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michael kaye
President & CEO

Born December 11, 1941, a river guide for many years, Michael was the first to run Costa Rica's white water rivers. Michael and his wife, Yolanda started Costa Rica Expeditions as a white water rafting company in the fall of 1978.

Although the company has grown considerably since, the original vision which Michael expressed in a June 1981 brochure has not changed:

"Our goal is to create unique travel experiences that transcend conventional sightseeing and travel. Our dream is to promote the type of tourism which is mutually beneficial and nourishing to both the visitor and the visited."

Known as an iconoclast Kayes stands against what he calls "dubious carbon offset and sustainability certification schemes have been stirring up controversy in industry circles".

A self-professed workaholic, he puts everything he has into whatever he does. As well as continuing to actively manage Costa Rica Expeditions, his current passion is Real Travel Feedback, a web site and Facebook app dedicated to meaningful conversations about vacations.

In October 2007 Michael was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Adventure Travel Trade Association.

Michael and Yolanda live in a suburb of San Jose Costa Rica. They travel fairly often, always with their tandem bicycle and Michaels laptop. They spend at least a month each year in Manhattan, which Michael calls "the greatest secret bicycle destination in the world.

They have two adult children, Brenda and Hilton, and three grandchildren.


For the Latest Feedback Click Here

Mar 16, 2011.- Everyone went beyond their job requirements to make our trip enjoyable, informative, stress-free and generally delightful.
Michael (and Douglas), We had already started to draft this message before we received your e-mail asking for feedback, so we are not using the form you sent, but writing more free style. Let me know if there are any areas that we did not cover.

Costa Rica Expeditions did a fabulous job helping us with our first trip to Costa Rica. Douglas provided outstanding service helping us plan our trip. He was patient and helpful with our changes (and sometimes late information), and he did an excellent job of taking all our requests and fitting them into a ten-day itinerary that still left us feeling satisfied with the level of activity and happy with the time we had to relax.

Thank you and all the staff at Costa Rica Expeditions for making our visit to Costa Rica the BEST VACATION EVER! Everyone went beyond their job requirements to make our trip enjoyable, informative, stress-free and generally delightful. Without exception the guides, lodge staff and drivers were friendly, pleasant and helpful. However a few people really stand out. Their extra attention provided highlights in a wonderful experience.

On our drive from the Pacuare River to Cano Blanco we were most fortunate to have Max as our driver. We had anticipated that this would be an uneventful transfer drive, and had even discussed napping along the way after our strenuous day on the river. We spotted a few interesting birds out the window early in the drive and pointed them out to one another. Recognizing this interest, Max alerted us to other points of natural interest all along the way. He spotted caracaras, howler monkeys, a sloth, a jacana, purple galinule and a tree full of elephant beetles (that the young boys living nearby gleefully showed off to us). He showed us date palms and a wonderful fragrant plant used in perfume (unfortunately we do not remember the name). His enthusiasm, love of life and the country were infectious and turned an occasion for a nap into a highlight of the vacation. He spotted us a few days later outside the Monteverde Lodge and made sure we had a chance to view a golden-browed chlorophonia through a guide's telescope and later asked if perhaps we had lost a pair of glasses that had turned up in his van. Indeed we had, though were unsure when they had disappeared and were most grateful to him for going out of his way to return them. We would seek him out as a driver in the future.

The entire Pacuare River expedition was superb, and we were so happy that our last minute change in flights gave us the chance to stay at the lodge. Our guides, Alex and Antonio, were among the most friendly, helpful and engaging people that we met in a country full of wonderfully friendly people. They were skillful and capable white-water guides, but also terrific waiters, bartenders and 'hotel' staff as well as introducing us to some of the animals and plants of the rain forest.

While at Monteverde we were scheduled to have lunch out in the gardens. As the result of complications with a group that arrived right at meal time, this did not happen. We were barely aware of this omission, and greatly enjoyed our lunch in the dining area visiting with a white-faced cappuchin who spent some time staring in at our window. However, as a gesture to us, the staff laid out a romantic table for two on the terrace for dinner. We felt thoroughly pampered. Our server, Alex was a pure delight. He was responsible for setting up the wonderful space for us, lit by dozens of torches and candles. He was cheerful, pleasant and attentive without hovering. He also provided the perfect recommendation for wine to accompany our magnificent calamari steaks, even though he does not personally eat calamari. (We appreciated his candor as much as his recommendation). The manager and bartender also contributed to this wonderful occasion, but it was Alex who made it special for us.

Our trip to the Arenal hanging bridges was enhanced by our very knowledgeable and helpful guide, Indira. The breadth of her understanding of the local ecology was impressive, and her ability to communicate it with interest and enthusiasm stood out even among the many excellent guides on our trip. It was great to have a female guide, and we hope that Costa Rica Expeditions is in a position to encourage and support more women to pursue this profession.

Orlando, our driver from Arenal to San Jose, was also an outstanding guide. He spoke excellent English and alerted us to the park and art museum near our hotel. We were feeling that our afternoon in the city might prove to be a bit of a loss, only to find that the art museum contained a uniformly excellent collection of work in all the galleries, the sculpture garden and the special exhibits. We got so caught up in the artwork that we stayed a full half hour past closing time. We also really enjoyed our wander around in the park. We wish to thank Orlando for pointing out this opportunity to us.

We had been disappointed that the scheduled 'mid-afternoon' departure from Arenal shown on our itinerary ended up being at 10 a.m. This did not leave us time to visit the pool or hot spring at Arenal before our departure. Fortunately, finding the art museum (thanks to Orlando) made our unexpected time in San Jose simply delightful. We would like to learn more about the artists whose work is displayed in the museum, but have not had much luck with a quick search on-line.

The quality of all the accommodations was superb. The 'rustic elegance' standard was very much to our liking. It is difficult to pick one lodge from the rest. Pacuare Lodge was by far the closest to, and felt most like a part of, the rainforest. The view from the dining area and library across the river at the fireflies at night and blue morphos during the day was magical. It was like eating in the middle of the forest, surrounded by large old trees covered in epiphytes and full of toucans, tanagers and oropendolas. The candle-lit cabin in the evening was a memorable way to start the trip.

Tortuga Lodge was also quite magical. Coming in after dinner to a candle-lit room was a lovely treat, and the art-work around the lodge was stunning. We particularly enjoyed the wood carvings. The staff were attentive and helpful. We really enjoyed the set meals and appreciated the reasonable portions of each course so that we were able to enjoy them all. Angelo was our guide for the boat and kayak tours. He also had a keen eye and an excellent knowledge of the local wildlife. Nancy very much enjoyed her brief experience teaching English. The children were delightful!

Monteverde Lodge would have been a favorite even without the special dinner that we were served. The gardens were wonderful, and made the lodge feel very close to the forest, with monkeys at the windows and birds from our balcony. This gave it a natural, rustic feel that was nicely complemented by the comfortable spaces and the marvelous staff. We very much enjoyed our walk through the private sanctuary next door as well as our tour of the reserve. The Arenal Manoa was the one classic 'resort' hotel that we visited. It was a great opportunity to relax and unwind before returning home. We took advantage of the pools, hot and cold, a lovely massage and a chance to do a bit of nothing. We enjoyed an exceptional view of the volcano from our room (we were most fortunate to have a full clear day). However, compared to the other places that we stayed during our trip it felt less personal. This is on no way a criticism of the staff there who were also helpful and attentive, but of the nature of this type of resort. The lodges proclaiming 'rustic elegance' were more in keeping with our tastes.

The zip-line canopy tour that you set up for us was fun and provided a perspective on the forest that we would not otherwise have gotten, even from the hanging bridges. The guides there clearly had safety in mind as they trained us and took us out. They also had a good knowledge of natural history and taught us about the plants and trees we encountered.

We appreciated the safety warnings that we saw in the materials that your company provided. This made us aware of the lack of safety precautions on some of the other zip line tours, which was backed up by some of what we saw during our travels and heard about from other guests. Thank you for directing us to a reputable one. We certainly hope that had one of this high quality and safety not been available that you would have felt comfortable leaving this out of our itinerary or bringing concerns about them to our attention.

One recommendation we would make is to have better natural history libraries or other information about the local plants and animals available at Tortuga and Monteverde Lodges. Monteverde did have a modest natural history library, but we could not find any books on Costa Rica at Tortuga. We took the 25 pound weight limit on luggage seriously and only brought one Costa Rica bird guide. We would have liked the opportunity to read about the other wildlife and plants that we saw on our tours and around the lodges. The quality of information on the guided tours was superb, but with so much of interest around the lodges themselves this seems like an opportunity missed.

Thank you so much for helping us to fall in love with Costa Rica! I will send photos in another e-mail. Now, I have to go to bed to be ready for my middle school students tomorrow morning!

Best wishes, Nancy and Peter Stevick

Jun 30, 2009.- We enjoyed our trip to Costa Rica. GREAT ITINERARY.
Priscilla: I just wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed our trip to Costa Rica. GREAT ITINERARY. We added a few things like a horseback ride in Monteverde and swimming in Manuel Antonio, but basically you set us up with everything that we could desire. THANKS!

Was surprised in Monteverde by Michael Kaye and his wife after their work detail - great opportunity to hear his story of success with CRE from a personal perspective. I believe that he may have sent an email the other day after our return. Unfortunately, my email service auto-deleted it, not recognizing the address. If so would you have him resend the note. It may have been from the CRE office in general.

Our grandchildren stayed active and that made their days go fast. The White Glove river lunch at Siquirres was exceptional - impressed our entire family, as did the accommodations at the Grano de Oro and Monterverde Lodge. Had a few problems at the Karahe but got beyond them. They need a significant upgrade to their facility. Seems to be getting slightly run down.

We drove up to Volcan Poas on our way back from Manuel Antonio - arrived at the top approximately 45 minutes before closing. It was raining heavily and the park attendants would not let us in unless we paid $70 to drive in. Could not justify that much money in the driving rain/clouds, although the children would have liked to get out of the car after that climb, notwithstanding the rain. Never could tell if there was a visitor facility up there. We made it to the top but not beyond the gate. Turned around, disappointed, but found a great family restaurant on the way down the mountain where we had dinner.

Several of your guides were EXCEPTIONAL, including Natu (Alvaro Farias) and Walter Centeno on the raft trip and Carlos in Monteverde. ENTHUSIASM and DEDICATION was the key. Our visit to Trapiche was great and informative. Great to have someone so dedicated that they influenced the children positively as well. Rafting was the best way to start our trip, as it immersed teenagers immediately in strenuous activity and the Costa Rica outdoors. That held their attention from the outset and for the remainder of our stay. Next time it will be Arenal, Fortuna and the Northwest Coast. Please thank Michael for his vision many years ago. He has developed a wonderful business and we will re-comment on it to everyone. Our thanks to the entire staff of CRE - we'll be back.
-Capt. Alan H. Barbour, VA

Nov 15, 2003.- A lifetime of memories for us all.
Dear Michael: An enormous Thank You for a wonderful journey in Costa Rica. I loved every moment. I learned so much, and am anxious to share all I experienced with both family and clients. "Memo" was the perfect guide for our group and our pilots and hosts at lunch place were the best. But the country and its people are so very special.

Your staff, Grettel, Natalie and drivers and our rafting guides will stay in my heart forever as will you and Yolanda who so graciously gave of yourselves to ensure a lifetime of memories for us all. Your professionalism and love of Costa Rica leave a lasting impression on those of us fortunate enough to experience them. You have broadened my horizons and enhanced my knowledge of ecological conservation. You have left me with a desire to return and continue learning. To you and Yolanda - and to your entire staff: Thanks so very much for being you.
-Betsy Hall Domoto

Aug 17, 2001.- You obviously love the wilderness as much as I do.
Hi Michael: This is a note to thank you for all the extras we received while we were on our latest trip to Costa Rica. As someone working on an EMBA, it was a privilege to speak to the person who virtually invented ecotourism. You obviously love the wilderness as much as I do. Might I say that your company is better organized and more efficient than any we have seen in all our travels? It is also obvious that Natalie is a tremendous asset to the company as well as being a beautiful person. If there is ever a project that you need help with, don't hesitate to contact us. We have years and years of pertinent experience. Thanks so much, and we hope to see you again soon.
-Marc Sanders


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