Costa Rica

Costa Rica customer reviews

We are very proud of the feedback that we get from our trips and are pleased to share reviews from past travellers. These are kept as up to date as possible. Please have a read through to get a real sense of the kind of experience that you might have on a family trip to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica customer reviews - family on boat with teenage kids

Kapoor Family (with children aged 11 and 14)

Travelled Summer 2019
Hi Helene – We absolutely LOVED Costa Rica, what a beautiful and friendly country. We were picked up at the airport by your local rep and given our full itineraries. Everything went smoothly with no glitches.

Initially we were a little apprehensive about driving ourselves around, but there is nothing to worry about. The roads are safe and well looked after, we loved the fact that we could stop whenever we felt like it and sample many of the roadside fruit stalls! We must have eaten our body weight in pineapple, watermelon and mango – it was delicious! The car hire company were great and delivered the car to our hotel – a huge Chrysler! Easy and comfortable drive.

The company provided us with a mobile phone with 4G and the app WAVE – you just typed in hotel destination and off you go. We had no issues getting lost and our longest car journey was about 4 hours, it really felt like an adventure driving from one place to the next.

We were also a little apprehensive about visiting during the rainy season but it was absolutely fine. In the coastal areas it usually rained late afternoon/early evening for hour or two – some spectacular thunderstorms. More inland places like Bijagua there was a bit more rain, but we only postponed our plans once because of the rain.

In terms of hotels, we absolutely loved the clamping at Isla Chiquita – the place was stunning and the tents were 5 star! The kids could not believe they had their own tent! We enjoyed paddle boarding and kayaking there.

I would also recommend the hotel near Manuel Antonio National Park – it had an excellent location so close to the park. The beach there was stunning, (naughty monkey nearly stole our lunch!) and had a beautiful pool area and excellent on site restaurant. You could hear the howler monkeys in the mornings for your wake up call!

We also loved Bijagua – felt a true sense of Costa Rica… great lodges, felt like you were in the rainforest and great bird watching at breakfast. The hosts were lovely. I would definitely recommend the Uncle Tio’s night time Frog tour – there is something special about seeing different animals at night, the kids really enjoyed this.

The zip lining with Sky Adventures was simply thrilling! They are a great company and they have a fabulous and very professional team looking after you that really wanted to give you the best experience. We really enjoyed the 3-hour rainforest guided tour there too.

Samara beach is beautiful – very boho, hippy. The hotel was stunning with a perfect location, gorgeous villas with amazing pool area and Italian owner cooked a 5 course Italian meal whilst we were there! The kids had surfing lessons, perfect beach for 1st timers.

All in all it was a truly amazing experience, the animals we saw, the interesting people we met. I could go on and Thank you so much for helping us organise this. I have been telling all my friends about Stubborn Mule!

Bacon Family (with children aged 7 and 9)

Travelled Summer 2019
Hi Charlotte – a huge thank you! We had THE best family holiday! Everything you booked for us went seamlessly which allowed us to focus on having a great holiday. It is such a wonderful and welcoming country and we have all promised to visit again at some point. The activities were great fun. The boys particularly enjoyed the zip lining so we did it again with sky trek in Arenal.

We also loved the river activities and found Onca tours and the river tour at Arenal to be fantastic. The wildlife was so abundant that by the end of the trip, the boys would barely look up when a monkey passed by!

We were very lucky and privileged to have witnessed the green turtle lay her eggs, however agree with your warning that some of your clients found the hotel too rigid in its planned activities and mealtimes.

We are glad we took your advice and found the driving absolutely fine and, although satnav took us on some unusual routes at times, the roads were not as bad as we feared. The worst roads were in and around San Jose!

The only negative we found and that I wanted to feed back to you was the timing for the Tortuguero tour. Both the itinerary and the chap who collected us from the airport stressed how important it was to be at the restaurant by 8:30am so as not to miss the bus. When we (and 2 other families) arrived, we were told that the bus would not be arriving before 11:30! As a result, we had woken the boys shortly after 5am and bundled them into the car for a 2.5 hour journey without a proper breakfast only to arrive at a roadside restaurant and sit there for over 3 hours.

Other than that, we had the most wonderful time and thank you again for all of your time and work putting it all together for us.

We took thousands of photos so will dig out the best ones and submit them to the competition.

I am very happy to do a review and have already recommended you to a couple of friends.

We will definitely be in touch again next year to plan our next trip.

Harding Family (with child aged 12)

Travelled Summer 2019
Liddy – I wanted to thank you for organising the holiday. We all enjoyed the whole thing as it was really varied with different things to see and do in different places. From my perspective, it was a real treat not having to organise it all. The Rafiki Beach Camp also needs a special mention, not just because it was lovely, but W left his camera there and Mauren went out of her way to get it back to us before we left, for which we were very grateful.

I do of course have a little feedback that will hopefully be useful for others:

El Ceibo restaurant in Guapiles has no sign, however, it is located next to a fertilizer company/depot. We arrived an hour early so the security guard hadn’t arrived, so we drove past it a number of times.

The turtle trips in Tortuguero cost $40 per person and have to be paid for in cash. There is no ATM in Tortuguero.

The departure to Tortuguero was fairly chaotic. There was a system, but it just wasn’t immediately obvious. It might be worth warning people as it looks and feels like something you’d find in an Indian bus or railway station.

It might be worth including the address for the airport Adobe Rent A Car office in the notes. We didn’t have a SatNav with the car so used Google Maps which came up with the address for the San Jose office which is where we ended up.

I hope this is helpful and will certainly recommend both Stubborn Mule and Costa Rica to others.

Svetic Family (with child aged 11)

Travelled Summer 2019
Ah Charlotte, we just had the BEST time!!!! We had the most incredible few days imaginable, packing in as many activities as humanly possible! Every day was an adventure and I only wish we could have stayed longer – overall our impressions were incredibly positive and we want to thank you so much for all your help and advice with helping to organise our itinerary and for guiding us to the more remote, unspoilt places. None of the places we visited felt “touristy”, and they all had an authentic, indigenous feel, which is exactly what we wanted.

The standard of the accommodation was exactly as we expected – Suenos Del Bosque was, truth be told, a bit rough and ready and there were a few things in the room that were broken (e.g. the toilet seat, the balcony lock, the bathroom window latch) or not working properly (the safe). However, they more than compensated for it with the incredible food they served (the best we had during our holiday – it would not be out of place in a fine dining restaurant) and their wonderfully warm and gracious staff who went out of their way to accommodate our concerns. In fact, Suenos Del Bosque was probably my favourite of all the places we stayed in – remote, untouched, humble, but warm and welcoming.

I would particularly praise Ami who was absolutely delightful and a credit to the whole establishment. For your information, we decided against the Quetzal hike in the end – the starting time was 5:30am, and we would have had to drive to the meeting point in the dark… We were also told that we were unlikely to see any wildlife other than birds and by this point L was unwilling to get up so early, to go birdwatching. Ami was incredibly gracious and offered to exchange the quetzal hike for free entry to the hiking trails in a neighbouring establishment, thus enabling us to have a lovely self-guided hike instead.

Our time in Drake Bay was also wonderful, and we packed in a crazy amount of activities.

I also wanted to let you know that we did a couple of extra tours – the bioluminescent tour which involved swimming with bioluminescent plankton (mind blowing!!), and a Floating Tour which was mine and L’s absolute favourite! It is a bit more extreme and not for everyone, but I thought I would let you know in case you have any future clients who, like us, are into slightly more adventurous, fast-paced activities. This involved a pretty rugged trek through the primary rainforest, a swim by a waterfall, and then floating downriver to the ocean, including going over some rapids, while wearing a life jacket as a diaper (!). It was superb and L talks of nothing else but the Floating Tour.

I think that about sums it up – we have loads of superb photos so I will dig some up for you and send them to you shortly.

All in all, we had the most incredible time and really want to thank you again so much for all your help!

Hopefully we will be in touch with you again soon to plan our next adventure. 🙂

Manson Family (with children aged 4, 8 and 9)

Travelled Easter 2019
Dear Charlotte – Sorry it has taken me so long to get back. I’ve finally completed a photo book of our trip, and this has given me a chance to gather my thoughts.  Overall – a trip of a lifetime, it’s actually been quite hard adjusting back to the ‘Surrey Rat Race’ but have just about stopped myself from booking a round the world trip and home schooling the kids!

Your colleagues in Costa Rica were fantastic, and although no real emergencies, thankfully, being able to contact them by phone really was invaluable, especially when we were held up in traffic and unsure of whether we would make it to meet the bus to Tortuguero, but also for other little things here and there that we were unsure about.

All the accommodation was great – having a swimming pool everywhere was really important, as was something to do in quiet moments/down time. I think the only place that didn’t have a pool was Casitas Tenorio, and we (and other families) I think found this a bit of a struggle at times during the stay. Also, having a guide (at specific places) made all the difference, they were incredibly knowledgeable and patient with the children, and we saw so many things we would have missed otherwise.

Villa San Ignacio – we loved. A lovely place to stay at the beginning and end of the holiday, swimming pool and food were fantastic, and rooms really comfortable. Lots of exciting birds to spot from the balcony.

Quite a long drive to Cahuita… we should probably have set off a bit earlier, but got there before dark… just. Remains one of our favourite spots. The lodge were really helpful in recommending a safe beach for swimming, and we loved the Eden Beach Cafe by Punta Uva. We did a snorkelling and hiking tour in Cahuita National Park and were amazed at just how much was pointed out by the guide that we would never have seen otherwise. We also did a hike in Gondoca de Manzanillo Nature Reserve, which felt really special, although in hindsight, should probably have booked a guide. The food and pool were also lovely.

The boys also loved Tortuguero, and the evening tour where we saw lots of tree frogs. Again, the swimming pool was a lifesaver for keeping them entertained during ‘down time’. The guide was fantastic, and again, we saw all sorts of things we never would have spotted ourselves. He was very patient with our youngest who was never far from him, and always had a story to share with him! Hadn’t fully done my homework in relation to timings to see turtles, so that was a little disappointing, but otherwise it was a lovely stay.

The hotel in La Fortuna was definitely one of the favourite places to stay. Food, accommodation and pool were all amazing. I think the boys were a little disappointed by the ‘breakfast’ boxes provided, but that was the only niggle. There was some misunderstanding around the Zip Wire tour – I think we were hoping that both adults and big boys could do it, but it turned out that we were only booked for one of us and the two big boys. They loved it! O and I went up on the tram, and walked down – which was a lovely hike…

Casitas Tenorias was lovely, although I think we were a little disappointed with the take away food ordered… However, we loved viewing the birds, monkeys & sloths from breakfast, and the boys all loved milking the cows. I would say that the Tubing was a definite highlight, made all the more special as we were the only family on tour, we stayed for lunch, and then swam with the family in the Rio Celeste behind their house. O also couldn’t stay away from their pet lambs. Really special experience, and lovely, lovely family running the tour.

Cerro lodge was probably less impressive from the food point of view, and the room was quite cramped – not an issue as it was just one night, but we might have struggled if we were staying longer… However, we were lucky enough to see Scarlet Macaws from the restaurant, and they were definitely one of the favourite ‘spots’ of the holidays. We did the Jungle Crocodile Safari, and would highly recommend this. Again we were lucky and ended up with a private tour, but the boys loved being given an identification guide, and identifying the numerous birds on the river, as well as getting super close to some enormous crocs!

Manuel Antonio we really just used as a couple of rest days, and relaxed on the beach. It was beautiful, and the boys loved their beach days and seeing monkeys so close. It was a lovely resort, food and accommodation very high standard, and good for fussy kids, although I don’t think it was anyone’s favourite, as it felt quite Westernised, and touristy, after we had been spoilt with the rest of our tour!  ​

Pirate Cove was the perfect place to finish. We were really sad to leave. The snorkelling tour was incredibly, and boys will never forget seeing reef sharks and a turtle. The dolphin watching tour was also hugely successful, and the hike too.

I can’t thank you enough for putting together such a fantastic holiday for us, can’t think how it could have been improved. Will no doubt be in touch again once have saved up enough for another adventure!

Fuller Family (with one child aged 13)

Travelled Easter 2019
Hi Charlotte – It was an amazing holiday, Costa Rica is so beautiful, people are so nice, food is great too, all the hotels were excellent, and the organisation of all trips and transfers etc was spot on… We loved all the trips, all the guides were great, they all had excellent knowledge, we particularly enjoyed the Canos Island excursion at Uvita, we saw turtle, dolphins and lots of other marine life.

Also the tubing was great and we enjoyed having lunch with the family after, although the place was in the middle of nowhere which we did have concerns about getting too, even when we were half a mile away as Google maps didn’t know about the road so we had to go in the general direction, think they need some more signs or maybe they should just do pickups, but as I said they were excellent so no complaints really.

None of us did the zipwire at Arenal, I don’t like heights and it was certainly high, we did the guided walk which was great…

All the hotels were great, really enjoyed Casitas Tenorio for it’s remoteness and friendliness… As I said earlier it was a wonderful holiday which was brilliantly organised, thank you for all your help, I look forward to using Stubborn Mule again.

Sarjantson Family (with children aged 6 and 9)

Travelled Easter 2019
Hi Lee – We had the most wonderful holiday thank you. It exceeded our expectations. Thank you for your help – it really was a holiday of a lifetime, which has made us want to go somewhere else as exciting next year! It is my 40th next year so any excuse! We would definitely come back to Stubborn Mule.

Only a couple of points that could have been better.

We weren’t informed that someone was coming to our hotel in San Jose – we thought we were getting an info pack when we arrived… Confirmation of the time that was coming would have been helpful as it would have been good to speak to someone.

The Tortuguero lodge was amazing – so remote and different. It was quite a journey and on the way back due to traffic took nearly 6 hours to get to where we met our next driver to take us to La Fortuna. I wouldn’t recommend this part for anyone with children younger than ours.

The zip lining was a bit extreme for our children, it was the eldest who was most scared but is soooooooooo high up. I would maybe recommend families look at it closer before committing.

The wildlife everywhere was amazing and I would highly recommend Costa Rica for families with younger children. The transfers were all great, on time and clean, professional and it was great having a pool everywhere we stayed as it meant the kids could still get some chill/pool time, especially in the first week when it was quite full on.

If we were to go the same time next year – where would you recommend climate wise?

Stevenson Family (with children aged 9, 11 and 13)

Travelled Easter 2019
Dear Liddy  – We had a fantastic time – every part of the holiday was fantastic (except the 24 hour delay in Toronto which wasn’t anything to do with Stubborn Mule, but who were really prompt and helpful in sorting out impact in Costa Rica). Self drive worked really well and we loved all the hotels and the different types of accommodation and different places to stay.

The trips were also excellent – so – thank you Stubborn Mule. And Costa Rica is an amazing destination for families – our kids (and us) never stopped being mesmerised by the wildlife.

I think a favourite park probably had to be Manuel Antonio, and we all loved the white water rafting particularly for activities. We’re haven’t quite got round to sorting our photos out yet but will send a few on when we have!

Banham Family (with children aged 7, 7 and 10)

Travelled Easter 2019
Dear Lee – Our trip was lovely, although the jet lag coming back has hit the whole family! We met a lot of other Stubborn Mule families! All the transfers and trips went really smoothly. Villas Kalimba worked very well without a car, as did Arenal Oasis, as we could walk for food and to other locations/activities. The apartments at Casitas Tenorio are designed beautifully. However we would suggest that staying there, or in Bijagua without a hire car shouldn’t be recommended.

Eley Family (with children aged 7 and 9)

Travelled Christmas 2018
We really had the most awesome holiday. I was worried about the travelling and keeping all members of the family happy, but I really didn’t have to worry Costa Rica has something for everyone and we all had a ball and lots of memories banked. I can’t wait to start planning our next adventure.

Charlwood Family (with two children aged 11)

Travelled Christmas 2018
Liddy, now that we are back and settled, just a quick email to say we had a fabulous time, thank you. Some short comments, if it helps…We found going straight on to El Mangroove the day we arrived tiring, but absolutely the right thing for us. Of course, we don’t know what (if anything) we missed going to the north of the Nicoya peninsula rather than the south, but as we found the coast where we were simply stunning, we can’t imagine we lost out.

El Mangroove was great. The setting was lovely and the beaches / coast accessible from the hotel amazing. Our only slight criticism was that the food on site was not brilliant in the evening, but that seems common at this sort of hotel and was readily solved by having the hotel recommend us a fabulous seafood place just down the coast.

Arenal was also great. A different sort of hotel but the casita was exactly right for us and the view of the volcano breathtaking.

It was brilliant having Max to take us into La Fortuna in the evenings, again allowing us a much wider choice of food than the hotel offered.

Thank you for pre-booking the trips when we booked the holiday. This made everything simple and they were great choices. For reference, we added two things we would recommend to others: (i) a night walk at Ecocentre Danaus – not cheap, but very interesting and we were able to book with only a couple of hours’ notice; and (ii) a walk on Arenal Volcano – $12/head (kids free) and simply arrive, pay and go, so a good fill in  / very flexible if people want options.

– the Parador Hotel was what we needed for the one night stop over, although the food here was the worst we encountered by a margin – in particular, the tenderloin beef was anything but!

– Drake Bay Resort was great.  I think you noted that it was less luxurious by some measures than, say, El Mangroove, but it was lovely and, as you also predicted I think, perfect for what we wanted.  Food here was excellent: local and hearty.

All in all, therefore, a great trip, thank you, and we look forward to travelling with you again.

Bennett Family (with children aged 7 & 9)

Travelled Summer 2018
Hi Liddy – We had a great time thank you. Meet and greet was great (although it would have been good to know the name of the local agent as I was looking for Stubborn Mule) you probably told us but I missed that. Everything was super smooth thank you – very well organized and communicated… all the tours and guides were amazing, knowledgeable and good value. Highlights for the girls – zip wiring, tubing, hot springs and all the animals…. i.e. everything.

Stenner Family (with children aged 12 & 13)

Travelled Summer 2018
We had a wonderful time in Costa Rica. It has been brilliant to hear the children chattering away to friends and family about it. To hear their perspective but also to know that everything we hoped for from this family holiday became their reality. We stayed in some lovely accommodation – our favourite was probably casitas Tenorio – because of the ethos and the setting. We really enjoyed our Fortuna hotel too and the activities were great…. We had a wonderful time in Tortuguero. The hotel was nice. The veggie food offering was unimpressive but we got by! To see the turtles was magical. We got to see four laying eggs on one night. The kids were wowed.

Scammell Family (with children aged 7 & 10)

Travelled Summer 2018
Hi Liddy – the trip was amazing. The best bits were:
1. the zip lining
2. the resort on the river
3. seeing the turtle lay her eggs in the beach with my daughter
4. having the car made things so easy!

Things that we’d change:

1. not having the car for the second leg

2. I don’t think we realised how remote and truly basic the second hotel was but actually once we got into watching the birds it was amazing!

Hubbard Family (with children aged 14 & 21)

Travelled Summer 2018
We had a lovely holiday despite the amount of rain! The highlights of our holiday were Isla Chiquita, particularly the bioluminescent tour but not the snorkelling as the water is not clear enough. We loved our hotel in Bijagua, we enjoyed the tubing and the guide for the tubing took us horse riding in the river and to a farm to milk the cows, which was amazing!

We enjoyed the thermals at La Fortuna and were exhilarated by the white water rafting.  We were told the wrong time for the Sky Adventures tour, but luckily they were able to fit us in.  We loved the rainforest walk and the zip lining- although it did get quite scary when the lightning hit our cable!

We enjoyed Sarapiquis and the chocolate tour but the torrential rain stopped our night hike… We were unlucky with the weather in Puerto Viejo, we spent two nights in the Cristal House but upgraded to the Beach house, which we loved! I loved the yoga. We also loved the sloth sanctuary and the nightlife in Puerto Viejo…

We did love our holiday, it was a real adventure and we did love driving ourselves.

Richardson (two adults)

Travelled March 2018
Hi Charlotte – the trip was fantastic thanks, we loved Costa Rica and the itinerary you put together was perfect. A couple of days at each location was just about right, and 4 days at the end by the beach was a fitting end. It is difficult to pick highlights because everything was excellent.

We went to Manual Antonia first and the National Park was great, but it was also nice to get a bit of beach (and sun) in early, which set the trip up nicely. The Costa Verde hotel was fantastic (in fact all the hotels were excellent and exceeded our expectations), but the Costa Verde hotel was in a perfect location to be able to walk to the beach.

The second location we went to was Monte Verde where we enjoyed the zip wiring and cloud forest, (although unfortunately there was no cloud that day). We did see sloths, amongst many other species; in fact we saw lots of animals the whole trip. The Trapp Family Lodge was also very nice, it was quite chilly in Monte Verde and we were pleased we packed a fleece! That particular drive up to Monte Verde from the main highway was brutal even for the 4 wheel drive, you definitely need a decent off terrain vehicle as the roads can be are quite atrocious. We did tend to find that the journeys took a fair bit longer than we thought they might.

The Sky Adventures day was fun – it was a full day and you don’t actually finish until after 1600hrs. We saw plenty of howler monkeys and even some sloths; in fact we saw sloths at every location, less Nosara. The zip-lines were fun, and very safe. One advice is to try and get to the front of the zip-line group as we had 50 in ours, so there could have been a lot of waiting around.

The drive around Arenal Lake to La Fortuna was very picturesque, and we fitted in a hot springs spa afternoon when we arrived. In hindsight we probably should have gone to the La Fortuna waterfall as well, although the heavens did open that afternoon! The bungalow at Lomas del Volcan was nice. The white water rafting experience was fantastic. I think Tracey was a bit apprehensive before hand, but the group were very professional. This excursion also lasted a full day and included a trip around an Eco farm and afternoon lunch which I don’t think we were expecting.

Our final four days were spent at Nosara at the Lagarta Lodge which was an absolutely fantastic hotel…..it had a great pool! We loved it in Nosara, the whole area was stunning and there were several beaches you could walk to. The surfing area at Guiones Beach was quite lively in the evenings, and the La Luna restaurant on the Pelada Beach is highly recommended.

We finished (and started) in San Jose at the Buena Vista Hotel. The hotel was nice and a perfect place if you have to overnight because of your flights. But we didn’t really do much during our two nights there.

So all in all it was a fantastic trip. We have recommended Costa Rica and yourselves to all our friends.

Grigg Family (with children aged 5 and 7)

Travelled Easter 2018
Dear Liddy – The trip was superb, we all had such a wonderful time… We will never forget our brilliant Costa Rican holiday! Here is a quick account and some photos of our trip.

Villa San Ignacio was a good place to start the trip and after such a long flight we were deeply grateful that it wasn’t too far from the airport. it was great that all the connections worked and there was a driver waiting for us at the airport – very seamless. The hotel itself was friendly and accommodating.

The trip to La Paz waterfalls was lovely and a great way to start the holiday proper. it is a lovely place and wonderful to see hummingbirds, frogs and butterflies in such an amazing environment (and take a first seek at a sloth!).

The car was perfect for our needs and a comfortable reliable drive. When we got to Costa Verde – it had been a longer drive than expected but all without hiccup and without getting swallowed by the crocs at Tacorles –  we couldn’t believe the amazing surroundings. We had a really magical time here amongst the rainforest, with the beach so near, monkeys in the surroundings, amazing views from the breakfast, (and of course the random discarded aeroplanes…). It was by far our favourite hotel, I don’t think I’ll forget it in a hurry.

Manuel Antonio park was amazing. We opted for a tour guide in the end which slowed our trip down a bit but was well worth it – as they pointed out things that we just wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

Casa Luna was an amazing location, but was probably our least favourite hotel. There was something a bit lacking about the service there in terms of the food and service – we found the menu and breakfast a bit tired and the room the least enjoyable of the four places we stayed. The pool and jacuzzis were brilliant – as was the trail in the grounds – we had a brilliant experience trekking it as the heavens opened –  and the location was superb.

Some of our favourite day trips were from here – the zip lining at Eco-glide was a truly memorable experience and we were so glad we were able to find one that B could take part in because we all loved it! The Tarzan swing was scary but we all braved it! We visited the Eco-termales hot springs which was a bit pricey but a brilliant experience. And the rafting day trip was fantastic with a really great tour company and very friendly hosts in the family that we visited. In addition, we toured the chocolate plantation at the next door rainforest chocolate place. Very educational and yummy chocolate.

Final stop was Villas Kalimba. You weren’t wrong about the amazing food that Roberto cooks. Wow. such a culinary treat and welcome break from Costa Rican cuisine or pizza! Kalimba has such a wonderful family vibe and it was like staying with grandparents! Roberto and team made us feel so at home, and with such beautiful beaches at Samara – a brilliant and relaxing conclusion to a wonderful trip!

We had a three hour delay in Toronto on the way back because of unseasonal snow blizzards! but other than that the whole trip sailed by far too quickly and we miss it all already!

Thank you to Stubborn Mule for arranging the experience of a lifetime for our family. We will never forget our brilliant Costa Rican holiday!

Atkins Family (with children aged 12, 17 and 18)

Travelled Summer 2017
Dear Liddy – We returned safely yesterday from the most wonderful trip to Costa Rica. Every stop was different, exciting and packed with wonderful adventures. Thank you to your & your team for putting together such a fantastic itinerary.

Thank you especially for organising the various tours – these were all brilliant.  In their different ways the whale watching (we saw a baby humpback!), the raft trip (loads and loads of animals) and Sky Adventures (a brilliant tour guide and great adrenaline rush) were all real highlights.  For the second and third of these we ended up with another family who were also customers of yours which was fun.   I would definitely recommend all three of these trips to anyone else going. We’re also really grateful for your recommendations as I’m not sure we would have found these ourselves.

Logistically things worked really well.  Our driver for the first week or so was great although think it was good I could speak some Spanish. With hindsight we could have hired a car although not sure how we’d have done the Tortuguero section of the trip.  Interbus also worked really well – no issues at all.  Selfishly it was great not having to drive at all!

In terms of the different places we stayed we would 100% recommend Rafikis beach camp and Casa Luna in La Fortuna (although we didn’t really eat there as felt a bit ‘corporate’ and there were so many options in the town).  We would also definitely recommend Playa Negra guesthouse in Cahuita (the place we booked direct) – fantastic place to stay and wonderful owners / hosts, who took us out on tours of the national park and the area. I know you prefer Puerto Viejo and we did go there one day, but Cahuita was really great for us.

I’ve got mixed views about the whole Tortuguero element of our trip.  The Aninga Lodge itself was wonderful – in terms of the cabins, the pool and facilities and the staff – and we loved the tours of the canals (even if the actual turtle watching was something of an anticlimax). But we did feel a bit like we were on a package holiday and were not too impressed with the guides.  It wasn’t so much the whole getting in and out by bus and boat (which was fun even if a bit painfully inefficient in terms of the transfer at the port!), but the meals at the restaurant in Guapiles, the way you had to follow their exact time schedules and the guides who at times appeared somewhat disinterested were all very different to what we experienced anywhere else in Costa Rica.  Maybe this just showed us we are not great at package holidays or being told what to do!!

Villas Gaia was a good place to stay (very friendly staff and nice food) but not really at the same level as some of the other places, but we loved the Uvita area – to be honest more so than Manuel Antonio although I think I had over high expectations based on what it was like 20 years ago when there were a lot less people (and probably not helped by the fact it rained a lot when we were exploring the park).

At Cerro Lodge we saw scarlet macaws which were amazing, but the restaurant wasn’t great. E wasn’t taken with the open air bathrooms there!!  Similarly Sarapiquis – whilst interesting to go to did feel like a stopping point rather than somewhere we really wanted to be – probably the only place were we found ourselves looking for something to do to fill time.

The hotel in San Jose was convenient but as expected San Jose wasn’t really the best place we visited!

In terms of recommendations of other places

– Playa Negra in Cahuita – brilliant

– Sobre Las Olas Restaurante in Cahuita (and lots of other good places there too)

– we went to the Paradise hot springs in Arenal – can’t compare it vs all the others but was very quiet and great fun

– we found a fantastic Argentinian  restaurant called Aqui Es very close to the hotel in San Jose.  Great food and fantastic people

– the Jaguar Rescue Centre outside Puerto Viejo is really special – E’s top recommendation for the whole great trip

Loads more we could say – please do let me know if any specific questions, but overall fantastic!  We will definitely recommend you (in fact S gave your details to a friend from school yesterday)

Hetherington Family (with one child aged 11)

Travelled Summer 2017
Hi Liddy – Thank you for all your help and support in organising our time in Costa Rica – we had a fantastic time and a truly memorable holiday.  I think it really was our best one ever! I will have a proper look at photos, and Ellie is definitely planning to enter your competition – we’ve got a lot of sloth photos to sort through this weekend!!!

Thank you especially for organising the various tours – these were all brilliant.  In their different ways the whale watching (we saw a baby humpback!), the raft trip (loads and loads of animals) and Sky Adventures (a brilliant tour guide and great adrenaline rush) were all real highlights.  For the second and third of these we ended up with another family who were also customers of yours which was fun.   I would definitely recommend all three of these trips to anyone else going. We’re also really grateful for your recommendations as I’m not sure we would have found these ourselves.

Logistically things worked really well.  Our driver for the first week or so was great although think it was good I could speak some Spanish. With hindsight we could have hired a car although not sure how we’d have done the Tortuguero section of the trip.  Interbus also worked really well – no issues at all.  Selfishly it was great not having to drive at all!

In terms of the different places we stayed we would 100% recommend Rafikis beach camp and Casa Luna in La Fortuna (although we didn’t really eat there as felt a bit ‘corporate’ and there were so many options in the town).  We would also definitely recommend Playa Negra guesthouse in Cahuita (the place we booked direct) – fantastic place to stay and wonderful owners / hosts, who took us out on tours of the national park and the area. I know you prefer Puerto Viejo and we did go there one day, but Cahuita was really great for us.

I’ve got mixed views about the whole Tortuguero element of our trip.  The Aninga Lodge itself was wonderful – in terms of the cabins, the pool and facilities and the staff – and we loved the tours of the canals (even if the actual turtle watching was something of an anticlimax). But we did feel a bit like we were on a package holiday and were not too impressed with the guides.  It wasn’t so much the whole getting in and out by bus and boat (which was fun even if a bit painfully inefficient in terms of the transfer at the port!), but the meals at the restaurant in Guapiles, the way you had to follow their exact time schedules and the guides who at times appeared somewhat disinterested were all very different to what we experienced anywhere else in Costa Rica.  Maybe this just showed us we are not great at package holidays or being told what to do!!

Villas Gaia was a good place to stay (very friendly staff and nice food) but not really at the same level as some of the other places, but we loved the Uvita area – to be honest more so than Manuel Antonio although I think I had over high expectations based on what it was like 20 years ago when there were a lot less people (and probably not helped by the fact it rained a lot when we were exploring the park).

At Cerro Lodge we saw scarlet macaws which were amazing, but the restaurant wasn’t great. E wasn’t taken with the open air bathrooms there!!  Similarly Sarapiquis – whilst interesting to go to did feel like a stopping point rather than somewhere we really wanted to be – probably the only place were we found ourselves looking for something to do to fill time.

The hotel in San Jose was convenient but as expected San Jose wasn’t really the best place we visited!

In terms of recommendations of other places

– Playa Negra in Cahuita – brilliant

– Sobre Las Olas Restaurante in Cahuita (and lots of other good places there too)

– we went to the Paradise hot springs in Arenal – can’t compare it vs all the others but was very quiet and great fun

– we found a fantastic Argentinian  restaurant called Aqui Es very close to the hotel in San Jose.  Great food and fantastic people

– the Jaguar Rescue Centre outside Puerto Viejo is really special – E’s top recommendation for the whole great trip

Loads more we could say – please do let me know if any specific questions, but overall fantastic!  We will definitely recommend you (in fact S gave your details to a friend from school yesterday)

Hayes Family (with kids aged 5, 7 and 9)

Travelled Summer 2017
Just wanted to let you know that we are home from our Costa Rican adventure safe and sound. We had a fantastic time and everything worked out really well. Thanks so much for your help in organising such a superb trip!

There are a few reflections or hints that we felt we picked up along the way, which might be helpful to share with fellow travellers.

Driving. The driving was fine and we liked the freedom that it gave us. The hire care was great, automatic definitely a massive help and sat nav essential, which was for the most part very accurate. Good to get your driving done as early in the day as possible to avoid driving in heavy rains which can be tricky. We also tried to do as little as possible at night – poorly lit roads, huge potholes, and oncoming bikes with no lights, possibly carrying a couple of people or even a large dog on one occasion. We opted to pay the full cover insuance. The basic insurance had an excess of $1500 for damage to your car and $600 for damage to another vehicle. The top insurance was an additional $295. Money well spent for peace of mind during our trip we thought.

Manuel Antonio. Costa Verde was a really fun place to stay with some interesting and tasty restaurants – which really did have as many monkeys as people! We weren’t quite prepared for Manuel Antonio park – as you drive up with about 500m to the park you are shepherded off the road  – and immediately set upon for parking fees and money for a private guide. After the very swanky La Paz waterfall this was a bit of a shock. Our guide led us through a few back alleys and dirty streets on our way in to the park and we began to feel pretty uneasy and wondering if we were walking into some kind of trouble. Once inside however we soon realised that our guides knowledge, telescope and skill at spotting the wildlife were indispensable. It was $90 to have the guide with just our family for a couple of hours, and after what had initially seemed a bit unsettling turned out to be a great day and money well spent.

Ziplining. Both the guided walk and zip lining were excellent. The zip lining was very professional, and we felt well-looked after and safe throughout. Very good with the kids, and they said they would actually have been happy to take kids from as young as 4 years.

Treehouses. Was a really fun place to stay, homely, welcoming and with a great breakfast. The night walk here was excellent. On balance however as there is so much cool stuff to do in the area, it may be better to stay somewhere a bit more low budget close to the action and spend any saving on an additional activity. It was probably a bit over priced. The raft tour that day was wonderful, not too long and great to stop off at the traditional farm.

Tabacon Spa. We stumbled across this after our lovely morning rafting on the river. We were keen to get the geothermal experience. We pitched up pretty scruffy, with our swimmers -expecting to pay a modest fee for a swim in some naturally heated warm water. Turned out it was a 5-star resort with beautiful gardens and numerous pools with waterfalls, and also a slide which the kids really enjoyed. For the family it was $238 for the afternoon, which included an all you can eat buffet which was superb. Price was a bit of a shock but for a decadent once-in-a-life time experience, it was worth it and we all have great memories of our afternoon there – including seeing a Jesus Christ lizard skipping across the top of a waterfall!

Finca Sura. Great wee place to stay full of character and charm. No English spoken here so be prepared, we felt we really let ourselves down with our lack of Spanish. It doesn’t come up on the sat nav. We took some screen shots of the area on Google maps when we had Wifi. This was invaluable. It’s the same turn off as ‘Chilamatic Rainforest Eco Retreat’ which was on the sat nav – so putting that in might be your best bet.

Turtles. This is definitely one place where we feel there should have been a bit more direction. We were to meet our connecting bus at a restaurant called El Cebo in a town called Guapiles. Again nothing coming up on the sat nav and Guapiles turned out to be a pretty big place. When we finally found it (almost an hour late) it was only because our guide saw us from the side of the road and waved us down. Not only is the restaurant not in the sat nav, it has no sign and is hidden about 100m behind large green gates and a lot of foliage?! Felt pretty bad about making the walk of shame down the bus past all the other tourists we had kept waiting and had to endure a slow hand clap as the bus finally got moving! Tip: Put the Santa Clara Cervicentro (petrol station) into the sat nav. It is set back from the road on the right about 300m beyond that, large green gate. After this minor stress – hotel, pools and activities were great. With regards the turtles, you just have to make a choice and take your chance. We had the earlier 8-10pm slot and it was still the latest night of our hols by far. It was a quiet evening for turtles on the beach that night and kids did well hanging about in the dunes for an hour. It looked like we might be out of luck and then just as time was running out we got about 1 minute with a turtle and saw the eggs being laid. All considered we were glad to have been able to have had the experience.

La Diosa. On first appearances looked a bit shabby compared to some of the other hotels but it was actually a lovely quiet spot for relaxing, great breakfasts and having a pool to ourselves. We would really recommend the pizza restaurant just down from the police station beside the beach in Cahuita. The rip tides throughout Costa Rica were very strong but Punta Uva was a super beach with waves that were great fun without feeling dangerous and no rips. Nothing sign posted and may need to ask locals to get the best access. We did both the Jaguar Rescue Santuary and the Sloth Rescue Santuary. The Jaguar centre was better by far, definitely worth doing if in that area.

The drive back to San Jose took about 3 hours and then almost as long again to get from one side of the city to the other! If there was a way of by passing the city to get back to Villa san Ignacio that would be worth finding out.

Hopefully some of this might be of some use to some of your other clients.

We thought Costa Rica was a great destination! The wildlife super abundant and we probably saw more in some of the grounds of the hotels than in the national parks. The climate was great with sunny mornings and then the excitement of tropical storms in the evenings. Temperature just perfect for being out and about. It was also a great time to go as nothing felt too crowded, often in the hotels we had the pools to ourselves and ample opportunity to ask questions to our guides. So thanks again for your help and enthusiasm for our trip.

Laird Family (with children aged 11 and 17)

Travelled Summer 2017
Hi Liddy – We just got back today and have to say had the most wonderful holiday ever. The transfers, hotels, trips were amazing and we all loved every minute. Thanks for your recommendations and putting the itinerary together for us. It truly was a holiday of a life time but we all want more. We loved seeing the animals, had a brilliant time rafting and loved the Sky Adventure tour/zip line at Monteverde too. We did a night walk and the hot springs too. Utterly amazing – a big thank you from all of us. Thanks again, will be in touch about next year!

Family N (with children aged 12 and 14)

Travelled Summer 2017
Hi Kelly – We had a great time, thank you, and the various places we visited were fantastic. Having a car really made a difference – driving is relatively easy and gives real flexibility around things like finding launderettes to do service washes, and eating in places other than your hotel.

We could write reams of comment about iguanas, monkeys, snakes, sunsets, butterflies… but more on the minor changes that we would suggest below:

1) Arrival – we were quite jet-lagged, and were not capable of much on both the first day. We had been booked to see the volcano, but didn’t actually happen. I don’t think that we would have been able to do this with the kids, as they were exhausted. Other families might do better, but it would have been ambitious for a first day. Preferably day one just to travel to your first destination, such as Tortuguero.

2) Costa Rica is fantastic – San Jose, not so much – there is v little to do other than visit the former prison complex. Would recommend not spending any time there if that works for people’s itineraries.

3) One night stays – this didn’t really add much value – white water rafting was good, but there are many other places you can do this in CR, and a single night stay just meant more packing / unpacking.

4) Arenal – great place to go, canyoneering was a fantastic activity, would really recommend doing. We did this with Mistico. The horse riding included a trip to a waterfall – worth going to that even if not going horse riding.

5) Monteverde – drive there is genuinely challenging – worth checking with people how comfortable they are with this. We were ok, but ended up with a puncture, and certain times felt that it was the steepest roads we had ever driven up…

Worth booking the night hike on the second night there, rather than the first, as it was slightly tight for time. Point out that it is possible/likely to rain the whole time. It rained for our entire two-hour hike, which I think is quite normal, and I don’t think we’d have chosen to do it if we’d realised.

Sky bridges / zip wires were great. I suggest you recommend to people they do the zip wire, or offer it as an option, rather than wait for people to discover that the zip wire exists.

6) Manuel Antonio
Hotel was great – really comfortable room, and being able to cook basic meals / having a fridge made a significant difference cost wise. Could consider suggesting that people might want to make their own breakfast rather than pay (how much?) for the hotel’s breakfast. It was nice though 🙂

Activities – additionally we enjoyed surfing lessons, and did paddle boarding in the mangroves – this was a great opportunity to spot wildlife.

Thank you again!

Healy Family (with children aged 8, 13 and 15)

Travelled Christmas 2016/7
Our first day relaxing in San Jose was a lovely introduction to the country.  The local guide, Felipe came to our hotel to welcome us and give us our full travel itinerary for the 2 weeks.  He offered to take us into San Jose and show us around.  We took a local bus with Felipe giving us useful insights into the city and the people.  We walked around the local clothes and food markets and had our first taste of Costa Rican coffee !  We then went to the Museo De Los Ninos which was great fun – lots of varied exhibits and art installation and hands on activities particularly good for the youngest – but strangely enjoyed by the teenagers too !  

We met our driver Pablo early the next morning and headed off in a comfy minibus to Arenal National Park.  It’s a beautiful drive and we arrived in time for lunch in La Fortuna.  As he did throughout his time with us – Pablo recommended a great local restaurant the Rainforest Cafe for lunch and we had our first Casado (local dish with rice, beans).  The hotel Lomas De Volcan was fabulous.  We had two lodges which were very spacious and nicely furnished, small terraces and in beautiful landscaped gardens.  Weather wasn’t great during some of our time there but there was a nice pool and hot tub that was popular !  We had an evening walk in the rainforest and saw poisonous frogs, rare sighting of a sloth and lots of other beasties.  We walked a beautiful trail through the national park to the lava grounds of the volcano with far reaching views.  A visit to the volcanic hot springs for the children was very popular – 20 different pools and one so hot you could barely get in without jumping out again.  There was various water slides and a swim up bar !  The safari float was a highlight of the trip.  We had a very knowledgable guide – Steve – who took us on a safari tour down the river in an inflatable dinghy – we saw iguanas, monkeys, alligators !  To top it all off we had an amazing morning zip wiring with Go Adventure – great company and awesome fun.  Finale was an abseil down from a height that gave me palpitations – for myself never mind our 8 year old – who of course went down without blinking….

We moved on with our adventure to the Cloud Forests in Monteverde saying at the Cloud Forest Lodge – super hotel.  The canopy walks through the Rainforest were incredible – we learned that it really does rain a lot in the rainforests !  We also visited a local snake farm in Santa Elena which was fascinating and had a vast range of snakes, turtles, spiders…. When we visited the Children’s Eternal Rainforest this trumped all wildlife throughout the trip when on our walk with another encyclopaedic guide – we actually saw a tarantula in it’s burrow – unusual to see during the day, but the local guide knew where to look.  We got some great photographs – but I was very wary of burrows on our walk after that sighting !

The last stage of our trip was the beach !  We stayed at a fairly remote resort called the Tango Mar near Tambor on the Peninsula of Nicoya.  It was a beautiful journey there on the ferry from the mainland and the hotel was a revelation.  We had beautiful accommodation with sea views and steps down onto an empty beach.  We were blessed with incredible sunshine for five days over Christmas.  The boys played golf, we all played tennis and I had a facial and massage.  We lazed by the pool and had the odd cheeky cocktail at the swim up bar.  Children were on the milkshakes !  There were lots of trips available through the hotel – but this was our chill out time after all the activities of the first week and we used it well.  We came back with enviable tans!

We could not recommend Costa Rica enough to people wanting a real adventure – we saw and did so much it seems hardly possible looking back – but we did it.  The children were blown away by everything.  It’s rare to think a holiday can exceed all expectations but this one really did.

Thanks again for all your organisation and advice Libby – it was spot on.  I haven’t told the family yet – but I am already thinking about 2018 for our next adventure…

Kohler Family (with two children aged 10 and 13)

Travelled Summer 2016
Many thanks for arranging a fantastic holiday. It was a well spaced out and enjoyable holiday. We would like to make special mention of Pablo our driver who was most thoughtful, great fun and very reliable. Please extend our thanks to him.

Burton Family (with three kids aged 6, 12 and 14)

Travelled Easter 2016
We had a wonderful time in Costa Rica, thanks so much for all of your help with the planning. It was wonderful to be scooped up by Kelly during the planning process as we had got completely stuck in trying to work out where to go and just didn’t know where to start. I can’t tell you the relief that we all felt when Kelly took charge and started to suggest how best to go about planning the whole thing! The suggestions were all spot on.

We loved Arenal and all of the activities here. H particularly enjoyed walking over the lava fields and has been boasting about this to anyone who will listen. The girls loved the horse ride here as well and the views were amazing.

Monteverde was very impressive and although it rained a bit when we were there we loved the zip wire. The Belmar Lodge was AMAZING, far swankier than the usual places that we stay. Lovely staff too, who arranged a birthday cake for M, which was greatly appreciated.

The beach was also wonderful. We loved Manuel Antonio – this was definitely the right choice for our family and we loved the kayaking and the walks in the park. Saw masses of wildlife each day, which was great.

Thanks so much for everything. We are looking at Thailand for next Easter so will be in touch again soon!

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