Some of our clients have taken the time to share with us detailed trip reports with their favorite places they visited, activities and tour they especially enjoyed, and suggestions to others on how to have an enjoyable trip to Costa Rica.
We've included a selection here to give you some ideas and suggestions for planning your own trip to Costa Rica. You can use one of our packages as a starting point if you like, we're happy to change almost anything so it's unique to you! Or you can plan your own trip from scratch.
Ready to book your own package?
Start with one of our adventure-filled packages and let us know how you want it and we'll make sure the package is exactly how you want it! Or fill out our travel inquiry form and and we'll work out a custom package that exactly meets your needs!
The Bi-Coastal: San Jose, Manuel Antonio, Arenal, and the Caribbean package with upgrade to 2 day rafting trip.
Siquirres for overnight rafting trip
Hotels stayed at
Colours Oasis Resort, San Jose
Banana Azul, Puerto Viejo
Los Lagos Resort, Arenal
Villa Roca, Manuel Antonio
Casa 69 Bed and Breakfast, San Jose
Tent Camp with Exploradores - Siquirres
Tours and Activities done
Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfalls
Two Day Hike and Paddle Rafting Trip
Animal Rescue Centre, Waterfall and Chocolate House
River and Sea Kayaking with Rainforest Hike
Arenal Volcano Hike & Hot Springs
Sunset Sail and Snorkel Tour, Manuel Antonio
Transport options chosen
Airport Taxi - International Airport to hotel
Overnight rafting - San Jose to Puerto Viejo
Interbus shared shuttle - Puerto Viejo to Arenal
Interbus shared shuttle - Arenal to Manuel Antonio
Nature Air domestic flight - Manuel Antonio to San Jose
Airport Taxi - Hotel to International Airport
Tim & Dave October 5, 2011
We worked a couple of months with Ernesto - Gecko Travel's Rep. He was very patient with us as we worked through all alternatives for the locations we *thought* we wanted to travel to and the various adventures offerred at each location. We were very concerned about the methods of traveling (intracountry buses and taxi's) and about actually having people meeting us when they said they'd be there. Rest assured - it was incredibly smooth. Every time someone was to meet us they were there - on time or even early a couple of times! There is "system" they use specifcially set up for us tourists and worked incredibly well.
As far as what we did, liked, etc: -- we were in the country for 12 days:
San Jose : The Poas Vocano, Dakota Coffee Plantation, and la Paz Waterfall park -- This really was a wonderful excursion. It takes all day after being picked up at 7:30 AM. There were only 6 of us & the Guide (who was with us the entire day & spoke perfect English). We hit the Poas Volcano on a beautiful clear day - unusual according to the guide, or more like "lucky". It was awesome -- and actually much much better than Arenal. You hike to the rim of the crater and peer down into its bubbling green lake. TheDakota coffee plantation was a nice stop along the way before the volcano. We got a (free) decent breakfast & wonderful coffee and learnt how coffee is harvested. The La Paz Waterfall park was equally awesome - a must do if you stay in San Jose and have a full day. Really beautiful wildlife and the climax of some really beautiful waterfalls -- which you cannot swim in; only pictures.
The next day we set off for the 2-day Pacquare River Rafting trip. This turned out to be the highlight of the trip … and only because we did the 2-day trip which includes an overnight stay at a (upscale) Tent Camp. Being theoff season, we were the only 2 on this guided trip; so we were basically 1 on 1 with the main Guide (Puluche), his guide-in-training (Gabby), and the out-in-front in-case-of-emergency Kayaker (Kenneth - who spoke English). The drive to the launching area was an even longer drive than what the 1-dayer's did because they only do about 17 miles whereas the overnighters do 22 miles of river -- class 4 rapids. The long 1-hour drive DOWN into the Canyon was potentially a scene out of a Horror movie (e.g., 2 tourists in an old beat-up 4x4 with 1 person who spoke English drigin for 1.5 hours down a dirt road behind multiplegates. lol.) After 2-3 hours of rafting, we of course stopped at the tent camp and assisted in hauling the provisions up to the camp (food, drinks, linens, our overnight stuff, etc.). PS - by RAFTING I mean WE ALL DO THE WORK. WE ALL PADDLE AS THE GUIDE BARKS INSTRUCTIONS. We had the camp to ourself and our tent overlooked the river, which was a soothing sound at night for sleeping. We saw Fireflies (luciernagas). Geckos. Beautful flowering plants. All tents are raised platforms & have actual beds with mattresses and linens and pillows. Not the best - but hey, it worked fine. The guides did all the cooking - lunchupon arrival, and AWESOME dinner (fresh sea bass & chicken) & Wine, and the typical breakfast (eggs, fruit, sausages, beans & rice, juice.) Then we hauled everything back down to the raft and we were off for the 2nd day. We were on a timeline to meet up with that day's 1-day rafting groups for a group lunch. So after like 2+ hours of rafting & stopping at secret waterfalls & large pools of water to swim in we met the "groups". Ugh, 8 people in a raft with a Guide? Uh, no thanks .. glad there was only 4 of us in our raft. After lunch and another 2 hours of rapids we were back at the Exploradades Center to pick up ourluggage, which was secured overnight.
Then off via a small bus to Puerto Viejo - stayed at Banana Azul. This is on the Caribean coast, right on the ocean, and was very HOT (September). A really nice place, albeit very open and a bit "noisy" if you have "active" neighbirs to your room … which we did .. up and walking around all night, sitting on their balcony smoking at night, etc. They were probably the worst part of our stay. They have a very nice restaurant on-site with a different menu each night - for $14 each. We did the Kayaking trip through the jungle which was very fun. It's on a 2-person Kayak andwe saw lots of jungle life -- including a Sloth that actually came down out of the tree. We sat there for 10 mins., snapping pics & video. Downtown Puerto Viejo is just a small town with a lot of tourist traps. We heard about a restauraunt called "Bread & Chocolate" and wanted to give it a try, but were unable to make it in for breakfast or lunch given our schedule. We also did the "3 in 1" tour: Animal Rescue, Chocolate Farm, and Waterfall - frankly, this was a bust after everything we did to this point. The Animal Rescue is really just a small ZOO. Too much emphasis in things that were disinteresting to us; yea wesaw a couple of howler monkeys in the trees. Being in the cage WITH the monkeys was a treat. But for 1.5 hours it was really not worth the HEAT. Then the journey to the Waterfall was long and the hike DOWN into the canyon was LONG & difficult & slippery in spots. The Waterfall is realtively small and very difficult to get into the pool to swim -- and at this point we had been in really wonderful waterfalls and pools (see above). So we would pass on this excursion if we had it to do again given what we had already done. In town we ate at the red neon upstairs restaurant (Rios something) which was a BUST. The foodreally sucked. The "fried Calamari" was a rubber dish of tasteless goo and inedible. Each of our main dishes were pretty bad as well. The only thing going for it was a nice view of the street life and they had 2 for 1 drink specials.
Then we were off to La Fortuna (Arenal) - stayed at Los Lagos. A pretentious up-scale resort with a lot of swimming pools & hot springs. we stayed at the very top of the hill -- the "view rooms". Heads up: They are too far away from the main part of the resort to WALK. They have 2 Shuttles that basically run 24x7 to pick you up and bring you to wherever you are trying to get toin the resort .. like the swimming area, dining area, etc. They can sometimes take 15 mins. to pick you up … if not require a 2nd phone call to the desk. Frankly, it would have been better to stay downtown some place and not in this sterile and snooty environment. the loud & "bad spanish singing" by the bartenders at the pool-side bar was enough to chase away anyone. I didn't get the point; maybe they were trying to make it Disneyland-esq? We did the Arenal Volcano "tour" & Tabcon Hot Springs on the 2nd day here. It was also a BUST. It POURED on us. The operators refused to cancel the tour. After getting there wecouldn't see the Volcano the entire trip for all the fog & rain. I was miserable and damp; even with the rain gear. After we hiked in the dark back to the van, they dropped us off at the Tabacon Hot Springs. This was kinda nice, but being dark, we couldn't see much as we strolled around the warm (not HOT) freshwater pools. Would probably be nice to see it during the day. Included was a really nice Buffett - finally some food different than what we had been eating the previous week. This was the only trip with any "confusion" - and it had to do with being "handed off" to another driver. But it worked out as we got backto our room around 10 PM and exhausted --- only to be kept awake by a group of 8 or 10 Asian guys who decided their world was more important than our sleep! I asked them nicely to quiet down. Nada. They were LOUD until 2 AM. I even called the front desk pleading for "help" … the front desk could do nothing for us. Glad to check out of that hole the next morning.
Then off on a long bus ride to Manuel Antonio - stayed at Villa Roca, which is about 4 miles outside Quepos, so it is dead in this area. This was a really nice (Gay) resort, but only 3 rooms filled. Beautiful infinity pool to sit by over a beer.And Joseph was really a sweetheart. We chatted with him most of the 2 days we were by the pool or bar. We did the Snorkeling excursion which turned out much better than we had anticpated. We were grouped with about 20 Dutch tourists which made it really fun. We saw some really cool fish and saw Whales breach and porpois. It included a really nice lunch and all the beer you wanted. We met the 1 guide named Miner. He was pretty funny and personable. The only other thing we "tried" to do was take a bus and go into the National Parque (Jungle) by ourself -- without prearranging it. It was a total Bust and I don'trecommend trying it. There are a ton of "local" scammers that will accost you outside the park and demand that you pay them to be your "GUIDE" … even if you simply want to go in by yourself. It was very intimidating - we walked away and never saw the park.
Then it was a small plane ride from Quepos back to a final night in San Jose. This was very cool to see the area from above. 30 mins. later we arrived in San Jose and hired a Taxi to get us to Casa 69; downtown San Jose. It cost us $20 for the Taxi. That night we ventured out to walk around and find a couple of (gay) bars. We went to Avispa, which was OK.. but not much of an American Dance Club given its size. And it was ear-splitting LOUD! The few people dancing on the floor were "partner dancing" to Latin music. Then to Bochinches - but they wanted $4 each to get in and we had not planned to stay long; so passed. There is also Puchas in the same area - which we assume is some sort of Gay strip club. The streets felt very safe to walk around - especially given the various "warnings" about not going out alone at night. We saw Police everywhere and never felt threatened. Oh, and Casa 69 - well, very very noisy due to the Trains that run right in front of it from 7AM to 7 PM (or so). The "free/included" breakfast was NOT included contrary to what our travel documents said. But being under new ownership there was probably miscommunication what WAS included (continental only).
So to recap, great trip and very friendly people.
- Do use Gecko Travel !! Trust them. They were awesome.
- Do the Poas & la Paz Waterfall park
- Do the 2 day raft trip & tent camp (not the 1 day)
- Do Banana Azul, but try for Room #1 if possible. While there, do the River Kayaking but skip the 3 in 1 Waterfall, Animal Rescue, Chocolate place.
- If you wish tosave $$ on accomodations in Puerto Viejo, there are MANY MANY choices to stay at just outside town. We saw places as cheap as $15/night on the south end of town.
- If you actually see Poas on a clear day, skip Arenal altogether … probably shrowded, very hot and probably rain - or just do a DAY trip to Tabacon .. or even just stay THERE.
- Definitely do both: Bus ride between towns and a plane ride back to San Jose for your final.
- Take a bunch of $1 bills for tipping. Every tour will "nag" you for tips at the end of the excursion - and they do deserve a couple of $$. Don't tip in restaurants - tipsare already included. (unless you get special service).
- And you don't have to pre-book the excursions during the off-season. All of the resorts/hotels have the same "packages" that you can arrange when you get there. That way if you're tired or the weather doesn't suit the excursion (e.g., RAINING), you don't have to waste the money.
- They all advertise "free WiFi" at the hotels/resorts … but it is spotty at times, but overall was there for my use on a cell phone.
- The mosquitos were nowhere NEAR as bad as we had anticipated. One of us got like 8 bites over the 12 days, I got 3 … Just use thenetting over the beds when it's available.
I'll put my reviews on TripAdvisor.com for the specific places we stayed if you wish to search the place over there.
Pura Vida !!
Volcano, Jungle and Beach with some changes to the tours chosen.
Mark Catalina & Megan Ebbrecht March 12, 2011
Dear Maythe, Karen and Gecko Employees,
We have just returned to the US after an 8 day trip to Costa Rica. Our visit to your country greatly surpassed any of our previous experiences to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Haiti and Bonaire. Participating in the Arenal Volcano hike and Tabacon Hot Springs while staying at San Bosco in LaFortuna, Rafting down the Pacuare River, and Full day Canopy tour, zip line, waterfall and quads were the finest adventures we have ever been on. On the flight back home I thought to myself that when I get there I will write one of the best reviews that has ever been done for Gecko Trail Adventures, Banana Azul, and Costa Rica in general, but unfortunately so many past customers have beaten me to it!
Some of the important things that mattered to us, may not matter to everyone else. Many of your employees may not even realize this, since many have not travelled abroad or been dropped into unfamiliar surroundings. But, when arriving in a strange land (especially in the dark) where cultures and habitat are so different than you have ever experienced and communication skills are so limited (we speak no Spanish), it is so reassuring to meet that 'local' person, have them smile at you,try to understand your needs and concerns, reassure you that you are in the right place and that your schedule is in their hands and they are there ready to guide you throughout your stay. They are there for you.
Banana Azul Restaurant at night
We did not stay at the Banana Azul because they didn't have any vacancy. Online, while at home, we rented a studio apartment nearby. We were dropped off at Azul in the dark after an extended ride through Limon due to an accident on RT 32 which halted traffic for more than an hour, not knowing exactly where are lodging was located. Our luggage in hand and driver gone, we approached Kristiam at Azul and asked for direction. We were so unprepared, with no address in hand, not even considering that no one would have heard of the place we were to stay. Kristiam jumped online to locate information, make a call to our destination, welcome us to Costa Rica and offer us all the amenities that would be available to us as if we were guests at their resort.
I cannot say enough about the way we were treated at Banana Azul. David, Kristiam, Frederik, and all the staff were wonderful to us. They listened to us when we needed to talk and shared with us some of their experiences from the US to Costa Rica. We werewelcomed at their meals, to rent their equipment, to enjoy their beach and lounges and better yet… their guests. As much as we were looking to be away from other tourists and enjoy Costa Rican's, it was even better to share our new experiences with other travellers like ourselves and immerse ourselves in the new found joys of a beautiful country.
Let me start now with Maythe. She was our first contact with Gecko once we arrived in Costa Rica and welcomed us. She was also the first to listen to our concerns about our living arrangements while visiting. She assured us that we were on schedule, going to live (inside joke), and with that beautiful smile convinced us that we would love our visit to her country. How could you not believe this beautiful smile! Well, she was right! Although she had very tough competition because every Gecko employee we met and spoke with gave us the same treatment. They were courteous, reassuring and were willing to manipulate your schedule at the drop of a hat. They never tried to sell us product, but always there to answer any question about the adventures and life in Costa Rica.
If you have been able to stay with me thus far, I will tell you the most important factor that madethis trip the most enjoyable. The tour guides that accompanied us on these excursions were unsurpassed by any in the world. I will most likely be misspelling their names, which is a shame because they clearly deserve to be recognized by Gecko, their employers and explicitly by fellow Costa Ricans. The volcano hike - Jobi, the Pacuare rafting – Ricky & Yuda, the canopy tour – Edgar. Each one of these men were incredible guides. If everyone in all countries had just a small percentage of their character, we would have a perfect world!
All of the guides and drivers that participated in our excursions were excellent, but it just happened that these 4 men were the ones that we were able to discover and converse more personally with and/or placed with us during the events. Jobi, Ricky and Edgar you are some of the finest people found anywhere on Earth. Their love for their country is radiant. They were excellent at articulating their knowledge of the soils, trees, bugs, volcanic evolution, indigenous peoples, animals and anything else that was asked of them. They displayed and preached about the importance of a clean environment, limiting and eliminating hazardous insecticides, cleansers and litter. They were adamantabout their respect of their land and countryside and the beauty that surrounded us at every turn. They made us feel welcome in their country and showed us how proud they were of it. That is something that has been missing here in the US for me, for some time.
These men and similar fellow Costa Ricans should be recognized by your government and compensated. They make the tourism industry special and help us all to realize how valuable our natural resources are and how important the message that they send to us visitors is, in regards to the health of their country, economy and the tourism industry. It isthese attributes that will bring us back to Costa Rica and direct our friends and acquaintances your way for a wonderful vacation.
We have travelled to other countries that have the potential that still exists in Costa Rica, but found that they have been tainted by under-educated, environmentally-bliss peoples, litter strewn mountains, streets and streams. The fact that other countries are 'laid - back', or 'chillin' should not be the excuse for laziness or the lack of understanding the extreme importance of our impact on the environment and the balance of industry and tourism in a region.
All ofthe other countries we have visited, we were bombarded by time-share 'thieves', beggars and solicitors. All of which probably exist in Costa Rica, but we never once encountered. We spent 5 nights on the Caribbean coast near the town of Puerto Viejo in a rented apartment, rented bicycles for travel and ate mostly at local sodas while enjoying the beautiful turquoise beaches at Playa Negra. Visits to Cocles, Punta Uva, and Manzanillo strengthened our love for the people of Costa Rica and your country. Sad to have departed, our hats go off to Gecko and all the others that we had contact with for the tremendous support andfun we had during our stay.
Love to all of you,
Mark & Megan
Volcano, Jungle and Beach with some changes to the order and some added days in San José.
Tim and Robrt from Portland January 07, 2011
We had meant to write earlier to express our appreciation but the holidays were upon us when we returned.
First of all Ernesto, you are awesome!!!! Everything was wonderfully coordinated and the accommodations, activities, tour companies and guides were exceptional.
Arrival We were met at the airport by Manuel Acuna. He managed to get us through the traffic and to the bus station early, enabling us to catch the 2:00 bus vs. the 4:00 bus we were scheduled for.
The bus ride was a little rough. We got the seats directly behind the driver and were unable to see the road. This was exasperated by a crying child seated directly behind us. We survived, a little worn, arriving in Puerto Viejo about 6:30. It had been raining and it felt like we had arrived in another world.
There was a little gap in travel plan. We were not clear where Banana Azul was located or how we were to get there. We checked with the store owner next to the bus station and he recommended a local taxi. With a little help pushing the taxi to get it started, we were on our way.
Puerto Viejo A short ride brought us to Banana Azul. WOW. What can I say. The place is magical. We thoroughly enjoyed the accommodations and the great staff. The grounds are amazing to say the least. The food was top notch and we loved the bar and open lobby.
We enjoyed our first day, with no planned activities. We walked into town along the beach. Had a great lunch in a cool little place in the center of town. Then we walked the beach road and found a small beach bar we renamed the Sloth Bar. While we sipped a cold cerveza, a three toed sloth made its weekly visit to the ground to do its business. He put on a great show. An evening walk up the beach brought us back to the magic of Banana Azul.
We were informed by your staff that the ocean was a bit cloudy for the planned snorkeling trip the following day. They suggested we go sea and jungle kayaking instead. Good choice! Little did we now how busy we would be from that day on. We had another great meal and retired early, eager for the next days adventure.
The next morning we were promptly picked up by Exploradores. Two other guests joined for a total of four participants. Arturo was a wonderful guide. We played in the ocean and then surfed the waves in a small bay south of town. It took a little encouragement to get us going but we had a great time. We then paddled into the jungle for further exploration. Arturo again was a great guide, pointing out exotic birds and turtles, identifying sounds and the overhanging plants and flowers. We returned to the outfitters where pineapple and melon were shared by all. Then we were given a special treat of hiking through the jungle along the edge of the ocean.
Back at Banana Azul, we enjoyed several cold cervezas while heavy tropical rains created vials of shimmering water falling from the eaves.
Back into town for dinner, we were directed to a great local restaurant called Sylvia's. We both had the local bean and rice dish with other Caribbean specialties. A few beers with the local boys and time for bed.
Our time at Banana Azul passed quickly. We would highly recommend BA. Please pass our appreciation on to them.
Whitewater Rafting The next morning came early as we departed for a white water rafting trip at 6:30. Exploradores arrived on time and eager to go. Our kayaking friends Tippa and Eric also joined the trip. Miguel was the lead trip guide and safety kayak-er. He gave us a great overview about the history, people and environment of Costa Rica during our drive. Once at the Exploration Center, we joined a total of 15 rafters for a well needed breakfast and a safety orientation. We were going to run the Rio Pacuare. It was high from recent rains, giving us some hesitation. We were assigned to Ricky's raft. Tippa and Eric plus an older couple Jerry and his wife rounded out the crew. Ricky was a demanding commander but he knew the river and seemed to effortlessly drive us through the almost continuous sets of rapids. What a trip. We had no idea what to expect. This river trip is a must! Both Ricky, Miguel and the other guides were all professional and really fun. After regrouping and a cold cerveza or two, we were loaded up and whisked off to Arenal. It was a long drive, but we felt like we were in good hands. It was a great improvement to the local bus we had taken to Puerto Viejo. Again, we would highly recommend this guide company.
Arenal We arrived at Los Lagos Resort shortly after sunset. We did not know what to expect and were really tired after our long day and amazing adventure. Again, thank you Ernesto. What a great place. The natural hot springs were heavenly to say the least. The room was really nice. We could see Arenal from the front terrace. The grounds and facilities were wonderful. The volcano was not currently erupting so all we could see was wisps of steam rising from the top of the crater.
10:30 came earlier than expected. Our driver picked us up promptly for our Canopy Tour. Mariciano was our assigned English speaking guide. He and the others put on quite a show. We had wondered why we just didn't ride the zip lines at Los Lagos but once we were on our way, we could understand why. What a trip! It seemed to go on forever.
We ventured into La Fortuna for dinner. Another great meal at Don Rufino's and a little art shopping at Indigo Art Gallery. And back to Los Lagos for more hot tubing.
Our good fortunes continued the following day. We knew we were going for a guided hike but I had expected it would be with a large group. instead, we were picked up by Mayron from Eco Adventure Costa Rica. We were his only hikers. WOW. Again, Ernesto, you rock! What a treat. Mayron was amazing. We discussed the volcano, snakes, plants, local history, etc. What a great guy!! Please send him our appreciation and greetings. We passed another group with 22 hikers and one guide. We were so lucky with our private tour guide. After hiking the jungle and up the 1968 lava flow, we were treated to a tropical rain shower with the sound of howler monkeys in the distance. And as a special treat, Mayron knew where to find the famous green, red and blue tree frogs. He walked us to a small group of trees that overhung a small pond. There we waited until sunset. Mayron made croaking sounds and soon we found a male tree frog calling out for his mate. We would have never know where or when to find such a treat.
And, if that was not enough, we were then taken to Tabacon for hot pool soaking and dinner. Again, we were not prepared for what was to come. The hot springs are truly magnificent! I have never seen this much flowing hot water. What a wonder! It was hard to pull our selves out of the water. Dinner was wonderful, lots of local specialties and a great setting. What a day. Mayron returned to take us back to Los Lagos and a well deserved nights rest.
San Jose It was time again to move on. We were picked up at 7:55 sharp, picked up others and filled the shuttle. Another long drive but lots to look at as we sped through small towns and changing landscapes. After stops at the airport and a local business office we were taken to Casa 69. It was quite a drive through the city of San Jose. We were greeted by a high wall and closed gate. A young man quickly came out to greet us and led us into the inner garden and inn. Nice place. Well kept and very friendly. We walked around the city and got our bearings. It was a bit confusing and intimidating at first but we quickly learned our way around and became much more comfortable in the dense urban setting.
We arose the next day a little late, and rushed off to meet our tour guide for our tour of downtown San Jose. Again, I expected to find a old man and a big group of tourists. Instead, we were greeted by Stacey for a personal tour. We had a great time. She is great. She has really had to work to find out all of the history. What a great service. Stacey rocks.
We went out on the town Tuesday night a found a wild scene at the local gay bars. Another surprise for sure.
We woke late the following day, expecting to check out at 12:00 and head to the airport for our 4:00 pm flight. When we got to the front desk, we were informed that they had rescheduled the taxi for 1:30, allowing plenty of time for the trip to the airport. They insisted we go out for lunch and beers, informing us there was little to eat or drink at the airport. We took them up on the new plan and had one more meal before departing. Our taxi driver was on time and quickly got us to the airport.
WOW, what an adventure. I think I have said it all and more. Please share this letter with Ernesto, your staff and all of the wonderful people that took care of us on our journey. You will be highly recommended and we hope to return for more adventures with you and our Tico friends.
Tim and Robrt
Coast-to-Coast Package: Pacific & Caribbean plus Mountains package with upgrade to 2 day rafting trip.
Transport options chosen
Interbus Shuttle: San Jose - Manuel Antonio
Interbus Shuttle: Manuel Antonio - Arenal
Rafting Trip with included transport Arenal - Puerto Viejo
Interbus Shuttle: Puerto Viejo - San Jose
Lydia Fourmy from San Francisco, USA January 04, 2011
Karen from Gecko Trail Adventures was our helpful assistant in booking a trip to Costa Rica. Gecko Trail Adventures employes "travel agents" who can assist you with planning your entire trip or a portion of it, depending on what you want to do and where you want to stay. A fee is not charged for the service provided as the agents make their commission from the hotels and tour companies with whom their company partners. It is a carefree way to do business and to create a travel experience to suit your specific needs. I highly recommend Gecko Trail Adventures.
My significant other actually came across Banana Azul online and that is how we found Gecko Trail Adventures. All of our communication with Karen was via email and she was always quick to reply to our queries. If she was not available, someone else would reply that he or she could assist or let us know when Karen would be back in the office. Karen was efficient and concise in her communication. She would break down the prices for us per activity and hotel and would suggest alternates as she saw fit. For example, she suggested rather than stay in San Jose the first few nights, to take a shuttle from San Jose to Manual Antonio to start our adventure thereand spend the last couple of days in the city. Great idea! We took her up on that.
It rained so much when we were there that complications arose due to the weather. The shuttle service, Interbus, that was contracted for us was excellent, always there for us when we needed them, even if a bit delayed from the rain. One of our drivers had to park his van and walk to get us because of a sink hole, but there he was, smiling and laughing and helping us with our bags, but this is for another review. I simply want to emphasize that Gecko Trail Adventures has excellent business partners. Due to therain, we had to rebook our river rafting trip. Our calls and emails were always answered professionally and promptly and a sense of enthusiasm was displayed to help us. As a result, our rafting trip was cut to one day and we spent an extra day in the Caribbean, and the refund for the difference was completed no questions asked.
Again, I highly recommend Gecko Trail Adventures as a means of planning your trip to Costa Rica. I will be using this service again when I return to Central America.
Modified version of Coast-to-Coast Package: Pacific & Caribbean plus Mountains without the Caribbean Coast.
Hotels stayed at
Presidente Hotel, San Jose
Tabacon Resort, Arenal
Hotel California, Manuel Antonio
Ed from St. Louis, MO USA January 03, 2011
Found Gecko Trail Adventures through a Google search for gay-friendly travel. Any reservations I had about booking every aspect of my travel in Costa Rica with a company I was not familiar with was immediately put aside. Mauricio was my agent at Gecko and did an amazing job of recommending various hotels and activities. Considering how many times I had to change my itinerary in the months before my trip, I am indebted to him for 1) keeping me organized 2) making all the hotel, transport and activity arrangements for me 3) being incredibly responsive to my questions. My transports included private driver in San Jose (airport to hotel) as well as the Interbus shuttle system (shared shuttle with ~7 other people). Be forewarned that car travel in parts of CR can be rough/bumpy, since the road system is not as well-developed as in the States. Shared shuttle is a nice, cheap way to go, plus gives you the opportunity of meeting some other adventuresome travelers (in my case, mostly students, Europeans, those wanting to save a little money).
Things that I would highly recommend that were suggested by Gecko/Mauricio: 1) splurging for a stay at the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort. The incredible service at the resort and the hot springs are not to be missed. None of the other hotels in the area can boast as large a variety of hot springs (most only had 1 or 2 hot spring pools, Tabacon has easily over 15 hot spring pools to lounge in). However, it's a tough hotel to get into, so plan at least 6 months in advance. There is also a nice buffet dinner at Tabacon, which is nice to do after a couple hours in the springs. But put your reservation in for dinner early, it's a pretty place. The spa is also very nice. I slurged on a 1.5 deep tissue massage, which was conducted outside in a private cabana surrounded by the hotsprings. 2) White water rafting through Desafio. Highly experienced guides who were very much into our safety on a class 3-4 river. Travel and a nice, picnic-style meal to match the rugged activity afterwards. 3) Sky Tram/Sky Trek (zip line) through Sky Adventures. I wish I would have known beforehand that there was a tree-top restaurant at this place, so that I would have scheduled more time afterwards to enjoy it. But the zip lines were long, fast, and unlike other companies, you don't have to do any braking, the zip guides do the braking for you. 4) Hike through Manuel Antonio National Park. Pay the fee for a professional guide, they will notice wild animals and flora that you would easily miss if you did this hike without a guide. Unfortunately, because of the recent rains in the area, did not get to see all the trails that were available.
Things that weren't as nice about my stay: The California Hotel was a little disappointing. It was more rustic and a bit run down, though fine for spending time just hanging out at the beach. Unfortunately, it's a little bit further out from the beach thansome of the other hotels of its type in the city of Manuel Antonio. I had ordered a king sized bed. What I got was a kingsize bed frame with a queen mattress on it. In addition, there is desk clerk between 10pm and 6am, so guests are pretty much on their own (e.g., if locked out of room, etc.). Otherwise, the desk staff were helpful and breakfast buffet was included and reasonable (fresh fruit, eggs to order, toast, juice, coffee). If you're looking for higher end accommodations, it looked like the Parador was the nicest in this town (didn't stay there, but got to see it when my shuttle bus stopped there before the Manuel Antonio nature hike). If you do plan to stay in Manuel Antonio, I would recommend staying closer to the beach. There is one bus line that goes between MA and Quepos. Small hotels, shops and restaurants line the single main road between the two villages.
Volcano, Jungle and Beach with the added Monteverde option and Tamarindo added.
Tours and Activities done
ATV Jungle Tour
Pacuare River: One Day
Arenal Horseback Ride to Waterfall
Arenal Volcano Hike & Hot Springs
Hike to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Sky Trek and Sky Tram - Monteverde
Transport options chosen
San Jose Airport Pickup
Interbus Shuttle: San Jose - Puerto Viejo
Pacuare River Whitewater Rafting incl transport: Puerto Viejo - Arenal
Arenal to Monteverde Boat+Shuttle Crossing
Grayline Shuttle: Monteverde - Tamarindo
Grayline Shuttle: Tamarindo - San Jose
Lindsey Wadsworth from Portsmouth, England January 17, 2010
We recently enjoyed a fabulous holiday in Costa Rica organised by Kikki and Nina at Gecko. The whole holiday was absolutely brilliant. The staff at Gecko helped us figure out what we wanted to do, incorporated it all in the timescale we wanted, recommended alternative hotels and organised the whole lot so every day went perfectly. All out pick-ups were on time, with door-to-door service and friendly drivers and a great way to meet other travellers and share experiences.
We did the ATV tour, 2 day white-water rafting trip, horse-riding, La Fortuna waterfall, Arenal volcano and Tabacon hot springs and ziplining and Monteverde cloud forest.
The ATV tour was a brilliant, laid-back intorduction to Costa Rica with a lovely, genuine guide who knew masses about all the wildlife and area.
The white-water rafting was one of the best experiences we have ever had. Staying in the camp overnight was unbelieveable - the perfect way to get away from everything - and our guides Michael and Leo were great hosts and great cooks! We would recommend 2 days instead of one to everyone!
All the other trips were great, and I even got to video all the way down one of the wires on the canopy tour - what a fantastic souvenir!
All of our hotels were as described. All clean, with good facilities and friendly owners/staff. We particularly liked Trapp Family Lodge in Monteverde, Banana Azul in Puerto Viejo and Hotel Flores in Tamarindo.
Our experience of Costa Rica was unforgettable. Everyone was helpful and friendly and we will continue to recommend Costa Rica and Gecko Trails to everyone we know!
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