This travel company helped us arrange our first family trip with 2 college age sons to Costa Rica. EVERYTHING they recommended to us was spot on- the hotels, excursions, tour guides, transfers. Every thing functioned flawlessly re timing (we had some complicated transfers, and narrowly avoided the San Jose airport shutdown due to volcano eruption) and they were immediately available by 800 number if we had any questions or concerns. We are usually independent spirited travelers but this has made us rethink that. The activities throughout the 2 weeks were varied, physically fun for our family of four, and showed the many sides of this beautiful country. Their expertise was obvious throughout the process. We had tried 3 times before to plan a trip ourselves, and found the distances, transfers and wide variance in what you can see to be confusing re what to pick, how often to change site etc.
If we could rate them higher than 5 stars we would! They have changed how we think about travel agencies.
The 2 hotels were extraordinary and showed two sides of Costa Rica well- the interior near Arenal and the Pacific coast side. The staff at both hotels was friendly and supportive- the Nayara staff was truly exceptional-we have never been treated so well, the world over. Everyone who works there is an ambassador for Costa Rica in my opinion. The tour guides with Jacamar tours, especially Hugo and Jairo taught us so much about the flora, fauna and country in general. Waterfall rappelling was really fun. Cano Negro was highly worth it: we saw lots of birds, 2 types of sloth (with a baby!) and 3 types of monkeys. Enjoyed the ride up re agricultural diversity and relationship with Nicaragua. All of the acitivities out of Punta Islita were very well done by staff there, geared to the activity level of group that showed up on that individual day: horseback riding, kayaking, howler monkey quest.- we added surfing lessons (which the agency had recommended and we initially said no-our son LOVED this), and a Costa Rican cooking class of a 3 course dinner.
Because it rained heavily during our Arenal Volcano national Park Hike tour, we added the "Hike and Nature" on a free day: We thought the hanging bridges were underwhelming- filled with tour buses and loud noisy groups so the chance of seeing wildlife was zero. It was reduced to a nice walk across 6 hanging bridges only.The water fall and organic farm lunch of this excursion were extremely worthwhile though with a demonstration re sugar cane and other agricultural products of the area.
We thought Punta Islita was a little too isolated, and the food and service there re food/bar was not nearly as good as Nayara- we were spoiled in Arenal. The villas at Punta Islita while cunningly designed with plunge pool were sparsely and not very comfortably furnished, with outdated bathrooms, and odd lighting that made reading difficult. Big variance in view here- we were off to the far left looking at greenery and up against the road leading to resort= trucks and motorcycles start up the hill at 6 am= a noisy side of the resort. We did rent a car for 2 days through the hotel to explore beaches on either side of Punta Islita- that was fun and interesting, though again, isolated- we did not see a soul driving up to Playa Coyote and over to Playa Camonoral, the beaches were empty except for us! As a result you are pretty dependent on the activities of the hotel. Samara seemed too far for an excursion or dinner off site, easily a 40 minute drive each way, only if the water is low and you can ford the river of the shortcut. Longer with high water.
We would have listened to the recommendations re surfing lessons- anybody on the Pacific side who is interested should do this as these beaches are stunning with beautiful surf!
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