Pacuare Rafting – The most beautiful river in Costa Rica? - September 7, 2017

After rafting my way round the country for the last few years I had saved the best till last!  The Pacuare is regarded as one of the top 5 rafting rivers in the world. It is beautiful in its biodiversity and remote location whilst offering some adrenaline inducing class IV rapids! 

An early meet in San Jose and an hour and a half spent sleeping on the bus we arrived at Rios Tropicales HQ.  After a great local breakfast and a few cups of coffee we were ready to go!

Rafting on the Pacuare River, Costa Rica

Our river guide Roy was very entertaining, keeping us on our toes but at the same time keeping us safe and passing on his own personal knowledge of the sport and this business that has been in his family since he was a child

Rafting on the Pacuare River, Costa Rica

We arrived at the Lodge where we would be exploring the area for a couple of hours and also canopy zip-lining over the river!  That was a first for me and a different experience to your average canopy tour!

Arriving at the Rios Tropicales Lodge on the Pacuare River Costa RicaCanopy tours are run by the Rios Tropicales lodge
Rafting on the Pacuare River, Costa Rica
Rafting on the Pacuare River, Costa Rica

We hiked over the bridge where there was a beautiful waterfall you could relax in and watch the river flow past.

Rafting on the Pacuare River, Costa Rica

Rafting on the Pacuare River, Costa Rica

Lunch is served! Jungle chicken was cooked by the guides – a speciality of theirs that they have cooked for years and comes with my personal recommendation. The food is sourced from local indigenous communities and Rios Tropicales has a strong bond with these local villages supporting them in many ways. The temptation was there to have another plate however I wanted to retain some buoyancy as the harder class IV rapids were to follow! 

Lunch served at Rios Tropicales Lodge

We spoke with Rafa Gallo, Co-Founder and President of Rio Tropicales who told us about the projects they have in the area that allow people to enjoy the river and surroundings without loosing touch with their strong conservation values.  The Lodge itself embodies all they stand for with rustic designs that blend into the surrounding forests like it belongs there.  The rooms are very comfortable and the rustic simplicity and natural decorations gives the rooms tonnes of charm.  Most importantly a very comfortable bed to rest on after a day rafting / hiking / horse-riding /  canopy zip-lining / canyoning!

 
After some hammock time it was back to the rafts and adventure ensued. Best rafting in the country? YES! The rapids that followed were testing and required a lot of technical paddling.  Roy had helped build our skill and confidence level throughout the day and with his help we were able to navigate through some of the harder class IV rapids. 
Rafting on the Pacuare River, Costa Rica
After the final stretch we came to a slow part of the river with high canyon walls each side it was time to jump out the raft and lye back and appreciate the view – Pura Vida!
Pico Blanco Hike – Rewarding views of San Jose and beyond! - July 26, 2017

At 2,271 meters Pico Blanco – White Peak gets its name from the exposed rock you can see from the surrounding area (no snow here). This 4 and a half hour hike is tough at times but the views are so rewarding! 

This is the view looking back over San Jose as you hike!

Pico Blanco Costa Rica HikeThese thorny plants are as large as a person – straight out of Jurassic Park.Pico Blanco Costa Rica HikeWe saw a hummingbird fly out of this nest on a way down – the eggs were fingernail size!
Pico Blanco Costa Rica Hike View1Once you hit the highest point of the hike a totally new view awaits.  You can see as far as Arenal Volcano and the Puntarenas coast!  I managed a photo through my binoculars.

Arenal from Pico Blanco Costa Rica Hike

Arenal is 120km away as the crow flies – you can just make it out.

Pico Blanco Costa Rica Hike Arenal View1

This panorama gives you a good idea at what you are surrounded by 🙂

Pico Blanco Costa Rica Hike

Pura Vida!

Top 3 places to see wildlife in Costa Rica and where to stay! - July 11, 2017

Christopher Columbus is credited with discovering Costa Rica in the 1500’s and gave Costa Rica its name – directly translated this means rich coast but this country’s riches were not within the metals he was searching for.  500,000 species of animal make this country one of the most bio-rich places on the planet.  With 900 species of bird including the large Macaws, 212 Mammals, 70 lizards, 4 types of monkey and 2 types of sloth! Not to mention all the weird and wonderful flora, insects and butterflies you will see here.

Osa Peninsula;

What is referred to by national geographic as the most bio-diverse place on the planet, this is any serious nature lovers 1st stop.  It crams 2.5% of the planet’s biodiversity into just 0.001% of its surface area. And, this being Costa Rica, 80% of it is protected, mostly by the Corcovado national park. Due to the remoteness of this most southern peninsula of Costa Rica, it is normally best accessed by boat or plane.  Drakes Bay (named after England’s famous Privateer) is a favourite place to stay.  Small Eco lodges dotted along the rain-forest covered coast providing a range of experiences from ‘eco-lux’ to rustic, all focusing on living harmoniously with their surroundings.   Clients have seen the illusive large cats that roam this area along with Tapirs, both species of sloth and plenty of moneys and scarlet Macaws.

Where to stay?

Aguila De Osa is a rustic eco lodge nestled amidst the jungle-covered hillsides overlooking the tranquil waters of Drake Bay.  This exquisite rain-forest and marine adventure hotel has its own dock for guests arriving via boat. Aguila de Osa is committed to sustainable hospitality, so you can travel well and travel right when exploring the region.  As you are so remote all meals are included at the hotel, along with tapas and music so you can swap stories & sightings with other travellers.

Enter Aguila De Osa by boat!

Copa De Arbol Beach and Rainforest Resort is a luxury beachfront eco- resort set among 70 acres of pristine rainforest reserve.  Their 4 tier pool and Bali style lodgings make this one of the best hotels in Costa Rica! Copa are committed to the conservation and preservation of the Osa Peninsula, its surrounding waters, and the local communities.  Due to remoteness all meals are included at this hotel.

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Southern Caribbean Coast;

The east coast of Costa Rica is a road less travelled by tourists, but has been gaining traction over the last few years.  You will not find any large hotels or high rises in this part of the country and its evident Caribbean vibe means you get some ‘one love’ mixed with your ‘pura vida’.

As the rain-forest still remains fairly intact there are plenty of opportunities to see wildlife in this region.  I have never seen so many sloths in a single day than I have in this part of the country! The beach town of Cahuita has a national park that runs parallel to the beach.  It is common to see many birds, sloths, monkeys just from the main path as well as caimans and eyelash pit vipers! At certain times of year you can see the raptor migration, where billions of birds travel south for warmer climates and fill the sky!

Where to stay?

Private Villas between Cocles and Punta Uva or Banana Azul on Playa Negra.

There are so many affordable rentals along this side of the country – normally tucked back up into the hill side they are slightly cooler than properties on the beach provide great views. Just let us know the size of your group and we can send over some options.

Banana Azul boasts 14 beautiful guest rooms of the main hotel, built from local hardwoods, are unique.  The hotel grounds are equally impressive, surrounded by tropical gardens, a beautiful pool and an ocean view.  You can cycle into the town of Puerto Viejo in minutes and carry all the way down the coast to Manzanillo National Park!

For a different (and very immersive experience) you can sleep at a Hammock tent retreat in the mountains behind Cahuita.  Terra Prima offers all-inclusive camping packages and is reserved for adventurers as it requires a horseback ride or hike to get there, although there is a shortcut available.  Enjoy their secret waterfall and do the sunrise hike for great views and chances of spotting some local animals!

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Monteverde;

Being a cloud forest this unique eco-system is a birder’s wild-life enthusiast’s haven!  A day walking through the network of trails over hanging bridges is a great way to see wildlife from a different perspective. This is also where wildlife will stay very active – in the tree canopy amongst the clouds.  The Resplendent Quetzal – one of the most beautiful birds in the world is regularly seen here along with 400 other species. Amongst this mega diversity of wildlife are 2,500 species of plants tens of thousands of insects and near to 5,000 species of moths.  Santa Elena is the closest town and it packs tons of charm with rustic Eco-hotels to match.

Where to stay?

Monteverde Lodge and Gardens.

This rustic lodge has a very warm welcome with an open fire place and a laid-back atmosphere.  The staff are all very helpful with an informal but caring service style.

The high-ceilinged rooms are complemented by hardwood floors, and expansive windows. All have private bathrooms with solar heated hot water, a sitting area, coffee maker and hairdryer. Bed options include both double and king size beds. Certain rooms have two floors, a balcony, and a glass-enclosed shower.

The food is what a Costa Rican grandmother would cook if she was also a creative and a contemporary professional chef.

Just beyond the restaurant and bar are lush gardens, replete with a stream, pond and small waterfall.

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Of course these are just a few of the many options you have in Costa Rica to see wildlife.  The best results you will have is by identifying when you can travel.  When you have a time frame we can help identify what wildlife is most active during those times and if the weather will be kind to you or not!

My favourite hotel in La Fortuna, Costa Rica – Arenal Kioro! - June 1, 2017

It is hard to stand out at one of the most trodden paths in Costa Rica but Kioro manages more than  just that!

Situated 10 km from the town of La Fortuna, this hotel is perched on a hill well above the main road – elevating you high enough to allow breath-taking views of the perfectly shaped Arenal volcano.

The drive up to this beautiful boutique hotel sets the standard as you wind up the hill through their beautiful gardens.  The warmest of welcomes awaits with a cold cocktail and a friendly smile from the reception staff. We had the pleasure of meeting Victor who showed us around the property giving us some of the interesting history of the hotel.  Owned and built by a family has allowed it to retain certain charms whilst organically growing over the years.  When the plot of land was originally purchased people were unsure if the location would be suitable for a hotel – however they were to be proven wrong.  It seems almost every room in this hotel looks at the volcano but the 360 degree surroundings of greenery and nature are of equal beauty!

All 53 suites are very airy and spacious fitting so much in one room!  There is a day bed – handy if you are travelling as a group of 3 (or have lots of luggage!), a coffee table and chairs just inside from the Juliet balcony, 2 queens or 1 king, double vanity bathroom and a Jacuzzi that has enough space for 4 people! All the other amenities follow suit and will not leave you disappointed! Even though being in the adventure capital of Costa Rica you can see why some people don’t tend to leave the hotel room!
Arenal Kioro is not just known for its lodging and hot springs – Its world class restaurant offers a variety of cuisines and still boast one of the best buffet breakfasts in the area.  Having stayed at this property a few years ago this breakfast had really stuck in my memory – so this time I was prepared.  I got up a little after sunrise a jogged through the gardens to the gym (that has that great volcano view that you seem to get from every single area in this hotel) and worked up a good appetite!  After a quick shower and a dip in the pool I went to enjoy the buffet breakfast that was just as good as I remembered it from years ago.  If I could offer one bit of advice it would be to enjoy a coffee on the platform just off the restaurant facing away from the volcano.   From here you have the best 360 views the hotel offers.

The Neidin Spa is situated a short walk through the beautifully kept gardens and have a wide range of services.  Not being familiar with Spas or the treatments they offer I thought it was about time that I take the plunge and went for a volcanic mud facial! I was shown to a private room with ‘that’ volcano view.  A cool scented towel was placed over my eyes, soft music was played and my facial massage started and ZZZzzzzz Whilst my treatment was only 30 mins, I was told I was asleep for about 20 of that!  To top it off whilst exiting the Spa one of the members of staff pointed out a sloth sleeping high in the tree above us – an animal I could very much relate to after my Spa experience.

There is so much else I want to include – the beautiful art & furniture throughout the hotel, the conservation efforts earning 5 leaves, the 2 pools, the bars (especially the one serving sunset cocktails) and much more.

One thing that I will never forget is the simplest – sitting in my room with a glass of wine looking out to the volcano (photo below)

I cannot say enough good things about this place – thanks again Kioro! Hopefully I will stay with you again very, very soon!

Pura Vida!

A Night at Parque Del Lago, San Jose, Costa Rica - May 9, 2017

Upon my recent arrival at the San Jose airport, I had the privilege of staying at the lovely Parque del Lago; a beautiful European style hotel with excellent Costa Rican hospitality. It is perfect for the business traveler or anyone wanting to stay close to the city. Parque del Lago is great choice for that first night of arrival or last night prior to departure. Just minutes from Teatro Nacional, Museo Nacional and the Gold Museum, there is a great variety of culture to discover in San Jose.

The feeling upon entering Parque del Lago is that of visiting a friend. The staff are extremely welcoming. The hotel feels safe, secure whilst retaining an artistic elegance.

Parque del Lago has several different room categories; 30 Standard Rooms with one King bed or two Queen beds.
6 connecting, Superior Rooms with one Queen bed and kitchenette, and 3 Junior Suites with a King bed, sofa and kitchenette.


All rooms are finished in dark woods and offer clean white duvets and marble showers. As an extra bonus, magnifying mirrors and extra large closets are provided.

The Restaurant, Iconos, serves a beautiful complimentary buffet breakfast from 6 am to 10 am for their hotel guests, a Business Lunch from 12 – 2 pm and enticing Dinners until 10 pm. The desserts are to rave about and the bar is very warm and comfortable.

Parque del Lago has a Conference Room available to guests as well as non guests for business meetings of up to 70 people. Coffee service and meals can be provided making your meetings complete and efficient offering a great location for people coming from all areas of the city.

There are 4 complimentary bikes available for exploring the city. Teatro de Nacional is fifteen minutes away and Central Market just ten.  La Sabana, one of the largest parks in the centre of San Jose is just a few mins walk away as well as being close to some great restaurants and bars.  International calls, Wi-Fi and parking are all complimentary.

Parque del Lago is great value for such a warm and inviting hotel in the centre of San Jose.

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