Our trip to Costa Rica was everything we could have hoped for. The country was beautiful and Marianna of TravelLocal's local partner was brilliant. She sourced the perfect lodgings to fit our budget and our preferences (small and locally run accommodation), managed our transportation which included bus transfers, car hire, boat transfers and internal flights and was available throughout our trip to answer queries promptly and efficiently. Everything ran like clockwork. If this first experience of TravelLocal is anything to go by we will never use another travel agent again.
Marianna tweaked her original itinerary to accommodate all our requests, she answered our (numerous) queries promptly giving us any options. Her English is impeccable and she is extremely personable. She met us in person at the hotel to go through our itinerary and answer any further questions we had. During out trip we had a couple of situations where we needed to get in contact. Once we went through the emergency contact number as it was out of office hours and the problem was dealt with immediately. On another couple of occasions we emailed Marianna and she answered the email as soon as she was back in the office. We couldn't have asked for better service.
The 'handover' of the car at Sierpe was a little confusing and could have been better managed but it wasn't disastrous. The driver/guides for the river rafting were excellent as were the guides in San Gerado de Rivas and Corcavado.
1. In a country with so much diversity get in a car and drive around. We were told the roads were going to be bad but they were absolutely fine. In fact many of the tarmac roads are in better condition than in the UK currently! The untarmacked roads were not that difficult to navigate and only a few were potholed. Having your own car gives you so much more flexibility. We drove off down little roads just to explore and found remote villages with the best views, beautiful beaches with no one on them and some great out of town restaurants. 2. Avoid the main tourist areas and the crowds to experience the real Costa Rica. Stay in El Castillo instead of La Fortuna, visit San Gerado de Rivas for cloud forests instead of Monteverde, go south of Manuel Antonio National Park to Uvita/Ojechal for excellent beaches with no one on them. 3. There are hundreds of private reserves where you can walk and experience the rainforest, cloud forests, beaches etc without the crowds in the national parks. 4. Set your budget and state your ideal lodging type and let Marianna guide you on accommodation. She directed us to some excellent lodges. We wanted to stay in small family/locally run accommodation (10-12 rooms) and everywhere we stayed we experienced exceptional service except the one place which we chose ourselves! Three stand out places to stay were Finca Maresia in Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula (the family style dinner was a great way of meeting other travellers), Rio Chirripio Lodge in San Gerado de Rivas and Casitas Tenorio B&B in Bijagua. In our experience the quality of service was not determined by price more by the personality and engagement of the owner. 5. Expect to spend more on lunches and dinners than you would think. Eating out in Costa Rica is pretty much on a par with UK prices. 6. Just go! You wont regret it!
Seeing whales off the coast of the Osa Peninsula and watching monkeys play in the Corcovada National Park.