My wife and I just spent two great weeks in Costa Rica from Jan 9 to
Jan 23. Herein is a brief trip report.
Sailing -- We ended up only sailing 4 days out of two weeks. In fact,
when we arrived, we found out there had been no wind at Arenal for the
previous two weeks! Naturally all the local business people claimed
that this was the first year in (pick one, 10, 20, 30) years that
January did now blow constantly. (not that old story...) However the
wind did arrive within a day or two and it seemed to blow pretty much
5.0 weather on the average of every other day for the duration of our
stay. Rather than waste time*** around the beach waiting for
wind, we travelled around Costa Rica quite a bit during the slow days.
We could probably have spent more days sailing, but we took a couple of
multi-day excursions to visit remote areas of the country.
The lake is beautiful and very unspoiled. It's a long narrow lake that
looks somewhat like a wide river in places. The water is warm and very
fresh. In the 5.0 conditions that prevailed, the chop was small and
tightly packed. Reputedly it gets pretty big in high wind. There are
two sailing sites on the NW end of the lake, which is also the downwind
end. One of the sites is owned by Hotel Tilawa and the other is run by
Tico Wind Rentals. Both concessions have sails rigged and stacks of
boards right by the beach. The equipment is generally good at both
places, but decidedly better at Tico. The service was also better at
Tico, but perhaps this was because I don't speak Spanish and the folks
running the Tilawa site didn't speak English. Tico charges $30 for
half day and 45 for full; Tilawa charges 26 and 35 (or thereabouts),
thus is a little cheaper. Tilawa has rustic bathrooms and a snack
bar. Tico has neither.
We stayed Hotel Tilawa for the first 5 nights. Hotel Tilawa is a new
28 room "4 star" hotel very close to the lake. Price was $66 which
included a very good breakfast.
Another popular but small place to stay is Rock River Lodge which only
has 6 rooms. Rock River is $35 a day, but meals are extra. Norm List
is the owner of Rock River, and he has a friend Ernesto who just built
5 very nice cabinas with kitchens down the road from Rock River. We
ended up renting one of these for a discount for a few nights -- it
wasn't finished yet.
Other places to stay are Peurto San Luis and Xiloe. San Luis is kind
of motel style. Xiloe has rustic cabinas. Xiloe was the lodge one
acquaintence was booked in by Excursions Extradonnaire. He was quite
miffed because Excursions had advertised it as a luxury hotel with a
swimming pool and other non-existent ammeneties. There are numerous
other small lodges and cabinas around the lake, most of which are
fairly rustic. Hot water is a luxury in Costa Rica. Speaking of hot
water, most of the few showers that have hot water accomplish this with
an electrically heated shower head. Seeing live AC wires in the shower
head caused great consternation by people that understand electricty,
Other stuff to do --
27% of Costa Rica is national parks, wildlife preserves or some sort of
protected area. If you like the outdoors, you'll be in heaven. We
visted several parks, hiking through rain and dry forests watching
monkey's swinging in the trees, iguana roaming free, sloths, toucans,
parrots and and every kind of tropical plant imaginable. With two
coasts and a couple of peninsulas, there are numerous sandy beaches,
all of which are simply beautiful.
The Costa Rican natives are very friendly. They actually seem to like,
or at worst tolerate, tourists. It's a real trip to be tooling down a
long rocky road, through the hills in the middle of nowhere, and have a
machete wielding native flash you a friendly wave as you drive by. (At
least I think they were waving :-) When we were lost (quite a bit),
folks were very patient and kind as they pointed the way.
Everything in Costa Rica is generally very cheap, provided you stay
away from the tourist traps and hotels. Food is excellent. You can
get almost anything you want with rice and beans. Always the rice and
beans, even for breakfast! (Yech.) The seafood and chicken are
amazingly good. Roads around the country are awful -- the remote areas
are almost never paved. But somehow this all adds to the charm.
Needless to say it was an excellent vacation for us and we recommend
Costa Rica highly -- even if the sailing didn't live up to the legend
for us. We would go back. I could elaborate on Costa Rica much
further but this note has gone on long enough. Thanks to Rick Boebel,
Joel Clark and Bill Geisinger, all of whom provided much information on
Costa Rica which really helped. If anyone has further questions about
Costa Rica, feel free to get in touch with me.