Great with a couple of early issues. 4 1/2 stars, really.
Costa Rica | Jul 12 - Jul 21, 2022

J
James K.
Seattle, WA | Reviewed on Aug 12, 2022

This was tough to judge. Would like to give 4 1/2 stars. We had some issues and frustrations, particularly at the start of the trip. But - those all seemed to stem from the fact that KimKim had to swap out our representative a day or two before our trip started. As a result, some things got dropped or mis-communicated. Once we got further into the trip, things were much more smooth. All in all, it meant our arrival and first night were bumpy, and the start of the second day was messy, but... read more

This was tough to judge. Would like to give 4 1/2 stars. We had some issues and frustrations, particularly at the start of the trip. But - those all seemed to stem from the fact that KimKim had to swap out our representative a day or two before our trip started. As a result, some things got dropped or mis-communicated. Once we got further into the trip, things were much more smooth. All in all, it meant our arrival and first night were bumpy, and the start of the second day was messy, but after that, things were pretty great. So, summary advice: DO use KimKim, they put together a terrific vacation. But if they change out your contact/specialist, DO take some time to review the trip details with the new person, particularly things that were in emails or chat that didn't get added to the actual trip plan document.

Hotel Reviews
Hotel Playa Espadilla
Manuel Antonio

Great vibe, great location, lovely little pool, just a really good fit for us. Monkeys, lizards and exotic birds on the grounds all the time. The restaurant doesn't have the deepest menu, but the food is _fantastic_. Would stay here again, no question. One small warning: in the restaurant, particularly at breakfast, avoid the corners of the sitting area furthest from the kitchen. The flies there are insufferable. Deeper into the seating area, things are fine.

Authenticity & Character
Definite Pura Vida sensibility. Everything was relaxed and smiley.
Location
Easy walk to the beach, but not so close that traffic and noise are an issue.
Staff
The restaurant folks were universally wonderful, in particular.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Park Inn San Jose by Radisson
San José

We went here at the start of a trip, got in late, left early. Didn't really get to evaluate much about the hotel, but what we saw was good. Five stars because they were accommodating (despite our late arrival). Helpful (which we needed because we were sleep-deprived and exhausted, and patient (which we needed because we were grumpy from the delays and other complications that made us late.

Authenticity & Character
Just a business hotel, but a good one. Nothing surprising, which is what you want in a business hotel.
Location
Staff
Cleanliness & Comfort
Monteverde Country Lodge
Monteverde
Authenticity & Character
Maybe 4 1/2 stars? It's not one of the Monteverde hotels that is nestled into the wilderness, but it's not far from some good green spaces. The decor and overall tone is very Pura Vida, including some lovely hanging vines and fountains behind the restaurant, and a peaceful courtyard.
Location
Hard to beat Monteverde/Santa Elena in general.
Staff
Staff was pretty thin, clearly understaffed at mealtimes and early mornings at the desk. Likely due to it being the off-season, I'd expect things to be more fully covered during peak.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Las Caletas Lodge
Puntarenas

It's perfect if it's what you are looking for. This isn't about creature comforts. The path up from the boats to the hotel is steep, slippery and long. You'll be staying in a stifling hot cabin or a noisy, simple platform tent. Everything gets damp and stays that way. Meals are picked for you - there's no menu. No TV, viable internet or cell coverage. But if you are here to be here, to see Osa and Corcovado park, you're in the right place. Everything is astonishingly, endlessly beautiful. Scarlet Macaws nest in trees right on the grounds. Troops of Howler and Capuchin monkeys wander through all day and night. The forest, the ocean, the flowers -- this is the place to sit and soak it all in. If you want to see Osa, and be a part of Osa, this is a great place.

Authenticity & Character
It was like living in Corcovado, but with shelter, gourmet food and a fridge full of soda you could raid at any time.
Location
I mean - it's right there in Osa.
Staff
You pretty much only see one person (at least during the off-season), so if he's busy or resting, there really isn't any staff.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Cleanliness and Comfort are relative. This isn't the W. But they keep the common area squeaky clean, and the cabins/tents are well-maintained. No silk sheets, but there are fans and good pillows. Picture elevated camping, more than hotel living.
Autentico Hotel
San Jose

We weren't here very long, arrived fairly late and left fairly early. We enjoyed our stay, but there are couple of things worth mentioning: * This is a slightly odd layout. Everything wraps around a smallish courtyard. The pool area covers most of the courtyard, and the restaurant seating spills out into the courtyard. The result is that everything feels kind of packed together, and you if your room opens to the inside area, you can hear pretty much everything in the building. It's cool and exciting for large groups, who get to be "together" even when they are in different places. I saw a couple of such groups here, and they were clearly having a great time. You might enjoy it less if your schedule depended on getting some sleep earlier than 10pm or later than 7am. * The restaurant was pretty great, with a deeper and more subtle dinner menu than your average hotel. * It's tough to find, even for San Jose. Parking is even trickier - it's across the street from the hotel, and you really have to plan in order to be able to get there without circling a few blocks.

Authenticity & Character
Very San Jose. It fits in well with the rest of the Central Valley. Don't expect it to feel terribly "Pura Vida," but it has a clean, professional, polished vibe.
Location
Not the easiest place to get to, not a lot of walkable places worth seeing, but a short drive from plenty of spots you might want to see.
Staff
The staff (along with the food!) made dinner a particularly memorable and positive experience.
Cleanliness & Comfort
As mentioned elsewhere, everything feels polished and professional and clean. It's not the Ritz, but it may feel like the top of the next tier. That's wonderful and impressive, considering the reasonable prices. You'll feel like you are getting more than your money's worth.
Activity Reviews
Manuel Antonio National Park Guided Nature Hike
Costa Rica

We did nature hikes in Monteverde, Corcovado, and here. Much to our surprise, Manuel Antonio was the clear winner for variety of wildlife, educational content, and overall enjoyment. Coati, monkeys, huge spiders, snakes, a variety of birds, lizards, and an up-close encounter with a sloth. Don't miss this hike!

Quality of Experience
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Every guide we had in Costa Rica was insanely knowledgeable. Even by that standard, though, our guide in Manuel Antonio was amazing. He was able to track and film moving animals using a scope (which I've always heard was impossible), while delivering a monologue about the scientific details for that animal, some things to look for to find them, etc. It was like traveling with David Attenborough and his film crew.
Transport
One of the great things about Manuel Antonio: the park is super close to the tourist area. We were close enough to walk, and walk back afterwards.
Horseback Riding in the Cloud Forest
Monteverde

I have a life-long, irrational fear of horses. I agreed to do this only as a trade-off to get my kids to try some other things on our trip. Much to my utter surprise, I had a great time. Our guides were patient and very clear with their instructions. They kept a pace that we could manage. We went through terrain that we never could have navigated on foot, and it was just amazing. I got my horse all the way up to a trot a couple of times. I can't say I'm cured. Horses still seem crazy to me. But, if they could deliver 2 hours of exhilaration for me, I expect they can do that for just about anyone.

Quality of Experience
Really cool extra touch - at the end, they fed us some home-made snacks, and let us try making cane juice from sugar cane. Not totally sure what that had to do with horses, but it was a great way to cool off and get refreshed.
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Transport
On-time. Vehicle was well-maintained and seemed safe. Driver was friendly.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving at Isla del Caño Biological Reserve
Drake Bay

I tired out after the first set of dives, but the kids kept going for another hour or more. Lots of great fish (including pufferfish!), sharks, some folks saw turtles. For me, the highlight was floating peacefully while hearing whales sing somewhere out at sea.

Quality of Experience
Food
The tour included a stop at a local restaurant afterwards. Simple fare, but delicious and authentic. Definitely a high note.
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Transport
Nothing to be done, probably, but that boat ride is rough on older folks' backs and younger children's patience.
Walking tour to Corcovado National Park in Sirena Station
Costa Rica

Some great wildlife! Can't complain about that, really. We saw big coati family, a couple of agouti, a tapir, lots and lots of monkeys. But, I suspect we could have seen a lot more, and would have on a normal tour, but something odd was going on when we were there. Our guide spent a lot of time just _waiting_. Not sure for what. We waiting 15 minutes before getting started, then walked back and forth over the same 100 feet of trail for another 30 minutes with no obvious explanation. We paused and talked to another guide for 15 minutes later. We hung around at Sirena Station for much, much longer than planned. We headed back to the boats 20 minutes early. The end result is that we only spent about 90 minutes actively looking and exploring. I think this was unusual, some mix-up. Maybe a guide didn't show up? In any case, I'd still strongly recommend this tour, but I think we caught them on an off day.

Quality of Experience
As noted above, we did an odd amount of stalling and waiting. That was the only negative. I suspect this was a one-time event, not their normal pattern. The guide seemed unhappy with the waiting, too.
Food
After the boat ride back, they took us to a great local place, and fed us simple, authentic, delicious food. A great way to end the trip.
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Very knowledgeable. Maybe a bit preachy - but in an incredibly well-intentioned way. Didn't get in the way of us seeing or enjoying anything.
Transport
Young, spry folks may not mind. Older folks and younger kids may find the long boat ride, and the wading to/from the boats, to be taxing. Just be ready to spend a lot of energy on the trip. The actual hike is gentle.
Zip Line (Canopy) Monteverde
Monteverde

I wanted to give this one star, because I was terrified the whole time and never really got to the point where I enjoyed myself, but that's just me and my fear of heights. The rest of my group had an amazing time. The guides were fantastic. They were very visibly obsessed with safety, which helped keep my panic to a minimum. They joked around with the kids, were patient with me and my wife, and generally did everything conceivable to maximize our enjoyment. Not their fault that it didn't work for me. Also - they used our cameras to get phenomenal number of great videos. I suspect we'll be watching those for decades.

Quality of Experience
For me, the highest achievable bar was: get through it without a debilitating panic attack. Checked that box. For the rest of our group, the trip was a thrill.
Guides, Drivers and Staff
They worked so, so hard to make things safe and enjoyable. Dedicated, skilled, friendly and energetic.
Transport
There was confusion with our initial pick-up, and it seemed like the driver couldn't find our hotel, but then tried to blame the issue on us. It was weird and unpleasant, but really a minor blip overall.
Local specialist: Alberto Molina
Alberto
Alberto Molina
Local specialist in Costa Rica | Reviewed on Aug 12, 2022

Hello James
Thanks a lot for your review, I am glad you enjoyed Costa Rica.
The main local specialist was always Alberto, the other specialist that joined your conversation is our operation team, they were helping you with all the details of your trip.
Best regards
Alberto