Did we like our experience at Chosa Del Manglar? We loved it! The staff was, by far, the nicest we met during our trip around the country. The owner, Jackie, along with her staff, have only one thing in mind: your happiness and well-being. If there is an issue, tell them and they will fix it in the minute, litterally.
The site, idillic, offers some of the best monkey watching of any site in the country. Hords of white-faced monkeys come a couple of feet from your cabin. In fact, sometimes, they were so close that we thought they would jump on us. A fantastic experience! But, do not think that you can only see white-faced monkeys, since we had the opportunity to observe upclose spider monkeys, tucans, parrots, hummingbirds and much more, right there on site!
We strongly recommend you take their Reserva Chimpol Tour through the primary jungle. Ask to walk the Mirador-La Ceiba Trail which will transport you into the deep peninsula jungle. That was one of the nicest trail we did in our life. In fact, the nature was so rich that we felt like it was going to engulf us. I would go as far as to claim that it was a mystical experience. Also, it’s very reasonably priced at 39$USD (compared to the outrageous 90-120$USD Corcovado one-day tours - see below for more on Puerto Jimenez). On the Chimpol Tour, you will see trees hundreds of years old, wild animals, spiders, countless ants colonies, hidden waterfalls, all this while you follow your guide opening the trail with a machete. Unreal!
Note that the entire walk is around 12 hours, so you have to be in good shape. If you go on the tour, which you definitely should, make sure you wear good walking shoes, flip-flops (for the 8 rivers crossings), a towel, a 1 liter watter bottle (that you can refill along the way in one of the many clean-water sources), sunscreen, some snacks and a sandwich, a headlamp (should you come back after sunset as it happened to us), and a hat to offer some shade on a very sunny day. The resort offers two guides, Rony and Benny, both very knowlegeable and friendly. We had a great time with Benny who only speaks Spanish. Rony speaks some English. If you take the tour, which leaves at 6am, ask them to keep you some breakfast for when you come back. As we mentioned, these guys are great!
Breakfast is offered for free each morning from 7am to 10am. You can have creamy eggs, pinto, bread, fresh fruits and jelly. Coffee is available all day for free. Also, they offer free filtered water (nice touch). There is a bar and they sell beer. For those who fancy a swim, they have two very clean pools. You can also use one of their campsites or rent camping equipment on site.
Walking around the site itself is an experience and the main strong point about this place. They even have a butterfly garden and marked trails. Gorgeous!
Should you wish to wash your clothes, there is a laundrymat accross the street. They charged us 5$USD for 3kg of clothes and they will wash, dry and fold your stuff.
The room cleanliness was acceptable and our cabin offered AC which was an amazing addition, especially during the heat wave we experienced at the time. Note that electricity cuts out a couple of times every now and then, but only for a couple of seconds. Our room offered a water tap outside to clean our stuff and feet. Also, the room had a shower, a toilet and a bahroom sink. A nice addition would be shelves, which we didn’t have in the room. There are terrasses and chairs outside each cabin.
On the downside, the Wi-Fi was very irregular and we often had difficulties simply uploading a picture on Facebook, which was frustrating. They were aware of the problem.
Should you decide to visit Puerto Jimenez, we cannot recommend this place enough. Amazing stay!
Puerto Jimenez and around
There is much to say about Puerto Jimenez, and most of it, in our experience, is not positive. Let us explain.
We arrived on the 12pm bus from San Jose at 8pm and, as it happens to most tourists landing there, we were approached by a very dodgy looking taxi driver, which we kindly refused. Then, there is the challenge to find the hotel which was not as easy as we thought. The town is oddly made and confusing, there were constructions on various streets and we had to ask to several people and correct our itinerary as we walked along.
On our first day, we tried to get organized and we explored the city. We went to most tour organisers and asked for prices and options to Corcovado. Most tour operators are offering the same products, only the prices vary, from 90$USD to several hundreds (for similar products!). So, for heaven’s sake, please do go around and shop your tour because these unscupulous people - more than anywhere else in the country - are only interested in one thing: your money.
As most travelers go to Osa to take a Corcovado Tour, which the local operators know too well, all the infrastructures are build around that activity. Know that you cannot enter the park without a guide. Solo exploration is therefore not an option here. Taxis will cost you around 80$USD per person for a 45 minutes drive, regardless of the number of people in the car. The cheapest fare we found, after 30 minutes of haggling, was 75$ for two, to both Carate and Matapalo with a private 4x4 (Tony : 506 83 31 57 81).
Most tours do NOT (let us emphasize NOT) include transportation and/or entrance to the park, so, again, do your homework and do not let convincing marketing get to you. Remember, all tour operators, regardless of their marketing skills, offer more or less the same experience. So, if you are adament about visiting Corcovado, regardless of the price, go for the cheapest.
One of the operators, Osa Dreams, offers a tour to Piro which is an interesting alternative to the Corcovado Tour, but it’s still 75$ per person (negotiated price) for a half-day. You will find their office on the main street under the Eco Tours banner near the police station.
Here are the lessons we learned from our 5 hours shopping tour and 5 days stay in town.
All operators will let you off in Carate. Then, you will have to walk 1 hour to the park’s entrance in La Leona. There, a guide will take you for a walk less than half-way to the Sirena ranger outpost. Know that the trail is along the beach, so you will not actually get into the jungle itself. You will follow other groups of tourists looking up - cameras in hands - and expecting to take pictures of animals. By the way, no operator guarantees that you will see any animal (which actually makes sense). Moreover, in the summer, it is very common that you will have to come back half-way through your planned walk if someone in your group has a heat-stroke, which we were told happens all the time because of the very hot temperature close to the beach. And, by the way, should this happen to you, do not expect a refund. They will not keep their promise, but they will keep your « plata ». Welcome to Puero Jimenez!
In our experience, sharing our impressions with many other outraged fellow travelers who came to Osa to visit Corcovado, we can confidently say that almost half of them changed their minds because of the inflated prices which verge on criminal extorsion. So, this is when the Reserva Chimpol Tour comes in as a great alternative (see above).
Renting a bike can also be a challenge. Do not be surprised to pay between 10$USD to 25$USD a day for a rental. Although it’s very expensive for bikes that are not all in good shape, it is still cheaper than taking a taxi. A piece of advice, try using Uber or offering some money to a fellow traveler with a rental car.
There is a collective minibus that leaves every morning at 6am for Carate (10$USD) and Matapalo (5$USD) for a reasonable price should you wish to go there. If you go to Matapalo, you may want to check out the King Louis waterfall. To find the « collectivo » office, ask around for the « collectivo » and locals will tell you where to find it. You can buy your ticket the day before to secure a place.
If you feel like bathing, you can take the road south east from the airport which will bring you to Playa Preciosa. The walk is around 6km and is nice. Watch out for small (but mean) dogs along the way. On the street before the Delphin Bar (coming from the airport), there is a small trail on the right (about 5 minutes walking from the bar) where you can see crocodiles at some times of the year. There is a small laguna of greenish still water.
We finally decided to rent some bikes at Ciclo Paniagua, on the main street (tel.: 506 27 35 58 36) for around 10$USD to go to Rancho Raices in Cañazo for a chocolate tour. That was a great experience that we enjoyed a lot, although accordingly priced at 40$USD for a 2:30 hours tour. The ride is 13km each way and you get to see plenty of palm trees plantations along road 245. Mora beach, is also accessible through a dirt road south of the ranch.For a nice meal, stop at Soda Denia which offer great food for cheap. Note that Ciclo Paniagua rents bikes with gears, not the usual « banana » bikes which are not good for long rides. The rental place in front of the BM supermarket only rents fat bikes for 25$USD a day. These are good for riding on the beach.
Should you want to eat well at a reasonable price, we found that Soda Valeria and Soda Sabroso were the best options.
The supermarkets are some of the most expensive we found in the country. Here, expect to pay 30% more for solar screen and 10-20% more for everything else. The Pali supermarket, next to the bus statio, offers a little bit better prices, but still high.
Puerto Jimenez has slowly took the title as the main doorway to Corcovado from neighbouring Drake, but prices have become inflated to the point of extorsion. If you have the money, be their guest. However, my wife and I like to pay fair prices and we were not willing to be screwed that hard. Instead, we chose to keep our money to go to Disneyland, which is (astonishingly) still cheaper than the « Corcovado Ripoff », not to mention that our friend Walt does keep his promise and shows us animals!
Would we go back to Puerto Jimenez if we would have known this beforehand? Yes, probably. But we would stay only 3 nights at Chosa Del Manglar. The reason being that we kind of lost two days just making sense of this confusing and overpriced place. This also explains why we wrote this extensive review to help other fellow travelers not to fall into the trap.