This was our first experience using Zicasso and it worked out perfectly for us. We wanted to visit Costa Rica but we were not sure which area/s of the country to visit, as August is a part of the rainy season and I didn't want to spend our entire vacation getting soaked. My husband's mom actually suggested using Zicasso. I'm not sure why, but I was a bit skeptical at first. We have only used a travel agent once before, however I really needed some help trying to plan this trip so I took a leap of faith! I am so glad that I did! Zicasso connected us with this travel company, and our agent called us within a couple of days to discuss our ideas. She suggested the northwest region of the country (Guanacaste) because it would be driest at this time of year. We knew we wanted to visit Monteverde, and my husband had heard good things about Playa Conchal, so we wanted those two areas included in our itinerary. Our agent suggested one other spot near Bagaces on the Rio Perdido, so we stayed in 3 different hotels during our 8-day visit. Our agent listened to what activities we thought we wanted to do, and made suggestions about how to fit it all in. She researched the different tour companies to ensure that our 11-year old was big enough to participate on the zip-lining and white water rafting trips. She arranged transportation to/from the airport, all hotels and activities. Everything worked like clockwork. We had one slight glitch at the end and somehow we did not connect with our scheduled driver from our last hotel back to the airport, however the bellman called our agent for us and she immediately arranged alternative transportation. We were not inconvenienced at all. At every hotel and activity we were greeted warmly. The hotels that she recommended were terrific, as were the tours she arranged. It was a great trip and I highly recommend her company!!
The most memorable part of our trip was the time we spent in Monteverde at the Cloud Forest. We stayed at a lovely hotel!! The setting is breathtaking and the grounds are beautiful. It is small and homey, and the rooms are very nice with spectacular views! The food was fresh and delicious (the breakfast is amazing...the cocktails were great too!) and all of the people were so friendly. Our only regret was that we were not able to spend much time at the hotel because we were so busy!
Our first day we left the hotel right after breakfast for our guided tour. We had a 2 hour guided tour of the cloud forest, during which our wonderful guide pointed out all kinds of interesting plants, insects and animals! We saw a green pit viper, a tarantula, so many interesting bugs and butterflies (the blue morpho was our favorite), and to cap it off a howler monkey tried to deficate on all of us...what could be better then running over a suspension bridge to avoid monkey poop! We enjoyed every minute of the tour...our kids (ages 11 and 17) were never bored! We returned just in time for our zip-lining adventure. We had never zip-lined before..what a thrill! The tour company was very safety conscious and you do a test run before going up to the course. All of the guides were extremely helpful and encouraging!
We returned to our hotel for a couple hour rest, during which we did the self-guided tour around the forest surrounding the hotel, before we were picked up for our night hike. Our skilled guide led us to see a sloth and her baby who lived way up in the trees, another viper and tarantula, a sleeping toucanet, an armadillo, a scorpion and many different types of bugs that we had not seen during the day. It was as fascinating as the first tour!
After a late dinner we were all exhausted but had to be up early to check out and leave for our white water rafting excursion on the Tenorio River. I became a bit anxious that our 11 year old was going to fall out of the raft, as we watched a couple of boats capsize while going through the first set of rapids, which were more challenging than we had expected. However our guide was superb! He skillfully guided us over/through the raging (well, we thought it was raging) waters. We had a blast and our guide was extremely entertaining!! The white water rafting company provided a nice lunch after the excursion, and then we left for our next destination...the Rio Perdido Hotel, which offered relaxing hot springs in the most idyllic setting imaginable!!
If we were able to do it all again I would have taken our agent's advice about the Playa Conchal resort (an all-inclusive...an option which we rarely choose, and will not again any time soon). Our agent tried her best to steer us toward other properties but we were hell-bent on staying there, since it came so highly recommended (and we stayed there for 4 nights). My husband summed it up concisely when he read a review that called it like being on a cruise ship that doesn't move! Perfect!
The positives about the property were our rooms, their proximity to the pool/beach/restaurants, and the pool! The rooms were beautiful, spacious and well-appointed. Most importantly, our agent secured us the perfect location! When we got off the cart that delivered us to our room the driver even commented that we must have had a friend at the front desk! I told him that we had a great travel agent! It saved us lots of time walking/riding to and from more distant locations! Finally the pool! It was huge...and it seemed to be kept fairly clean (no thanks to the many vacationers who left their drink cups all around the edge of the pool). It is important to note that we spent a considerable amount of time in the pool v the ocean because there was a Red Tide and we were advised not to go in the ocean. The last day we were there my son spotted a large family of howler monkeys swinging through the trees surrounding the pool...you can't beat that!
The cons of the resort were many. While the smaller hotels were staffed with friendly people who thanked us for visiting Costa Rica, who were extremely personable and who shared a bit about themselves, most of the folks at the resort could have cared less. It was like a tourist factory. Check in took an hour...and that is no exaggeration. We waited in line behind a large group which seemed to take forever...we later learned that they were only trying to make dinner reservations and that is what took so long. When it was finally our turn we had to don lovely plastic bracelets that were to be worn at all times, and we were each given cards for towels, which we were told not to lose or we would have to pay $50 per card. We also tried to make dinner reservations, but there were no reservations left for our first 2 nights...so we were forced to go to the buffet. We went one night. It was sooo disappointing the first night that nobody wanted to return the 2nd night. We ended up ordering room service, which was only slightly better. At breakfast you had to fight your way up to the omelette and pancake stations. None of this was enjoyable. Our favorite meal was probably lunch at the Italian place...the pizza and pasta were good. It might have been ok if we could have easily left the confines of the hotel to seek alternative dining options, but the place is so big and gated off that leaving is quite a production. Dinner at one of the restaurants was enjoyable, but our meal at the Japanese restaurant was a real let down. I guess I'm not sure what we expected...maybe better from the resort!
We arranged a couple of activities on our own...fishing and an ATV tour. We did not arrange anything through the resort. We probably should have gotten back in touch with our agent, but did it on our own once we were there. The fishing guide was fine but could have been more enthusiastic. He made sure we caught fish, which I guess was his main purpose. Our son was the one who actually spotted a pair of turtles playing in the water, two whales, and dolphins. The ATV tour was excellent and I would highly recommend our tour with this guide.
The trip was excellent over all but I wish we had listened to our agent in terms of other lodging options on the west coast! My husband however thinks we were lucky to be at a property with such an expansive pool when we couldn't use the ocean.
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