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Dec. 20, 2008 “Costa Rica Expeditions is a first class operation.”
Michael & Natalie: Our experience with Costa Rica Expeditions was wonderful. Marcos was very patient and helpful when my friend and I were deciding on where we wanted to stay in Tortuguero and with which organization we wanted to connect with (the rest of the trip was done on our own). The staff at the Lodge was incredible as was the food and service. The "guides in training" and the guide who picked us up at our hotel in San Jose were great and fun! We were happy to note that the staff is treated well, which obviously translates to the service they provide their customers. I've already told folks about your organization and will continue to refer people, as Costa Rica Expeditions is a first class operation. Thanks for helping to make our stay in Costa Rica memorable!
- Nanette Grimm

Dec. 16, 2008 “Your guides and staff were always very helpful, courteous and reliable.”
Hello Luis: Thank you for the follow-up. We arrived home Monday night after a good flight with only a short delay in Houston due to weather. Dani and I very much enjoyed our visit to Costa Rica. We had no problems during our trip and the service provided by Costa Rica Expeditions was excellent. Your guides and staff were always very helpful, courteous and reliable. We hope to use your services again and will enthusiastically recommend Costa Rica Expeditions to our friends.
- Mel Willis

Dec. 2, 2008 “If the service that you gave us is typical of what Costa Rica Expeditions offers its clients, it is no wonder that your company has such a great reputation.”
Dear Luis: Thank you for the luxurious surprise spa treatments at the Lost Iguana Hotel. They did a great job making us feel spoiled and rejuvenated. You were very kind to think of doing this for us. We had the most awesome time in Costa Rica. The welcome dinner was one of the big favorites for all of us. You were so nice to get everyone there together for that and to take us to La Casita Azul with such delicious food and atmosphere. Since Randy and I were part of a big company, we know how hard it is to add to your schedule the dinners and such that are fun but require additional time and energy.

Being with Diego Blanco every day was the very best part of the trip. He has a winning personality and the ability to share tons of information without ever lecturing! All of the plans you made worked really well and Diego's genuine love of the country kept us interested in everything. It is hard to believe that we saw so many amazing insects, birds, fish, plants, and other animals in one week. Our children were also very appreciative of having everything carefully arranged for our pleasure and convenience. Marco was probably the best driver I've ever seen and we never had any concerns about being in good hands.

Various family members will soon be sorting through their photos and sending them my way. Before long you'll have more than you want to see. The short video clips my older son Randall put together showing the "bug lady" night tour at La Paloma along with my son-in-law Marcus's interpretation are going to be something you and your company would have great fun viewing at your company's next team meeting. Everyone who watches it will have to be sworn to secrecy because it might look like we are making fun of the lady but we would not want the her to change anything about her interesting event. The video is so funny.

If the service that you gave us is typical of what Costa Rica Expeditions offers its clients, it is no wonder that your company has such a great reputation. We appreciate all that you did to make memories for a lifetime.
- Helen, Lafayette, LA

Sep. 3, 2008 “Vehicles and lodges were spotless. Staff was professional; punctual, knowledgeable, friendly, and clearly proud of their beautiful country.”
Thanks for your note. It was a great experience and I'd like to think I am still getting "legendary service" from Jeffrey Vargas even after we've returned home. Small things can make a big impact. I have no reservations recommending Costa Rica as a destination and your company as a great way to maximize the wonderful opportunity to experience exciting new things, and to ensure value for time and money. Vehicles and lodges were spotless. Staff was professional; punctual, knowledgeable, friendly, and clearly proud of their beautiful country. Having drivers allowed my wife and I to relax and enjoy the countryside as we moved from location to location, much more enjoyable than renting a car. CRE is wise to ask for feedback with your survey as I believe your commitment to continual improvement and, in my book, you earned the right to ask for referrals. Well done.
- Kevin Beattie

Aug. 21, 2008 “We had a fabulous time in your country thanks to perfect planning.”
We had a fabulous time in your country thanks to perfect planning by Jeffrey Vargas. The diving was awesome -- we managed to persuade the dive shop to take us to Islas Murcielagos and we saw manta-rays on both dives and my son saw a bull shark. Impressive stuff. A few specific points:

1. I asked Jeff to pitch the quality of hotels to be comfortable enough for me and my fiancée but not too flashy for the boys. He got it exactly right. All the hotels were good, with no disappointments. Of course the Monteverde Lodge and Grano de Oro are fabulous.

2. Plenty of action. Plenty. Great. (Jeff, we paid for 4 divers in Ocotal, but only 3 of us dive. I must have forgotten to mention it to you. Dive shop said you would have to deal with it if anything. Not a big deal). Lots of transfers and details, all worked perfectly.

3. Overall we were very impressed with the balance of eco-tourism in CR. We would definitely recommend you guys to friends. Thanks for everything.
- Shumeet Banerji

Aug. 19, 2008 Pacuare Connoisseur Rafting: “The organization of the entire trip was amazing and super smooth.''
Paula: I just returned last night and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed my trip to Costa Rica. The rafting in particular was amazing and I all the guides (Abel, Eduardo, etc.) were really, really top notch. I loved it! I am not sure whether you find this helpful but since I study marketing for a living I was thinking about the way I remembered the two tours (the regular one and the connoisseur) being described.

In my memory, the “white glove service” you described stood out but was not something that I particularly cared for and in fact sounded a bit too elitist for me. What I would have cared for a lot (and what would have made me choose your more exclusive tour in hindsight) was the large number of rafts that these other companies are using as opposed to our 1 raft (or max of 3). That made a BIG difference I thought. I now see that it's something you mention on your web page, but it did not really feature prominently enough in my decision (or maybe it's an attribute that is hard to understand before having participated in a trip). Anyway, I thought I would share this with you in case you find it helpful. Also, the organization of the entire trip was amazing and super smooth. I was very impressed (and I am originally from Germany where we pride ourselves in efficient organization :-))) Thanks again for a wonderful time. I am sure I will be back in the future to see all the things I did not have time for this time.
- Kristin Diehl

Aug. 11, 2008 “…professional advice was the key to having such a great vacation.”
Hi Michael and Natalie: Please thank Ms. Eva Ros for the extraordinary service she provided. Her informative, kind and professional advice was the key to having such a great vacation in CR. Thank you again.
- Dvora Perahia

Jul. 29, 2008 “Thank you for running such a competent company in a beautiful country.”
I have been busy with regular life and have failed to let you know about our wonderful trip. I tell everyone that we found a "Slice of Heaven." Donna and I made a friend and were so well taken care of by Mauricio Quiros. He treated us with the most care, along with other staff of Costa Rica Expeditions. We really enjoyed having our own room some of the time - this made the bathroom so much easier for two ladies! We do hope to return some day and are presently showing our pictures to all who will listen. We enjoyed the country and the gracious people. We recognize how important the rainforest is to the whole world and its future. Also the food at each of the stops was superb and Mauricio knew the best on the menu! Thank you for running such a competent company in a beautiful country.
- Eloise Downs, MO

Jul. 29, 2008 “The hotels were first class, the food was excellent and the sites and activities were also memorable.”
Our nine-day vacation to CR was a marvelous experience for myself and my family. The hotels were first class, the food was excellent and the sites and activities, which were planned for us, were also memorable. Max, our driver did a fantastic job considering the road and traffic conditions. As for our guide, Miguel Marin, he was a true and very knowledgeable professional. He took care of us - helped us, guided us, and educated us thoroughly about all the facets of ecology and about Costa Rica. Everyone of us left feeling it was a great trip well worth the money. We left tired but happy. Thank you very much for all your organization did for us.

P.S. It will be a pleasure to recommend you to our friends. We have hundreds of pictures to prove it.
- Joaquin Trevino

Jul. 28, 2008 “The trip was wonderful in every way.”
Our CR trip was absolutely fabulous!!! Costa Rica Expeditions is a great organization and I would definitely use them again… This was pretty much a wilderness experience as we spent 7 of the 8 days in rainforest, mountains that go right up to the Pacific Ocean, and river rafting on the Pacuare River (Class 3 rapids - just WILD, exhilarating!). We were with a nice group of 11 people, including two friends. The whole time we were with our naturalist guide, Luis Torres and our driver, Fernando. Both were great.

Luis is super smart and knows so much about the birds (we saw 14 types of hummingbirds, macaws, ketzals etc.), mammals (howler monkeys and spider monkeys, tapir, ant eaters, etc.), landscape, CR, in general, and has been a naturalist guide with CR Expeditions for 22 years. I love Costa Rica. It is so beautiful. The trip was wonderful in every way. We were pushed to our physical limits - this was not easy but it felt great to be able to do it. Lots of great hiking.
- Deb Gainer

Jul. 28, 2008 “Our family had an unforgettable experience at Tortuga Lodge.”
Thank you Michael and Natalie: Our family had an unforgettable experience at Tortuga Lodge. We were extremely impressed with the quality and the service but most of all, with how friendly and personable your staff is. Our children told us that of the four places we went in Costa Rica, they liked Tortuga Lodge the best and they want to go back to visit their "friends." I can assure you that we will recommend your wonderful accommodation to anyone traveling to Costa Rica. Once we have time to review our photos, we will e-mail the ones from Tortuga Lodge. Thank you again and we hope to return for a visit again someday.

P.S. Lily Ulate, who looked after the booking of our trip, was exceptional and very patient with all of my questions and requests. Please thank her for us.
- Joe Ladouceur

Jul. 10, 2008 “I shall never forget the wonder and beauty of this entire experience and the generosity of heart and beautiful natures of those who made it possible.”
I truly do not know where to start to thank you for the fantastic trip you planned for our little group of three. There is no doubt that we were treated royally and were made to feel so special that all of the team who made this trip possible are to be commended for a job exceptionally well done. I have recommended the same trip to all of my six children and their families. They all would absolutely love it! There is nothing that I did on this trip that my children, their spouses and the grandchildren could not do - with one exception. My daughter Annie is expecting a child in December so she has booked me to accompany her on this very trip seven years from now. The other nine grandchildren range in age from 6 - almost 18.

Sofia Cordero is a most amazing young woman - wise beyond her years. She is so knowledgeable about everything that we feel like we were privileged to get a course in Costa Rican history, architecture, topography, culture, flora, and fauna - all in six days, and while having enormous fun and feeling pampered at the same time. (It doesn't get any better.) Sofia is also an amazing psychologist. This young girl was dealing with a number of factors which would have made "Dr. Phil" cry. I had no idea that Mercedes' sister, Helga, had any restrictions as to her activities. But Helga is recovering from cancer and was either limited in what she could do, or was afraid to try something. Sofia always managed to make Helga feel extremely comfortable, not the least bit awkward, found an alternative for her, or encouraged her to participate if Sofia felt it was something Helga could possibly handle.

The turtle mating, turtle egg-laying, botanical tour of the Tortuga lodge gardens, river tour through the rainforest were all perfect for Helga. She could not do the white-water rafting, so Jonathan took care of her while the rest of us did it - they met up with us at the picnic area - a picnic we all adored! Helga did take a chance on the kayaking and although she couldn't do the zip-lines, Sofia saw to it that she had a ride in the gondola through the rainforest.

I am also very grateful for the multiple trips to the airport to pick up Helga due to her not having the yellow fever shot and missing her original flight. Sofia was also so very sweet to both Mercedes and me - she is the epitome of patience. Never once did she make us feel like we had to hurry. The words "Don't worry, be happy!" come to mind when I see Sofia waiting for us at the van with Jonathan. She was like a little guardian angel - always watching out for us and our welfare. One funny example of this was on our second night at Tortuga Lodge, there was a huge cicada on my window making that amazingly loud sound. Although she was in the building next to us (and on the second level), she heard the cicada and decided to check it out. Seeing that is was on my screen (love the no windows), she gently picked it up and put it back in the woods. I heard her and was able to thank her for allowing me to get to sleep. I also love the fact that no one would kill anything - not even a fly.

Then there is Jonathan - a perfect gentleman. He was always on time, the van was always spotless and thoughtfully provisioned (bottled water always available); we were never allowed to lift anything, he always stayed with the van so we never worried for a second that anything might go missing, he was always there to let us get "just one more thing" from our bags (about 100 times). Keeping the van clean was an extraordinary feat considering all the snacks we ate, water we drank, and the picnic lunch we ate while driving to the zip-line park. But somehow, during the time we'd leave the van and return - it was as if Mr. Clean appeared miraculously. Again, he made us feel very safe and secure and he was a fabulous driver. The last day, just after we did the zip-lining and were headed to the airport, there was a terrible rain storm. Normally, we would have been nervous wrecks because we passed two horrible accidents - overturned truck and overturned bus. But Jonathan drove so carefully that we all just relaxed - and got to the airport in plenty of time for our flight.

Abel Vargas could not have been a more perfect guide for our little group - I realize that now even more so after looking closely at all the photos, which Mauricio took. Aside from having a wonderful personality, Abel was an amazing rafting guide. He worked so hard that I believe I could say he was not only doing all the work, but he was quietly correcting what little paddling Mercedes and I were attempting to do, often not even doing it "together". That whole day trip was fantastic and the lunch was truly memorable. Abel is also to be commended (or committed) for his sticking with the van until the end. Driving home from Pejibaye, it started to rain and we got caught in traffic due to a fatal car accident. This extended the ride by at least 1 ½ hours. Sofia thoughtfully called ahead to the Finca Rosa Blanca to change our dinner reservation so we were fine about it all. Having passed through the town that Abel lives in on the way to the river that morning, we suggested that he be dropped off at his home rather than go back to San Jose and then have to drive home so late. He wouldn't hear of it and insisted that he see us back to the hotel. I believe almost anyone else would have grabbed at the chance to get home at a decent hour and not at a terribly late hour (only to have another trip the next day). Abel's kayaking guide, Alejandro Contreras, was also wonderful. I believe he is trying out for the Olympics being held this August in Beijing. I asked him to please let me know if he makes the team because I would like him to meet my son - Jim Bell - who will be producing NBC's Today Show daily from Beijing. Perhaps we can arrange an interview with him. I renew that request here and would seriously like for him to contact me at any of my coordinates below to advise on the results of his try-out.

Don (Fernando Estrada), our personal boat captain just radiated confidence. He was so clever at spotting all the animals in the forest, had lots of patience waiting for us to take photos, was very kind and gentle - sensitive to my somewhat bad hip every time I had to get in or out of the various boats or kayak. His narrative on the turtle egg-laying was incredible. You can see how much the Costa Ricans wish to protect "their" turtles and are justifiably very proud of their ecological accomplishments to date. What a wonderfully worthy endeavor! The Costa Ricans are years ahead of the USA and anyone else I know of in the matter of environmental sensitivity - we all can learn a lot from Costa Rica.

Walter, our personal waiter, took amazing care of us. Helga is a vegetarian so Walter made sure she was aware of the contents of every dish on the table. Because she doesn't eat a great quantity, we were all able to try her dishes. The food at the Tortuga Lodge was absolutely gourmet. I had no idea what to expect - but certainly did not anticipate eating like a king (queen) as we did. Four courses at every meal - oh, dear! Of course we couldn't waste any of it. When I get a list together, I'd like to request some of the recipes.

I could go on and on about all the others at the lodge who were so polite, friendly, helpful. They really work as a team - none of that "That's not my job", or "That's not my table", etc. I really feel like they were part of my family and I was a part of theirs. We were warned in the beginning that we would be "at the mercy of Mother Nature". However, we simply lucked out and the weather never once interfered with any scheduled activity. I absolutely loved all the "surprises" - picnic at the Pejibaye River, Prosecco compliments of Michael, second go at the turtle egg-laying, and the pièce-de-résistance - the utterly magnificent dinner on the promontory. Completely indescribable! Greetings with piña coladas at the dock, magic lanterns hanging from every tree limb, hors-d'oeuvres at one table, dinner at another and kicked off with a fantastic creation of a Caesar salad by Walter, skewers of grilled beef, pork, shrimp, scallops, and vegetables, roasted potatoes and yucca served by Walter, Louis and Dona Gloria, and all topped off by another fantastic creation of Bananas Foster - again by Walter. I shall never forget the wonder and beauty of this entire experience and the generosity of heart and beautiful natures of those who made it possible and thus contributed to an indelible memory I shall carry for the rest of my life. Thank you for this dream come true. Pura vida forever!
- Rosemary Bell, FL

Jul. 4, 2008 “Your staff and facilities were excellent.”
Appreciate your follow-up. First, let me complement you on your service and staff. From our initial internet contact to scheduling the tour to being dropped off at our hotel after the tour, your staff and facilities were excellent. Being a retired small business owner, I can certainly appreciate the quality of the staff that you employ... people are the key to the success of any business and you have certainly done well in this area!

We are still mentally processing the highlights of our trip (2 weeks) but the Monteverde Cloud Forest portion is something to be remembered. My wife is already looking at your website in anticipation of another trip!

We have a lot of photos (but I don't think you want all 600!) As we go through them I may occasionally send you a few. Here's one that - although not of the Cloud Forest - is certainly worth putting on a website, and you do list a tour to Parque Nacional Volcan Poas. I am highly prejudiced but I think this is a great shot. Thanks again for a great tour and we will definitely be using you on future trips!
- Larry Hurlbert

Jul. 1, 2008 “…the trip exceeded every expectation. I simply have never met a friendlier, more reliable bunch than the Costa Rica Expeditions folks.”
Hi Luis: I just wanted to thank you and share the wonderful letter that I received from my client about his recent trip. Thank you for keeping in touch when I was worried about the weather and thank you for taking such good care of my clients. I will always use you in the future…you made me look like a star! -Cornelia

"Cindy is right… the trip exceeded every expectation. I simply have never met a friendlier, more reliable bunch than the Costa Rica Expeditions folks. They were prompt, courteous and professional, and every one of them clearly has an appreciation for their surroundings that we Americans sadly lack. The country is magnificent… and so different from place to place. All of the guides were terrific, but our favorite was the one who led us down the Pacuare River. He was incredible.

The only remotely unpleasant part of the trip is the city of San Jose. While the hotel (Grano de Oro) was fabulous, the city itself is dirty and a bit scary. We didn't feel safe outside the hotel at all. But again, the hotel is incredible.

Punta Islita is downright phenomenal. The setting was truly spectacular. Of course, you could say the same about Arenal and Tortuguero too. And don't worry about the weather. The only hiccup was that it caused us to have to take a van from Tortuguero to Arenal, instead of the puddle-jumper. Yep, we had a blast - all four of us. What a terrific trip. Thanks very much to you and Luis Cubero for making this the trip of a lifetime. -Tom"
- Cornelia Crawford, Travel Experts, TN

May. 30, 2008 “We were very, very impressed with CRE's level of organization and punctuality.”
Dear Priscilla (and Michael and Natalie): Ann and I want to thank everyone at Costa Rica Expeditions for a simply wonderful trip. We had only two regrets - that we didn't get to Costa Rica sooner and that we didn't stay longer. I've already recommended Costa Rica Expeditions to several friends who are considering a vacation there. I just can't say enough about how pleased we were with your operation. Here are a few random thoughts I thought you would like to hear.

1. We were very, very impressed with CRE's level of organization and punctuality. Every time we were told a driver would pick us up at a given time, it happened right on time. From the moment we arrived at the airport to the moment we were dropped back off there a week later, everything on the trip went without a hitch. Every tour guide was at the right place on time and expecting us. Every hotel booking was made perfectly. I don't think I've ever had a vacation go so smoothly.

I really want to commend you, Priscilla, on one point. I had a moment of panic on the plane down when I realized that I had never specifically asked about the size of the tours and told you what I wanted. Ann and I both HATE being in large crowds or being herded onto buses to go from one place to the next in a group. Turns out I didn't have to worry at all. Everything you arranged for us was essentially just for the two of us. Thank you for that. Perfect!

2. A very special thanks to Miguel and Vincent! It was great to have Miguel along to identify so many birds and animals we saw along our drives. He's very knowledgeable and sharp-eyed. Vincent gave Ann a great surprise toward the end of the week with a side trip to see some macaws and monkeys. He's also a very careful driver. Even though we both take New York City taxicabs daily, Ann is very sensitive to drivers who sometimes go too fast and make her feel unsafe, but that NEVER happened with Vincent at the wheel. They were both great guys.

3. The Arenal Nayara Hotel and Gardens is simply lovely. We both were very pleasantly surprised at the level of luxury and service. We weren't expecting so much. That was a nice treat. We even got to see the entire volcano a few times when the clouds lifted. We didn't see much at the Hanging Bridges (even our guide was disappointed), but it was a beautiful walk on a beautiful morning. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain the entire time we were at Ecotermales, but we still had a good time. There is one thing I would recommend you change here, though: We were dropped off about 5:30 p.m., and the driver told us he was scheduled to return at 9 p.m. That's just too much time. There's no way you can spend that long at Ecotermales, even with dinner and drinks. Luckily, the young man at the front desk there was able to call Sunset Tours and have a driver return at 7:30 p.m. That was perfect.

4. Loved the boat trip across Arenal Lake. Even though the boat driver (Wilson?) said he didn't speak much English, we talked about how much we love bird-watching, and he took us to several spots along the lake where we some some exotic birds. Much fun for about half an hour.

5. Monteverde was special. Our guide in the cloud forest-Eliamar Rojas Cespedes-was informative and knowledgeable and a nice guy. On his tour we even saw five(!!) Quetzals. I had always assumed the Quetzal was a legend that Costa Ricans told to tourists to keep them coming. Then we saw two females and three males. Boy was I wrong! On a sad note, we were very distressed to see that shopping mall being built in Santa Elena across from the Monteverde Lodge. I know that tourism spurs development, but that just seems unfortunate. One other note about Monteverde: the one part if our itinerary that I wasn't really looking forward to was the El Trapiche tour. It just didn't sound that interesting, and to top it off it was raining like I've never seen rain that afternoon. Just a torrential downpour. Well, I was wrong and you were right. We found the tour very, very interesting and quite fun, even though we spent some hours walking around in the pouring rain. Diego is even something of a comedian. When we got back to the Monteverde Lodge, Ann and I blurted out at the same moment how much we enjoyed El Trapiche. So thanks for a pleasant surprise!

6. Here's one last thought you might consider. The pre-trip information you sent was very helpful, including the little treatise on tipping. One thing I really, really wished I had done before the trip was to go to a U.S. bank and get a lot of money in small bills ($1s or $5s) for tips. We arrived in Costa Rica with a lot of $20 bills and nothing else. No one at any hotel or in several shops those first days was ever able to make change, either in dollars or colones. It wasn't until our third day that I was able to get to a bank to get a bunch of $1000 colone notes. It's not a big deal, but you might want to recommend that people arrive with denominations of money smaller than $20 bills.

Finally, Costa Rica wins hands down over the Caribbean on two other fronts. Everyone we met was friendly and helpful. Costa Ricans seem genuinely and justifiably proud of their country, and glad to show it off to tourists. Second, the food was universally terrific. We didn't have a bad meal there. So fresh! So thanks again for a wonderful trip. You can be sure we'll recommend Costa Rica Expeditions to our friends.
- Jackson & Ann Dykman

May. 7, 2008 “Your country has to be one of the most magnificent places on earth!”
Hi Jeff: I just wanted to let you know how much we appreciated your assistance on our Costa Rica trip. Your knowledge, accessibility and personalized service really made for an outstanding trip. We loved Tortuguero and Monteverde Lodges as well as the gorgeous resort while staying in Arenal. The guides were extremely knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. The food was great and your country has to be one of the most magnificent places on earth! Thank you again for a fabulous and memorable trip!
- Jackie Elkins

See letters for first half 2008

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