up by ourselves to allow him a chance to rest. The view from the top was beautiful and it rained a bit which was very refreshing. We even found some colones up there! When we got back to the rest shop Carlos brought out some fresh fruit they got for us, they'd even gone out of their way to get a papaya for me because I wanted to see if it was way better in Costa Rica and it is! David expertly prepared the fruit for us and we ate to our heart's content. We then stopped by a natural hot springs by the road side and then stopped to take photos of a sloth that Carlos had spotted earlier since we hadn't managed to get a good photo the day before. I would recommend all of these tours and Desafio was great, GWA picks great tours!

Our next hotel was in Rincon de Vieja at Rinconcito Lodge. On the drive there Felipe taught us about Arenal Lake and took us to a delicious restaurant called the Macadamia Cafe. We thought we would see Felipe again but sadly this was the last day we saw him. Once we arrived at the hotel we were given a welcome drink of tasty watermelon juice. The bungalows at this hotel are lovely, we had sliding glass doors out to a balcony with two beautiful wooden rocking chairs and a nice view. The trek to our room was a bit much, especially with bags but thankfully we had Felipe to help us on the way up. They have a lovely pool which never had anyone else in it, horses and a trail on site and thankfully a restaurant because we were without transportation. I think having a car would have been useful here, as everything seemed to be at least 30 minutes by car and when we attempted to walk to Las Pailas we quickly realized it would take 3-4 hours! It's a nice location with many birds and butterflies and we would definitely stay again if we had available transportation. We mostly relaxed during this time except for the last day where there was some confusion on our part and we scheduled a hike during our pickup time at the hotel. We were coming back from a 12km trek to La Cangreja Waterfall when we realized our mistake. It's a really lovely waterfall with hot spring water but it took me days to recover from all the sun exposure! When we got back to the lodge, David was there patiently waiting. We felt terrible about the misunderstanding but David was very kind about the whole thing.
After our rough start our drive with David quickly became enjoyable, he had many interesting stories and . We stopped in Liberia I think to get some juice/gingerale for my car sickness which I really appreciated. We chatted all the way to the next hotel, Nambu Bungalows at Samara. This hotel is by far the fanciest that we stayed at, and we somehow got upgraded to a Master suite. This means you are on the top floor with a hot tub and there are no elevators which thankfully wasn't an issue for us. We loved sitting in the hot tub watching the sun set!
We had one delicious but expensive dinner at the hotel, the barkeeper was excellent and you can have drinks and coffee by the picturesque pool. The second day at Nambu we were supposed to go on a kayaking expedition but unfortunately I was still feeling unwell so we had to cancel. We spent the day relaxing at the beach and in the room. The restaurants in the area are not that plentiful but we really enjoyed the food at Hula Jungla which was maybe 2 minutes walk from the hotel. We tried two of the other local restaurants but Hula Jungla is the one we kept returning to.
We also did horseback riding in Samara with Rene from Paraisos de Caballos. The horses were brought right to the hotel and it was just us and Rene! We rode by the beach and on a lovely loop through the forest and up a hill with a gorgeous view of the mountains and shoreline. We saw Howler monkeys again and white-faced monkeys and were able to get quite close to the Howlers! We also saw many beautiful birds and Blue Morphos butterflies before taking photos near the beach of a stunning sunset. Rene was very knowledgeable just like all our guides and we enjoyed talking with him. I would definitely recommend Rene and all our other wonderful tour guides/drivers!

Our last day our driver had car trouble and we were given a generous credit to spend on drinks/foods while we waited pool side. They managed to find a different driver and Roberto soon showed up to take us back to San Jose. This was another 3 hour drive and Roberto was yet another pleasant conversationalist, he even stopped for us at a big mall so we could grab a bite to eat before returning to our hotel, as we were concerned nothing nearby would still be open. We walked all over the food court and Roberto was so patient with us. After we arrived at the hotel at almost 9pm our trip was basically finished. We got massages the next day and ate twice at Moose, which Felipe had recommended on our first day and got Covid tests at the mall located conveniently nearby. The following day we were picked up and taken to the San Jose Airport. We were sad to leave this beautiful country and our friends at GWA. Everything was so wonderful, all the people and places and activities, it really exceeded all of my expectations. I would book again with GWA with full confidence, they are professional, responsive, kind and all around a wonderful company to work with. You can't go wrong booking your trip to Costa Rica through them! Thank you to the entire GWA team for making our trip so memorable and fantastic!

Hotel Review

Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, San Jose Aeropuerto, Costa Rica

San José

Overall Rating
Hotel Review

Convenient hotel location with plenty of amenities. Room was kind of loud (thin walls?) But the location was nice for proximity to stores/restaurants/etc

Location

Cleanliness & Comfort

Staff

Authenticity & Character

Activity Review

Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall & Arenal Volcano Hike

Arenal/La Fortuna

Overall Rating
Activity Review

First we visited the Arenal Hanging Bridges which was pretty amazing and so beautiful! With Carlos's help we were able to see so many wonderful things that we would have missed alone, including Red-eyed tree frogs, White-nose Coatis, Howler Monkeys, Anoles, and even a Purple-Crowned Fairy! He was very knowledgeable about the many plants and trees that we encountered as well, and even their uses by indigenous societies. From the hanging forest we went to La Fortuna waterfall and went swimming near the falls in beautiful water with small fish. The walk back up the steps was pretty brutal, everyone told us a different number of steps, was it 600 or 800? Either way with frequent pauses and shaky calves we eventually made it to the top! We then went to Desafio's base of operations and had a delicious buffet style lunch and coffee and rested for a bit. The final expedition of the day was to Arenal volcano, Carlos unfortunately was not feeling the best so we hiked up by ourselves to allow him a chance to rest. The view from the top was beautiful and it rained a bit which was very refreshing. We even found some colones up there! When we got back to the rest shop Carlos brought out some fresh fruit they got for us, they'd even gone out of their way to get a papaya for me because I wanted to see if it was way better in Costa Rica and it is! David expertly prepared the fruit for us and we ate to our heart's content. We then stopped by a natural hot springs by the road side and then stopped to take photos of a sloth that Carlos had spotted earlier since we hadn't managed to get a good photo the day before. I would recommend all of these tours and Desafio was great, GWA picks great tours!

Transport

Guides, drivers and staff

Quality of Experience

Alberto Molina profile photo
Alberto Molina, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Nina
Thanks a lot for your great review, is very nice to read that you have a great trip that you are very happy with our services and most important that you really enjoyed Costa Rica.
Pura vida
Alberto