Great 10-Day Trip to Costa Rica - Dec 31 - Jan 9, 2020
My family of four (two grown daughters, my wife and I) just returned from a 10-day trip to Costa Rica. KimKim was very easy to deal with. Adriana was our main contact, but when she was off Olman responded and helped us with our arrangements. Both were knowledgeable and helpful and worked as a team. We spent 3 nights in Playa Flamingo (near Tamarindo), 3 nights in the Arenal area (near La Fortuna) and 3 nights in Manuel Antonio (near the national park). We had lots of adventures, but also found the trip very relaxing. We did not rent a car. KimKim arranged for our transports. I'm sure this is much more expensive than renting a car, but as first time visitors to Costa Rica, we were concerned about road conditions and getting around. We observed some other travelers having trouble navigating, but they all seemed to get where they were going eventually. The drivers were always prompt, friendly and pulled over to show us things, especially when they knew areas where sloths or crocodiles were typically spotted from the road. (Special shout out to Jonathan who was our driver on three days.) Having drivers definitely made it a stress-free vacation. It would have been helpful to have a car in Playa Flamingo as there were other beach towns just far enough away that you need to drive and it was not certain that we could get taxis back. We took a Catamaran sunset cruise with Panache sailing. The guys working the cruise were great and friendly. You stop and snorkel but it was not good snorkeling. We heard there was much better snorkeling spots back in Playa Flamingo, but you're really there for the cruise which is very relaxing (even though it felt like there were too many people on board). We stayed at the Lost Iguana in Arenal. Very very nice. It's remote and in the rain forest. Highly recommend. It's a 30 minute drive to La Fortuna. We just took all of our meals at Lost Iguana. We did the SkyAdventures zipline. Very thrilling experience. Even though we were scared to death by the heights and the speed, we highly recommend. Another highlight was the farm tour and cooking class as Vida Campesina. My family likes to cook. It was a fun, informative and delicious evening. We did a "hike" to the La Fortuna Waterfall. It's not a hike. You walk down steps to the waterfall. It's beautiful and we swam in the very cold water, but you don't need a guide for this. If you have a car, just drive there, pay the entry and walk down to see the waterfall. We went to the hanging bridges, which is set up like an amusement park. That was initially a turn-off, but once in we really enjoyed the walk through the rain forest, the views and bridges. If you go to the Manuel Antonio national park, you could skip the hanging bridges and do something more adventuresome. We stayed at the Mariposa Hotel in Manuel Antonio. It is perfectly located at the top of the mountain with great views (amazing sunsets every night), and walking distance to the best restaurants we ate at in Costa Rica (Emilio's Cafe, Agua Azul and Milagro). We only ate breakfast at the Mariposa. Breakfasts were nice at both hotels. We went into the National Park with a guide. You must have a guide or you won't see anything. They have special scopes and spot things animals that are camouflaged or too high up in the trees to see with the naked eye. Don't be turned off by the crowds. It's good to have a few guides around because they tell each other what they have spotted, so you are bound to see more things if there are other guided groups in the area. We spent a few hours at the Playa Espedilla Sur (beach) in the park. Great beach, but beware of the animals. The monkeys come down and try to steal from the tourists, we also saw a raccoon try to do the same. We also did the boat ride through the Damas estuary to see the mangroves. Very relaxing. We used Aventuras Tropicales. It's a family business. At the end you eat a home cooked lunch of typical Costa Rican cuisine at their home. The boat ride feels like the Disneyland Jungle Cruise. We saw many birds and some monkeys, but mostly it's just a relaxing cruise. We don't regret doing it, but it's not very adventuresome. Younger kids might get very bored very quickly. Note, the weather forecast often showed rain, but it mostly rained at night or while we were driving but never rained during any of our activities. Not sure if that was typical or we were just lucky, but the point is not to fret over weather. I'm sure we paid a premium to use KimKim's services, but we think it was worth it as they made it a seamless process and the result was a great time had by all. We would use KimKim again. Many thanks to Adriana and Olman.