As you may recall from other posts, our home base in Costa Rica was in Guanacaste, on the Pacific Coast. Based on Costa Rica Travel Agents and Accommodations available, we chose the Playa del Coco area, and stayed quite a long walk from town at Ocotal Beach Resort. We chose Ocotal because of the reputation of its dive operation.
Since we planned to dive and brought all of our dive gear, it was more convenient to rent one place for the whole time in Costa Rica. Then we did day trips or overnights to other areas, like San Jose, Arenal, and Tamarindo. Some people may think it is crazy to pay for 2 rooms, but it is much easier for us to choose our base, travel from there and only pack what we need. (See our separate post for More on Diving in Costa Rica.)
Booking Accommodtions + Tours
The Costa Rica Accommodations that we chose for this trip were booked through Stasha Drzewieki of Adventure and Dive Tours of Costa Rica which specializes in Costa Rica. This was the most cost effective and least hassle to get the type of accommodations and diving we prefer. Plus, at the time, Stasha regularly booked Ocotal, so she was able to get upgrades for clients. We were originally booked into a hotel room. After one night , she got us an upgrade to a cabin. Cabins are much larger with a sitting area, a walk-in closet, and large bedroom, patio and plunge pool.
I can’t vouch for Ocotal today since we were there a few years back, so double check the current recommendations by Costa Rica Travel Agents. At the time, the majority of the rooms were small hotel rooms with balconies overlooking the sea – gorgeous, unobstructed views. These rooms are also easily accessible to the endless pool which offers incredible sunsets and we were even treated to a whale at sunset.
Hotel rooms are less of a walk to dining, but a bit of a downhill hike to the beach and the lower pool near the dive shop. They are less costly than the cabins with plunge pools sited in the woods with views of the moored boats, and closer to the beach and dive shop.
Nature Inside and Out
There was a downside to our stay in the cabin – it is a natural environment. While having modern conveniences, cabins are in the woods. Hermit crabs find their way into the room by squeezing under the door. During the day it wasn’t an issue because we could see them, but at night if I went to the bathroom. We stepped carefully, and didn’t mind since it added to the ambience. By morning we had many to put outside.
Iguanas make their home in the woods under rocks and buildings, and come out to sun themselves. I never met an aggressive iguana until Costa Rica. I was sitting on our patio, eating a banana, and one attacked me. It jumped on me at waist level and clawed down my front. I think people must feed them, so the iguana expected some of my banana. A good reason not to feed the animals when you travel!
Despite these scenarios, we loved our cabin in the woods, our location and our views. I think our trip was reasonably priced as was the hotel at under $100 pp/night including a full breakfast.
There was just one restaurant on site at Ocotal Beach Resort; otherwise you need a car or a cab. The food was very good when we were there, albeit pricey. Going to town for more local very fresh and good food was about a third of the price. We either hitched a ride with other guests, took a cab, or went to town the days we had our rental car.
Know that the views at the hotel restaurant are amazing. In the mornings you can see the schools of flying mantas and the dolphins playing as you breakfast.
Using the knowledge of Costa Rica Travel Agents, we decided to book 2 private tours through Stasha leaving from our hotel. We figured out the rest once we arrived. One pre-booked private tour was to Buena Vista.
Afterwards we had fun with the therapeutic hot volcanic mud bath and enjoyed the thermal pools.
Don’t forget the waterslide in the icy mountain stream. I braved that; Tom would not go.
What to bring: swimsuit, hiking or running shoes, sandals for spa, change of clothing, binoculars, camera, spending money, and sun hat. Includes: Lunch, Snacks, Bottle Water and fruit juice.
Palo Verde National Park
We also booked the Palo Verde National Park of Costa Rica, for a river boat tour to see the crocs and gorgeous birds. We saw several types of Kingfishers and had crocs snapping at the boat.
We lunched afterward with our driver at a local restaurant on the back roads that we would never have found on our own. A great cultural experience!
Stasha has moved to Costa Rica, and I would think that she has even more intimate knowledge of the adventures – www.CostaRicaDeluxeTours.com.
Once we got settled and talked to others, my research on Costa Rica Travel Agents and Accommodations led us to Vacation City. They are a local tour operator that we used to book a naturalist guide with 3 related tours. They were very informative and helpful, and the price was quite reasonable compared to others. We chose a private Arenal Hike with a guide – Jacamar S. A., who was terrific. It was because of his expertise that we chose the Danaus Eco Center Night Hike, and the Hanging Treetop Bridges guided hike. All were fabulous. They can book a car and hotel too, but we found it more cost effective to do that on our own.
I researched the accommodations at Arenal and decided the best value was Arenal Paraiso Resort and Spa. We had a bungalow with a view of the Arenal Volcano from our front glassed-in porch. Our accommodations included a full breakfast. The resort had thermal springs throughout heated by the volcano, aa swimming pool and beautiful gardens with gorgeous local birds. (See our other post for more or our Arenal Adventures.)
We got the best deal for a car with required insurance through a local Thrifty car rental company. You must take the car insurance in Costa Rica since the are rough roads and sometimes it is required to drive through streams.
Happy Travels! Let me know if you have questions about Costa Rica Travel Agents and Accommodations.